Hope in Uncertain Times

One day in December I stopped at the local gas station to fill the tank because I was going out that evening. It was the day of our annual church Christmas dinner. When I went inside to pay, the clerk was watching a little TV. I couldn’t help but hear what was being talked about, and I asked “did that just happen?” (Not having television myself, I never quite know if I am current on the latest news.) She said yes, and its only going to get worse (I think she was referring to that Mayan calendar thing.) It was news of the horrible elementary school shooting in Connecticut. I got back in my car and cried.

That night I went on to church for our Christmas dinner. Because that’s what we do in America. We say our lives will be changed forever. But the next day we go out for lunch with our friends.

Our church dinner is always a very pretty affair. Each table is hosted by a different woman, and she decorates the table using her best dishes and Christmas decorations. Honestly, it kind of irritates me. But that is a story for another time. At some point during the dinner I looked around the room and thought, it could happen here. This is exactly the kind of unexpected place where this kind of unexpected horror could take place. Uncertain times.

And it just continued on from there. A blogger died unexpectedly. A friend’s husband got cancer and was gone in four months. The Boston Marathon. West, TX. Uncertain times.

Brene Brown spoke about the collective fear she sees in our culture since 9/11 hit.

Anne Lamott wrote about her trip to Europe. A friend advised her that she needed to see a concentration camp in person “to get at a cellular level the fact that despite our great love and art, we are a violent species. Cain is still killing Abel.” There was a beginning, but there is no end to evil in our world.

When we are honest and true, we know deep down that all of life is uncertain. We just relate more to certain events. “It could have been my child.” “I am a runner.” “I am a blogger.” “My brother lives in west Texas…” And the biggest fear “It could have been me.”

As always, I turn to my God for answers. I’m afraid there are many things that won’t be answered clearly in this lifetime. I don’t pretend to understand why these things happen. I won’t try to give you trite answers, or to tie everything up in a neat little theological package with a pretty little bow on top.  But I was comforted by the words I found in the Psalms. For me, this is the only way I can live. I hope in my God. He is my Rock and my fortress.

I run to Him in uncertain times. And I find hope.

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(You can see more of the quilt on my quilt blog.)

Lighter Fare

Just a quickie, to pass along a couple of new “recipes” that I’ve really enjoyed the past few days.  I put recipes in quotes because they were more assemblages than full recipes.  One was for my own version of chicken salad, which I realized today was “Chicken Waldorf Salad!”  So simple to make and so refreshing (and filling.)  Sorry, no pictures.  I’m not quite back in the groove since my return home.

The second was a VERY SIMPLE Asian Chicken Salad .  The very simple came in because I simply didn’t have too many ingredients to add to it.  I was really surprised at how very tasty this was.  I practically licked my plate.  And again, filling.

True to my exercise plan, I went to the gym Sunday and today (no, I didn’t get in the pool, Shelley.  I’m a wimp.)  I did have a great workout, both on the bike and on the weight machines.  It feels great to be able to use my hands on the machines and free weights again.  And yesterday I took the three mile loop with Noah.

Tonight is one of those rare peaceful nights.  I mean, I feel really really peaceful.  I picked up a new little quilt project and knew exactly what I wanted to stitch on it.  Monk was in his favorite chair, Noah was down for the count stretched out full length on the floor, and of course Sophie was very happy to be nestled right next to me on the couch.  I listened to the last session of Dallas Willard and John Ortberg.  My friends like to joke that I am in love with Dallas Willard.  Yes, I know how to pick ‘safe’ men.  70 year old married men.  Anyway, seriously, there is no one more challenging AND encouraging to me in my walk with Jesus.  This was a question and answer session on the topics of pain and suffering.  But the conversation ranged far and wide around those topics.  I had a little trouble with the videos, but no problem with the podcast.

Hope you all are having an enjoyable and peaceful after-Thanksgiving week.

A dog who knows the meaning of peace.

Humility

This afternoon I was bent over, carefully turning the beets I was roasting for my dinner salad.  And the thought occurred to me, I eat really healthy.  I am not always thinking that.  A lot of times what I am thinking is why can’t I lose this weight?  What’s wrong with me?  Or on a really bad day What a failure.  You’re a big fake.

But a lot of days what I think about this extra weight (currently 176) is “humility.”  Maybe that’s what its all about.  There is a verse in the middle of Colossians 3 that I have memorized.

