Challenge Completed – Pretty Much

I haven’t written in a while. I can tell, because when I go a long period of time without getting things off my soul, it feels like a lead weight around my neck! So I thought I would try to get back into the swing of things with a quick post to let you know how I did on my health challenge!

Our challenge wrapped up this past Monday. Twelve weeks of tracking my food, trying to keep to only healthy eating, no eating after 8pm, drinking a minimum of 100ozs of water a day and exercising 5 days a week for 30 minutes.

I lost about 10 lbs. Not exactly what I was hoping for from this challenge, but better than no loss at all! And here’s why!

I was fanatic about exercising – for the first few weeks. Then, as life once again reared it’s pushy head, I injured myself, overloaded my schedule and stressed out. I jostled things around and tried to lose a little stress, yet I was never able to get back on track with that part of the challenge. I did, however, retain a few things I learned. I park out a bit in the  lot when shopping. No matter what I’ve got on my list, I walk at least once around the whole grocery store. I take the stairs, when I can (depending on my knees). It’s not a full blown workout – but it’s what I can do at the moment!

As far as my eating – I tried a lot of new foods, I am much better at getting my veggies in each day and though water intake has never really been an issue for me, I would push to 120 ozs a day. My husband even jumped on board, hoping it would help him with some health issues he’s been having and to lose a bit of the belly he’s been growing. What a huge benefit to have him with me. Heck, he’s even the one pushing to get those veggies in! My biggest issues were the 8pm eating cutoff and cutting sugar from my morning cup of joe! My biggest benefit gained – discovering all the things I can use raw honey for! And trying avocados for the first time!

So while I didn’t reach my goal for the challenge, I did learn a lot about myself. I learned that life happens and it’s OK, but it’s not an excuse. It just is and you have to learn to accept some things and learn to work around others. It’s good to push yourself, but to also understand your limits. I learned that stress “not eating” can be as bad as stress eating.

The biggest plus of this challenge is I didn’t give up. For me  that’s the best reward of all!

 

 

 

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Decluttering A Life

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My husband and I are embarking on a cleansing, of sorts!

It has become quite clear to us both, that a life filled with clutter is not healthy. Not from a mental perspective, not from a space perspective, not from a spiritual perspective, not from a life perspective!

Decluttering a life is hard work!

It takes time and commitment. It takes a willingness to let go – of things, of activities, of thoughts and of expectations.  Of hurts! Of disappointments! You see, decluttering a life isn’t just about stuff. It’s about all the parts of our life that can keep us from being who we were made to be. For those with faith, it can keep us from having that real and true relationship with our Savior. It means looking at the things we hold on to, sometimes desperately, and deciding how truly important they are too us. And then for those things we choose to hold on to, asking ourselves some questions:

What is my reason for holding on?
Does holding on bring me joy?
What would my life look like without this?
What could I gain from letting go?

Tough questions and tough decisions!

Last year I spent some time decluttering my schedule. It involved a lot of soul searching and resolve to slowly chip away the things that were taking my time, but not giving me any real return. Understanding there are some aspects of my daily schedule that I am not presently able to affect (such as work commitments), I chose to focus on those things I do have control over. Two major things were time spent in front of the television and checking in on social media. I also took stock of the different things I had been committing to (classes, volunteer work, get-togethers, etc), making sure that time spent on those things balanced out with the rest of my life. While I still enjoy relaxing a bit with a good show, or checking in on family and friends online, I try to limit the amount of time each day when I’m doing it. I’m still working through some overcommitting tendencies, but the first part of recovery is at least accepting you have a problem, right?

This year I am focusing on decluttering my home. Stuff. Things. Possessions. It is something my husband and I have been talking about for a few years now – probably about the same time we discovered the show Hoarders. Over an almost 30 year marriage we have accumulated a lot of stuff. Some of those items are necessary and used often. Other items are used occasionally, or for special occasions – like camping equipment or for holidays and entertaining. And then there are all the other items. You know, the ones that you picked up on vacation, or as an impulse buy, or because at the time it seemed like something you couldn’t live without. It could be clothes, shoes, jewelry, appliances, kitchen items, decorations, knick knacks, tools…oh my the list goes on and on!

So we are systematically going room by room, through every closet, drawer, storage container, shelf, bag, box. And for whatever we find, deciding one of three things:

Keep It – we’ve used it in the last year, or it meets a certain need!

