Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What does humble mean?  What is humility?  What does it mean to walk humbly?  I’ve been pondering that today.  I knew we had a message coming in church by that name (it’s not up yet, but it will be findable here when it gets posted, and then while I was getting ready this morning, I flipped on my usual Sunday morning podcast from Woodland Hills, and the message was also:  humility!

Since I didn’t PLAN that theme, I stopped to listen and ponder.  I generally don’t see such things as coincidences, but more as God whispering to me.

What I know is that I am rarely humble on my interior, even when I’m creating an appearance of such.  I generally tend to think I’m the smartest, most spiritual person in the room, even though the wiser part of me knows that is unlikely to be the case.  I measure and judge others more than I ever would want to admit.  All in all, it’s pretty gross and embarrassing.

In other words:  a person like me NEEDS some strong instruction on humility.  So I’ve been listening hard today, reaching for that.

I was surprised, then, at the image I got when I was praying about it.  What I saw was someone looking in a mirror, and thinking that humility means they must see all the monstrous, unlovely, ugly things there.  What I caught was the reality:  that in Jesus Christ, we are not monsters, but princes and princesses.

Not like Disney royalty, with all that handsomeness/beauty and the fancy regalia, but REAL princes and princesses.

Here’s the thing about being in an actual royal family:  you didn’t EARN your way there.  You don’t bear the title because you were the most worthy person.  It’s not assigned for extreme excellence or surpassing talent.  You can’t even buy the position.

You are a prince or a princess because someone long ago made a decision that had nothing to do you, really, that appointed the people in your bloodline.

You are a prince or princess if you’re very well-behaved, but also if you’re a rotten brat or just mean through and through.  You are a prince or princess whether you’re charming and witty or awkward and antisocial.  You are a prince or princess whether you have flowing locks or rippling muscles or a horse face and bad teeth.  You are because you are, end of story.

This past year, my husband and I went through a couple of different Netflix binges of shows about the royal family in England.  I already knew that being “a royal” comes with a lot of assignments and rules, but those series clarified and magnified how much so.

It would be easy to go negative here, and for sure I personally think that family are prisoners in a guilded and very public cage, but let’s skip that and go with the GOOD part of the analogy.

A prince or princess is called to be the best that he or she can be, and is called to live in a way that points others to the same.  So are we, who live in Christ.

A prince or princess is equipped with everything he or she needs to do the work that is expected.  So are we, who live in Christ.

A prince or princess is called to be dignified and to be ambassadors of dignity for all.  Ditto for Christ-followers.

A prince or princess didn’t get their title by merit.  Neither did we, who live in Christ.

A prince or princess has the power to change the world.  So do we, who live in Christ.

Scripture (somewhere in the book of Romans) calls us “joint heirs with Christ,” and if a kid of the King isn’t a prince or princess, then I’ll need a new definition right away, please.

So:  we can look in the mirror and meditate on our shortcomings, our ugliness, our smallness, our unworthiness.  But in Christ, those things aren’t the main story of who we are.

Humility requires that we willingly wear the crown we’ve been given…and then that we use everything God has given us to help us live up to the high calling into which we were born in Christ Jesus.

You’re not a monster.  Have the humility to walk in who He decided you really are.

 

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I went for a walk today after work.  Oh, there wasn’t time for it.  Already backed-up and buried in work, I had taken yesterday off to enjoy a long-overdue visit from my son and his wife.  There are some things you just don’t wait until there’s “time available” for them, and yesterday was one of those, which reminded me to stop and measure similarly today.  I had put my shoulder to the plow when I got to work this morning and pushed as hard and fast as I could all day, and left tonight knowing:  I got a lot done, and I am still nowhere near “not drowning” when it comes to that stuff.

On the drive home I was listing what needs to get done tonight, and easily assessed that it won’t get finished, though it’s all on a pretty tight timeline.  Still, I made the decision:  a walk was in order.

My brain needed the break – just some time out walking, with nothing electronic feeding my eyes or my ears.  I’ve read enough books on the subject to know that neglecting that kind of down time is a major creativity killer.

My body needed the break – the thought of moving from my office chair at work to my office chair at home with just the little break of the car seat in between…it was too much.  Long sections of chair time actually steal our lives away…YEARS cut off the ends of our lives, and I’ve known this long enough to have zero excuse for how rarely I interrupt my workflow to help my body live longer.

There was vitamin D to be had, perhaps, even with the clouds overhead.  Fresh air to wash through and exchange the stale, indoor air upon which I’ve been living.  A reset for the day, which was bound to help me work more efficiently.

An appropriate investment, in other words.

I changed quickly, racing the sunset (YAY time change!) and hustled out the door, tying my hood as I headed down the block.  Raindrops sprinkled my glasses, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care.  I just walked faster.

You gotta be smart, walking when the rain might get worse in cold weather.  I wound through my neighborhood, never far from home.  While I cut down an alley a woman yelled to me from her open garage door, where she stood just in out of the rain.  “Did you know it was going to rain when you started walking?”

