Saturday, March 29, 2014

How to Lose 15 Pounds in a Year

Since I've been bragging about reaching my weight loss goal on Facebook, several people have asked how I did it.  So, I'm hoping to do a blog post or two about my journey for the last year or so.  First, I must say that I am a wife, mom, and pastor, NOT a fitness or wellness coach.  I only know what worked for me, not what will work for you.  AND, what worked for me was an inconsistent perseverance, because I am still a wife, mom, and pastor.  Life is busy and full; upending my lifestyle for personal fitness just isn't an option.

The title of this post is a key.  Reaching my goal meant a relatively small amount of weight, and it took a long amount of time.  Patience and perseverance win.  And grace, lots and lots of grace.

2013 found me at 130 pounds with high cholesterol and blood pressure.  The last time I'd reached 130 pounds was my third trimester with my daughter, Lily.  I was 123 when I got pregnant with both of my kids.  I took care of myself while pregnant, and at six months pregnant with Lily, I weighed 129.  So, when I got on the scales last January and saw 130, that was a rude awakening.  And it was time for changes.

The change I've made most consistently is breakfast.  I've always been a breakfast eater; I LOVE breakfast.  But breakfast usually meant cereal with milk (carbs and sugar), or things less healthy like biscuits, muffins, or bagels.  Instead, my breakfasts now are usually a piece or combination of the following:  fresh fruit, low-fat vanilla yogurt (I can't do the Greek kind, although that's all the craze in healthy living.), protein-laden granola, eggs (I LOVE eggs; I've eaten LOTS of eggs!), smoothies, and oatmeal.  I also cut down on the milk.  I love milk, and I thought water for breakfast sounded gross.  But, I got used to it and actually got to where I craved ice cold water in the mornings.

Otherwise, I just tried to do better.  I don't know what "better" looks like for you.  I didn't turn into a health food nut or that person who's rude at social gatherings and (im)politely refuses all the yummy food prepared for them.  I just did "better":

  • I ordered a small hamburger at the drive-thru, minus the mayo and sans french fries, with water instead of sugary tea or lemonade (never been much of a soda drinker).  Added tip--it's much cheaper this way!
  • I kept almonds or walnuts in my office and car for my crunchy, salty snack cravings.  That's my biggest craving; I'm not a chocaholic, but I do love some salt and carbs! 
  • I bought and ate more fresh fruits and veggies.
  • I gave myself permission NOT to clean my plate, even if I'd worked hard to make or to buy the food on the plate.

Even when I stuck to my eating better plan well, I allowed myself one freebie a day--a latte, pasta, chips and salsa.  AND I gave myself one free day a week when I ate whatever I wanted. 

Here's how it worked for me:

  • The beginning was hard, and I did feel hungry much of the time.  I hate healthy amounts of food, but I was used to portions too big for my 5'2" small frame.  
  • I went to bed feeling hungry, but I wasn't really.  My body was just used to a bedtime snack; it didn't need it.  And going to bed feeling hungry often meant going to bed ticked off; I was mad about it!
  • It took a while to see results.
  • Eventually, even on free days, I didn't want lots of trash, and I couldn't eat all the junk food I'd dreamed about all week.  My body changed.
  • I fell off my plan A LOT.  I'd have two or three weeks of success, and I'd fall off the wagon for a week.  Then, I'd extended myself some grace, and climb back up.  That's the real story of the last year.  Two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward, one step back, over and over and over.  I just kept going.

I'll do another post about the exercise side of this, and the story about me behind this journey.

January 2013 I weighed 130.  April 3, 2013 I weighed 125.  March 27, 2014 I weigh 114.  I'm not worried about lowering the number on the scale anymore.  I'm not the picture of fitness; there's plenty of room for toning.  But I'm happy with the way my clothes fit; I'm back in pre-Tristan pants.  I haven't had my cholesterol or blood pressure checked yet; I'm hopeful those numbers are better:)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tackling Toxic Words

Yesterday I posted about our student retreat and the toxic words spoken into our students' lives.  
I want to write about how we tried, and continue trying, to combat those.  We can't erase the memories of those words from students' minds.  We can't erase the impact on their hearts.  But we can do something.  Here's what something looks like for us:

1.  At our retreats, each participant has an envelope with their name on it.  Throughout the weekend we encourage participants to write each other encouraging, fun, funny, affirming notes.  At the end of the weekend, each participant takes his envelope home to read their notes.  I've heard from several parents since we returned from the retreat, expressing their gratitude for these notes.  Nothing combats toxic words like true,  life-giving words.

