The Secret To a Happy Marriage (Remember the term: Tongue and Cheek )

marriage fingersSteve hasn’t been able to sleep lately.  He’s had this problem before, but I thought it was in the past.  Unfortunately for him, it seems to have reared its ugly head with fervor.  I actually miss those nights when I was up till 2 or 3 writing or thinking. My mind seemed to work better late at night when everyone was asleep but, lately, I’m out by 10 or 11 and struggle to wake up by 7.  That disturbs me. But Steve needs sleep.  He’s the textbook case of a human that has to have at least 8 hours, if not more, and being awake till 2 in the morning or waking up at 2 and staying awake till 6 just doesn’t cut it for him.

With the new ministry that he’s started, a new local shared office space that he and our neighbor have embarked on and a new leadership and emotional intelligence training business that he’s launched to help support his ministry, he has a lot on his mind.  I’m sure that’s part of the problem.  He’s a smart man and he has a million things running through his mind all the time.  Lately, it’s probably closer to 2 million.  I’ve wondered how to help. I’ve suggested “mind dumping” before bed but that’s so close to work that he’s probably hesitant.  I’ve mentioned not watching TV or looking at the computer for an hour before bed but that’s his “disconnect” time.  I’ve wondered if warm milk, avoiding wine, doing yoga or taking a hot bath would help but I walk a fine line of mothering him when I say too much.  I’ve tried to leave him alone as not to add to his stress or the growing list of things he’s thinking about but tonight I wondered how I could covertly ask questions in order for him to dump all his thoughts on me so his mind might be able to slow down.  But I suck at asking questions.  I inevitably ask the ones that stress people out instead of distressing them.  Probably because I naturally play devils advocate in the hopes of heading off negative experiences.  I’m that “glass is half empty” kind of girl even though I REALLY want to be the “glass is half full” person.  Maybe I never notice because the glass is always full of Pinot Noir so I’m happy either way, but other people don’t see things through the same rose colored wine glasses that I do.

Anyway, just when I was feeling like a horrible wife and having no idea how to help my man, I had to potty.

Yes, you heard me right.  Those glasses of wine led me to my aha moment, thank you very much.

Because I suddenly realized the secret to loving my man.  Hear me ladies.  The simple answer to all your marital needs is in this simple act of servant-hood.

Lift the seat after you pee.

Yes, you heard me right.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard (or read) something about a woman complaining that a man doesn’t put the seat down on the toilet.  In fact, I recently saw a YouTube video with a little girl berating her father over the topic and I remember wondering what woman taught her to be so self-centered. With all that men are expected to figure out, understand and handle in our families, we add lowering the toilet seat?   And there are women that don’t just mention it.  They get downright angry about it. Really?

In this day of strong, independent feminists are we so weak that we can’t stretch out our hand and gently lower a toilet seat for ourselves? Are we so self absorbed that we can’t stretch out a hand to lift that same seat in the service of another?

It’s 4 to 1 in our house and I naturally lift the seat every time I flush the toilet.  Honestly, it’s the least I can do for this wonderful man that has put up with hormones, shouting matches, silent treatments, shopping trips, emotional tantrums, and more.  Why women assume it’s the man’s job to lower the toilet seat is beyond me.  Aren’t we just as capable of serving men as they are of serving us?  If we aren’t, we have a long way to go.  Yes, I love when he opens the door for me.  I love feeling protected.  I love his patience, kindness, flowers, having someone clean the kitchen, planned date nights, a hand written card, his wisdom and prayers for me, how he looks at me when I feel less than beautiful and having him hold my hand…I love being treated like a lady and I love that he is strong yet gentle.  But, I also love discovering something that I can do to repay him for all the things he’s done for me.  It doesn’t happen often because he’s much better at this stuff than I am, but tonight, as I happily see him finally sleeping…I am grateful that I can lower the toilet seat.

It’s a start.

Posted in Family | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chiaroscuro

sunriseI’ve been praying for light lately.  Light that reveals truth.  Light that gives direction. Light that chases away darkness.  I’ve been praying that we would recognize His light, that we would be drawn to it, comforted by it, changed in it and inspired to shine it regardless of the darkness we might find ourselves in.

