Thursday, June 30, 2011

In the Refiner's Fire - Something We Keep Forgetting

I realized something earlier this week.  Something that has been bugging me for a while and I haven't been able to put a finger on it.

If we have a handle on peace, joy, love and patience and all the other fruits of the Spirit given to us by our faith in Jesus Christ, why do we have so many Christian "self-help" books?

Now, don't get me wrong, I have read and enjoyed and gleaned useful information from several of them.  Some of them have helped me to figure out something I was stuck on, or was just plain wondering about.  I have even kept some of them for my shelves because I found them so useful that I want to be able to reference them later. 

I just find it really odd that we as a community, who are supposed to have all these things that the worldly world doesn't have, would need books other than the Bible to tell us what we can do to get those things.

I think the reason is this:

We are taught that we need to be patient.
We are taught that we need to be loving.
We are taught that we need to be humble.
That we need to have initiative...and faith...and joy...and peace...and kindness...and gentleness...and forgiveness...
and the list goes on and on and on....

There are even lists of these 'Christian virtues' for every letter of the alphabet (26)  or week of the year (52) or month (12) or whatever other memory aid or organizational tool you'd like to pick.

Did you notice something about that list I  just wrote above?

We are taught that we....

We.  Not God.  We.

That means we are missing the most vital point:

These things are fruits of the Spirit.  Not the fruits of human beings.

When we rely on our own strength and things like "willpower" to get us these things, we are going to fail.  Why? Because we are humans, and therefore sinful. 

God is perfect.  We aren't. 

These perfect things come from Him, not from us.

We need to let His peace, His love, His joy, His patience, His kindness, His initiative and His whatever else it is that we need flow through us.

I think that we get so stuck in what we can't do, that we forget that we aren't the ones who do it in the first place.

We get so stuck on how we've messed up, what we haven't done, comparing our insides with someone else's outsides, and feeling guilty that we can't forgive ourselves for our mistakes that we forget about grace and forgiveness.  Then we turn to talk show hosts, our neighbors, counselors, and self-help books to show us what to do to fix ourselves.

While we would never tell a person dying from cancer that if they just had enough faith they would be healed, we tell ourselves that if we had enough faith we'd be infinitely and perfectly patient or joyful or whatever.  That's inconsistent theology.  We can have all the faith in the world, we are still human and we will never be perfect.

When we let go of our own strength and thought processes and willpower and the like and let God's grace and love flow in, that's when the miracles happen.

That's when God changes our perspective to one of joy.
That's when God gives us the extra patience we need.
That's when God gives us the initiative to start something.
That's when God gives us the endurance to run that race (whatever that race is).
That's when God strengthens and grows our faith.
That's when God removes our sin and allows us to show some of His perfection through our words, thoughts and actions.

And I am so very relieved that is is He that does all of this, because I know for sure that I can't.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Work Home and Family - Small Changes Make Big a Difference!

We've been working on getting the to-do list around the house crossed off.

The cleaning out is going slowly, but steadily, and I'm okay with that.  Add to it that John and I had a very long talk and decided to really clean out and cut back on our possessions rather than just cleaning out.  I'm glad it's happening, and at the same time I want to fast-forward to "Done!"  I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels this way!

We also decided to tackle some projects that have been laying around for a while and not getting done.

Moving the stepping stones to a new place in the around-patio flower bed...

Rearranging the flower pots and other artifacts by our front door...

Hanging curtains in the kids' room that we've had for a month and never got around to hanging...

In the same vain, installing the curtain rods we've had for quite a while for our bedroom and never put them up (we were waiting to get new curtains, but the old rod that we'd inherited when we bought the house fell apart, so up these went - next up, new curtains!)...

A basket to hold the books under the living room end table rather than just having them in a neat stack...

All little things, but things that make a difference.  Things that update and refresh and make the place feel like a home.

