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Archive for September, 2012

I was first introduced to Thom Schultz back in the day when hubby was still working in youth ministry. Hubby was very influenced by Mr. Schultz, and he was foundational in how hubby saw youth, their families and the church. This rubbed off on me, and I have appreciated his wit, wisdom and resources over the years in everything from Sunday nursery to ladies groups. Even now, working as an Educational Assistant in a high school, I am eager for newsletters from Thom, as they never fail to educate me, and make me think.

Thom is a writer of at least a dozen books, books about children, youth, teens and the christian church. He is founder of Group Publishing (resources for children, youth and teen church ministry), as well as the more newly founded Lifestyle Cafe (to quote their website “it’s a “conversation café”-a place and time for people to gather weekly to experience stories and talk about thought-provoking topics relating to life and faith”).

He also has a great blog HolySoup and this particular post was one that I thought worth sharing with my readers.

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Welcome back to The Weight Loss DiaBLOG! We have so much catching up to do!

Since we were last together, there is so much that has been going on! For some it has been the end of vacations, the return to school and/or work. If you live in an area of four distinct seasons, the weather is cooling, the leaves are changing, and the days are lessening in hours of light.
I always find that the beginning of the school year is like New Years. It is a time of starting over, creating new habits and making goals for the year to come. In that regard the turn of the calendars to September is a good opportunity to get focused on healthy eating and living.
The start of the school year was like that for me. For one thing I am too busy, too tired and too stressed to eat much! Sadly, my body thinks it is that of a polar bear, and when I endeavor to eat less it automatically goes into hibernation mode, slows down the metabolic processes of my digestion, and shuts down the ability to shed any weight. So, I eat healthy, I eat less (significantly less) and the scales still do not move south! As a matter of fact, one particular week, I was below my caloric intake every day for an entire week, and I gained two pounds! How does that happen?
The flip side to the similarities I share to a hibernating creature, is that eventually my body has to recognize the obvious, and my body lets go of a pound or two. So, this past month my weight loss was only TWO pounds, but I promise you, it is a minuscule representative of the effort that I put in to dropping it!
I need to give you a success update that (sadly) is not reflecting on the scales of doom, and that is my writing last month about the need to ensure that food is not an idol in my life. The consciousness of this has really changed my habits. Let me give you an example; recently, at lunch, in the staff room, a box of really good chocolates sat on the table. I looked at it, and memories of chocolates past danced through my memory, like sugar plums. Then I asked myself, “do you want one because you really want one, or because they are in sight?” The answer was clear, I was not hungry, I was not even desiring chocolate at that time (a miracle in itself!). So, I passed … and didn’t regret it. Now, if the answer was yes, I would have taken one, and just one.
For me, to take the time to really consider the difference between need and desire, over eating because it is there is a monumental change. There have even been a few times when I have left food on my plate (something our beast was immensely delighted about), and for those of us who grew up under the rule to “clean everything off your plate” that is also a monumental change.
As far as my goals for this past month, I have been recording my intake daily, even when I knew I would be over my daily goals. This has been made easier because one of my co-workers is also using myfitnesspal, and so I have an accountability partner to celebrate successes and share frustrations! I have not gotten to the point of walking on a daily basis, but I am up to three times a week.
Well, off I go, I need to do something about these legs that are looking far too much like a polar bear too!

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Have you ever felt like ‘anxious’ is the most sincere response you could give to the common question, “how are you today?” I would bet my last dollar (which is the bank’s dollar anyway) that your response to that question was not an honest “anxious” but instead the typical response, “fine” with a sugar-coated smile to complete your fakery. I know this because I have done it too, and I think we all have. It is so very difficult to be honest about the things that we worry and fret about.

Anxiety, worry, fear … those are all common feelings to us all. They can rip at our very being, taking over our every thought, controlling our every moment, and even putting our physical health at risk.

Just last night I read the following:

“Do not be calm about anything,
but in everything,
continuing to grasp at control and busyness,
with an entitled attitude,
keep your worry to yourself.
And the stress and anxiety
that overwhelms and suffocates
will eat away at your
heart, mind and very existence.”

