Tuesday, January 31, 2012

February's 30 day challenge

My next two 30 day challenges are 1. to withhold criticism from my hubby, and I am adding to this to give daily encouragement and 2. to read leisurely for at least 15 minutes.

I would actually like to poll anyone who might read this for suggestions for both of these challenges. Tell me to eat salad all day, I got it. Tell me to not be critical but encourage my hubby, I'm stuck. I.am.a.wretch.
YES, and a TROPHY OF GOD'S MERCY!!! That I am. Thank you, Jesus, for dying for even a sinner like me.

Can you help me?
I'm looking for creative ways to encourage my hubby, scriptures that may spur me on in this feat or anything else you think may help me with this challenge.

I'm also taking book recommendations. Admittedly, I don't really read for pleasure. It's one of those things that doesn't compute for me. I read for information or inspiration, but not just for pleasure. I know. I need to get a life. SO, I need help with this as well. For those who do this well, will you help a girl out? Suggest some titles. Much thanks. ;)

Gone Raw

Today marks the end of my first 30 day challenge, that of making 50% of what I ate raw, and not spending any extra money as subjective as that may sound.

I'm pleased with how the first 30 day challenge went. For the most part, I enjoyed eating this way. It does seem to suit me.

Some of the benefits I experienced from eating this way were that I lost the couple pounds I put on over Christmas and have been maintaining what is a comfortable weight for me without having to count calories. I just eat and my weight is holding. I'm happy about that. I have begun new habits that I believe will stick such as eating a piece of fruit or a smoothie in the morning when I'd usually grab a handful of chocolate chips.

Unlike the South Beach diet which I did several years ago and initially benefited from, I was able to still eat chocolate. This is pretty important to me. That said, I couldn't really go overboard with the chocolate (though my accountability partner might disagree with me on this point) because I always had to balance it out with eating something raw.

Eating 50% raw forced me to be thoughtful about my food choices which is good and for me, necessary, because otherwise, I really would eat chocolate chips, coffee and diet soda all day.

I enjoyed having a piece of fresh fruit with my breakfast, learning new smoothie recipes and watching my children eat more fruit and veggies as a result of mommy grabbing for that rather than chocolate chips. :)

The two aspects I found/find a challenge are the cost and the time. It really doesn't take THAT much more time to fix raw food, but I still found it to be more timely. And, we definitely are spending more money on fresh fruits and veggies. Worth it? I think so. I'm planning to keep this new way of eating long term.

The other 30 day challenge of not spending extra money was a great exercise in self denial, especially with eating out or grabbing "snacks" while we were out at places like BJ's or Target. Target is especially a challenge for me; those darn orange clearance stickers get me every time. :) But, not this time.

We were able to stay within our food/grocery and entertainment budgets this month which has always been a challenge for us. So, again, I'm hoping I can adopt this as a mindset ongoing.

January's end

Gotta say I'm glad to see the end of January. As I texted to a friend today, I'm not writing off 2012 yet, but January hasn't been such a great start. With that in mind, however, I want to purpose to review the last 31 days with the truth that God is always working ALL things together for my good. I really do believe that even when I'm disobediently grumbling about how He's doing that. So, the following is not a list of the good and bad. It's a list of all the ways God is somehow working ALL things together for my good. It's all grace, as one of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp, says.