“Since you are the holy people that God has chosen to love, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

At the time when I was memorizing it and thinking about the meaning of the words, I figured that humility was the central word in that list, and it was central to all those other good qualities.  You couldn’t be kind or gentle or patient, or have tenderhearted mercy if you were not humble.  Humility is not something that comes naturally to me.  Heck, none of those character traits comes NATURALLY to me.

So maybe that’s what this extra weight is about.  Keeping me humble.  I sure can’t brag about being a super-loser.  Right now I can’t even seem to lose 8 measly pounds.  I never reached my goal weight at Weight Watchers.  I haven’t even mastered “maintenance” after working on it for five years.  Not everything looks good on me.  I have to look a little harder to find clothes that fit.

But when I have a thought like that “I eat healthy,”  that is something I can take courage in.  That is taking care of this “earthen vessel” (2 Cor. 4:7) as best I can.  Yesterday I took a walk.  Everything hurt.  But I just kept walking.  Today I had a break between appointments, and I went to the gym, got in the pool and ran back and forth for a half hour–first time I did that (no swimming) and it worked out pretty good–no wet hair to deal with!  I looked at Vicky’s offerings, and chose one of the lower calorie items for my lunch.

Then I went to the dentist where the dental hygienist WORKED OVER my teeth–ack.  Afterward I treated myself to a small frosty.  Most worthy and most deserved.  But not perfect. Humility.

Four Days and Counting

Or, three days and counting.  Depending on what you’re counting down.  Hope all of you are taking some quiet moments in your days to relax and contemplate the meaning of this season of the year.  Me, I’ve found a few moments here and there, but not as many as I’d like.  Which is amazing, considering how much I’ve pared down the excess Christmas stuff.  I think something else is on my mind, even though I’m pretending its not.

But some of us have no problem taking it easy.  Here’s the king of taking it easy, doing what he does best:

Well, Monk’s not the only one taking it easy.  I was trying out my new cozy travel pillow!

Noah was taking it easy too.

I saw this image and thought there was a striking resemblance:

Sophie has a hard time taking it easy.  Even on the bed, she seems to spend a lot of time worrying.  And keeping track of everything going on outside AND inside the house.

I’m hoping to take a little travel quilt project with me.  Here’s the pretty stack of fabrics I am going to use–wool and cotton!

“My” little girl in Tanzania (Compassion) sends me the prettiest little pictures, and the minute I saw them I knew they would be great quilting motifs.

Yesterday’s party was so fun.  My friend is very creative, and she had all the supplies there for us to make a collage.  I was quite pleased with how mine came out.   It started out with a picture of a little porch overhang that I would really love to have, instead of the constant waterfall of rain that comes down right outside my front door.  (Sophie would also love to have this overhang!)  Anyway, as I made it, and then thought about it afterward, the collage became about my retirement, what I might do.  Things I dream about…

Regarding my coming trip to Africa (eeeeeeeekkk!!!)  people keep asking me if I am excited.  And I have felt a little weird when I would say I was not.  Then my pastor’s wife said she had a word for me.  ANTICIPATE.  At the time I thought it was a little strange.  But now I realize it is the perfect word.  Excited is more of a ‘fun’ word in my mind.  Anticipate seems to be a bigger word to me.  I am anticipating that the whole direction of my life might possibly be changed by this trip.  It seems similar to the time 25 years ago when I felt led (again, by God) to become a registered nurse.  That sure changed the direction of my life.  And the timing of this does seem providential.  I planned on taking this trip over a year ago.  And I didn’t plan on taking retirement until a few months ago.  So I am anticipating…

I Am More Than My Body

I’ve been thinking about this ever since National Love Your Body day, and meant to include these thoughts on this post. That was the post about choosing to be different and trying to maintain my weight at 168 pounds. The truth is, I don’t ‘love’ my body.  Blame it on our national obsession, or cultural conditioning or whatever, but I find smooth firm skin appealing on a body.  Which mostly I do not have.  Blame it on being overweight most of my life, or aging or whatever.  That’s just the way it is.  But don’t worry about me–there’s plenty of self-love going on over here.  That’s never  been a problem for me.  Maybe a little too much, but never too little.

Plenty of doggie love, too!

What I was thinking about is this.  I am more than my body.  We all are.  We are all body, mind, and spirit. As a Christ-follower, this takes a specific slant for me.  So part of choosing to maintain at 168 pounds is so that, hopefully, I will not have to spend quite as much time thinking about food/exercise.  But also a most important part is that I want to be strong and healthy so that I am able to follow God wherever he might lead  me in this world.  That ‘s the part I left out of that definition of me:

Something along the lines of ‘an older woman who is overweight but still reasonably attractive, who exercises not in the hopes that her body shape will change or become smaller, but to stay strong and healthy and flexible and mobile so that I am able to follow God wherever he might lead me.’

