Friday, July 29, 2016

Freestyle Friday - One for the Books

By the time this posts it will have been a couple of weeks, but I'm sitting down to type it the day it happened so I can remember all the details.

Let me tell you a story ...

If you've read much of my blog, you know that I have two young children. You also know that I workout 5-6 days a week, and that I usually do it in the wee hours of the morning before the girls get up.

While Tim was gone with our church's youth group on a mission trip, I wasn't sleeping as well as I usually do. So a few mornings I chose not to get up and work out since I figured I could do it during the girls nap. Turns out - it isn't all that bad to work out while they're up from time-to-time either! So that's what I did this morning ... I stayed in bed till Tori wandered in, and we cuddled and she asked questions and listed the people in our family who have eyes ("GiGi have eyes?" Yep. "Dude have eyes?" Yep, he does. "Daddy have eyes?" Yes ma'am.)

The first issue came when Shelby reminded me I had told her I owe her a sticker for her chart (she's been on a "good attitude" chart and it was her last sticker). Before I could even get the stickers out she was asking for a movie. Uh oh.

You see, we only have one television. I have no plans to change that no matter how irritating it becomes. But my plan to work out after they got up, but still in the morning, was starting to look rocky. I needed to get that workout in so I could shower and get gussied up for Daddy's return! And I owed Shelby a cookie baking session ... that wasn't going to happen if I had to wait to workout till they had watched a movie.

So we began the morning with tears. Eventually she was playing happily. Victoria, however, wanted to sit on the couch and watch. Awesome! Except that she really wanted to watch Autumn Calabrese, not Mommy. And Mommy was in her way. So I had to workout behind the couch - no biggie.

As I got warmed up I turned on the fan ... another big nope. I was making Tori cold. Ok, that's fine ... Mommy isn't afraid to sweat over here behind the couch. One plus was that I didn't turn the music off like I usually do, and just having had my Shakeology made with coffee instead of water ... I was dancing around between sets. Being excited to get Tim back probably contributed too.

All in all, after everyone was placated, my workout went very well. Shelby was exuberant when I told her they could watch a movie while I took my shower, then we'd make the cookies I had promised. So off I go to take an extra-clean shower ... with Daddy coming home I was pulling out all the stops ... shaving my legs, washing and drying my hair ... these things are a big deal when you have two children under 4. The girls sat down to watch "Home" with little Corelle bowls of cereal and I bopped off to un-sweat-ify myself.

My shower is going fine, I've got my hair up slathered with conditioner ... kinda letting it do a deep-treatment thing. I've shaved one leg with a brand new blade, ran out of shaving gel, but thankfully had another bottle waiting in the cabinet. Then I hear them calling my name and banging on the door (what? I lock it if I'm in the shower ... there are things in there they don't need to be getting into).

It goes something like a 911 call ...

Shelby: "Mommy there is a PROBLEM!"

Mommy: "Is anyone hurt?"

Shelby: "Maybe I don't think so probably not."


Mommy: "Is anyone bleeding or unconscious or crying?"

Shelby: "Nooooo ... but it's BROKEN."

Well, that's enough to get Mommy out of the shower in a hurry. I grab my towel and stop worrying about what wet feet do to the concrete floor. I open the door and find Tori standing in the middle of a minefield mess of broken Corelle.

The thing about Corelle is, the kids can use "real" plates and bowls that are harder to break. I KNOW they aren't unbreakable. I know that. I only gave them those bowls so they could each have their own little identical kingdom of cereal to eat without fighting. But apparently when Corelle DOES break, it shatters into a million jagged pieces and a dusting of fine powder.

Shelby: "Mommy her THROW it cause she's DONE." (Ahem, Uncle Nathan ...)

So I scoop up a protesting two-year-old so she doesn't lacerate her precious little feet and plop her on the couch. Wrapped precariously in my towel, wet and cold, with my one smooth leg and conditioner oozing down my back I proceed to clean up the razor-strewn floor.

Eventually I managed to get ready for the day and even to show my hubby I'm excited that he is home (and not just for reinforcements or as a sleep aid). We managed a batch of cookies (though they were clean-eating/paleo/gluten free and the only thing Shelby liked about them was the chocolate chips). But now I remember why I usually try to get in a workout and get showered before the little minions are up.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday - A Birthday Prayer

Today is Shelby's 4th birthday. There are days that she seems frozen in time, like a music-box ballerina ... like my mind and the world around us just slow to a crawl and that mess of curls unfurls like spun honey around her. Her eyes, twinkling innocence and smiles, dance around to see if I'm watching.