I laughed.  “Yeah.  I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I gotta get outside.  If spring won’t come nicely, I’ll walk in what we got.”  She commiserated with a nod.  “I can’t wait to watch your yard wake up,” I smiled.  “It makes my day.”

Her face lit up.  “And now you made mine!”

“That’s fair play.”  I kept walking, pushing into the quiet of the afternoon, grateful just to be out of the chair.  Remembering springs past and this very feeling, so many times.  The moment of, “I can’t take it anymore.”  Going out to ride my horses in the muddy, gray, cold, nasty overcast spring as a kid – if sunshine wouldn’t come, I’d just have to fake it.  Slipping out to walk through the timber – sure it was wet and the trail was slippery, but…it was OUTDOORS.  This is just another of those years.  We’re just going to have to insist our way into spring.

Was it worth it?  Heck yeah.  I didn’t get very wet.  And my creative impulse popped right up from that 40 minutes of interruption, sending me to my keyboard to write.  There wasn’t time for this either, but if I let the creativity do its thing…the next things will flow more easily.

Don’t forget to make room, while we’re wrestling our way beyond winter.  Your body needs it.  Your mind needs it.  Your spirit needs it.

You deserve it.

feels miraculous to me

Posted: February 17, 2019 in Uncategorized

This past Friday morning in the shower, I found myself in pain as the shower hit my belly.  I turned and turned and no, the water wasn’t too hot for the rest of my body.  There was just something going on with my belly.  What the heck?

Stepping out and putting my glasses on, I discovered: big yellow blisters.  You could’ve knocked me over with a feather.  I looked down at them, I checked them in the mirror over and over, and the information didn’t change – some kind of funky rash, with big yellow blisters.

I spent the rest of my getting-ready-for-work time having an internal argument.  I put coconut oil on them (coconut oil is my answer to all things skin related), but was that enough?  I mean, WHO GETS BLISTERS ON THEIR BELLY FOR NO REASON?  Maybe some ladies’ bellies get exposed to things, but not mine.  My clothes, my sheets, my husband –  those are the things that touch the belly, and nothing had changed about any of those.  What the heck?

I called my doctor’s office, only to learn that my doctor doesn’t work on Fridays, ever – the nurse asked me if the rash/blisters were “only on one side” of me, which seemed like a really odd question…but the answer was yes.  “Does it hurt?”  Well…yes.  She thought it sounded like shingles, maybe, and advised me to go to an immediate care facility.

Shingles.  I’ve read about those.  People over 50 are more at risk for them.  I’ve known folks who got ’em and the reports were grim – so painful!  I can remember reading about them when I was around 30 and hoping fervently that I never would have to experience them.

I finished setting my boss’s day up for him and then headed over to the immediate care center, where I was seen…really, almost immediately.

Unfortunately, it was a really frustrating visit.  The young doctor thought it sounded like shingles…but then when he looked, he was confused.  He went and got another young doc, and they peered doubtfully at it before leaving to consult out of my earshot.

Their diagnosis:  we don’t know.  They didn’t think it was shingles, but they didn’t know what it was.  They advised that I should go see a dermatologist.  Meanwhile, they were supposing it was a reaction to something, so he was calling in a 3-day prescription for prednisone.

You don’t have to know me very well to know that I HATE PREDNISONE.  I’ve already taken more of it in my life than a person should, and I hate what it does to me.  I told the doctor this.  He nodded sympathetically and sent me on my way.

I’m a slow processor and way too compliant for my own good, so I put my coat on and headed back to work.

On the drive back, I processed.  And I got really mad.

They might not know what it was, but I KNEW it wasn’t a reaction.

I had not introduced any new foods or drinks recently.

No new detergent.

No new lotion or bath product.

Nothing even remotely new or different.

So my lucky boss got to listen to me yell and rant when I got back to the office, about how I was NOT taking prednisone based on a “we don’t know” diagnosis, and how I wanted my $25 copay pack.

And neither my boss nor I were convinced with the “it’s not shingles” diagnosis.

I tried to call my dermatologist, only to learn that she also does not work on Fridays (are Fridays off a new thing in the medical field?!)

And then:  I consulted someone who would know.  A nurse who has worked with the senior population for decades – someone who has seen more shingles than those kids in the immediate care could have.

I lifted my shirt and her jaw dropped.  “WHO told you this was not shingles?!” she demanded.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

There are more details, but that part of the story’s already too long…so let’s just say I found a more helpful doctor, who prescribed a medicine so strong that I got a really pointed consultation with the pharmacist when I picked it up an hour later.

And then I followed the directions I’d been given:  go home and rest.  Stress will exacerbate the problem.  Drink a lot of water, make sure you take food with the meds, and rest all weekend.  My nurse friend previewed for me what the coming days might look like, which could include being unable to have any clothing touch the rash.  So I spent a little more time at work before I left, gathering up stuff I could do from home, in case I might spend part of the next week stuck in the naked zone.  I really didn’t want to burn PTO for this thing if I didn’t have to.