I’ve been praying that God would speak four words over so many lives.  Four words that He spoke at the beginning of time … “Let there be light!”

Maybe this prayer has seemed so relevant because so much around me seems dark lately.  The struggles people are faced with as well as the world we live in.  It just seems dark.   Doesn’t it?  Or is it just me?  It could just be me.  After all, God has been teaching me a basic truth about light over the last few years.   I’ve learned that we don’t really see the beauty or truth of light without experiencing some darkness.  Not that I have enjoyed it, but seeing and walking through darkness, even in the smallest way, has only magnified God’s light.

Chiaroscuro is an Italian term that roughly means “light and dark”. It’s an art term that describes a method of using light and dark paint to accentuate the volume, mass, details and contrasts of a subject.  At times, the contrast of light and dark can become more important than the object being painted and can actually become the subject itself.

 

That’s what I’ve decided.

No matter what circumstance or topic, the comparison between God’s light and evils’ darkness is literaly night and day. Experiencing God’s light only heightens the utter void of walking in the dark once more.  And, experiencing the dark side of my own humanity only heightens the miraculous glory of experiencing God’s gracious light.  Once my heart sees the magnitude of how both effect people and our world and the detail of light’s beauty and darkness’s sorrow – my relationship with God changes. My relationship with others changes. Gratitude wells up from the depths of a soul that is grateful for being “brought out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.”  Worship ceases to be something I do out of habit on Sunday mornings and becomes how I live every moment of my life.  Singing songs takes on a new sincerity and passion with every word that I can then relate to.  Reading scripture becomes a treasure hunt for truths that will shine more light into my life and, consequently, into my world.

There have been moments in the past when I sang words that I didn’t understand.  I hadn’t experienced the freedom, forgiveness, love or closeness to Christ that I was singing about and I wondered if my hollow words were normal.  There were times when I read passages and thought to myself, “Does this kind of relationship with God really happen?  Or, is what I know all there is?”

I’m convinced that many people in our churches feel similar things.

For me, the enemy had lulled me into thinking I knew what the light of God was when I really had no clue. It was as if I’d been sitting in a dark wooded area at night with a little match lighting my surroundings and no idea of what the sun would do when it rose over the horizon. The match gave me some light, and it was good, but it was a tiny bit of what was available.

There’s no limit to God’s light.  It’s magnificent.  It’s life giving.  Darkness can not exist in it. There’s more light than we can experience or comprehend and God offers it freely.

The question is, do we want it? How badly?  Do you, as a child of God, want to know more of His light than you already know?  Even if it means you see the darkness more clearly?

Then ask our Father of Light to reveal more of himself to you. Ask Him to speak those words into your life in a new and deeper way than you’ve ever known.

“Let there be light!”

And keep asking until you feel the sun coming up over the horizon and shining on your face.  Until you look back at what you didn’t even know was darkness only to praise His great faithfulness for making you new every morning and for opening your eyes to more of who He is. To more of His light.

 

 

Posted in Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just Eat Something Already

wings-pic1Can I just say (like I do every year) that it’s freakin’ hot in Texas during July and August? This year has been mild in comparison, but still…

It sucks the drive right out of me to workout.  Even with air-conditioning I just want to sit down and wait it out till September.  Walking from the house to the car and from the car to the gym seems to shrivel me up into a little bump that just wants to sit on a log and bide my time until a breeze blows through our corner of Tornado Alley.

I don’t feel that guilty about it but I have been considering ways to avoid gaining weight from all the ice cream, snow cones, margaritas and eating that I do while hibernating indoors. (Yes, I hibernate in the summer – not the winter.) So, I’ve been researching the newest rage in the fitness world. (Drum roll, please) The Keto diet.

It’s actually not all that new. The Keto diet was created in the ‘20s for patients with epilepsy and is still used for that purpose today. It’s been used as a diet for athletes since the ’80s and is, interestingly enough, also used to help obese patients lose significant amounts of weight.  I say “interesting” because the diet is based on the idea that you take in most of your calories in the form of good fats which is contradictory to what most people have been taught for decades.  Proponents of the diet say that it also clears mental function, helps with sleep and can prevent diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. The intake of fat in the Keto Diet helps to combat insulin spikes in the body so that the digestive system begins  to use fat as fuel rather than glucose.  There are studies that support these findings and I have friends who have seen drastic health benefits by adhering to the plan, but here’s my thing….there are plenty of other studies, some of which are much more extensive, for other diets as well.

