Sunday, September 30, 2012

1000 gifts: my "babies" start kindergarten

Continuing my list of gifts, blessings that I write down to remember all the wonderful things that God gives me along life's journey. I write these down on my calendar, and when I get a chance I add them here to my blog. These are all blessings are from September, 2012.

512. My "babies" start kindergarten
It seems like just yesterday the twins were born, Starlet 5 pounds and Serious 4 pounds, tiny little things nestled together in the same bassinet. Now they are 5 1/2 years old and starting kindergarten! I took them to school and introduced them to their teachers (I decided to put them in separate classes)... tearing up several times during the process. 

513. Why she likes kindergarten now
Starlet didn't like the first day of kindergarten, but the second day she says she likes it now, because she won a pair of socks (!) for singing the alphabet and also, this happened: "There's a cute boy at school who loves me. He plays a game, he follows me. His eyes are hazel and he has black hair. My eyes are green-hazel. My teacher told me." (oh boy am I in trouble, Starlet is a flirt already, what will she be like as a teenager?!)

514.Walkie talkies saving the day
My mom and the girls and I always take a fall road trip together, this year to Rocky Mountain National Park. While waiting for a shuttle bus to take us up to a trailhead in the park, Mom helped me make some sandwiches out of the cooler in the back of my car. When we finished, I looked around and realized the 5 year old twins, Starlet and Serious, were missing. We looked in visitor center; we walked around the grounds; I started to feel an awful panicky feeling. Then a park ranger stops me and asks if I'm missing two little blonde girls; they apparently jumped on another shuttle bus along with another large family and they were already halfway up the mountain! Thanks to their walkie-talkies, the rangers and bus drivers were able to coordinate a spot for our bus to meet with the bus carrying the twins and transfer them back into my car in less than 10 minutes. I still can't believe the girls got on a bus without me or their big sisters!

515. Alberta Falls
I'm a waterfall junkie - anywhere we travel, if there's a waterfall nearby, I have to go see it. The hike to Alberta Falls was just the perfect distance for the little kids - and my mom - and bonus, it had one of the most beautiful aspen forests I've ever seen along the way, too.

516. Big Thompson Canyon
As we were driving through this canyon on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park, I had to turn the DVD player off in the back of the car so the kids would take the time to look out there windows. "Isn't this canyon cool?" I asked them. It's narrow and twisty and the rock walls are so high and steep sometimes they almost feel like they are going to fall in on top of you. What a shame the kids would rather watch a movie than admire the dramatic scenery! But Dreamer did at least say this, "It is so cool, I'm just not showing it."

517. Bugling elk outside our window
We stayed at the YMCA of the Rockies, which is adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park, and is over-run by elk. Two young bulls were busy eating up the flower beds right outside the main lodge.

Later in the day we saw this giant bull strutting his stuff in front of his herd of cows, and bugling whenever he saw one of the younger bulls. In the morning, he and his cows were right outside the window of our room! No movie could distract the girls when this big guy was around and they definitely all agreed the elk were very cool.

518. I'm the smallest
When the twins were wandering around a gas station convienence store on our trip, the cashier said "You guys are so cute."  Starlet said, "I know I am because I'm the smallest."

519. Streets of gold and confetti trees
B. couldn't go with us on our Rocky Mountain National Park trip, but the next weekend he was free, and it was peak aspen color so we went on a fall color drive along the Flattops Wilderness south of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Stretches of this road were completely covered in gold leaves, and the occasional dark pine tree stood out in stark contrast to all the golden aspen, sometimes their dark branches covered with aspen leaf confetti. So beautiful.

520. Escaramuzas
One of our neighbors asked if they could ride their horses in our round pen, and we were all fascinated when she showed up in a Mexican side saddle (I've seen English side saddles, but never this kind). She explained the type of team riding these saddles are used for, an Escaramuza, which means "skirmish" in Spanish. Eight ladies ride together in patterns with fancy spins and passes, and they are all dressed in beautiful Mexican dresses and spangled sombreros. The girls and I watched some videos of Escamuzas on Youtube.

521. Mashed potato addict
I'm pretty sure my stepdaughter is a mashed potato addict. This is the only food she will prepare (she does NOT like cooking) and she will go through stretches where she eats mashed potatoes every night. Several times I've discovered her making mashed potatoes past midnight (she's also a night owl). And then she confessed when she goes out to eat with her friends she "saves money" by just ordering a side of - yup, mashed potatoes.

522.  Towell trolls
This is what I call my girls after they take a bath. They hunch up underneath their towels  while they wait their turn for me to rub them down and dry their hair.

523. Kitty rubs
Pulling weeds in the garden with a kitty rubbing against you demanding to be petted

524. Spooky toots
B. has traded for another young horse, Rio, which he's been training to resell. Part of the training is to take him on long trail rides, which B. says Rio does really well at, the only thing he spooks at is when B. passes gas. Yeah, I just had  to share that one!

525. Interstellar Banks
You know you're a SF/fantasy geek when you get a check and you misread the issuing bank as The First Interstellar Bank instead of First Interstate Bank. (N. loved that when I shared it with her. She's a SF geek too).

526. Tia on trailrides
We always go on lots of trail rides in September to enjoy the changing colors. We sold three of our well-broke horses this year (Jewel, Folly and Sam), leaving only Ally and Spring as "dependables" for the kids or guests to ride - which means B. and I have to ride the green horses, Rio and Tia. I was thrilled to discover that Tia, who has only been ridden a few times, is a wonderful trail horse and doesn't spook at anything (not even toots). I rode her on a long ride up Sheep Mountain with N. and B.  and B. (N's husband is also a B.) Even when the guys took off at a gallop, she followed along without a fuss. Here's a picture of Blaze riding Tia. We're really happy she's a "keeper" because B.'s mom raised her from a baby.

527.  Walking away from a bad accident
A motorcyclist hit my stepdaughter's car when she was driving 65 mph (long story - still don't know why he tried to cross a highway, but the police determined she wasn't at fault). So thankful she was able to walk away from the accident with only a few minor scratches. Praying for the motorcyclist  who was hospitalized along with his passenger.  Makes you realize how little control we have over our lives; our life could be over in a moment and we find ourselves standing before God.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Surrendering my will, surrendering cravings

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. ~2 Corinthians 12:9

Starting with a verse helps, but there is no other graceful way to start this. It's a common story: I've been trying to lose weight for years, but it's gotten especially hard since I turned forty. A couple years ago I tried Weight Watchers, it worked for a couple months but then I got a bad attitude. I kept hearing the same old stuff at the meetings. They kept talking about what to eat. Well, I know what I should be eating; I know all about nutrition and healthy foods and lifestyle. But no one was talking about will power. Where do you get the will power to eat right or to exercise? I used to have it, if I concentrated really hard, if I kept my focus.

These days I can't keep my focus for more than a couple hours, before I get distracted, or stressed, or hormonal, or tired, or emotional...

I've been praying about it. Why, God, is my will power in this area gone? And why is it now starting to affect my will power in other areas, too?

At some point this spring I felt God give me a direction. He told me, "find some others who are struggling like this too."

So I did a little fishing around with my friends at church - and came up empty. I connect with my other Christian friends and acquaintances on various struggles with marriage, raising children, attitudes, juggling everything that needs to get done... but when I mentioned my compulsive eating problems, there wasn't a connection. In fact, my church has a significantly high proportion of thin women!

But God kept prompting me so I looked online and found an organization called Overeaters Anonymous. There was no local group in my town, but there was a group in Cheyenne, 45 minutes away, that met weekly. Even with gas as expensive as it is these days, a weekly drive to Cheyenne would still be cheaper than starting Weight Watchers again, which hadn't worked for me anyway... so why not try a different type of support group?

So, I tried it. And I've finally found some other ladies (and one of them is a follower of Jesus AND a writer, too!!!) that have the same problem I do. I could totally relate to what they shared, and I could finally share my own struggles without feeling shame. What a relief. How glorious it is to find understanding and acceptance!!!!

I read some of the O.A. literature, and it  pinpointed my compulsive eating exactly. "Our true insanity could be seen in the fact that we kept right on trying to find comfort in excess food, long after it began to cause us misery." And it also leads to other areas of losing control. For instance, I got chills of recognition when I read this: "More self-examination revealed many areas in which our lives were out of balance. We had to admit that we had not acted sanely when we responded to our children's needs for attention by yelling at them, or when we were jealously possessive of our mates" [or their time/other pursuits in my case].

O.A. uses the same Twelve Steps as Alcoholics Anonymous. I was surprised at how the Twelve Steps are a spiritual method of recovery, and remarkably Biblical in their concepts (confession, forgiveness, repentance):

Step One: We admitted we were powerless over food, and our lives had become unmanageable.