  • 8 doctor's appointments & 2 trips to the lab for bloodwork, one for me and one for Judah
  • MY AMAZING FRIENDS AND FAMILY who watched my kids making these trips to the doctor a wee bit easier. That would include in no particular order Heather Griger, Danielle Jones, Kathleen Zylka, Alana Lenhart, Jo Powell and my mother in law, Olivia Almengor. Thanks, wonderful women!
  • a trip to New Jersey to visit and see the new life God's created for dear friends of ours. This was probably the highlight of my month. Thank you, again, to the Powells and Lyttles for keeping our kids. We do have amazing friends!
  • learning so much about the beneficial uses of coconut oil and finding it online for some really great prices.
  • finding a new doctor who lines up with me philosophically more than any doctor I've ever had.
  • having dinner with friends, which they made and hosted, after a long day of doctors' visits.
  • challenging and encouraging messages from our new Senior Pastor, Jimmy Cannon, on Nehemiah.
  • friends walking through some pretty rough stuff but letting me be apart of it through prayer.
  • encouraging homeschool talk with a mentor of mine (whether she's aware of it or not, Donna Hepler). :)
  • keeping routines in place like pizza/family night and date night before caregroup even amidst the beginnings of LA's 8th busy season at work!
  • staying within our food/grocery and entertainment budgets given our commitment to "no extra spending" this month.
  • celebrating Judah's bravery with donuts from one of our favorite places, Dunkin Donuts. Along with America, the Almengor's run on Dunkins. :)
  • the privilege of being able to babysit for friends and be on the giving end of serving for a change. :)
  • my caregroup, the individuals and families of which are all going through their own "ringers" yet seeking nonetheless to honor God, to persevere, to pray and care for others. I am so blessed to be in community with you all.
  • LA getting some hang time in with a good friend. I'm grateful for any time he gets to fellowship with other men.
  • LA and I both making goals for January regarding food, weight and health and sticking to them. By God's grace, we both did well with this first 30 day challenge.
  • Increased prayer life for LA. We feel so desperate and out of that desperation has birthed a new passion for prayer. I am so grateful to be praying more with him and see him initiating prayer more with me and the kids.
  • missed phone dates with a long time friend because of my hoarse voice that continues and sheer exhaustion. I'll get to that email eventually, Beth. :)
  • a "cold"? or cough that won't quit for Bella...perplexing for sure. Doesn't go away but doesn't get worse. No fever. ???
  • Similarly, hoarseness for me that doesn't go away, doesn't get worse. ???
  • a chronic pain issue that was under control, now back
  • people's stares at my son that grow wearisome
  • Bella learning how to sound out her color words
  • enjoying good fellowship, a home cooked meal, a hearty laugh, and comfort for my soul via the Lewis' sisters at our caregroup leaders' dinner
  • my mother in law who always helps me clean up after our family dinners together. She and my father in law, along with my own parents, consistently challenge me with their example of servanthood.
  • a dark night of the soul that came upon me seemingly out of the blue but left quickly, too.
  • a flood of scripture for my sleep and upon rising the next morning, His new mercies to greet me
  • unexpected stream of facebook comments to encourage my soul when stuck in the pity pond
  • a new, good source for beef. Looking forward to stocking my freezer again
  • farmers who are fighting Monsanto and work so hard to provide good food for us to eat
  • a friend's suggestion for good reads."Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God" and "Prodigal God", both turning out to feed my soul and fuel my love for Jesus
  • tearful pouring out of concerns with dear friends of ours who understand and agree but point us to Jesus and the overwhelming power of the Gospel to unite
  • sleepy sundays from a combination of new medicines and long weeks
  • physical weakness like I haven't known in a long time
  • a chiropractor who God is using to keep the pain at bay
  • strife and ongoing tensions in marriage that keep us crying out to the Lord and to each other. This must get better; we are not satisfied and know neither is God. We persevere though it's hard.
  • children who are home with me all day

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sandy and the Giant Jesus

Staring at a fish tank can be mesmerizing and calming, but after an hour it's just boring. Judah and I sat in the basement of Wilmer Eye Institute waiting for the doctor to give Judah his annual eye exam. With no magazines to read nor electronic device with which to play, we were left with the fish. Does anyone know why a fish would suck up stones from the bottom of the tank and then spit them out? Maybe he was as bored as we were?!

Finally, we were called to an exam room.

If you've not had the opportunity to be a patient at a teaching hospital such as Johns Hopkins (and I hope you have not), it's like a party in the room. You've got your technician or nurse who does all the work, the expert doctor, the one whose name is on your bill, and then a myriad of others, some residents, some interns, some fellows. The doctor could have his plumber in the room, and the patient would be none the wiser.

After strange person #2 examined Judah, he asked, "Mom, how many doctors do I have to see before I go home?" We were lucky today. Only 3!

Reading charts, eyes dilated, the brightest lights on the planet laser focused on his eyeballs and a doctor, who likely has coffee breath looking intently at your eye through a lens that magnifies that bright light even more are the hoops Judah has to jump through before he is allowed to leave.

Now, don't misunderstand. I am so grateful my son is able to receive this kind of excellent, thorough care. Recently, Judah learned that Johns Hopkins is considered one of the best hospitals in the world. Since then, he's repeated several times, "I am so glad I get to go to the best hospital in the world." And, we are, too! Truly.

I wouldn't be recounting our visit today in such a flippant manner had the outcome of Judah's examinations been different. We received good news today. The surgeries Judah had as a baby are holding strong and keeping the condition in his eyes stable for now. We are grateful.

After a much longer visit than I anticipated, it was the dinner hour, and Judah and I were both in need of nourishment. I needed caffeine for the trip home. Judah needed pizza and root beer. :) So, we trekked down the hallway to the hospital cafeteria.

Fixing my coffee, I bump into someone and politely say, "Excuse me." Out of the corner of my eye, I wonder if I know the woman I bumped. We all have these moments. You see someone out of context, out in public somewhere and you wonder, "Do I know that person? I think I know that person. I do know that person. I wonder if she saw me. I wonder if she recognizes me."

And, it's at this point you have a decision to make. Do I initiate a greeting, wait to see if she initiates, or bury my head in my purse to look for something while I dart around the corner pretending I never saw the person?