The China Diet for instance. It’s based on one of the largest comprehensive studies of human nutrition ever conducted. This study was done through a partnership between Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine. Data was collected over a span of 20 years. It showed that the diet significantly effects the body’s ability to fight cancer, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune diseases, bone, kidney, eye, and brain diseases. The China Diet is plant based!  Vegetarian in other words. (My grass-fed cattle are throwing a little party right about now.) Although scores of studies show the benefits of eating vegetables, fruits and grains, many in the fitness industry scoff at the idea of not eating animal protein. However, it’s one of the best documented diets in the world in regard to helping the body fight disease.

However, there are also plenty of scientific studies that prove grains can cause inflammation and that inflammation is related to obesity, joint problems, cancer and digestive issues. The Paleo Diet is a favorite among people that have experienced issues such as these. Studies on this diet show benefits to the human body in losing weight and decreasing the effects of arthritis, IBS, etc. The Paleo diet encourages consumption of healthy fats, eating “whole foods” and animal protein in moderation while avoiding sugar, additives, chemicals and processed foods.  More studies are being done on the side-effects of overly processed foods and the myriad of chemicals that are added to the American diet and the finding aren’t encouraging.

Add to these hot diets the Mediterranean diet which is also backed by plenty of studies showing that it helps lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, lowers stress and extends life expectancy.  (I think that’s due to the fact that red wine is part of the diet).  Researchers have discovered that people living in the area of the Mediterranean have these health benefits in common more than in other areas of the world.  It’s no wonder,  considering it includes healthy fats (olive oil), seafood, low amounts of red meat, large amounts of fruits and vegetables, pasta, rice and grains.  (Is it just me or does that sound like the best part of every diet rolled into one?  Maybe it’s just that I REALLY love Italy) Anyway, the point is that this diet also has an abundance of scholarly support for the fact that it’s a healthy way to lose weight and to live a happy life.

But don’t they all say that?

So, what’s a person to do?  I could go back to my Tootsie Roll diet that I used one month in college when I’d run out of money and lived on a huge bag of tootsie rolls for a week. I lost weight! But, that’s probably not the best or healthiest plan.  Or I could go into Intermittent fasting and cut down on the number of times I even need to worry about these decisions. (Which, by the way, has a respectable number of studies supporting its’ health benefits as well.  However, if you’ve ever struggled with an eating disorder, don’t even go there.)

What I do know, based on both research, medical studies and observation, is that the American diet is horrible.  If you still want to argue over whether sugar, processed foods and preservatives are bad for you, go right ahead, but you’ll probably have that talk with your doctor soon enough.  More than likely, no one can convince you otherwise anyway. I’m sorry about that.  I’d hedge a pretty healthy bet that if you could avoid these things for a month, you’d be shocked at how much better you feel.

But for the rest of us, while we want to be healthy, we’re bombarded with opinions.  Eat meat, don’t eat meat, eat grains, don’t eat grains, eat soy, don’t eat soy…

So, here’s where I’ve landed. Nothing works if you don’t do it and not everything works for every individual.   I know what doesn’t work for my body. Processed grains don’t agree with my digestion.  I’m easily addicted to carbs and have difficulty eating small amounts of them. I eat out of habit and boredom at night so I need tea in my hand to stay distracted.  Sugar substitutes cause my joints to hurt immediately and, alcohol makes me sluggish the next day even if it’s just a bit. So, I’m trying this Keto thing for a few weeks just to see if it makes my brain feel less foggy but if I can’t get into Ketosis, I’m not going to fret over it. That will tell me something about how I handle, or don’t handle, carbs and fats.

You may have to play around with different diets to figure out which one, or what hybrid, works best for you – but you’ll get it.  When you do, stick with it.

What we know from all of these diets is…

Vegetables are great! Eat more of them!  That’s across the board.

Eat foods in as natural a state as possible and with as little processing as possible.

