Thursday, December 29, 2011

Getting In the Game For the New Year

As I'm winding down this year and pressing into the new one I am, of course, thinking about resolutions. That word is spoken puts one image into my head, a piece of paper with about four things on it. Most of us could actually write down our resolutions and blindly swap with another person in town and it'd probably end up being the same list in different handwriting! Because we all want to lose weight, make more money, and spend more time _____. (You fill in the blank.)

The problem with that list is that it's too vague. And that's the very same reason we end a year having not completed one of the things on our list. And then we make a list again for the new year and the same words are on it.

If I gave you a piece of paper that said, "Come to my house. Get the coconut oil. Put the coconut oil in my car." You might be very willing to do these things, but it's not going to take you very long at all to realize that being "willing" doesn't get the job done.

Why? It's too vague.

Very few people reading this blog will know how to get to my house. Not even my children who live in my house realize I have coconut oil. They wouldn't kno if it's above the stove, in the pantry, or because of all my homemade facial concoctions, if it's under my bathroom sink! And finding my car would b even more difficult since it tends to be all over town!

And THAT'S why most "New Year Resolutions" do not make it past the first week. Because so many people usually have "lose weight" at the top of their resolutions list, we're going to use "lose weight" as the example throughout this blog. But understand that ANYTHING (make more money, spend more time with the kids, etc.) can apply with these same principles.

The first step toward successfully completing your desires for the new year is to change your wording from "resolution" to "game." We understand that word better because we're a culture of sports fanatics. We know that to be an NFL player you've got to be serious about "being in the game". Nonchalant, overweight uncles throwing a football on Thanksgiving do not REALLY get in "the game". They merely watch those who are. So now you're going to get in the game! The game is called "weight loss." It's going to be a great game and you are going to win because you're going to KNOW HOW to play the game!

Your first objective in playing the game is knowing your GOAL.

Now u need to think like a football player who has a goal called an "end line" or a "touchdown line." So your "goal" is not to "lose weight." Thats the name of the game. Your GOAL is determined by deciding how much weight you want to lose. You need to be EXACT. How you come to this conclusion is up to you. Do you want to lose enough weight to be at your proper BMI? Or do you want to lose a number of pounds suggested by a doctor? Your GOAL is the final number of pounds you wish to drop.

So now you know your GAME is "to lose weight", and your GOAL is an exact, final number of pounds.

Now you need to picture a football field. It's green with periodic white lines drawn all the way across it. The player knows the GOAL is the touchdown line. But he's got incremental goals. Since I don't know a THING about football I found this information on; "White lines on a football field are critical to playing the game. By knowing what yard lines, hash lines, and end lines represent, you’ll have an easier time following the game."

I couldn't have said it better myself! If your GOAL is to lose forty pounds then your yard lines, hash lines, and end lines are your incremental goals. That's where you lose your forty pounds in eight pound segments. (Or whatever you set up as your incremental goals.)

Let's recap, you now know your GAME is "to lose weight", and your GOAL is an exact, final number of pounds. Your yard lines are incremental goals.

Let's wrap up by talking about our GAME PLAN. If just saying, "I'm going to reach my goal!" was all it took to win, then I wouldn't have needed to share my opinions and ideas about how to succeed. No game is won just by wanting to, or by knowing the goals. There has to be a GAME PLAN that includes various PLAYS. These plays are thought about, demonstrated on a white board, practiced, written on little pieces of paper and velcroed to players biceps. And having one game plan isn't enough. There are many and during the course of a game the players have to try different plans as they move their way from yard line to yard line.

This is most definitely true in the weight loss game! Your going to start with a game plan of what type of diet will best suit you. When a player discovers a particular play isn't working he doesn't throw up his hands, give up on the whole game and go sit in the stands to eat a hot dog! I dare say that the nature of life will dictate that some of your original PLAYS won't work. Don't get frustrated because the PLAY worked so good for a friend, or a celebrity that you take yourself out of the game! If you find yourself failing at THAT particular play simply call a time out, regroup, look for a different play, and then continue the game!

I'm going to throw out a bunch of "Don'ts" here;
Don't be vague.
Don't bit off more than you can chew & swallow.
Don't give up!

And I'll wrap up with these "Do's";
Do have a specific, final GOAL.
Do set up incremental YARD LINES.
Do have a GAME PLAN that includes the option of any PLAY needed for the moment.

The only thing not mentioned in this method of goal achieving is setting dates. I didn't talk about setting deadlines because we've been using weight loss as an example. And while many people definitely do use deadlines in losing weight, it wouldn't have been prudent for me to do so.

