March 24, 2012

A bright smile

The picture on the right probably looks unimpressive. It is a picture of Mary holding Jesus, in case you are wondering.  However, I have not only kept this picture for 20+ years, but had it displayed in my various places of residence because it was given to me by a very special girl, LaTosha.

She lived in our neighborhood in the St.Louis-ish area and was adopted into my brother's best friend's family.  The parents volunteered to be foster parents to children coming out of abusive and neglectful families.  She was one of two children whom they adopted.  She had been physically abused to the point where she was in a wheel chair.  However, once you got past her wheel chair, the next thing you noticed was her smile--big, bright and truly happy, as if she knew love all of her life.  She was always cracking jokes and seeing the funny side of life.  But she did not take guff from anybody and knew how to dish it back out--with a smile.  And she loved to draw.  Her wheelchair desk frequently had markers and papers.  This was one of the drawings she gave me.

When college came, I left the state of Missouri (which I nickname the state of Misery because of the weather).  I would see them when I came back on visits during and after college, but not very often.  My brother and their son went to different high schools and didn't see as much of each other.  Eventually, both her parents and mine moved out of the state.  Years after I had graduated college, I found out that she had been experiencing seizures.  In the process of trying different medicines, one of them almost killed her, burning, not only her skin, but also her internal organs.  Yet God intervened miraculously and saved her, though her eyesight and sense of touch was destroyed, ending her artistic endeavors.  She had spent most of her adult life in long-term care facilities and worked on a grass roots campaign so that more people with long term disabilities in Missouri could live in group homes, rather than nursing-home like facilities.

A few months ago, as one of the kids was dusting, the simple frame that held this picture flopped to the floor, destroying the glass but not the picture.  I almost threw it out, but didn't, remembering her joy, her jokes and her beautiful light that shown.  I couldn't destroy this little bit of her light that she had given to me.

Earlier this month, I learned that LaTosha had passed away.  The medical problems had worn down her body and she finally succumbed to pnuemonia.  When Whitney Houston passed away, I grieved because here was a woman given a beautiful gift and wasted it.  Her light had died out long before she was actually dead, stamped out by drug addiction.  But here is a woman whose light shined out throughout her life, unhampered by bad beginnings, unhampered by wheelchairs, unhampered by physical illness, unhampered by having to be totally dependent on others in order to live.  And whereas I am also grieving for LaTosha and her family, it is because we have lost a beautiful light.

March 23, 2012

A Joyful Sunday

For those of you who don't know, I have become the co-ordinator for Sunday school for the elementary aged kids.  Our church is small enough to need two rooms, one for babies to 5 year olds and one room for elementary aged kids.  Six months ago, the woman who was coordinating wanted to step down and I was asked to take her place.  I knew at the time that I didn't have time to handle it all, but asked if she would be willing to split the responsibility between elementary aged kids and nursery.  Coordinating the elementary group means making sure we have enough people to help out, that those who are helping out have the materials they need to teach the lesson, training and making sure everyone has completed the paperwork necessary to work with the children and choosing new curriculum.  My job is made infinitely easier by the fact that we can use resources purchased or generated by "The Mother Ship."

When I started as the coordinator, we were using "The ABC's of God" curriculum developed as part of Desiring God Ministries established by John Piper, which investigates the attributes, or character, of God.  As we neared the end of the curriculum, I decided to use to "The Promises of God", also a Desiring God Ministries publication.  It investigates God's many promises in the Bible and how He has been faithful to fulfill all of them.  So far, we have discussed God's promise to all people and God's promise to believers.  Last weeks promise dealt with God's promise to unbelievers.  This is not a fun promise to teach because, basically, the Bible says that God's promise to unbelievers is to send them to hell when they die.  I almost considered not including it because, really, who wants to hear all that fire and brimstone message, especially young kids? Wouldn't it be safer to make sure kids hear only about God's love for them and the Sacrifice He made for them?  After praying about it, and knowing that the person teaching that day is wise and loving, I decided to go ahead with the lesson.

