Friday, March 6, 2015

Doors

I have a little notebook I started keeping around the time that I was taking a class called "Exploring the Prophetic" at church.  The class was somewhat out of my comfort zone.  I grew up in what I now know would be considered a cessationist church....a church that believes that the more charismatic spiritual gifts ended with the new testament, prophecy among them.

Opening my eyes to the possibility that God can still speak to us through the prophetic today was a stretch for me.  I started the class with a good bit of skepticism & cynicism.  I think we've all seen the questionable 'prophets' on the internet or tv who claim to have words from God.

I'll have to write more about the class and what I took away from it at another time.  But, I did come away believing that God can still speak to us today in a variety of ways.

I had started keeping a little journal of words that I believed God had for me.  I hadn't written much in the journal in the last several days because I'd been feeling...disillusioned?  cynical?

How did I know I was really hearing God?  How did I know I wasn't just making this stuff up in my head?  And, if I AM communing with God, then why can't I get a grip on the areas where I struggle?  Like with depression...and food?

A couple weeks ago I was reading in Revelations.  And, I came across Revelation 3:7-8.  It was Jesus speaking in the section where he was addressing the 7 churches.  It says,

"To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of thim who is holy and true, who holds the key of David.
What he opens no one can shut and what he shuts no one can open.
I know your deeds.  See I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.  I know you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name."

I had heard many people talking about God opening doors for them.  But, I always figured it was just a nice sentiment that people have come up with to describe God's faithfulness.  Yes, here it was, out of Jesus own mouth.



"And what he opens no one can shut.  What he shuts no one can open."

These verses affirming His sovereignty over all things was very soothing and comforting to me.

I had even shared that verse with others over the last couple weeks to people I felt would be touched by it.

Then, over the last couple weeks I've sunk into a funk.  This winter has been hard on me.  It may only be seasonal depression.  But, the depression is still there...and it stinks. And, I haven't been communing with God like I should.

It  may seem odd, but one of the things that has been on my mind so much lately is the question of adoption.  There is a part of me that feels we are meant to adopt one or two older children into our family.  Is God really leading us in this direction?

There seem to be so many barriers.  Financial barriers.  Time barriers.  But, most of all, my own failings as a mother...as a person...seem the largest barrier of all.  How can I even consider bringing a child with extreme needs into our daily chaos?

Then, today, I came across the latest post on A Holy Experience, Ann Voskamp's blog.  She had a guest writer for this post.  The title was "How to Walk Through When You See No Way."

The author discussed this topic of how God opens doors.  That it is our choice whether or not we will walk through that door.  That often all we have to go on is our faith that God opened it.

He references this same scripture in Revelation.  The words he wrote were already speaking to my heart.  The fact that he referenced this same scripture that spoke to me so profoundly a couple weeks earlier only confirmed in my heart that this was a word God had for me.

Then my eyes fell on a part of the scripture that somehow I had skimmed over before.

"I know your deeds.  See I have place before you an open door that no one can shut.  I know you have little strength yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name."

I know you have little strength.  It was as though God was speaking directly to me.  He knows!  He knows I'm weak.  He knows that I don't see how I could possibly walk through any of the doors He opens.  He knows and yet He still opens that door.

I don't know if one of the doors He is opening is for adoption.  But, I take comfort in knowing (being reminded really) that He knows my weaknesses and He promises to be my strength.  He can still use me even in my weakness.



Monday, February 16, 2015

New Habits Weekly Check-in: Freedom

I'm writing this post while sitting & trying to calm my gurgling belly.  I overdid it last night on guacamole & red wine and my stomach is very unhappy with me.  So, obviously I'm still in the learning curve of what I'm going to write about in today's post.

You see, I came to a realization this week that for all that I was talking about wanting to learn moderation, tonot be enslaved to food, to be as healthy & natural in my eating patterns as possible, I wasn't really following through with that in some of the goals that I was setting for myself each week.

I had set myself up to fail.

For instance, week one was eliminate caffeine & adult beverages.  Week two was eliminate sugar.  Week three was eliminate night-time snacking.  When you use a word like 'eliminate' there's no real wiggle room.  And, when you slip up, which as a human being is inevitable, it becomes an excuse to claim failure & fall even further off the wagon.

As I mentioned in my first weekly check in, I've always kind of been an all or nothing girl.  Nobody can live in the 'all' zone all the time, so it's a swift descent into the 'nothing' zone for me....which is how I got into this physical mess in the first place.

And, here's the other thing...even when I'm 'doing well' and sticking to the plan, I'm still focused on food.

Being focused on food is my problem.

Trying to change eating patterns can increase that focus to laser beam intensity rather than reduce it.

So, what is the answer?  Just give up?  Absolutely not.  But, I do believe that the answer is in changing my focus.  And my focus needs to be on my relationship with God.

