Church, Casseroles, and Lent

daffodil-286591_1280

My daughter and I visited a new church for the second time today. The first time, she went right into the kid’s program with zero hesitation. Today, she clung to my arm until I actually entered the kindergarten classroom. At that point, she released my arm and remained just outside and around the corner, which left me standing there, childless, in a room full of tiny tables and chairs.

Once the both of us were comfortably seated in the sanctuary, (comfortably meaning my rear end was straddling 2 chairs so that my lap could accommodate all 3 feet and 10 inches of my soon to be 6 year old without bumping either of our neighbors) we listened to the church announcements. In one announcement, they were seeking volunteers to make casseroles for foster families.

May Lee leans over and whispers, “We should ask Nana to make a casserole.”

“I can make a casserole.” I say in reply.

“Oh,” my child says in confusion and disbelief. I’m pretty sure she’s going to ask Nana if it’s true that her mother can make a casserole, and regardless of the answer she receives, continue to ask her Nana to make a casserole.

During the sermon, the pastor spoke a little bit about Lent, which is not a faith tradition that I have ever learned much about or practiced before, but I’m coming to see the usefulness of such a tradition in spiritual growth.

Upon returning home, we dined on a very traditional Sunday lunch of macaroni and cheese shaped like the characters from Trolls and some warmed up green beans. I pretended it was pot roast with potatoes and carrots. May Lee and I talked about church, Lent, and Easter. We talked a little bit about what Lent is, and I mentioned that I was thinking about giving up unhealthy food for Lent. Without missing a beat, she said “I think I’m going to give up….”

I interrupted her at this point, because I was startled by her eagerness to jump in, “You want to give up something for Lent too?!”

“Yes. I am going to give up trying to look so pretty all time. Trying to be all fancy.” she replied.

I was stunned. I really didn’t even know how to respond. Her response seemed wise beyond her years, and part of me felt really proud of that. The other part of me died a little inside that at not even 6 years old she is already struggling with the appearance thing.

“And I’m going to add exercising a little bit,” she said, finalizing her ideas for Lent. Which again, left me rather speechless as she is rather vocal about her disdain for exercise and how she finds it highly fatiguing.

“Well,” I said, “I think I’ll join you in adding exercise for 40 days. You know, Lent starts on your birthday.”

Her eyes grew wide. “It starts on my birthday?!”

I could see the wheels turning behind her eyes, thinking about the cake, ice cream, and candy involved with birthdays.

I leaned over and whispered, “Maybe you and I will start our 40 days on March 2nd”.

She grinned up at me in agreement and with relief all over her face.

So, I guess we are now a family that celebrates Lent….in one form or another. This year will certainly be an educational experience for us both.

When You Tempt Fate by Being Grateful for Your Health

woman-698957_1280

I’ve been sick. I tempted fate one afternoon by saying to my child as we drove home, “I’m so thankful that we have been so healthy this season.” The very next morning, I left work 15 short minutes after clocking in, because I felt like I had morning sickness while aboard an Alaskan fishing boat that happened to be cruising through at category 5 hurricane. I continued to feel that way for a full 24 hours as the bug ran it’s course.

A few days later, I came down the generic head cold/sinus infection/upper respiratory bug that people tend to share this time of year. And oh, how it lingers for days and days and many more blessed days, even after the worst has passed.

The illnesses, among other things, have put a serious damper on my training for the next 10K. Yesterday, I convinced myself that I was going to get out there and run no matter what. In my mind, I deluded myself into thinking that I was feeling well enough to run a few miles. Never mind that my clogged ears still cause multi-person conversations to sound as if they are taking place beneath the waters of the deep end of the swimming pool or that my sinuses remain full of vile substances that they have not fully released. Whatevs, man, I’m going for a run.

Let me tell you, if yesterday’s run is any indication of what the Little Rock 10K will look like for me, it is going to be an ugly affair. My delusions of getting a few miles in were quickly swept away as the physical activity caused the pressure in my sinus cavity to pound against my skull like a million, tiny, angry fists beating war drums. When I failed to heed their warning, the sinuses began releasing the vile substances that they had been hoarding in full retaliation against my delusions of grandeur, which were effectively swept away as I choked, gagged, and spit out all of my foolish pride onto the side of the road.

