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Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 - Happy New Year

Happy New Year! It's time for resolutions and goals for 2011. For the last several years, I have avoided setting many concrete goals - so that I would not fail. As a matter of fact, I did not succeed at either of my two goals that I set last year, nor did I remember having set any goals until I looked in my blog archives just now.

This year I have set some precise goals, writing down some of the things that I have long felt impressed to do, but have postponed. I sense time slipping away, and think the time to chase dreams is now. It is my hope that I will be more successful this year and purposeful about pursuing these things.

1. I will spend more time in God's word than I do on facebook.
2. I will finish at least one writing project that I have envisioned:
Worship - a closer look
Lullabies and Lovesongs, falling in love with God
Help! I don't know who the preacher is talking about (basic Bible stories)
Fear Not! 365 days to a fearless life
Underwater (a novel set in Texoma)
High Cotton?? (a novel set in cotton growing Arkansas)
3. I will try to publish at least one magazine/web article this year for pay.
4. I will set up meetings with people I know that have experience speaking and seek a mentor in that area and tips on how to secure speaking engagements.
5. I will learn to play the guitar that is in my closet.
6. I will date my husband at least once a month, and spend time individually with my children.
7. I will work out at least 4 days a week - and want to train for a half marathon (if I can get over being chicken)
8. I will continue to evaluate my possessions on a regular basis, sharing those things that can be used by multiple people, and giving away what I do not need.
9. I will seek to become more educated about fair trade, and seek to spend more responsibly.
10. I will submit all these ideas and others that may develop under God's authority and seek to live surrendered to his agenda and his plan.

There it is - my top ten things that I want to do this next year. What is your number one goal this year?

A year in the mirror

Last January I joined Nautilus, a local gym. This was a huge moment in my life, a battle between my past and my future. I had reached a plateau at home and needed new horizons in order to continue my fitness. When I began trying to work out at the gym, I discovered much of my past that I had shoved into a closet and hidden. Standing in front of the mirrors brought back the past ghosts of an eating disorder that I imagined long gone. It seems those self doubts needed healing not hiding.

I have blogged my way through many of the ups and downs of working out this year. I have been honest here in my struggles with my value and self esteem. There have been bright moments as well as dark seasons. This year I have struggled more with doubt than I have in many years - struggling to find my worth apart from the number on the scales and the size of my jeans.

Working out at the gym meant seeing myself in mirrors from many angles. One morning I was doing a set of squats and caught a glimpse of my reflection. My first sympathetic thought, not realizing those were my legs, "That poor dear....cellulite is such a pain to get rid of." Then realization hit and the next thought was, "Dear God, when did THAT happen?" As I persisted, working out 5-6 days a week, I slowly saw results. However, I still attached value to the number on the tag of my jeans.

I have slacked off greatly this last semester. Between work, attending school, and family needs, I found very little time for exercise. I have gained back many of my pounds and more of my inches. I have avoided the gym, dreading to see my larger self in the mirrors. Feeling discouraged about the quick regression, I finally headed back to the gym this week, only to discover a beautiful change of heart happened somewhere along the way.

This week as I lifted weights, deliberately standing in front of the mirrors to check my form, I found a new peace. I realized that I did not despise the woman in the mirror for her weight gain, but instead applauded her for investing in the future - working at creating health to enjoy her children and someday her grandchildren. I was surprised to find myself mentally detached from the reflection and cheering her on, as if she were a stranger. "Come on, two more reps - you can do this!"

I wondered if it was a fluke, but the same thing was true in the workout classes this week. I found myself checking the mirror for form, not to see if I was a failure at the move. I am not necessarily any more graceful, or any less dancing dyslexic, but I did not beat myself up for those things. Instead I saw a woman determined to face her future with a healthy heart, a healthy body, and a laughing soul. If I went right when everybody else when left, I did it with gusto - I can burn calories being wrong just as easily as being right!

A year in the mirror - what a battle! But in the end, I like this woman that won. This is the woman that is less worried about her size compared to everybody else, and more concerned about being her own personal best. Whatever that size might be. This is a woman who is determined to invest her time in loving life, knowing that fitness is a critical component to mental and physical health.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Lasting Reminder

Months ago I smacked my thumb with a hammer during a special church service. We were nailing small slips of paper with lists of our sins to a wooden cross to symbolize Christ's payment for our debts. As the weeks passed, the wound turned black, and began to slowly inch upward as my nail grew.

At Christmas, the black spot cracked and popped off - right out of the middle of the finger nail. The process was quite disgustingly nasty. Now I have a bizarre hole in the middle of my finger nail that annoys me greatly and catches on everything. Shawn's grandmother noticed first the blackened spot, then the gaping hole. When I told her about what had happened she spoke quiet words of wisdom, "Whelp, I reckon some of us needs a bit more reminding 'bout thangs than others."

How true - every time I see the remnants of my mishap, I remember that church service. I remember what I wrote on my paper - a long list of sins, covered by a huge word, "REDEEMED." I am reminded daily that Christ took my punishment so that I could experience life in God's presence.

Maybe, just this once, hitting myself with the hammer was more of a blessing than a pain.

Monday Morning Update - Advent Conspiracy

I have been silent for many weeks, strongly impressed to keep my opinions about Advent Conspiracy to myself. In praying about posting Monday Morning Updates, I decided to wait and let others hear from God during this series without my opinions and thoughts weighing in on what God was telling them.

If you are asking, "What is Advent Conspiracy?" Well, it's a book, a movement, and a way of life. Chris Seay wrote a small book entitled Advent Conspiracy that has sparked believers to rethink the materialism at Christmas. Shawn spent several weeks walking through many of these principles with our congregation. You can find these principles and more information online at

We have long felt that we were missing something valuable in Christmas. The year that our children cried because they were tired of opening gifts sort of clued us in that we were missing the point. We love to shower our children with gifts to demonstrate our love, but then in a matter of weeks or months we are hauling off their discarded stuff to Goodwill. Every year we experience great stress attempting to find the perfect gifts for people who don't need or want any more stuff. Then there are the gifts that we buy out of obligation - for people we don't even really like. And then there are the bills - the massive piles of bills from going overboard with money we didn't really have.

So this year, Christmas changed at our house. We only bought gifts for our immediate family. In an effort to be responsible to our budget, and to prevent our dollars supporting slavery, we bought most of our stuff used this year. My daughters and I all received $10 bikes. Katie received a $25 dollhouse that retailed for $200, Grace a $500 drumset for $150, and James a mountain bike for $85. We also bought fair trade items online at Many of our purchases were probably not fair trade, but at least it is improving.

For Shawn's family, we decided to give the gift of relationship. We all committed to spending a week together this summer on vacation. We will coordinate our time off in such a way that we can stop our busy lives and connect. Looking at the relational aspect of Christmas also made me rethink our holiday. We made the effort this year to see all our parents. It was a long trip, all the way across and around Arkansas, but definitely very rewarding to visit my family.

This last Sunday, we spent time telling our stories. The stories of how God showed up this Christmas. We heard from families about serving the homeless, helping others, and astonishing accounts of blessing. The power of the stories of our people was incredible. I loved getting to hear how God had worked in others. However, I am more excited to see how God continues to work over the next few weeks and months as we continue to rethink how we live. To worship freely, give more, and love fully.