Thursday, December 25, 2014

And Nature Sing

My mom used to sing this little chorus, "On a Christmas morning, the angels sing for joy!"  They are not the only ones who rejoice.  All of creation lifts its praise to the Maker of heaven and earth.  I can hear it in the wonder of the forest and in the grandeur of the trees, see it in the snowfall and in the herd of elk crossing our path.

The day we searched for a tree was beautiful.  I never tire of the experience.

Sure, we could get a better tree at the lot, but we would miss the beauty of nature and family bonding.

The tree is selected and prepared to bear the weight of the trappings, while at the same time providing a resting place for our carefully wrapped gifts.  It is cut down in its prime, giving its life that Christmas might come.  This sounds acutely familiar. 

The Christ child, born in Bethlehem, carries our burden.  Yielding His life, He stoops low, swooping  us up into that safe place where we receive mercy and grace, sharing our journey.

Hope and anticipation are wrapped in His boughs, a hope that does not disappoint. 

We rest assured in His promise that we "will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before [us] and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." (Isa. 55:12)  

Silent and softly He came.

Fierce He will return.

Let earth receive her king. 

 For the heart that makes room for Him will know His joy.

 As He is lifted high we are drawn to His light. 

We delight in His presence, resting in the Gift of all gifts, Jesus, the Savior of the world. 

Without doubt, heaven and nature sing, while we join in the song.
 Joy to the world, the Lord is come! 

From our house to yours, Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Something to Give

I feel for the drummer boy.  We set him up on a pedestal, quaint and pure.  I suppose it refreshes our technological action packed world, the simplicity of his drum.  But there's nothing worse than a season of giving without the resources to give.  What's the boy to do?  

Mary, desperate for privacy, and Joseph, at a loss for a solution, end up in a shelter for animals.  I wonder how Joseph felt, a man unable to provide.  What a shameful dilemma.  Had he failed to make arrangements with his long lost relatives?   Did he not realize how crowded the motels would be?  Would no one take them in, not even a stranger?

We know it was no mistake.  The plan, that God made flesh would come by humble means, was predicted years and years before. 

As Christmas is upon us, preparation is paramount.  I thought I was done.  Finished.  No more gifts to purchase, but I was mistaken.  One sock falls short of its full capacity, and today I join the ranks of those last minute shoppers.  However, the momentum intensifies as the cleaning wraps up, the last groceries are bought, and the cooking begins.  With all this preparation who has energy left for Christmas?

Yesterday morning I ran smack dab into Hebrews 8:3 which stopped me in my tracks, "Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer."  Jesus needed something to offer?!  Are you kidding me?  The One who created the heavens and the earth is lacking a gift?  In a sense, yes, for we did not need the riches of heaven and earth.  What we needed was a Rescuer, and that would require God made into human flesh, a sacrifice of humility, and later a sacrifice of suffering to the death.  Only such a gift could redeem us from our plight.

At times I wonder why we do what we do.  Why is so much energy expended at Christmas?   The search for just the right gift, the wrapping, the decorating, the programs, the cleaning and rearranging of furniture to fit a tree, and now in these last days before the day, there is the cooking.  All this preparation and for what end?  Simply put, a gift.  For without the sacrifice of preparation our hands remain empty; we have nothing to give, not a single gift.  But love says it is worth it all. 

The drummer boy had it right.  Though he had nothing, he brought everything, the offering of his talent and the surrender of his life to the One who is worthy, Jesus the Lamb of God.  With every ba rum pa pah pum, beat the throbbing of a heart in worship of his king.  Because that's what Christmas is all about.

Come, let us adore Him. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Comfort and Joy

While some thrive on shopping, I generally wilt.  And at Christmas the pressure only intensifies as it seems everyone's happiness depends on me, the mom.  She must find the perfect gifts, bake the most detailed cookies, clean the house, glaze the ham, and stuff the socks.  The season snowballs into a flurry of unrealistic expectation, all for want of comfort and joy. 