You see God loves me deeply & fiercely.  And, when I replace my love for Him with other things - whether it be entertainment, or food, or any number of things, it grieves Him.  And, frankly I can't do the whole getting healthy thing on my own strength.  I've been trying that for 44 years.  When we turn our attention to God, He will gladly give us the strength to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to Him....including being good stewards of the bodies & the health we were given.

I realized I'd been punishing myself.  I was wearing pants that were entirely too tight.  I went through my days extremely uncomfortable & irritable.  I thought that the discomfort would motivate me to work harder.  But, it didn't.  It only reinforced my belief that I was a failure & not good enough in this area of my life.  The worse I felt about myself, the less I felt like putting forth the effort.

This all might sound a bit familiar to you.  It's similar to what Lysa TerKuerst had to say in her book Made to Crave, a book that when I read it really bothered me for some reason that I couldn't quite put my finger on.
But what she says about how we are programmed to crave is spot on.  Because we are programmed to crave God's presence.  And, we try any number of things to fill ourselves instead and find ourselves feeling even emptier

I do think part of what she talked about in her book was part of what I'm rejecting - the idea that some foods need to be eliminated altogether.

I  feel like that's been my downfall.  Trying to eliminate foods.  Because that's not moderation.

It's still a good idea to avoid/ cut down on the things I was trying to eliminate.  But, I'm going to eliminate the word 'eliminate'.  Instead of obsessing over whether or not to have a piece of chocolate or a cup of coffee, I'm going to give myself the freedom to make that choice.  And, then, I'm not going to punish myself for it.  Because coffee or chocolate is not the bad guy...obsession is.

And rather than punishing myself by throwing in the towel & binging, I will enjoy those things and move on.

And, most of all, I just don't want to think about food so much.  I want to spend my time & energy focusing on God and pressing in to Him.

A bit more on that gurgling upset belly I have today as a result of last night's overindulgence.  Am I suffering the consequences?  Oh yes.  But, am I going to allow guilt over messing up last night keep me from moving forward?  Nope.


And, I'm going to continue to ask God for the freedom to love Him without ever putting anything before Him.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My Reasons For Not Seeing The Movie That Everyone is Talking About

I wasn't going to write anything about the controversy/ social media firestorm otherwise known as The Fifty Shades of Grey movie.  I didn't plan to see it.  I felt confident in my own reasons for not seeing it.  And, I had no intention of getting drawn into any debates about it.  I figured everyone needed to make their own decision about this movie and even if I disagreed with their decision, it was still their decision to make.

I suppose the last part of that is still true.  Everyone does need to make their own decision.  But, I couldn't just sit back without weighing in anymore.  What changed my mind?

Well, a facebook friend posted her thoughts about this movie.  And basically (I'm paraphrasing because I read this post several days ago & I can't remember exactly how she worded it & she's since taken it down), she was dismayed by how many negative posts she was seeing about FSOG, she was really looking forward to seeing it, & she didn't like the idea of other Christians judging her as a 'bad Christian' for wanting to see it.

This post really got my wheels turning.  Obviously there are a wide variety of views, among both the Christian & secular audiences, about this movie.  I've read my share of those posts warning us against FSOG as well, and I agree with most of them.  Many of the arguments presented to warn us that this movie is not just harmless entertainment seem so obvious to me.  They resonate with my own spirit.  But, what about another Christian who doesn't see it the same way?

I held back from responding to her post.  I wanted time to think it through.  It challenged me to think about my reasons...MY reasons (not reasons I read & agreed with) for not reading the book or watching the movie.  I thought about it a lot!  As a matter of fact, the one night I woke up in the middle of the night & lay awake for two hours thinking about it....basically writing this blog post in my mind.

Yet, I STILL didn't write everything down.  When I came back that morning & checked facebook, that facebook friend posted that she decided to take her original post down because the discussion in the comments had started to become really nasty.  So, I thought maybe that was just a sign that I needed to keep this to myself....not to give it any more valuable time or attention.

Except, I couldn't stop thinking about it.  Because, I feel strongly, that our response to this movie matters....not just as Christians, but as people in general.  So, I decided to sit down this afternoon & write down everything I thought about on that sleepless night.  Because I waited so long, I may not remember everything I was originally thinking perfectly.  And, I probably won't be nearly as eloquent as I thought I was in my sleeplessness that night.

I want to make one disclaimer.   Just because I disagree with another Christian/ person's decision does not mean I am judging them to be a bad Christian/ person.  I just disagree with them.

Ok.  Here we go.  My reasons can be broken down into three categories....From a secular viewpoint, From a Christian viewpoint, and my personal reasons.

1.  From a secular viewpoint
 Not all the blog posts, articles, etc.  warning people about FSOG have been written by Christian people.  There are plenty of secular groups that are concerned about this movie and the message that it sends to women.  The theme in the book/ movie of a young, naive woman being drawn into a sadistic emotionally/ physically abusive relationship, allowing herself to be controlled & manipulated is enough to concern even groups like National Center on Sexual Exploitation (based in DC), Stop Porn Culture (Massachussets) , Radical Alliance of Women (Australia).  Natalie Collins of Fifty Shades is Domestic Abuse says the movie shows the 'classic portrayal of an abuser'.

