Month: September 2013

your feminine body

Every month we have a friendly reminder that we were created female.  Our menstrual cycle is obviously much more than just an inconvenience to manage.  It’s an indication that we are, one day, likely going to be able to carry a new little life inside.  Start thinking about your fertility now – even if you are single and not even dating anyone.

I remember being in a mentorship group of women who gathered every month to learn about different aspects of what it meant to be a woman.  One of the questions we came upon was about birth control and determining which methods were healthy and honoring to God.  Most of us in that group twenty-somethings were 100% single at the time, but we were determined to learn more about a subject we had hardly ever heard about from our Christian leaders.

Through research in books and online, I have come to the conclusion that using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) or Natural Family Planning (NFP) is best for me.

To put it very simply:  I started tracking my cycles before I got married.  More than circling the start and end dates of my period on a calendar (I DO NOT recommend the calendar or rhythm method!!!), I tracked two fertility signs every day.  I recorded my Basal Body Temperature (BBT) upon waking and observed my cervical fluid (or mucus) throughout the day.  The purpose of tracking these signs helped me to become “body literate” and aware of when I was fertile and when I was not.

In marriage, my husband adopted the role of “NFP record taker” so that he is involved and aware of what’s happening in my body.  It’s been a wonderfully unifying experience and we don’t have to worry about unwelcome side effects that can happen when taking “the pill”.  There are many articles and papers written about the oral contraceptive controversy, but you can look in to that further for yourself.

Both books pictured above are books that were helpful for me to learn NFP.  Many people believe myths that NFP is too difficult, that it is not effective, and that it is unromantic.  I have found that although it takes intentionality to learn, it is well worth the effort.  It has been extremely effective for us and those who use it conscientiously.  Also, it’s been very romantic to have my husband interested and aware of what is going on in my body and I love having a teammate in this sphere.

I have listed below some additional resources that offer helpful information.  Be mindful that they are not all “Christian” websites and carry various worldviews.  It’s important to read this with a discerning mind.

Women’s Health & Fertility

(disclaimer: Beautiful Bricklayers doesn’t claim to agree with or support everything on these sites.  The links are listed for you to peruse and use at your discretion.)

September Book Review: Every Body Matters (part 2)

There were so many excellent quotations from the book, we wanted to post them here for you to get a taste of the content of this month’s recommended book, Every Body Matters, by Gary Thomas.  We’ve also included an interview with him below.

“In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:21-22

“How we treat our bodies is a question of stewardship even before it is a question of health, comfort, enjoyment, or pleasure. If we’re truly going to be made holy, useful to the Master, and prepared to do any good work, being more  energetic and even being healthier can be essential elements of effectiveness. Many issues of disability and illness are beyond our control; they fall under the providence of God and the genes he has given us. But many issues- how often we exercise, the amount and the quality of the calories we take in- are entirely a matter of choice, and these are what we are held accountable for.” pg.47

“A Christian fully alive is active in every sense of the word, as much as she or he is able to be so under the Providence and care of God.” pg.103

“The reason spiritual neglect and apathy are so devastating is that the act of pursuing God makes life so much sweeter. When I am seeking and growing in God, my marriage and parenting, my eating and drinking, my laughing and playing and work, take on and holy hue. The delight I have in God seeps into everything I do, and if there is anything that blocks this delight, I lose my taste for it.” pg.108

“Here’s the difference: trying aspects of life will happen whether we use them or not. Spiritual laziness leads to resentment; spiritual diligence spawns insight and transformation from the exact same events.” pg. 111

“We should be asking ourselves how we can become places of outreach that love, affirm, and build up the sick, the lonely, the recovering addicts, and the weak, while affirming the call to become strong, fit, and active servants.” pg. 129

“but as God’s representatives, we are called to encourage others to turn from sin and to testify to God’s will, however imperfectly we live it out ourselves, because a life of holiness is the most wonderful, meaningful, joy-filled, abundant life there is.” pg. 1410220001737a
“Such a commitment will require radical spiritual strength, and I believe that addressing the physical issues of laziness and overeating can have a significant impact on the church’s readiness.” pg. 195

September Book Review: Every Body Matters (part 1)

This month, Melissa Pena, recommends Gary Thomas’ Every Body Matters to help us dive deeper into the health theme.  She shares more of a summary below so you can be further inspired to worship God with your whole being… including your body.

Every Body Matters Book Review

While the world around pushes for us to lose weight and look our best in healthy and unhealthy ways, the church often opts out of conversations about physical health and well being altogether.  Gary Thomas addresses this trend and dives right into the discussion in his book, Every Body Matters.  Here, Thomas explores from a Biblical perspective the benefits of physical fitness and how it can profoundly impact our lives as Christ followers.  He shares how becoming physically fit can lead to being more sensitive to God’s voice, having more zest for life, and having a fresh attitude of service and love for others.