Don't get me wrong.  Most of the time I enjoy serving in this way.  But I am better at gifts of time and labor than on the commercial scene at the stores.  Yet, there is one thing the secular holiday hype does for me.

It causes me to thirst.

In all the empty perfection, the staged happiness, I crave meaning.  All I want is Jesus.  He is so precious, so sacred, so near and dear to my heart, that I am offended by anything less. 

For the first time ever, I watched, (on TV), the ceremonial lighting of the tree in New York City.  With song after song, talented artists reminded us of snowmen and bells, reindeer and gifts.  But as the night wore on, what was meant to be fun, ended sleazy.  The mention of Christ was sadly missing.

However, when at last the tree was lit, the entire crowd burst into, "Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King!"  I almost cried.  Finally, something deeper than the surface, something pure, something worth celebrating, and Someone who quenches my thirsty soul. 

Yes, I can join in a great round of Jingle Bells or Santa Baby just like anyone else.  I've even learned how to enjoy shopping.  In fact, I am headed out right now to do that very thing.  And it gets even better.  My husband is coming with me.  Now that's what I call fun!  But it doesn't make Christmas.  For those who know Jesus, the season is filled with rich significance, wonder, and awe.  That is the heart of my fulfillment.

We return this evening to a middle school orchestra concert in a hot, crowded gym, but I can say with all my heart, "This is the day the LORD has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it."  (Psa. 118:24)  While the 1980's made this phrase into a cheesy little Sunday School song, if we understood its context, we would think differently.  These words express the cry of Jesus the very day He was to face the cross. Whoa!  Suddenly the phrase holds great meaning.  If He could embrace that day with such an attitude, surely his joy can permeate this hectic season!

When the shopping, baking, and gifting is all stripped away, we are left with a baby in a barn, wrapped only in swaddling clothes.

He is enough. 

God rest ye merry gentlemen, (and ladies!), let nothing you dismay.
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day.
To save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray,
Oh tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, oh tidings of comfort and joy!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Going To The Chapel

It was a Wednesday when he popped the question, "So let's get married."  She readily agreed, while he went on to suggest, "Okay, how about this Friday?"

And they were married. 

After a weekend honeymoon they were back to work on Monday.  Now, fifty years later, they are still married. . . to each other.  Why, in days gone by, did the marriages last so much longer than today?  What was their secret?  

Of course there are many factors, but after celebrating my parents-in-law 50th wedding anniversary, I am convinced of one thing.  Back in the good ol' days the focus was on the marriage, not the ceremony.  It was two imperfect people committing to grow old together, mistakes and all.  They did not wait for perfect conditions in order to tie the knot.  Nor did they expect life to be all about candles and flowers.  They were in touch with reality, knowing it would require loyal dedication through disagreements and misunderstandings, discomforts and sickness.   

Today the question is often asked, "Why bother with the piece of paper?"   The answer is, "Because it makes all the difference to the relationship."  It crosses the bridge of commitment, taking a risk into the unknown.  This is where love meets longevity. 

Modern thinking sends us on a guilt trip declaring, "It is not fair to your husband to be someone different than who he married."  I say, "Hogwash!"  No one is the same person they were when they got married.  And, quite frankly, I'm glad I'm not!  That is the nature of love.  It commits to the other person without knowing how they will change, but believing it will be for the better. 

I am blessed to have such a strong marriage model from both sides of the family, my parents having reached their 50th as well.  It is rare.  This model of commitment snowballs down through the generations, encouraging me to keep my part in the heritage. 

And so, Mom and Dad, thank you for upholding God's mandate, to leave father and mother and cleave to each other . . . for life.  I admire your faithfulness and hope that we can one day become such a valued classic as you two have become.  And by the grace of God, we will. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Giving Thanks

When the accuser comes in the night rehearsing regrets I wonder, "Is this really what it takes to get me on my knees?"  God seems far away, but in the darkness I cry out to Him anyway.  I know Christians are not supposed to despair, but that does not mean we are not honest with God about how we feel.  Yet, truth tells me I have been chosen for a specific purpose and that God has placed me here for a reason.  Faith calls me to believe. 