I had a weight loss goal of forty pounds that I'm proud to say I met... Over the course of three years! First of all, if I'd started the game realizing it'd be a three YEAR journey I don't think I'd have been able to handle that huge time frame. Secondly, weight loss is very different from person to person. Research proves speedy weight loss is neither healthy nor lasting. So where traditional goal setting teaches to set dates at the incremental goal lines, & on other GAMES I do suggest that you set dates. When it comes to weight loss I do not suggest it.

But that GAME convo is for another season!

Knock Out Negative Emotions

When I was a child there was a playground rhyme that went like this;
See my finger?
See my thumb?
See my fist?
You'd better run!
It was definitely said by the tough kids, taunting wimps, flaunting their powerful five year old muscles with the rhyme.

I've given one black eye in my life. My friend, Donald, was teasing me on the playground at school one day saying I liked a little boy named Matthew! It was quite true of course. But for whatever reason I felt my honor and respectability was at stake. So I started chasing Donnie, swinging my fists, telling him to be quiet! Then suddenly, without warning Donnie turned around to end the chase and be done with the game; Wham! You know that comical line from the '90's, "Run into my fist." That's literally what happened! It was the classic case of being in the wrong time in the wrong place and my fist caught him squarely in the eye! I felt terrible hitting my friend! It was on accident! But at least now I'm aware I can give a black eye if I need to!

I've had a new "friend" chasing me around this playground of "life" lately. She goes by the name, Emotions. We have a very tight bond. For whatever reason another childhood rhyme comes to mind;
There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead
When she was good
She was very, very good
But when she was bad
She was horrid

Indeed, when emotions are good, they are very, very good! Laughter literally releases more feel-good endorphins that lead to feelings of calm & peace. Emotions cause us to feel tender and sweet toward our loved ones. They cause us to feel compassion toward less fortunate humanity, that feeling then pushes us into an action of helping.

But when emotions are bad, they ARE horrid. There are events that can occur that send our emotions into a tailspin. It could be an unfaithful friend, or a death in the family, or the illness of a child. It could be the environment of a job, or even worse, the loss of a job.

My emotions went into a tailspin about five years ago and I had no clue what was going on! I came from positive parents. I am naturally inclined to be positive and bright. Suddenly (at least it snuck up on me so silently it felt like "suddenly) I was needing to cry for no reason. I would feel bursts of anger like I'd never known. And I was sick alllll-the-tiiiime! I had hormone tests done, because of course as a woman, PMS can be blamed for everything emotional and spasmatic! My hormones were PERFECTLY balanced. My iron was even higher than most women of my age. My thyroid was good. I went to homeopathic doctors, and traditional doctors. There was nothing physically wrong with me!

Through prayer, counsel, and some major life-upheavaling decisions I began to realize my problem was literally "all in my head." I had allowed some damage to occur to some foundational elements of health and well-being and now my whole structure was reeling from the damage. I HAD to get proactive on repairing that foundation for several reasons; 1. I still had kids to raise and they were entering their very vulnerable teen years. 2. I love my job as a music director and leader in my church. 3. I had a LOT of future ahead.

More prayer ensued. More counsel. More research. I knew the joy of the Lord was my strength. I knew my answers were in prayer. But I was very confused at myself and very frustrated with my counsellors because the prayer and the joy didn't seem to be helping! Then I happened across a book at my public library. ("Happened?" I believe God set up the encounter.) The book was called, "Happy For No Reason." It wasn't a Christian book. But it was a great resource to help me. What the book did for me was showed me HOW TO access the joy & peace that was already within me!

We've just finished celebrating Christmas and I received from my parents a gift I've been wanting for a while; an iPad2! Here's why my iPad is relevant (besides the fact that I'm currently writing from it! Yippee!) The iPad2 was purchased, paid for in-full, in other words, no ongoing payments were required. The iPad2 was gift wrapped by my mother. The iPad2 was laying beneath her garland bedecked antique piano. For the three to four weeks leading up to Christmas my iPad2... (Sorry! I just get giddy saying "iPad2!) MY iPad2was right there! I walked within inches of it more times than I can count. I KNEW IT WAS THERE! she had asked me if I wanted an iPad2, she called me from the store to find out if I wanted 3G on it. So I actually KNEW I had an iPad2 and I knew the day it was purchased for my benefit!

When did I benefit from this lovely, magical creation of Steve Jobs? The day I TOOK ACTION! And THAT'S what "Happy For No Reason" showed me how to do; take action. I definitely had God's attention in prayer. I would cry my heartache out to him and his spirit would minister to me so intimately. I would even speak in other tongues. But I'd leave that time of prayer and worship and still be lugging around such heavy, oppressive emotions!