I still need to sew a tie back for each of the curtains in the kids room out of the green check from the toppers and we would still like to get curtains that actually match and work well with our bedroom and the curtain rods.  The tie backs will go up in the next week or so, and the curtains for our room will have to wait.  In the meantime, we have very sturdy curtain rods, and nice curtains in the kids' room!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Healthy Habits in 2011 - Coming up in July...

I hit a plateau with my weight loss these last few weeks.  The good news is that I haven't gained any weight back or any inches back.  The bad news is that I'm stuck.
For July....

I'm planning on working out 4 or 5 times each week (which is fairly easy since I'm not teaching at night right now).
I'm planning on not eating seconds at dinner and not finishing the kids' breakfasts (bad habits that I've gotten into).

We also have a few parties coming up (a relatives retirement party, an off-to-the-military party, a reception lunch after John serves at a church out of town, and a couple of delayed graduation parties), so I'm planning on skipping the cake or only have cake and some veggies/fruit depending on the time of day of the party and making some wise choices about the other food there too.  I have found that if I have a glass of water in my hand I won't eat as much because I can take a sip of water if I feel I need to "eat".  So, I'm bringing my big refillable water bottle and will be toting that around with me!

How are you doing on your weight loss and healthy living goals?  Have you learned anything new lately?  I'd love to hear!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of June 26th, 2011

Date Night Desert - Raspberry Cheese Cake and Hot Cocoa
This photo was taken last fall, but it's still  a perfect desert for a cold, rainy "summer" day!

The last two weeks have been interesting - John got terribly sick and then we spent a week in the cold and rain camping.  Now, we're getting ready for company, a conference I'm attending in August, and then several weekend "trips" so that John can lead worship for some churches out of  the area.  We have company Wednesday this week and Monday and Tuesday next week - we're looking forwarding to visiting with friends!

What are we eating this week?

Sunday, June 26:
Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
Lunch: Pancakes and Sausage, Strawberries and Melon
Dinner: Hamburger Gravy, Noodles, French Bread, Strawberry-Grape-Melon Salad

Monday, June 27:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Bananas
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Pork Loin, Rice, Salad, Nectarine-Banana-Grape Salad

Tuesday, June 28:
Breakfast: Oat Groats with Apples
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Homemade Macaroni and Cheese, Grapes

Wednesday, June 29:
Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins and Bananas
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: At Church: Bring a Fruit Salad
Desert for Company: Turtle Cheesecake

Thursday, June 30:
Breakfast: Peanut Butter Banana Smoothies, Toast
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Barley Vegetable Soup, French Bread

Friday, July 1:
Breakfast: Yogurt and Granola
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Shrimp Stir Fry, Rice, Melon

Saturday, July 2:
Breakfast: Cinnamon Braided Bread, Bananas
Lunch: Tuna Sandwiches, Carrots and Celery, Apple Slices
Dinner: BBQ Chicken Legs, Potato Salad, Corn on the Cob, Melon

What are you eating this week?  Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! to share and be inspired.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Healthy Habits in 2011 - Battling Chronic Illness

I have written before a little bit about how one of my main reasons for getting healthy is to keep these two chronic illnesses that I have in check.   One can be controlled very well through diet and exercise - and that works very well .  The other has fewer flare-ups if I eat right, exercise and get enough sleep. Sleep being the key point here.

I found out last week that I've been in a flare-up for about 12 weeks. 

This week (and for the next 3 weeks) that  means nasty-scary antibiotics, plenty of sleep and prayers that I don't have to go on something stronger and more invasive again.

I had just thought I was tired from all the end-of-semester chaos and everything else that's been going on in my life.  I totally didn't realize that the 4 1/2 -5 hours of sleep I was getting a night was not helping and that my fatigue was due to a flare-up rather than just being 'regularly tired.'

My problem is this - I don't know what my limits are anymore.

I have to re-learn them.

When I'm healthy - as healthy as I'm going to get anyway - pushing myself when I work out and skimming a little (and I do mean a little only) on sleep is fine.

When I get over-tired, it's not.  When I'm in a flare-up it's not. When I'm stressed out, it's not.

