Friday, November 17, 2017

The Bounce in My Step


It happened. I bounced up the steps, got to the top, and kept going. Everyday I feel stronger, healthier, and more beautiful. This is not because I’m following our diet perfectly, sucking up the pain and forgetting about our loss. The growth has been from facing the loss, enjoying what’s in front of me, and being honest about how I feel inside. Sometimes that means crying when I “should be” happy. Sometimes that means more milk in my coffee and honey in my tea. Sometimes that means guarding my heart while caring for others.

A few weeks ago, I had an unwavering upswell of my grief. At first, I felt like something was wrong with me, “Why can’t I get past this? Shouldn’t I be better at controlling my emotions by now?” Then I started to question if I was actually physically sick or something. When I went to the clinic, the PA said, “Give yourself a break. You’ve been through a lot. Infertility is hard.” That’s when it hit me. My sadness wasn’t just coming from our onetime loss, it stemmed from our monthly loss, the reoccurring heartbreak in the disappointment of still not being pregnant.

Since then, I’ve been thinking about how facing our grief is like peeling an onion, you get through one layer and it starts to peel back another, and then there’s another, and more tears keep coming, until you get to the center, you let out all of your tears, take a big breath, wash your hands, and reach for the next challenge. (Robbie also suggested that the metaphor continues when we try to put the pieces back over that grief and tuck it away, but the tears still come.)

The revealing of each layer of grief brings the other layers up to the surface. Loss of one parent or grandparent, stirs up the old feelings of the loss of another to the point that the raw grief is intensified by the previous loss.  So, each month, our momentary loss stirs up the pains of our miscarriage, which stirs up the loss of our grandparents, and other past losses along the way.

My first memory of grief is standing a the garage sale, as we were preparing to move from West Virginia to North Carolina.  Someone was coming to take my dog, Koney. I didn’t want him to go, but I knew the new owners would take good care of him and we couldn’t take him with us.  I cried big tears as I let go of my best friend.  My second memory of grief was moving from Charlotte, North Carolina to Wilmington, Dela-“where?” as we called it. We had the best house with our best friends living across the street and a pool within walking distance and the best church I could ever imagine at the time. The last Sunday at our church, the choir sang Micheal W. Smith’s song, “Friends are Friends Forever,” and I cried big tears, again, and again, each time I heard that song.  My third memory of grief is still a big one for me, the loss of my Mama, Rosemary. I’ve written about my grandmothers before in A Thanksgiving for Motherhood and Learning from our Grandmothers.

As I remember the grief, I’m also reminded of the adventure. Each loss accompanied the beginning of a great adventure. Giving up my dog easily precedes the fun and exciting time we would have in Charlotte. Sadly enough, Mama’s death runs parallel with the beginning of my career as a flutist. I put my love for her into flute playing and even visualized her watching and listening to my concerts and recitals in years to come. This blog started with one of my favorite adventures, my journey to the Czech Republic, and yet it came only in my availability after a hand injury.

Somehow my stories of grief and loss have always bumped up against the stories of my greatest adventures. None of those adventures came to us by choice.  None of the losses caused my adventures. By the grace of God, my grief was transformed into beauty as I faced a new challenge with the energy I was holding for something else.  Like when you make a meal for one guest, and then the guest never shows, so you take the meal to someone who needs it and find a whole different experience.  

I wonder what I will look back and see as the great adventure that we are on right now? The adventure of changing the way we eat and think about food? The adventure of playing with watercolor? The adventure of starting our new worshiping community @thelightmhk? The adventure of marriage and cherishing life together? The adventure of telling my story and listening to others?

All of it. This outlook of adventure gives me a bounce in my step, knowing that with each step, fall and bounce our creator is “continuing the great work which has already begun inside” of me.  The holes and cracks in my heart open up space for new growth and life, this is the good news of the love Jesus talks about: 
Love + Grace = Life + Death + Resurrection.



Saturday, November 04, 2017

Forgiving God


Beloved, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for one’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
 James 1:19–20

I’ve been pretty cranky lately. Scientifically the Keto diet mimics the state of fasting where your body turns to burning fat instead of carbs. Who would want to always have that 24 hr fasting high all the time? A crazy person. Or maybe a sane person who had no pre-existent conflict, grief or pressure in their life.

Life is hard. Trying to change your eating habits while life is hard sucks. It sucks.

So, I eat one of Robbie’s 2 carb chocolates or my 5 carb nut mix or steak or ribs and try to re-create “comfort food”. Here’s the catch: Food has never brought lasting comfort, and true satisfaction in food, only opens the door for gratitude, it doesn’t get you there. 