We are all spiritual beings, whether you like it or not.  We all have wonderful minds (I know, I read your excellent posts.)  I encourage you to think as much about these aspects of your life as you do about improving your physical body.

Here is my most favorite quilt from the show.  Japanese quilters do the most amazing beautiful detailed work on their quilts.  Their quilts have a different look that I am drawn to.  When I first saw it, this quilt reminded me of getting a glimpse into heaven.   That was almost the same meaning as the quilter wrote in her description.

Detail shots:

I’m off to take on the day,  which will include the obligatory long walk with Noah, a lot of clutter-removal (creativity creates clutter, in case you didn’t know,) a little baking, and hopefully more creating!  I started the day by reading the most amazing Psalm in The Message (modern version of the Bible)–Psalm 19.  Check it out–it’ll lift your spirits!

A Fascinating Topic (IMHO*)

Alrighty now.  What shall we talk about?  Hmmm…  What say we talk about food and exercise?  Hey, wait a minute.  Don’t leave!  I’ll try to talk about a few other things.  Oh, here’s some pictures from this morning’s walk.

The view from the top of my hill to the top of another hill:

See that tiny little gray blob between two trees over on that hill?  I know.  I can’t see it either.  But look:

Kinda scary that I can do that with my little ol’ point and shoot, huh?  I just hope no one’s out there tonight with a telescopic night lens pointed through my big window with me sitting here in my nightie and all.

Oh, and Look!!! The Return of the Stick! I was pretty excited when Noah found this little stick in the middle of the road and picked it up.  I thought maybe that was just a stage he was going through.

Alright.  Now that I’ve got you hooked, I’m gonna talk about my favorite topic.  FOOD.  This morning on Georgie’s blog, she had a great entry talking about good fats in the diet, and why a lot of her recipes are low fat.  Very good post.  Check it out.  Georgie just has a lot of good practical knowledge, and also some darn good recipes.  While I was over there, I noticed a little blurb about using spinach in smoothies, and the recipe looked so good I wanted to try it.  Sounded so refreshing, and relatively low cal.  Only thing was, I didn’t have spinach.  But what I made was fantastic anyways.

Here’s what I made:

  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond breeze
  • 1/2 cup whey (when I strain my yogurt to make greek yogurt I keep the liquid ‘whey’ and use it in various and sundry recipes.)  You can use whatever liquid you want.
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • a little cinnamon
  • 3 ice cubes

Oh, it was delicious and refreshing!

I am really starting  to get into the treadmill thing at the gym.  Of course it doesn’t hurt that I can watch TV.  (For those of you new to my blog, I haven’t had a TV for over a year, by my own choice.) Today Dr. Oz had an interesting show again.  Had a segment on foods that help you sleep.  According to him, Pubsgal and I should never be awake, what with all the walnuts we consume.  Then he had a segment on three new foods to try:  pumpkin seeds instead of walnuts (not gonna happen here,) amaranth instead of brown rice, and trout instead of salmon.  I used to love trout, so I will try that and the amaranth.  Actually I have some pumpkin seeds and I like them.  Just not gonna give up the walnuts yet.

So, anyway, because I was enjoying the show, and also starting to enjoy the treadmill, I went 35 minutes instead of the 20 I was planning for.  And I did some running intervals in  there too.  I know that’s not much compared to what some of you do.  But when I first tried it, I thought I wouldn’t last 5 minutes.  Its actually a good idea to change up your exercise occasionally, so I am very glad that I tried this.  And hey, its the last season of Oprah…

I picked up a new creation of Vicky’s that I had been interested in trying:  zucchini quinoa bread (with dark chocolate chips.)  Dang, that girl knows how to cook.  The quinoa was whole, as far as I could tell, and added a little crunch to the bread.  I can see I will be doing more food experiments soon.

I had the zucchini bread over at the Buck’s with a ‘tall’ coffee, and had a very nice quiet time.  I needed to work on organizing my thoughts regarding leading a spiritual formation group.  Success, finally.  Its not all Mr. You Know Who’s fault that I can’t be quiet at home.  I am distracted by a myriad of things in my house–computer, quilting, housework, etc.  Its nice to go to Starbuck’s with my book bag and sit quietly with all the computer notebooks.