The message of this film is another in a long list of messages that should concern women in our society.  Add this to the message that we have to be pretty/ thin/ sexy to be appealing to men, that women should exploit their sexuality to show 'power', 'freedom', or 'self enlightenment', and that woman can 'change' bad boys if they are just sexually accommodating enough.  In a society that on the surface proudly says it embraces feminist ideology, there seem to be an awful lot of messages that instead enslave women in lies.  Lies that benefit men.

When a young woman goes to see this movie....let's suppose she's a young woman who desperately wants to be loved, struggles a bit with her self worth, and who doesn't have a very large support network of family or friends (perhaps a woman like the character in FSOG), what will she walk away from this movie with?

 Will she walk away with the idea that the emotionally abusive man she knows is actually a romantic at heart and if she just 'sticks it out' he'll come around?  Will she walk away feeling empowered to assert her own will? Or will she walk away with the idea that to succumb to the will and needs of a man in hopes that he will love her is valid?   Or perhaps she'll walk away feeling as though if a man is handsome enough, powerful enough, rich enough he is worthy of her everything and she should take her sense of worth from pleasing that man because he is handsome/powerful/rich.

2.  From a Christian viewpoint
 As Christians we DO have an immense freedom in Christ.  God has given us our wills and our minds in order that we can make sound judgements.  Yet, He knows that not all of our decisions will be Christ-honoring.  We still have the power to make those decisions anyway.

God has given us the Holy Spirit to help guide us in making those decisions.  When we are unsure of what is right, of what we should do in a certain situation, we often feel something 'in our gut'.  That's the Holy Spirit trying to get our attention.  Other times the Spirit will impress something even more strongly on our hearts.

And, we have scripture.  While the Holy Spirit can give us a sense of what is right, scripture is there for us to read, to study, to meditate on.

As I've been thinking about this topic, I keep coming to Ephesians.  There are any number of places in scripture we could go where I think God's view of this movie would be clear.  But, let's take a look at just some passages in Ephesians where Paul is telling us what it means to live as children of light.

Ephesians 4: 17-19 reminds us that there should be a difference between us & the world (the Gentiles in this passage).  "So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in the due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more." (emphasis mine).

I truly believe that we as Christians are just as guilty as the rest of the world of hardening our hearts and becoming de-sensitized to the darkness.  We purposefully ignore the whisperings of the Holy Spirit so as to enjoy what we want to enjoy.  

 Several months ago, John & I came across a show on Netflix called "Orange is the New Black".  In a nutshell it's the story of a relatively affluent woman being put in jail stemming from charges brought against her for a crime committed many years prior.  Honestly, the show is one of the most thought-provoking, interesting, and stimulating shows I've seen in ages.  It had an amazing story-line with incredible character development.  From a screen writing standpoint, this thing was golden & a show of true writing talent.  But, it was also chock full of profanity and explicit sex scenes.

I felt this gnawing inside of me each time we watched an episode that we really SHOULDN'T.  But, it was so good.  I was completely drawn into the storyline and I actually cared about & wanted to know what happened to each of the characters.  I justified overlooking the other stuff, because the rest of it was good.

But, then there was a scene (and I'll keep my description PG, but trust me it was anything but) where one of the prison guards was verbally threatening one of the prisoners and he made a vulgar, disgusting statement that totally mocked & dishonored Jesus.

And, that was it.  I could no longer reason away the promptings I'd been feeling from the Holy Spirit all along.  I told John I could no longer watch that show.  And, even though he didn't feel as convicted as I did about not watching it, he said he didn't want to watch it anymore if I wasn't.

Ephesians 4:30 says, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."

I wasn't always sure what that verse meant.  How could we grieve the Holy Spirit?  What grieves Him?  Lately, I've come to realize that when we purposefully ignore his promptings, His voice, His leadings in our hearts, we grieve Him.  We have the freedom to do exactly that because we are creatures with free wills.  But, when we love someone....as we say we love God...and we still do something that we know will bring them pain, do they feel loved?  Or does it bring them grief?  In the same way, I believe this is how we grieve the Holy Spirit.

So, what as Christians should we do?

Ephesians 5: 1-3 says, "  Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  But among you there must not be event a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people." (emphasis mine)

Ephesians 5: 8-11 says," For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them."

Ephesians 5: 15 & 17 - 18 sum it up.  " Be very careful then how you live - not as unwise but as wise.....Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.....Instead, be filled with the Spirit."