I had my first dose of medication within 6 hours of discovering the blisters, and I’m here to tell you, I’ve been a dedicated patient.  I took the example of my amazing husband and how fully he followed doctor’s orders recently after a pretty drastic mosh-pit accident that opened a giant crack in his head.  I decided my job was to do as I was told…completely.

I slept SO MUCH this weekend, and when I wasn’t sleeping, I was either resting or drinking water.  I took my meds exactly on time, ever time.  I worked on being positive and not whining.

Friday night, it looked pretty scary to me.  The blistered area on my belly tripled in size.  And:  a tiny set of blisters opened up on my forehead.  I had read about needing to take extra care, if the shingles got on my face…as it could go to my eyes and even cause blindness.  I’m not gonna pretend for one moment that I was fearless.  I’ve been enough rounds with poison ivy to have a healthy fear of the next horrible rash.  I was itching absolutely everywhere, with no idea how much of that was psycho-somatic and how much was real…so I just focused on not scratching.

Nothing to do but lean into God and follow instructions.  So that’s what I did.

And then:  the miracle started.

Saturday morning, the rash around the blisters had lost a lot of its redness, and the blisters had started to shrink.  More importantly, the ones on my forehead were shrinking too.

I’ve just pressed into following orders all weekend, and slowly, slowly, it’s been getting better.  I’ve still got one big blister on my belly, but it’s been losing power all day, and at this point I expect to be able to go back to work tomorrow.

What was the key?  The rapid intervention?  The ultra-strong medicine?  The rest, hydration, and lack of stress?  The myriad of very healthy things I’ve been doing in the weeks and months before it hit, that probably built up my immune system?

A supernatural intervention from God?

Maybe all of it.  I don’t know.  I just know I stuck to the concept of ORDER (my word for the year) and followed instructions as hard as I could…once I’d first done the work of advocating for myself when I felt sure I’d been sold a bill of goods by the immediate care docs.

So…whether God healed it by a miraculous touch, or whether He chose to let this episode be an instruction to me about the value of doing the right things I know to do…I’ll take it. And I’ve been thanking God lavishly for it.

Feels miraculous to me.

applying order to body stuff

Posted: January 21, 2019 in Uncategorized

Amidst my annual physical last week, my doctor (who’s only been my doctor for about a  year) asked about the surgical scar running from my belly button down.  My answer was vague, not because I was trying to be difficult but because that scar is over 30 years old, and all I can remember about it is I landed in the emergency room  in acute pain a few weeks after my daughter was born, and a surgery happened, and afterward the doctor (who was not “my” doctor – mine was out of town) said something about infection and then chastised me pretty harshly for having taken so many antibiotics in the 18 years before that – I had brought this on myself, was the message.  I’d been intimidated by him and embarrassed by this apparent transgression of mine, and I hadn’t asked questions.

I noted that asking doctors questions wasn’t really so much a thing back then, and she agreed.

Why the antibiotics, she wanted to know.  Oh, I had constant ear infections – tubes 3 times, even – and bladder infections.  So the doctor prescribed and I took them – that was what good patients did, as far as I knew.  Why all the infections, she wanted to know.  And once again I marveled at how today’s doctors are so interested in the why questions.

If anybody was ever interested in why I had ear infections and bladder infections, I am not aware of it.  I don’t recall anyone wondering why my daughter had the same struggles as a small child.  I wonder if anyone is interested in why my granddaughter patterns the same.

I’ve been anemic all my life, but it wasn’t until the last couple of years that medical professionals have asked me (and even my parents) why that was.  We don’t know (actually I have some theories now, but no physician helped me get there, so my theories are unproven).  The idea that a doctor would be interested in the why question is a new thing to me – a GOOD thing.  I think of how my past doctors have just rolled with it, not asking why, and I feel a little less exasperated with myself for having grown up into a person who tends to default to the same.  Why am I like that?  (Shrug.)  I just am, I guess.  That’s been my working approach for, like, always.

Today I’m glad to have outgrown that default of asking no questions.  My doctor nodded approvingly when she learned I’d discontinued my Omeprazole for the gastric reflux problem, having determined that the “acid reset” she’d prescribed for me with that medication and a very strict diet had worked.  We’ll see what my gastroenterologist thinks about that, but my regular doctor…she loves it.  “Any time we can solve a problem with lifestyle changes instead of medication, that’s a win,” she smiled.  YES to this.

These days I’m pretty happy about that dreadful diet.  Not only has it enabled me to get off the medication, but also it (and the intermittent fasting, I think) seems to have started my body healing.  I’ve tried a few very small, very careful dips into eating healthy foods from the forbidden list lately, with no ill effects.  This is a far cry from my first attempt at Thanksgiving, when I ate like 8 bites of pie and paid for it with 3 days of “this feels like a heart attack.”  I’ve met people along the way who got over gastric reflux, and so I’ve been hopeful that this isn’t a life sentence.  This early evidence seems to indicate I might get paroled from the GERD diet prison, if I proceed wisely.  MAN that makes me happy.

