I bake a lot of muffins. But it wasn't always that way.
Back in the 1990s, when coffee shops were popping up all over the place, I’d love looking at all the pastries in the bakery case while I was in line. I’d look at the really large muffins and think, “Those look good, I should try one.” But alas, I would go for a yummy glazed donut or a freshly baked cookie, which is one of my favorite things on earth.
Over the years, I would occasionally try one of these over-sized muffins crusted with tantalizing toppings but as soon as I had a bite I would think, “This is okay but I’d rather be eating a cookie.” Even when my two oldest kids were little and it made sense to order the largest treat and split it, we’d sometimes get a muffin and I’d always be a little disappointed. Although I should mention there was a banana chocolate chip muffin at Starbucks that was pretty good. I’d see people eating large blueberry or even bran muffins and think, “How are you eating that? Are you just pretending it’s better than the apple fritter?”
Then things changed.
I started to get really tired all the time and had difficulty digesting food. I found out I had some thyroid issues and they put me on medication but I was still struggling with digestion and fatigue. After seeing an alternative medicine practitioner, I found out I had Hashimoto’s , an autoimmune disease, and the best course of action was a gluten free diet.
“NOOOOOOOOO!!! I’m Italian and I bake cookies as therapy. I cannot go on a gluten free diet.” This was over ten years ago when there weren’t as many gluten free foods at every store and I could not imagine becoming gluten free.
But I was so tired I couldn’t get up to take my child to school without him coming in and reminding me a few times, so I tried it.
In 1 week I felt my energy return and my digestion was getting better. So I continued and ate a strict gluten free diet avoiding all the foods and treats I used to love and bake so often. This included taking pasta out of my diet which I also loved.
Over the years, I realized that dairy also contributed to my autoimmune symptoms and I took that out of my diet as well. I feel best when I follow a paleo diet.
I began baking cookies again but for those of you who try it, baking cookies without gluten or dairy is not the same and trying to make paleo cookies is a challenge.
So guess what? I started to make muffins.
But I’m not a muffin person. This is what I told myself in those coffee shops. I’m not a muffin person. I’m a cookie or donut person.
Yet I soon realized that grain free muffins are easier to bake. I still bake grain free cookies but they take more finesse and sometimes I just want something to dunk in my morning coffee. I have a recipe I make often that everyone in my house loves to eat.
As I made these dreaded diet changes something happened. I feel better consistently. I go to parties and see delicious desserts and avoid them all because I’ve been transformed from the inside out. I know that despite my inner cookie monster calling to me at those events, “give me that cookie, I neeeeed that cookie”, I have the ability to avoid them and actually happily avoid cake and cookies I can’t eat because I know that I feel so much better and I can truly be the person I want to be if I watch what I eat.
This is a lot like my journey with God.
When I first became a Christian I wanted to read the Bible and go to church. I knew of people further along in their relationship with God that would spend a lot of time in prayer. I prayed at night and when I there was a big need in my life. I prayed when someone had a request. But most of the time I would spend little time in prayer and go about my day.
I respected the people I knew who prayed more, like my mom, but I thought, “I’m not a prayer person.” I liked singing so I would join worship team and sing and praise God. I would read about great men and women of God praying for long periods of time and think, “That sounds so boring. How do they do it?”
As I’ve grown in relationship with God I’ve spent more and more time in prayer and I noticed something. I feel better. I experience more joy, peace and contentment. I have more patience for others. I love others more selflessly. I have seen answered prayer and God has surprised me with the ways he’s working on my life and the lives of those around me when I’ve prayed. It’s become an exciting adventure.
I can truly be the person God created me to be as I spend more time in prayer.
Think about who you want to be and if like you are anything like me, you may have great intentions but are spending too much time feeling stressed, anxious or spending time on things that don’t have eternal significance. This lie in our culture that “self-care” is the answer to all our stress is a distraction. While it is good to relax and make sure you are not running on empty, God has created us for more.
We have the capacity to love others deeply and to serve people in ways that will impact them eternally. It’s not as tantalizing as worldly success, but it’s far more satisfying because you feel good from the inside out.
I’m not perfect and I have a long, long way to go in learning to pray effectively. I am a work in progress and constantly need to surrender my selfish ways to the Lord and let him work transforming my mind and heart from the inside out.
I’ve stopped saying I’m not a prayer person, whatever that is.
In fact, God created us to be in relationship with him which is essentially what prayer is: conversation and communion with the God who created us and wants to dwell with us.
I want to have more joy and hope and feel better consistently. So I eat a lot of paleo muffins and I spend more time in prayer. I love starting my day writing in a journal. I write out verses of the Bible and journal to God, praying for things, sharing my heart and standing on his promises. Some days I start out discouraged and grumpy and just the act of writing a scripture verse and praying expectantly for someone else, changes me and the Holy Spirit transforms me with peace and joy.
I don't focus on my emotions or my ideas of what I think should be happening. Instead, I intentionally turn my eyes to Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, and then I gain a new perspective on all my circumstances. I find the more I pray, the more I become focused on others and how I can serve them. How does God want to use your gifts to impact others?
So if you are weary of striving and trying to manage all the things in your life, try these things:
Be intentional about slowing down and praying.
Spend time listening for God in the silence.
Read a passage of the Bible and reflect on what it means.
Write down 1 verse on a notecard and read it out loud as you begin and end your day.
Carry the card with you if you need to quickly focus on a truth during your day.
Pray out loud in the car or on a walk- thanking God for specific things and people and lifting them up.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7
While you may not have the need to become a muffin person, I invite you on my journey to becoming a prayer person. It’s honestly the best thing we can do. To spend time with the one who created us and loves us most brings life to our souls.
*If you are wondering about my favorite grain free muffin recipe, I use the following banana bread recipe, replace one of the eggs for a flax egg (1 TBS ground flax seed + 2.5 TBS of water) then I divide the batter into 12 muffin cups and bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes. It's easy to double too!