Three kids put their faith in Jesus Christ that day--3!  The total number of Sunday School kids attending is 12 and three of them are mine, who have already put their faith in Jesus Christ.  That blew me away.  And it reminded me that God uses the hard messages as well as the loving messages to move in peoples' hearts and of how open to hearing God's word kids are.  It was an awesome day.  I give God all the glory for what He is doing in the church, in the hearts of these precious kids and in the hearts of the people in my church.  Praise God through who all blessings flow!

"The Lord is good to all.  He has compassion on all that He has made."--Psalm 145:9
"If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise."--Galatians 3:29
"For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish."--Psalm 1:6

March 16, 2012

A 3 year inventory and Game on! update

It is now approaching three years since we moved from Illinois, land of wind, snow and water, to Arizona, the land of five seasons--fall, winter, spring, summer, and hell.  We thought we had just thrown off the last chains tying us down to Illinois by changing our cell phone numbers to give Arizona our sales tax.  However, the Illinois Department of Incompetence, I mean Unemployment, has us going through hoops due to a clerical error initiated by Motorola paperwork and compounded by the state.  If you want to read full details, read my husband's blog.  We have been having glorious weather--cool, spring-like weather in the morning and warm, summer like weather in the afternoon.  The orange and lemon trees are blooming, filling the air with a perfume more potent than lilac bushes and giving misery to those who have allergies.  One realization that I made this week is how few wild critters I see flattened on the side of the road.  I do see some dogs and cats and an occasional bird, but nothing like the native equivalent to raccoon, squirrels, or rabbits.  We live in the center of a huge metropolitan area, where main roads are 5 lanes minimum, including a middle turn lane.  It's funny how I used to get sad whenever I saw a dead animal on the side of the road when we lived in Illinois and now I get sad that I don't see dead wild animals at the side of the road because it means we are in a big city where wildlife is kept in a zoo or preserve.   I think if we lived more in the outskirts of the area, we would see more wildlife, probably of the scorpion and black widow variety.  So maybe I should consider myself blessed :-).

I just finished week two of Game On! with my SIL and many Minnesotans who are either her friends or family.  We are playing it as an individual competition. I am not in danger of winning the game at this point, unless the two lead people crumble at the end  (which I really don't want to happen) and my last two weeks are perfect.  That is the "bad" news.  The good news is that I am losing weight, getting more sleep, and no longer feel as lethargic.  I have discovered that sometimes healthy food is fast food if you stock up on it.  nuts and cheese sticks are my go-to foods for snacks.  The other good news is that I am working out six days a week for about 20 minutes a day doing things around the house.  I am checking out yoga DVDs from the library for stretching and strengthening and doing interval training three times a week.  And there is a high intensity training program on the Game On! website that caused the muscles in my body to yell at  me and almost go on strike for two days at the torture I put them through the first time I did it.  This week, they merely grumbled.  Ultimately, I am feeling stronger and have more energy.  I would like to bring in some Arizona friends to challenge the Minnesotans in an April challenge.  I figure that if I play the game five or six times, I will be able to win at least one of them and maybe even get down to my pre-baby weight.  That is better than winning a prize.  So the question is, does anyone else want to play?

March 1, 2012

An Inspiration through a Challenge

My SIL, KT, put up a blog post on Sunday that talked about starting up "Game On Diet".  When I went to the web page and got some brief information, I decided that it was a little like "The Biggest Loser" except for one thing--you don't win by how much weight you have lost but how many points you have accumulated over 4 weeks and the competition can be single person or groups of any size.  And you get points for attempting to improve your lifestyle--food, sleep, exercise, establishing non-food related good habits and dropping non-food related bad habits.  There are some deductions for things like obsessive weighing and   And there is grace--a day off of the food plan, getting to eat 100 calories of whatever you want each day and days off for exercise, water, and one meal. I got all this from buying the book on Kindle on Monday, reading it until midnight (which, if I was on the plan, means I would have lost sleep points) and then finishing it in the morning.  The game is starting today, so I thought I would give it a dry run on Wednesday.  I have been wanting a really good excuse to exercise and reverse the upward creep that my weight has been taking lately and I have been feeling very lethargic lately and have been wanting to see if changing the diet would work.  This program seems like fun, seems to be doable and

So all day Tuesday, in between teaching the kids and doing some other work, I started planning my week.  My goal is 8 pounds of weight loss and, of course to win.  My habit to break is raising my voice in anger, though raising my voice to call kids from any point in the house to where I need them to be is okay.  My new goal is to keep the kitchen and my portion of the office neat and organized (both of them, a herculean challenge that will require LOTS of prayer).  My biggest challenges in this program is no butter (sob), VERY limited sweets, and no juices or sodas (not even diet).  If you want to know why, you need to read the book, which does have objectionable language scattered throughout the book, so be warned.  It also has some really funny parts in it, so if you read it late into the night, you run the risk of waking your husband as the bed shakes from your attempts to laugh silently.

