Sunday, January 31, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday - 2 Timothy 1:7

Why do we have so many fears? We don't exactly live in a time and place (though I'm sure many would disagree with me) where we truly have much to fear.

And if we are the Lord's, do we really ever have anything to fear?

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?
- Psalm 27:1 NASB

I once heard it told that at some point in history children were often not named right away. The infant mortality rate was so high families wanted to see if they were likely to make it before they got attached. When I went to Europe with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and Tim's Aunt Jeannie, we had the opportunity to tour a group of catacombs. A large percentage of the indentations carved out for bodies were undoubtably meant for very young children.

Clearly our children have much better chances at surviving their early years now. Some of us even name them before we meet them. But I'm not sure that we aren't more fearful over them than our historical counterparts. Everything is padded and has a seatbelt. Shelby completely melted down in HEB one morning because Victoria had, through sheer force, unbuckled her older sister's seatbelt on the shopping cart. "She's TEARING me apart!" she had screamed.

Oh sweet Shelby, momma isn't planning to wreck the cart. I don't treat the aisles like a slalom on the autocross course; pity that. I really just need y'all strapped down so I can pick out the "just right" bunch of bananas and attempt to determine which avacados are ripe BUT NOT TOO RIPE without either of you climbing right out of the cart.

We slather our children with sanitizer anytime we're in public. Ok, I don't always ... but when a family-demic illness is too recent a memory I might have done this. We worry that our parenting and discipline methods are too much, not enough, or not the right matched for our changling two-year-old's personality. Are we giving them the very, very best start in life?

Say to those with anxious heart,
"Take courage, fear not!
- Isaiah 35:4a NASB

By no means am I saying those things are wrong. In fact, what I'm really attempting to do is illustrate that human nature is programmed to fear. Remove one threat, and another (real or imagined) will take its place.

The same catacombs we grouped had once held people buried alive. Not literally - but Christians hid there during times of deadly pursecution. Hunted down, pursued, for their faith. It is still happening today. It will continue, and worsen, if we believe what the Bible has to say.

'Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'
- Isaiah 41:10

If we allow it, fear will keep us lying sleepless at night. But God has not promised us fear for now with eventual relief in heaven. He has promised us the gift of His peace - even now, independent of our circumstances. Grab that gift. Share it. Be free to return His love. He is the same God as He has always been. He has not changed. Nothing can touch you without Him allowing it - and if He allows it, it is because He will be glorified. And isn't that what we were created for?

"Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them."
Then Elisha prayed and said "O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see."
And the Lord opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold,
The mountain was full of horses and chariots of Fire all around Elisha.
-2 Kings 6:16-17

Friday, January 29, 2016

Freestyle Friday - Coffee

I didn't alway enjoy coffee. My parents weren't (and aren't) coffee drinkers - we didn't even have a coffee maker when I was growing up. Mornings were not enveloped in the rich sounds and smells of coffee being made. I hope those will be comforting sounds for Shelby and Victoria as they have become for me! This Christmas I heard of the Swedish Christmas tradition of St. Lucia's Day ... we might have to visit that as the girls get older. It sounds like a very sweet tradition and a great teaching opportunity. And of course I like the idea of our girls dressing up and bringing us coffee!

Tim and I have a weakness for freshly-ground, recently roasted, whole-bean coffee
My first encounters with coffee were as a mysterious, bitter drink that was nothing like the hot chocolate it resembled when steaming in a mug. My mother's parents would have a cup with dessert. Grandma Jensen made it in a percolator on the gas stove top and I do remember watching the glass window turn from clear to brown as this strange adult beverage lava-ed up inside in violent blurps.

It wasn't until high school that I actually tried coffee for myself. Java Joe's. It was on the side of the highway I wasn't supposed to be on. The bad part of town. At least once I outed myself for having been there and got grounded. For some reason in my memory it wasn't far from a funeral home that had a full-sized casket on a pole as their sign. I often wonder if that place is still there, though I think Java Joe's may be long gone.

Some might have described me as grunge at that time (and I still love a great pair of Doc Martin's). With that came everything "Seattle," including coffee shops. Though I don't really think I drank much coffee there. And in all honesty I didn't really go there too many times ... it seems I was somehow ratted out (usually by myself) every time and most of the time I did try to avoid being grounded.

