Count Your Blessings… Literally!

count your blessingsYesterday I spent the afternoon saying goodbye to a very special man.  He spent 91 years on earth before graduating from this life.  The church was packed with young and old.  His quiver was full.  In the first few rows sat his wife of 64 years, his four children with their spouses, 13 grand children with their spouses and 7 great grandchildren.

It was a day to celebrate his life.  A day to remember all the ways he touched so many.  A day to say goodbye and shed some tears while at the same time laughing at the stories told.  A day that was special and touching and I was left with some treasures to add to my life… even after he’d gone.

Three of his grandchildren spoke beautifully on his behalf.  The first shared a profound message that he had imparted to her in the recent weeks before his passing.

Bill had been experiencing severe back pain which made it difficult to sleep or play golf.  One evening lying in bed, the pain had become almost unbearable.  He decided to put into practice what he had encouraged his family to do for many years… count his blessings.

Bill laid in his bed and began to count his blessings and think deeply about each one of them.  He started with his beautiful wife and thought about all of the glorious moments they had together.  That was one.  The pain seemed to diminish a bit, but was still there.  He continued to remember (and count!) each of his four children… then moving on to each of his grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Gradually as he remembered and counted, his pain continued to lessen.  When he had counted 68 blessings (yes, he counted and kept track of each one of them) his pain was completely gone.  He was able to sleep.  The wisdom that he shared with his family over the years really does work.  For Bill, it took 68 blessings to take away back pain!

Shortly after that he was diagnosed with bone cancer… the cause of the extreme pain.  God knew the excruciating battle that this husband, father and grandfather would fight, and graciously chose to take him home shortly there after.  What he left behind is a legacy that goes deep and has forever changed the lives of his family and those of us that have had the privilege of being a part of that.

Life throws us curve balls.  Our best laid plans don’t come to fruition.  We are told to be thankful amidst the difficulties… praise Him in the storm.  That is just what Bill did.  Lying in his quiet bed one evening near the end of his life, he counted his blessings – one after the other.  That simple act allowed him to focus on what was most important… not the pain that seemed daunting and overwhelming.  God pulled him above his suffering and allowed him to experience the joy of being thankful… and the power of counting his blessings.

 

 

Heavenly Royalty…

Saturday morning.  It’s early and my emotions are high.  I’m not really sure why.  I’m at the end of my 28 day commitment to better health.   Now I have to decide if I am worth continuing or will I go back to my old ways.  Yes, you read that correctly – “if I am worth continuing.”

For whatever reason and circumstances of my life, I’ve grown up to be one that thinks of you long before I think of me.  In that way of thinking I’ve missed the piece about me being so worth it that I should take care of myself.  No matter what I’ve done over the years, after a time, I sabotage my efforts.  Something in me just gives up and that’s that.

For the past year and a half I’ve been making more efforts to battle that and change.  It’s not easy when it’s been your MO for 50+ years.  I’m learning that I am worth it and I do deserve to be healthy and happy.

I began my morning worrying about all of the “stuff” that I need to be doing.  It was one of those early morning awakenings that came long before the sun was up.  I relented, got up and took care of one of them.  Whew!  One down… 500 more to go!  It’s a start!

Upon completion of my pre-dawn task, I sat down with a cup of coffee and my iPad.  My devotional is around Lent.  As soon as I began reading I was deeply moved.  It was comparing the Queen of England to Jesus.  She has had 62 years of pomp and circumstance.  Jesus did not have that.  He rode on a donkey with a soldiers cloak thrown over him and his crown… his crown was thorns.  The blood that ran down his face was that of a man… and of God.

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”  (Luke 19:38)

His parade route ended at the Mount of Olives.  There was not a huge celebration with cameras and cheery on-lookers.  This is where He ascended into heaven.  His humility was replaced with glory.  Ten thousand times ten thousand angels were now at His side.  His Spirit filled the universe.  He was (and is) the ruler of all things.