Sinuses- 1; Me- 0. Lesson learned. You win for now, you cruel caverns of darkness and abuse. But I’m coming for you, with all the essential oils and over-the-counter decongestants that the stray dollars and cents soon to be corralled from the bottom of my bag can afford.
You have been warned.

Gratitude & The Blessing of Health

After reading The Gift of Imperfection by Brene Brown, it is has been on my to-do list to create a practice of gratitude that May Lee and I could and would consistently do on a daily basis. November 1st ushered us into the season of Thanksgiving and provided the catalyst for simply doing something to express our gratitude. The something we came up with was verbalizing one thing we are grateful for as we drive to school in the morning.

With the daylight changing in step with the season, it has been really easy to contemplate our many blessings as we drive toward the pink and lavender hues of the sunrise. In fact, that was our first statement of gratitude. Yesterday, May Lee stated that she was thankful for playgrounds. Feeling the sore muscles and aching joints from running, I said that I was thankful for healthy bodies that allowed us to play on playgrounds.

Those sentiments rang in my ears and pricked my heart today when I received the text message from St. Jude that it is officially 30 days until the race. So many children and parents are battling cancer instead of playing on the playground together. I am so grateful for my daughter’s health, and I am working daily to increase my own. What a blessing to know that if our family ever does hear the word “cancer” that a place like St. Jude exists.

If the blessing of health is on your gratitude list this year, I invite you to honor that by supporting St. Jude.

http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=3466532&pg=personal&fr_id=59186

St. Jude 10K: Hiding a Mountain of Sin Behind How Well I Comply.

woman-1562560_1280

All the dynamics of the physical overhaul of my life have been at play this week. I would love to simply report my compliance to my running schedule, because I am highly skilled at hiding a mountain of sin behind how well I comply. Yet, the truth remains that a person can truly go off the rails internally while appearing to be right on track externally, and that, in a nutshell, sums up the last few weeks of my physical health.

Therefore, in an effort to bring my internal and external world more in line with each other, I’m going to lay the truth out there. First, I fell off the food tracking wagon about 3 weeks ago. My life got really busy, and I would legitimately forget to check in. I was still losing weight, so I felt no need to change my behavior even after my life slowed down. Thus began the slippery slope…

Next, the short morning exercise routines started to become less consistent. It is no surprise that I began to gain weight back at this point. Unfazed, I continued to be lax about my food intake and my exercise routine. When I was well enough to get back to my running schedule, the consistent running allowed me to justify increasing my food intake, i.e. allowed me to justify eating large quantities of junk food.

For 3 weeks, I have gained weight back. Not only that, I have experienced the aches and pains and physical complaints that had just resolved when I started consistently eating well and exercising. I ignored all the evidence and justified carrying on in my old patterns. To wrap this neatly in a bow, the old habits still live, and I still have work to do on my mental and emotional game to really care for my health the way I am called to care for my health.

The plan for week 4 is to shift my course to get back on track, which means once again going through the painful process of killing the sugar monster. That beast is my greatest nemesis. It also means finding a way to increase my personal accountability and taking a deeper look at this pattern of self-sabotage I have going on. Ironically enough, I had a video in my email this week about that very issue, so it seems like a good idea to unbury from the mountain of emails and actually watch it. Finally, I’m going to let myself feel the victory of recognizing I was off course and taking the initiative to make a change after 3 weeks rather than letting it go for 3 months or 3 years!

That last piece is crucially important. Overhauls of any sort do not occur in big pieces or in short durations of time. It is all about the long game. It is about incremental change over a long period of time to reach an ultimate goal. As much as I rail against our culture of immediate gratification, I’m lying to myself when I believe that I am somehow above that particular struggle and that the greater culture hasn’t affected me in that way. It is that lie that keeps me incrementally sliding down the slippery slope of my bad habits.

This week, I make the turn to begin the climb back up. If you have any personal experience with this struggle, I’d love to hear your experience, your victories, your struggles, your strategies, and most of all, your heart change through the process.