Today I happened across a podcast that told me one of my other strategies might have helped – apparently my habit of kind of living on homemade soup with a bone broth base is also an exceedingly kind and good thing to do for a stomach that’s struggling to heal.  I mean, I KNEW bone broth was basically almost medicine, but I learned about how much the long cooking helps with digestion, which helps with absorption of nutrients, which circles around and helps with healing.  How ’bout that?

The other thing that happened at the doctor’s office was a review of my recent labs, which the she pronounced “amazing,” walking me through the numbers one by one with a celebratory tone.  We had a great question-and-answer session about exercise stuff and diet stuff and she did not one time shame me, which felt pretty great.  She topped our time off by stating firmly that she has “no concerns whatsoever” about my health at this time, which is a pretty nice thing to hear while I’m still shopping the plus size aisles, and considering the bumpy ride that 2018 was for me medically.

My word for 2019 is ORDER and for sure I hear God talking to me about that topic regarding my health – it’s ringing in from all directions, so much that I’ve gathered up all my various fitness equipment and started pushing back into the business of the regular workout.  We had a great message about the body in church this past Sunday that gave me some thought work to focus in on (I always brace myself for “body” messages, preparing to get to feel like a slug for not having my act more together, but this wasn’t that…at ALL.)

So for now, I’m feeling good about it all.  Not fantasizing about flat abs or even about moving out of the plus size racks – just feeling my way toward better health, and celebrating the successes along the way.

Order, indeed.

 

the word for 2019

Posted: January 1, 2019 in Uncategorized

Several years ago around this time, when a couple of my closest friends were on the leadership team at our church and I was not, I heard from them about a challenge from our pastor:  prayerfully come up with a “word” for the coming year.  I saw my friends wrestling with this and I chuckled when they implied maybe I should join in the struggle.  NOPE!  I had no desire to even try.  Having previously been in leadership of one kind or another for a long time, I was now in an odd space, leading nothing, and enjoying the break.  No word!  Y’all have fun with that!

Soon enough my life shifted back again to “normal,” which for me is being asked, pushed, pulled, or drawn into leadership roles for which I always think someone else is surely more qualified (it turns out to some extent leadership is more about willingness than qualification, at least in my humble opinion.)  I landed on that same leadership team and have been there ever since, and most of those years have started with me prayerfully finding my word for the year, though last year no word appeared at all.

My 2019 word showed up…oh, I don’t know…a month ago maybe.  Crystal clear, unambiguous, and oddly exciting to me, though it’s really a very unexciting word on its surface:

order

Some of you who know me primarily in my administrative role are probably like well yeah, of COURSE Karen is excited about order!  But my talent in administrative things comes as I push against my natural tendency toward chaos and procrastination – basically my superpower of admin appeared as I worked to overcome my own worst inclinations.  So honestly, the word “order” would generally be a yawner for me – necessary but the opposite of inspiring or exciting.

But I’ve felt tremors of excitement and even joy as I’ve considered in the last few weeks some of the things the word means, and as God has shown me other stuff along the way.  What I know from experience is God will amaze me throughout 2019 in opening the word up far beyond what I imagine it to be in this moment.  Still, from this more dimly-lit end of the year, I see the following:

PRAYER – I had a lot of fun in 2018 working multiple projects to grow in my own prayer life and point others in that direction as well (though mostly I find pointing others toward prayer is a lot like pushing a giant boulder up a steep hill).  This year I’ve got clarity on one simple approach – I think ORDER dictates simplicity on this front – that should work for my own prayer life and for trying to spread it around.  Doing all the YouTube videos and teaching a series of classes required a ton of writing and editing and time spent babysitting technology during uploads.  I’m trying something this year that will require less effort and more Holy Spirit.  Having fallen in love anew with liturgy and prewritten prayers, I’m going to try doing just a quick Facebook live feature of one such item most days.  Doing it as a shared project helps keep my feet to the fire – I’m less likely to crap out quickly.  And really I think MOST OF US need the help sometimes of a place to start in prayer, so we’re not just stuck on repeat/going through the motions.  So I’ll help myself and maybe help some of you (if you’re my FB friends) in keeping it new and fresh.

RELATIONSHIP  – One of the problems of being a Very Productive Person is how easy it is to let “gettin’ it done” come before time with people who matter.  I don’t spend enough time with family, and I spend even less time than that with friends, and that’s not cool.  It is my ever-increasing belief that relationship is a top priority in God’s eyes, since that’s the arena where God works almost everything out in us.  I have some thoughts about how to move forward on that in practical ways, and have taken some tiny first steps in the last couple of weeks, ‘cuz guys, if you wait until day 1 of a planned change to start changing, YOU’RE NOT EMBRACING THE CHANGE.  Start when the understanding comes, not tomorrow or next week or on some magical future date.