Now I do not know if this is original by my friend Jenn, or if she was quoting someone else, but, it really made me stop, and wonder, is that me? Is that how I, really and truly, live my life? Is that who I am in my most furthest place from “fine”, my truest me?

I asked myself, those questions and quickly replied to myself (yes, I do sometimes converse with myself … there is no mind reading in those conversations), “no, not me” … echos of “fine” ringing in my ears.

Then I thought of the day before;

  • I was not calm, but I had so much to get done
  • grasping at control and busyness, but I had to because things needed to get done
  • with an entitled attitude, but they needed to get done right, and that (of course) meant that I needed to do them!
  • I kept my worry to myself, but, well, what good does it do to burden someone else with my problems?
  • my heart, mind and existence were … occupied, full and frazzled … but, but

What my friend had written was the opposite, or flipped version of one of the most encouraging, strengthening, empowering and freeing messages of God to us in our broken, stress-filled, anxiety-ridden world and lives.

“Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation,
by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding,
will guard your
hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7

Why would we choose to allow:

“the stress and anxiety that overwhelms and suffocates to eat away at our hearts, minds and very existence”

over

“the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus?”

Thank-you Jenn, for flipping my thinking!

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I came home to my daughter watching “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” After just one minute I just had to ask my daughter why she was throwing away a half hour of her life.

I admit, I am not a big lover of reality television. It seems so very far from … reality.

Do people really live like that? That is the question that settles into my mind when I dare to check out what is on the tube when I flip from station to station. Do men and women really lie and cheat as much as dating shows indicate? Do people really think that getting on a reality television program to show their musical talents is the only hope they have left? Do people really make a living from buying storage lockers? Do people really treat total strangers, who they live with, while their every move is recorded, so vindictively? Do the ‘housewives’ of various cities really live such hollow and ego centric lives?

Reality TV is not something new, as it’s beginnings go back to 1948 when “Allen Funt’s Candid Camera” first appeared on television, after a very successful year on the radio as Candid Microphone. I can vividly remember watching “Chuck Barris: The Dating Game,” when I was a child back in the late 1970’s. And of course the many “Funniest Home Video” programs over the years.

For over ten years reality television has been a … reality for viewers, in an increasing and in varied ways. There’s been the reality competitions that vary from surviving to dancing and singing. There’s the reality programs that give us a glimpse of different occupations from doctors to police to bounty hunters. Then there are the shows that allow celebrities to share more of their lives than we truly must want to know. And, to top it all off there are those whose ‘uniqueness’ makes them a celebrity, from many children to being ‘little’ to being ‘heavy’ to being a hoarder.

I have to wonder why we watch reality television? Do we watch to be entertained, educated or to feel better about our own lives? If it is to be entertained, is our inquisitive nature at the expense of the individuals we watch (how many families whose lives have been our education, fallen apart?)? If it is to be educated, we need to ask ourselves if a reality show is the best, truest way to learn something (after all, the goal of the networks is NOT to educate, but ratings, and they will show anything and tell us anything that yanks those ratings). If it is to feel better about our own lives (and I have to say, watching “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” does make me feel  like I have it together compared to what I see of their ‘reality’).

Admittedly I too have been sucked into the world of reality TV. I have enjoyed watching “The Voice”, and seeing that talent be chosen based simply on the quality of a person’s vocal ability. I love the various home renovation shows. “Undercover Boss” has been one I have truly enjoyed. And, if I was totally honest, I love “Storage Wars” … YUUUP! So, I’ve admitted that I do actually watch realty TV. That said, I really do not think our world is a better place because of the existence of it.

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So, I went to church on Sunday (that is pretty normal), and I got heck from someone!

Let me set the scene. This particular Sunday, those involved in the various areas of Christian education (kids club teachers, small group leaders, etc) were being prayed for. Those people were asked to stand, to show the congregation who was being prayed for. Then, the leader asked anyone who is a teacher in a school to stand, as well. After that, more people stood, and then they prayed.