God is growing me in making the most of these opportunities, especially when Judah and I are at the hospital in part due to the memory of our first trip to Hopkins. Judah and Tucker were only days old, and here we were at a world renown hospital. I was incredibly overwhelmed with our new reality. I wasn't but several feet inside the doors of Hopkins when a woman approached me who was accompanying her young daughter in a wheelchair with tubes coming out of her nose. She offered her smile, a warm greeting, reassurance that we were in good hands and a hug. I am convinced she was an angel sent from Heaven to me that day. I have never forgotten that experience.

And, now I want to be that angel to someone else, daunted by their new found reality of illness, weakness, and even imminent death.

So, I approached her. Not remembering her name, I asked her if she had at one time attended IUP and worked in the Writing Center. Indeed she did. I confessed that I thought I knew her but didn't remember her name. She graciously replied, "Sandy. Did you used to be blonde?"

After introducing Judah to her and a very brief catching up, I asked what brought her to Hopkins. She nodded to the right in the direction of an elderly couple, "My mom."

I gently touch her arm and ask her mom's name.
It must have been so fresh that she couldn't even utter the diagnosis.
Sandy was the deer in the headlights I remember being that first day we visited Hopkins.

I looked Paula and her husband in the eye and back to Sandy and said, "Well, I don't know specifically what to pray for, but I will pray for you on our way home tonight."
And, with that Judah and I left.

Instead of walking straight to our car, I took Judah to see the giant statue of Jesus that is so well known at Hopkins.

Jesus Statue in Johns Hopkins Hospital by integrity_of_light
Rounding the corner, I ask Judah if he remembers seeing this.
"No, mom. Why is it here?"
"I'm not sure what the history of it is, Judah, but maybe it's here to remind all the sick people and the smart nurses and doctors who the real healer is, who the Great Physician is." I replied.
And, with that we found a corner near the book where people write out their prayers and took a knee to say a prayer for Sandy and Paula and Paula's doctors.
I remember working with Sandy. She was an upbeat, perpetually positive person. But, I didn't know if Sandy knew the Creator who gave her such a disposition. Nearing the end of my stint as a writing tutor, not knowing if I'd ever see Sandy again, I asked her if I could share the "Four Spiritual Laws" with her, a booklet that takes a person through the Gospel.
At the time, it may have been just information, but I don't know what God's done in Sandy's life or heart since then. I don't know if she's run into other Christians who have shared with her the life giving truths of the Gospel. But, I do know she's likely feeling desperate tonight. And, I'm praying that if she hasn't made Christ her Savior and God, she will.
So, next time I'm staring at fish waiting for the doctor to call my name, I will remember Sandy and know that all timing is God's timing and that there might just be another divine run in waiting for me around the corner.

Monday, January 09, 2012

His Obedience, Our Reward

He bursts through the front door along with the sunshine. "Mom, we got you a blueberry muffin from Dunkin Donuts," Judah declares with a smile beaming on his red, wonderful face. Judah had blood work done that morning, a fasting blood test this time for his endocrine doctor. And, as our tradition goes, Judah is permitted a donut from Dunkin Donuts anytime he has bloodwork or a laser treatment. It gives him something to look forward to and we hope helps him endure the sting of it all.

This morning, when he walked through the front door with Dunkin Donut bag in hand, full with treats for all, I was taken a back with Judah's exuberance and joy in sharing his reward with the rest of the family. It was his obedience, endurance and bravery but our reward. And, it was his delight to share it with us.

So, it is with Christ.

Jesus was more than brave. He endured. He obeyed even unto death.
And, we received His reward. Colossians 1: 12-14 says,"... the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Reminds me of these words from a song we sing at my church,

And I love you for the cross
I'm overwhelmed by the mystery
I love you for the cost
That Jesus you would do this for me
When you were broken, you were beaten,
You were punished, I go free
You were wounded and rejected
In your mercy - I am healed

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Why of the Christian's Life

I believe the Lord confronted me recently, and I am grateful.

Walking up the stairs to bed, I grabbed the two items that were there to be taken up and put away. It was an "ah" kind of moment when I relished in this feeling that I had my house back in order. mostly. enough for me to have shaken that restless feeling of being out of control.

And in that split second sigh of relief, God's Spirit confronted me and upset my peace but in a way that left me humbled and grateful for the humbling.

He spoke a quiet, "Remember why you are here."

Matthew 28: 19, 20 is a record of Jesus's last words before He ascended into Heaven and what He gently spoke to me afresh that evening:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always to the end of the age.

The peace I derive from my home having some semblance of order--that sense of purpose I feel as I straighten up, scrub, dust, clean--is so fleeting and shallow if it doesn't find its roots of purpose in this final commission Christ gave to all believers.

If the "why" behind what I do all day long is simply because it makes me feel good, I have sold myself short of such greater pleasures and sense of purpose.