HEALTH –  The last 5 or 6 years, I’ve had an interesting run of health challenges, from arthritis to a series of poison ivy episodes that seemed to spin me into some auto-immune funk for a long time to debilitating fatigue that stole large chunks of a couple of years of my life, but none of that compared to the daily feeling of “maybe I’m dying right now, maybe this is a heart thing that’s gonna take me out” that I experienced for several months when gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) showed up to own the conversation.  Pain is a motivator; it has changed my relationship with food in a way that knowledge never did.

This is not a new part of the journey for me – I’ve been making radical changes in diet and exercise for about 8 years now, constantly educating myself and pushing always to do better.  I’ve gotten a lot right (while admittedly executing imperfectly), but also there was a lot to fix from a lifetime of bad habits and choices on that front that started as soon as I left my parents’ home and supervision at 18.  That base I built, of eating whatever I wanted and no intentional fitness plan, means that now 8 years into trying much harder I have come to understand that my body and my mind both fight like tigers to keep me fat and out of shape. (There’s science behind that – read up on how the human body fights to stay at the fattest it’s ever been…and it keeps on fighting for that.  The struggle is real, and is different for us who shop in the plus sizes than it is for you who never did.)

Probably part of what kicked my body into GERD was a decision I made early in 2018 to focus hard on paying down debt, which meant cutting corners everywhere possible, financially, to come up with dollars for that.  I returned our household to a different way of cooking and eating, turning back the page to my “utterly broke and desperate” days as I bought groceries and planned menus.  It’s possible to eat SUPER CHEAPLY, and I was the queen of that while raising my kids.  I pulled out all those old tricks and we ate cheaper than cheap for the first half of the year, and paid debt down relentlessly.  I’m not gonna lie, I LOVED pulling out those old recipes high in cheap fat and bad carbs – that stuff is delicious!  I ate way too much of it.  I packed on pounds, but didn’t pay attention to that ‘cuz dude, the checkbook was working out great.

Responding to GERD interrupted that destructive cycle.  ORDER now dictates making time in the schedule and room in the budget for the healthy foods I’d been focusing on for the 7 1/2 years before that.  Learning that there is some blockage in my arteries dictates that exercise can’t be a thing I SHOULD do – it has to be a consistent practice, even with the arthritis and the busy schedule factored in.  I know some practices from my amazing years of running that I can pick up and use against my own natural sloth.  Gotta choose well.

Honestly, I’m unlikely to choose well under only my own power.  In 2010-2012 I went on a cool journey of following God’s urge to let Him teach me to love my body.  There was SO MUCH POWER in the surrender I lived in that passage.  When arthritis appeared on the scene in 2013 and stole running away from me, I got mad and stayed mad for…years, really.  I definitely stopped engaging with letting God teach me to love my body, since I was mad but also filled with hate for my body, which betrayed me so harshly, it seemed, after giving me such an amazing gift in the running.  Probably the key to a better exercise practice is re-engaging in letting God teach me to love my body.  That’s surely an ORDER thing as well.

STEWARDSHIP – We ended up in kind of a nightmare situation with our 10-year-old car this year – it had been sucking up money like a vacuum cleaner, and then suddenly it needed $2500+ in repairs (and was definitely not worth that level of investment).  We bit the bullet and bought a new car, something I’d been planning for us to do AFTER that car was paid off.  I’ve just reached a point in life where I want to be able to rely on my car, and my previous practice of buying 8 year old cars was not offering reliability.  While we chose from the less expensive end of the new car spectrum, the fact remains that we now have a higher payment to manage.  ORDER dictates that my attention to all things financial will have to be more unswerving than it tends to be (oh, I do better and better over time, but I’ve still been pretty ADHD, when it comes to household finance.)

Under this umbrella also falls some “care of our household” items that I’ve been plotting and planning to take care of since we bought this house.  ORDER dictates more action.  I have a very practical idea for how to start, which boils down to JUST START – do a little bit for a set amount of time most days and let momentum build enough to carry the process.  Still, I’ll have to make room for the start.

That’s enough for a starting place.  Bring on ORDER!  I’m excited for what I know I need to do, and excited for certainty that there is much I don’t know.

And you really oughtta tell me about YOUR word for the year, if you have one.  🙂

2018 quick analysis check in

Posted: December 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

With 2018 drawing to a close, I can’t help but show up here to do some of my year-end processing (which will most certainly be followed shortly by some processing for next year as well.)  I’m peeking at my entry this time last year, when I made my 2018 goals...and measuring here how that went.

Pouring Out 

In a way, I’ve written less this year than I have for a long time – I’ve literally done only 6 blog entries this year to date.  The primary reason for that is the consistent work I’ve done on my YouTube channel, which was one of my bigger attempts in 2018 to help point people to prayer.  It consists of 3 weekly series, all of which will come to an end effective January 1:

  • Mindful Mondays, which starts the week out by focusing in on some aspect of applying prayer life to real life
  • Wisdom Wednesdays, which picked out various Proverbs and did a little thinking about them (and tried to start the process of memorization)
  • Faithful Fridays, which models the ancient “Lectio Divina” method of listening prayer – I chose to focus in on the Psalms all year, except for December, which switched to “the Christmas story.”