I recently learned that the fleshy outer part that surrounds the bean, called the cherry, is actually quite nutritious!
Enter the college years, when I realized the virtues of coffee beyond culture. Especially when I lived on campus. At one point in my Aggie career there was a coffee shop in Northgate called Copacetic that my roommate and I would frequent to study. It was there that I truly began to drink real coffee. Sure, at first I was pretty fru-fru with cappuccinos and cafe Americanos ... but eventually the end-of-semester crunches of both studies and budget taught me the subtle joy of a bottomless mug of house coffee.

It was also at a coffee shop in College Station - Sweet Eugene's (which I still enjoy on occasion!) that I met Italian wedding soup alongside a creamy mug of sweet ambrosia and the gathering of friends. When I moved to Boston for grad school I discovered why they say "America runs on Dunkin" ... I most certainly did!

Can you smell it?
My first date with Tim was to a Starbucks cloistered within the stacks of a Barnes & Noble. It doesn't get much better than that ... surrounded by books, nestled at a table for two sipping overpriced cups wrapped in recycled sleeves and being brutally honest with my future husband.

I didn't know yet all that he and I would go through together. Our styles of coffee have changed almost as much as our life. When we met, Tim was a Starbucks junkie. At least once a day. Sometimes twice. To his credit he was working nights. But still.

Early in our marriage our opposed, ships-in-the-night schedules lead to the purchase of a Keurig. The search for better coffee eventually brought us to the Moka pot and milk frother. Finally, on our first post-baby date, Truluck's introduced us to the all-stainless steel French press. I prefer a dark roast  and have even learned to enjoy my coffee black or "bullet proof." Tim appreciates a milder flavor with plenty of cream and sugar.

There's a story behind this Daneen Pottery mug too!
Sometimes staring into the swirling mug as my brain warms up to the day is like a trip in a deliciously comfortable time machine. All my memories associated with coffee seem to be especially happy ones. Perhaps that is a societal universal truth and why we so often plan to meet with friends over a cup or two.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday - Slow to Anger

He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly. Proverbs 14:29 NASB
Ouch. As a dyed-in-the-wool, "everything you've heard about us is true" (at least a bit) redhead - I am guilty of having sped headlong into anger. I don't always have a quick temper, but I can and when I do it is intense. It is ugly. And the often untamed nest of red locks makes an unHoly halo that seems to accentuate the fire beneath. Words are said that sting deeply and leave a wound even when I try to retract them.

My family calls it a "Cunningham" fit.

Upon first reading this verse, I saw "exudes" folly rather than "exalts" folly - a lack of understanding or sense. But the NASB actually says EXALTS. To praise, honor, elevate. I praise, honor, and elevate foolishness?!?!

Not only am I displaying a lack of comprehension, intelligence, and compassion - I'm putting it on a pedestal and praising it. As if it were something to be proud of. How very Irish of me.

How can I slow my anger? I want to glorify God, not foolishness. I want to practice wisdom and empathy.

None of the passages of the Bible I found on anger set the expectation of never being angry, but there are instructions on how to be angry.

James 1:19b - 20 reads:
"But everyone must be quick to hear,
slow to speak,
and slow to anger;
for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God."

Can one find themselves being quick to be angry if they are focused on listening ... on really hearing instead of on speaking, on what they will say next? But quick-tempered individuals like myself aren't often slow to speak. Most of us are in a blustering hurry to be heard, have our thoughts and feelings known.

By being a better listener I won't be in a near-constant state of anxiety, always waiting for my turn to speak. Afraid that I might forget that brilliant thing I thought of to say. Instead I can listen, really listen, and try to understand what the other person has to say. Getting the whole story, the intentions behind the actions, can diffuse the tension, and our new-found listening skills can build trust instead of tearing it down. Dismantle walls instead of reenforcing them.

I'm willing to bet we will find those close to us become quicker to share things and we will feel less wronged by things that were hidden until they reach a boiling point when we stop boiling over.

Colossians 3:8 says:
"But now you also, put them all aside:
and abusive speech from your mouth."

We are called to die to these things ...put them to death again and again when our old nature tries to rise back up. We must die to ourselves ... not suicide, but we need to find a productive way to slaughter our sin nature. For me taking a walk and reconnecting with God slays the beast, takes the fire out of my sails. For you it may be something else, it is very personal and as unique as each of us is. One way or another we need to suit up in the armor of God and kill the dragon.

"Be angry,
and yet do not sin;
do not let the sun go down on your anger,
and do not give the devil an opportunity."

Ephesians 4:26 - 27 above references Psalm 4:4, which is beautifully descriptive both of anger and of how to tame it:
"Tremble [with anger] and do not sin;
meditate in your heart upon your bed,
and be still."

We must choke our angry outbursts without then stewing in them. We aren't to rest until we've stilled our hearts and let go of the anger. Hanging onto it gives Satan a stronghold which can put a stranglehold on our effectiveness for God.

And in the case of this redhead, it just becomes a ticking time-bomb anyway. It may not have exploded, yet ... but if I don't let it go ... the smoke has not yet cleared.

Lord, keep me from this foolish practice. Let me be slow to anger and quick to let it go.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - Probably Not!

Shelby's favorite phrase lately seems to be "Probably not."

Are you ready to get dressed to go to the library?
Probably not.

Can Tori have a ride in the wagon?
Probably not.

Snowball? Yes. Tori ... probably not.
I think Victoria is thinking "Well at least I got a turn on the tricycle!"

This morning, I ducked into the master bath to straighten my hair - not really a time-consuming task considering my hair is relatively straight already. A ruckus arose from the girls' side of the house. I could already tell Victoria was being blamed (and lets be honest, she probably was to blame). In their bathroom, between the training potty and the large potty, an unidentified puddle.

Why do we use training potties again? *sigh*

Shelby was quick to let me know Tori was the cause of the large pool of liquid on the floor. I can picture it now ... she was trying to help big sister empty the training potty's bowl into the toilet. They see me do it all the time. Just yesterday I saw her trying to wipe Shelby's bottom.

When in doubt ... just get the Pine Sol out.
When I asked Shelby if it was peeper or water ...
Probably both.

Probably Shelby, probably.

Changes Coming

I'm attempting to write more often by having a bit of a schedule. Because I'm not all that tech davy ... I'm just using this post to establish some labels for my schedule! But now you're privy to my plans:

I even made myself a planner y'all ... its serious!
Start Your Week in the Word - Monday
A devotional in the style that I've been posting on Instagram. I can't keep up with posting them daily so my aim is to do one twice a week. They will also be edited and better thought out this way (in theory).

Transformation Tuesday
I'll share workout information, transformation photos, recipes, anything related to my journey in weight loss, fitness, and helping others!

What Shelby Said Wednesday

Actually the brain child of a fellow attendee of a writing conference this weekend! I'm sure Victoria will be joining in on this one with increasing frequency in the coming months.

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday
This will be where I park my second devotional of the week. We're headed into the weekend!

Freestyle Friday
Anything goes! I've got to leave room for those inspired and miscellaneous ramblings of the artist mind of course.

I am praying this will make for a more enjoyable and predictable experience. Though I doubt predictable is a word anyone who knows me well would use to describe me. But here in my 30s I'm coming to have a bit of appreciation for at least a little structure. Mommy brain finally did me in.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Healthy Legacy

Of course the most important legacy I can leave my girls is a walk with Christ. My grandmother left me an example of battling for her children and their children daily in prayer. She read her Bible and books about the Bible joyfully. And it shone in her countenance, even in her 80s. I still miss her.

I want to leave them the legacy of reading ... of being educated about the world around them. Of knowing the healing of a good walk in the woods. Of closing their eyes and feeling a song. Of sitting in silence and letting their heart soar with its own song.

And I want to leave a legacy of health by being a healthy example. Healthy body. Healthy heart. And a healthy self-image.

I was a pretty slender kid. Often one of the tallest in my elementary classes, I spent as much of my time outside as was allowed. Bicycling, running, climbing trees. I was a quintessential tomboy. But I was also in twirling, gymnastics ... I was usually moving.

My notes say this was in 1987 ... I'll leave the math to you
Then I hit middle school. Puberty. I started reading more and playing with my brothers less. My body changed and my upward growth came to a screeching halt (I was about my adult height by 6th grade). I became very self-conscious … perhaps because I was one of the first in my grade to go through the changes a girl does at that age. Sometimes being an early bloomer is just as awkward as being a late bloomer.

The women in my family, because they didn’t know any better, passed on a legacy of “false” humility in which we berated ourselves and picked our bodies apart finding faults. We are a tribe of yo-yo dieters with sweet-teeth.

I seriously thought I was "fat" back when this was taken
I myself tend to jump into new fitness routines, gyms, programs, etc with both feet and either injure myself or make myself sick. And quit.

2003 ... and blond, that was a mistake ... Yes,  I know I'm standing by a toilet.
Or get bored. And quit.

Dark picture but this is in May 2005 on my way down from my heaviest weight ever after being on prednisone
And December of 2005 after intense workouts and restrictive, packaged diet food
Or get frustrated because I wasn’t seeing results. And quit.

October 2007, up again during grad school but celebrating the Red Sox in Boston
One of the things Autumn Calabrese says on the 21 Day Fix workouts that really struck a chord with me is: “If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up!” (Seriously - it’s on Lower Fix … leg day … I often needed to hear that on leg day).

After my second precious child was born, I started looking at what was “new” out there in the at-home fitness world. I have a jogging stroller, but we live in Texas … I’m not jogging with two children under four in that heat. And we live on a gravel road. The reasonings against (excuses perhaps?) various methods I had tried before kept piling up.

Halloween 2015 - The weekend before I started my first round
I bought just about every DVD under $10 trying to find results and an escape from boredom. Doing the exact same workout day in and day out gets old. Even your muscles get bored.

Hashtag searches are what led me to 21 Day Fix. I actually was almost ready to buy a different program, but the only results I found when I searched were the pictures they show on the box. But 21 Day Fix? I found one person after another posting results. REAL people sharing REAL results with the world. And I found my coach - Ruth. She was a lot like me, but FIT. She doesn’t love carrots and subsist on sweat.

One month in and STILL GOING!
But I hung back. I kept finding excuses. It wasn’t cheap. I’ll keep doing my $10 programs and watch and see. Is this coach really real, or did she find this one picture taken at an angle that made her look heavier and bank on it?

It turns out, she’s real. Even when I didn’t buy the program from her, she let me be in her challenge group. I did my first round on my own, and I saw results, but who knows if I would have kept going without that group? It definitely injected a second wind into me. I saw results the first round … the scale went down, my clothes started fitting better. But the second round - sure, my body kept changing.

And inside my heart and my mind, something finally started to fit into place. One thing I watched Ruth go through was the struggle to love your before. “If you don't love your before,” she said “you won’t love your after.”

So I determined to love my before … because I didn’t want to give it my all if I was going to feel the same in the end. And when annual bloodwork that I've always been textbook on came back with slightly elevated triglycerides, I knew it was time to do something.

December 16, 2015 Not even two months after I wore that belt as Mrs Incredible!
Why am I telling you all this? Because in just a couple of months … my mind has been renewed, my heart has learned to love bigger … it made room to even love me. And the ripe red cherry on top? I have lost 18 pounds and 18 inches. And I’m still going.

If Mommy and Daddy show them how good real food is

They'll learn to love it too!
I think I’m going to make a series of “I love working out because” posts - because I don’t love working out … but I love the things it does for me. And that makes me wake up, throw on some active wear, go all the way to my living room, and work out for half an hour. I can work on momma before the rest of the family (usually) is even up.

I’ve found the colored containers to be the ticket for me for portion control and healthy proportions of the right foods. Food is fuel. All the previous diets I tried were about what I could get away with and how long I had to do it before I could eat what I wanted again. Not anymore. This is about changing my lifestyle FOR GOOD.

My plan this summer? Wear shorts for the first time in 15 years! White legs and all!
Why? Because God saw fit to bless me with two beautiful daughters. What will I pass on to them? I’m 37 and they are 3.5 and 1.5 … I want to be here to enjoy them growing up, not just watch from the sidelines. I want to give them a legacy of Hope and Grace for themselves and teach them to be good stewards of the amazing bodies God gave them for this ride around the sun. I want them to experience the freedom He brings from sin, and the freedom He wants for us from the strangleholds that keep us from shining.