A song greets the light, 'there may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning', a soothing balm after a fitful night.  And this day, of all days, the anniversary of my mother's death, I look back and remember that the presence of God's Holy Spirit in my life, truly did bring me joy in the mourning.  I can count on it for today because God is faithful beyond my comprehension.

With recent travel and events, I never got a chance to give thanks.  And so I do it now.  I am most grateful for my relationship with God, that He has chosen me to be His own and that His love never fails.  Though there are times I doubt, He remains constant, my sure foundation, my solid rock. This relationship is sacred, precious, and dear to my heart. 

Riches promise hope, but turn up empty.  Making a good impression only fades, for eventually truth reigns.  But oh so refreshing to sink into the arms of my Savior and know that He is the real deal.  He is genuine through and through.  Eternal realities are far greater than any earthly wealth or status.  I am forever grateful for my eternal inheritance in Christ Jesus.   

I am also thankful for my family, my husband and children, and for godly parents who taught me from infancy what a relationship with God can be.  They instilled in me a foundation which nurtured maturity in Christ at a young age and gave me a vision for going deeper.  And we sang.  I love that we sang and prayed together.  I still reap the benefits of those prayers.

I am grateful for my parents-in-law, who just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  What stability their faithfulness provides for each of their children and what joy to know they belong to the family of God.  Their leadership is invaluable.  And as the only daughter-in-law, I am spoiled with a unique relationship that is ours alone.  I am indebted to them for the influence of their lives on my husband, making him the man he is, and most of all, their part in his salvation.  And we reap the blessings of their prayers as well.

I rejoice in God's creation, for His wonders reach deep, never failing to speak to my heart.  Taking every opportunity to awaken my senses to the beauty around me, enfolds me in worship of Him.

I pray that I will see every detail, every work of His hands.  I don't want to miss anything, for it is all too wonderful.  It causes me to broaden my perspective beyond my struggles.

And speaking of struggles, yes, I am grateful for them as well, because they promote growth in my life.  But even more than that, they cause me to realize that God and His Word are not just concepts, theology for philosophical discussion, or material for eloquent songs.  No, the person of Jesus meets me in my everyday life.  He shows me that in my messes, He is the reality at my side.

I can hold onto Him, even for everyday things like losing weight, serving my family, or writing on this blog.  Nothing is too small for Him, nor too big.  His grace is truly enough for every challenge because I'm covered in His blood where I find sweet acceptance.   

Having just returned home from a schedule packed whirl wind trip, my house is strewn with suitcases, sleeping bags, hockey equipment, dirty dishes, laundry, and kitchen items that need put away.  It is overwhelming to say the least, but I can tackle the day because Jesus gives me His joy and strength.  He protects from the accuser and intercedes on my behalf.  He goes before me and behind, both my offense and defense, and I am encouraged.  

The LORD is a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.  
Psalm 3:3 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

To Care

I have some friends going through a difficult season, a family losing a grandfather and dad.  My conscience was pricked when I forgot to ask, worse yet, forgot to pray.  I've been so engrossed in my own life that, dare I say it, I failed to care.  But it has given me some perspective on my own trials. 

The countdown to Thanksgiving paired with an important anniversary party for my in-laws, has caused me to be worried about what to eat and what to wear.  Trivial things.  Furthermore, I just made a big deal out of traveling across the country alone.  It seems silly now, why I was so afraid to do that.  Childish really.  If my trials are no deeper than that, then what do I know of suffering? 

Years ago at this time I was going through an almost identical struggle as my friend.  Except not.  My mother was dying, yet, she knew the Lord.  However, my friends' grandfather and dad does not know the Lord.  Huge difference.  How much greater their struggle, and how devastating!  I cannot imagine the pain they must be experiencing, nor the urgency of their prayers. 