As always, if you have heart for the work St. Jude does for children battling cancer, please visit my fundraising page: http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=3466532&pg=personal&fr_id=59186

 

St. Jude 10K: Pre-training

woman-1562560_1280As you may already know, I have been taking a graduate level course this fall, in an effort to gain a professional certification that I have been working toward, slowly and painfully, for many years. If you have read any of my other posts, you also know that my daily schedule has been jammed packed to the point of insanity. It was becoming more and more apparent to me that I was doing many, many things, but I was doing none of them well. So, after some serious soul-searching and prayer, which led to some chart making (yes, God speaks even to my inner nerd), a conclusion was reached: there will be a better season to take this class. You know, a season that is not smack dab in the middle of a major overhaul of my job responsibilities or my daughter’s kindergarten year. Even though I completely adore my instructor and absolutely feast on the content of the class, it is time to drop it like it’s hot.

Clearly, this will free up a great deal of my time, and we may finally be able to wear clothes that have not been sitting in a wrinkled heap in a laundry basket for 2 weeks. But I quickly realized that since I will no longer be in class, I will be able to participate in the St. Jude 10K that I signed up for over the summer. This is a big race and a big deal, and may I just say, that I am not prepared. I gave up running the second I started class and realized that I wouldn’t be able to participate in the race. Yes, I have tried to keep up with strengthening my core and working in a quick HITT workout when I could, but that is not the same as training for a 10K. Also, have I mentioned that I have not successfully run a 5K? I have work to do, people.

I am tempted to be overwhelmed, which would essentially be trading “class overwhelmed” for “training overwhelmed” and I really don’t want to go down that road. So yesterday, I hit the running trail to see where I was in my running game and try to find a little motivation to get after it. Even though it is completely embarrassing, I’m going to share my stats with you so that you can a) feel sorry for me, and then b) maybe offer some encourage and motivation to keep me going now that you know how far I have to go in this journey.

stjudepennySince I just wanted to see where I was physically,  I just did a mile at a pace I felt good about to see where I clocked in. So, according to the FitBit, I ran 1.1 miles at a pace of 12’24”. This is much slower than where I left off at the end of last season’s running clinic, but it’s a start. I found this penny along with way, and I picked it up and deemed it my lucky penny for my training. You will notice that it had landed on tails, but that did not scare me away. To me, it was a perfect metaphor about how this thing isn’t going to come easy, nothing in life ever does. But my life is not altered or directed by bad juju, it is authored and perfected by my faith in God. God has been asking me, begging me, pleading with me to get healthy, and that is the true reason I am out there doing this. So, game on.

Friends, I need all the support I can get, and by support I mean accountability. That is why I am putting this out there, so it will not be easy to just quick when it gets hard. If you can support my fund-raising effort with a few dollars, I would really appreciate it. But even more so, I covet your encouragement! This is the link to my St. Jude page: http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=3466532&pg=personal&fr_id=59186
Thanks in advance!

 

Redemption in Divorce

sandburg-1639994_1280

If I had remained married, today would have been my anniversary. This day has become like the New Year’s holiday to me, because I tend to reflect deeply about the time that has passed and the time that lies before me. I do not set goals like I may choose to do for a New Year, and I guess this is where my holiday analogy would move toward Thanksgiving. On this day, I find myself so very, very thankful and deeply humbled at the redemption the Lord has brought to my life, which leads to a story that I haven’t shared with many people until this moment.

When my marriage reached the pinnacle of insanity, I dug into my Bible looking for answers. At least, I thought I was looking for answers, but I was really looking for justifications. I was using what I was reading in the Bible to prop up my own insane thinking and to justify continued efforts to ignore all the very obvious evidence that my child and I were in very real danger. I would pray for protection, for 10,000 angels to form a protective perimeter around my house, but I would not leave. I would not leave, because “God hates divorce”, “the husband is the head of the wife”, and “wives obey your husbands” (that was my ex-husband’s favorite) and all those other scriptures, not to mention all the Christian judgments that have become so deeply ingrained in some sectors of Christian culture that they are mistaken as scriptures, were perpetuating the same cycle of shame as the abuse I was enduring. I was trapped by “my faith”. My ex-husband knew it and I knew, and he exploited it for all that he could.