When we are filled with the Spirit, when we lived as Christ lived, everyone is quick to point out that we shouldn't judge.  And, friend, I absolutely agree, it's not my job to judge another person.  My job...my only job is to love another person.  But, that does not mean that we as Christians should not use sound judgement and discernment as we make decisions in our lives.

3.  My personal reasons
I've thought about giving my testimony numerous times.  But, I've always chickened out because I guess I actually fear a bit of that judgement from other Christians.  People who I've only met in the last 10-14 years don't know much about my past.  They only know what I share.  And, I don't share much.

This is how I usually phrase it (and that's if I'm really going to open up).  "My twenties were a dark time for me.  I made really bad decisions and lived self-destructively.  I looked to men for approval & acceptance."  That's about as general and broad as you can make a testimony.  And, I did that on purpose, because I didn't want to change the way that people look at me.

But for several years now, I've been feeling that nudge to tell more of my story.  (Ah.  The Holy Spirit again).  Perhaps this is the right time.

I grew up in a Christian home & accepted Jesus at a very young age (I was about 6) in a children's worship service at church.  I grew up loving God, being active in my church &, as I got older, in the youth group.

  I was always a somewhat shy, awkward child.  I dealt with self-esteem issues from a fairly young age.  Junior high was torture for me.  I was chubby & teased and I thought I just needed to be skinny for people to like me.

By 13 I was anorexic (weighing 100 pounds at my lowest weight...same height I am today 5'6).  My parents were terrified for my health.  And, if I dropped below 100 they were going to put me in the hospital.  I eventually gained weight back to avoid that.  But, I've dealt with food issues & body image issues ever since then, riding a wild rollercoaster of weight loss and weight gain.

In high school I pretty much worked hard, kept my head down, & enjoyed the friendship of a few close friends....none of us would have fit into the popular crowd.  I did very well academically and I was looking forward to studying elementary & early childhood education at college.

I really wanted to go to Messiah College in Grantham Pa.  But, my parents didn't have much in the way of money.  And, even to get financial aid parents are expected to contribute a portion of the tuition.  They just didn't have that ability.  So, I went to Millersville University which was minutes away from where I'd gone to high school & only 10 minutes from our home.  I commuted to school.  And, I paid my tuition by working part time through high school & all through college.

All this time, I never had the opportunity or desire to try out the college party scene.  Again, I worked hard, did well academically, and got my degree.  I was a 'good girl' and thought I knew my path in life.  My greatest desire, even beyond teaching, was to get married and have children.

I never really dated in high school or college.  I think I went out on only a handful of really awkward dates that didn't lead to a dating relationship.  I experienced my first kiss at the age of 20.  And, that was awkward too.

I was that girl that I described earlier in this post.  I desperately wanted to be loved.  I struggled with my self worth.  And, although I DID have a strong network of family & friends, I was about to step out on my own. And, I really wasn't prepared for the real world.

After graduating from college, I moved into my first apartment with my best friend from high school.  We were almost giddy with the idea of being out on our own, starting our own lives.  I don't even know how to describe how my downhill slide began.  It started out slowly enough.  But, it swiftly escalated as I began experimenting with more & more things that had been frowned upon as we were growing up - dancing, drinking, smoking....all were big 'no-no's.

And, hear me.  I love to dance.  I still enjoy a drink here and there.  I don't smoke anymore.  But, my point is, there wasn't anything exactly wrong with these things.  But, as I said, I had very little experience prior to living on my own.  And, I just wasn't prepared to handle myself in an adult manner.  I went overboard.

When I lost my virginity I had crossed into territory I NEVER imagined I'd find myself in.  I had ALWAYS known I was saving myself for my husband (not that there were a ton of guys clamoring for a physical relationship with me up until then).  The guy I had been dating at that point swore how much he loved me, how he needed me.....until we had sex.  Then, he began backing off & eventually broke up with me.

I was devastated.  I thought I had committed the unpardonable sin.  In my mind, I could never be right with God again.  I had disappointed him too much.  So, I somehow decided that since I was already 'a sinner' I may as well just not care what I did anymore.

I built up a false confidence in myself - I did everything I could to make myself more attractive to men.  I dressed provocatively.  I acted provocatively.  I guess in some twisted way, I thought I was taking back my power.  If I could titilate & attract men, then I MUST be desirable.

Over the next several years I followed a very self-destructive pattern which involved clubbing (sometimes going out 3-4 times a week, staying up til 2 or 3 in the morning & going to work the next day at 7), binge drinking, chain smoking (only when I was drinking though...so I didn't consider myself a 'true smoker'), and promiscuity.

Yes.  Promiscuity.  There it is.  Out in the light.  I didn't just mess up a couple times.  I habitually sought men's attention in the form of sex.  And, I became increasingly more 'daring' & 'adventurous' in what I did.  Or at least I thought I was being daring and adventurous the time.  I had bought into the lie that I could express my feminine power & independence through sex.