Donate It – the item is in good shape and someone else could get use of it!

Trash It – why in the world have we been keeping this for so long?

You cannot do this type of decluttering until you are truly ready to make the choice to let things go. You have to do it at your own pace. You also have to be ready to make real decisions about what should go and what should stay. Finally, don’t let family or friends tell you how much, or how little, stuff you should have. People are very different and one person’s clutter can be another person’s comfort! So keep that in mind when you are trying to keep up with the minimalists or Martha Stewarts of the world. There is nothing wrong with those folks – but it may not be you! I KNOW it isn’t me!

There are a number of reasons that it took us a few years to really make the effort. I’m glad it did, because as we embark on this lengthy and time consuming project, we are more ready now than we have ever been. And as I watch my husband take trip after trip of garbage and recycle bags to the receptacles, and boxes to the local church, I know we are ready to make a real change! We have completed about a third of our total project. We’ve gotten rid of much, maybe kept a little more than we originally planned, but in the end it has been a successful use of our time. As we view each area, we see a little extra space, a bit more organization and a lot less CLUTTER! Amen to that!

“Store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven not on Earth.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

Our work towards more personal and internal decluttering is a work in progress! It involves truthful and intentional discussions, internal soul searching, spending time in the Word and a lot of prayer. It takes surrender and acceptance and a true desire to learn, change, let go, compromise and love. I hope I never lose the desire to declutter my mind and heart of those things that are negative, unhealthy and strangling – and replace them with positive thoughts, an openness to forgive and a heart to love. I pray for this change in myself each day and I’m learning to trust that God hears my prayer and is giving me the strength to make it happen!

 “If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”
Philippians 2:1-14 (MSG)

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Deep Breathes and Baby Steps

My goal for 2016 was to EMBRACE my life. Not just deal with it, or meander through it, but to live – intentionally! Well, I’m four weeks in and here is a glimpse of how it’s going so far.

First, I learned fairly quickly that I can’t change everything I was shooting for overnight, or in one fell swoop! Yep – that doesn’t work…ever!

True and meaningful change takes time and effort. And for that change to take real hold, it takes commitment! As much as I would love to wave my little fairy wand (yes, I have one here somewhere), and make my life exactly what I want it to be, it just doesn’t work that way!

It was around mid-January when I realized that my initial plans for learning to eat better and exercise more, dedicating daily time to my spiritual growth and making myself more available to family and friends who are important to me, was too much to take on at once.

I mean it sounds simple, in theory, but it really isn’t.

To start, I joined a 3 month challenge that focuses on clean and healthy eating and regular exercise. While the eating has actually gone pretty well – after the massive sugar withdrawal effects the first week – the exercise has been a much larger challenge than I expected. The challenge group provides a series of videos, which honestly seemed to be more geared to people already in some kind of shape – not a couch potato like me! I had also signed up for a weekly Zumba class to help speed things along. While I did pretty good the first week, I aggravated an ankle injury the start of week two. Then it was my lower back, then I got sick. Just as Zumba was ready to start – I was already just trying to keep up with the challenge workouts. At my doctor’s suggestion, I decided to hold off on  Zumba and had to strongly moderate the other videos I was following.

I’ve lost 9 lbs to date, but have found I am exercising less and less. After a trip to the ER for rib pains last week, I am finding it hard to keep up with everything. So I have decided to focus first on improving my healthy eating and cooking habits. As for exercise – I walk as I can and try to focus on adding 1000 steps a week to my daily fitbit goal. I will continue to tweak these plans over the next few months to find a healthy mix. I pray it will get a little easier as time goes on!

In thinking about my spiritual goals, my plans were three-fold: Find 30 minutes each day to be in the Word, participate in a new Bible study group and EMBRACE my small group. I ended up joining two new study groups. One focuses on those places where we feel stuck. The three areas I chose to focus on align nicely with my EMBRACE mantra for the year. I’m only at the beginning of the study and already I feel pretty confident that this journey is going to take me to places that I’ve tried to avoid, though they are places I need to go to move forward! The second study group is about marriage. I don’t have issues in my marriage, but both my husband and I felt drawn to this study as a way to maintain the great relationship we have with each other. Both studies require a time commitment each week to complete the study work, but it is well worth the time. Because of my schedule, I find my daily reading time often takes a hit – so I’m working on that! This part of my 2016 plan is crucial to me, and of great priority. So I’m putting most of my focus here – and working my other plan items around it.

