Saturday, May 20, 2017

To my Son, on Graduation Day

Dear Clayton,
It's today.  It's finally here, the day that we've worked for, prayed for, dreamed of, wondered if we'd ever see!  It's finally arrived.

And before we get you ready in your cap and gown, before you leave to go meet your friends for pictures, before you walk across that stage and Dad and I meet you in the middle, I wanted to say just a few things to you.

I'm so proud of you.
I'm proud of the man you've become, not just in your lifetime, but the man that I've seen emerge over this past year.  It's been a hard year for you in spiritual and emotional growth.  Not many people know what you've gone through, but I do...and I stand AMAZED at how you've allowed God to mold you and shape you into a godly man of integrity!  One of your mentors said it best when he told you, "You've been forged on the anvil of the Gospel."  I see this on a daily basis.

I am blessed by you.
You continually bless me every day.  Your attitude of respect and love for Dad and I give us daily reasons to thank God for you!  I do NOT want to take our relationship with you for granted.  I see and hear of so many teenagers that can't stand their parents and can't wait to leave home and they refuse to hang around with mom and dad.  I'm so very grateful to God that that isn't our story.
And I thank Him often that He blessed me with the opportunity to be your Mom.

You are enough.
In this world today, the pressure is on for kids to go to college, to rack up huge amounts of debt for "higher education," but I want you to know that you don't have to do that.  So many kids go to college and they have NO IDEA what they're there for.  You know what you want to do for now, and it's OK that it doesn't involve college!  If you never set foot inside another classroom it will be fine.  You are ENOUGH without a degree!  At some point, if you decide you want to go back to school, do it because you feel it's what God is asking you to do.  But know that our love, our acceptance, and our belief in you does not depend on a piece of paper with the name of a university on it!

God has a plan for you.
I know that this day can feel scary as you think about your life without classes and learning, books and papers, homework and field trips.  But the learning and the adventure isn't over!  In fact, it's just beginning.  The "good stuff" is coming!  God has something great for you, and I don't know exactly what it is, but I can say with confidence that it will be AWESOME!
 Keep your heart open to the Holy Spirit as you seek Him for direction. 

"Adulting" isn't easy.
The carefree days of being a kid are over, and now the "real life" begins.  You already know a LOT more about real life/paying bills/working hard than probably 90% of kids graduating in this country this year, but I just wanted to remind you that being an adult is not a walk in the park.
There were lots of hard, painful days in school when kids were mean, friends betrayed you, you didn't get included in groups, and someone broke your heart.
Guess what?  That happens to grown ups, too.  People are mean, friends will often betray you, sometimes you don't get invited, and you are probably going to get your heart broken, maybe more than once.  Just know that Mom and Dad are still here, we're still your biggest fans!
Advice is free, meals are free, and I'll always listen and pray with you!

Stay in church.
There's a growing trend among young adults that were raised in church to drift away after graduation.  I'm fairly confident that you're not going to be one of those people, but I just want to caution you to not do that.  Community is so very important, and you have grown up in a body of believers that puts "community" as a TOP priority.  Someone is going to track you down if you start missing church!  The first person will be ME. :)  This world is a scary place, and getting worse all the time.  Now, more than ever, we need encouragement and accountability from like-minded brothers and sisters to keep us focused on Christ and on our end-goal.  Make a commitment to yourself to stay involved, to give back to this community, to serve others.  

Go after your passion.
I have loved watching you grow.  I've had a front row seat to your development and love of many things, and it has been wonderful.  You've fallen in love with motors and mechanics and it has been so fun to watch that become something that you're passionate about!  You have been working on things since you could toddle.  Hammers and nails, chainsaws and weed eaters, jack stands and creepers have been some of your favorite "toys."  You've saved money and bought trucks, motors, parts, parts, and more parts, and spent many hours in that garage.  

The smile on your face and the pride in your eyes when you fired the motor or test drove the finished product are PRICELESS memories to me.  The bond that you've formed with your Dad while laying under a car or truck is something that I know he treasures more than anything!  The times when you, your brother, and Dad have all worked on something together, the countless conversations about various hot rods, the car shows, the road brings out something in you that I don't even know if YOU can explain.  It's PASSION.  It's what you love!  Do that!  Keep that wonder and excitement.  It's a beautiful thing!