In fact, I was walking a very dangerous line.  I kept 'upping the anty' in what I would do to get or keep a man's attention.  I thought it would make them like me.  I thought they would think I was fascinating and would want to be with me.  Instead, they generally used me and left me.

None of them saw me as a 'keeper'.  Some of the men I 'dated' (and I use that term loosely) were actually very nice.  But, because of who I had become I certainly wasn't serious dating or wife potential to them.  But, a lot of the men were users.  And, I held no interest to them other than what I could offer physically that night.  I allowed a lot of things to be done to me that were degrading and humiliating.




There's a light at the end of my story.  You see, I felt God pulling me back to him even in the midst of my darkest moments.  I even remember sitting in my car late one night in the parking lot, blitzed out of my mind.  I was crying....sobbing really.  My soul was just coming apart.  And, suddenly I felt this presence in the car with me.  Everything became very still & silent, but I felt totally surrounded by love & peace.  I remember writing a poem after that called 'Jesus in my car'.

I wish I could say that got my attention and I changed then & there.  But I didn't.  This lifestyle had become so ingrained.  And, I felt trapped.  It was addictive!  The rush I got from a man's attention was unlike anything.  And, even if I could have pulled myself out, I felt so much shame.  I felt so unworthy.  But, God continued to call to me.

Eventually, I met the man who would become my husband.  A good guy.  And, someday (because this post is already too long) I'll have to share more of our love story.  At first I resisted being with him.  He was 'too good'.   How could he ever accept my past?  He wasn't 'artsy & emotional' enough.  But, friends, this man saw something in me that I couldn't see in myself anymore.  He never held my past against me...and to this day he never has.  He accepted me.  He loved me.  And the grace he showed me finally opened my eyes to the Grace that God was offering me.



Whew.  That was a lot.  I'm still somewhat nervous about hitting 'publish' on this one.

But I shared that because when I look at what is being said about this movie, I see a whole generation of young women....women who are much like the girl I was before I became lost....wanting to be loved, unsure of themselves & seduced by something very dark & dangerous.

And, THAT, is my personal reason for not watching this move and for thinking it's a dangerous movie for all of us.  This perception that we can obtain some sort of intimacy from giving others power over us (and somehow fooling ourselves into thinking it's actually making us more powerful) is such a lie.

True intimacy, true love is what my husband gave to me.  Grace.  Acceptance.  Unconditional love.

My last reason:  My boys
I didn't mention this one at the beginning.  But, it may be one of my biggest reasons in not supporting a movie like FSOG.  I have a huge responsibility to raise four boys into men.  I want them to be men of integrity.  I want them to respect and honor women.  I want them to learn compassion & self-sacrifice instead of pleasing themselves with no regard to the emotions of others.  I want them to please the Lord in the decisions they make and the way they live their lives.  I can't in good conscience support a movie that goes against all the values that I'm seeking to instill in them.

I may not have changed other minds.  I've learned in life that we can rarely change the minds of other people. But, I hope I at least have given some food for thought and have explained why I hold the position I do.



Monday, February 9, 2015

Weekly Check in...New Habits

Ah.  Where to begin?

Well, this week was one of those two steps backwards kind of weeks.  I again had allowed myself a few small exceptions....all in the name of moderation.  And, really that would have been fine.

But, when I did my weekly weigh in on Saturday morning, those 3 pounds that took five weeks to lose had re-appeared.  I was SO frustrated.  How could so much work be completely undone in one week's time when I thought I was learning moderation.

And, here's where I went wrong.  I allowed this to anger me, frustrate me, and upset me so much that for the rest of the weekend I threw in the towel.  I let myself have whatever I wanted.  And, guess what.   It didn't make me feel better.  (Well, except the coffee - I really did savor that cup of coffee!)

I also broke down this weekend and went and bought a couple pairs of larger pants.  I'd been squeezing myself into my biggest pairs of jeans that I had and still was totally pinched and uncomfortable.  And, you know, that had been making  me even more irritable.

Last night as I was at a class at church, I was wearing one of my new (and very comfortable) pairs of pants.  I felt good...and able to focus on things other than the discomfort I'd be feeling if I was still wearing those tight pants.   And the thought occurred to me that I've been more or less punishing myself by forcing myself into too tight, uncomfortable pants.  I suppose I thought that if I didn't buy anything larger I wouldn't get any larger.  But, the fact is, I was only making myself miserable.

And, we were talking about God's love last night.  Can we really comprehend how much He loves us?  As I continued to think about my too-tight pants (I know.  Deep theological thoughts), I had to ask myself 'Does God want me to punish myself?  Does he want me walking around with self-loathing?'  Of course not!

He loves me no matter what my size.  Don't get me wrong.  I know He wants to do a work in my heart.  I know He wants to break off the chains of abusing food, of loving food more than Him.  But, He is a gentle Father.  And by me buying into the lies that I'm a failure or that I'm never going to get a grip on this area in my life, I'm giving the enemy ground in my life.