It was not long until I reached a place of such deep mental and emotional anguish that I cried out to God from a place so deep in my soul that I never knew it existed. And you know what, He answered me. Clear as day, He answered me with, “If you will trust me to lead you out of this, I will give it all back to you. Family, friends, everything that you’ve lost will be restored to you”. In that moment, scenes from the last year of my life flashed across my mind, and I recognized them as opportunities God had put before me to escape that I hadn’t taken.

You might think that I packed us up and hit the road right then, but I did not. Trust was not something I was in possession of at that time. My head was all messed up, and I had a long history of poor judgment to prove it. Trusting God to lead me out of that deep hole was out of the question at that time, but like Gideon and so many others, I kept asking for confirmation. I bought a little notebook at the dollar store and carried it around in my bag everywhere I went. All day long for months and months, I would write my prayers and questions for God in my notebook, and when those answers came, I wrote them in my notebook too. In this way, I started building trust with God. He started giving me small successes that helped me begin to trust my judgment again.

That process played out for a year or so, and I finally did leave. And you know what? Only 2 people threw the whole “God hates divorce” thing up at me. One of them was my ex-husband and one of them was another man who had chosen to exit my life for the entire 8 months of my divorce process, and therefore knew next to nothing about what was going on but chose to levy his opinion against me the week that my divorce was final. It makes me wonder what those 2 men have in common that out of all the people who knew the scenario, from professional counselors to preachers to close friends and family, that only those 2 men expressed eerily similar opinions that had I followed them would have kept me in danger. It begs the question: what compels us to use the Bible the way we do, much like a shield to hide our secret sins? But this I know without a doubt: everyone’s secret sin will be exposed at one point or another. All houses built on sand eventually fall. I’ve spent years crawling out of my own collapsed house of sand, learning what true repentance means, trying to show my family and friends that I understand and take full responsibility for the ways that I went wrong, and that I intend to spend every day of the rest of my life following the path that God has laid out for me.

With that being said, let’s go back to the promise God gave me the day that I stood in the bedroom of my beach duplex, face to the ceiling, crying out for relief. The best part of today is looking back and counting the ways He has been faithful to that promise over the years. The first year, I won the right to move out of state from the Florida Court. The next year, I accepted a job that would allow me to support my little family. This year, May Lee and I moved into our very own home. And that is just the “big” stuff! I see His promise answered in some small way just about every week, whether its rekindling relationships that were lost to the chaos of my marriage and divorce, new relationships that have come into my life, advances at work, being able to enjoy experiences that I never thought I would be able to have again, and being able to dust off and reignite talents that have been dormant under the heavy frost of trauma for so long.

All of those things are so very awesome, and I will admit that I am amazed and deeply humbled every time I recognize a new layer of His promise coming to fruition. But I think the best part is yet to come. Some day, when someone else’s sandcastle collapses and all their secret sin is revealed to what feels like the entire world, I’ll be there to help them dig out the way only someone who has had the same experience can. One day, my story is going to help someone else see the light at the end of the tunnel, as well as the light of the One who wants to restore everything they have lost. That will be a great day, my friends. Who knows, maybe that will be one of the experiences I’ll be sharing with you a year from today. Either way, today I trust in His promise fully. I trust the instincts and ability to use good judgment that He has restored to health within me, and I know that goodness and adventure lie ahead.

AMEN.

The Weekly Recap: Snickerdoodle Lattes, An Empty Purse, and a Farm for Christmas

 

coffee-801781_1280

This week has continued to be insanely busy with to-do lists that are never-ending. My ability to multi-task has grown substantially, and I think that is due in part to the fact that I’m sitting down and planning my week. I’m not getting it all done, but the structure is helping me use my time more efficiently. I’m working errands and tasks into the margins, so to speak, and I feel like I was rewarded handsomely for my efforts when I set out on my Monday lunch break to run an errand that would end up killing 3 birds with one stone.

