Friday, April 29, 2016

Freestyle Friday - Husband Material

Imagery. Our culture is filled with false imagery. Buy this and look like that. Wear that to enhance this. Dress like him to be a rock star.

For those that don't know me well it might come as a surprise that I use to have a bit of a clothing addiction. At one point in time I had more clothes in my closet than most fashion savvy ladies I knew. 


Well, there were several reasons but one reason was that I was attempting to clothe myself in an image I wanted others to believe me to be. Secure, confident, popular, up on the latest trends. Money, power, pride, significance. And for me, new clothes gave me those things, for a moment. It never lasted, the newness wore off, the impression the clothes made soon gave way to the reality of who I really was. My bank account and credit card couldn't keep up and eventually all of those clothes, all of that which I had used to build an image of who I wanted to be, found it's way onto numerous racks at Goodwill.

My wife sometimes wonders why I wear the same colored (or similarly colored) shirts and one style of jeans nowadays. I tell her it is because I don't want to have to think about what to wear, and it's true, I don't. But honestly it goes much deeper than that. I need to remind myself of where I have been and the Grace that has been given to me through Jesus Christ. Is it a sin to have nice clothes? No. Is it a sin to want to look your best? No. But for me, my focus was on myself, my own selfish gain and I was becoming my own god. That is sin. And every day when I put on the same clothes, He reminds me of who I truly am, my true identity and image. He knows and now I know, that I can't handle a closet full of the newest trends and styles.

Johnny Cash had a song, Man in Black. The reason he wore black he explains in the song, is to represent the poor and beaten down, though others offer different explanations and speculation as to the meaning of his attire choice. I can't help but wonder if he suffered from some of the same imagery gods.

Husband Material. The only image you should be living up to is the one Jesus Christ bought for you and the one God created you in. Genesis 1:27NIV

Thursday, April 28, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday - Let Nature Sing

Last week our area was pummeled by storms.

One morning after our workout I glanced outside. Instead of the "usual" sunrise, it was the kind of sunrise reminiscent of the saying "red in the morning, sailor takes warning."

The sky was on fire in the East, a fast moving storm churning in the sky and quickly overtaking the morning. I had just charged my Nikon the night before, so for probably the first time I ran outside with it instead of my iPhone.

I was overtaken.

The wind was beginning to rush. Small frogs were flinging themselves as if in a panic onto our porches. If you have never seen a tree fall, you might not have felt your heart race as I did when the wind almost seemed to take a deep breath ...

And the trees surrounding our pond bowed low. Their leaves crashed together in a cacophony of sound. Suddenly I understood what it meant for them to clap their hands. Previously I had pictured something straight out of Tolkien but this was different. They weren't given movement of their own, God was moving them.

Yet even in the midst of this display of raw power, of God's breath not sighing but blowing on the earth, his creation bent but did not break. I was covered in goosebumps but it wasn't from the chill in the wind or the plinking rain beginning to strike even under the cover of the porch.

Thunder rumbled and the grasses lay themselves low to the ground and my heart and soul cried YES. He is God and He made all these things and IT. IS. GOOD.

Lord let me not be silent! But I praise you for letting me see creation under Your hands. Give me breath and fire to praise You, let me not be silent! Give me the flexibility to bend under Your will so that I will not be broken.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - What Victoria Said - Shelbuh

This week I'm memorializing one of Victoria's words. Shelbuh.

It sounds like a pet name for big sister Shelby, right?

I assure you it is not. It is what she calls bugs. Especially spiders.

And she is absolutely terrified of them. My fearless-one is completely sent into near-hysterics by tiny insects and arachnids. Tim says it is because she takes after me ...

Last week we were going somewhere in the car, in the rain, and I hear from the backseat:

Victoria: HEY! Hey hey hey! SHELBUH! Shelbuh inside! A shelbuh THERE!

Me: There's a spider in the car??

Victoria: Uh huh. It inside.

Shelby: It's outside.

Victoria: Shelbuh inside!!

Shelby: It's just a spider.

I could practically hear the eye-rolling.

I don't have a video of that particular incident, but it happens often enough with the bugs being out for spring I've caught a few others. Enjoy ... these two are a hoot.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Transformation Tuesday - Unbeetable

I've probably gone on before about Kale. It's a super-food that can be dressed up in so many ways, but is hard for many to stomach.

But lately I've discovered another superfood that has a sweet side. Beets. Plus I mean, they're really fun to cut into ... who doesn't love cutting into a vegetable that bleeds?

Before I talk about how I use them, let me beat down the beet for you. In addition to being low calorie and high fiber (like most vegetables) beets are loaded with:
  • Folate (what pregnant women need to help prevent nural tube defects in the baby during early pregnancy)
  • B-vitamins, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese
  • Potassium, which helps counter the effects of sodium
  • A compound which lowers homocysteine (a contributor to heart disease and atherosclerosis) 
  • Basically, they provide some needed nutrients (a few in significant amounts) and have compounds that help detoxify your body and reduce inflammation.
Those are all good things Amanda, but I hear they taste like dirt.