It was then that I got a bruising elbow to my ribcage. My daughter, sitting beside me, then whispers, “you are a teacher, why didn’t you stand up?” To which I answered, “honey, I am not a teacher, and you need to consider a future in football!” “Mom, you teach people every day, you are a teacher, and you should be standing.”

What is a teacher? Dictionaries will tell you a teacher is someone who teaches, or a person who educates students. I guess, by those definitions I am a teacher, but that is not my ‘title’, officially, or in my heart.

My title is Educational Assistant, and it is a role I love. But, I have to be honest, what I am paid to do is not as important as what I feel called to do. For me, whether teaching my daughter to paint furniture, or teaching “Lifeskills” to a student at school, I am called to do it with the heart of a mother. It is from that calling that I do pretty much everything else.

Years ago, when I was pregnant with our eldest daughter, I was also working in a home for disabled adults. There were up to five living in this home, and as an employee I was responsible for everything from personal care, to making meals, to housecleaning, to planning and taking them to social events. My title was Residential Care Aide. I loved my job, and the people I cared for.

Then I had my baby girl.

When I returned to work, six months later, everything was different. All of a sudden, those five residents had become the sons and daughter of someone. It felt as though my eyes were opened to seeing them in a new way, as new creations. Even though most of them had no contact with their families, even though most had given their children over to the care of the province, they were the adult children of someone.

I would go to work after having had a snuggle with my daughter, breathing in her baby scent, and see a man in his fifties, not as the stinky, non verbal, man that I had known before my giving birth, but a man who one day was snuggled by his mother, who too had enjoyed his baby scent.

Or, I would leave home after having cleaned up the over-turned plant that my daughter pushed over from the curiosity of toddler-hood, and see the young woman, not with just mischief in her eyes, but wonder for how things work.

The people who I assisted with life did not change one bit, in the six months I was gone from work, but I had. I had become a mother. I had truly labored her into the world, and as she was being born into this world, I was being born as a new creation, a mother.

Ever since that day, I have been changed. I cannot turn off my title as mother. I cannot take a vacation or decide to quit. I cannot trade it in for a new title. And every other title I might have (Educational Assistant or Teacher) pales in comparison. But, in being a mother, my ability to fulfill those other roles is enlightened, improved and fulfilled with more purpose than I ever could have imagined.

I might never stand when teachers are asked to stand, but ask for mothers to get to their feet, and I’m the first one up!

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It is said that parenting has been made more difficult with the rapid advancements in technology and the effects of social media on our children. Certainly that can be the case.

For those of us who are parents of teens, it is nearly impossible to keep up with what is new, what is hip, what our kids are in to.

There is nothing more eye opening for me, as a parent, of how much more quickly the world is changing now, compared to when I was a kid, than explaining to my three kids (ages thirteen, fifteen and twenty):

  • ‘dial up’ … that was the norm only about ten years ago.
  • life without laptops and cell phones … hubby had his first of each about the year our fifteen year old was born (according to Reuters, May 2012, nearly one quarter of American homes have ditched landlines for cell phones)
  • life without i Pods or MP3 players … none of which existed until after our fifteen year old was born (over 300 million i Pods sold)
  • Google was an infant when our thirteen year old was born … it was launched just a month before his birth (it receives almost 1 billion views each month)
  • life without YouTube … it did not appear until 2005 (it’s most watched video, “Charlie Bit My Finger” received almost 500 million views alone)
  • Facebook has only been around since 2006 … my children were seven, nine and fourteen when it became available to all with an email address (now about 955 million users)

The world certainly has changed, and it is not stopping. We have a choice, as parents, we can either bury our graying heads in the sand and pretend that it doesn’t affect us OR we can do our best to understand the world which our children are immersed in.

For me, it was an easy choice, because if I turn my back on the language of my children today, how will we communicate tomorrow? My children have grown up with talk of gigabytes, tweeting and social media. It is, in all practicality, their first language. And if I have hope of continuing in communication, I feel it is easier for me to climb the learning curve, and learn enough that I can walk them through this technological road.

I have not only three children, but also two ‘friends’ on Facebook (one is not yet thirteen, and, since it is the Facebook policy that you need to be thirteen to have an account, he is still waiting). It is here that I can be familiar with who their friends are, how they are conversing, and the ups and downs of their circles. This is not information that I am ‘sneaking’ as my kids know that I am interested in their lives, and in the lives of their friends (many of whom are also my ‘friends’). They do tell me not to ‘like’ every picture they post, because that’s “just creepy,” so I am learning how to navigate this new world from them too!

I am not saying I always agree with all that is new, or the intrusions that technology creates in our lives. I most certainly see foundational flaws to social media as a main use of communication in our world. I see the need for a Miss. Manners in the form of a Wii character, to watch over and instruct the users of the world wide web. I have struggled through terminology that is new (most of which are acronyms) and foreign to my ears. I sometimes wonder if in the future the acronyms we now use in texting will become the words of Webster’s Dictionary. Or that Webster’s will be replaced by Urban Dictionary. I have also found sites visited by my kids that, in the words of my grandmother, make my eyeballs curl.

But, each setback is also an opportunity to teach and to learn, and for me and my kids, we are doing it together, bumps and bruises alike.

For those of us of a more archaic age, the video below might put a smile on your faces, like it did my kids and I:

In our house, it has happened that all five of us are home, even in the same room, having a conversation by texting. It may sound rather ridiculous, but hubby and I figure it is good for a laugh, and helps us maintain uniqueness as a family. We have even been talking about having a dinner where we all communicate via text through the entire meal. We are all about memory making, and hey, the family that texts together, stays together 😉 !

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Forgiveness …

That would be one of the weak links in the chain of who I am. I can speak so quickly, so easily, about forgiveness. One might hear me speak of how imperative it is to forgive, or how not forgiving will only hurt ourselves. But, it is a wholly different thing for me to actually do the forgiving.

Driving to work one day the song, “Forgiveness”, by Matthew West came on the radio, and I was so aware of the line, “help me now to do the impossible, forgiveness …”

And then, when the song had finished, the radio announcer spoke of the story behind the song, and I just had to check it out!

Today’s guest blog is that very story. The link is to Praise 106.5, a radio station in our area. The blog entry is written by Larry Lomax, and includes both the story in written form, as well as an audio interview between he and musician Matthew West.

I could never say that I could do what Rene, the woman at the center of the story, has done following the tragic death of her daughter. I pray it is never a situation that is placed in my hands. I also have to say that what Rene has chosen to do brings light to a very dark night.

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It was … a day.

The most eloquent word for that day that I could come up with would be sucky. You all know what I mean, because we all have them. It was a day that made you wonder why you had to get out of bed at all. It was a day when you felt like going back to bed, and covering your head with the blankets was the only key to surviving. And, for me, it wasn’t even eight in the morning.

As I drove down the road, alone, I grumbled to no one at all, yet my words and the heart behind them were known. My grumbling was becoming a most dramatic musical score, building to a crescendo, when something took my attention away from my gloom and doom and up into the skies.

There, not far ahead of my vehicle was an eagle, soaring through the air.

There is nothing like a hawk or eagle to grab my attention by the nose hairs. Years ago I became captivated by them when I had read about their mating habits, and how they have lifetime mates, and the lengths they would go to so as to attract the attention of their female counterpart.

It’s movement was motionless, and yet it was covering a significant distance with each passing second.

The next audible word from my mouth (after “wow!”) was “why can’t I experience that?”

There was something about the ease with which it was soaring above me that made me want so badly to be like that amazingly peaceful, relaxed creature. I was so jealous of the freedom, of how carefree it was.

Then, in answer to my why question, an answer from the One was hearing my heart all along (and whose heart I had forgotten about), “you can experience what that eagle is experiencing.”

It was not an audible voice, but a reminder from within my soul, a reminder of the One who gives peaceful flight to the eagle, that it is available to me (to all) as well.

“God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.”

Isaiah 40:28-31

Isaiah knew what I know, but so quickly forget. That the reason why an eagle soars, why they look so peaceful, and why their movements seem so effortless is because they spread their wings and they let their source of power and strength do the rest. They trust in the unseen currents in the air … they trust!