Through reading that book (which you must read yourself since I don't have time to rewrite it here) I learned that I had to extend my arms, use the ligaments and muscles in my hands to receive the gift already mine, and I had to tear the paper off, and I had to open the box, and I had to power on the device in order to benefit! (Ok. I just sorta flashed back to that wonderful moment when I got this amazing device currently being tapped and swiped with love!) But that's what I had to also do with my body and brain in order to benefit from the joy and peace already mine via the Holy Ghost!

Though no particular chapter in the book said to do a Happy Exercise, or what exactly that Happy Exercise would be, I combined actions I saw in various chapters and created my OWN Happy Exercise! I knew from my experience in working out that what was required to build the strength of a muscle was repetition. What is required to build a good habit, or tear down bad habits is repetition. So I set the alarm on my phone to go off every hour and I began delivering a five-fingered fist to the breadbasket of bad emotions.

1. Smile for no reason.
When my Happy Exercise alarm goes off. (I have mine set for every hour.) I SMILE! Research shows smiling releases happy hormones into your brain. Women who've had Botox done on the frown lines around their mouth had relief from depression because frowning causes your brain to produce negative, stress inducing hormones. So every hour, for no reason, I SMILE to release the happy endorphins!

2. Think happy thoughts.
I think of someone, someplace, or something that I like. It may b a song, or a book, or a miracle, or an act of kindness I heard about. It may be something that happened so long ago I can't even remember the details. But I very PURPOSEFULLY think a happy thought.

3. Pray.
I ask God to help me be happier. I ask God to heal whatever is causing me emotional or physical pain. I ask God to help the people I'm worried about. I thank God for his blessings. Sometimes this lasts 30 seconds. Sometimes it last 30 minutes. But I purposefully connect myself to my Creator during this Happy Exercise.

4. Do an exercise.
Exercise releases more of those happy endorphins into your brain and bloodstream. So whether you want to lose weight or not. Just MOVE YOUR BODY! Sometimes I go for a walk. Sometimes lock my office door and do 10 pushups. Sometimes I annoy my co-workers by running up and down the stairs three or four times. Sometimes I just stand up from my desk and touch my toes. But I purposefully exercise my body.

5. Compliment someone.
I either write a quick, short notecard or I shoot off a text or fb message to someone letting them know something they have done that I appreciate. I tell someone I think they're beautiful. I tell someone about a good deed I overheard they did and how it impressed me. I tell someone how their conduct under pressure inspired me.

And now we're back where I started...
See my finger?
See my thumb?
See my fist?
You'd better run!

Now I know how to show my horrid emotions exactly who is boss of me! In those five exercises I am deliberately raising my fist to sadness, negativity, oppression, and doubt and delivering a very complete KO! Do I still feel sadness? Of course! Do I still have bad days? Yep. And as long as I have blood pumping through my veins I'll hafta keep on guard against negativity. But NOW I know what and how to get my inner army of joy-bots moving and grooving, taking back territory that rightfully belongs to me.

If you've been dealing with the effects of bad emotions, I hope you'll begin doing Happy Exercises with me. If you have a friend dealing with depression I hope you'll invite them to join me AND YOU in doing Happy Exercises.

Negativity is the enemy and I now know how to raise my fist to it!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My “Get Fit/Feel Pretty” Journey

Originally published on my blog, Soul Java, on Monday, February 22, 2010

Part 4

I still take the Phentermine, but in very small doses. Its VERY rare for me to take a whole pill, when I do its because I’m taking it early in the morning and I need it to last all day. Usually I only take a half pill and I do that around 11am after I realize I’m feeling more snackie than is good. Its common for me to go 3 months before I need a refill. Usually the pill is not prescribed to a patient for as long as I’ve been taking it, but usually patients take the pill everyday and are needed a new script every month. Because I use them as rarely as I do my doctor is comfortable prescribing to me. I also take other things to help me. Nearly every day I take Chromium Picolinate, L-Carnitine & periodically drink Protein to help my metabolism.

When I first went to my doctor weighing 214lbs we set a goal of 165lbs. I honestly was not sure I could get there and thought to myself, “I’ll be happy if I can get under 190lbs.” Today I weigh 172lbs. Furthermore, I’m not sure what my goal is anymore! Well, for sure I’m going to hit my 165 mark, but a couple months ago I discovered that to be at the right BMI (Body Mass Index) I should weigh 155lbs. So, I’m guessing I’m going to use my friends’ & family’s judgment and if I start looking “sunken” like I did in my 20’s I won’t try to reach that 155 mark.