They DO grow in the ground, so that's entirely possible. I like to wash them with a vegetable brush AND peel them. By doing this I haven't noticed a particularly muddy flavor to my beets.

I will say I do NOT care to eat them raw. It feels like trying to chew a young tree or something. But they are my new favorite Shakeology addition. The only flavor they add is a bit of sweetness, and the color ... well, see for yourself ... one of my favorites.

Rock on beets! Wait ...

In case you thought that was hook em ... Gig Em AGGIES (it's even maroon)

They're great added to a smoothie. They're tasty steamed or boiled, but my favorite way to cook them is roasted:

1. Preheat oven to 400
2. Wash and peel beets, cut into roughly 1" chunks
3. Spray (or toss) with olive oil and season (thyme, salt, and pepper is a good one)
4. Spread on a baking sheet lined with foil
5. Roast for about 40 minutes (they're done when you can insert a fork easily, kinda like potatoes)

Aren't they at least worth trying? I mean look ... the girls even like them!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday - Spiritual Fruit: Joy

What do you feel when you see the word joy? Does it remind you of someone you know named Joy? Or maybe an individual who is an annoying cheerleader type who just has her head in the clouds?

Sure, good situations can make us feel something like joy. If Jesus showed up on my doorstep and took me for a ride in His '68 Corvette Stingray, you better believe I'd be excited.

But joy is different. Joy is a gift from God we only have to accept that is rock solid despite our circumstances, not because of them. A Corvette isn't joy ... but Jesus showing up? That is joy. And He does show up. I only have to look.

When I started searching the Bible for occurrences of the word joy, I noticed a pattern. God was always present. He was the source of the joy or He was the reason for rejoicing.

There is no joy apart from God.

The things we might call joy that are of the world are imitations of true joy. They are distractions set up to convince us to settle for something less than joy and pursue a type of satisfaction that is always just out of reach, seized on momentarily before it flies again from our grasping hands.

We can rejoice in trials because we know He will not waste them. They will bring Him glory - and isn't that what we were created for? Joy.

Others are coming to know Christ and to learn about Him. More souls snatched from the jaws of hell ... Joy.

Just recognizing who God is ... seeing He is all that is Good, and Light, and Holy ... His complete glory may be too much for our human eyes but just seeing glimpses of the one whom our souls love ... Joy.

He came for us. To rescue us. The ultimate knight in shining armor ... the one true superhero. He will come back for us again. No matter what we are going through here, it will eventually end. Sorrow will cease. Pain will be erased. Death will be conquered. Joy.

The more we seek His presence and ask to see His hand, the more joy we will feel. Dear friend, I have experienced it. When I focus on this world, and where/what/who I am compared to where/what/who I could be ... it can turn into a frustrating slide into a dark and depressing place. If you don't believe our enemy is tempting you to go there and remain fruitless you are fooling yourself.

When we remind ourselves every day who He is, when we speak that truth to Him as prayers and praise ... He will be victorious. He is good. I may not understand it but He will be glorified forever and ever amen. Joy! When you feel the joy that is the fruit of the Spirit it is unstoppable. It isn't the "this will all be over once I drive through that first puddle" excitement a lump of fiberglass could bring.

It is an "I don't care what the enemy throws at me!" inextinguishable flame whose source is outside yourself. It doesn't burn you up and exhaust your resources ... it makes a little into plenty and the barbs and snares of life brambles and dust that will become smoke in the crucible that tests our faith.

If you look for joy, when you find it God is there. If you look for God you will find joy every time.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Freestyle Friday - Firewheel

One of my favorite things about spring is the wildflowers. We are so blessed here in Texas, especially Central Texas, with abundant wildflowers. God has truly gifted us with a feast for the eyes.

Deep down I think most every girl enjoys flowers. If she says they are a waste of money, go pick some free ones and see if they don't bring a smile to her face.

Part of what I don't enjoy about the spring, here in Texas, is that it heralds the approach of summer with its oppressive heat and parched landscape. Heat waves blur distant views once enjoyed, threats of wildfires whisper on breezes reminiscent of opening the oven to check on supper.

Any thoughts of going outdoors and doing much of anything fade and crumble in the withering summer sun. And yet here in Central Texas it somehow remains so humid that the air feels like a thickened soup as you try to draw breath.

So every year as the bright reds of the Indian Paintbrushes fade and the bluebonnets, battered and torn by the spring rains, are overtaken by flowerless grasses and sickly yellow bastard cabbage, I feel the hints of an August firestorm brewing as the sun climbs its arc ever higher with each passing day.

Then ...

The firewheels bloom.