A while ago- we’re talking a couple of months, maybe longer- a FedEx package was mistakenly delivered to my house. After a couple of futile attempts to get the package to its rightful owner, I queried the FedEx guys who delivers to my job about what to do with it. He suggested taking it to Mr. Postman.

Monday, I finally pulled into the parking lot of Mr. Postman with the mystery package, my Stitch Fix items to return, and a bill to mail. Friends, let me tell you, when I opened those doors and crossed that threshold, I was in heaven. I was so bumfuzzled by the divine aroma of freshly brewed coffee, the sight of cafe tables and chairs, and the dazzling collection of adorable home decor and gift items that I must have looked like Dorothy taking her first steps into the land of Oz. Somehow I communicated to the barista the nature of my shipping needs, and she took care of me well. Once that errand was complete, I eagerly chatted with her about their selection of coffees, ordered a snickerdoodle latte, and perused the many treasures in the shop while my coffee was being made. I have to say, this sweet little find may have been the highlight of my week

staxThe next morning presented a challenge, as it was Stax’s surgery day. After his escape from the backyard last week, it seemed clear that I could no longer delay getting him neutered. He was also due for some vaccinations, so my excuses for delaying the inevitable were running out. To get him ready for the vet is no small thing. I legitimately need the skills of a rodeo cowboy to get Big Yellow into his harness, but we managed to get to the vet where he promptly marked his territory 3 times. Bless that staff. One of them even helped me get him into the car after the surgery. On the way out of the clinic, we were talking about how confused Stax must be, to which the staff person remarked “Yep, he came in with a full purse and is leaving with an empty one”. I don’t know why, but that cracked me up.

As for my growing girl, it has been another great week. I can no longer escape the fact that May Lee is growing and maturing in leaps and bounds. Last week at her soccer game, she performed the chicken dance and numerous somersaults but gave very little effort to playing the game or following the coach’s directions. During one of the breaks, we had the following talk:

Me: May Lee, I want you to go out there and make a WHOLE BUNCH of mistakes. Like, hundreds of them.

May Lee: Huh?

Me: Yes, I want you to go out there and make a whole bunch of mistakes. I’d rather you make a whole bunch of mistakes than not try at all. And listen to your coach and do what she says.

May Lee ran out of the field and continued on in the same fashion as before. However, during soccer practice this week, I could tell a difference. She was “in it” and not so hesitant. She was trying instead of letting herself get intimidated by her own fears. I was a proud mama. This was quickly followed by another proud moment when we got home and she read 3 little books to me that she had made at school. She’s really growing and coming into her own.

May Lee is also pumped for the upcoming holiday season. She celebrated the first day of fall then immediately asked how many days until Christmas. She cannot decide what she would like to be for Halloween or whether she would like to dress as a pilgrim or a Native American for her school’s Thanksgiving Feast, but she does know what she would like for Christmas. Her Christmas list is as follows: horse, pony, unicorn, kitten, puppy, turtle, an Octonaut set, and toys of all our friends and family. When I heard that last one, I immediately pictured all of our friends and family members as little bobble-head dolls, then I giggled a little bit and wondered if I could actually make that happen.

As for the health journey, I’ve been doing pretty well, but I’ve been really hungry the last couple of days. Plus, I’ve been a little stressed. Therefore, I have indulged, but I don’t really feel guilty about it. I’ve come a long way with being mindful about whether I am eating out of true hunger versus eating because I’m stressed. What I am bummed about is not doing my new morning exercise routine the last couple of mornings. I think I feel more bummed about the missed exercise, because I can tell the biggest difference in my body from the exercise and not the diet change. I haven’t been doing that routine for very long, but just stretching and doing some crunches in the morning has really relieved my aches and pains and my brain fog. So, I’m thinking missing these last couple of days has set in stone my resolve to incorporate exercise of any kind into a lifelong, daily routine.
The weekend ahead looks like it is going to be just as full as our week, with soccer, lots of school assignments, and pulling together a donation for the silent auction at May Lee’s school. But we are going to make time for fun as well as business and hit up a local festival. Maybe a $5 pony ride will satisfy the pony craving and remove said animal from the Christmas list. One can always hope.