Because of his death and resurrection, we became royalty.  I am royalty… heavenly royalty.

So, as I wept this morning over all of the things I have not accomplished… the things I continue to struggle with… the dreams that were left to die… the piece of my self-worth that I somehow missed… I was encouraged.  I am royalty… His royalty.  I AM worth it.  His death on the cross… those horrific six hours one Friday… they were for ME… and YOU…

Now as I venture into my day, I have a little more courage to face the battles that are ahead.  I know that there will be struggles and celebrations.  I know that I will doubt my worth again.  Temptations will knock.  Tears will fall.  I need to keep my eyes on what is important and His love and strength will continue to find me…flowing down from His thrown of grace.

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies!  The whole earth is filled with his glory!
(Isaiah 6:3  NLT)

cross

It’s Not a Sprint…

As I continue down this path to better health, I’m learning more and more about myself each day.  Today I ventured out on another walk by myself.  I’m rather enjoying these solo treks as they give me time to breathe, process, let go, pray and just BE.  I decided to head to the high school and walk the track on this sunny day, knowing the entire track would be in the bright sunshine!  I have a routine. First I begin in lane one and each time I loop around I switch to another lane working my way to lane 8.  Walking alone gives me “think time.”

Today I had a huge revelation about myself and why I chose to go to the track and not walk the neighborhoods.  The track is predictable.  I know where I am, where I’m going and how to get home.  When I walk the neighborhoods, I am not always sure where I am.  I get caught up in looking at yards and houses, allowing my mind to get distracted by those things.  On the track, I don’t have to think about where I am or where I’m going.  Being that this whole exercise thing is something I’m learning to like, it felt good to have a little control of the situation.  I like things to be planned out and predictable.  I wish I were more spontaneous and daring.  I love the comfort of the track.

Today there were three high school girls there with a track coach.  They were warming up and then moved to the other side of the track and were working on starts for their sprints.  They were coming out of those starting blocks very quickly.  I tried to steer clear of their work while still keeping to my 1-8 lane progression!  As I watched them come up out of those blocks quickly, I realized something else about my journey.  This journey is not a sprint.  I can’t think that I can do everything fast and furious to get quick results.  I did not get fat overnight and I won’t change overnight.

Today is Day 15 and I was very discouraged over the weekend.  I don’t look different at all.  I feel better, but nothing has changed as far as my body.  Another mindset that I need to let go of.  Just because I have done good things for a few weeks does not mean I’m good to go and a changed woman!  Past failures can be linked to this very mindset flaw.  I’m in this for the long haul, not for a short sprint.  I am changing old habits and old belief systems.  First and foremost, my goal is better health so I can live my remaining days on this earth active and able to fulfill God’s calling on my life.  I want to feel good each day as I get out of bed and have energy to attack the day!  I want to be fit for the day when we have grandchildren!  It is not going to happen overnight.  It’s a daily decision I make to love myself enough to make good choices and afford myself the time to take care of ME.

My initial goal was February.  I can do anything for 28 days.  After that I was not sure what I would do, because deep down I thought that in those 28 days my life would be transformed and I would be “normal.”   I’m still looking to the end of February to celebrate the initial goal I set, but I know that I like this and want to continue into the rest of my days!  I’ve now set another goal for my 52nd birthday and I honestly think I can get there!  Funny thing about it is that it’s going to take time and energy and work… all things that I have to do.  No one can do them for me.  I have to love myself enough to make it work!  My biggest supporter, God, has assured me that He will never let go of me or my dream.  Together… we’ve got this!

So, today I celebrate 14 days of healthy eating and close to 20 miles of walking!  It feels great!  I’m encouraged!  I hope you are encouraged if you need that today.  If I can do this… so can you!  If you are doubting that you can make changes in an area of your life, invite God to join you and love yourself enough to try it today!  One foot in front of the other!  