In addition to discussing the spiritual and emotional benefits of physical fitness, Gary Thomas also shares the true motivation behind all of it. The goal behind getting healthy as a Christian is not that we might look and feel great but that we might be “instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).  By being disciplined in what we eat and the activities we choose, we train ourselves so that we might be ready (now both physically, mentally, and spiritually) for any good work- for Christ and His kingdom.

I am so grateful to have read this book and very highly recommend it.  Every chapter is infused with convicting truth, motivating perspective, and refreshing candor.  Every time I put the book down, I felt this deep urge to go for a brisk walk or do some sort of exercise.  This book has given me a deeper motivation for being healthy.  It’s not about me just getting thinner and more agile but it’s about walking with my God and serving Him with all my heart.  For me, that’s just about the best motivation I could ever ask for.  I hope you find this book as refreshing and motivating as I did. Press on, sisters!

“Soft people who frequently complain about the smallest annoyances, who give in to laziness and excess, who expect others to work so they can rest, who collapse into passive entertainment instead of active exercise- these are souls custom-made to become all but irrelevant in kingdom warfare. They are no threat to anyone- least of all to Satan.” pg. 127

September Spotlight: Erin Sheehy

Here’s our second month of putting you, Beautiful Bricklayers, in the spotlight.  Enjoy the wisdom and encouragement from this month’s interview with Erin Sheehy: a gorgeous, fun-loving, hard-working Daughter of the King of kings!

Erin Sheehy being silly

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am 30 years old, a Californian native, and the oldest of 5 kids.  After studying at Wheaton College (IL), I taught in Honduras for 2 years before moving back to CA.  Currently, this is my 9th year of teaching 7th grade English.  During my free time, I love being with my Young Life high school kids, spending time with my family, and working out.

Since this month’s theme is health, how do you stay so healthy in mind, body, and spirit?

I stay healthy in my mind and spirit by spending time alone with Jesus.  I love to make a bowl of oatmeal with a scoop of natural peanut butter and to have a cup of strong coffee while I read the Word in the morning before work.  I prefer to turn off the radio of my car and to pray instead.  As far as staying healthy and fit physically, I start my day with push ups and I always try to work out for at least 30 minutes daily even if it is late at night after work.  Consistency is key for me.  I love to spin on a bike at the gym or hike but my favorite workout is walking.  In fact, this is where I do my best praying.  I put my cell phone up to my ear, so people don’t think I am talking to myself as I pray out loud while I walk at the beach.

Why are you so intentional about being a healthy person?  Who taught you the most about what it means to be healthy?

It is important to me to stay healthy because my body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and I want to be strong in order to better serve Him. It is also a stress relief for me to workout.  I just feel better.

My parents had a great impact on my choices about prioritizing working out.  I realized that my parents made time to invest in healthy living and that it should be a part of my life too.

Erin Sheehy siblingsRegarding men: what are some key qualities/attributes that you would like to see in the man you would marry?  Do you ever dream of what he would be like?

I pray that the man I marry will be one who loves Christ.  I also love having people over and showing hospitality, so I would love it if that were a part of his life.  Since I work with kids, I would love it if he enjoyed youth. Finally, since taking care of my health is important, I would value it if a man took care of his physical health too.

Do you ever struggle in your singleness?  What do you do when you are feeling down or aching in your heart?

Yes, there are times when I struggle with singleness.  I liken it to a roller coaster. Some days I struggle and am scared about the next “twist and turn,” but other days, I enjoy the ride and smile at the future.  When I feel down, I tell myself about the goodness and faithfulness of God.  I also tell myself to “Do the next thing.”  This was a mantra of Elizabeth Elliot, and I want to be one who is not full of self pity but one who redeems the time and opportunities I have now in front of me!  Finally, I think of Proverbs 31:25 “She can laugh at the days to come.”  I know God is in charge and He is taking care of me for my good and for His glory!

If you had to share one of the biggest blessings of living a life of purity in singleness, what would you share?

The greatest blessing of living a life of purity while single is that it is pleasing to the LORD.  HE is the audience of One that I live to please, and I want my actions and conduct to bring Him glory.

Do you have a Scripture passage that has been like an anchor of truth for you?

Psalms 37:3-7 has been my favorite passage to turn to throughout the years as a foundation of Truth to anchor my heart to. 

“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this; He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” 

simple truth

As we focus on our theme of health this month, I’m reminded that most of us already know what it takes to live a healthy life: regular exercise, wholesome diet, sufficient sleep, life-giving relationships, reconciled heart to God… You know: no short-cuts… Just the honest, straight-up truth of living the way God intended.