2.  Saturday evening of the retreat we discussed the toxic words.  That's when students wrote them and laid them at the altar.  But we didn't leave it there.  We gave students an opportunity to go to an adult leader standing in the back of the room.  It could be their small group leader, a young adult they admire, or someone they had just met the day before.  The students could approach those adults, and the adults would speak and pray affirming words into their lives.  

This was a powerful moment for those who participated.  You see, our church is blessed with committed adults who plan lessons, lead Bible studies, and manage chaos for ninety minutes every week.  And sometimes those adults wonder if they're getting through, if all the hard work is resulting in any spiritual growth.  Saturday night, we all got to witness the powerful ways in which God is using these small group leaders.

I stood teary-eyed with pride and awe as I watched lines of students approach their small group leaders.  I saw teenage guys and girls cry on the shoulders of their pastors.  I saw small group leaders cry as they hugged and spoke truth over their students' lives, and as they saw that all their hard work has made a difference.  I watched adults I've known for years compassionately and confidently pray with students.  I watched adults read words from the Bible over their students' heads.  I watched young men for whom I was pastor be pastor to teenagers.

3.  During breakfast the last morning, I noticed all the young male chaperons were missing, and they don't often miss meals:)  I found them standing in front of all those envelopes with participants' names.  One by one, they were laying hands on the envelopes, praying truth over every single student and chaperon.  They had spoken words to students the night before, they had written encouraging notes and placed them in the envelopes, and now they were going to God with words on behalf of these students.  Parents of teenagers in our ministry, I hope you appreciate the impact of these young male role models for both our guys and girls.

4.  I also encouraged the students to write 50 positive statements about themselves.  I don't want our students just to be victims; I want them to go on the offensive with words.  I want us to fill them with healthy, positive, life-giving words.  But I want them to speak life-giving words into their own lives, too.  I want them to own and to believe that they are worthwhile, important, sons and daughters of a loving God who made them in His image.  I want them to write down those words in a list that they can re-visit when toxic words are thrown their way, so that they can remember what is true versus what is trash.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Toxic Words

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” and we all know that pithy saying to be crap. 

At our student retreat this weekend, we looked at Toxic Words for one of our sessions.  We watched a video by Craig Groeschel who distinguished between words as truth or trash.  Some words spoken to us, at us, and about us are truth.  But many words spoken to us, at us, and about us are trash.  They are toxic.  They hurt us in the moment, and they often continue to harm us for days, weeks, years, or even the rest of our lives.

I asked students to write down some of the toxic words that have been said to them.  I encouraged them to lay them down on the altar.  They did.

And yesterday I read them.  I read them not to invade privacy, but to be informed of who I’m trying to pastor, to teach, and to lead.

After more than a decade in student ministry, it takes a lot to surprise me.  I wasn’t particularly surprised by the words, but reading them was overwhelming.  Seventy-seven people were with me on that retreat.  And reading through their enormous pile of toxic words left me still, silent, and heartbroken. 

A teenager should never hear, “You are the worst son ever.”

A teenager should never hear, “You are a detriment to our family.”

A teenager should never hear, “I hate to see you every morning.”

A teenager should never hear, “You shouldn’t have been born.”

The most common toxic words our students wrote were, “stupid,” (23 times) “fat,” (18 times) and “ugly” (20 times).
Word art from students' responses

And these are average students from average families in rural and suburban areas of central Virginia. 

These words are toxic to our students.  They are at a life stage where they are forming their identities, and some of them are forming their identities around these words.  If you have influence in a teenager’s life, then please realize that the words you speak wield a lot of power.  They can become a teenager’s identity, and they can inform their future.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It's Your Day!

My twin sister is getting married in June!  Check out her words of wisdom for a great wedding and a great marriage.

It’s not my wedding.