Most of all, go hard after God!
Son, there's NOTHING else in this life that's worth anything if you don't have Him!  I remember when you gave your heart to Jesus for the very first time, you were not quite 4.  You have always been tender to the things of God, and I have thanked Him over and over for that.  He's called you, drawn you to Himself, and it has been my honor and joy to talk to you, pray with you, and point you to Him over and over again. How amazing it was for Daddy to baptize you, and for us to watch as you grew in your walk with the Lord.  You have a way with kids, and your service in the children's ministry has been so awesome.  

I cannot even tell you how much of an honor and privilege it was for me to go with you to Kenya and watch how you bonded with those kids!  Oh, Clayton, my heart just about burst with joy to see you dance and play with them.  

And now I think about your summer ahead where you'll be working with kids at Camp Arrowwood, and I pray that God will enlarge your heart again with more joy and more passion for Him through this ministry!  He has His hand on your life.  
And while I know there have been days where you've wondered if you're "spiritual" enough or "Christian" enough, or you've even questioned if you're saved because your walk with the Lord doesn't look like someone else's, please, please hear me:   
God has captured your heart with His grace and love!  You are HIS!  He is yours!  And He only requires your obedience to Him.  
Don't look around at others and doubt.  Look to Jesus and LIVE!  
Keep your eyes focused on Christ and what He has accomplished for you on the cross. 

Rejoice in the hope that flows out of the empty tomb.  
You are unique.  You were made for a specific purpose.  
Just as one bolt on a motor requires a specific socket, so YOU are unique and your walk with Jesus is going to look different than the person next to you.  
Run this race with focus, with determination, with passion!

I hope that you will remember these things.  There are going to be hard days, good days, exciting days, and sad days.  But always know that there will never be a day that you go through that God is not with you, and that I do not love you!  

I am proud of you.  And I am praying for you.  

All the time.  

With so much love, I can't even describe it,


Monday, February 6, 2017

Sometimes, it's not spiritual...

I have been in a dark place for a while; nearly 6 months, to be exact.  
And I've not been able to figure it out.

Years ago I heard a sermon by the late evangelist Albert Barr, about how he went into depression and began to feel so badly that he questioned if he was even a Christian!  Ultimately, he ended up in the hospital and they found he had been hemorrhaging inside and once he was given blood, his head cleared, his spirits lifted, and all was right with the world.

Over the past 6 months, I've tried all sorts of things; doctor visits, antibiotics for infections I was dealing with, counseling, prayer and anointed with oil.  
I've cried out to God.  
I've talked to friends.  
I've read Scripture.  
I've cut out sugar and carbs, increased vegetable intake.  

And I continued to feel bad.  
I've lived in a fog.  
I've retreated from fellowship and friends.  
I've pushed my husband away.  
I quit going to the gym. 
 I gave up on diets because I was ALWAYS hungry.  
I craved sugar like a crack fiend! 
 Eating candy bars and chocolate like my life depended on it.

I couldn't figure out what was going on.  
The scales tipped at 270 pounds last week!

So I called a friend who is an herbalist, and she finally was able to see me.  
I poured out my symptoms to her, telling her I was certain I was crazy.  Couldn't go to sleep at night; couldn't wake up in the mornings and had to take a nap to make it through the day.

She assured me that I was NOT crazy.  
She did some testing and found that I have a least one.  That's why I've been hungry!  Also found my adrenals were completely depleted.  So, I'm tired!  
I've got a leaky gut, and have wiped out my good bacteria and am overgrown with bad.  
I'm not making serotonin, so my emotions/hormones have been all over the spectrum!  

I began taking the things she recommended, drinking a tea that she made for me, increasing my vitamin B intake along with some other things, and from Wednesday to Sunday I could NOT believe the difference!  
I mean it was like I was experiencing my first sunny day in 6 months.

Someone in the congregation at church even commented that I looked like a burden or a cloud had been lifted off of me.  And that's exactly what I felt like.

During the worship/singing portion of service, I was able to truly worship and lift my hands and really feel the Lord's presence for the first time in so long!!!

And the more I'm taking the prescribed vitamins/herbs, the better I'm feeling, and the more I can see clearly to walk this thing out.  

My appetite is back under control.  

I'm still tired, but I know that's going to get better.  

I even mentioned to my husband yesterday that I think I'm ready to start going back to the gym!  

Life is looking better, and it's because I'm feeling better, physically.

The enemy most definitely wanted me to believe it was all spiritual.  His lies were intense during this past 6 months.  He even had me wishing I had never gone on my mission trip!!  Which is INSANE!  
He uses whatever he can to attack us, and when we're at our weakest, most vulnerable, he swoops in and kicks us when we're down!