The key to this kind of life isn’t so much about knowing what to do, but simply DECIDING to do it. Implementation. Discipline. Diligence. Knowing when to start some things and stop some other things. Saying no to the destructive. Saying yes to the constructive.

It’s up to you. Will you choose to live a healthy life one moment at a time?

three important appointments

Something that helps me clear my mind and nourish my soul is to keep three special appointments each week: a business meeting, a fun date, and a time to spiritually recharge. This is not my original idea, but I heard it on a Focus on the Family radio broadcast featuring an older couple talking about their secret to a strong, healthy marriage through the years.

Keeping these appointments would be beneficial to everyone at all stages of life: single, dating, engaged, or married! Here’s my version of that older couple’s idea and how try to integrate it into my weekly routine.

Business Meeting: Every Tuesday night, my husband and I have a time to connect about the logistics of our lives. This is a simple version of our agenda: Prayer, Recite out loud our family vision statement, Review: finances, calendar, social and ministry happenings, goals, old and new projects, and we even have a little point system that helps us with motivation (If you are interested, I’ll post a video about our point system below). Prior to our meeting, I update our books, and make a new agenda for the meeting. Yes, I know it sounds totally stale and, well, business-like, but it’s such a freeing thing for us to do in order to stay on the same page and not feel like our lives are out of control. If you are single, this is such a great way to keep short accounts with yourself and your own schedule, goals, and finances. Having your own business meeting is an excellent habit to get into now that will yield great dividends in the long run.

Date Night: Hanging out and having fun probably seems like a “no-brainer” easy thing to do when you are married, dating Cristi cell phone random 010 or engaged, but I want to encourage those of you who are single to have date nights too. When I was single (and was not even getting asked out very often), I would make an effort to get dressed up (heels, makeup, hair, and all) and go to a quaint cafe or oceanside restaurant with my bible and journal and I would call it a God-date. Seriously, I had so much fun and I really felt my worth and my beauty. Even though I usually ordered only a dessert and some tea (I had a tight budget), I engaged with the Lord through the experience. Other times, I would bundle up for a sunset walk along the beach. I listened for the Holy Spirit’s voice to tell me what He thought of me, to confide in me whatever He wanted to say, and I can honestly say that those dates were some of the sweetest ones I’ve

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ever had in my life! Just because you don’t have a “significant other” in your life doesn’t mean you don’t get to go on crazy-awesome dates.

Spiritual Recharge: This is a rest time, a Sabbath time, a time to reflect on the last week and get fueled up for another one, but even more than that to enjoy the present. We tend to have either all-day Saturday or Sunday to do this. We block out the day so that we don’t schedule anything that would be draining and we only allow life-giving activities. For us that means: going to church, taking a nap, going for a run or swim, reading a relaxing book, working on a creative project, having friends over for lunch or dinner… you get the idea. The point is: set aside an appointment on your calendar to recharge and reconnect with the Lord. He commands us to take a Sabbath rest, not only because He knows we need it, but because it helps us to remember that He is the One who makes the universe function, not us. We are just not that important (whew, praise God for that!!).

For those of you who are interested to hear more about our weekly points system, here’s a brief summary of what we do:

without chocolate

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one of my chocolate-free desserts during singleness

Several years ago, a dear friend of mine gave up chocolate.  She was like an older sister to me. I thought she was crazy for forgoing chocolate.  She decided that she was going to fast chocolate until she met her husband.  This girl loved her chocolate, and she would feel the sacrifice.  She was going to use the desire to eat the yummy treat as a reminder to pray for her future husband.  I probably tapped her on the back and said, “Good for you. I hope you feel like it’s worthwhile when all is said and done!”

A couple years later, I helped her pack for her honeymoon the night before her wedding. She was giddy and overjoyed to marry the man she loved so much.  I had met him for the first time at the rehearsal dinner (since we lived states away) and I was amazed by how God answered her diligent, persistent prayers.   She totally prayed for this man and I was amazed at how specifically God answered in her husband to be.