All this to say, this week I'm not posting any new goals.  I may try to refocus on the goals from the past weeks.  But, even more than that, I want to spend this week pressing in to God, remembering His love for me....seeking Him.


I'm fairly certain that more I focus on Him and His Goodness....the more I seek His Presence, the more the things of this world grow dim.  And, as He fills me with His Spirit, I will feel less desire to fill myself with other things.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Meal Planning

I'm usually a fly by the seat of my pants kind of person.  I typically don't use lists, charts, and home organization binders.  Don't get me wrong.  I love the IDEA of using these types of organizational tools.  But, usually, I'll get super excited, decide on a new plan I want to put in place, and once the excitement wears off it all just kind of fizzles out.  That has happened with chore charts for the kids, recipe binders, etc. etc.

I envy the people who have created systems for their homes and have made them work.  I want to be that person.

A few years ago when I was in MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), we had a session where we talked about meal planning.   The mom who shared her techniques makes up a monthly meal plan.  I loved the idea of not struggling to figure out what to cook for dinner at 5:00 that night.  So, I happily filled out the monthly meal chart she shared with us and I made that work...for one month.

Planning meals a month in advance was actually a bit too far ahead for me.  Being a fly by the seat of my pants kind of person (and family), we might not always know a month in advance what each evening has in store for us.  So, monthly meal charts didn't work for us.

Then, a couple years later I came up with the idea of having my children helping to plan weekly meals.  I wrote a little about that here.  That actually worked really well.  At that point, my youngest son was too young to participate.  But, the three older boys would take one week to plan the meals/ be helper chef.  And, we'd also rotate setting/ clearing the table duties, and cleaning the dishes duties.

I would help them plan the meals. (We need to have a vegetable with each meal...and something those vegetables need to be green). And, it worked really well for several months.  One of the things I'm conscious of as a mom of 4 boys is to raise young men who are capable of taking care of themselves.  I want them to know how to prepare meals and cleanup....among other household responsibilities.  I'm not saying I'm always successful at this.  But, I definitely think about it quite a bit and hopefully I'm preparing them for adult life.



I'm not sure how we got off track with our weekly meal plans, but somehow we did.  And, recently my boys actually asked if we could get back into the routine of having them help plan meals like we used to.  And, so we have.  I took the first week, but then each boy got a week of their own after that.  We've completely 5 weeks and are currently in our 6th week.  It's my week again.

It's been great!  We'll sit down one day over the weekend & whichever boy has the next week will plan out meals for Monday-Sunday.  Then, based on that meal plan I make up a grocery list of items that I need for the week.  It's so nice to simply turn to my calendar and see what's planned for each day.  No more agonizing over what to make at the last minute!

And, we've thrown in some newer dishes as well.  One of the meals I had planned was Chicken Piccata, Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Onions, and Roasted Asparagus.  That's not one I would have been able to just whip up at the last minute.  It was delicious!  And, while not all of our meals are that fancy shmancy....most are quite simple...I don't have to worry about whether or not I have the ingredients I need to make something.

Here's our menu for this week.  This was a mommy meal plan.  Monday & Tuesday are super simple because of meetings that my husband and I had those evenings.  And, Fridays are always Family Movie Night & we plan something 'fun'....tacos or homemade pizza or the like.

Monday:  Tomato Soup, Grilled Cheese
Tuesday:  Chicken Tortilla Soup
Wednesday:  Chicken Paprikash, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Roasted California Veggies
Thursday:  Slow Cooker Pork Roast, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, Autumn Chopped Salad
Friday:  Home-made Turkey burgers, Oven Fries
Saturday:  Spicy Orange Chicken Stirfry with Rice
Sunday:  Crockpot Meatloaf, Buttered Noodles, Peas

And, here's a sample of one of the boy's weekly menus.  This one was by Charlie who is 7.

Monday:  Ranch chicken tenders, Cheesy Broccoli, Oven Fries
Tuesday:  Tuna Noodle Casserole, Lima Beans
Wednesday:  Chicken Corn Noodle Soup, Homemade Bread
Thursday:  Ham, Corn, Mashed Potatoes
Friday:  Taco Night, Rice & Beans
Saturday:  Shrimp Scampi, Salad
Sunday:  Pulled Pork Sandwiches

My other goal, besides being more organized with our meal planning, was to hopefully reduce my grocery bill.  I thought that with having meals planned out and having a specific grocery list that I'd actually spend less.  Unfortunately that hasn't come to pass yet.  My boys are growing and they are ALWAYS hungry.

I try to buy a minimum amount of snack items and make cookies, desserts, etc. from scratch.  But, somehow at the end of every week, the cupboards are bare again.  For instance, this past grocery trip I bought 2 bunches of bananas.  They didn't even last 24 hours in our house.  And, we've been going through those boxes of  clementines like they're candy.  The boys will sometimes wolf down two boxes of those in a week's time.  And, don't even get me started on milk!  We seriously should consider buying a cow!