Everyone says it’s your wedding with the best of intentions—they want you, usually the bride, to be happy.  And they mean it sincerely, until they disagree with one of your decisions, and then it’s said more like this:  “Well, it’s your wedding,” probably following a question like one of these:  “You’re having a wedding of 20 people?  You’re not having dancing at the reception when you’re a dancer?  You’re walking yourself down the aisle?”  (People don’t know that yet, but I might as well throw it in here; surprise!)  Their promise to uphold your wishes for your day turns into their condescension and disapproval.  The real question then is not whether it’s your wedding or not (clearly it is, YOU are getting married).  Yes, it’s my wedding, but it’s not just my wedding.  It’s definitely his wedding, but it’s also their wedding.  Let me explain.

For example, if it were just my wedding, I would not send invitations.  The twenty people invited are in our phones.  I’d have made personal phone calls with all the details.  But the invitations matter to a family where this is the first wedding of any of their kids, so we have samples sprawled across the table that we move in and out of the yes and no piles.  It’s their wedding, too.

I would not have any kind of showers or registries.  I’ve been in my house for 10 years, and so I do not need much of anything.  But people want to show their happiness for us with gifts, and so we’ll register for a few things.  Likewise, I do not expect my friends to buy me gifts, but I would treasure a day with them, and so we’ll use my wedding as an excuse to enlist the husbands for kid duty so that we can be just girls again.  You see, we’ve done life together since we sang camp songs up and down mountain trails, curled up on beds together in Cairo and Danville for late-night talks, told each other the truth when we wanted to hear it and when we didn’t, and shared each other’s joy, grief, loss, and celebration.  It’s their wedding, too.

Sometimes it’s not a matter of foregoing my preference but of seeking and choosing theirs.  My little buddy wants “to be a stud,” and so he’ll wear a tie like the big guys.  It’s his wedding, too.  She wants a princess dress that twirls, so she’ll get the best spinning dress we can find.  It’s her wedding, too.  She tries on all of the dresses in that color to see which one best reflects her beauty, and that’s the dress she’ll wear.  It’s her wedding, too.

The little details, especially with food and decorations, matter as much to her as to me, and so she’ll accompany me to every tasting, to every shopping trip, and get a sneak peek at all of my plans.  And she’ll get the dress that makes her the envy of other mothers-of-the-bride.  She’ll be stunning, and so will the one who looks just like me, and her little girl will likely steal the show.  And I wouldn’t want it any other way.  It’s their wedding, too.

This doesn’t even include the people who’ve sacrificed more times than I know for my happiness, who love me more than I can fathom, and who are excited filet mignon is on the menu.  It’s definitely their wedding, too. 

And this leaves out the people who sat around a table at Eat ‘n Park after late nights at the Dairy Queen and a long-time roommate who shares, among other things, matching horse heads with him.  It’s their wedding, too.

We are getting married.  At the end of the day, we’ll embark on our life journey together, and it will matter very little which cake flavor we chose and if we danced at the reception.  What will matter are the vows we exchanged and the hearts they represent.  It will be our wedding—mine, his, theirs, ours, but most importantly, His.   
(As an English teacher might I note that it all comes down to pronouns in the end.)

So ladies, make it a day you love; I am.  I will wear bright green heels, they will wave program fans with games to play while they wait, we will leave for Europe the next day, and there will be details all throughout the weekend that will be exactly what I want.   It will be my day, and I will be honored to make it their day, too. Resist the lie society tells to make this the most selfish day of our lives.  Instead, honor the people who love you, honor each other, and honor God.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Dream of a 7th Grader

Last month, countless students across this country penned their own, "I Have a Dream," speeches.  My sister's students were no exception.  Her students wrote, delivered, and recorded their speeches.  As the class watched the compilation of dreams, one speech left students with jaws open, eyes teary, and prompted a class of 7th graders to stand and applaud spontaneously   With the permission of the author and his parents, I share his big dream.  I hope this encourages you about our future and inspires you to dream big again:

I Have A Dream
“You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” - Matthew 5:13 and 5:14. These things, salt and light, are not rare, extraordinarily special, or particularly valuable. However, they can have a huge impact: a single match can make the difference between utter, smothering darkness, and a warm, gentle glow. Salt, likewise, made the difference for many ancient people whether a slab of meat would feed you for a day or a month. Kindness is comparable to these in terms of significance and impact, and so I call upon the world: “Be the kind deeds of your people.”