God knows we need food and clothing, yet, we are not to pursue them.  Instead, we seek His kingdom and He promises to provide for our daily needs.  The culture is obsessed with 'touch not, taste not' in regard to food.  Fads abound.  Furthermore, the world's self-image is guarded and exalted by their brand name clothing.  It all seems so trivial, yet, how easy I fall into this trap and lose the right focus. 

In reality, God has recently showered His gifts upon me, providing for my daily needs, showing me that I need not worry about such things.   A freezer full of plump Oregon blueberries, hand picked by my sister, a salmon caught right out of the river, caught by my brother, boxes of apples given by a neighbor, a car given by my Dad, and so much more.  When God provides, He reaches over the top, beyond what I could ever ask or think!  

Yet, when I look at the seriousness of my friends' plight, I am humbled.   This season of pain in their lives runs far deeper than food or clothing.  It is time for me to get on my knees and be about kingdom work:  intercede for the lost, care for the hurting, and live God's great salvation, sharing it wherever I go.  

Compassion is not my strong point.  But just because my gifts lie in other areas, does not mean I should not practice empathy.  I am currently teaching a unit to a class of students on how Jesus cares for people.  It is convicting to say the least.  My desire is to be like Jesus and get my eyes off my own frivolities and truly care about others. 

"Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."  Matt. 6:25 and 33

Friday, November 14, 2014


Courage:  Not the absence of fear, but faith in the midst of it. 

There's no place like home.  Over the last week, this truth became very vivid.  After a random phone call, I embarked on an adventure that sent me across the country in a pick up truck with my sister.  It felt like I was in a dream, it was all so sudden.  But the real challenge started when it came time to drive all that way back home . . . alone. 

I have to admit that I was scared, not so much of strangers, but of the cities I would be driving through, the barren desserts I would cross, and the storm I would have to beat.  Because of the massive cloud bearing down over our country with its load of snow, I could not take my usual route across Idaho, the route I know.  Instead, I dropped south and cut across Nevada, adding several hours to my journey. 

Normally that would not be a big deal, other than I was far from home and driving across some of the most remote areas of our country.  As I turned onto an unmarked road, described to me by my brother as a shortcut across south east Oregon, my cell phone lost coverage.  It was then I thought, "Okay, God.  It's you and me, some 300 miles of you and me with nothing else."  It's one thing to say I believe He is watching over me and quite another to have all crutches removed, looking only to Him for my safety. 

And yet, God gave me assurance that He had me covered.  As I started down that desolate road, the radio began a song.  The lyrics seemed directly for me.  "Be strong, do not fear, for I am with you..." I didn't know the song, having never heard it before or since, only that at the time, it spoke to my anxious heart. 

I claim to live by faith, but so often seek places of safety, you know, low risk.  Not that I should purposefully place myself in danger or be stupid about my decisions.  But at times God calls me to place my faith where 'the rubber meets the road'.  Is God real?  Is He powerful?  Is He good?  Then I should be able to lean my full weight onto Him.  At times He has to pry my hands away from what gives me confidence, in order to test where my faith really lies. 

Midway across Nevada I caught up with the edge of the Alaskan cloud.  It was awesome to see, it's ominous shade stretched wide over the valley floor, a distinct line across the sky.  I felt like I was in a race against nature, commanding, "No!  Wait!  Not yet!  Give me half a day!"  But I was reminded that God sends snow on the just and the unjust, and sometimes difficulties arise to make us stronger. 

By the time I reached Salt Lake, I was well under the cloud.  News predicted snow within the hour and so I changed my route again, going even further south.  There's nothing quite like circling the state of Utah to get across a mountain pass, but it can be done!  Finally, I entered the canyon lands.  I never knew that red rock would be so inviting, but it was, because it was home.   

Now and then God calls us to risk, to stretching, to growth, and to a deeper faith.  Normally that does not come through the forces of nature, but I will always remember this Alaskan storm and my unexpected road trip as one which challenged my fears.  I'm reminded that the clouds are the dust of His feet.  God controls the weather as well as what touches me.  And He can be trusted.