So Mondays and Wednesdays still involved some writing (as in, writing scripts).  That’s a different kind of writing than my traditional overly-wordy blogs; maybe it was good for me to practice a bit more brevity, though some assured me I was still going too long with the videos as well.  What are you gonna do?  Here’s what I feel good about:  in the whole year, having set myself up for a 150-episode assignment…I have literally only missed one episode (the week we went to Audiofeed Music Festival I missed posting on Friday.)  I’ve got all but one written, recorded, and edited…the very last one has to wait for some other stuff that I need to do first.  (I feel like my year of writing every single day a few years back set me up well for consistency on this front.)

It’s been an adventure.  It wasn’t hard to come up with topics for Mondays, but I just hoped all along that my (very) few viewers understood that I don’t come as some sort of expert – just a fellow traveler, thinking aloud.  Ditto the Proverbs – heaven help me if anyone thought I was presenting a scholar’s approach.  It was just my own thoughts and questions, and I hope it helped.  And of course Fridays were my favorite – in my opinion, by far the highest value of what I was doing, being less “Karen” and more scripture/Holy Spirit – but I don’t deceive myself into thinking most of the viewing world is as excited about ancient prayer practices as I am.

The YouTube project was both encouraging and humbling.  Some people loved it and made a point to let me know.  Some folks appear to have watched it at least some of the time in “lurking” mode (no likes, no comments, etc) so that I was pleasantly shocked when they mentioned to me in person that they’d watched/been touched by it/etc.  And then a whole lot of people had zero interest, seemingly – while I expected that from the world in general, it was a little painful noting some of the folks I thought might tune in (like, if they did something, I’d check it out based on our relationship, so I assumed…) and just didn’t.  I didn’t do it to gain attention, so it’s fine…just…humbling!!

I also did a series of “classes” at my church to help point people to prayer.  I had hoped to draw some new people into intimacy in prayer, but mostly I proved to myself what I already knew:  there are a rare few folks who will turn up to anything billed as being about prayer.  So I had a ton of fun talking to mostly the usual suspects, and got to practice managing my own expectations along the way.  I also planned 2 prayer retreats (1 in summer and 1 this week) – the summer one got kind of flattened by weather (it was supposed to be a camping retreat) and a competing event I hadn’t known was coming.  The one this week, though…it promises to go better than that.  Some folks are for sure coming, and I’m SO EXCITED as I keep working along on the schedule of what we’re doing as we “pray in the new year.”  (Local folks, catch me if you’re interested!  It’s Friday night, 6-9 PM!)

Sprucing Up

I was in a bad place with my body this time last year, fighting a more or less losing battle with the fork and spoon, and struggling to work out…and feeling rotten about how much I couldn’t move well.  2018 was the year gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) came screaming onto the scene, levying a pain in my chest that really felt like “maybe this is the big one…maybe today I’ll die of a heart attack”) for days, then weeks, then months.  I hurried to the doctor on like day 2 or 3 of the pain, after reading that untreated GERD can lead to esophageal cancer, but even with medication and the most restrictive diet I’ve ever heard of, it took a long time to bring the pain down to not-feeling-like-potential-death level.  I’ve racked up quite a set of medical bills this year, working that out, and I’m not in the clear yet, but there’s good news from it:  I’ve found that extreme pain is a motivator completely unlike all the good intentions and education about possible consequences and general desire to look nice.  None of those other things could really hold me strictly to even a fairly easy diet, but chest pain?  IT DOES IT, BABY.  Without trying to lose weight, I’m losing weight.  I don’t enjoy the diet, but I’m grateful for how it relieves the GERD, and for sure I’ll take the weight loss as a side benefit.

Along the way, there was a 9/11 trip to the ER, chest pain related, that led to my introduction to my very own cardiologist, who subjected me to a nuclear stress test (not my favorite experience ever) which revealed some minor blockage in my arteries.  For now it only calls for a baby aspirin daily (if the GERD will allow it…that remains to be seen)…but it does make me feel serious about what my priorities need to be in 2019.  Namely, my health has to get moved WAY up the ladder, no matter what else has to be moved down (or out) to make that happen.  I’ve got a lot of people who love me and don’t deserve the pain of my health meltdown that could all too easily happen if I don’t get real serious here.

The other “sprucing up” thing I took on this year was real makeup – a thing I had never learned in the 51 years before that, being an “eyeliner and mascara is plenty of makeup” kind of girl.  I started not liking what I saw in the mirror, and my lovely daughter developed an interest in makeup around that time as a mental wellness thing, so I just joined her and spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME on YouTube learning things that I suppose most females learn in their teens or twenties.  It’s been fun, and I’m surprised at how much of a positive this has been for me in 2018.  Some things are just unexpected.

Soil Work

I had big plans for my garden(s) this year, and some of those did come to pass, as we added two more raised beds to the back yard.  The herb garden (which was mostly shaded and shouldn’t have worked) thrived; the other (which was mostly sunny and should have been wildly successful) was kind of “meh.”  I’ve got thoughts about what to switch up this year, so we’ll see if that improves.

My son and his wife built some truly amazing raised beds at their place this year, complete with latticework running up the side of their house.  It was FANTASTIC, and my aim is to get them here in the spring to help me set up something like that along the back of our house – I get all jittery-excited when I think about it.  That’s the life of a gardener – always dreaming up the Next Cool Idea.  I’ve got about 5 years’ worth of cool ideas for back yard projects, but I’m trying to take them one at a time.

No Word

Some years, I have a guiding word that oversees the year.  No such word emerged for 2018, and I didn’t try to force it, since I’ve got a lifetime of Big Big January Plans followed by No Follow Through to remind me that if the Lord’s not leading it, there’s really no point in going there.  (Happily, I DO have a word for 2019 already, but that’s a whole other blog.)

Too Much is Too Much

This part wasn’t on my blog that planned for 2018; it’s just a result I’m taking away.  I did A LOT in 2018 – the YouTube, the garden stuff, a lot at work, continued projects at church and new ones as well, on and on.  While I was genuinely amazed to learn exactly how much I can accomplish if I just doggedly squeeze productivity into every corner and every stray moment I can find…it  hasn’t been a healthy thing.  I’m getting worse and worse at sleeping (and for most of my life, I prized myself on what a world champ sleeper I was!)  The drive to be productive intrudes into my dreams and leaves me exhausted in the morning.  I’ve forgotten how to relax at home – I watch my husband doggedly honor his sabbath days, faithful to scripture and especially to Jewish traditions, and I am jealous.  I can’t remember how to just have a day of rest, and THAT is not in line with what scripture tells us to do or to be.  On top of that, the business of “gettin’ it done” kept me too often from spending time with family and friends, and I know for sure that relationship is one of the biggest deals there is, in God’s eyes…so stuff’s gotta shuffle.  So I’ve already begun the work of shaving some things down, and 2019 will not be another “too much” year (or at least that’s the plan – it’s gonna be serious work, recalibrating.)

I get to think about this all some more Friday night at the prayer retreat, and I’m curious what other marrow God might help me suck out of the bones of this overstuffed year.

If you’ve been here before, you KNOW I want to hear what you’re pondering, along these lines.  Tell me all about it!

 

When I last checked in, I was just about a week past my doctor handing me my new mandatory “let’s reset your acid levels” diet to try and head off as much of this gastric reflux thing as possible.  I’m now almost 60 days into following that pattern.

It’s been a ride.  I’m not gonna lie – at one point I sat at my kitchen table, looking out at my gardens and just weeping.  For real.  Fresh tomatoes just about to come on, and I can’t have them – what?!  Leeks thriving, and I can’t have even a little bit – how is THAT okay?  Lemon balm and lemongrass both getting big and beautiful, and I have no idea how they fit into the “acid profile” at all, and don’t even know who to ask?  UGH.  These things were even harder emotionally for me than the business of avoiding sweets, oils and other fats, and spicy foods.  So that one afternoon, home alone and free to feel, I just bawled.

It’s not like a death sentence or something.  Even with all the foods I CAN’T have, there are a ton of really nice things I CAN.  Being both a foodie and a pretty good cook, it’s not hard for me to come up with foods I love eating.  The adjustment is in not focusing on how many things are now forbidden.

The real battle with myself, where I finally had to make a full-on attitude decision, was while I was serving at the camp for foster kids we do every year.  The place we go has phenomenal cooks who make fantastic food every day.  It’s pretty friendly to alternative diets.  You can request gluten-free or vegetarian, and they can make that happen.  But when I presented my list of don’ts, I was quickly told they probably couldn’t accommodate that, really.  So I made a plan.  In addition to my collection of Very Healthy Snacks I’d be having while everyone else went crazy on candy, I threw in a few items that I planned to use to supplement their pretty consistent salad bar.  It seemed like it wouldn’t be that hard.

Oh man.  Did I ever meet the furthest end of my whiny, self-centered inner child.  It turned out that at most meals, I could only eat maybe one thing, which wasn’t so bad when it was oatmeal, but felt pretty rotten when it was iceberg lettuce.  I had one heck of an inner meltdown for a few days there, feeling at every meal like I had been forcibly removed from the human race.  Emotions are so dumb sometimes.

But you know what?  I never went hungry.  I repurposed some of the snack stuff to be parts of meals instead, and really I ate beautiful, incredibly healthy, nutritious, physically sustaining stuff EVERY SINGLE TIME.  There was really nothing to whine about – it was just “my flesh” screaming and pitching a fit that I couldn’t have what everyone else was having.