IMG_8412-2

IMG_8413

To Share or Not to Share…

As I approach my 52nd birthday, I’ve come to the conclusion that good health is not going to happen on it’s own.  If I want to be healthier, thinner, in better shape… I must work at it!  I’ve struggled with my weight since the womb!  I was born fat!  With this gift has come 51 years of bad habits, disappointments, old tapes that play over and over and a very fragile self-esteem.

Upon turning 50, I began to be a bit more assertive and confident.  Having spent my entire life being a people-pleaser and peace maker, I decided it was high time I took care of ME!  I’ve slowly begun to care more about what is best for me and not just what is best for others.

Also upon turning 50, my body began to show more signs of aging than ever before!  It’s true what they say… everything goes downhill… literally!  Things that I could always do, even being overweight, were getting more difficult.  This bummed me out and worried me.  If I feel this way at 50 then what will I feel like at 60?  70?

Over the past 4 years or so I’ve been taking wellness steps.  They have been life-changing.  I’m healthier than I’ve ever been… except for the weight.  The weight that has been mine and only mine for 51 years.  It’s a heavy burden to bear… literally!

February 2, I began walking down a new path.  A clean-eating path that does not include sugar, processed foods or gluten.  The gluten part is an experiment to see how I feel.  Today marks 12 days of freedom from these things!  I’ve also committed to some sort of movement each day.  If you know me at all, you know that I’ve never met an exercise that I like!  It’s not my go-to!  In my mind I long to be a sleek runner out enjoying the fresh air.  My reality – too much weight on my old bones and it’s just not pretty!

For the past 2+ weeks, I’ve found a new love for walking outside.  I have walking tapes… they bore me to death!  We have had spring-like weather and I’m starting to take advantage of it!  It feels good!

I’m learning so much about myself as I work to care for me on a more intentional level.  I’ve got some very old tapes to destroy and some habits to break… one day at a time.  One thing I’m learning is that I have to make my journey public.  Without accountability I will never succeed.

My struggle is that it feels very self-serving to tell others about the successes that I’ve had.  I’m more inclined to tell you when I’ve failed than succeeded.  That is a mindset that I must change.  I need the encouragement of others and I want to be that encourager to others as well!  Why does it feel bad to share the positive?  If feels like bragging and I learned as a kid that bragging was not a good virtue.

So, when I post on FB a success I’ve had, I’m not bragging… I’m celebrating!  And yes, I love the “way to go’s” and “good job’s”!  I love the encouragement… we all do!  We all need to surround ourselves with a community that lifts us up and helps us along the way… even when we slip and fall.

This morning as I walked, I was smiling the entire way!  I was outside moving!  I was breathing and moving and doing something good for ME!  All by myself!  If you know me, you know that I don’t really like to do things alone.  Today, I put on my big girls and my new bright blue shoes and hit the road!  I was accompanied by the Decemberists and walked a Personal Best!

FullSizeRender-5

I’m so thankful to not be on this journey alone.  I have a wonderful support network and I’m learning that it’s okay to let the world know!  I have a new love for ME that I have never really had.  And that love is fueled by my amazing God in heaven!  He created me. I am fearfully and wonderfully made!  I am not defined by my job, my husband, my scale or anything or anyone else.  I am a daughter of the King and He is the reason I got out of bed this morning!

So, here’s to 50 more years of healthy living… for it’s never too late to make a change!

Where I’m From…

I’ve joined a month long writing group and our first assignment was to get in touch with where we came from. We were tasked with writing a poem…not my strong area! The format came from a poem written by George Ella Lyons. So, today I become a bit more vulnerable in my writing and share with you a snippet of Where I’m From…

Where I’m From…

I am from “Kevin, Mary, Kathy, Mike, Megan, Jeff, Jenny, Matt”
and a kitchen table made from a door!
From children that were to be seen and not heard and ironing hankies.
From the big house on the corner with lots of gardens to weed.