Though difficult, I'm glad for my travels, because it forced me to practice what I preach, that we need to do hard things.  Choosing the scary path, rather than the comfortable or safe, keeps me from becoming complacent and stagnant.  I want to live by faith, because I want to always go deeper and draw nearer to the Lord.  He is faithful.  

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Witness of the Stars

It was an ordinary day when I found out I would be taking a journey across the country.  Unplanned and sudden, I have to wonder if there might be a deeper reason for it all.  Yet, I am confident this plan is not a surprise to God. 

Recently, I spent a night camping outside under the stars.  I was reminded of Abraham, who went, without knowing where, and of God's promise to give him as many descendants as the stars in the sky, to bless him and to make him a blessing.   

Since taking a class on the constellations, I no longer look at the big dipper as a soup ladle, but rather a sheep fold, the handle representing sheep walking into a pen.  And I think of God and His ability to preserve His people Israel.  When I study their history as a nation, it is baffling that they still exist at all, and yet they are prominent in our current news reports worldwide. 

However, on the other side of the sky there is another constellation, the little dipper.  It too represents a sheep fold and sheep brought into safety.  As I think of believers in Christ, the church, I sometimes forget the big picture.  It seems like the church should be the big dipper, but no, we are only represented by the small.  In the grand scheme of God's plan, we are not so numerous as His people Israel.  Somehow, the little dipper seems mysterious, lesser known, like the church, set apart uniquely for this age.   

All this to say, how amazing that God cares to even know my name, let alone orchestrate the movement of my life.  How wonderful that He considers my frame and guides my steps.  Oh, if only I could truly grasp the depth of His goodness!  He is greater than my comprehension, yet more personal than words can say.   He stoops down to hear my cry, and holds me close to His heart. 

Living in town, I rarely see the stars in their full radiance, but I don't want to miss any of the wonders of God's creation, for "night after night they pour forth speech".  (Psa. 19:2)   All I can say is, "Wow!  Just wow!"  Who is like our God?  No one even comes close.  He can be trusted.  The God who scattered the stars across the sky and knows them each by name, is always at my side. 

"The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display His craftsmanship. 
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make Him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world."  
Psa. 19:1-4  (NLT)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Eyes Wide Open

How can it be?  I think I know myself, but really, I am blind.  I wash the outside, polish the surface, and put on an impressive front,

                                                                                    but inside my heart is full of slimy gunk. 

Who can deliver me from this dilemma?  I try to have an honest heart, but it turns out, I'm not even nice.

Though the carving tools are frightening, I cry out for them, because my heart is so desperate to be free of this muck.  My heart longs for freedom from myself. 

As members of the family of God, "Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers." [sisters]  He claims us as His own.  How can it be, that "both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family"?  It is all because Jesus was willing to identify with us, enduring the cross, to secure our inward cleansing.  He even "shared in our humanity so that by his death, he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil."  (Heb. 2:11-14)

Since Jesus Himself suffered, should not I?  Gratefulness, humility, selflessness, gentleness, and restraint, are some of the carving tools required to rid the yuck from my life.  Yet, in and of myself, I lack the power to implement these tools.  I need the blood of Jesus to cleanse my heart and God's Holy Spirit to take hold of the knife, carving His image on my soul. 

Jesus, be the center, be my source, be my light.  Without Him, there is only darkness, for "all my righteousness is as filthy rags." (Isa. 64:6) But with Him, darkness is dispelled.

I want my eyes wide open, so I can see the cuts with God's perspective, that they are only windows for His light to shine through.   

This transformation that occurs is miraculous.  How can it be?  Babies, though cute, wallow in immaturity, but everyone knows babies are not expected to stay that way. 

They grow up into beautiful sons and daughters. 

For this reason, "I put childish ways behind me," for I want the beauty of Christ to rest upon me, radiant with His likeness.  (1 Cor. 13:11) 

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."  (1 Cor.13:1-2)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Finding Balance

Being fit does not make a person happy.  In fact, for those who are people pleasers, it does quite the opposite.  Instead of 'winning friends and influencing people', it produces envy and an isolation in perceived perfection.  Strength is viewed as an ideal rather than an inspiration because no one can relate to it.