My challenge is that my anger stage of grief is finally stepping up to the plate. 

I am not doubting God's power. I am angry at the use of that power. How am I supposed to trust what I can’t see, when God has already let me fall so hard? And (to borrow a phrase from "Rising Strong") this is "the story I’m making up": God was watching my baby suffer and let him die. God said, His life isn’t worth saving. Then I had to bear the physical and emotional ramifications of that decition. This is the story I’m making up, but it feels like real truth and I can’t get past it. 

So, today I decided to write a new chapter. I know scientifically and theologically that withholding forgiveness only hurts the offended. But who do you forgive when really no one is to blame? Way back to days after Bob’s death, I remember praying, saying I don’t know where to aim my anger because I don’t know who or what to blame. “Blame me,” Jesus said. “I can take it. I did take it. I suffered the punishment for this and every other horrible act on that cross. Let go of your anger and unleash it at me.” 

I have been incredibly “slow to anger”, until we started this new diet and suddenly all of the physical and mental challenges improved in my life to the point that only one struggle remained: why is God withholding a child from two people who would love and teach and nurture with such passion and mercy, with God’s image as their goal!?!

I am losing weight. I look great. So many awesome things are happening in our life, and yet the sadness and the anger remained.

So, this morning I decided to do the scientific and Christian thing, I am going to forgive God. God doesn’t need it, but I do.

This is how I can move to the next chapter, by first writing a chapter of forgiveness. Jesus, you said you want the blame, now I will do what is required of me: I will show you mercy and forgive you as you have forgiven me. 

Now I can face the day with joy. Alleluia, Amen.



Thursday, October 19, 2017

Expedition Keto

Nourishment in the Flint Hills
I’ve always blogged about my experience on new adventures and our current adventure is food. I am not a nutritionist. I am not a chef. My friends will tell you I make great chocolate chip cookies, but my cooking is pretty average…and sometimes disastrous…kale pesto with flax seed was probably my worst experiment…trust me, it sounds like a great idea, but it will kill your blender.  

Everything I am eating on our version of the Keto diet is beautiful and delicious. When I look at my food, I typically respond, “Wow! I get to eat this and lose weight!” Even when I eat foods that have fiber like black or kidney beans, I limit myself to a number which fits within my daily average of 50-60 grams of carbohydrates.  Then I remind myself that the fiber his helping keep down my cholesterol and I get even more excited.

So far, Keto has made me a better cook and a more thankful eater.  I finish each meal satisfied and nourished. Eating has been a source of anxiety for me, ever since I started getting anxious about everything as a teenager.  More anxiety tends to exacerbate stomach problems, so I tended to “follow my gut” a lot and try to eat what my body seemed to be craving. I totally believed that helped, until now. Since, I’m choosing not to eat starchy and grainy meals, my blood sugar levels stay more stable and I have less “hangry” moments.  When I do reach that crazy hunger moment, I choose not to eat the first thing that comes to mind, and I end up making better choices about what foods to eat. My healthier snacks also keep me satisfied for a longer period of time.

You’ve already heard about my magic beans, but really, our saving grace on this diet has been our chicken pizza. I have literally had dreams about doughnuts and bagels, and when I start to fold, I find a new recipe and my thankful heart forgets about those cravings.  This recipe came from a combination of blogs I read, and I’m happy to say, you don’t have to be on the Keto diet to enjoy this meal! So give it a try and give thanks for the beauty of the food in front of you!

Chicken Cheddar Pizza Crust

Crust
1 lb Ground Chicken
1 Egg
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 tbs Oregano
Salt, Pepper and Garlic

Mix the crust ingredients and spread the mixture out like a pizza crust into a pan. Another blogger recommended using plastic wrap to spread the dough and that makes all the difference! Try it!

Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Then take out the crust and top it like you would any pizza! We use crushed tomatoes, mozzarella and ground sausage. Then bake for another 10-15 minutes. If you like basil or spinach, we’ve found it works well to put that on at the end.

Other recipes suggest mozzarella instead of cheddar, but we like the way the cheddar makes the crust crispy.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Magic Beans

Ok, so they aren’t really beans, but they do seem kind of magical.  My husband, Robbie, and I started a low carb diet a month ago, and I’m feeling so fantastic that I don’t even care that I haven’t had Dr. Pepper, bread or wheat pizza in four weeks.

Chocolate, I eat in small quantities. Sweet Potato fries taste as amazing as french fries. Diet Dr. Pepper really does taste more like Regular Dr. Pepper every day.  We are savoring my pizza dough made from ground up chicken and cheese and covered with ground up sausage and more cheese and crushed tomatoes.