Step Two:  Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Though that last part, God "as we understand Him" basically allows people to come up with any definition of God or a higher power that they want. This is the only part of O.A. that troubles me; it would be wonderful to have a support group that was based completely and forthrightly upon the Bible.

The Twelve Steps don't just address the area of addiction, but require you to take a very deep moral inventory in all areas of life, admitting the same powerlessness over our other character defects as with food, surrendering these to God and asking Him to remove these as well. In my case, so far I've identified my insecurity (fear of not being accepted) as a huge problem that affects all areas of my life.

So I went to my first meeting in mid-August and now it's the end of September and I've been to 6 meetings now. It would be awesome to say I've lost weight, but I haven't (I lost 3 pounds, then gained it back). But for the first time in... well, years, I have finally have hope again in this particular area.  I have new friends with a level of understanding that makes me thrilled and humbled at the same time. And I can say that there has been less binging and overeating; I'm making huge steps in identifying emotional triggers for eating as well as other problem areas, such as right after church, "Pizza Night", and whenever I travel or eat out.

At one meeting I said, "how do I survive Pizza Night? My kids love Pizza Night; I can't turn them down, but I just don't have will-power when it comes to pizza."

One of the ladies, C., said, "Make a plan. Determine to eat one slice of pizza, and tell yourself that the rest of the pizza is for your family."

I groaned. I maybe even rolled my eyes. "Sure, fine, but where do I get the will power to do that?"

Then she said something that opened my eyes. "You don't have will power. None of us do. That's part of this disease of overeating."


She  continued. "You admit to God that you don't have will power. That you know His will is for you to eat a healthy amount and no more,  and you ask for the strength to do His will. Not your own."

This is like living out 2 Corinthians 12:9. By admitting I am weak and powerless, then Christ's power rests on me. This is such a mystery; and yet it works! I admit I am powerless over pizza; and suddenly I can walk away from it after one slice.

From the O.A. Promises: "We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves."

From the O.A. Twelve Step book:
As we become aware of what our eating guidelines should be, we ask for the willingness and the ability to live within them each day. We ask and we receive, first the willingness, and then the ability. We can count on this without fail. 
What's different here? I've been praying to God FOR YEARS to be saved from this weakness I have for overeating. Take away my desire for food, please! Then I tried a different approach with my theme for this year, "Seek Him" - instead of just asking for Him to take away the cravings, I've been asking, seeking for Him to make Himself so primary in my life that that He replaces the cravings.

I think that was a big leap in my understanding; and then O.A. provided another link in figuring this out, the need to ask first for willingness to abstain from overeating. Not just wondering where my will power went but realizing I HAVE NO WILL POWER. But He does. Replacing my will with His.

That's exactly what happened to me. In the beginning of September, I went 14 days without overeating, God doing for me what I could not do myself - every day I woke up in amazement.

Then I slipped back into old habits. I got busy; God lost priority. I also got frustrated because after having been "good" for 14 days I had only lost 3 pounds (back in my 20's that would easily have been 6 or more pounds. But I'm not in my twenties anymore; 3 pounds in 14 days is actually right on track). I have to stop equating weight loss with victory: just the fact that I hadn't binged in 14 days was a sweet victory in itself.

But mostly I just letting old habits sneak back up on me. I stopped seeking Him; I skipped reading the Word in the morning; I stopped praying. When I was stressed, tired, angry or hurt, or even just upset with myself for not accomplishing things I wanted to get done (like writing), I turned to food again for instant comfort. I realized what I was doing. I realized something even scarier, that once I had forfeited that sweet freedom of God for my own will, it was going to be even harder to give up my will again and go back to living in God's will.

Hard, but never impossible. Nothing is impossible with God. I gladly surrender my will to Him, again.

"The more total our surrender, the more fully realized our freedom from food obsession."

Update 12/10/12: I have lost 10 pounds! Still going to Overeaters Anon. meetings regularly, also using to track what I'm eating and how much I'm exercising and to journal, helps to identify what situations cause temptation.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nuggets from "Jesus Calling"

Sarah Young's "Jesus Calling" devotional and journal has been such a blessing and has really helped me to remember my theme for this year, "Seeking Him."

Here's a few nuggets I wanted to share:

July 5
Instead of striving for a predictable, safe lifestyle, seek to know Me in greater depth and breadth. I long ot makeyour life a glorious adventure, but you must stop clinging to old ways. I am always doing something new within my beloved ones. Be on the lookout for what I have prepared for you. I wrote: What are you doing in me that's new? Open my eyes to see it. In hindsight, I think He was preparing my heart to take the big step to try out Overeaters Anonymous which turned out not only to address the my overeating but several other root problems, including insecurity and escapism.

July 20
Seek My face and you will find all that you have longed for. The deepest yearnings of your heart are for intimacy with Me. I know, because I designed you to desire Me. Do not feel guilty about taking time to be still in My presence. You are simply responding to the tugs of divinity within you. I made you in My image, and I hid heaven in your heart. Your yearning for Me is a form of homesickness: longing for your true home in heaven. I wrote: make me more homesick for you. 

August  1
Most of mankind's misery stems from feeling unloved. In the midst of adverse circumstances, people tend to feel that love has been withdrawn and they have been forsaken. This feeling of abandonment is often worse than the adversity itself. But I will never leave you nor forsake you... I have engraved you on the palms of My hands. Isaiah 49:15-16. I wrote: This is so true! And I haven't even been in truly adverse circumstances and yet I wallow in insecurity. 

August 7
Understanding will never bring you peace. That's why I have instructed you to trust in Me, not in your understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). Human beings have a voracious appetite for trying to figure thing out, in order to gain a sense of mastery over their lives.... The wisest of all men, Solomon, could never think his way through to peace. His vast understanding result in feelings of futility, rather than fulfillment. I wrote: I am coming to learn that I can't "figure out" a solution to certain problems, especially relationship problems with my husband, or with my teenage stepdaughter, sometimes even my own little kids. Learning to entrust the problems to you, to let them go. Then, somehow a few days later I realize they've ceased to be problems!

August 11
Come to Me, come to Me, come to Me. This is My continual invitation to you, proclaimed in holy whispers. When your heart and mind are quiet, you can hear Me inviting you to draw near. Coming close to me requires no great effort on your part; it is more like ceasing to resist the magnetic pull of my love. I wrote: this is true. When I think God is far away or silent, it's my unquiet mind that is making it impossible for me to hear Him.

September 2
Living in dependence on Me is a glorious adventure. When you depend on Me continually, your whole perspective changes. You see miracles happening all around, while others see only natural occurrences and coincidences. You begin each day with joyful expectation, waching to see what I will do. You accept weakness as a gift from Me, knowing that My power plugs in most readily when we see our own weakness [and need for God's strength] (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). I wrote: wrote this verse today on my hand: Ezekiel 34:26 He will break the bars of your yoke. Starting to apply to the 12 steps, which means admitting I am powerless, and asking God to do what I cannot do on my own.Writing verses on my hand helps me remember them and seek God throughout the day.

September 3
Like the spinning wheels of a car trapped in the mud, the cogs of your brain spin impotently when you focus on problems. As soon as you start communicating with Me about the matter, your thoughts gain traction and you can move on to more important things. Below this I wrote: B. and I prayed this morning over many things - his mom's cancer, his desperation to know your will in regards to our finances and his desires to continue competitive roping even though it's so expensive. I hope he felt the same peace after praying that I did, the freedom of giving everything over to You.

September 16
Though I may lead you along paths that feel alien to you, trust that I know what I am doing. If you follow Me wholeheartedly, you will discover facets of yourself that were previously hidden. I know you intimately - far better than you know yourself. Didn't write anything here, but I put a star next to this, to come back to it later. Excited to discover parts of myself that are still hidden in God - realize that it will probably be trials that reveal them - but I'm willing. It's a promise that there is more to me than I can yet realize!

This last nugget is from a different source, The Hourglass of Life, by John Fischer
Picture life as an hour glass with the cross at the center. All my pre-conversion experiences narrowed me toward a personal encounter with Christ; but once through, He leads me back out into the world where the lines now instead of converging open up into an ever-widening reality... Jesus never closes a mind; He opens it. Jesus is never threatened by a question; He welcomes it. He knows all questions will lead back to Him. I love dwelling on this picture of life as an hour glass, except I see the grains flowing upward instead of down, and the top of the hourglass is not the same size as the bottom, but so much larger - expanding into infinity as we reach the end of our earthly lives. The thought thrills me - makes me look forward to the future - even growing old - with anticipation.