I sought fitness for my health, or so I thought.  In truth, I am accountable to my insurance company, and that was my prime motivation.  But now I'm realizing that there may have been other factors which spurred me on, such as thinking I would be more accepted, not only by others, but especially of myself.  Not true.  Why did I go through all that effort only to push people away?  

Somewhere in all of this, there lies a balance. 

My mom died of leukemia.  Being her eighth child, I never knew her frame any other way than overweight.  But she gave her life for her family.  Sure, she could have spent hours at the gym or hiking the hills, but at what expense?  Instead, most every day she cooked three sit down meals for her family.  (Seriously, I'm not exaggerating with that fact.)  She did mountains of laundry and cleaned the house countless times.  She was intelligent, sharp, and quick on her feet.  She used those skills in ministry at her local church, and to train her children in godliness.  She died with little earthly possessions, but rich in eternal rewards, and although her physical body never measured up to any chart, she spent her energy and time on the right things.

But no one should be placed on a pedestal and it's so easy to do that with dead people.  She was not a superwoman.  I'm certain my Dad would have appreciated more of her devotion and energy spent taking care of her physical body.  And us children would have liked more of her time than her completion of tasks.   But she erred on the side of serving her family because that was how she communicated love.  And if we must default to one or the other, unselfishness is a noble route. 

Success at any endeavor requires a certain amount of obsession.  It is commonly called our passion.  But what good is the shape of our bodies in the light of eternity?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  I think of those who devote a significant portion of their lives to exercise and denial so they might enjoy quality of life or add a few extra years.  But at what expense?  What is neglected in order to accomplish this goal? 

When my two oldest children were in middle school, I often left the house early to run with a friend.  Meanwhile, they got up and ready for school.  They made their own lunch and ate their own breakfast.  I called it, 'learning to be capable and grown up'.  But it was really my own selfishness and neglect.  I do not regret the time with my friend, but I am very ashamed of my poor mothering and sorry I ever put exercise in that place.  The exercise itself was not wrong, but the timing was off.

Yet, now I have entered a season where I have the time to devote toward fitness without neglecting my family.  To take care of my body is, indeed, honoring to God.  He created me and desires that I take care of His creation to the best of my ability.  But until I cross that line from being controlled by food, to controlling it, the battle does need to be front center, a priority.  I have to be insane about the exercise and intense over denial until it is conquered.   It will not always be this way, because other things in life are far more important.  

As a result of this season of dedication to my health, there have been consequences.  The garden never got weeded, the clutter piled up in the house, some projects were left undone, and a few good intentions never came to fruition.   I had to be okay with these things left awry in order to focus on the goal.  Otherwise the objective would never have been accomplished.  And so there has to be seasons to some priorities. 

However, exercise can easily become something we worship.  Even discipline itself can be a source of pride and idolatry.  At that point, we become out of balance.  Yet, I hope at the end of my life, my children will say, "Mom spent her life on the right things." 

Every aspect of our lives needs to have the right balance, but this is the hardest thing of all to achieve.  And so I trust those who read this blog will understand that these posts in October have actually been a series, starting with spiritual wrestling and surrender, resulting in a step of faith into obedience, and ending in tangible action.  The spiritual side of the battle, I'm assured, will reap eternal reward, even though the physical will perish.  But most of all, my relationship with God has deepened.  And for that, it is all worth it. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Tools

I like this new place, but I don't know how long I will be staying.  I'm hoping it will be permanent, but I do not trust myself, for I know my own weakness.  So I'm holding onto God who is faithful.  He is able to keep me in this place if I am willing to cooperate with Him and do my part.

I don't really have answers to weight loss.  There is no easy solution and no guarantee that tomorrow I will walk my own talk.  All I can do is share with you some habits which have produced results for me. Yet, these are only tools, which, in and of themselves, lack the power to motivate for change. In order for these tools to be effective, I have to pick them up, but then lean hard into the Lord for the strength to put them into action.   