Carb filled food still looks yummy, but then I reach into my pocket and take out my magic beans, and I am reminded how delicious our new diet turns out to be.

Who else gets to enjoy steak, bacon, eggs, cheese, sausage and heavy whipping cream on a diet!?!

We’ve been taking lessons from Adkins, Keto and other diets, and I’m aiming for around 60 carbs a day, consistently loosing weight and feeling awesome. The first couple of weeks made me very sleepy, but it turns out that this is very typical.

To fight the midmorning and afternoon cravings, I created some nut mixes that turn out to be around 5 carbs, giving me a burst of energy while stopping me from eating whatever is in our break room.

I LOVE my little baggies of magic beans so much that I wanted to share them with you!
Pistachios and Black Walnuts look expensive when you see the bag in the store, but when 1tbsp is a serving, the bag goes much further than the health bars I used to buy. And these snack bags are much more satisfying! 

No matter your diet or eating habits, these recipes will be a treat for the whole family!

Pistalmonds 

12 low sodium almonds (1 heaping tablespoon)
12 dark chocolate almonds (1 heaping tablespoon)
1tbs pistachio kernels 

Walnutty 

1 tbsp Black Walnuts
1 heaping tbsp Coconut Almonds
1 heaping tbsp Chocolate Almonds

Friday, August 25, 2017

My Ninja Story




I am a big Ninja fan. Whether it’s historic Ninja folklore, Dark Knight Ninjas, American Ninja Warrior or Lego Ninjago, I love Ninjas.  I love the depth of their skill which requires strength in a variety of areas.  I love their sleek stealthy ways, somehow humble and peaceful and strong and frightening they seem, all at the same time.  Most of all, I love their resilience, flexibility and persistence. 

Some of the kids in our church (and adults) watch American Ninja Warrior religiously.  One of the parents dropped the comment, “Maybe we should have a Presby Ninja Warrior competition,” and I said, “Hold on, why don’t we? We can do this. Are you joking, because I need to know, before I get too excited about this.”  They all felt like it was a great idea, and believe it or not, we came through.  Our maintenance director, who is an awesome carpenter, helped me make the floating steps with our nursery workers, and he made a warped wall ramp.  I soon discovered that part of the training is in the building of your practice course.  Wood pallets are heavy.  Tires are heavy.  And Wood pallets covered in 3/4” plywood, attached to a couple of 2X4’s are extremely heavy.  When I built the course, I didn’t imagine myself doing it.  I would make it challenging for the kids and adults, but I didn’t expect to touch the top of our ramp, and I really didn’t expect to master the floating steps.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that we had a traumatic miscarriage, and I developed severe preeclampsia last January.  I expected to recover in a month or two, then I thought it would take me a few months, and then I gave myself till 6 months.  Now that it’s been seven months, I can tell you, some days have been good, some days bad, some days really bad, and still some days I don’t know what to do, and then I put one foot in front of the other and keep going.  I am learning to be kind to myself, and the waves of my grief are not quite as overwhelming as they once were.

When we finished constructing the Presby Ninja course, I asked one of my fit friends to try it.  She had never seen the show, so I had to show her how to do the floating steps…and I hopped from pallet to pallet…and I didn’t touch the floor.  I was shocked at my strength, and I felt incredibly empowered by the way my body was able to gracefully maneuver the obstacle.  After she ran the course, I had her video me doing the course. What a rush! I was able to do the obstacles with pride and confidence.  This little 5’1.5" Presby Ninja even reached to the top of our ramp at eight feet!


The next day our event was a huge success.  The kids were also empowered at their ability to handle this challenging course set before them.  Even the parents stepped up to the challenge. Two of them reached up to 12 feet on the ramp!

Over these last seven months, my healing has seemed to come along very slowly.  In fact, I feel like I’ve been struggling forever and sometimes I wonder if my full strength will ever return. 

From my ninja training, I am learning that each fall makes us stronger, not in the way that keeps us from falling. No, if you are living adventurously or, to use Theodore Roosevelt's phrase(renewed in popularity by Dr. Brené Brown), if you are “daring greatly”, falling, scraped knees, broken arms, concussions and loss will come.  Failure is inevitable at some point in experimentation. The strength we gain from these experiences is manifested in our ability to continue to put one foot in front of the other and “stay the course.” A friend recommended Dr. Brown’s book, Rising Strong, and while I’m reading it, I feel like underlining every word, because she is telling my story, and she is using the most amazing language and terms to make sense of it. Yesterday, I read this complete gem:  

Experience doesn’t create even a single spark of light in the darkness of the middle space.  It only instills in you a little bit of faith in your ability to navigate the dark. The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens.  Brené Brown, Rising Strong

Like ninjas we are called to keep “daring greatly” and taking great leaps in the dark. We do not rely on our perfection or our impeccable invulnerability, we rely, instead, on our ability to bend, to take a deep breath, and to rise with the strength to walk towards the mountain in front of us.

Blessings to you, my fellow ninja, in your current struggle or obstacle course.  May you remember to breathe and keep walking as you seek to navigate the dark.  The light still exists and will shine with greater brilliance when you reach your goal.  The Holy Spirit which breathed life into your bones continues to blow over you, within you, behind you and before you, to guide you on your way home.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

(Still) Learning to love my body


Myth: If I loose weight and workout hard enough, I will feel good and love my body.
Truth: Women and men of all shapes and sizes struggle with body image.

Myth: If I loose weight, my clothes will finally fit!
Truth: Mass produced clothing is based on measurements which make the design look great at some sizes and mis-shaped for others.

Myths are based on truth, they tell about a lesson to be learned, but they can be harmful when considered all around fact.  I know that when I exercise and loose weight, my mood rises. I know that a lot of my clothing was purchased at different parts of my story, so not everything fits my body all of the time. Remembering these truths can motivate and drive my actions and choices, but sometimes I let these practices disrupt my relationship with my body.  I start to look at my body as the culprit for all of my problems.

One hand: My body has (insert issue/disease)
Inner Critic: it's my fault or my body is faulty.
Other hand: My body did not cause my health problems.

One hand: Daily habits contribute to bad health.
Inner Critic: it's my fault my body is faulty.
Other hand: My work ethic didn't cause all of the challenges my body is facing. People of all body types and health practices get cancer, have miscarriages, develop heart problems, have depression, (insert your struggle here).

So, Who is to blame? Society? Mass media? Men? Women? God? Me?

Blame won't get me to a smaller dress size.

Blame won't make my legs more agile.

Blame won't solve my health issues.

Truth: Learning to appreciate my body, will improve my mood and motivate me to care for my body.

So, can I choose to love my body like I hope God and my family love me? Could I choose to have a relationship with my body which is based on faithfulness and loyalty and not condition?

Myth: we don't choose who we love, love is not rational.
Truth: We choose to be in relationship with people apart from momentary feelings of love. Love is relational.

What would it look like to love my body because it belongs to me? What would it look like to cherish my own flesh and blood like a sister or child or parent?  What would it look like to revel, delight and indulge in "living" in this body?

I think this is one of the reasons I felt drawn to the movie "Muana", the story of a young clumsy girl who helps two mythical mighty warriors and a whole nation of people rediscover their true selves. This Myth reminds us of the truth that people of all abilities and sizes can help one another return to being "at home" in their bodies.

Maybe I can begin to learn by loving funny shaped delicious fruits and vegetables.

Maybe I can begin to learn by loving how my amazing ankles always catch me when I fall--I have a talent for falling, ask anyone who knows me.

Maybe I can begin to learn by choosing to trust my body has amazing abilities to warn me and heal.

Maybe I can begin to learn by choosing to love and be in relationship to my body, forgiving all blame and fault, learning to be faithful instead of perfect.

Yes. I think that's it. There's the truth of it all. Let's learn to be faithful to these treasures given to us by our maker.

Alleluia, Amen.





Monday, July 10, 2017

A Little Lady Named Abigail

A friend of mine asked me to do some drawings in the style of the "Book of Kells" for Music Camp, and, I will tell you, I had a lot of fun.  Celtic drawings have always fascinated me with the weaving patterns and ornamental lettering.  Some of my favorite hours spent drawing as a child were designing animal letters.  So, first I made my pinterest board, and I learned how to make lots of knots.

Then I played around with how to design their three stories: the parable of the good Samaritan, the friend who was lowered through the roof to Jesus, and the story of Abigail, David and Nabal.

Somehow when I learned this story about Abigail, probably two decades ago, I missed the fact that when she met David and his men, she was riding a donkey on a mountain pass.  What a powerful act of grace! This woman, most likely young and beautiful and married to Nabal as property, embraced an authority to speak on behalf of her husband and household. She spoke with boldness in the face of the great giant slayer and his band of men, bearing their swords and ready to fight.  She lead donkeys full of food through the mountains as an offering of peace. Wow. I am still in awe of her courage!

So, if it's been a while for you, enjoy a fresh reading here, and see what you can learn from this little lady with a big heart.

Then enjoy these worksheets.