Growing up I knew them as Indian Blankets. While there will always be something special about the vivid blue of the Texas bluebonnets and their rebellion against nature's color palate ... I think Indian Blankets have always been my true favorite.

Heartier, and taller, they suddenly shoot up past the canopy of weeds that has overtaken the earlier blossoms. Perhaps they don't form a photogenic backdrop the way a patch of bluebonnets does, drawing many a motorist to tary by the right of way for a bit; but I feel like they have a stark, independent beauty and I've always admired their bicolored blossoms.

Perhaps they are not as popular as their older sisters, but they seem almost to cry "Wait! Spring isn't over! Nature's beauty has not withered away in the sun just yet."

And in my own life, often as I think a beloved season is passing and vibrancy of life is going wane dull, God breathes new fire into my days. I loved my children as helpless, gurgling babies. But, cry foul if you must, there is something beguiling about my two-year-old's ability to dramaticize being given what she asked for and suddenly no longer wants.

I pray every season will have its Firewheel, and when my life itself is withered and blowing away like chaff in the wind the blooms in heaven will make me forget the wildflowers of spring that so spoke to me here in their season.

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! - Matthew 6:30

Thursday, April 21, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday - Psalm 118

Sometimes God inspires my writing by an almost vision-like quality when I read a concept or verse ... and sometimes He does it by hammering me with the same verse so many times I can't ignore it.

That has been Psalm 118 for me. It has come at me from so many different places that God's breath behind it is undeniable.

It is such a versatile Psalm. It gives both reverence and thanks to the Lord. It reviews history about the past and gives prophetic glances into the future. Yet it reads like a prayerful song.

The first four verses extol the lovingkindness of the Lord. Some translations read "stead fast love" and repeated that it lasts forever. We can trust the Lord to show us an unchanging love that doesn't end. We should praise Him for this impossible love that only He is capable of! Even when we don't understand it and our circumstances could lead us not to believe it ... thanking Him for who He is and always will be helps refocus our hearts in times of trouble.

Having established His limitless love ... we can look at those circumstances and realize that we have nothing to fear. We have refuge in an endless, powerful God who loves us. Thank Him, praise Him, and scoff at life's problems no matter how large they loom. What can man ... or illness ... finances ... what can anything to do me that He doesn't allow?

The Psalmist recalls being surrounded ... ringed by enemies like a ring of fire, like a swarm of bees. But his confidence in the Lord fuels his strength and gives voice to a song ... and he finds victory rather than defeat. Dear friend ... whatever we face in this life, we know because God has told us that we will experience His victory. The Lord, in the end, will not be defeated. Hallelujah!

Even recalling discipline, the Psalmist rejoices and tells what the Lord has done for him. Sometimes we bring our circumstances on ourselves and because the Lord is Holy, His hand will come down. Severely the author says. He disciplines us because He loves us and we obey Him because we love and trust Him. There will be joy in the homes, the sanctuaries, the fields of the righteous indeed. When we are doing His work our hearts will sing. He will become both our righteousness and our salvation - isn't that worth thankful praises?

Sweet prophecy. So many love what I now know is called eschatology ... the study of end-time prophecies. While I am interested in what has not yet come to pass, I love to study past prophecy from this side and see what the Lord has done. The cornerstone that was rejected ... Jesus rejected by the very Israel He was sent to save. He is the cornerstone of ALL salvation. The LORD is GOOD and history tells of His power, His goodness, over and over and over. I may not understand eschatology but I know it probably won't look like what we think it will and that it will be awesome. Mind blowing. Even the angels will fall slack-jawed on their faces "Oh, THAT is what you were doing!"

For all these things and more, let us thank the Lord for this day. Each day. God made them all. Those days when you wake up and don't feel thankful or joyful or like there is anything Holy in the world ... He even made those. REJOICE! Be glad; be thankful! The Lord who spoke the universe into existence also made this day. Nothing He makes is insignificant. Nothing He does is without purpose.

And we end where we started. A beautiful repetition. Keep on giving thanks. The Lord is GOOD. His unfailing love will never stop. So keep expressing gratitude for it and looking for the ways He loves you every new day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - It's Complicated

I'm frequently surprised by things Shelby says. She uses fairly deep concepts in the right context, or words that I'm not sure how she knows ... yet here she is, using them properly and seeming to grasp their meaning.

Not long ago she was trying to arrange her pink blanket on the back of her chair during breakfast and in frustration blurted out:

"My blanket isn't simple to put here!"

She has for some time been a bit like Linus with her "pink blanket." It is a mauve blanket that says "Princess." At some point early on she latched onto it and hasn't wanted to let go.

Until this past week. Tim went to put it on her at bed time, as usual for the past couple of ... well, years really, and she said no. She didn't even want to touching her. She allowed us to put it next to her.