Part of me wants everything to stop right here. Lets just stay like this. But I know the whole point of being her parents is that we're raising her ... we're lifting her up to help her soar, the Holy Spirit under her wings ... I don't want to see her crash as she learns to fly, but I know she will. And momma will be right there to help her learn from the fall.

Y'all, I don't know if I can write this. My baby is four today. It has been four years since the best friends anyone could have stocked up our freezer, loaded up our apartment, and filled our waiting home. Since my doctor told us I was running out of time. Since my greatest fear in childbirth, being separated from Tim, came to be.

Sweet Shelby, we've been praying for you since before you were born and I'm not about to stop now.

Father, oh Father ...

You who understand a mother's heart better than any other ... thank You for entrusting this amazing spirit to our care. My greatest prayer for Shelby in these formative years is that You speak to her heart. Send your Holy Spirit to knock, to whisper, and give her the ears to hear You. I pray that she comes to know You early in life.

And Father, I don't just want her to know You as one passing through the flames. Please, even though it may take losses and hardships that break the mother's heart in me, teach her to trust You. Only You. Always You. That when we fail her, when the world betrays her, when the enemy lies to her, You are always there, always good, always loving.

Lord, I cry out that You will help her see that obeying You is the only way to love you and the best way to live. She's so independent ... I pray that independence will be utilized as a tool for your kingdom, a light in the darkness, and not a rebel flag in the desert.

Abba! Guard her heart. Set up a wall around her. I beg you to protect her innocence as long as possible. Protect her sweet, carefree, nurturing, loving, including, vibrant heart. Not encased in a bubble Lord ... but free to share Your light with an untaintable, tarnish-proof shine that knocks the enemies flaming arrows right out of their trajectories, smoking and broken, nothing but burnt-up sticks.

Give her hands that serve You and serve others. Feet that are swift to run to You, and swift to spread Your great news, Your rescue plan. Let her heart continue to grow in the love of Your praises, to sing to You without shame and without fear.

Father I have no idea how this swirling, whirling world around her is going to change. But I know that You are steadfast and true. You won't change. Let her see that. Let her make You her compass and happy place, her true North.

And if she is meant to marry ... Lord Lord, I pray these same things for him. Give him a fierce love for You. Protect him for her. Teach him all he needs to know to be the match for her. As much as I want to tell you know one will be good enough for her, I know You know better ... and that his momma would probably disagree.

For now, I thank You for providing for her - her family, our home, our provisions, our church family, our friends. I thank You for her light in our home and our lives. I think You for her health. I thank you for her sisterhood with Victoria.

Thank You for this undeserved blessing of being Shelby's momma.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - White Bear

Somehow, both of my children have latched on to white stuffed animals as "security" objects. For some reason, at some point in my life, I determined that I didn't like that concept ... this "thing" a child HAS to have at bedtime.

Then along came Shelby. Fairly early on, she developed something of a relationship with this one stuffed animal. White Bear (that's her name ... and she's a GIRL, though sometimes I constantly find myself calling her "he" for some reason; Shelby is quick to correct me) has become like a member of the family. Because I love Shelby, and Shelby loves White Bear, we will go to some surprising lengths to protect/find/retrieve/take care of that thing.

Like when she somehow fell out of the car and into a storm drain ...
This little bear doesn't necessarily go everywhere with Shelby. Sometimes she's being babysat by pretend Grandma when we're away from the house. Sometimes she comes along but stays in the car. When Shelby had to have her tooth pulled, White Bear was right there with her.

And got left. What? It was a crazy day. Aunt Andrea and Caleb took amazing care of White Bear for us, and Shelby's patience with these kinds of situations requiring a certain kind of endurance amaze me.

Caleb "gets it" ... McQueen there is pretty important to him ...
"Reunited ... and it feels so good!"

White Bear has been through a lot ... I mean, have you seen Toy Story 3? Toddlers are brutal, and she has been with Shelby from the time Shelby was a baby. White Bear used to have a music box. I actually forget what it played ... because of the necessity of repeated washing and drying, the mechanism stopped playing properly around the time Shelby was still not really old enough to pull the chord herself.

As Shelby has grown, and the strength of her arms has increased, and the presence of a little sister eventually necessitated, the useless heavy metal and plastic box had to go. So not long ago White Bear had a little "music box ectomy" and re-stuffing. Shelby was awesome about it - she even picked the color of thread for stitching her back together. At first the new stuffing made White Bear's tummy "too full" but she quickly settled in to the "new" White Bear feeling.