Then there are my relationships! I have been trying to be more intentional in reaching out to others. A get together here and there, one on one time to catch up where I can or sometimes just a quick text to let someone know I’ve been thinking of them. While I have enjoyed the connections I’m making, and the time I’ve spent with my friends and family, I have also felt pressed to fit these things into my schedule. I often worry that I seem hurried, or not in the moment when I’m with them or talking to them. That is not the intention of my goal – so this is still a work in progress.

In each of these three life areas, I have already had to retool my thinking to avoid being so overloaded with activity, that I lose the benefits of actually doing them. As of today, I think I’ve found a balance, but it is a constant moving target. I guess that is life! We have to learn how to take the hours we have and fit in the things we want/need to do. Setting priorities, setting boundaries and ensuring margins in our schedule are all essential.

I’m learning about that every…single…day!

Notice how I have not mentioned my work schedule? The truth is that I am not able to change that aspect of my life at this time. And while that is currently adding a level of stress to my day that I’m not thrilled about, part of life is learning to adapt to our situations and circumstances, or at least learning to manage our attitude about them.

Work. In. Progress! My phrase of the moment!

And leaning on lots of prayer!

 

 

 

 

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EMBRACE – My Health

I never thought I would type these words, but I am now the proud owner of a fitbit! Welcome to the new me – 2016!

As one of the steps I am taking to better EMBRACE my health, I decided to join a TerraFit challenge to kick off my journey to healthy eating and movement. The 12 week challenge basically combines healthy eating and exercise with team motivation, point earning and even chances to win prizes for your successes! I didn’t know much about the program, but had watched a video and read some information on their website. A friend had  had seen some great success a year ago with it and it seemed to focus more on healthy living than on just dieting.

Improving my health is a fairly urgent need for me in 2016, and this looked like a great way to charge into the new year, so I signed up!

I start my new challenge this Monday and I’ve been busy getting ready. For the past week, this has involved clearing out all of the unhealthy food items from our home and making sure I’m ready to start an at-home exercise program. It also has involved some soul-searching and mental preparation to make sure my head it right for this new way of living.

For me, it has also involved saying my goodbyes to things like white bread, sugar, chocolate, ice cream, bacon and sausage! Things on the “naughty” list – at least for the next 12 weeks!

When I initially read the list of unhealthy foods, I panicked a little. No chocolate? Seriously, what is a pre-menopausal woman to do without my beloved dark chocolate? And that was just the one that popped out first. It got worse as I read the list. These were all the foods that had gotten me through my bad days, my bouts of boredom and were my friends when I felt alone!

And I’m being serious, even though it sounds like over-dramatic whimpering!

I could feel my mind heading to that place where it goes when I am feeling ambushed, bullied! New year – New me! So I decided to focus more on the healthy food list – the things that I COULD eat. Hey, ok! I see some old friends there, some favorites! I could work with that and yeah, it may be fun to try those new items. I felt my spirits lifting and started to create a meal plan for my first week.

This wasn’t so bad. I think I can do this! Heck, I even got my husband to agree to eat our main meal based on my plan – which makes my life a whole lot easier!

Food – CHECK!

So I started to look at the movement part of the challenge. Hmmmm – 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week. I can feel that anxiety coming back, along with my normal penchant for immediately finding excuses why that is not going to work for me. They are engraved in my psyche and I can recite them without blinking an eye – arthritic knees and back, bad ankle, bronchial issues…want to hear more, because I’ve got a whole list of them! And have I mentioned my schedule? When am I going to fit in all this extra stuff?

Before I got back to that “I want to quit, before I even begin” place, I decided to go check out the exercise videos that are offered as part of the program. They would be challenging, but not deal-breakers. Another friend had also recently introduced me to an online fitness site that offers routines of all different types of exercise and range from 10 to 30 minutes. If I schedule my workouts into my day, and add on a new weekly Zumba class starting at my church, I’m thinking I can do this. I may have to do it at my pace for a bit, but nothing I can’t manage if I try!

Exercise – CHECK!

I’ve gotten to meet my challenge team through postings and have made plans for getting together for regular motivational and accountability check-ins. Our coach is wonderful and a success story for the program as well! She’s also become a friend over the past year – and that helps a lot!

So motivation and support – CHECK and CHECK!