I thought for sure she'd wake up during the night wanting it, but I never heard a peep.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Transformation Tuesday - Shopping

I know I am not the only woman out there who dreads the dressing room. Walking into those strangely lit, mirrored caverns of consumerism will probably always illicit an unpleasant initial response in me.

In December I shared that I had to fire Lane Bryant. Let me tell you, I do not have any hate for the store! I very much appreciated their provision of style in larger sizes and their comfortable, supportive, yet pretty bras.

But in December I got an email from them and realized that they no longer carried my size, because at that point I had lost 20-something pounds. So I unsubscribed, and it was an amazing feeling!

My sweet hubby brought me home some jeans from Plato's Closet and saved the day! With two littles I rarely make it into a dressing room these days. Easy on the wallet ... but when you've lost this much weight it starts to become a bit of a problem!

So last weekend we went on a "super secret adventure" that included going to a store I had not been shopped in over a decade because they didn't carry my size. And I got underthings that fit. Who knew you could end up with britches to big rather than being too big for your britches?

And I stood in front of that mirror and I laughed. I laughed because I wasn't picking apart my flaws or frowning at how carrying children had changed my body ... I laughed because I LIKED WHAT I SAW. For whatever reason we don't have a full-length mirror and I had not seen my entire self since losing about 15% of my body weight.

God made us beautifully and getting comfortable in my own skin ... truly comfortable not just settling in and pretending I don't mind feeling stuffed into my own skin ... was joyful. I feel like something snapped there in that fluorescent lighting ... something that had been holding me back from being fully me. From letting the weight of my own extra weight interfere with just living.

For me, the portion fix clean eating, Shakeology nutrition, and 21 Day Fix followed by Hammer & Chisel is what is working. Letting myself be vulnerable and accountable keeps me going. Helping others as a coach keeps me going. I'm in this for the long haul. If you want to talk about your goals and you think this is something that could help you please send me an email. I've probably been where you are and I would love to help you with your health goals!

My goal to wear shorts this summer is fast approaching! I need to start looking! Are you reading to go shopping for summer?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday - Spiritual Fruit: Love

As I shared last week, we have just started Beth Moore's Daniel study together. A quote had me thinking about something I'm really starting to try to emphasize with Shelby when we talk about behavior. The fruit of the spirit.

"Tact. We [Christians] could all use an extra dose ... Because so much is at stake." - Beth Moore, Daniel pg 35.

Daniel approached the commander in charge of slaying the wise men of Babylon, and in turn the king, tactfully in order to ask for time to beseech God for the revelation of and answer to Nebuchadnezzar's dream.

Often what I'm asking of Shelby is, especially in her interactions and attitudes, to display tact. To be salt. To bring a pleasant flavor to her words. Especially kindness ... I feel like I'm emphasizing kindness to her a lot in her interactions with Victoria.

What better guide for teaching tact; teaching a way to interact with the world that leaves them hungry to hear more about this Jesus we give glory to, than to display the Fruit of the Spirit?

For if we say we are of the Spirit, Galations clearly states that there will be certain evidences in our lives. I'd like to take the next several weeks exploring what the Bible has to say about each one. What does it look like when our lives display love, joy, peace, patience [forbearance], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

The first fruit listed is love. The entire Bible is a love-story.  But certain points stand out as being applicable in our unique position to let God move through us to touch others.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love our neighbors as ourselves. The first time this law, this Golden Rule, is mentioned can actually be found in the Old Testament:

While I have been guilty of practicing a type of false-humility called self-deprecation, in general we're pretty good at loving ourselves. We take care of our needs, we are interested in what interests us. God has for millennia been asking us to do that for the people around us.

Jesus even goes so far as to say to love one another as HE loved us. So in case we think we're off the hook because we beat ourselves up in a sick kind of pseudo and self-centered manipulation of humility. Think again. Jesus loved us perfectly. To the point of death. We are to love one another even if it costs us everything. Even when the recipient doesn't deserve it, appreciate it, or even receive it.

Furthermore, he echoes one of the commands to the Israelites. That we show HIM love with our obedience. I haven't written further on this before and won't drag you down that trail again; but obedience to God is equated to love. No amount of service, dedication, prayer, song, sacrifice, or selflessness will ever make up for a lack of obedience.

Corinthians gives us an entire list of what love is, and is not, to help us see how to love others.

I can't help but notice the way the list of things love does echoes the list of fruits of the Spirit in our lives: Rejoice [joy], patient, kind, bear [patient], believe [faithfulness], hope [isn't it easier to maintain self-control when one has hope?].

The fact is, love is at the very heart of every word of the Bible. It is the love story from God to us. It is what He most desires for us and from us. So we start with love because without it other fruits and gifts are hollow and ring insincere. Love is always the answer, because when nothing else remains love will still be standing. Nothing done in love, true love as defined by God and flowing from His Spirit within us, is going to be wrong.