Ruth brought up coaching to me. Who, me?? Then I looked at what she does as a coach. She helps people. She cares about people. She doesn’t give sales pitches.

As I told Tim, I feel like it’d be wrong of me NOT to share what has worked for me. If you are looking for something that works … if you are tired of starting over … I can’t recommend 21 Day Fix enough. It got me started and got me excited!

When I decided I wanted to do The Master’s Hammer and Chisel (same meal plan, and Autumn Calabrese is “Chisel”) … it just made sense to go ahead and sign up to become a coach. So here I am, outing myself. I want to be vulnerable with you about my journey. I want to be encouraging to those on their journey.

And if that sounds like a journey you want to go on, I’d love to chat with you about the adventure. Lets leave legacies!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Potty Teaching

I've written about the dreaded "potty training" before, but now I feel like I have more perspective on the subject.

A lot more.

It took a year. Granted, we only did the boot-camp thing ONCE. Never again. Victoria will not go to potty-boot-camp unless she looks me in the eye and says "I go potty-boot-camp?" ... then we'll talk.

Without going through a list I'm just going to assume we tried everything that sounded relatively reasonable.

My conclusion? Potty training is stupid. That's what you do with puppies and children, though adorable and squeezable, are NOT puppies.

So I propose that any mom who stumbles across this, emotionally beat up, exhausted of anything elimination related, sick of changing diapers and bewildered as I was that THE question to ask a mom, even if you are a stranger, when you find out a child is 3 is "Oh is she potty trained?" I dunno, are you?

As I was saying, I propose we think of it as potty teaching.

Instead of stressing about when it is going to happen, how to do it, and putting our toddlers through anything called boot camp ... we just teach them.

See? Here's the potty! It's so nice we have one inside! People used to have to go OUTSIDE to do this, can you believe that?

God designed our bodies to get rid of waste, things we don't need and that could even be bad for us, by pooping and peeing! Until now we've put a diaper on you BUT - I wanted you to know there is another way, a better way!

You get all that yucky stuff away from you instead of having it trapped against you until someone changes you. Doesn't that sound nice? Yes - they may say no ma'am it does not ... and that's ok. Maybe they haven't tried it yet. I think you will.

Just like so many other things, we learn at different speeds. Shelby has an AMAZING vocabulary and a bewildering and wondrous imagination. Focus on what your kiddo is doing well. In fact, they may be so focused on excelling in some other area that they just don't have time to learn to potty right now.

At least there are some beads in there?
Our job is to teach them how it works, and to be there to help them. It's that simple. One of my many ideas was beads in a jar. When I came up with it, Shelby was excited about it. Her prize at the end was a date with whatever member or members of the family she wished. She picked Daddy.

The date will include a trip to a gymnastics class. Anytime I could get her to sit on the potty she got to watch a gymnastics video.

But it wasn't working. She really just didn't care. She is SMART. It wasn't because she didn't get it. The child would go off and change her own pull-up if she could get to them for crying aloud! At one point I told myself "at least one day she'll be able to change herself ... and eventually she can buy her own silly diapers."

Getting fuller ...
I decided once again, one fine Monday, that we had had enough. I said to her, ya know what? I know you know how to use the potty. I'm going to put the jars away, and you let me know when you're ready.

Guess what? The next day ... THE VERY NEXT DAY ... she wanted to sit on the potty. She asked for panties. She wouldn't even let me put a pull-up on her for naps or at night!

Seriously this happened in about a week

She had maybe three day-time accidents (and we just reiterated that it was part of learning) and a couple of night accidents. The night accidents quickly became dampened panties followed by a pee on the potty, and now she is happy to only sip her milk at bedtime because she doesn't want to wet the bed.

THE GIRL IS MOTIVATED. She'll disappear, poop, wipe, flush, wash without even telling me. It varies.

She is SO proud, and has EVERY reason to be! You did it sweet girl!

I read it a few times. Some moms said it but never followed up to say if it worked. IT DOES. Just teach them what to do, bring it up from time to time, but they'll start when they're ready and it is pretty amazing.

So Tori - you're the lucky one little sister. Though I swear, she wants to do anything big sister does and she often asks me to change her or asks to go potty. Who knew. But I'm not holding my breath.

I will not potty here nor there, I will not potty anywhere!