So the only thing that remains is my head and those danged voices! The ones that tell me I can’t do it. I’m too heavy and I’m too busy and I’m not ready and as usual, I will fail. ARGGGGH! SILENCE!

I learned in a management class many years ago that negative internal self-talk is our worst enemy. It stops us from moving forward, from trying new things and from accomplishing our goals. It takes all of our fears of failure and embarrassment and unbelief in ourselves, and turns them into life-halting blocks in the road. To combat negative self-talk, we were told to reset our minds. A reboot, of sorts! In the instant we felt those negative thoughts overtaking us, we needed to replace those thoughts with an interrupter. One word to stop the cycle. For our class that word was STOP – repeated many times, until that negative self-talk was gone!

STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP …until you could breathe again!

I’ve actually used this technique many times in my life. New jobs, new projects, new roles and just about any major life change I’ve encountered. I’ve used many single words for the reset – STOP, ENOUGH, SILENCE…JESUS! Each work, if I put them to use!

I start this new year with a challenge. A challenge to take the steps to get healthier. To EMBRACE me! No more negative self-talk, no more excuses. Just lots of prayer and support from my family and friends.

And that works for me!

Oh, and the fitbit? Just a tool to help me be successful! It’s all the fad, you know!!!!

 

 

 

 

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One Word for 2016

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to the book “One Word that will change your life”. The book shares the concept of replacing all those annual resolutions and goals with just a single word. One Word that will be your focus through the year, in all aspects of your life – personal, spiritual, relational and professional.

I had initially shrugged of the concept, not really understanding how it would work. Yet I know people who swear by it, and even our church has adopted this concept, so I decided to give it a look-see!

I bought the book and actually found it very interesting. It was around the same time I was working on my 2016 Dream Guide and I was amazed how the two fit so nicely together. The One Word action plan starts with preparing your heart and then discovering your Word and my Dream Guide helped me walk through those activities.

After much soul searching, reflection and prayer – my One Word actually came to me in a dream. No kidding! And then I began seeing it jump off pages at me from different things I was reading – and then it all made sense

My Word for 2016 is…

One of the things I quickly realized as I was soul searching, is that for the past couple of years I have been simply enduring my life. Not unhappy, but not exactly happy either. I feel like I’ve been trudging along, one foot in front of the other, and not really even noticing the scenery along the way. The same thing struck me as I looked at each aspect of my life – my personal life, my relationships, my work, my health and even my faith. Just going through the motions, day after day, with no passion!

I decided that in 2016 I want that passion back! I want to EMBRACE my life. All parts of it! Not running down a list of resolutions, like a check list. I want to be more intentional with my life.  To get excited about things. To allow myself to feel good again! To really LIVE!

What does an intentional 2016 look like for me? It looks like this…

…EMBRACE my marriage!

…EMBRACE my health!

…EMBRACE my relationships with family and friends!

…EMBRACE my job!

…EMBRACE GRACE!

I want to write in more detail about each of these over the next few weeks. One – it helps me to Live Out My Word! Two – it’s a way for me to share how things are going!

For me, living out my One Word means focusing on that word in everything I do. To be intentional in my pursuits! To enjoy my life, not just survive it! To regain the passion I used to have. To love life again! It may not be easy, and I may not succeed in all areas, but I’m excited to push to make this a way of life.

This should be interesting…

If you would like to learn more about the One Word movement, visit http://www.getoneword.com!

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I Wanna Be Like Ruth… or am I Naomi!

Our women’s study group began a discussion of the book of Ruth Sunday morning. Ruth has become one of my favorite books of the Old Testament, primarily because it is focused around the strengths and struggles of two women through their journey of grief, survival and restoration. It packs some great lessons in its four short chapters. And it doesn’t hurt that, following not far behind books like Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy – it’s a nice, easy read!

I’m by no means a Bible expert, but to me, in its simplest form, Ruth is a story of compassion, loyalty and love. In a more complex way it deals with the differences of ethnicity and faith, as well as Jewish law and how the different genders were viewed at that time. It is the story of Naomi and Ruth (her daughter-in-law), who through loss, major life challenges and most importantly the dedication and strength of Ruth – regain their family and faith.

I’ve read this book several times in the past few years. Each time, I think about Ruth and what things must have been like for her. To lose her husband at such a young age and then to choose to leave her country, her family, the religion she was raised with – in essence, her support structure, her comfort and her safety! She left it all to commit to a women who she was no longer required to commit to; to move to a land where she had to have known she would not easily be welcomed or accepted; all the while having no idea where they would live or how they would be taken care of. Those are very difficult situations to face for anyone! Yet Ruth pushed past her uncertainty and made a commitment to Naomi and to God!