But I'm so thankful for God being right there through it all with me.  
He never left me.  
He directed me to my dear friend so that she could find the problem and give me some help.  
He gave me a faithful husband who didn't abandon me when I got angry and clammed up and pushed him out.  
My friends were faithful to remain my friends when I was at my worst.

And I'm so grateful to be on the mend!

Sunday, January 1, 2017


It's January 1st, the first day of a new week, new month, new year!!!!

I love it when a new month starts on a Sunday, but to also have a new year begin on the first day of the week just seems perfect.  Like I've just gotten a brand new note book or journal and cracked open the pages and stuck my nose in there to smell the freshness of NEW paper!!!  
Anybody else enjoy that?!

Hallerin Hilton Hill, a local radio show host, always begins his show saying, 
"Today is a BRAND NEW DAY!  It's a blank canvas.  If you will it so, it can be your masterpiece."  

So, where do you find yourself today?  Or maybe last night?  Making a list of resolutions?  Or plans, things to change, things that need fixing or organized?  

Was weight loss on the list?  Exercise?  Dieting of some kind?

I'm approaching the new year full of mixed emotions.  

Today, I weighed the most I've ever weighed in my entire life!

268.8 lbs!
(I have a picture to prove it, I'll send it to you if you want!)

It was depressing to see those numbers there this morning.  
I've undone everything that I worked hard for from January to June last year, which is when I began gaining weight.  I've put on 30 POUNDS in the last 6 MONTHS!

I'm ashamed, embarrassed, wanting to hide and never ever speak to anyone again.

But also I realize that those feelings have very much contributed to the weight gain.  The desire to hide, to wallow in shame, to run from God because of that shame...all those things have driven me to food.

There are a million reasons to be discouraged, and yet I find myself reaching up out of the pit of sin that I've been stuck in for 6 months and longing for Christ to pick me up and carry me out.
There is no life here. 
 No light. 
 No hope.  
And I need those things to survive.  
We all do!

Someone mentioned to me this week that I have no idea how much of an inspiration and encouragement I've been to them through this blog and my response was, 
"Ha!  I've certainly not been inspiring lately!"  
But my desire is to always point people who struggle to Jesus, who is the PERFECT example of inspiration and the ULTIMATE encouragement!

We sang this song in church today (scroll over the link and click on it to go to the video), and I want to post it with the hope that it will bless you to remember, as we begin 2017 with NO IDEA what is ahead, that Christ is before us, Christ is behind us, His loving kindness has NEVER failed us!

I'm committing to healthy eating once again (food prep began yesterday and continues into today!), to blogging more, to going to the gym consistently beginning tomorrow morning, and to not hiding from friends and Jesus, as if I could!

Bring on 2017!!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Of Statues and Idols

It's been a while since I last updated here on my health and the journey that I've been on, so today's the day to do that!

I have kept my commitment to stay away from Taco Bell, but I have eaten at McDonald's 3 times since December 30th, due to traveling, etc.

I ended my experiment from July to not eat out, but we have continued to try to limit our dining out to once or twice per week, particularly as a family.  My guys eat out together as a routine business thing on Mondays, and I may do it once during the week.  It's amazing how much money we've saved and have been able to use for other things.

I had blood work done a couple of weeks ago, and the greatest news EVER is that my A1C is now in the normal range!  I'm no longer pre-diabetic, THANK YOU, JESUS!  I have been so excited about that, you don't even know!

I still have work to do on my cholesterol, but that's something that I'll probably struggle with because it's hereditary.

My weight, on the other hand, is the highest it's EVER been in my entire life, 263.4 on Sunday, October 23rd.

I cannot seem to get a handle on getting my eating back under control.  I've tried to evaluate my life, my schedule, my shopping...

I've taken time to evaluate everything except my HEART.  Probably because I already know that THERE IN lies the problem.

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to visit New York City, something I hadn't done since I was a teenager way back in 1981.

I captured these pictures of the beautiful Statue of Liberty.

Did you know that the Statue is 305 ft tall from the base to the flame?

That's how big I feel this idol of food has become in my life.

I often vacillate between feeling overwhelmed by this "burden," and feeling like King Kong, larger than life itself and able to conquer anything.

There are days that I swear I cannot get out of bed because the weight of this "thing" has me buried.  I can't breathe, I can't think, I honestly cannot take another step because I'm exhausted from fighting.