My advice to everyone is DON’T GET OVERWEIGHT! My advice to my overweight friends is don’t lie to yourself, don’t cover up why you’re overweight, don’t pretend like it doesn’t matter. There’s no need for you to look like the models in magazines. There’s no reason for you to try to be the hottest thing at work. But you need to be healthy enough to give your family confidence that you’re going to be around for a long time. You need to feel good enough about yourself to be able to walk into a room with confidence and awareness that you did your best to look your best. We’re not all blessed with the perfect body type, nor with enough money to cut and paste ourselves into the perfect body type. There is no magic trick, (& as I have proven) no magic pill that can make you who you wish you were; a person self-disciplined enough to be the best you can be.

You may be obese enough to consider a surgical procedure to help you on your journey in weight loss. You may hire a personal trainer. Weight Watchers is a great support group. There are more helps & tools to assist in losing weight today than ever before. I encourage you to begin trying one. If it doesn’t work, drop it and try something else. Keep working at it!

I’m not at my journey’s end yet, but for the first time in a VERY long time I feel pretty. For the first time in my life I feel disciplined, fit & in control of my appearance. I’m well-aware that once I reach my destination I’ll need to constantly maintain it, but I really think it’ll be worth it.

My “Get Fit/Feel Pretty” Journey, 3

Originally published on my blog, Soul Java, on Monday, February 22, 2010

Part 3

Toward the end of the Summer two things happened that helped me go to the next level in my journey to get fit and feel pretty. 1. I got an iPhone. Now, suddenly everything I was glued to the couch to do on my laptop I could be mobile and do! I could surf the web, I could write, I could listen to podcasts, I could text, call… My iPhone really & truly made a huge difference. 2ndly , our family became friends with some of the players of our community college basketball team. This was the perfect shot in the arm for me. These guys were all about movement, activity & working out. The talked about it, they challenged each other to pushups and sit ups in my living room. It was great! I was too embarrassed to ask them questions about exercise or weight loss at first, but I soaked in their conversations and after everybody was gone I’d try to do the types of exercises they did.

We went on our family vacation in September 2009; a cruise of all things! I was dreading the loads of food that would be available. But I also knew I had more focus than ever before. I brought my tunes with me and I decided I could dance my way through the delectable temptations. But my first night away from home I had a problem; we stayed in a hotel and between my kids’ entertainment and my husband’s work there was no room to do my dancing in the room! I decided I’d go dance in the workout room. “Alas! Gasp! No way!” The exercise room was FULL of mirrors! There was absolutely no way I could see my fat self dance in all those mirrors! But I was determined to do something; so I got on the treadmill. Guess what? I really liked it! I had my tunes in my ears, the handles on the machine was hiding me from the mirrors, I decided this would work! It took me nearly 45 minutes to walk 2 miles. I didn’t care how slow it was, I wasn’t there for the challenge. The same way I determined that losing extremely small amounts of weight was better than gaining small amounts, I decided moving my body in any way was better than being a couch potato.

I boarded that cruise ship knowing I was going to make use of their treadmills. The first place I went hunting for was the gym. I walked in… and nearly died! It was so intimidating! Guess what? More mirrors! Lots more equipment! Really healthy looking people who were obviously very familiar with a gym filled its every nook and cranny! My heart sank. I knew I was not going to be able to bring myself to use the gym. I found the walking track outside on the same deck as the pool. But I decided I’d rather walk past all those fat, half dressed bodies than use that daunting gym. (It was surprising how many “not fit” people didn’t mind getting nearly nude. Surprising and gross!)

I had something else helping me along at this point too; crazy mood swings! I’ve always been an expressive person, but never a moody person. Since around 2007 I had learned what it felt like to suddenly, without warning, be ready to snatch somebody’s head off! I could suddenly cry without warning too! Since the Summer of 2008 I was still dealing with a lack of self-worth. I discovered on the cruise that walking balanced all those emotional swings! I had always heard that exercise released endorphins in the brain that causes us to feel happier. This was the first time I experienced it. It was AWESOME! When I would get too impatient with my children I’d go walk the track. When I felt sad I’d go walk the track. I woke up in the morning before everybody else and went walking. I walked meals I’d eaten off. The favorite part of that cruise for me was walking. But one morning the wind was atrocious! I was feeling especially panicky and KNEW if I could just walk a few minutes I’d feel better. So in trepidation I poked my head into the gym; it was nearly empty! For the rest of the cruise I used the gym’s treadmills and slowly watched my speed and endurance gain momentum.

I lost 2 pounds on the cruise!