I Judge You if You Look Good

It’s true. I confess. I judge people by their appearance. You’re shocked, I know, because we never talk about people’s appearance in this culture. And after you wade through the thickness of that sarcasm, I am going to deviate from the usual conversation about media and women and the unhealthy standards that the larger culture throws out there and narrow the conversation down to my little world and my own weird issues. While I’m sure that is super weird to be worried about your appearance because people follow you around with cameras and plaster your picture all over creation, that is not my life and not my weird, so I’m going to stick with what I know.

I’m the type of gal that finds a shirt I like and buys 6 of them in different colors. True story. I’m sure you saw the Steve Jobs story about decision-fatigue and how he wore the same black turtleneck everyday rather than waste valuable brain power on deciding on what clothes to wear. I would like to throw myself and my 6-of-the-same-shirt in with the likes of Steve Jobs, but I really haven’t made that kind of contribution to society so I’ll settle for plain ol’ single-parent decision-fatigue. To be fair, it’s really a type of fatigue that is common to anyone responsible for dressing a small child. Once you’ve spent 30 minutes of your life trying to figure out what shirt your child is referring to when she says “I want to wear my garden shirt”, then abandoning that mission and attempting to sell her on wearing the very on-trend Frozen shirt with Anna and Elsa on the front that is currently clean and easily accessible only to land head first into a very confusing power struggle over pants with belt loops that are not jeans and can only be jeggings or leggings, you understand that sort of fashion-related decision-fatigue.

So, yes, when I see these other moms and single-moms walking around looking like they just stepped out of a magazine, I wonder what planet they came from and how on earth do they have the time and energy to do that. I have a little bit of that egocentric thing  that believes that everyone is “like me”and when faced with the task of putting oneself together for the day in a way that requires any real effort summons their inner Sweet Brown and proclaims “Ain’t nobody got time for that!!!”. But clearly, some of you do have time for that, and I hear rumblings that others of you actually enjoy it. Absolutely fascinating.

Then there is church. Do I really “come as I am” or do I break out the “Sunday best”, and how does one walk that tight-rope of appropriateness when there seems to be so many strong feelings on the subject. I must confess that when the “strong feelings” start coming out, a rebellious streak rises up in me and I want so very badly to show up at that church donning a bed sheet toga. It is, after all, similar to what one might have seen in the first century church. Just keeping it biblical, not to mention incredibly mature. But I have to imagine that in the crowds of 3,000 and 5,000 people that followed Jesus around, there were all kinds of fashion choices represented, and I highly doubt that any of them were thinking about whether or not they were over or under dressed. They were focused on Jesus.

So now that I’ve thrown in a Jesus Juke on top of scaring you with the inner workings of my brain, I have to flip the script a little and tell you about how all of that has changed a little bit over the last few weeks. You see, I have had to come to terms with some self-sabotaging that I was doing in relation to taking care of myself. I mean, who does a 10 week running clinic and gain 10 extra pounds by the end of it? And don’t try to make me feel better by saying it’s all muscle, because I wasn’t pounding weights people, I was running intervals for 30 minutes 2-3 times a week. I was, however, pounding Oreos and cupcakes and leftover chocolate cake from the mess hall at work, so you can see how that might counteract any positive momentum gained by the work in the running clinic.

Oddly enough, this week I’ve found that my new found “hustle” was mostly related to taking care of myself and not so much to finances. When I found myself sliding down the warm, inviting slope of apathy, hustle compelled me to change into workout clothes and do a Jillian Michael’s DVD while May Lee took a nap. Then it had me in the kitchen cooking up some recipes from the Daniel Plan so I wouldn’t encounter any “food emergencies” at work this week. I met up with my running partner and hit the running trail again. I even consistently wore a little bit of make up this week, and that my friends, is a big progress for me in the appearance department.

While I will never be the full make up, full hair, and designer outfit type, there is something to taking care of yourself and being happy with how you look. I’m still feeling the whole thing out and will always fall on the side of believing that you can never fully enjoy a Saturday without indulging in wearing yoga pants and no make up and pulling semi-dirty hair back into a pony tail, but there is something to be said for always giving your best effort and that applies even to the effort you put into yourself.