And, if I would just spread my arms, and trust my unseen source of power and strength to do the rest, I too can experience the peace that trusting provides.


					

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Why do I believe in an invisible God? Why do I believe that I am a sinner in need of a Savior? Why do I have faith in a man who was executed, who rose from the dead, and then was carried back up into the heavens?

Why do I call myself Christian?

I often wonder if those are the unvoiced questions of people around me who do not share the same beliefs. I often wonder if I have answered them myself, fully and completely. I wonder how many times I have left the scars on the hearts of others for how I have injured the name of the One I follow.

As I traverse this road of life, I do believe that to make such claims means I need to be confident of my beliefs, of my worldview.

From my earliest memories, I have been certain of the presence of an invisible God in my life, and the world. Call it predestination, or Karma or the gift of a awareness of the spiritual around me, as you wish. I think it is something similar, but different, I would call it discernment. Simply put, I believe that one of the peculiarities (or gifts) that my God created me with is a strong intuition of the unseen … I have not had the inner battles that many have had in coming to believe in Creator God, such as author, C. S. Lewis who said, “in the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”

It is easy to know that I am a sinner and, as a mom, it is easy to know that we are born with the capacity to sin regularly, and fully. One only needs to spend one day with a toddler to know that we are programmed to not obey the word ‘no’. As an adult, I still struggle to obey the word ‘no’. I struggle to not treat others poorly, I struggle to tell the truth, I struggle to be genuine, to be reliable to be real. I sin and I need a Savior to redeem my sinful nature.

Why do I have faith in a man who was executed, who rose from the dead, and then was carried back up into the heavens? That is harder to answer, for how does one who holds faith so dearly, explain it to those who might not? It truly is a profound mystery. In the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, “to one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

So, why do I call myself a Christian?

I know that I am a flawed, unpredictable, unreliable, selfish, individual, and I cannot imagine following any other than One who is all that I am not, and who loves me to death, despite my state of undeserving. It is the grace that is available to me that is the rudder of this life, and there is no better navigator that I can find.

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I love the Family Circus cartoon to the left.

Bill Keane was such a talented animator who was gifted with the the knowledge that much can be said with few words, and a strong image. His Family Circus cartoon are probably my favorites of all times. He had a way of creating a picture that would not allow my eyes to move on, until I had ‘felt’ all that it was communicating.

Bill created so well this image that simply is the epitome of a warm fuzzy picture of a toddler in his warm and fuzzy sleepers, and mom seems to be still in her right mind. There is no vomit, leaking diaper, or signs of howling … in other words, it is an idealistic image 😉 .

Beyond being idealistic, it also makes me wonder …

“This is my favorite place – inside your hug.” Who do you read to be the one who is saying that? It would appear at first that the little one, with mouth open, is the one speaking the words. But then I look at the contemplative face of the mom, and think of how truer words have not been spoken by a mother.

As a mom of teenagers, I can still remember moments like that image. I can remember inhaling the scent of our little ones, enjoying the cleanliness of a child ready for bed, and relishing the feel of their little arms holding around my neck in a hug that could be confused as a death grip. I remember how utterly angelic their chubby faces, framed by feather soft hair. I remember the sound of their genuine words of affection that would seem to come from nothing in particular, just their most sincere love. I remember …

I have a secret … I am fearful that those moments are just a memory of days gone by. I am fearful that the awkwardness of adolescents will distance my children from physical hugs, touch, with me their mother.

Don’t get me wrong, I DO NOT WANT my children to be in their thirties, still living at home, and still saying that my hugs are their favorite place. That is just creepy!

But, they are a part of me, pieces of me who walk independently from me. They have been part of my body, and they will always be little (okay, as the shortest in the house ‘little’ may not be the right word) fragments of my heart traversing this life. I still feel a need for a connection to them, a conversation, a look, a touch.

For me, when I look upon this cartoon, it can only be the words spoken by the mom … “this is my favorite place – inside your hug.”

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