When I got home I kept walking. I got up to 3 miles but it was taking me around 40-45 minutes. At this point I was also doing some Pilates, Abs workouts, and other muscle building, flab-fighting things. I had become comfortable talking to my basketball playing friend about exercise, how to do certain ones, etc. During the Thanksgiving break in November 2009, I was telling my friend how I knew I could walk more than 3 miles but I couldn’t take more time doing it than I already was. He told me I should try running. I was completely against it. I knew right away it was too challenging. I’ve seen runners. They are strong, disciplined, and they tend to thrive on challenge. I really felt like I couldn’t run. But he told me he wasn’t saying I should run 3 miles like I was walking. And that I didn’t need to worry about how long it took me. And that I was allowed to stop and catch my breath when I needed. So, the next day I ran. I thought I was going to die! But I reminded myself that I didn’t let myself stop and catch my breath AND I made myself run a full mile when I didn’t have to. Plus there was something in me that didn’t want to tell my basketball friend that I was a wimp! So, I ran again the next day… And the next, and the next. I started running to help with my moods just as I had done walking on the cruise. Plus it didn’t take nearly as long as the walking did to have that endorphin release! There are some days when running is as hard as it was that first day, but most of the time its exhilarating!

When I went to my doctor the last time he was emotionally moved at my success and was asking MY advice for his own weight loss! I’ve not reached my goal weight yet, but I’m on my way!

I’ll write in part 4 about what my goal is, how its morphed, and what natural vitamins & minerals I take to help in my “get fit/feel pretty journey”.

…to be continued.

My “Get Fit/Feel Pretty” Journey, 2

Originally published on my blog, Soul Java, on Monday, February 22, 2010
Part 2

A friend told me she was taking a prescription for weight loss called Phentermine. (See websites below.) For her sake I did a little research and I discovered something that I really liked; Phentermine has been on the market since the 1950’s. In the 1990’s it was paired with Fenfluramine and the cocktail was called Fen-Phen. That combination was pulled from the market because of lung & heart problems. But the drug, Phenteramine, used by itself has not had the alarming fatal disasters Fen-Phen had. As with any drug there may be side affects, it may respond better in one person’s body than it does another, but as a whole I felt confident about a drug that had been on the market for forty years.

When I went to my doctor, a family practitioner, I told him I needed help losing weight. The first thing he wanted was for me to go that week and record everything that went into my mouth. When I popped one of my daughter’s French fries in my mouth he wanted it written down. If I put a mint in my mouth or ate a steak he wanted it written down. I had been in the Weight Watchers program a couple different times before. At the time of my doctor’s visit, though not officially a member, I had been practicing the Weight Watcher’s habits for three or four weeks. (I’ll write about this experience later.) So I was used to eating better plus writing foods down. When I came back the following week he liked what he saw on my list. And with great caution prescribed me the Phentermine.

He prescribed it with caution because Phentermine is a narcotic and can be addicting. I had previously read this in my research and had also read that because of its addicting qualities Phentermine not be taken one day a week. Because I’m more addicted to the notion of not becoming addicted I pre-set strict rules to myself with this pill. I determined not to take it on my fast day because that would be cheating since the pill is an appetite suppressant! And I would not take it on Sunday because the pill gives energy and I didn’t want to drive my musicians and singers crazy with me being even more hyper than I already am!

Besides the prescription my doctor did one more thing to help; he gave me a shot of B-vitamins. At first I went and weighed in every week and he’d give me the B shot. The results were no different than I had in Weight Watchers; on a great week I’d lose the maximum of two pounds. But, I kept telling myself, “Losing .5lbs is better than GAINING .5.” So I kept at it.

At this point in the game I was not exercising at all. Just eating low calorie, low fat, high fiber foods. After 2 months of weekly doctor visits I explained to the doctor that it was too expensive for me. He told me I would only need to make an appointment for a prescription when I ran out of Phentermine. (A 30 day supply would last me almost 60 days because I was so strict about my intake.) I got down to around 190lbs and fluctuated up & down 3 & 4 pounds through October and November.

In December of 2008 we got a Wii FIT and I started exercising with that. The key for me is nice-&-easy. I am not a person who thrives on challenge. If its challenging, I quit, its as simple as that! The Wii FIT was almost challenging, but not enough to turn me off. I enjoyed seeing the progress on the screen. But we were just wrapping up that long line of calorie-laden holidays so I stayed there in the early 190’s.

In January of 2009 I had a doctor’s appointment for my weigh-in, to get my prescription refilled, but I also had another matter to attend to; I didn’t want the B shot anymore. I read in Prevention magazine that “excessive” use of B has been linked to breast cancer. My doctor had not heard of this research but agreed with me that if I wasn’t comfortable with it I should stop getting the shot. I haven’t had a B shot since.

I greatly restricted my use of the Phentermine at this point because I got my script filled on January 9th, and didn’t need another script until March 23rd. But I wasn’t losing weight either. I had completely plateaued between 190-194.

Then I started REALLY exercising. As I mentioned, I don’t like a challenge. I didn’t know what I wanted to do for exercise. I couldn’t afford a gym membership. I didn’t want to walk in the stifling FL heat. So, I plugged my ipod into speakers, cranked up the volume and started dancing like a crazy woman in my living room! I thought my kids might want to join me, but they didn’t. They were embarrassed actually! My hair would be flying in all directions, my arms slinging, my legs bouncing… it was a lot of fun! Then I was forced to the next level.

…to be continued.
*I am not a medical doctor, nurse, or advisor. As I did, talk to your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise regime.

My “Get Fit/Feel Pretty” Journey

Originally published on my blog, Soul Java, on Monday, February 22, 2010

Part 1

Everybody has something about themselves they do not like. Some people may have a longer list, be the contents of the list a figment of their imagination or not. Some people don’t like their nose, others their skin, others may feel inferior because of their height, or lack thereof. There have always been things about me that if I allowed my thoughts or conversations to dwell on them they’d knock my confidence level down. But as a whole, my parents did an amazing job of making me feel good about who I am and helping me discover and maximize my strengths while working on and minimizing my weaknesses. But when you live in the culture we do there is one constant self- deprecating complaint heard more than any other; body weight.

I remember sitting in a Marie Calendar restaurant when I was about 12 or 13 years old listening to my parents talk. We were visiting my grandmother in San Jose, CA. Me and my mother had been out shopping all day. We had only been sitting with my dad at dinner for a short while when I realized he was upset at my mom for shopping only for me and not getting anything for herself. She tried to push it off lightheartedly; she didn’t need anything, she couldn’t find anything, it’d be too hot to wear at home in FL. But my dad could tell these were not sincere excuses and so he pushed, wanting her to splurge on herself, put herself first. Then I saw my mother do something I’d never seen her do outside our house or church; she started crying in public. She told my dad she didn’t buy anything because she was too fat to try on anything. I was in shock! Not only was this the first time I’d seen my mom cry in public, but I had no earthly idea she cared that she was fat! As a matter of fact, she wasn’t “fat” to me; she was just “mom”! It had honestly never crossed my mind that she was not perfect. In her pain, through sharp intakes of breath, attempting to stifle the tears my mother told my dad, “You have no idea how hard it is to love everything about yourself, your life, but not be able to completely enjoy all that you love because the one thing that you hate overrides the good.” That broke my heart! I had no idea mother dealt with this because she did such a good job of focusing on what she did love, but somewhere in the center of her mind she spent a lot of energy to push back, as it were, a raging bear poised to destroy her happiness.

I was a skinny baby and child. By the time I was eighteen or nineteen I had signs of my ancestral DNA showing itself in the form of extra, unneeded fat cushioning my frame. I had never been obese, maybe not even overweight, but neither had I ever been petite. I had never had the “look” of the models I saw in every magazine, or the “hot” girls at school or camps. I was never fat, but I was never happy with what I saw in the mirror either. Around 20 years old I began exercising and a fat-free diet and, wow, did I lose the weight! I really liked how I looked and felt. For the first time in my life I wore less than a size 10/12. (I’m not sure how I passed those sizes but I went from wearing kids’ department clothes to wearing a ladies size 10!) I had been a size 12 but I tried on a size 10 suit and it was too big! I got an 8, too big! In shock I asked the sales attendant to get me a size 6, even it was too big! I walked out of the store with a size 5 suit that day! Granted, I didn’t realize it, but I was too skinny. When I look back on pictures my eyes look sunken, my face was too thin, but not to worry; within a year I was married and immediately began to put the weight back on, and then some.

Before my first pregnancy I got the all dreaded, “I hear congratulations are in order!” Knowing exactly what he meant I defiantly stared back into the offensive man’s eyes and asked, “What for?” He stammered, “Aren’t you expecting?” After I actually was pregnant, during my last two months of pregnancy I couldn’t sit in a booth at a restaurant anymore because I couldn’t fit in. It was the first time I weighed over 200 pounds. The same thing happened in my second pregnancy. But I found the same cure as my mom did for pushing that ugly, old bear back into his cave so he didn’t mess with my self-confidence; busyness!

I’m a very creative person. Ideas pour from me like water from a spigot. I have more ideas than anybody could actually put to use. I homeschool, I write, I sing, I teach… it was not hard to get busy and stay busy. The idea of “me time” was a joke to mock at. Not because I couldn’t have it, but because I WOULDN’T have it! The very phrase is the height of selfishness! Why would I participate in such a low, self-gratifying activity when there are so many people in need of my labor of love? And so I pushed that bear down by working too much, which would put me in the position of eating too much of the bad stuff too fast. I’d pour ALL my love into others and then try to love myself with comfort foods. I’d give so much of myself to people and projects that I’d be too exhausted to do anything except sit and munch. All of my productivity AND entertainment was on my laptop so there was no need to move. Consequently, I came into the Summer of 2008 weighing 214lbs. For the first time my busyness couldn’t override my self-loathing. I’d heard of some people having results with their weight loss by going to a doctor for help and so I pushed back my tears and called my doctor for an appointment.

…to be continued.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Miraculous Intervention

I  have just been baptized with a fresh belief in the miraculous! Actually, I guess I've been baptized with a fresh realization of exactly HOW MUCH I truly believe in the miraculous! The definition of a "miracle" is:
1. an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.
2. such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of god.
3. a wonder; marvel.
4. a wonderful or surpassing example of some quality: a miracle of modern acoustics.
Now its a truth to say that when we awaken each morning it is indeed a miracle. That I don't go insane some days is a miracle. That Fall, Winter, Spring, & Summer keep happening is a miracle. These come under the category of "a wonder". They are "miracles" because of God's involvement. God created our bodies to function in a sleep/wake cycle, God gives me the inner peace to pull myself together on difficult days, God created the earth, light, seasons... These daily occurrences are INDEED miracles that I thank God for! I acknowledge His hand at work in our lives on a daily basis and my goal is not to downplay these extraordinary events.
However, we cannot forget that God goes beyond his own cycle of life. God has, can & does interject himself into the course of nature! God caused a 90 year old woman to conceive a child, and caused a bush to burn without being consumed, and caused water to stand like walls, and a rock to produce drinking water. God forced time to pause AND caused time to go backward, and a regular guy to have superhuman strength, and nursing calves to leave their mothers, and he brought a dead boy back to life... And THAT'S barely a smidge of the miraculous in the Old Testament ALONE! Jesus,turned H2O to wine, made lame walk, raised the dead, opened blinded eyes, and on, and on, and on! God is not bound by his own cycle of nature! God is not bound by my submission or rebellion! God is not bound by the people or circumstances in my life! God can destroy me if I begin to hurt His stuff, and God can exalt me regardless of other people trying to hinder me! My job is to do what I'm doing now, to trust him!
It has been insinuated to me that for certain events to unfold in my life the "miracle" would occur based on my own self-will and strength. While God has indeed endowed me with great strength I have lived a life that proves that my own decisions do not constitute miracles. It merely proves my strength. If we truly believe that God will perform a miracle in a marriage, or in a rebellious child, or in a boss, or in ANY situation then we believe that BEYOND our human decisions God will set a course in motion that will cause a result OUTSIDE our abilities! We OF COURSE live our lives based on God's Word, wisdom, and counsel. But let us not belittle a miracle by hoping people will decide to do what we want and call their compliance a miracle when it was brought about strictly by their own will! The very definition of a miracle is that it "surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause. " The miraculous occurs NOT by might or power, but by God's spirit! God CAN change a spouse, God CAN cause events to occur to soften a rebellious child, God CAN change a boss... God has done these things and he CAN & WILL do them again! With God all things are possible and nothing is too difficult! I'm excited about God's ability to take the absolutely, unquestionably IMPOSSIBLE and make a miracle happen!
He is able to go so FAR beyond our human abilities, he is able to do stuff we haven't even asked for... He's able to do what we've not even THOUGHT TO ASK for!!!
I trust this God with my life! Call me naive, weak, or whatever you want. Today I feel enough faith I can take it! I truly trust that God is going to miraculously stop me from destruction. I trust that God is going to promote me to success. I have surrendered my life to his will and I trust that God will do WHATEVER IT TAKES to accomplish his plan in my life!
Oh, snap!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Domestic Diva's Flashlight

The first Bible verse I remember memorizing is "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Gen. 1:1."  The first song I wrote was a totally rockin' song accompanied by a lot of heavy metal guitars, bass, and driving drums. "Adam and Eve in the garden. It was Adam and Eve in the garden. [now I get to that screaming, crazed-out-of-my-head part] THEY GOT THROWN OUT OF THAT GARDEN. It was Adam and Eve in the garden." I was 4 years old. (I've written LOTS of scripture songs since then and they can be purchased at
I've always had the Bible in my life. As a pastor, it was my dad's top tool-of-the-trade. As a mother, it was the Domestic Diva's top tool-of-the-trade too! I watched my mother read the Bible every day of my life. Every school year, when buying new school supplies, a Bible was always part of those purchases.The psalmist David wrote "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (Psalms 119:105) After a lifetime of having the word in my life, this is my testimony as well.
When my children were a couple of toddlers, still diapered and sporting that baby waddle, I remember walking with them to my mother's house. She lived an acre away and we walked a dirt path through large, ancient oak trees. After a storm, or alot of  rain, it was common for there to be limbs lying across our path, or large streamers of Spanish moss.  One particular time after a heavy rainfall, we ventured out to visit my mom. I was carrying my son Madison on my hip, while holding the hand of my daughter Morgan. It was dark out already and I was walking extra cautiously, careful not trip over unseen debris. I realized how badly I could hurt one of my children if I fell! (2 Samuel 4:4) I remember thinking rather glumly, "Wow. This really is the epitome of parenting. We don't know what we're doing. We're just doing our best to keep our kids focused on the path of life." Immediately,  I felt God's Spirit check me and say, "Not if you're reading my word; my Word will illuminate your way as you guide your children."
Now that they're 12 & 13 years old, there are days that I'm at a loss or understandably confused; days when her tears baffel me, and his need for rough & tumble irritates me to no end.
But then, I read a scripture that seems totally unrelated and, BAM! I receive insight on each situation.
The Bible really is exactly as my mother exemplified; The Domestic Diva's Daily Designer!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Love, The Pancreas & God

February is the shortest month of the year. It is also the month where red hearts and little naked babies with wings begin to appear everywhere. I'm not sure how an organ within the body became the symbol for love. At least it's a pleasant shape! Personally, I'm grateful they didn't choose the kidney as an eternal sign of love! Or the Pancreas! Can you imagine red foil covered pancreases hanging from the ceilings of all our stores?! It's February, the month of love, and anything about Sweethearts is fair game!
While Valentine's Day is marketed as a "couples holiday", let's not forget some basic facts about love;
Firstly, God IS love. (1 John 4:16) Secondly, there is no fear in love. (1 John 4:18) Thirdly, if you love God, you WILL love your fellow man. (1 John 4:21) (O brother! Just go ahead and read the whole chapter! It's awesome!) We know by reading 1 Corinthians 13:4-7,  how to define love. Its simply a matter of asking yourself, "Do I exhibit these behaviors toward people?" Also, if you wonder about being loved, you may ponder, "Does this person exhibit this behavior toward me?" 
The simple need for love is great in our society today. Loving each other is a vital part of our existence.People feel alone and loneliness leads to depression.  Look at these statistics on depression;
·         Recent statistics suggest roughly seven of every one hundred people suffer depression after age 18 at some point in their lives.
·         As many as one in 33 children and one in eight adolescents have clinical depression. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24.
·         Most people diagnosed with major depression, are diagnosised between their late twenties to mid-thirties.
·         About six million people are affected by late life depression, but only 10% ever receive treatment.
·         For every one man that develops depression, two women will, regardless of racial or ethnic background or economic status.
·         More than half of all people caring for an older relative show clinically significant depressive symptoms.
·         By the year 2020, depression will be the 2nd most common health problem in the world.
We live in a hurting world! We are Jesus' hands to this hurting world. We carry a serious responsibility. When Adam was in the garden of Eden, God looked down on his creation and pointed out a foundational element of all humanity; "it is not good that man should be alone..." (Gen 2:18
Adam had God. How could he be considered "alone" when he had God? Isn't God suppose to be our everything? Our genetic code, ingrained by The Creator, causes us to desire a connection to other humanity. I could write on and on about the power of unity here, but my focus is "love," so I'll stay on topic and say: "LOVE!" (Oops! Did I just holler that?)
Love your brothers and sisters in the church by being present AT church, and showing a common interest of celebrating Christ with them. Love them by joining them in a Home Fellowship Group setting, where you can discuss the Word of God and get to know their needs as well as share your own.(You have not, because you ask not...) Love, by showing concern over their hardship. Love, by rejoicing over their success. Love your coworkers and neighbors and cashiers at the stores where you shop, by smiling and asking about their day. Love them by looking for an opportunity to invite them to your Home Fellowship Group, or a church service.
And lastly, love God-by loving each other!


I started to name this blog "Musings and Ponderings"... But in confirming the definition for "muse" I discovered the idea that I could BE a "muser"! And that is PERFECT because I am already a muser and have been a muser for a long time! (Muser! Muser! Muser! I'm really feeling magnanimous bout that word! lol) As a matter of fact I get in lots of trouble for all of my musing. I muse too much, too deeply, too darkly... [sigh] So, perhaps if I start getting some (and believe me, only SOME) of my musings out in cyberspace I may discover my musings are amusing and I may even amass a magnificent multitude of other musers who mock me within their own minds!

Hope you enjoy my musings!

Denee Richardson
Le Muser