Monday, February 2, 2015

Downton Smackdown

Of course last night was the Superbowl.  We're not actually a sports watching family.  We don't normally watch football (or baseball, or basketball, or...anything really).  When people ask my children who their favorite team is they usually look at them with a blank expression unless they can recall the name of a team that they've heard their friends talk about.

But, the Superbowl is...you know...the Superbowl.  And, who doesn't love an excuse to cozy up with your family, bring out the celebratory soda & snacks and munch it up.  I mean the whole country is watching it.  It seems un-American not to watch.  And besides, how else could we possibly hold a Facebook discussion about the Superbowl ads & halftime show?

So, we watched the Superbowl.  But, I REALLY wanted to watch Downton Abbey.  I warned my boys that at 9:00 the tv was mine.  I did feel a little badly about making them miss the last hour of the game.  But, we're talking Downton Abbey here!  As much as friends assured me that they would have it recorded or that I could watch it the next day online, there's just something about watching when it airs on Sunday night.

I had promised the boys they could stay up until the end of the Superbowl.  So, the concession I made is that we'd switch over every so often just to see what the score was.  And, if the game was still going once Downton was over, they could watch the end.  As it turns out, they did get to catch the final few minutes of the game.

This means that the boys stayed in the living with me and watched Downton Abbey with me.  They've never seen it before, but they know I  am somewhat obsessed with it  love it ever so much.  The younger two fell asleep just a few minutes into it.  But, the older two watched with slightly confused, skeptical expressions on their face.  "What is this even about?" they asked.  "All they're doing is talking!"  Yes. Yes.  I know.  Now Shhh so I can hear.

So since I  offer my Downton thoughts in no particular chronological order I guess we'll start with the obvious - the Downton Smackdown.  Simon Bricker, the art afficianado, apparently thought he'd take his flirtation with Cora and bump it into high gear.  Taking advantage of the fact that Lord Grantham was supposed to be away for the evening he left his robed self into Cora's room.



Cora seemed appropriately shocked and told him he needed to leave.  But, he was insistent, convinced that this was what she wanted as well.  Her continued requests that he leave seemed a bit weak.  I wanted her to shout at him to get out of her room NOW before she screams.  But, in Downton Abbey people neither shout nor scream I suppose.

Of course, in the meantime...surprise, surprise....Lord Grantham arrives home early.  And as we see him walking toward his room, I was actually hoping that Bricker would make a move on Cora, for her to fight him, and to have Lord Grantham walk in on THAT instead of what actually happened....walking in on the two of them standing there facing each other in their robes.  UGH.  I really wanted him to have a chance to be a hero defending his wife's honor.



Instead, he assumed that Bricker was there at Cora's request and made a pithy comment about being home early. "Sorry to disappoint you.".  The thing that actually spurred him into action was when Bricker offended him further by suggesting that he didn't pay nearly enough attention to Cora and that he shouldn't have been surprised by something like this happening.

Annnnddd, let the smackdown commence!  I actually cheered when Grantham backhanded Bricker.  My husband came into the room to see what was happening.  It's not often that Downton Abbey elicits a vocal response.   There was the continued tussel with Lord Grantham mussing up his uniform when Edith knocked at the door.  Oh Cora.  Cora.  Ever the cool-headed one.  She cracks open the door to assure Edith that everything is fine....that mommy & daddy (my phrase) were just playing a silly game and knocked over a lamp.

Uh huh.  And, if you believe that dear Edith...well, one never questions things in Downton now do we?  And, when Bricker was dismissed to return to his own room leaving Lord Grantham to glare at Cora alone, Cora says this,  winning her the award for the understatement of the night, "Golly.  What a night".  I was so upset that Grantham decided to sleep in his dressing room and they didn't discuss the events any further.  This would have been the perfect opportunity for the two of them to really talk things out and strengthen their marriage.

Was there anything else that happened last night?  Oh yes.  Well, poor Edith, in addition to being shooed away from the drama taking place in her parent's room was once again shooed away by the Drewe's...even to the point of them threatening to leave the farm taking Marigold with them if she didn't stop popping in.  She brought Aunt Rosamund to meet Marigold in an awkward scene.

This is such a hard situation for me to watch.  On the one hand, I feel so sorry for her adoptive family.  Of course Mr. Drewe hasn't shared with his wife that Lady Edith is actually the mother of their adoptive daughter.  Part of me feels like if she knew this perhaps she'd be more sympathetic toward Edith....although, in reality, it would probably just make her all the more protective of Marigold.  And, they've raised her from infancy.  Marigold is their daughter and they're all she's ever known as parents.  But, oh, how my heart aches for Edith.  She wants to be with her daughter.