I have all the answers to any question I could ever have on how to eat right, how to exercise, how and what to prepare, shopping lists, books, dvd's, resources out the ying-yang!

It isn't a head knowledge problem.

It keeps going back to my heart.

I'm less than 3 years away from being 50 years old, and almost daily I ask myself, 
"When are you going to grow up?  When are you going to be a mature adult and do the right thing?"  

Because, honestly, it is a choice I make to not exercise.

It is a choice I make to eat sugar and carbs.

I make the decision to not purchase the healthy snack options.

Really, sin is a choice. 

Because after all, scripture is explicitly clear when it says in James 4:17, 
"Remember, it is a sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it." (NLT)

Today is November 1st, a new month, again, and I'm thinking about starting over, again, like so many times this past year.  But today is different somehow, because I've learned a lot over this past year about myself, and I feel more ready.

I had a dream last night in which I was talking to one of our pastors that preached this past Sunday, and I told him, "I feel like the past 10 years my brain has been a giant puzzle, trying to figure out who I am in Christ, what my position is as a believer, how God sees me as His child, and today it felt like the last piece of that puzzle got put into place." 

And that thought has stayed with me all day today.  I DO feel like something has clicked; some pieces finally came together about how I have been viewing God as my father, and using food as a substitute for comfort and security.  I don't quite have a handle on it all, but something has definitely changed.

And so I begin this month of thankfulness feeling grateful for what God is trying to teach me, thankful for His answer to my prayer that I wouldn't become diabetic, blessed with the loving support of my husband and children and countless friends who desire God's best for me, overwhelmed with the amazing church family and pastors that He has given that never cease to speak the truth to me in love, who are faithful to preach God's word and call sin "sin."  

I confess my rebellious heart to God and to all that read this, and repent of my sin, asking for God's help in turning away from this idol of food, idol of control, idol of fear and lack of trust in God's provision for me.

And I take a new step into letting go...again.  
Scared, but excited.  Nervous, but ready.  Trembling, but trusting.

Clinging to the promise, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

"Let's Eat! But first, take a picture!"

So, I've traveled a lot lately and had a chance to taste some amazing food.  Of course, I always have to take a picture.  And I thought I'd share those here.

Kenya has a wonderful thing they call "chapati."  Similar to a tortilla crossed with Indian fry bread, it is amazing!

We ate lots of rice and beans in Kenya!  Rice is one of their "staples," along with something called "Ugali," which would be similar to our grits, only thicker, and then is cut into slices.

Chai!  Every afternoon we would "take tea."  It is delicious.

We threw a surprise birthday party for our team leader while in Kenya, and it was the kids' first time to have hot dogs, which they called "sausages."  Very fun to teach them how to eat them with ketchup and mustard.

This is the Kenyan version of cheese puffs, only they don't taste like cheese at all.  They're vegetable flavors, and without the nasty high fructose corn syrup that is in EVERYTHING that we have in America.  They have a very different taste than what I was used to or expecting.

A black forest cake from a local bakery.  Very delicious.  Not overly sweet.  Kenyans don't eat a lot of sweet things, which is awesome!  

We picnicked with chicken and fries one day.

And I had my first roasted goat!  They boiled it first, then grilled it, called "choma," meaning "roasted meat."  It was different.  Such a great experience.

In New York City, I enjoyed a place called "Sugar and Plumm," where we had these Lemon Ricotta pancakes for dessert.

This was my "Plumm Burger," which was ground chuck, blue cheese, jalapeno jelly, baby arugula and bacon.  Beyond yum!

Does it get any better than New York cheesecake from Junior's in Times Square?

Authentic New York pizza at the Staten Island Ferry.

Serendippity 3 has always been a place I wanted to visit, and I was thrilled we got to go.

They're famous for their Frozen Hot Chocolate, which is amazing!

My cousin got this 3 scoop hot fudge sundae, which was the best hot fudge I've ever tasted.

Chicken chili nacho appetizer to help with all the sweetness.

And my cousin's boyfriend got the "Bi-Sensual Burger," a beef patty topped with bacon, cheddar, chili, raw onion, lettuce, pickle, and tomato.  It was insane!

My pre-Broadway meal was a NY Hot Pastrami sandwich, which was something totally new for me.  I'd never had pastrami before, but it was very good.

I had my first visit to a New Jersey diner, attending a birthday party there, and had great Thanksgiving food.  Diners are EVERYWHERE in New Jersey!

And the day we left, I got to experience THESE bagels...oh, my!  Let's just say that Panera has NO clue how to make a bagel.  I brought some home and enjoyed them for breakfast for 3 days in a row.  

And so, there you have it, my food travel journal.  I didn't get pictures of the yummy Garrett's popcorn we had in the Chicago airport, or the best eggplant parm that my wonderful Italian friend made for us in New Jersey, but I think we covered everything else. 

You got to enjoy it without gaining any weight!!

I, on the other hand, need to head to the gym!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

It's Not Nothing...

Today marks exactly 9 months until I'm standing with my husband on a stage to hand our son his high school diploma.  It will mark the end of a 17 year journey of homeschooling for our family.  And it will mark the culmination of a walk that began 18 years ago this coming Friday, when we walked into the birthing center for that unexpected blessing to be born.

I mentioned on my Facebook today that this is like pregnancy, in reverse.  And I've thought about that all day today, as we worked through division problems together and one of us had tears trying to get the concept across!  And then there was laughter as we realized how terribly we communicate. :)  

How many things have I taught him?  
He learned to eat.  He learned to go potty.  He's walking because of our instruction.  He rides bicycles, drives, reads books, showers regularly, talks, does math and science.  He prays and serves the Lord.  He loves to work with his hands and he loves to serve others.  
He can do laundry and has basic cooking skills.  
And so, I'm looking at this 6'3" baby of mine that will make that important walk in 9 months and I'm realizing, "There are only 9 months left, but there's still so much I wanted you to know!"  

When you're expecting a baby, you have 9 months to get prepared for their COMING.  

When you're graduating your child, you have 9 months to prepare for their GOING.

I distinctly remember feeling this way with my first son; not ready, so much that I still wanted him to know before he went off to college or the military or got married, all of which he did within 4 years of graduating high school.  

So, this concept isn't new, but it just seems more final today.  
Maybe because this is my last child?  
Maybe because this means I'll no longer be part of the amazing homeschool support group that we have, where I get to see all my friends when there's a function?  

But maybe it's because I really don't know who "I" am without kids, without homeschooling, without being needed?  
And maybe I'm just a little scared at the next chapter in life?

I'm sitting in that thought.

But I've made a decision to pull back from everything else that I've been involved in over the past few years and just pour myself into my family, particularly my senior, and make sure that I've done the most that God can possibly help me do to turn him loose into this world to make a difference!  

He is an amazing kid, and I don't say that just because I'm his mother.  
He seriously is just a wonderful, delightful, incredible man and I am so very blessed that he calls ME "Mom."

So, as one lady said on a blog I read, but cannot find to link here, 
"It's not a death.  It's not a birth.  But it's not nothing, either.  It's something that deserves to be celebrated, to be grieved over, to be recognized as a passage of time. 
 It's different, it's hard.  
But it's not nothing."

Monday, August 8, 2016

What Is Going On?

I have been making lots of changes over the past 18 months or so, and more recently had given up eating out.  And now I'm realizing that my body is really, really changing.

No, my weight is not dropping, unfortunately.  I actually weigh the most right now that I have in a while (260 lbs the last time I stepped on the scale.)

But other things are going I can't handle taking vitamins and supplements anymore.  As soon as I do, I get a headache or start retaining fluids, like I'm being overloaded.  The same thing is happening to my husband, as well!  The best we can figure, we're getting so many vitamins and nutrients from our food and protein shakes that we don't NEED to take those extra things.  Woo-Hoo!

I have realized in this first week of August that eating out doesn't taste good anymore.  Can you believe that?  I went to lunch with my mom last week and had half a sandwich and a salad, and while it was ok, I really felt bloated and so very thirsty the rest of the day.  Not a good feeling.

Fruit is really all the sweet I "need."  Now granted, chocolate is ALWAYS going to be my vice, but if I'm hungry for something sweet, I find myself turning to fruit with greek yogurt more and more often.

I'm in love with fresh veggies.  Not necessarily raw veggies, but fresh vs. frozen.  I've been grilling squash and zucchini from my garden all summer, and it is just so stinkin' good!  I still struggle with salads, though.  Something about the lettuce just doesn't sit well with my tummy.

And so, while I'm discouraged on the one hand about my weight being UP rather than down as I prepare to fly to Kenya on Thursday, I remain ENCOURAGED by the progress I've made in being more in tune with my body, in realizing that fresh, whole foods are so much more satisfying, and in knowing that we really ARE making progress, even if it isn't reflected on the scale.