I  had essentially the same dinner last night as I had tonight.  Love having leftovers for an easy fix.  I did roast these little brussel sprouts, which were quite excellent.  I read somewhere that it was brussel sprout season.  These really were very fresh and yummy.  The tomato was just unbelievable.  It was big enough for 3 servings!  Just had it with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil and basil.  Last night had the mozarella, tonight plain .  The fish is red snapper, pan’fried’ using PAM, and then squirted with a whole lemon .

I had half an apple in the fridge, so I fixed a little bowl of this Stuff for my dessert later.   Finally heading to work tomorrow.  Then off for the weekend.  I know.  My life is very tough.

Sleeping Noah.   Just the way I like him in the evening.

Sleeping Monkey.  Just the way he always is in the evening.

Its hard to catch Sophie sleeping.  But this is her on the bed, just the way SHE always likes it in the evening.

I’m off to watch NEW episodes of The Dog Whisperer!

(*IMHO = in my humble opinion.)

I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can

Which seems like a better title than ‘My Mind is About to Explode.’  And just so you know, the title is funny since I have to be dead drunk to actually dance (which explains my non-existent ballroom dancing career.)  And, just so you know, surprisingly this post is not about Noah.  Well, maybe a little bit…

A couple of weeks ago I realized that I was reading three books at the same time that were really challenging the way I think.  All three authors were very sure that what they were presenting was the truth.  And all three books were presenting an alternative reality to what I have accepted as the truth for a very long time.  This might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but stick with me here.

The first book was Radical, by David Platt.  Of the three books, this one was the most familiar to me.  Because I have been listening to David Platt speak for a couple of years, and basically what he is presenting is what I always thought Jesus meant.  It is just different than what the average American church (of which I have been a part my whole life)  has accepted as ‘the gospel.’  The subtitle of David’s book is ‘Taking back your faith from the American dream.’   ‘Nuff said about that.  If you are interested, check out the book, or listen to David online.  He is the real deal.  Still, its a challenging message to apply to your life.

The second book was ‘Culture Clash,’ about training dogs without ‘adversity.’   This is when I thought I would really lose my mind.  I sat in the living room and listened to Noah bark for an hour non-stop.  The author is not wrong in what she is presenting.  But Noah has not read her theories.  And either I am not talented enough or patient enough, or have enough time to train Noah exactly the way she explains it.  It makes me feel like a very bad dog owner and a failure.  All rolled into one big fat overeating  person.  Ooh.  That sentence just rolled right on out of me, and it leads into the next book, which is the main topic of this post.

The third book was Intuitive Eating.  Which you all have heard me refer to a number of times over the past few months.  I finally finished the book, and here are my thoughts.  This is a VERY GOOD BOOK.   The vast majority of the information in it is sound.  It checks out with much of what I have read over the past five years since starting in Weight Watchers in January 2005.  Actually, a LOT of what W.W. attempts to teach you is exactly what I.E. proposes.

Here’s my thoughts about how this applies to me.  (Note to all:  these are my thoughts.  They are about me.  Even though I spill my guts am open and honest on my blog, you don’t completely know me.)

  • I was kinda intuitively eating when I got all the way up to 255 pounds and stayed there for 20 years.
  • This book was written before all the information/theories about the addictive qualities of the sugar/fat/salt combo came out.
  • I have a problem with liking food so much that I eat when I am not hungry.
  • It will take a lot of work to be able to practice all the guidelines they propose.  That is where their definition of ‘diets’  might be wrong.  The structure of, say, W.W. can help you practice their guidelines as you learn about what is for most of us a drastic change in our lives.

So, for all of these authors’ theories and information, I realize that my most favorite author, Dallas Willard, has some very wise words that can apply to all these topics.  Of course, when he speaks, he is specifically talking about your spiritual life, about following Jesus and becoming like him.  And he always says, grace is not opposed to training.  In other  words, if you just say you are going to ‘try’ something (like I.E.) you will no doubt fail.  But there is nothing wrong with TRAINING to become something different (a disciple of Jesus, a dog trainer that doesn’t use adversity, or an intuitive eater.)   And that is what I intend to do.  To continue to train in all of these areas of my life.  And to give myself just a fraction of the grace that God offers me when I fail.  And when I fail, just like I have learned over the past five years of dieting lifestyle change, I will get back up, and continue to train  in all these areas.

Also , I feel I must add, that just because someone is very sure that what they are saying is true, and just because their thoughts have been published in a book, does not make what they say THE TRUTH.

So there.  Now you know what I really think.  For today.  And that’s the truth.

P.S.  Just got this sign and this card and loved the messages on them and wanted to share with you all!