I will be honest, it is a struggle.  Every day I fight.  But the more I train my body, the more practiced I become at making the right choices and it does get considerably easier.  But still, that does not mean I can relax and let down my guard, especially when it comes to food, for I am especially weak in that area.   

In my younger years, I could get away with eating anything.  I justified it knowing I could just run a few miles and keep a trim body.  But the older I get the more that balance is tipped the other way.  The right food matters just as much as the exercise.   That said, I've made some major changes in my diet, switching to only good fats (coconut and olive oil, fish, avacodo, walnuts/almonds) and to only complex carbohydrates (whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes).  Protein is a building block rather than a fuel which is why I have a little with every meal and snack.

My favorite breakfast

My favorite snack
My favorite lunch or dinner.  About every 3 days, I switch to serious carbs. Then return back to this.

Refined sugar is still my biggest enemy and so I have gone off of it almost completely.  However, I still crave sweets and allow myself to have some now and then, but only with great caution since it is so addictive.  To solve this sweet tooth dilemma, I generally use Truvia instead.  It is derived from the leaf of stevia rather than chemicals and has zero calories. 

Besides the Mediterranean diet, I try to follow principles from a book called Trim Healthy Mama by Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett.  Their theory is this.  Our bodies burn two kinds of fuel, fats and sugars.  (Carbs = sugars) The combination of these two fuels together is what puts on the pounds.  However, it does not mean I have to eliminate one or the other, but rather eat only one fuel source at a time leaving at least 3 hours before switching to the other.  To move back and forth from one fuel source to the other creates confusion in the body, resulting in weight loss.   I try to stick with this principle as much as possible, but I break the rules more often than I would like to admit. 

Along with my change in diet, I have also changed my method of exercise.  I used to run a slow jog for miles, but it never did anything to make me smaller.  The reason is that our muscles adapt to  continuous movement.  Furthermore, running only uses a few muscles in the body. If that is all I do, I have neglected to work other areas.  And so I've learned to mix things up to create muscle confusion.

One way I do that, is through some exercise dvds called Ten Minute Solutions published by Anchor Bay.  I do their 30 day, six day a week chart religiously, rarely missing a workout.

The program is designed to do 4-6, 10 minute sections a day.
I like this set of five dvds for several reasons.  First of all, it combines kick boxing, pilates, strength training (weights), cardio, and coordination, producing an all around fitness.  Secondly, they treat me with respect, not with a superior attitude or unrealistic expectations. Thirdly, I've repeated the cycle non stop for five months and still enjoy it.  That's saying something as I usually get bored with dvd workouts.  And lastly, I like to follow a chart.  They do the thinking for me so I don't have to figure out what I'm doing on what day.  I find great satisfaction in checking off each day, plus it records my progress. 
Seeking rapid results, I chose their 6 day/week program.  There is also a 3 day/week chart that is less intense.

Besides that, I try to get outdoors for some sunshine and cardio.  My favorites are hiking, biking, or running. (With running, I do sprint intervals and stadium stairs, never going more than three miles.)

Then I usually take a walk late evening with my husband.  This gives us a chance to talk and I hardly even realize we are exercising.    

All this exercise amounts to almost three hours a day.  You are probably wondering how on earth anyone has that much time to work out.  Most people don't and there were seasons of my life where I did not either.  Start small and build up to what your body needs.  But the key is to start.  Do something you love.  Enjoyment is the key to keeping a habit for life.  If I hate what I do, I will quit.  But it might take some suffering and discipline to work up to the place where it becomes an enjoyable activity.   If exercise is not your thing, it is possible to train yourself to like it.  An accountability system is helpful as well. 

A lot of people lose weight with no exercise at all, only dieting.  This has never worked for me.  I must have both factors incorporated into my daily life, especially as I get older.  