So, here's the question:  How do I meet my exercise and fitness goals without sacrificing my other goals or pushing myself so hard I have a flare-up or worse?

Being overweight and sluggish all the time isn't an option anymore.  It perpetuates the illnesses and I can't live like that anymore. 

I've been thinking on that this last week and I'm not sure I have an answer. 

What suggestions do you have for me?

I'm hoping to come up with a couple of different options to try over my summer here.


Monday, June 13, 2011

A New Why of Reaching My Cleaning Out Goal

I think clutter multiplies in my home.  Does it in yours?  I feel like I put thing away or even just set them down, come back later and the amount has doubled or tripled. * Sigh *

We're working really hard on cleaning out our home - getting rid of all that junk stuff that we just don't use or can't seem to find a home for.

I'm discovering that I keep cleaning out the same areas over and over again.  The areas that really need to be cleaned out, seem to get left behind and get more and more crowded with the things that don't have a home elsewhere.

My new goal is to look at the areas that don't get touched regularly and get rid of two things per day.

What have I gotten rid of this week:

* A hideous light-up Christmas tree topper angel that my aunt gave me
* An equally hideous doll that my aunt gave my daughter (which isn't meant to be played with either)
* A pair of matchstick blinds that I've had sitting in the corner of my bedroom for 4 years
* Recycled a ton of paper
* Recycled even more paper
* Got rid of a box of Christmas decorations that we haven't used in the 10 years we've owned our house
* Donated two large boxes of outgrown kids clothes

I'm feeling good and I'm liking that I'm getting to areas of my house that haven't been touched for a while. I can actually walk under my stairs again!

How are you doing with your goals?  Care to share?

Menu Plan Monday - Week of June 12, 2011

The thing I love the most about summer? All the salads!  The above photo is not really salad, but includes quite a bit of it!  Yum!

We have a fairly normal week this week for summer - school, work, and a few church events.  We're enjoying the slightly slower pace of summer.   Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday, June 12:
Breakfast: Cereal and Milk
Lunch: Breakfast Tacos, Grapes
Dinner: Pancakes with Strawberries

Monday, June 13:
Breakfast: Cinnamon Breakfast Cake, Bananas
Dinner: Mixed Green Salad with Salmon, French Bread, Strawberry-Melon-Grape Salad

Tuesday, June 14:  Missy and Buddy's Baptism Anniversary!
Breakfast: Chai Spiced Oatmeal
Dinner:  Pan Fried Tilapia, Sweet Potato Fries, French Bread, Strawberry-Grape-Apple Salad
Baptism Anniversary Desert: Gingerbread

Wednesday, June 15:
Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins with Bananas
Dinner: At Church: Bring Tossed Salad

Thursday, June 16:
Breakfast: Oat Groats with Apples
Dinner: Easy Black Bean Soup, Cornbread, Grape-Apple-Pear Salad

Friday, June 17:
Breakfast: Strawberry Pastry with Peanut Butter Smoothies
Dinner: Leftovers

Saturday, June 18:
Breakfast: Strawberry Pastry with Peanut Butter Smoothies
Lunch: Oatmeal Bread, Sliced Turkey, Cheese, Strawberries and Grapes
Dinner: Baked Chicken, Rice, Corn on the Cob, Strawberry-Grape-Banana Salad
Date Night Desert: Vanilla Ice Cream with Rhubarb Sauce

What are you eating this week?  Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! to share and be inspired.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Healthy Habits in 2011 - John's Jumping on the Bandwagon!

One of the really fun things that is happening this summer is that John is taking the summer off from his Seminary classes.  Ideally, so that I can write on my dissertation.  In reality, since he needs a desperate break and needs to get some much-needed balance in his life.

After watching him struggle with full time and 2/3 time school and a schedule that leaves very little time for anything else, even my head aches.  His shoulders get tense, he starts craving junk food, and he feels very listless and lethargic.

One day in the last month we decided that we would work together on this goal of getting healthy.