I often pray to be more like Ruth!

Ruth embodies those traits I wish came to me more naturally – unbridled compassion, living beyond fear and the unknown, being there for others with no thought for myself and surrendering everything to God! She took a major chance in picking up and leaving everything she knew, for a life where she had no way of knowing how it would turn out. And yet she did it with full-blown commitment and love!

However, this time around I found myself actually relating more with Naomi! Naomi was a good women, but she was human! She was away from her homeland, a widower who had lost both of her sons, with no real prospects for more children or even another husband. She felt sorry for herself, had become bitter and for a while even blamed God for her circumstances. She was definitely in a very low place in her life in the first half of this story. Yet we see that through the love, loyalty and compassion of Ruth, she was able to restore her family’s bloodline, regain her faith, her happiness and her strength.

In a way, I get what Naomi was going through. The feelings of loss, the sadness of not being closer to family, the fear of uncertainty, the bitterness and the questioning –  why this had all happened. I can relate to her, her story, her feelings. I can relate because I felt all of those things, some intensely.

And yet God!

God finds ways to pull us back from that place, if we trust in Him. Naomi had Ruth, and a support group of friends and family in her homeland, who helped her regain her life. For me, it was also some very special people that God put into my life who, in their own ways, helped me walk through that darkness and back onto a path of light and peace.

I often find that certain scripture can speak to me in different ways, and from different angles, depending on what might be going on in my life at the time. A verse may not seem important at one time, and then may become a life changing verse at another. It’s why I love to read and study scripture because it is God’s way of sharing His word and truth with us. Of letting us know that everything we truly need is there in Him – we just have to be willing to ask, to breathe it in and to live it out!

I will probably read the story of Ruth and Naomi many more times over my life. I think I will always aspire to me more like Ruth! And yet today, I’m feeling comforted by my draw to Naomi!

“But Ruth said, “Don’t beg me to leave you or to stop following you. Where you go, I will go. Where you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. 17 And where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. I ask the Lord to punish me terribly if I do not keep this promise: Not even death will separate us.” Ruth 1:16-17

Now that’s love!

 

 

 

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Dreaming about 2016

I love Jennie Allen!

Jennie Allen is an award-winning Christian author and founder of the website IF:Gathering, a great resource for women wishing to learn how to better live out their faith. I’ve been blessed to be able to read a few of her books and participate in bible studies she has written and through the IF: Gathering site. Each participation has helped me to grow in my faith, and I have come away from each one better understanding myself and where I want to go.

As I look to 2016, and things I hope to accomplish in this new year, I am using a guide from Jennie Allen to help me really look at myself, where I’ve been and where I’m heading. She calls it a Dream Guide. I like that, because I’ve lost my interest in resolutions! So I’m trying something new!

The guide has several sections – including spiritual, relational, personal and work. Each section then breaks down into more detailed items. When I first downloaded it, I seriously thought Oh.My.Word! Yet each time I pick it up, I feel excited. Excited to really think through my goals and dreams. Excited to really do something about them!

As I’ve been working on my guide, I’ve thought back on my life and, mostly of the last couple years. Though I am moving forward, I would be lying if I said those years have not been some of the most emotional and challenging of my life. It’s time, though, to evaluate what I’ve learned from those times and use it to grow and maybe even help others!

Image result for colton dixon through all of it

In Jennie’s blog post for her guide, she says something that leaped off the screen at me ~”but it was the year I chose to enjoy my life (even the difficult things) rather than just survive it. If we aren’t intentional- that is what ends up happening, rather than living, we survive.”

I’m tired of just “surviving” my life. I want to live my life. To enjoy my life. I want to have big dreams, and see them happen. This Dream Guide is helping me to see where fear and worry and negative talk has been holding me back. I want this year to matter – to me, to my family and to those I touch.

So I’m plugging away at my guide, taking my time and really thinking through my thoughts and dreams. It’s challenging, it’s eye-opening and it’s exciting.

If you would like to check out the Dream Guide, visit Jennie Allen’s blog at
http://www.jennieallen.com/blog

Image result for colton dixon through all of it

*lyrics from Colton Dixon’s “Through All Of It”.

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