Stop being afraid of good fats like olive oil and avocados.  Your body needs them.

Don’t be afraid of complex carbs but don’t make them the majority of your diet. (That should probably be veggies if we go back to the common theme in all these diets.)

Do avoid simple carbs.

And finally, moderation is key.  My mom always said that so I’m sure it’s true. She’s usually right.  Oh, and let yourself enjoy life, food and the gifts God has given us.  Be grateful…consciously and purposefully.  And enjoy the company of other people.  Don’t just eat mindlessly and on the run.  Make meals an event.  At least, those are the things I want to do to get me through these long hot months in Texas. That and the occasional serving of “Heavenly Chocolate Crap” or Braum’s Ice cream cones.  Hey. you only live once.

 

 

 

Posted in Fitness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What The World Needs

hole in wall
Over the last month, various circumstances have aligned to remind me of an obvious and basic truth of life.  It’s as if God started setting up dominoes a few weeks ago, in an intricate pattern of intertwining circles that He would eventually cause to fall into one another only to reach the end of themselves in the center of it all.  A central truth that was connected by so many small and different circumstances and thoughts.  A central truth that isn’t a mystery by any means, but seems to be difficult to integrate into life.

I guess it started when my daughter left for Kenya for the summer.  A summer full of people she’d been dying to get back to for a year and a summer full of new people she would have to connect with and say goodbye to over and over.  That part is difficult I think.  I know it is for me.  Both building relationships and saying goodbye.
Then a friend from our gym told me about a podcast that she loved and I proceeded to binge on it for the next 2 days.  It left me with an odd and disturbing feeling.  I guess it was a mixture of sadness and disgust. Sadness over the loneliness and self destruction so many people live with and disgust over the way we treat each another.

These two events were followed by weeks of my husband traveling, a busy schedule without much recollection of what kept me busy or of any meaning or value behind it all and news reels of terror attacks. Posts on Facebook that reminded me how long it had been since I’d seen friends.  A novel that challenged my thoughts on how a person of faith walks through  this world and loves people. Stories of friendships my husband was making in countries where you would assume they had nothing in common.   Friends struggling with heartaches over children, marriages, sickness and disappointments.  Even my grandbaby having such a profound connection with her mommy. One that you can literally see in her eyes when they are close or when she realizes mommy isn’t there.  One is of deep joy and love and the other of deep sorrow that I can’t explain but to say there is a tangible ache in the room.

In the middle of it all I was blessed to spend 3 hours with 2 friends that I hadn’t seen in 30 years.  I was nervous, to be honest.  Me.  The one who worries about going to parties and making conversation with people I see all the time. I would have to find a way to connect after three decades…. But it was so easy.  They are as lovely, fun and beautiful as they were in high school and I left that day feeling blessed and encouraged.  It was as if someone had lifted 20 pounds off of my back and I realized the central truth that I always come back to.

We are made for connections.

Even the most introverted among us need people in our lives who care for us and know us.  People who can disagree with us but love us anyway.  People who give life meaning and support us when it seems to have none.

My son-in-law recently reminded me of Audible so I downloaded a couple of books, Shakespeare’s sonnets and a book of poetry by Robert Frost (one of my favorites).  One of his quotes came to mind the other night as I sat in my living room late into the evening having a “discussion” with my youngest and a friend of ours.

“Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense.”  Robert Frost

I realized the next morning that I had enjoyed the debate but had wasted all too much time arguing for the sake of arguing or with the hopes of convincing them of my views when the reality was that I didn’t have to.  Many of my opinions are nonsense.  I’m sure of it.  I would dare say that many of yours probably are too.  I say this because I’ve watched many an opinion change over the years and I’m sure I will continue to do so.  I’ve thought myself to make sense only to find, later, that I was making very little.  So, why do I waste time arguing past the point of understanding one another?  Why do I get so defensive? Why is it so important that someone agrees with me or sees my point of view?  Is it pride and the need to be right?  Is it wanting to feel as though my opinion is valued or respected? Is it wanting to be heard?

Maybe all of the above.

The truth is that we can disagree and still be valued, respected and heard.  It’s even possible that both sides can be right. But, we so often push and push and push instead of realizing that the very pushing we do to draw someone closer to us is only building walls between us.