I started out the morning drinking 2 glasses of water, which I measured to be 3 cups (350 mL).  I will need to drink nine cups during the day to meet the 3 L minimum. I am going to forgo coffee this morning because I don't want to spend every 15 minutes taking potty breaks.  I can do this because I drink half decaf and the headache shouldn't be too severe.

Exercise:  High Intensity Interval training of walking and jogging in 1 minute intervals with my dog.  I let the dog take marking stops during the walks and he blew one walking portion by needing to have some quality time.  I excercised 25 minutes in all and did some additional stretching when I got home.  I drank another glass of water.  So far, so good, but the afternoon is still ahead.

Meal 1 (7 a.m.):  I started to get myself cereal and milk, before I realized that milk is considered a carb and I can only have one serving of carb.  DRAT!  That also means that cereal is not on the menu for the next four weeks.  I switched to a piece of whole wheat toast with a drizzle of sunflower oil (because butter is on the banned substance list and I don't want to throw away my 100 calorie freebie so soon) and a drizzle of honey (one of the three approved sugar sources).  Then, I realized I needed a protein, too.  I looked over the list.  If I had really been thinking, I would have included some mozzerella cheese or peanut butter on the toast instead of sunflower oil.  I ended up grabbing a leaf of swiss chard we keep for the tortoise and guinea pig, put 1/4 cup of mozzerella in the middle and eating it as a wrap.   It actually tasted pretty good.  Breakfast was more difficult than I thought.  It wasn't exactly satisfying, but I didn't leave the table ravenous.

Meal 2 (9:30 a.m.):  My stomach told me it was time to eat.  I had a plan this time and it worked.  My fourth water.  Not having coffee at this time was a good decision because by now, I would have gone to the bathroom about ten times.   Then I read that I needed to have two handfuls of veggies, not one.  No biggie.

Meal 3 (11:30):  I had to eat a stalk of celery to make it.  Snacking is forbidden except for celery and cucumber.  I can eat all the celery and cucumber I want.  yippee.  I am up to five glasses of water and I still seem thirsty.  Lunch wasn't too bad except for the fact that mayo is another banned substance, which caused me to re-think my standard half sandwich for lunch.  This time, I figured out that if I use half carb servings, then I can have fruit and some other carb, which allowed me to have half a banana and a splash of milk to cover the taste of the too-ripe banana.  Then I had my 100 free points of an oatmeal scotchie.  Unfortunately, I had problems stopping at one and ended up eating three.  Later on, I checked to see how much of a hit I was going to take--20 points!!  I am glad that this is my dry run.

Meal 4 (3:30p):  I felt bloated from the extra sweets I consumed.  On Wednesdays, I have to eat early anyway because I help out with childcare for ESL classes, so the timing worked perfectly. By this time, I was feeling like a pro, though I have to admit, the piece of chicken that was available was a leg, which would probably not be considered a lean protein.

Meal 5 (9:00p):  This was delayed because I had to fill in for someone for childcare at the Bible study held on Wednesday nights.  I fulfilled my 3 L minimum of water. I went shopping for some brown rice and black beans to make lime-cilantro rice for tomorrow.  Tomorrow will be tricky because it is co-op day and I will need to prepare food ahead of time.

And currently I am trying and failing to get into bed by 10 p.m to make the 7 hour minimum and because I am really tired.

Thank you KT for your kick-in-the-butt inspiration.  This is something I am really looking forward to doing.  I really admire the way you have been working to lose the weight you have over the past year or so.  You are awesome!

P.S.  Does this count as communication for tomorrow, since that is most likely the earliest you will read it?