We've always done pretty well in terms of eating meals. 
Snacking, not so much. 
Working out? I do okay. John's workout is non-existent.

We're both wearing pedometers now.
We're both keeping a food journal now.
And we're both reporting in to each other weekly about our progress now.

How cool is that? 

We've starting taking family walks again - something we stopped doing when he went back to school and the kids got too big to be in the stroller.
We've started walking to the store, the library and the post office.  And carrying anything we've purchased or checked out back home too. 
We've started keeping track of the number of servings of fruits and veggies we eat each day.

It's awesome to watch my hubby's tension melting away and to see him getting back in shape.  He thinks its fun to watch me do the same.

I highly encourage you to get healthy as a couple, rather than doing this on your own.  It's helpful, encouraging and it can be so much fun!
How are you getting healthy this summer?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Goals - What do they really look like anyway?

As you've probably guessed from this blog, I'm very much a goals-oriented person. I make incessant to-do lists. I have daily, monthly, and yearly goals.  I love to have a very strict schedule.  I love to know what's going to happen next. 

What trips me up is that I always have more on my lists than time or my health or the general craziness of life will account for. 


It doesn't seem to matter if there is anything single thing on my do list more than sleep, eat and bathe and I will not complete it in some way, shape or form! 

Friday night, I had two baskets of laundry sitting in my living room waiting to be folded.  The same two baskets that had migrated from the laundry room to our bed, to the living room, back to our bed, to perching precariously on top of the hampers in our room, back to our bed and were back to the living room over the previous 4 days.  Buddy had dug underwear out of the baskets twice because there is none in the underwear basket in his closet.

Yes, bad mom me. 

I've been taking a hard, hard look at what goals and success in reaching them looks like to me over the last month.

Friday night, success meant having a wonderful date night out with John while we had an opportunity for free child care rather than worry about the laundry being in the drawers and closets rather than the baskets.

Today, success means completing my two tasks for work and my 1 task for school and being home in time to attend a movie night at a friends' house.  They are going through some tough times right now and asked us to come over so they have an opportunity to snuggle with some littles (who aren't so little anymore) and just enjoy life for a few hours.  I'm thinking of bringing along a lovely bouquet of the irises growing in my backyard as well right now.

Relationships are something that my head and heart have always told me are important but my actions didn't always match.  I do okay with my kiddos because they badger me when they don't get enough of me.  John and other people tend not to do that.  So, I take time for my to-do list instead.  I've been working on turning my to-do lists to relationship focused goals rather than strict tasks.  And it certainly has been helping!

I'm working really hard at not beating myself up when I don't get my to-do list done. It's almost impossible some days, but I am making progress. And that is really what this journey of life is all about isn't it?

Figuring our what goals and the success of reaching them really looks like for you.  So that you can hit your goals every time and enjoy all the little things along the way.

What do goals look like for you? 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

These are a Few of My Favorite Things - Birthday Parties!

One of the things I so enjoy about having children is their birthday parties!  Excitement, fun, and way too much cake and noise. Who can beat that?

Missy and Buddy turned 6 years old the beginning of May and had 17 0-6 year olds at our house for a Princess and Knight themed party.  They got to decorate crowns and shields, "rescue" a "princess" in trouble, chase each other around and eat cake and cookies. 

Since their birthday was during finals week for me, I had to leave much of the planning and doing to my Mom.  Grandma's are great and we all had a blast - especially Grandma!

My Mom and my cousin, Diane, helped make this wonderful cake - isn't it cute (and yes, I do realize that the knights and princess are a wee bit out of scale!).

I loved watching the children decorate and be creative.

And I think we're still finding these in the flower bed!

Truly, birthday parties are one of my favorite things! 
What more can I ask for?

*Note*  I'm planning on being back to blogging regularly this week after an unplanned month off.  I'll share some details later this week, but for now, we're fine, busy, and enjoying a relatively slower place after a very hectic May.!  Thanks for sticking with me in spite of my unannounced and unplanned time off - I really and truly appreciate it!