I am from the front pew of church full of legs trying not to swing
and the white baptismal dress passed down.
From real butter and link sausage on Christmas and Easter.
From a teacher, a newspaper man, and seven of eight.

I am from pine needle houses and imaginary horses.
From half cheese glasses of juice, cookie cans above the stove
and hot dogs roasted over the fire.
From Herb Alpert and Firestone Christmas albums.

I am from people who loved me even if they struggled to show it.
From Sunday night pot roast and Wonderful World of Disney.
From beach fires, skinny dipping, inner tubes, bee stings and
the deep blue waters of Bead Lake.

I am from hard times and amazing times.
From a family torn apart…
But a childhood lived well.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/43e/30943660/files/2015/01/img_3182.jpg

365 Days of Our Story…

It’s really just another day on the calendar.  12:01 AM and the new day begins.  364 days out of the year I’m sleeping when this transition takes place… completely unaware.  But there is that one time each calendar year I’m actually awake when that clock strikes midnight.  There’s fanfare and noise and kissing.  It seems to be magical.  Poof!  It’s not just a new day… it’s a new year!  Out with the old and in with the new.  Fresh start.  New beginnings.  Resolutions made to NOT make resolutions (oh that’s another blog for another day!).

I woke early this morning.  Oh, how I’d like to say it’s because I was so excited for the new year and all it has to offer.  Nope.  I woke because the heat came on, my bladder was screaming and my worry button turned on… right on schedule.  I was determined to stay in bed and sleep.  But alas, my brain won out and I had to get up.

           Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book.  Write a good one.

These words are going around FB.  I posted the picture.  It’s kind of exciting!  There is that fresh start we all long for.  Of course I want to write a good one.  Who doesn’t?  I wanted that for 2014.  That story was full of heartache and struggle, while at the same time covered with grace.  Was it the story that I wanted to write?  Nope.  Do we ever get the story we hope for?  As a writer of sorts, the only way to get that story written exactly as I want is to write fiction… create what I want to happen.

Our life story is not fiction.  It’s true mystery, suspense, comedy and a love story.  Each of these genres weave in and out of our daily comings and goings.

My story for 2015 is not yet written.  It’s just beginning.  As I lay awake in the early hours this morning, I felt a heaviness and fear creep over me.  Suddenly, the hugeness of the next 365 days overwhelmed me.  Who?  What?  When?  Where?  Why?  How?  What if?  The idea of the vastness of what could happen seemed to press down on my spirit.

My life is full of messiness and clutter and unmet expectations.  I imagine that many of us might just feel the same way if we let ourselves truly be honest.  My life is also full of love and blessings and joy, but I let the heartache of 2014 overshadow those.

As I day in bed on this first day of the next 365 days, I began to pray… for that is the only thing that quelled the fear that was grabbing my heart and mind. I can’t look ahead on the calendar… I can only look at today… right now, for anxiety is born when we look at what has not yet happened.

                              “I can’t do it all, all the time,
                                              All I can do is
                                         Just. The. Next. Thing.
                                         Right now, at this time.  
                                               - Ann Voskamp

So my prayer for today and everyday of the next 365 is this…

Lord Jesus, thank you for the opportunity to write the story you have blessed me with.  God, I know my story will be full of mystery, intrigue, love, heartache, loss… for you never promised that fairy tale I have always longed for.  I pray that I will stay on the my path that you have placed me on… even if it seems difficult and doesn’t look like that of others.   Help me to see the surprises and joys and grace that you will place in front of me.  Give me just what I need at just the moment I need it… and let that be enough.  I pray this also for those you’ve put in my life – whether they be near or far.  May You be revealed to each of us in a deeper and greater way this year… and may we keep our eyes and heart wide open each day to see all that you have for us.  Let it be done… let it be so… in Jesus’ name.

  IMG_4860

IMG_9925

IMG_9927

Mary Did You Know…

IMG_9848
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.
  IMG_9837
IMG_9836
IMG_9838
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, the Great I Am.
(Lyrics and music written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene)