Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Transformation Tuesday - The Little Things

We like BIG changes, don't we?

I love reading the stories of people who made big changes in their life, fitness and weight loss or otherwise. And doesn't anyone working on losing weight love to hop on the scale and drop into another range? If I see 161.5 one week and 160.5 the next, I might actually feel a sense of disappointment. But if I go from 160.5 to 159.5 you better believe there's a happy dance!

Well, if you are on a long journey like me, there will be periods of time that there aren't big things to see. At least, not on a weekly basis. The scale may seem stuck (KEEP YOUR RECORDS - I know it seems tedious, but over time you can see the big changes you've made in small steps! Week by week it is almost invisible). You had a bad meal, a cheat weekend, a week where none of your meal planning seemed to come together and your nutrition wasn't where you wanted it. You missed a workout (or two).

That's why this is a LIFESTYLE. You won't find me here promoting a diet or telling you NEVER to eat something, especially if you love it. I'm all about sustainability ... including in our daily lives.

Last week I was in a bit of a funk. I found myself complaining through the first round of Cardio Fix. Snipping at my family. Wondering if my time was running out and I was going to fail soon.

WHOA. Time for a mindset change.

Instead of telling myself "I hate cardio, I hate cardio, I hate cardio" I started telling myself that I love doing something good for my heart. I started looking for progress from when I FIRST started doing 21 Day Fix. I used the step out the warm up. I run the whole time now. I used to do a lot of the floor exercises on my knees; but today most of them I am able to (by "giving it all I've got and a little bit more" that I didn't think I had) stay up the whole time.

I'm not drinking diet soda.

We don't have veggies rot in our fridge, because we EAT THEM.

My closet is shrinking ... I keep giving away things when I go to put them on and discover they're too big.

I consider it a "cheat" when I eat a roll at the local Italian place ... there was a time I probably wouldn't have wanted to even count how many I ate.

When the going gets tough, don't look back at where you used to be. But look back at where you started and look at your progress. That didn't happen overnight, and the next big leap won't either.

It is worth it. You are doing a great thing. Keep doing it! Autumn mentions on one of the Chisel workouts that 70% of people who start a fitness program quit. BUT NOT YOU. And not me.

Focus on now, right now. YES make goals, but don't get so focused on them that you see nothing but failure. Yes, look at how far you've come, but don't let the past drag you down. Grab a drink of water and pat yourself on the back. You've got this ... it's just one little thing after another.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday: Faithfulness

Each week I've been starting out my study of the fruit of the spirit by delving in to what they mean. Kindness surprised me, as the Bibilical definition was very different than what a dictionary would say, with even more disparity to what society might call kindness.

I approach faithfulness cautiously. One of my spiritual gifts is faith ... for me there is a temptation to define "faithful" as "full of faith." Sweet, I'm done right? WRONG.

As always, the best definition is what the Bible, God's own Word, says faithful means. Psalms gives a concise and cutting definition.

That means I can't say well, I have faith, that is enough to count as faithful. It means I am remembering, studying, learning, and OBEYing his commandments. Without the Holy Spirit I simply can't do it.

When we are new Christians, stumbling around it can be very hard to live faithfully. I lived unfaithfully for a sadly long period of time. But as I draw closer to God by burying my nose in His Word, His Spirit has more room in my life as more of me is set aside and it is so much easier. The more faithfullness we demonstrate, the more He reveals for us to be faithful in and with.

In the end, we start to (finally, in stubborn cases such as my own) see that He means for us to be faithful in all things. Faithful in how I pray. Faithful in my relationship with my husband. Faithful in how I teach my children. Faithful with my money. Faithful with my decisions. Yes, all of them. Faithful in how I treat others. Faithful in where I go and what I do. Faithful with my writing.

If we are being faithful we are obeying Him. Not just a list of "thou shalt nots." Oh no. Sweet friend, if that is what you think Christianity is I beg you to dig deeper. That would be like if all we taught our children was "do not touch the stove." The things God asks us not to do are things that will hurt us.

But imagine taking your child camping, or something you enjoy, for the first time. Look up my dear! Look at the stars! Isn't it amazing? Have you ever watched a child's face when they are still enthralled with finding the moon? Imagine God watching you like that. We are His precious children. He doesn't just give us a list of things not to do. He has work for us!

When we act on His whisper to do something for someone else, we are being faithful. When we take take to appreciate Him and what He has done for us, is showing us; when we listen to Him ... we are being faithful.

Sure, we aren't saved by what we do. We can do nothing to save ourselves. He has already saved us; all we have to do is have faith and accept. But when we understand WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR US, the sacrifice He has made, the great graceful forgiveness He bestowed on us even in our utter UNfaithfulness, the desire to do His works burns within us. And He promises to repay us. Probably, dare I say hopefully, not in this life. Though I can't imagine a better feeling than when I obey. A rich and overflowing sense of fulfillment which our souls long for and cannot slake with the offerings of this world overcomes me.

As the age of this world draws to a close, it will become increasingly difficult to remain faithful. Instead of simply listening to God and doing His will ... we will be acting in defiance of a new world order. God's marching orders will be in direct opposition. I want to be THAT kind of faithful even if I don't live to see that day. Because I want to leave a legacy for whatever generation will.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Freestyle Friday - I Had to Go All the Way to Boston

Popular culture reflects our slide away from the values our country was founded on. Yes, yes ... I'm an educated woman I know there are arguments against what our country was founded on. I'm not here to dispute facts. While in hindsight I think it is unfortunate that wasn't made more clear in the Constitution, I believe looking back at the CONTEXT of the Constitution makes it quite clear.

Perhaps some of them were simply following what their parents had done. I understand the need many of us (unfortunately probably both of my children) were born with to buck the "system." To find out for ourselves what we believe.

But I beg you; do yourself and everyone who loves you a favor. FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF. I think too many people are managing to pass through this right of passage and come out on the other side with no beliefs whatsoever; or simply the belief in self. I can do anything. I make the rules. I decide what God is like, or if He even exists.

Do yourself a big favor and really explore. Throwing everything you know out just to let the space fill in with yourself is narcissism. Instead of throwing things out, explore if you really believe them or now.

"I had to go all the way to Boston to figure something out ..."

I'm not the one who originally said it, but I could have. I grew tired of the "establishment" and I took off on my own. I went somewhere that I didn't know anyone. And I learned (not just because I was in grad school).

I learned that people are basically the same everywhere you go. They may have different accents and customs and they may pronounce things in a way that seems their only goal is to make outsiders stand out ... but deep down we're all human.

I learned that I need God, that I grow apart from Him when my nose is out of my Bible, and that He is faithful even when I'm not. I learned I need His people even though they're just as flawed and frustrating as the rest of us.

I learned that Texas is a darn great state and my anscestors actually knew what they were doing when they chose to live and stay here. And by the grace of God I got to come back. 

I learned that snow is a lot more fun when it doesn't stick around for months at a time, grey and slushy with dirt, rivers of ice cold water lurking beneath from the runoff of salted sidewalks.

I had to go all the way to Boston figure some things out. But I got to move back to Texas to fall in love and start a family.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday - Heritage

The other day I was giving Shelby a bath and using a nail brush on her toes (she'd been playing in the mud). She started to use it on the wall of the tub, and I said that wasn't what it was for (they're forever trying to clean everything with any brush ... scouring the sink with their toothbrushes and dusting the furniture with the dust-pan brush).

Part of my job as a mom is to teach them silly things like how to clean. That you don't mix ammonia and bleach (even though I don't clean with either of those things, someone has to teach them). That lightly colored and darkly colored clothes might cause a problem in the washer.

She had asked one of the infamous "whys" and as I was explaining that part of our job as parents was to teach her ... I just stopped.

The most important thing I have to teach her is to know God. That's the very best thing I can do for her. There are so many things we'd like to pass on to our children ... loving our country, loving our state, loving the Texas Aggies ... but in the end if they don't learn about our faith, none of the rest matters.

While I am no expert in HOW to go about doing that, there are clues all around us. Sometimes the children themselves give us clues. They ask questions. Tori looks for baby Jesus everywhere. I want to listen and be aware and pounce on those opportunities!

We tell about the things God has done for us. We thank Him, openly, together, around the table and at bedtime, for the ways He provided for us that day. As they get older we will tell them more about the things God did for us even before they were born.

But probably the best things we as parents can do is be an example. I often hear that given as the best way to be a witness for Christ ... so of course it would stand true for our own children. When I have to ask my kids for forgiveness, I do ... and then I pray for God to forgive me as well.  Right in front of them. They'll know momma wasn't perfect. It's ok. I trust God to use my vulnerability to teach them to be vulnerable to Him.

If I live out my life one way, then try to tell them to put their faith in the Father and obey Him, they'll grow to scoff at my so-called faith and throw it out with all my other "old fashioned" ways when they go through the latter stages of becoming their own people.

It is never to early to teach and live out our faith, but it is also never too late. I'm praying right now God will show me the ways my life is teaching them something other than what I most want them to learn. Children are a heritage from the Lord, and like Abraham and Isaac I want to give them back.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

This week it was Tori that made me think of the times this happens, but both girls have been guilty of this. Possibly we ALL have.

Mommy: What kind of cereal do you want?

Girls: Cereal.

Not really very helpful. The same day, lunch was similar.

Mommy: What would you like for lunch?

Girls: Lunch.

Well, that narrows it down.

Mommy: What do you want for dinner?

Shelby: French fries!
Victoria: Inch fries!

We actually don't really eat all that many french fries, but of course when we do the girls are all about it. We've been blessed with two pretty good eaters ... Tori had been kinda "meh" on vegetables for a long time, but lately she really likes them (especially off someone else's plate).

One of my favorite "tricks" is to make a funny face out of their food. It really doesn't take a lot of prep, I just arrange the food in a fun way on the plate, maybe throw a couple of grape halves on there for eyes even if I wasn't "serving" grapes at that meal.

"Pizzadillas" (corn tortilla spread with tomato sauce and topped witch cheese, baked in the toaster oven)
Apple Slices
"Peanut butter dip" (plain yogurt, a little vanilla, a little honey, and a little peanut butter)
Tori LOVES this dip to dip things in, Shelby eats it with a spoon

Apple slices, carrot slices, Morningstar Farms "Chik-N" nuggets for eyes, and cubes of cheese for teeth

PB & J sandwiches on sandwich flats (easier for them to fit in their mouth than traditional sliced bread), grape eyes, stack of cucumbers nose, and banana mouth. They ate everything but the banana and Shelby said: I only like bananas at night.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Transformation Tuesday - Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes"

Let's face it, if you are like me and have tried cauliflower rice or mashed potatoes, they aren't the same.

This recipe is no different ... you aren't going to fool anyone who loves mashed potatoes.

However, if you are like me and don't really want to spend your precious yellow containers (the 1/2 cup container for starches) on mashed potatoes ... listen up! Cause this is mostly green! I love finding ways to sneak those greens in.

I felt like the mashed cauliflower idea had merit ... I don't hate cauliflower. But I kept thinking there had to be something I could do to improve the texture. Even using my Vitamix it came out a bit on the gritty side.

Well, never fear dear friends because I think I found a solution! You may not pull the potato skin over anyones eyes but this recipe has come out tasty and creamy for me. Last week I paired it with a simple crock-pot roast. I'm not really a "meat and potatoes" girl, but this was a nice substitute.

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets and steamed
1 blue container of parmesan cheese (actually I used Romano, it has a stronger flavor)
1 red container of cottage cheese (this is the trick my friends, a nice neutral-flavored creamy protein!)
1 clove of garlic (the first time I did two and hubby said it was too much - if you love garlic go for it)
Sea salt & pepper

You can add a splash of unsweetened plain almond milk to get it going if you have trouble.

I threw the cauliflower in first and pureed it until smooth, then the parmesan, then the garlic, then the cottage cheese. I haven't tried this in any other machine but the Vitamix whips it nicely smooth.

Couldn't do THAT again if I tried!

How much it makes will really depend on the size of your cauliflower. Generally it is going to make 4 servings which count for 1 green, 1/4 blue, and 1/4 red each!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday: Goodness


Perhaps this is more what you expected, as did I, last week until God revealed more about what the kindness in Galations really means. Goodness.

Goodness in Galations is listed as a fruit of the Spirit, in Ephesians it is listed as fruit of the light. This kind of goodness is from the Lord ... the Holy Spirit ... the Father of Lights.

Think of someone you know, Christian or not, who does good. Hopefully your life has been blessed in such a way that you can think of more than one. Then see what Jesus has to say:

Then realize that the Bible says only One is good. The Psalms exalt in worshipful prose repeatedly the that Lord is good. Anything good, even if seemingly from an earth-bound source, is ultimately from the Lord. He can use the Christian and the Buddhist, the atheist and the polytheist alike to bring good to those for whom it serves His purposes. His good purposes.

Nothing that is good is from us. For the believer this may be old news, but that is a little hard to swallow when you want a pat on the back, recognition, or even just karma for having done something good. We cannot produce good.

Yet the Bible admonishes us to do good. Hence the gift of a Helper, the Holy Spirit. We can bear good fruit, good works, when we allow the Holy Spirit to move through us. The only way we can do good is to be allied with the Spirit and be about the Lord's work.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Freestyle Friday - In Sickness and In Health

This week we've had a little bug run through our family, and it has me thinking about sickness. Don't worry, it was a very brief and mild fever without much in the way of symptoms. But it got me to thinking.

I wonder what kind of sickness each of us pictures when we say our wedding vows? I suppose more people use non-traditional vows anymore, but you know the line I'm talking about in its seemingly infinite variation.

for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part

It is easy to picture ourselves standing by our mate through a cold, maybe even the flu. Perhaps for some it is even easy for us to imagine if something more sinister, more permanent, more deadly were to happen. Some movies and novels have even almost romanticized the notion of seeing your mate through something hard to the end ... whatever end that may be (The Notebook, Return to Me?).

Reality is a lot less romantic than a movie. That glance in the middle of the night that says "Do you want to go or do you want me to?" Keeping your cool when your mate sleepily mumbles something about an early start when he hears a child for the first time at 4am, and you've been up nursing them for 45 minutes every hour since before you stumbled to the bed where they were already snoring softly.

Serving one another wordlessly in the dark of the night over a pile of sheets that must go in the wash... because if they don't, and she throws up again, there will be no more sheets.

Your strong and able mate suddenly struck in their prime with something the doctors can't explain but which has stolen their stamina, strength, and disposition. You don't even have a name to lash out at or fight against. Do you turn on your mate instead?

What about mental illness? How it always bothered me that Mr. Rochester was already married to Bertha Mason and it more recently bothered me that Michael Gregson moved to another country in order to divorce his insane wife. I can only hope that if I lose my mind Tim will put up with me. I actually think he would. He does pretty well in my temporary lapses of sanity. But there are mental illnesses that are just as devastating that aren't as dramatic as locking your spouse in the attic or an asylum.

Sickness of spirit. What if the sickness threatening to tear your marriage apart is spiritual; a battle between God's good and the enemy's evil? When the door is opened to walk away even by legalistic Biblical standards ... what do you do? Will you listen to God and your heart when instead of pats on the back and sympathy others recoil with horror and disbelief in their eyes?

As I ponder raising two girls and watch them begin to pretend to be brides and princesses, I want to be a counter culture. I'm not against Disney. But I want their feet to be shod in the swiftness of the Gospel, I want their heads sealed with a crown bearing the seal of the King of Kings, I want their beautiful gowns to be pure and clean and befitting the bride of His Son.

I want them to look on their future husband with love, not only foggy and sparkling kind on the glossy pages of their wedding album (though there is a place for that), but through the lens of a servant who only thinks of serving her King by loving her husband even when washing his feet means getting her hands dirty.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday: Kindness Continued

Monday I wrote about kindness as a fruit of the Spirit.

Today I want to talk more about societal kindness.

When I dug into kindness for Monday's blog, I started out thinking it was just being nice to others. Doing favors for others. Pay it forward. I mentioned Monday that I wasn't discounting those things or excusing Christians from these profitable practices.

But today I want to contrast what I perceive kindness has come to mean in our society. Monday I shared the dictionary definition of kindness: the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.

In the end, these are all about how the receiving party feels. While useful goodness from the Holy Spirit may often be uncomfortable, the culture we live in seems almost to define kindness as "not making me uncomfortable."

The Holy Spirit would not bear fruit that is contrary to God's commands. God would not have us stand up to sin and have that cause us to be fruitless. Sometimes our unmovable Spirit may be a kindness to the world even if the world rejects it and calls it hatred.

All this thinking about the contrast between God's definition of kindness and our own gave me something of a revelation. Heated debates rage on a weekly basis on social media between Christians standing up for their beliefs and a world wanting everyone to "be kind" ... don't make me uncomfortable, don't tell me I'm sinful ... swallow your so-called truth and just be loving because I heard God is the God of love. That means you have to be nice to me.

In the end, I don't think Christianity in America will fall and face true persecution when someone says to us "Renounce Christ or die." At least, not at first. That is too obvious, too black-and-white. I'm afraid it will go something more like this:

Judge: You have been accused of hate. Hate is a crime. How do you plead?

Christian: Not guilty.

Judge: Then answer this question for me ... do you consider [fill-in-the-blank] to be a sin?

Christian: Yes I do; the Bible is clear about that. [You may even be able to cite verses].

Judge: Your refusal to accept the segment of society that practice [fill-in-the-blank] is hatred. Do you not realize that unless you accept that [fill-in-the-blank] is NOT a sin, and stop telling people such, that you are guilty of a hate crime, punishable by imprisonment? You are basing your freedom on a concept from a book that has been determined by all three branches of government to be hate paraphanlia. I will ask you one more time, and I ask you to carefully consider what your answer will cost you; do you believe [fill-in-the-blank] to be a sin? And as such for the so-called sinner to deserve death unless they accept the concepts outlined in the hateful Bible?

Christian: I not only believe [fill-in-the-blank] to be true but I know that the Holy God, being Holy, must follow through with the punishment for sin if the sinner has not accepted Christ's sacrifice!

Courtroom: Uproar, yelling, anger ...

Judge: [pounding gavel] Based on the evidence of your hate crimes and your own confession, the jury will now determine your sentencing ...

Why do I paint such a dour picture of our country? Because it was given to me. It seems surprisingly feasible if the current trends continue. Because God's kindness here is a righteous kindness, not what we have defined as kindness.

While researching the word kindness, I found a fascinating tool by Google where you can see trends of words as a percentage of available writings over the years. Kindness is seeing a resurgence of popularity in English writing. But be careful before you lump the fruit of the Holy Spirit in with the fruit of our culture. I doubt the slight kindness upswing in the last 10 years of this graph is quite the same as useful goodness.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - Ya Big Baby ... Pilgrim

Once again, Victoria is taking over today!

Tori loves babies, and she loves to hug things ... babies, videos of lions, the Bible when there is a picture of a baby, her momma when she can sense I'm upset about something.

So last Wednesday we went out for a friend's graduation celebration to a restaurant. Victoria had been playing on the playground and came to sit with me and grab a bite to eat.

Suddenly she looked over my shoulder.

Victoria: Eees that? (What is that?)

Mommy: That's John Wayne (*it was one of those life-sized cardboard stand-ups of The Duke).

Victoria: Big baby!

Mommy: Most people consider John Wayne to be very tough, I'm not sure he'd appreciate being called a big baby!

Victoria: I hug?

Maybe John Wayne was just a big baby who needed a hug. It was of the most typical picture you see of him, probably what you pictured when you first read his name. The look on his face is a bit sour.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Transformation Tuesday - Country Heat

I'm So, Autumn Calabrese has a new workout series being released this summer called Country Heat. Frankly - I'm cheesy over it. I've had a love-hate relationship with country music, but I never considered working out to country music! That just sounds like fun! And it's Autumn so I know it'll be good!

I love lifting, but sometimes you need to change things up. I'm thinking about trying the 22 Minute Hard Corps at some point too. I mean ... it's 22 minutes?!?! And it sounds like it is still very effective despite being short! AND there is a buddy exercise! Tim and I have been working out together so I would LOVE to try that!

Anyways, I was inspired by Country Heat and Sonic to try a new addition to my Shakeology. I'm LOVING the vegan chocolate by the way! My tummy likes it even better than the regular chocolate, and the flavor is richer and less sweet.

If you ever eat (or drink) at Sonic, you've probably seen how they do all these crazy flavors of shakes? We really liked the jalapeño chocolate one (when they made it right ... Some of them tasted like they made the shake, then dumped canned jalapeños in the bottom of the cup).

We had a jalapeño sitting on the counter and it hit me ... jalapeño chocolate Shakeology!

My first attempt was lackluster. I started a typical breakfast ... lots of fresh baby spinach, a scoop of vegan chocolate Shakeology, and 8 ounces of water. Then I dropped in half a jalapeño (with the seeds and membranes removed). I tasted it, yummy spiciness we may have a winner! Then added my fairly typical half a frozen banana and some ice and blended it till smooth. Apparently banana cancels out jalapeño? I could taste the flavor some but the heat was gone.

So the next morning I left out the banana. If you like a little heat with your sweet or are a bit of a daredevil, I highly recommend it!

"Country Heat" Shakeology
1 scoop vegan chocolate Shakeology
8 -10oz water (or unsweetened vanilla almond milk, I actually did 6oz water and 4oz almond milk)
1-2 green containers of baby spinach
1/2 fresh jalapeño (remove seeds and membranes!)

Blend until liquified, then add ice until desired consistency. More ice = less spice though!

I really want to hear from you if you try it! Or put your own spin on it!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday: Kindness

Kindness. That seems like a simple enough concept, doesn't it? It did to me.

Until I started digging into God's Word. Kindness took on a depth and fleshed out and became more than just a word for being nice to people.

How would you define kindness? I often ask the girls to be kind to one another. Don't hit your sister, don't take things from her, don't pull her hair, help her, share with her ... of course all those things are a type of kindness.

I finally looked up the dictionary definition of kindness: the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Before I continue please know I do believe Christians filled with the Holy Spirit should exude these things! However ... I've run into a bit of a problem.

The Greek word in Galations used for kindness is "chrestotes" or "xrestotes" depending on your reference (Englishman's/Strongs/HELPS Word-studies). There isn't actually an English word for this type of kindness, which HELPS defines as useful/profitable ... useful goodness. What is really needed.

I'm going to talk more Thursday about what it seems our society deems kindness. Today, since my focus for Monday is the fruit of the Spirit, focus on the kindness we bear as fruit when we have the Holy Spirit.

What is useful and proper isn't always what is comfortable. As the Psalmist says, sometimes a kindness is a timely reproach. Being reproached is unpleasant, especially at first. But it is often what is needed. A loving reproach delivered appropriately is oil upon the head. Cleansing. Healing. Only the Holy Spirit can move us in that way.

In Romans, amid the discussion of the vine (Jesus Christ) and the branches, God's kindness appears right next to His severity. I would argue that God's kindness is always useful. But pairing it with His severity reminds us He is Holy and cannot, will not, overlook sin that has not been covered by Jesus' blood. He is kind in that He made a way for us. It would not be kind to allow us to do whatever we want and reject His son's sacrifice and still choose to overlook sin that has a price: death.

Some modern Christians, leaders and laymen alike, would have us believe God being loving and kind means that everything is daisies and roses and that He has no malice toward anyone. But if we are cloaked in sin and darkness that is what He sees. His kindness is that He saw us at our worst and instead of rejecting us outright He, being tolerant and patient, made a way for us.

We make light of the way He made when we say He is a cruel God for punishing sin. Yes, He does and will require payment for sin. He has to. He is righteous and Holy and light and no darkness can remain in His presence. Do you make light of the kindness He has extended to us? Rather than wiping us out for our sin, He gave us a chance. The choice to reject that kindness is on our own shoulders; not His.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Freestyle Friday - Pride

WSo doing this study of Daniel, pride has come up pretty often. Especially with Nebuchadnezzar ... he basically lost his mind and ate grass for 7 years because he wouldn't admit God was the Most High and stood on his balcony celebrating how great he was instead of repenting.

I don't feel like I struggle a lot with pride. Which made me uneasy. So I prayed that God would reveal any areas I'm prideful about.

And He did. Apparently I'm proud of my willingness to try. My spontaneous spirit and my sense of adventure. Ouch. I really like those things about myself.

From as early as I can remember, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Then I worked for one my senior year of high school. I was already accepted to Texas A&M University (Whoop!) and enrolled in the biomedical science program under the college of Veterinary medicine.

What I saw at the vet clinic was that, at least at a small animal clinic in East Texas, you mostly saw relatively mistreated or somewhat neglected animals that were too far for preventative treatment. Like cats brought in for spaying that were already pregnant with full-term kittens. Dogs so full of heartworms that to kill the worms would also kill the dog. I wanted to help animals get better, not help them leave this world.

Plus, for whatever reason after my traumatic tonselectomy I had become squeamish. Watching surgery made me dizzy and trying to empty an anesthesized cat's bladder almost made me sick. Great. Some vet I'll be.

Then there were my grades. I didn't learn to study in high school. I didn't really apply myself more than "enough." I just stopped at enough instead of really challenging myself. So college was a big shock for me. After my first semester things got downright hard. Everything wasn't always fair. Some professors were just plain mean-spirited and tricky. Plus I was in the "pre-vet/pre-med" weed-out major.

But dad-gum it ... I earned my degree. I stuck it out and I still got my B.S. in biomedical science only one summer after most of my peers. Partly thanks to my dad talking me out of switching to journalism (which A&M doesn't even offer anymore).

Anyways, in the past week I've had a few opportunities to "play vet." As I was driving to a friend's house to try to medicate a calf I was thinking "OH maybe this is why God gave me the desire to be a vet! Here I am 37 and getting to work with animals! I'm so helpful! Anybody want my help, here I am! I'm so going to write about this!" Here I was, almost uncharacteristically confident, on my way to do something important.

My friend and I chased a calf around a pasture and some woods for a while and didn't get any medicine in anybody. We didn't even lay a hand on that calf. THEN I somehow broke their gate on my way out when I opened it. The opposite of help. I seriously asked her if there were hidden cameras filming for a reality show. Two women who don't know what they're doing trying to manage cattle.

You know what else I did in the past week? I stuck my arm halfway up to my elbow in a ewe and still didn't feel the lamb she wasn't able to pass. No help. But I didn't pass out or throw up so I'll consider that progress.

I really am always happy to help however I'm able! I'm not scared of much! But I'm not a vet. I don't know what I'm doing. So all you might get is a few laughs. And a smile lit by the blush of humility.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday: Carried Away

Study. The word implies careful observation.

Bible study is not simply reading a few verses as an inspiration or motivation to get your day started. It isn't reading a passage and picking out a favorite verse.

It means careful observing what the verses really mean. Reading them in context ... not only within the paragraph in which they appear. In the chapter. In the book. In the Bible. In history.

And sometimes it becomes a study of language.

Like it or not, sometimes when we skim the surface of verses we can miss important nuances in meaning or even fact! If you've grown up as a Christian there can even big things ingrained by our Western Christian culture that aren't actually truth.

Take the story of Daniel in the lions' den. Picture Daniel for me. Perhaps, like he always has in my mind, your Daniel really looks a lot like young David. Ruddy, boyish, or perhaps a young man just beginning to enter manhood. Strong. Courageous. Perhaps even a bit defiant.

What if I tell you he was actually at least in his late sixties, possibly around 80? Instead of Luke, you've got Obi-wan Kenobi. Defiance is an understatement. His got that been there, done that, what-can-YOU-do-to-me rebellion underneath a supernaturally calm demeanor. I was around before you and I'll likely outlast you; do you know how many kings I've served under? Bring it. God's plan trumps your's every. Single. Time. Whatever hair he has is probably gray. Perhaps he has some kind of walking stick.

That doesn't change the facts of the case, just the image in your mind. Perhaps he was a little more vulnerable among hangry lions, though I don't think we'd give much of any body a big chance in that den. Sure David killed them with his sling, and Samson ripped one apart with his bare hands ... but it was just one.

Tim and I had a discussion this week about a verse. I had read it in the NASB, but his NIV Bible had translated one little word very differently than mine. A brief cursory reading would not have revealed the difference, but a little digging revealed a very different picture in our minds.

 Exelkomenos. That was the original Greek of the word in question. "To draw out."

My NASB translation of "carried away and enticed" lends a certain picture. I'm sure you've heard the term to get carried away with something. It doesn't usually mean you were literally picked up and carted off: usually it means you yourself went to far with something.

But Tim's NIV translation gave a much different picture that he was having trouble swallowing before we really dug down into the truth:

Dragged away, for us, produced a picture of someone unwilling to go being physically taken from where they want to be and trapped by this awful thing they never wanted to do. "The devil made me do it!"

In the end we determined that the spirit of the verse, contextually and in the original Greek, is that you see something you want to do. But shouldn't. But you keep being enticed and let it lure you, like the aroma of a fresh baked delicacy on the wind, almost effortlessly toward it. Like the chocolate you didn't really want to eat but when you kept thinking about it, well, what's one little taste going to hurt? And you get carried away and next think you know you wake up several months later and several pounds heavier. Not where you wanted to go. But deep down you had that desire to start with and allowed it to get the better of you. The bag of Ghirdelli in the pantry has never jumped out and grabbed me by the nose, held my mouth open, and poured itself inside.

STUDY your Bible. We have a plethora of free resources. I can look at multiple translations in seconds with the YouVersion app, and with Bible Hub's website I, who never studied Greek or Hebrew, can have an interlinear Bible at my fingertips. You don't have to be a theologian, academian, or master ancient languages in order to study the Bible.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - Pillows

Shelby is a little bit preoccupied with pillows lately - I'm not really sure why.

A few days ago we had this conversation:

Mommy: Good morning Victoria! How did you sleep?

Victoria: Good.

Mommy: Oh good, I was afraid you had a rough night!

Shelby: Her have a bad dream. I had a GOOD dream! 

Mommy: Oh you did!? What was it about?

Shelby: About pillows. Going in the folder.

Which just further confirms that she might have gotten a little bit of OCD. Having a folder for your pillows is pretty organized!

This weekend, Tim and I had a little overnight get away (courtesy of GiGi and Dude keeping the girls!) to celebrate our 5th anniversary. I was telling Shelby we went on a date and then we stayed in a hotel.

Shelby: A HOTEL!? Were there PILLOWS?

Mommy: Yes there were pillows! It was like a bedroom in a house. There was also a big bathtub with things that put bubbles in the water [how would you explain a Jaccuzi tub to a 3 year old??].

Shelby: Soap?

She said it with such a "DUH Mom, how could you forget?" tone that Tim thought she said "So?"

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Transformation Tuesday: Am I being selfish?

Lately I've been struggling some with self-image. Not so much having a poor self-image ... by the grace of God I think I'm finally getting over that. No, now I admit I have some fear of over-correcting.

In the end it all boiled down to motivation.

Something motivates everything we choose to do. Something motivates me to push play and do my workout. Something motivates me to choose the right foods in the right portions. Something motivates me to share my weight loss and fitness journey.

Am I stealing time from God or my family to fit in my workout? Am I being selfish? Am I, as week three talked about in our Daniel Bible study, building an image? Or is what I'm doing glorifying God?

I'll share my answers to these questions that I asked myself, but know that my conclusion was that these fears were just an indication that I'm going in the right direction. Our enemy does not want to see us do good and if he can talk us into stopping ourselves we've given him an easy victory.

What motivates me to workout and eat right? The list goes on and on. I feel better. I treat my family better. I'm a better example for my girls. I'm doing what I can to affect the quality of life I'll be able to share with those around me. I'm making sure certain weight and health limitations don't decide what I'm able to do. None of that sounds selfish.

Why do I share my journey? Because I want to be real with others and to help them. I've been there. Maybe not EXACTLY where someone else has been, but I've been overweight and I've been tired. I've been disgusted with myself and impatient with myself and overcome with guilt. I've been frustrated feeling like I was doing all the right things and feeling like I was getting nowhere. I've found something that works and I feel like the selfish thing would be to keep it to myself; or worse, take credit that isn't mine. I didn't come up with the program, and I didn't design the human body that God gave us.

Am I stealing time from God or family? In reality all I'm probably losing is a little sleep, or a little time I would have puddled around doing something else. My morning routine goes something like this:
5:00am - get up, drink coffee while doing my Bible study and morning pages (writing exercise)
5:40(ish)am - change into workout clothes and work out with Tim
6:20(ish)am - put away weights, fix Tim some breakfast while he showers

Usually by the time the girls get up I'm showered and ready to fix their breakfast and see Tim off to work.

As they get older and more able to go and do things, they won't be held back by Mommy being too tired, too big, to unbalance and self-conscious to get out there and help them.

So no, I refuse to fall back into the "other side" of self absorption. As Beth shared ... "constantly thinking little of ourselves is still thinking constantly of ourselves." That's where I used to be. And I'm here to tell you I haven't jumped the line into constantly thinking much of myself. I'm constantly thanking God for my newfound health and confidence.

I imagine this is a struggle for a lot of Christians, especially Christian women. But self-improvement doesn't instantly mean you become selfish. I will continue to pray God will reveal to me if I cross that line. Thank you for stepping with me into my little self-evaluation - I pray it will free someone to take that step to take care of themselves and see that even that can be a form of worship and service.