When all I do is somehow rooted in the Great Commission, I then know the greatest sense of purpose there is to be had on earth. And, I know peace--true, lasting peace that comes from orienting my heart, thoughts, deeds to the "why" of life, of my life in Christ--to go and make disciples.

Share the gospel
Love Christ
Inspire others to share the gospel and
love Christ, too!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Why Raw?

50% raw that is.

One of the first 30 day challenges I am setting for myself is to aim to make 50% of what I eat raw food. By raw, I mean uncooked or processed. That doesn't include much other than fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts or seeds. Call me a deer and put me in the forest. :)

Why would I choose to eat like a bunny, you ask?

I have long been interested in fitness and nutrition and with a close relative's diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes several years ago, my interest and devotion spiked significantly. I have always enjoyed fitness and find it enjoyable to work out. I love a runner's high. However, my eating has been all over the map. And, since becoming a mom, I have found if I don't make conscious decisions about my food intake, it will drift to subsisting on mostly chocolate, diet soda and coffee.

Lawrence and I did the South Beach diet a few years ago, and while it inadvertently hooked me on coffee and diet soda, it also increased my affinity for and recognition of the value of vegetables. I've never been good at getting the veggies in, believe it or not. Are any of us naturally?

Over the last couple years, however, I have grown in consuming this vital part of the food pyramid on a more consistent basis. Nevertheless, I need to keep motivating myself and setting goals and/or boundaries for myself in regards to my food choices, or as I said before, I will drift toward eating chocolate, coffee and diet soda all day.

So, for 2012 I thought I would try this whole raw food thing a little more intensely. I know that eating fruits and vegetables closest to the picking point and state provides the most nutrition. And, from a busy mom's point of view, eating raw is actually easier than cooking it. It's one less step to getting it on my plate! Ease and simplicity works for me in this season of my life.

Already after just 2 days of eating this way, I feel great. It could be a mental thing. Probably is. But, I don't care. I know I'm eating food that is good for my body and is nourishing me well. And, I know my children are watching and hopefully gaining a little bit more interest in eating well, too. *I have found so far this is highly dependent on personality. I have one kid who LOVES junk food, and I honestly think he will always be that way no matter how well I eat or what nutritional information I expose him to. He really doesn't care. He wants his doritos and oreos and that's that. at least for now. :)

There's more behind my choice of eating just 50% and not going raw entirely, but I won't bog you down with those details unless you care to know. Basically, I just really don't want to give up my chocolate, coffee and diet soda entirely. ;)

If you're interested, I'll share with you some of my days' food logs. If not, I won't bother you with those details. But, I'm hoping maybe I can inspire someone else to grow even a little bit more aware of eating food that's going to nourish the wonderful body God's given to you to put to good use.

Just for kicks, what is your favorite RAW food?

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Goals for 2012

I really enjoy setting goals, especially since becoming a mom. I think because the task of parenting is so incredibly daunting to me most days, and the goal of parenting often seems intangible, difficult to measure and impossible to obtain, I nearly crave goals that are otherwise.

So, at the start of each year, I take stock. As I consider the present circumstances, I anticipate the future possibilities as best I can given all things remain the same (which, of course, we all know they do not!) :)

This year, my hubby made what I felt was a rather brilliant suggestion in regard to my 2012 goals. It was prompted by a TED talk he listened to and applied a couple months ago. You can watch/listen to it here: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/matt_cutts_try_something_new_for_30_days.html

To me, 30 days seems more doable than 365. Call it cynicism or age, but I don't reach for the stars quite as quickly and often as I used to. I hesitate. I count the cost. And, I usually say, "Nah; I'll take the path most traveled, thank you very much." :) Nevertheless, I'm hoping that some of the things I attempt in the following 30 day challenges may just "stick" and last beyond 30 days, maybe even 365 days. We'll see!

Mostly for my own sake, I am going to list my goals, what I am calling my "30 day challenges, here. At the start of each month, my plan is to write a separate post detailing that month's challenge(s), the why behind it, and the plan for executing it successfully. My hope is that publishing my goals on the world wide web will be some incentive to actually sticking with the challenges.

  • Make 50% of what I eat- raw food
  • No extra spending
  • Encourage hubby/No criticism
  • Read for leisure 15 minutes daily
  • No soda
  • Memorize one Bible verse a day
  • Write for blog 15 minutes daily
  • Wake up by 5:45 am and stay awake! Go to bedroom by 9:30 pm and asleep by 10:30 pm
  • Pray for leaders daily
  • Work outside 15 minutes daily
  • 15 minutes daily improving a space in my home in someway (execution, not brainstorming)
  • 30 days of work on "glutes."
  • 10 minutes with mommy one on one for fun, daily
  • Write encouragement daily to 30 different people
  • Repeat a 30 day challenge
  • Write down a thankful list daily
  • Give something away daily
I'll post more about January's goals tomorrow. ;)