And, it seems that she is going to take matters into her own hands in some way.  At the end of the show she made that mysterious phone call from the privacy of the servant's hall.  With Aunt Rosamund and her grandmother trying to convince her to send the child to a school in France, Edith's desperation level is at an all-time high.  But, what will she do?

Barrow looks sick, sick, sick.  And, his 'treatments' haven't been doing any wonders for his already oh-so-sunny disposition.  I just keep wanting him to be nice.  I want him to connect with someone in the house who helps him feel the love and acceptance he so desperately needs.  Now that his only friend, Jimmy, is gone we see Baxter attempting to show him kindness.  But, Thomas is like a wounded animal backed into a corner & he only lashes out at her.

Bunting is gone!!!!  I think we were supposed to feel sorry for her?  Sorry for Tom?  I'm not sure.  And she loved him?  Well, let's back up a little.  There was a lot of standing in the rain for Sarah Bunting and Tom.  The first time being when he was returning her to the village and they had a discussion about his relationship with the family.  'Why do you despise them so much?" he asks.  "Don't you?"  she wonders.  Hello!  Miss Bunting, do you know Tom AT ALL???  Tom looks appropriately taken aback and reminds her that his wife was one of them and that his child IS one of them.  Tom says that he thinks it's best if the two of them don't see each other anymore before someone gets hurt (like Bunting in a smackdown from Lord Grantham....ok, not likely.)

So, like many things in Downton, it's not entirely clear if Bunting had planned to leave anyway or if Tom's brushoff was the impetus to leave.  So, in yet another scene in the rain, Tom quickly rushes to catch up with her when he learns she's leaving that day.  In this exchange Bunting says that she loved Tom and she could have loved him more if he would have let her.  Tom thanks her for reminding him of who he is and gave her a send off kiss.


Good bye Bunting!  If you come back, mellow out a little would you?


A couple other quick thoughts....

 - I'm kind of over the 'Who killed Green' mystery?  Can the Anna and Bates story just move on already?

 - Mary, Charles Blake, and Mabel Lane Fox - What was the point of that little surprise dinner get together Mr. Blake?

 - Rose has a new potential love interest.  Her Russian refugee friends aren't particularly fond of him though when they learn his family were Jews from Odessa who were run out by their own regimes.  I had been feeling sorry for the poor fallen Russian aristocracy until we see that their circumstances didn't humble them very much and their bigotry is still alive and well.

- Daisy has become Miss Bunting's mini-me?  She certainly has gotten some pretty strong opinions over the last few episodes.  It will be interesting to see what else develops for Daisy.

What struck you about last night's episode?


Weekly Check-in, New Habits

Well, I can't say I was totally successful this week.  My goal for the week was to incorporate healthy, Daniel Fast-type lunches.  I ended up pretty much eating regular lunches.  Part of the reason for this is that we had so many leftovers this week, it seemed wasteful not to eat what was already in the refrigerator and make myself something else instead.

In addition, I made myself some allowances for both Girl's Night Dinner on Saturday night and Superbowl Sunday.  Some friends and I try to get together about once a month for dinner.  We meet at one of our houses, we pick a theme for the evening, and we each bring a dish.  So, this time our theme was Moroccan food.  My friend Sarah made a Moroccan cocktail & I tried one of them.  And my friend Jamie made an orange Moroccan cake and I tried a piece of that.  And, Superbowl Sunday?  Well, I figured I'd just relax and enjoy myself, but I actually came away from eating so much junk feeling quite icky & head-achey.


The lovely table that Paige set

Our girl's night crew

And here's a shot with our hostess, second from left

When I did my weigh in on Saturday I saw that I was only down a few more ounces from my last weigh in....bringing my total weight loss since beginning my healthier habits campaign a month ago to a mere 3 pounds.  At first I was really discouraged by this.  But, then I thought about it a bit more.  And, you know, the most major changes that I've made so far are eliminating caffeine, alcohol, sugary treats, and night-time snacking.  I haven't altered much else in my diet at this point.  And, if I am still losing weight (albeit slowly) making these relatively small changes, then I'm still on track.  And it makes this all seem more do-able.

So to recap:
Week One:  Eliminate caffeine and adult beverages
Week Two:  Eliminate sugar
Week Three:  Eliminate night-time snacking
Week Four:  Eat a healthy, Daniel Fast-type lunch

And, this week:
Week Five:  Add three days of 30 minute exercise   Goal:  Get moving!

I really dreaded adding this one in.  I'm not a huge exercise fan.  At all.  When I first was thinking about what I wanted my weekly goals to be, I knew I'd eventually be incorporating some kind of exercise.  And, initially I was all gung-ho about making it serious.  I thought I should totally make it 5 days.

But, the point of this whole journey is to take things in small increments.  I'm still working on each of my goals from Weeks One - Four.  And, it's ok to go slow.  I want this to be sustainable. I want it to be a new way of living.  So, we'll shoot for three days of exercise (which will be difficult enough) and aim a little higher later.





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