Often I spend time with friends while I exercise, but I am one who enjoys being alone as well.  I usually pray or memorize Scripture on my hikes or while running, and so it is not wasted time. I keep my memory work in a tiny composition book which fits in my pocket.  I take this with me wherever I go.  This helps to keep my mind fit as well. 

Whew!  Okay, that is my long answer to the question, "What is your secret to weight loss?"  It is no secret, just the same old fashioned diet and exercise answer.  I hope that satisfies the curious and will inspire others in their goals as well. 

"I can do all things through Him who gives me strength."  Phil. 4:13

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Battle

We all know about David and Goliath, but did you know that Goliath had a brother?   And there really was a man with six fingers and six toes.  David's mighty men came face to face with these lesser known giants and defeated them.  (1 Chron. 20:4-8)

Likewise, we all have something with which we struggle, our own personal giants, but not everyone's is the same.  Yours might be cancer or diabetes, autism or depression.  It might even be a personality trait such as shyness or anger.  I have some dear friends, mighty warriors, who are fighting hard at their battles, which encourages me in mine.

Last spring God brought me face to face with a giant of my own, that is, my weight.  For years I've known that I needed to make some changes, but our culture's obsession with skinny caused me to resist diets and the 'starve-yourself-to-fit-a-certain-image' mentality.  Hollywood has set an airbrushed expectation which cannot realistically be met.

That was just one excuse.  I had many others.  Genetics, giving birth to four children, and growing older were among them.  But God was telling me plain and simple that if I was to overcome in this area, I must first take full responsibility for my condition.  I had to stop making excuses.

Yet still, I wondered, where is the power to overcome?   My brain might know what to do but that does nothing for my motivation.  I still desire to eat the wrong foods, eat excessively, or sit on the couch.  Knowledge does not necessarily produce change.  I've been there, done that. 

At the time, I was reading from the life of Joshua where he gave the children of Israel a charge, "Choose you this day, whom you will serve," and it clicked.  (Josh. 24:15) That was my ticket to power.   I did not have to worry about next week, next month, or even next year.  All I need do was choose life for this day.  Those daily, seemingly insignificant decisions, matter.  Real living is encased in making the right choice.  Rather than restricting my freedom, these choices actually set me free.  It was empowering.  I did not have to be a slave to my own desires.

God also brought me to passages in Hebrews which speak of the suffering of Christ. (Heb.2:10-11, 17-18; 4:15; 5:7-8)  Even Jesus, by dying, chose the path of life.  And if the victory Jesus secured required denying Himself, should not mine as well?   He calls us to "take up our cross and follow Him." (Lk. 9:23)  This is a daily discipline. 

We are created to live in righteousness.  Surrender to God's terms is not only pleasing to God, but is also where I find true joy.  It is the best place for me. 

Through the Lord's enabling, I have lost 40 lbs.  I tell you this with great fear and trepidation because my journey is not yet over.  I have 5 more to lose and these last pounds are the hardest yet.  Furthermore, I know my own weakness.  How easy it is to compromise and regress right back to where I started.  Only by the grace of God am I where I am today. My faith does not rest in a particular diet or exercise plan, but in His strength which continues to sustain me each day.  It is Christ who gives me the power to remain on this path of life.

Before (Fall 2013)

After  (Fall 2014)

After  (Fall 2014)
However, surrender to the Lord does not mean that I do nothing.  The consistent, tenacious fighting is my surrender.  I see this scattered all through the Scriptures.  The sword of the Lord and Gideon.  God brought down the walls of Jericho, but Joshua and the people expended themselves in obedient marching.  God brought down Goliath, but David stepped boldly into battle having spent years in the pasture, honing his skill with a sling shot.  I could give countless other examples.

I have a part in this equation, and that is to fight with all my might.  Yet, at times I have fought aimlessly, and so I'm learning that it is important to educate myself in order to fight smarter.  My metabolism is not the same as it was at 20 years of age, 30, or dare I say it, even 40.  I have to fight differently than I did then in order to fit this season of my life.  For that reason, my next post will be about the tools God is using to help me in this fight.