I have a dream that one day this nation will lay down the sword of hatred, of bitterness, of spite, and take up instead the balm of gentleness, compassion, and love.

I have a dream that one day all men shall let the light of kindness shine in their hearts and deeds, that it may guide others, light their paths, and shield them from the dark night of solitude and despair.

I have a dream that one day the chains of apathy will be left behind by humanity, and that thoughtless acts of anger, that mindless taunts and jeers, will be swept away like a dike of cruelty shattered and overcome by a mighty flood of compassion.

I have a dream that all should choose to expend the effort to be kind, that none should do otherwise believing in the insignificance of their deeds. Does not a blizzard consist of many small, harmless flakes of snow? Does not a forest consist of many trees? Does not a nation consist of many individuals? Truly, then, a whole group is greater than the sum of its parts, and apathy due to the smallness of one’s acts is counted among the gravest blows one can strike against this glorious cause of mankind.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the power of words and convictions will be used to build people up like artisans crafting a statue instead of tearing them down like a tapestry being torn and burned, with those responsible wallowing gleefully in the ashes.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day all people will be able to rely on their fellow humans for support, rely on them to encourage them and fill their day with the bright sunlight of compassion rather than the dark, rumbling stormclouds of malice.
This is our hope: with this faith we will be able to fight the evil in this world, to be kind enough to aid the fight against the atrocities of hate and apathy, to conquer poverty, hunger, homelessness, and a countless multitude of horrors with the springboard of kindness.

This will be the day when the night of spite will be driven away by the dawn of kindness. This will be the day when the wounds of malice shall be cured by the potent medicine of compassion. This will be the day when the ramparts of the fortress of hatred will be stormed by the forces of love. This will be the day when the throne of evil shall be cast down. This will be the day when the greatest flaw of humankind will be vanquished. This will be the day when a new age shall dawn for the earth, when the race of men shall be one step closer on its journey to perfection.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What's All This Talk of Lent and Ashes?

Growing up, I never celebrated Lent or Ash Wednesday, and I didn’t know anything about it.  My only Lenten memory is spending a Friday night at my Catholic friend’s house and it being a big deal that we ate fish. 

My first Ash Wednesday experience
It wasn’t until seminary that I even heard much about Ash Wednesday.  I was interested, so I tried an Ash Wednesday Bible study with my student small group.  It was a wonderful experience, and I subsequently continued the tradition for years.  

A few years ago I gave up something for the first, and until now, only time—chap stick.  It was a dry, cracked, bloody experience.  It reminded me all day every day that Easter was coming.  The small sacrifice prepared my heart for Easter.  I have never been as excited to gather at church and worship the living Christ as I was that Sunday.  I stood up front and worshipped loudly and proudly, because I had so greatly anticipated this moment—the worship and adoration of our God who came to earth to be with us, suffered horrific torture and death, and then overcame death!

But much confusion abounds around Lent.  My church has a lot of people who were raised Catholic and who have since left the Catholic Church.   Some of them have fond memories of Lent and wonder if they can still observe it; others have negative memories of all things Catholic, and they hope they don’t have to observe Lent.

Others are like me, they don’t know much about, or why they would consider observing, Lent.

If you’re like me (clueless), then this blog might help.
If you’re looking for ways to observe Lent for the first time, or to revisit Lent from a different perspective, then this blog might help.
If you’re looking for an overall explanation, albeit a long one, then this blog might help.  

If you want to observe Lent, but aren’t sure how, then there are lots of options and resources.
  • Many people give up something for Lent.  The possibilities are endless.  Popular options include Facebook, chocolate, soda, and alcohol.
  • Some people do something instead of giving up.  They encourage someone every day or volunteer to serve.
  • Many people read a Lenten devotional or Bible plan. 
    • (and the app) offer several Lent reading plans.  
    • Susan Hughes is doing this Bible reading plan.
    • Search for “lent devotional” on Amazon and peruse the options.  A quick search brought such fantastic Christian thinkers as Bonhoeffer and N.T. Wright to the top of the list.
How are you observing Lent this year?