I thought she'd pick pink, but she surprised me by going for bright "boo-doo"
I no longer worry that she'll require counseling the rest of her life because she was attached to this little ball of stuffing. Perhaps it is part of what develops her sweet, nurturing personality. White Bear has certainly served as a object lesson for empathy. Sure, she may take White Bear off to college, tucked away inside her pillow like a comforting secret. I'm ok with that now. And if she doesn't ... it's probably one of those things that we'll hang on to to remind us of a more innocent time.

She requested White Bear be included in our annual bluebonnet photos

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Transformation Tuesday - Recipe Review, Fixate Cookies

While Tim was gone on the mission trip a couple of weeks ago, Shelby completed a "good attitude" chart. I basically print a generic chart with spots for stickers, and we pick a good behavior that needs some encouraging. When the chart got filled up with stickers for "Whoa, hey that was an awesome attitude!" she had chosen baking cookies together as a reward.

Now, I can't be having any fresh-baked, sugar filled, "real" cookies in the house. Not a whole batch. But I couldn't make a batch with her then turn around and give them all away either. So I decided to try a clean chocolate chip cookie recipe from my Fixate Cookbook. Seriously - we have loved pretty much everything we've made from this book!!

Fixate Chocolate Chip Cookies (the way I made them, had to make a few substitutions):

2 3/4 cups almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour (I ran out of almond)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup raw honey
1 large egg (yes, of course it was a duck egg!)
2 large egg whites (also duck)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Line two baking sheet with parchment paper
3. Combine flours, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and mix well.
4. Beat oil and honey in a large mixer bowl until creamy (about 5 minutes)
5. Add egg, egg whites, vanilla extract; beat for 2 additional minutes.
6. Slowly add flour mixture; mix until blended.
7. Stir in chocolate chips.
8. Drop by rounded TBSP onto baking sheets.
9. Bake 14-16 minutes (mine were a little over-done at 14)
10. Store in an airtight container (I think this part is important).

They ARE costly even though they aren't cheating ... 1.5 yellows each, OUCH! For anyone out there not doing the portion fix:
126 calories, 10g of fat, 3g sat fat, 7mg cholesterol, 78mg sodium, 8g carbs, 2g fiber, 5g sugar, 3g protein (per cookie)

The first day, I thought they were pretty amazing.  Being pretty-well sugar-detoxed makes anything sweet taste like an ooey gooey explosion in your mouth. The girls, who may have been expecting something more like Oreos, were unimpressed. In fact, Shelby said "Maybe you can't make these again. We make cookies like grandma next time."

The NEXT day, and following days, they were much improved! The girls aren't clamoring over them like they do Oreos ... but I think that's in part because they don't induce those "more ... more! ... MORE!" cravings. They DO like them though! Tim does too. As of my writing this (less than a week after he got back) there are only two left. Shelby later said "These are good now! And they're HEALTHY! Mommy you can make healthy cookies!"

So ... I'd say they are a win! I don't have to cheat ... woo hoo! The kids appreciate them! WOO HOO! If you take them to a pot-luck you won't have people knocking themselves over asking you to write down the recipe, but hey ... they won't be falling over in a diabetic coma next to you after eating a couple either.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday: Rooted - Soil

You can't be a gardener without dirt. Well ... with hydroponics you can, but I'm going to ignore that for now.

Have you ever spent much time looking at soil?

I haven't really either ... but I DO know there is a big difference between potting soil, sand, clay ... One summer I worked at a big-box home improvement store. They had a return policy on all perennial plants. As I said, it was summer ... one of those summers where the sagey smoke from Central America was thick and it didn't rain. I worked in the garden area, and it rained once the entire summer that I was there.

A woman came huffing in, dragging a cart behind her filled with about a dozen dead azaleas. Their roots were in clumps of dry red clay. It almost was as if they'd been baked in a kiln. I'm glad I didn't work in customer service where they processed the return ... really lady?

It's easy to see that some soil is easy for plants to grow in. Some soil holds water well, some lets it drain away as soon as it falls. Some soil provides a soft bed for roots to push through, while some entraps them in a sticky, hard mess.

Right now our yard is so hard that when staking out a potential fence-line my husband and father-in-law were using a masonry bit on a drill to get the stakes started. We're talking a stake about the size of a pencil, by the way. The learned this trick in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin.