At the marriage ceremony the next day I sensed the Holy Spirit pressing upon my heart to do a chocolate fast of my own.  I wanted to plug my spiritual ears and pretend that I didn’t hear that divine instruction (because I really liked to be able to eat chocolate)!  However, I was curious to see how God might use this fast in my own life.   The chocolate cupcake served to me at their wedding reception was the last taste of chocolate I had before I got married.  I was one month shy of going 5 years without chocolate.

date #3 when the chocolate fast first came up in conversation

A funny little side story takes place at a picnic at the beach near the Balboa Pier in Newport Beach.  My husband and I were on our third date.  He had prepared a pretty sophisticated dinner using his backpacking stove.  When it came time for us to have dessert, I could tell he was especially excited.  He pulled out fresh strawberries and chocolate.  I was cringing inside because I knew I needed to hold to my fast, but I already really liked him and didn’t want to be rude.  He proceeded to melt the chocolate in fondue fashion and as he prepared the strawberries for dipping, I had to tell him.  I said that I was on a chocolate fast and I would normally be ecstatic about the dessert he made, but I can only eat the strawberries.  He looked at me intrigued.  Of course, he asked what I didn’t want him to ask, “Why are you fasting chocolate?”  I told him that I didn’t feel at liberty to share, but that I was excited to have some yummy strawberries.   Fast forward about a year.  We were driving somewhere and he told me that he still didn’t know why I was fasting it, but he told me that he wanted to join in and pray for me as I continued my fast.  Several months later, he proposed and asked me about the fast.   I finally told him and he was, of course, delighted.  We broke the fast together the day after we got married… with chocolate dipped strawberries on the balcony of our hotel room.

I share these stories with you to share my own experience of God answering prayers and I share to encourage you to take up the discipline of fasting.  The main point is to not feel condemnation or pressure to fast a certain amount of time or way.  Be gentle with yourself as you learn and grow in the fasting discipline. The goal is to grow in your yearning for the Lord and to be drawn into His presence even more often than normal because of the repeated reminder that we need Him.  Whatever it is that we are fasting: food, time, finances, talking, media, whatever it may be – we are meant to draw near to Him with a sincere heart.

As you seek to dig deeper into the discipline of fasting, here are some resources that might be helpful to you:

I would encourage you to read all you can from the Word (search fasting at and meditate on His Word.  Remember this is not a legalistic exercise; it’s a relationship strengthening discipline.  His love is so GREAT towards us!

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousnesswill go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”  Isaiah 58:6-9

going organic

A little over two years ago, my husband and I sat deeply engaged in conversation with a friend who shared some of his PhD in Nutrition knowledge with us.  I remember feeling my head swim with information and resources. Part of me felt skeptical about all the organic food talk and all the changes he challenged us to make, but I decided to be open-minded and to do some of my own

We started by watching documentaries (see below for trailers), then we set off early on Saturday mornings to explore our local farmers markets, then we sat down with a rancher we met there and he taught us the value of organic grass-fed beef, then I began buying almost all organic produce, chicken, and eggs, then we cut out processed foods (ie any snacks you can buy prepackaged), and the levels get deeper and deeper…

Meanwhile, our sleep got better, we had more energy, our portion sizes were better controlled because each serving had more nourishment and our body didn’t ask for more food as quickly, my acne was beginning to clear up, and we experienced an overall improvement in our health.

Why am I sharing all of this with you? Not to boast about our food savvy or healthy habits, but to share a glimpse into a gradual life change with many benefits that are available to you too!  Regardless of whether you are single or married, you can be a good steward of your own body and bless, not only your own life, but those around you now (roommates, family, friends) and in your future (husband and children).

Here are a few links to get you started (or to dive deeper) in your healthy (hot and holy) living:

Food Documentaries worth checking out:

Food, Inc.

“In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won’t go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults… Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.”

In Organic We Trust

“IN ORGANIC WE TRUST is an eye-opening food documentary that follows Director/Producer Kip Pastor on a personal journey to answer commonly asked questions about organic food: What exactly is organic? Is it really better, or just a marketing scam?

The film digs deep with farmers, organic certifiers, scientists, and organic critics to explore the content beneath the label and the truth behind the marketing. It takes a balanced approach to clear up misconceptions about organic food while highlighting practical solutions that are transforming the way we grow and eat.”

If you have Amazon Prime, many of these are available on Amazon Instant Video, like this one: 

Also, here are some excellent food blogs and websites to check out:

Mama Natural

Oh She Glows

Pure Mamas

Frugal Foodie Family

Kayla Howard


The Weston A. Price Foundation

Empowered Sustenance

We are part of the following food co-ops from which we order our organic food:

Azure Standard

Country Life Natural Foods

We also buy raw milk, honey, and eggs from a local farmer and beekeeper.  Getting your “real food” sources and systems take some time and deliberate effort, but it’s worth it!  Take one step at a time and don’t rush yourself.

changing seasons

Recently, I returned from a much needed vacation in Curacao.  All week long, I was reminded that God commands us to rest. As we prepare for the autumn season let’s be intentional about incorporating rest into our daily, weekly, and yearly schedules.  This video shares more about this concept of rest.

I couldn’t help but share some photos from our time away:


(Yes, the water was really that blue.)


Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”