By the end of camp, the fight was done fought and I was past my raging resentment and pathetic pity party.  This is just where I am.  While it might be partly due to genetic predisposition, I can point pretty easily to ways I also worked myself into the corner where I currently now have to live.  I can be bitter and whiny and pout about it, or I can just deal with life as it is, and decide to be happy.  It was a bit of a fight to get here (and:  I DID WHINE), but I’m at “decide to be happy” status on it now.

And then after camp, I really felt like the Lord was leading me to finally really listen to a thing my pastor has been doing and talking about for, like, I don’t know…a year or something:  intermittent fasting.  He’s one of those “life hack” guys and is always trying the next good idea for living better, and he has talked quite a bit about this one.  Every time he has talked, I have done the mental equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and yelling LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU.

Who wants to fast?  I mean, like, I do it sometimes for spiritual reasons, but yo, IT’S UNCOMFORTABLE.  I don’t like uncomfortable.  I LIKE FOOD.  A LOT.

So I ignored him to the max, but then I had a few days where I heard about intermittent fasting everywhere I turned, so I stopped, sighed, and listened.  And really felt like God was pointing that direction and smiling patiently at me.

So I started.

Here’s what it is, as I practice it (I’ve heard other interpretations, but this is mine):  I choose an 8-hour window during every 24 -hour period, and that’s the only time I can eat.  Just during those 8 hours.  The other 16, I can drink as much water as I want, but no other eats or drinks.  The way that works best for my schedule is I basically eat a light breakfast, and then a mid-morning snack that is really more like “second breakfast” (my favorite hobbit thing!), and then lunch.  Since breakfast is at 7 AM, I can have an afternoon snack as long as I’m done before 3, but honestly, I almost never do.  I just stop eating after lunch.

This accomplishes some things that I know about (and probably more that I don’t):

  1. It automatically reduces the number of calories I eat – I’d have to work HARD to get as many calories in during a 6-8 hour period as I’ve traditionally gotten in during my usual 12-hour eating window.
  2. (My pastor told me this one.)  It allows my entire digestive system to take a real break from the work of digesting, for 2/3 of my hours.  This leaves room for healing (PLEASE LET MY GRD HEAL!!) and room for burning fat, as well as energy surplus that can be diverted to other body systems.
  3. It helps tame the tiger that is my unstoppable appetite.

There are some really surprising things about eating this way.

First of all, it’s not hard at ALL.  I mean, I don’t even CARE about supper.  While some of that is surely because I’ve almost completely eliminated processed sugar and processed carbs, I also feel like my body just kind of jumped on board and knows:  digestion is off duty now until morning.  No need to produce appetite.  I’m not hungry, I’m not craving, I don’t even care if others eat in front of me.  I just don’t care.  Maybe that wouldn’t be weird for you, but it’s INCREDIBLY strange for me, based on the way my body has always worked.  Once in awhile I start to want food during that time, but generally when I do I stop and listen to my body and realize:  I’m not hungry.  I just want to taste good food.  Did I mention how much I like food?!  It’s not so hard to say no, once I realize there is no hunger happening.

Secondly:  energy.  On day 3 of this way of eating, I got an extreme energy boost.  Before that, the fatigue that I had fought so hard to heal from had been creeping back, bit by bit…I had started falling asleep at my desk sometimes even when very busy and very interested in what I was doing, and I had just been feeling too tired for anything for awhile.  That was all very bad news, since it’s not really in my budget for me to go back on all of those amazing supplements that worked such miracles in my body.  But it seems that intermittent fasting (which costs zero) is doing the same thing.  I’m about 200% perkier in the morning than I was.  I’m not sleepy in the afternoons.  I still have plenty of energy when I get home after work to keep on getting stuff done.  My pastor said he got so much more energy that he had trouble sleeping for a bit…that’s not the case for me, but it’s a pretty radical improvement.

Less surprisingly, I’m losing weight.  I’m not weighing, and I won’t be, so I don’t know how much, but it is at changing-clothing-sizes level at this point.  That is not the objective (I’m beyond done on the “how can I lose weight” train) but it’s a nice side benefit.  And hey, losing weight is one of the first bits of advice given for dealing with GRD, so there’s that.

So tonight at my daughter’s house, I watched everyone else eat pizza and didn’t give a hoot.  Didn’t mind the fasting, didn’t care overly much that pizza is on my “hell no” list.  Just enjoyed the company, drank my water, and reveled that this should be so painless.

I told my pastor that when I started this, my plan had been that I would do intermittent fasting during the week, and on the weekends I would do what I want (well, relatively speaking…the GRD diet really does not permit “what I want!”)  But what I’ve found is that on the weekends, what I want is to feel as good as intermittent fasting makes me feel.  So thus far I’m sticking with it.  I’m sure there will come occasions when I need to eat dinner to be social somewhere, and I’ll figure that out when I get there.

For now, this thing is working.  I had to share, because I know I’m not the only GRD sufferer out there by far.  Maybe something I’ve shared here will be useful to you…even if it’s just the reminder that YOU CAN BE CONTENT, even when backed into a corner, even if it takes a bit of a battle to get there.

It’s possible.