One of Jesus more memorable parables was about soil, and He compared the soil to the hearts of men. He even went on to explain the parable to His disciples:

This type of soil probably resides in a well educated person - to them, the gospel message is foolishness. (1 Corinthians 3:18-20)

This type of soil is within a person who is likely quick to grab on to lots of things. Christianity, the life of freedom offered that costs you nothing, sounds FANTASTIC! Count me in! But when their faith is tested it fails; they are eager to deny Christ when proclaiming Him might cost something.

This one breaks my heart, because I think this is what happens in America. We have so much that we have a lot to worry about. Instead of opening our hands and letting God provide, we cling to what we have and worry about how to keep it. We can't grow as His children that way, too afraid of losing our precious weeds to cut them down even as they keep us in the dark.

I won't pretend I know exactly what this looks like. But I can tell you that Jesus told us that "whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all." This understanding the word doesn't mean we have to attend a seminary or have giant volumes lining our shelves explaining every word of the gospel. We just have to joyfully accept it, like children do any gift, and trust Him.

Last week my husband gave his testimony to the youth group at our church. He was worried about his delivery ... did he use the right words ... did he say too much; too little?

The thing is, when we go out into the world with what the seeds the Holy Spirit has given us, we have to remember that the soil has to be ready ... in the end something only He can do, but something we can work toward and be aware of instead of being so bent on "spreading the gospel" without listening; listening to His Spirit's leading, and listening to the soil around us (because in the end we are all made of dirt). I've always had a guttural disdain for door-to-door evangelism in part because I feel like that is the equivalent to me going out into my yard, announcing that I'm going to plan a garden, then just tossing seeds off the edge of the porch.

Instead we should be developing relationships, meeting needs ... tilling the soil if you will ... being intentional with our plantings. Weeding our gardens. Tending the young plants and protecting them, feeding them. If a person comes to a decision to follow Christ with you, you don't just air-high five God and move on to your next prospect without care being provided, even if not by you.

Yes, there will be some with hearts of stone who will never receive the word, and that doesn't mean you ignore them thinking you know that. But isn't part of our work here to prepare the way? To feed the spiritually immature?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Freestyle Friday: Husband Material

Several weeks ago I wrote about expectation. Since then I have told my wife on two separate occasions that I would be ready to submit my follow up for her to post on the upcoming Friday and two Fridays have gone by without me following through. Needless to say, I did not meet her, or my own, expectation. The list is long of reasons why.... but at the end of the day it doesn't really matter what the reason(s) were.

Picking up where I left off, uncovering both human and Godly expectation, I will tackle Godly expectation first. What does our Creator expect of us? Well, He uses Moses in the book of Deuteronomy to give us some insight. Moses has gone up Mount Sinai bringing with 2 stone tablets on which the Lord wrote the 10 Commandments.

Upon Moses' decent from the mountain top, he saw the Hebrew people, the very people he was intervening for, defying the God that had delivered them out of slavery, had provided for their needs in the desert and shown them His mighty power. In his anger, Moses threw down the stone tablets, breaking them into pieces. In Deuteronomy 10 we find the Lord instructing Moses to once again chisel out 2 more tablets from stone that He would again write His commandments on, replacing the first set that were broken. Then Moses sums up what God requires starting in verse 12:

"And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the Lord set His affection on your forefathers and loved them, and He chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, might and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.

He continues in chapter 11, verse 1 with: Love the Lord your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always. 

It would seem that God's expectation of his people is to love Him, obey Him and serve Him. The last one rings clear for most of us. We want to be served. When we go to a restaurant we expect to be served, to have our needs/wants fulfilled. The Lord is much the same way, He desires for His children to serve Him; however, unlike us, He is exceedingly patient.

If we have unmet expectation at a restaurant we do things like leave a lousy tip or complaint to a manager, maybe even swear to never patronize that establishment again. But if we don't met God's expectations, what does He do? He makes a way. From the beginning God knew that man would rebel against his Creator. He knew that we would not be able to "live up to" His expectations. He knew it and He loved His creation anyways. That's a far cry from throwing a hissy over unmet earthly expectations, isn't it? I purpose that we all would be a lot better off if we were able to look at expectation from the lens of our Lord. Perhaps we would find a bit of grace and mercy and maybe even no expectation at all.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday: The Real Enemy

Lets get something straight. I do not want to write about recent current events. I don't. Even as my fingers rattle this out my eyes are teared up because I don't want to say anything more than what I've already said.

But I feel lead to say something. Especially after God gave me one of those "in your face" object lessons.
"Our" Orb Weaver garden spider, July 1
All summer, we've been watching a couple of garden spiders on our bedroom windows. We've also been watching a tenacious group of wasps repeatedly build nest on the ceiling fan on the porch. While it is turning. Even on that string you pull to change the speed. Really.

If you've never heard a young child struck mercilessly by an angry wasp, you might not understand my disdain for them. I myself even have a scar smack in the middle of my forehead thanks to an encounter when I was about the girls' ages.

So one afternoon instead of my usual "throw a jar of soapy water at them and run" routine (seriously, it does kill most wasps!) ... I got one of those cans of death. 27 foot jet? Knockdown foam? Yes please.

Well, it was a bit more powerful than I anticipated, and although I read the instructions didn't really pay much attention to the wind that day. Some of the overspray landed in the area of our bedroom window. Globs of the sticky toxic foam clung in a few places to the garden spider's beautiful web. Oops.

I felt terrible. I kept an eye on the spider, even though there wasn't a thing I could do but apologize. Sure enough, it began acting sickly. But it didn't die. I was beating myself up inside; what kind of cruel monster was I? Oh Lord, what a crappy steward of Your creatures I'm turning out to be.

July 8, about 7:30am
Then one morning the girls and I had breakfast on the front porch. Yes, they're eating Ritz crackers with peanut butter for breakfast. YOU try to get a 3-almost-4-year-old and a 2 year old to eat clean all the time and get back to me with what you learn, K?

Anyways. We ate breakfast outside. On the porch. Just a few feet from where the ailing spider had been hanging on, quite literally, by a thread ... it's poor web in tatters.

Less than an hour from when I snapped that photo of the girls sitting to eat, I discovered the true source of the garden spider's woes. Unmistakable, a cannibalizing black widow. Deadly even to humans, I had fed my girls, carefree and enjoying the sunrise, maybe 6 feet from her nest.

For those untrained in the deadly spiders of Texas ... that is a Black Widow (a rather large one)

How does that relate to current events? Let me tell you. I thought I had done something wrong to that spider, and felt guilty. Meanwhile under the edge of the window, where my children play on a daily basis, a sinister venom was at work. I could have been killing the poisonous spider instead of worrying that I had hurt the helpful spider.

The words of our own President. Spoken at the funeral of white police officers, condemn us white-skinned folks for events in the history that were deplorable, but that we have come past. He gave our country no credit for how far we've come. He gave Americans, no matter their skin color, no confidence in being something beyond the sum of our past. He gave no hope for us to work together but used divisive language to try place blame.

Our true enemy would have us shying into the dark of silence, afraid to voice ... much of anything. Because we are being falsely condemned. Much of the populace of this great country is under a suffocating blanket of condemnation. Jesus didn't come to condemn us and the founding fathers didn't declare, structure, and FIGHT for shackles of shame for the generations to come.

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. - John 3:17

Freedom. Lets start living and talking like we're free. Lets stop beating ourselves up for something we didn't do. Lets stop listening to rhetoric of divisiveness hiding under the eaves, waiting for us to tear one another apart.

America is something good. I may not agree with everything any single candidate in as long as I have been a voter says, but I DO agree that America CAN be great again. Not because of who we elect, but because of who we are. Christian brothers and sisters, we have got to stop throwing darts at one another, at non-Christians, and get on our knees and do battle with the REAL ENEMY. That is where we have to start or all else is for naught.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas

In order to live in victory, you must call the enemy's bluff, pull the curtain back, open up your spiritual eyes, and remain continually aware of the one who's truly behind a lot of the stuff you're always blaming on your circumstances, your upbringing, your boyfriend, or whoever. Even on yourself. - Priscilla Shirer, Fervent (pg. 43)

Be on the alert! Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. - 1 Peter 5:8

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - What Victoria Said: Somebody Clean Up!

The girls are actually really great about cleaning up ... in the video below, I had been washing dishes. When I turned the water off, I heard them singing "the cleanup song." They had decided they wanted a different toy out and spontaneously started picking up what they already had out. I was flabbergasted ... they can be taught!! There is hope!

Victoria has a very cute way of singing it. She usually still picks things up, but she's a bit of a negotiator. Yes, already. I tell you ... lawyer, president, comedian ... that girl. I can't help but wonder if she really wants someone else to do the work ...

Original Clean Up Song ...

Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere!
Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share!

Tori's Clean Up Song ...

Clean up, clean up, somebody clean up!
Clean up, clean up, somebody!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Transformation Tuesday - Modify

Really, isn't that what portion control and working out are all about? Modification ... modifying your body, your health, your habits ...

But that's actually NOT the kind of modification I'm talking about. I'm talking about "mods" in your workouts. 21 Day Fix actually has a gal, Kat (she's awesome ... I wouldn't have gotten through my first round without her modifications and great attitude), doing modifications for every single exercise.

It's OK to be flat-out unable to do something. You have to start somewhere! I started 21 Day Fix with 3 and 5 lbs weights and now I used 15 and 20 lb dumbbells! That doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't happen the first time you workout.

In the past I've been guilty of what could only be called something like workout bulimia. I either did nothing, or I pushed myself to the limit. Long cardio sessions, running TO the gym, working out, and running home when I was in college after months of a relatively sedentary lifestyle outside of walking to classes. Krav Maga and Crossfit where I considered it a great workout if I had thrown up at some point. Where I beat myself up if someone beat me. Where I was embarrassed if I was one of the "slow ones."

This kind of mindset and body abuse isn't a long-term health plan. It's like doing 3 sets of 10 reps of sit-ups and crunches and expecting to see abs the next morning.

You have to start somewhere, and if that means going slower, using lighter weights or even no weights at all ... you are MOVING. Slow down, and learn to think of these changes as long term. I avoided 21 Day Fix (and P90X) because of their names for a long time. "Psh, nothing can fix me in 21 Days" ... yeah, that's true. But you can start new habits in 21 days.

That side-plank in the picture? It took me nearly half a year to get to where I didn't have to modify those. I was clumsy, I was weak, but I was trying. I did the modified version (with my knee on the ground) and eventually I didn't beat myself up for it anymore. And one day, I decided to try it again. And I did it. Because I had been consistent.

Autumn is right ... you can't wish for it, you have to work for it. And you have to work consistently. But it'll eventually pay off. So you modify if you need to - there is NO shame in it! And one day, maybe after many months, you'll find out that you don't need to anymore. And you may not be at goal weight, but you'll have conquered one more little thing and that kind of victory can keep that forward momentum going!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday: Rooted, The Branches

Last week I wrote about the Vine ... Jesus.

We are the branches. It's pretty simple. Without Him we are nothing in the kingdom. We may think we're somebody here on Earth ... but in God's kingdom our "good deeds" are as dirty rags. Not just dusty rags ... filthy rags that no one would want to touch.

We have a lot of woods around our house, and fairly often I come across downed limbs like the one above. They are fruitless, devoid of leaves. Dry, and often rotting. They're pretty useless for much of anything. Too brittle for a walking stick, too rotted to build anything.

The Bible says (I know I'm reiterating things I've already written about, but they bear repetition), that when we don't bear fruit we are cut off and thrown into the fire. I don't want to be that branch. I want to stay grafted into Christ, green and vibrant and bearing fruit in the kingdom even if I sometimes look ineffective here on Earth. Ineffective, unpopular, not politically correct, offensive ... it is all worth it here for the service to the King of Kings in Heaven.

I am a wild olive. I wasn't naturally part of the family of God. I'm not a Jew, an Israelite, one of God's chosen children. But by His grace, when the natural branches rejected Him ... He made a place for me to be grafted in. And instead of following my wild heart where it would go, I allow the gardener to care for me ... to shape me, to prune me. It isn't easy my friends. But I have found richness in His roots that I know I can't do without! What a gift!

I never want to grow conceited  like I did something to deserve this. I didn't. The vinedresser did it all and I have nothing but gratitude that all it took for Him to give me a place was my faith.

Apart from Him I can do less than nothing. And anything I do in Him is FROM Him. I'm not doing Him a service ... He is serving me in the most backwards of royal relationships. Anything coming from me is simply an outpouring of gratitude from an unruly heart!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Freestyle Friday - Morning

There is no doubt that we are a family of "morning people." We call it sleeping in if the sun has broached the Eastern edges of the horizon before we stir. Victoria wakes up with laughter and songs on her lips ... Shelby a bit less so, but always with her mind sharp and already recalling anything she was promised the night before.

If I'm not awake to see the sunrise, I feel like the day starts in chaos and I spend most of it struggling to catch up. The still quiet when it feels like everything and everyone is still at rest, save a few deer who wander close to the house, makes connecting with God feel like the most natural thing. I slip into prayer easier. I ponder the wonder of Him more readily. I even feel more open to His teaching.

Sometimes the only "grown up" conversations Tim and I have happen in the morning before the girls are up. In the evenings we are exhausted from the trials of the day and the seemingly unending bedtime rituals. Make no mistake - we cherish bedtime. We know the day is fast approaching when they don't want to read a story together, or be tickled until tears threaten the edges of their vision, or when "Mommy lay down me" isn't Victoria's last request of the day. Yet it is still draining when they are clumsily bouncing around on the verge of an ER visit trying every excuse imaginable (and then some) to prevent themselves from relaxing and dare I say falling asleep.

When they were infants and still kept us up more at night (now it is such a rarity I often wake in a state of heart-pounding confusion) I remember the edge of dawn being a chance, even though I was tired, to start over. Everything seems new in the morning. No one has cried. No one has done something they regret or have to apologize for. The dew is still on the grass and the heat is not yet bearing down oppressively as if it had weight over everything.

The morning is like holding hands with God for a moment. Securely. Sure that He won't let go, and not wanting to let go yourself. More often than not the rest of the day feels like grasping and reaching trying to keep that connection going. So ... I like mornings best.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday: The Song of Moses

I actually didn't know until recently that the Bible contained a song written by Moses. Just before God took Moses up Mount Nebo to see the Promised Land from a distance, and to die, He commanded Him to write a song.

Instead of telling God he wasn't good with words as he did when he was younger and the Lord sent him to pharaoh ... it appears Moses simply obeyed. One of the men who walked closest to God on this earth had grown to trust Him and simply obey Him without questioning. I pray to take that as a lesson now, at 37, instead of at 120. He not only wrote the song but taught it to the people of Israel.

His song starts with utter praise ... praise for who God is and what He has done for Israel. His care and protection. Moses describes a God who is perfect and trustworthy. Who cares for His children like a mother eagle over her nest. Picture a mother eagle ... razor sharp vision over everything below her. Gleaming talons and a quick beak to provide and protect. I once watched a mother bird hover over her young on a Texas summer afternoon bleary with waves of heat ... she perched fully exposed to the sun and shaded her young. That's how Moses equates God's care of His children.

He encamped around them and guarded them. He sent impossible food in an impossible place. Nourishment and refreshment flowing from the rocks around them.

But the song continues, because the people will turn, as God predicted to Moses. Eventually, even after seeing God's wonders ... miracles in the desert ... foes scattered like wheat ... they still turn to other gods. The the Most High God who spoke the universe spinning into the vacuum  of nothingness becomes jealous and angry.

The only reason He doesn't utterly destroy them is so that their enemies won't think they did it. He still wants the world to know they are His children, whom He disciplines. How frustrating we all must be in our ignorance. We don't heed His warnings. We stir His wrath against us then scoff that if He were a loving God He shouldn't be angry.

But despite all this ... mercy. His arrows will turn from His children to their enemies who have laid them waste at the last moment. His compassion will overrule even as they are overcome.

His arrows will be drunk with the blood of those who set themselves against His people. And His children will once again rejoice. We are not show mercy because we have been shown mercy and compassion. Even when it doesn't feel like it ... we have the promise of its outpouring, in the end.

Vengeance is His. Even now we would do well to heed Moses' cry. He who finally, finally learned not to question the Most High God.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - Not All the Way Up

For anyone who doesn't know her well, Shelby is very observant.

Yesterday we were across from a set of those huge flags like you often see at car dealerships, and quite seriously - as if she knew it was important, Shelby asked me from her booster seat in the back:

"Mommy, why is that Texas flag not all the way up?"

I explained that it was called "half mast" (I've since learned the correct term is "half staff" since we aren't on a ship) when a flag is halfway up the flag pole, and that it is done out of respect. That we sometimes do it on important anniversaries but that sometimes it is because someone has died.

How do you explain the past week to an almost-4 year old little girl? I told her several police men in Dallas had been killed last week.

"But don't they help people?"

Oh sweet girl. Seriously, what do you say in these moments you weren't expecting? Yes Shelby, the police officers were protecting a lot of people. Some other people were angry at the police and did something very wrong.

She changed the subject after that, but until today I had thought my innocent children were untouched by the tragedy of the past week. Please continue to pray with me that God will use this to turn our country back to Him ... that we can all remember we're all Americans. Hopefully we all love this country and want to see it be the best that it can be. I haven't given up hope that my children can grow up in a good country that honors and fears a great God.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Transformation Tuesday: Partner Up

The other day, while we were doing one of Autumn's "Chisel" workouts, she asks "What made you push play today?" And Tim answered "My wife!"

This week, Tim is gone on a mission trip. I miss him in so many ways! So today for Transformation Tuesday I'll tell you how I miss him as a workout partner.

We didn't start out working out together, but now that we have been for a while I really notice differences when we don't for whatever reason.

Of course, first it's that extra motivation on days that you're dragging your feet. Sometimes knowing he's getting ready to work out gives me the little extra kick in the pants I need to get up and do the same. And sometimes knowing that if I don't he won't is the motivation I need to go start the process of changing clothes and setting up.

Tim also tells me when my form is off. Even if you have a mirror (or your reflection in a window when it's still dark outside, in my case) it can sometimes be difficult to see how you're doing. Sometimes I even ask Tim if something looks right when I'm feeling awkward in a given position.

While most of the videos I've ever done are very encouraging, there's nothing like someone there in the room, sweating right alongside you, telling you that you can do it. Or someone for you to cheer on when things are getting tough. To the person on the screen I feel like "You can't see me and you don't know me, how do you know I can do it?" But I know Tim knows, so if he says it I am more likely to believe it and really push.

We laugh together, sometimes we even get a little competitive (but, let's face it, I'm not sure if I'll ever be fighting him for the 30 lb dumb bells). He does things like point out just how many times Sagi says "nice" (thanks, now I'll never be able to UN-notice it). He can push down on my rear when my child's pose isn't settling in just right.

Everything is more fun together, and I think a good workout partner is priceless.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday: Rooted - The Vine

What is a vine dresser? At first I thought of the vine dresser as a bit of a farmer, but in driving past a field of corn this weekend, now dry and yellow for harvest, I realized it is something more than that. Most crops are turned under the earth and lay fallow at least for the the winter.

Grapevines, however, though they may become dormant, remain in place even out of season. The vine dresser doesn't simply start new with seeds each spring. I've not seen a combine or harvester, a plow or grader, churning through a vineyard.

The vine dresser is tasked with the care of the same vines year after year with the end goal of good fruit: too much fruit can mean low quality, and too little fruit just simply isn't desirable though it may be very good.

In John Jesus compares Himself to the vine, and God the Father to the vine dresser. Without Jesus we have no roots.

If God's goal for us is to bear fruit, we can't bear the kind of fruit He is looking for unless we are in the vine. Without Him we are little more than a scion: vulnerable, rootless, prone to drying out and withering up and utterly unable to produce fruit.

It's like the old hymn says:
"Without Him I could do nothing,
Without Him I'd surely fail"

Jesus has to be the central focus of our lives; He is our source. Without Him we are weak, dry, tasteless, and quite frankly tired. You will wear yourself out trying to produce something good on your own.

And if God wants us to bear fruit ... that should be our heart's desire as well! The Bible tells us He will take away the branches that don't bear fruit ... and next Monday we'll look more at what it means to be branches.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Freestyle Friday - Adventure

I've always considered myself to be someone who is up for an adventure.

On one of our earliest hikes, on the Turkey Creek trail near my apartment in Austin, Tim and I came to a Y in the trail.

To the left ... a broad, smooth trail that generally followed the lazy path carved by the (now dry) creek.

To the right ... a rocky trail climbed upward where it disappeared into the trees at the top of the hill.

Almost at the same time, we agreed to take the more adventurous trail.  We ended up finding a beautiful rock outcropping and sat and had one of the deepest conversations we had yet at that point. Something about that struck me, and our life has been an adventure almost ever since.

We've been through a lot ... roughly five moves. Three worlds-different careers for Tim. Two children. One life-threatening complication. More car trouble in the latter half of my driving years than I ever experienced in the first half!

When something unexpected changes our plans, I call it an adventure. I know my mood will dictate the girls' moods. So Tuesday when we came out of the grocery store with a flat tire, (after angry mom tore the car apart looking for quarters), we basked in God's provision in an air conditioned waiting area with free coffee.

Then on Wednesday, with a mildly drugged Shelby in the back seat, I thought I hit a bird. There was a loud "BOOF" at the front of the car. I hadn't seen a bird, but that was the only thing I could think of until droplets of water began to appear on the windshield.

I don't know if you're familiar with Texas in the summer ... but with skies like there were that day I knew it wasn't rain. It could only be one thing, radiator fluid. Which was confirmed as the spray increased. I slowed ... put on the flashers ... and pulled over. Steam was pouring out from under the hood.

Is that supposed to look like that?
"What's going to happen to us?" Shelby asked. I just had to laugh. We're having another adventure Shelby. "I don't know sweetheart, but I know God loves us and I know He knew this would happen. He has a plan." I try to think of every hiccup as an adventure I didn't plan on ... a Y in the trail where I may be taking the longer, more difficult route ... but I trust that the reward is going to be worth it!