And then another Frost quote…

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.”

Frost beautifully argues that neighbors don’t need walls between them.  Sure, cows may need a wall to keep them out of an orchard but people…. people don’t need fences.

His neighbor tends to think that “good fences make good neighbors” and I wonder if we all have been convinced of that very thing as well.

Has our fear, pride and insecurity caused us to isolate ourselves? Sometimes without even realizing it?  Other times, purposefully, to protect ourselves or to hurt someone else?

Have we forgotten what it’s like to have people in our lives who are truly a part of our lives? What it’s like to sacrifice our right to be “right”, our time, our energy or our defensiveness in order to love, help and know someone else in a really vulnerable way?

I think the conversation that God used as the tipping point of the first domino was one I had in my front yard with a young woman we’ve watched grow up.  As we talked about relationships and life and emptiness and fulfillment, (and her not even knowing that I had been struggling with all these thoughts as of late), she said, “We need connections.  But, there is something unexplainable about the connection I have with a friend who loves Jesus in comparison to my relationship with someone who doesn’t. It’s so much deeper even when we are talking about things that aren’t deep.”

And the dominoes started to fall.  Twisting and turning through my mind as I thought of walls, loneliness, purpose, friendships, hate, fear, shame, forgiveness, value, acceptance, meaning, death, life, healing……

Falling into a beautiful pattern of intertwined circles that wouldn’t seem to have any connection until they each came to the end of themselves and fell at the feet of love. A love that is unexplainable but that another believer not only understands, but carries inside of them.   I was reminded that my life is never full, never meaningful and never powerful without it flowing from the center of God’s heart. The very heart of love itself. Without my heart being in tune with His heart and without my days passing in an undying pursuit of connecting with the people whom He loves so dearly, it is all in vain.

Because of His never-ending faithfulness, until we understand and remember this, He will continue to set up the pieces again, and again.  To align our circumstances, speak in the most mundane things, highlight the failures around us and to remind us over and over and over again that what we need and what we are created to give is one in the same: Love.

Posted in Faith | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Insulin Sabotages Weight Loss

I wanted to share some thoughts about how insulin sneaks up on us and prevents the weight loss that many of us desire but decided to do more research before I did.  In the process,  I found plenty of blogs out there that already explain this concept as well, or better, than I could so I thought I’d just provide a link to one of them.

I think it’s straight forward, simple to understand and practical in it’s suggestions.  Take a few minutes and check it out.  You might be surprised at how a few things your doing on your fitness journey may actually be sabotaging your desired results.

http://www.slcfitcollective.com/slc-fit-blog/how-does-blood-sugar-affect-weight-loss

Posted in Fitness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wings

As I pray tonight for my friends (especially my girlfriends), I am reminded of this Victor Hugo quote and I ask that God would breath His Spirit into their hearts so they can “mount up on wings like eagles.”

“Be like the bird who,

pausing in her flight awhile on boughs to slight,

feels them give way beneath her, yet sings,

knowing she hath wings. ”

 

Posted in Just Some Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Metaphor for Young Moms

As I listened to my oldest daughter talk about the life of a young mom the other day, I clearly remembered writing this journal entry years ago.  The feelings of loneliness, boredom, doubt and exhaustion came flooding back and I had to rummage through old journals until I found it.  Not because it’s all that good; but, because I wanted to remind all you moms of this.   Life can seem like an endless list of pointless tasks but they aren’t pointless at all.  They will come to an end and you will miss them.  So,  love your kids with all you are through the big and little moments of life.  They go by all too quickly and they matter more than you know.

Windshield wipers wipe away the water with little weariness to the work they wage.

Back and forth they battle to beat back the beads of rain.

A sudden stop sends them into a silent slumber without a schedule to serve.

A metaphor of a mom’s madness as she merrily minds so many mundane things.

Runny noses, recipes, rides and random requests.

Often with that quiet roar of regret and doubt that she’s simply rearranging but rarely remedying anything.

Yet, she will yearn for her young and for that yawning exhaustion when the year finally comes…

And it stops.

When the torrent of activity ceases and the work seems done…

And those she loved can shine.

Posted in Family, Just Some Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment