Sunday, October 1, 2017

Divine Delay

In our Sunday school class, we have begun studying the book of Luke. I’ll share with you some of what we discussed in Sunday school today. How many of you have received a promise of a gift that you never received? When I graduated from high school, a lady who was a friend of our family told my sister and I that she had a present for each of us. Here we are, more than 15 years later, and I still haven’t gotten that gift. I don’t think that was her intention; I think she just forgot to ever give them to us. At this point, I think it is safe to say that we won’t ever receive the gifts she had for us. I’m not holding my breath anyway.
Has anything like that ever happened to any of you? Has anyone ever made a promise to you and didn’t keep it? It is safe to say that we can all think of at least one unkept promise. In most instances, our friends and family members have the best of intentions. Then, life happens; they make mistakes or forget what they said. Then, we find ourselves expectant but disappointed.
How many of you have felt that same way about an unanswered prayer or a promise that you were sure God made you? Sometimes his promises take a long time to come to pass too. It isn’t that he has forgotten about the promise he made you. You can rest assured that he has a purpose for the delay.
This past week, I studied the first two chapters in the book of Luke. By the way, if you are looking for a Bible study to do, the First 5 is a free app, and it is great! Special thanks to my friend, Lauren, for telling me about it. It is exactly what I’d been looking for.
Back to Luke: I’ll summarize the first chapter. Zechariah was a Jewish priest who served in the Holy Place. While serving, he had the honor of being the priest who would burn the incense at the altar. While there, the angel Gabriel told Zechariah that God had heard his prayer. Now, since Gabriel was a priest, he had likely prayed many corporate prayers for the people of Israel who were anxious for the Messiah to come. But, he had prayed personal prayers too, specifically one for a child. The angel Gabriel told him that his wife would become pregnant and bear a son for him. Zechariah had no idea who interwoven his two prayers were. His son, John the Baptist, would fulfill a the prophecy of being the one who would prepare the people’s hearts for the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. But, since Zechariah's prayers for a child and the Messiah were so intertwined, the answer to his prayer likely took much longer than he had expected. He even tells the angel that he and his wife are both old now. But, unlike the lady who forgot to ever give me my graduation gift, God did not forget about answering Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayers. The time would come; they just had to wait for it and continue working and serving while they waited.
If God has spoken a promise to you, don’t get discouraged when a week passes and nothing has changed. Maybe a month or six months – maybe even years will go by, and it will be hard to see the progress. It is so important that we recognize that there are divine delays that happen for a reason. Maybe the reason is to stretch you and to grow who you are in your faith. Maybe it’s because there are things in motion that have specific timeframes and you need to increase your patience. Or, maybe you’ll never know the exact reason for the delay. But remember, God was working and waiting for the perfect time to answer the prayers of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and he is doing the same for us.
Over the next few studies of Luke in our Sunday school class, we are going to look at Zechariah’s question to the angel and Mary’s question to the angel and explore why they got much different reactions (Zechariah was turned into a mute, but the angel answered Mary’s question without reprimand). We will also dig into why Elizabeth hid herself for the first five months of her pregnancy. Join us for Sunday school as we dig into this Gospel. There’s so much to learn!  

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Wagon, Wait for Me!

Over the past couple of weeks, you could say that I fell off of the healthy-eating wagon, or I at least fell over the side. Some things came up, and my schedule completely changed. I didn't plan meals, I didn't make a focused grocery store list, and we ate out a lot more than usual. So, unsurprisingly, I gained about four pounds. During all of this, I did keep my workout regimen, and I continued to log my food in my food journal on My Fitness Pal and mostly stayed under my calorie goal. Doing these things helped me not to stray too far. 

Did ya catch that? I stayed under my caloric goal and exercised, but still gained weight. Before making changes in my diet, I wanted to eat junk, stay under calories, and lose weight. But, that doesn't happen for me. I have to be diligent with restricting the amount of highly processed foods I eat and make sure that most of the carbs that I eat are good carbs. It makes all the difference for me. 

This week, I got back on track. I did have a couple of cheat meals, but I made more good food choices than bad. When I weighed this morning, I was down the four pounds I had gained plus a little extra. Whew, what a relief!

It has been about eleven weeks since I began making significant changes in my eating habits and workout regimen. Since then, I've lost about fifteen pounds. From my highest weight, I'm down 23.8 pounds. Here's a picture of my progress so far:

 Also, in the past month, I've begun focusing on weight training. I still do cardio and calisthenics, but I am learning proper form and technique for heavier lifting. Today, I got a new PR (personal record) for deadlifting. I did 170# for a set of four. It was my fifth set, starting lighter and ending with this heavy set. It really is motivating to lose weight and build strength at the same time.

I have no idea what my goal is for deadlifts. Right now, the hardest part is getting it off of the ground. 😀 So, the goal is to stay uninjured while continuing to challenging myself. Thankfully, I have personal trainers who know that I want to lift and are very encouraging (and make sure that I have proper form to avoid injuries).

I recently read a quote by George Eliot: "It's never too late to become what you might have been." I changed it a little, but it was the inspiration for my current Facebook cover photo quote:

I often wish I had begun this fitness journey a long time ago and was at a more advanced level now. But, I know that a year from now, I'll be so happy that I chose to begin this in March 2017. 

Where are you on your fitness journey? Have you found what works best for your diet? I'd love to hear the things you've tried that work well for you, fitness or food.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Blazing a Mountain Trail

When I was a child, my school took field trips to Stone Mountain. We younger children were only allowed to go to the pavilion at the halfway point; the older ones got to climb the whole thing. So, before today, I don't think I had climbed Stone Mountain all the way to the top. If I had, I had definitely forgotten just how steep it gets. It was an absolutely beautiful day for a hike - partly cloudy and around 80°. Once we climbed the 660' elevation gain in about one mile, the views were spectacular - you can see cityscapes of Atlanta and Buckhead as well as lush greenery and calm lakes.
After we climbed back down the mountain, I was ready for lunch! So, I picked up my hubby, and we headed to a local restaurant called Milo's. There, I used to get the chicken philly and fries because yum. That was what Calvin ordered today. But, in an attempt to stay on-plan today, I ordered their Chicken Salad Lettuce Wrap. It came with a large serving of homemade chicken salad and was served with grapes and crackers (and plenty of lettuce to make several wraps). It could not have been a better choice.

After we ordered and while we were waiting for our food to be served, I told Calvin what I thought we would have for dinner this coming week. I made sure it all sounded good to him. He is on board. So, here is our meal plan:

I'm hoping to make my chicken salad similar to what I had at Milo's today. It looked pretty simple - maybe just chicken, mayo, a little mustard, celery, salt, and pepper. If I succeed at copying them, I'll really enjoy those lunches next week.

For the roast beef, I'll cook it in the Crock Pot and season it with Season Salt and butter. I'll add the onion, carrots (and red potatoes for the hubster) to the Crock Pot to roast along with the beef.

For the penne lasagna bake, I'll use either Dreamfields or Barilla Protein Plus noodles. I'll brown ground beef with onions and peppers and season it with garlic salt. I'll use Newman's Own Marinara and add garlic powder, onion powder, and red pepper flakes to season it up a little. I stir about one cup of Italian-blend shredded cheese into the seasoned marinara. Then, I'll add the cooked meat, peppers, and onions and cooked pasta. I'll stir all of that together and pour it into a casserole dish. Then, I'll top it with another cup of Italian-blend shredded cheese and bake it until it's nice and bubbly.

Have you decided what's for dinner this coming week? I'd love to hear about your low (or lower) carb recipes.

Oh, by the way, I've been eating this low-carb way for about five weeks now. I feel like I'm starting to get the hang of it.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

I Can Eat Parmesan-Crusted Chicken?!

Well, hallelujah! I used to love getting parmesan-crusted chicken at Longhorn. I think they recently (in the past six months or so) changed their recipe; I don't like it as much. However, I do love my homemade version of it. Check out that golden brown crust...yum!!!

I'll share the recipe with you. But first, here is my Meal Plan for this week:

You can see that the word "variety" isn't how you would describe my breakfasts. I know that I like it; and, it is quick and easy. I do change it up from week to week. But, I often stick to the same breakfast each week, for a couple of weeks. On that note, you will see that we eat leftovers a few times. I would much rather cook three times each week than seven. So, I usually make enough for us to have leftovers as least once for dinner and enough that I can take it for lunch at least once (usually twice). Although I do not mind a good salad, I much prefer leftovers to having a salad every day for lunch.

Now, for the recipe of the deliciousness that brought you here:


1 – 1.5 lb. boneless, skinless chicken
2 tbsp of vegetable oil
Garlic salt
Red Pepper flakes

¼ cup Ranch dressing
¼ cup grated parmesan
2 tbsp butter, melted
½ cup Panko bread crumbs
¼ tsp garlic powder
1/3 cup grated parmesan


Coat a baking or casserole dish with the vegetable oil and place chicken in the dish.
Sprinkle chicken with garlic salt and red pepper flakes.
Bake at 425° for 15-20 minutes (flip chicken at 10 minutes). Remove from oven and set aside.
Ranch spread: mix ¼ cup of parmesan and ¼ cup Ranch dressing. Spread about 1 tbsp onto each piece of baked chicken.
Mix bread crumbs, garlic powder, parmesan, and melted butter. The crumbs should be evenly moistened. Sprinkle over chicken spread.

Position oven rack 6-8” from broiler. Preheat broiler. Place chicken under broiler and cook until cheese melts and crumb topping turns light, golden brown. 

For leftovers: heat oven to 350°. Place chicken on aluminum foil and bake 12-15 minutes.

In case you are wondering about the nutritional information for the deliciousness, I have that for you also. It is more carbs than I normally eat for one meal, but with 32 grams of protein, I'll take it!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

This Life That I Lose

Last week, I was thinking about updating my blog to be a better representation of where I am today. So, updated the name and theme of the blog to “This Life that I Lose.” 

The scriptural basis for it is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 where we are told that this life is not our own – we were bought with a price. To that, I will continue to post devotion-type blogs as I have over the past few years; and, we will continue to grow together in our spiritual walks.

This Life that I Lose physically is the sedentary, sugar and carb-addicted one. So, I will post about my journey of losing weight and getting healthy. I’ll share meal plans and recipes that my husband and I enjoy as well as the exercises that I do to help me stay active.

In case you are wondering how I got here, almost four years ago, I went from an active job to a very sedentary job. I love my job with regular work hours and no uniform requirement. But, I did not love the pounds that I had put on sitting at a desk for 40 hours each week. About a month ago, I decided that I was tired of always trying to lose weight and being stuck at a plateau of about eight pounds lost in two years. I knew that I needed a push to get me on the right track. I joined a 16 Week Challenge at the local gym. They provided meal plans, boot camp workout classes, and monthly weigh-ins/body measurements.

The meal plans that were provided were low-carb and low-fat with no dairy and no processed food. No doubt, that would catapult me into weight loss, but I also wanted to do something that would be sustainable long-term. So, for me, I’ve found that low-carb high fat (LCHF as you’ll see if you do an internet search) with no added sugar and no white carbs like potatoes or pasta works well. To give me something to look forward to, I do have a couple of cheat meals each week. In about one month, I've lost nine pounds; I've lost seventeen pounds from my highest weight three years ago. Last week, I told a friend that if I had realized that I could eat like this and lose weight, I would have started it a long time ago. But, my time is now; so, here I go!

Join me on this spiritual and physical journey of This Life that I Lose. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Purpose Over Preference by Steven Furtick

Today, I want to share this devotion by Steven Furtick:

Purpose Over Preference

"When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, 'If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.' So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea." (Exodus 13:17-18)

As Moses led the people of Israel out of captivity and towards the promise land, the path they took was not the shortest or the easiest. In fact, God deliberately led them the long way around (Exodus 13:17).

After living under abusive oppression for 430 years, I'm sure taking the long way wasn't their preference. Remember, the Egyptian regime they were fleeing was the same one that once decreed that their firstborn sons be murdered — not to mention the forced labor and regular physical beatings they were subjected to.

But God had their purpose in mind, not just their preference. The extra miles weren't God's punishment. They were His provision. They were multi-generational slaves, not warriors. Had they gone the way I'm sure they wanted to go, they probably wouldn't have had the courage to continue. They weren't yet prepared to face the enemy by going through.

God's way doesn't always seem like the best way — that is, if you define the best way as the shortest, most comfortable, most convenient way. Many times, God's way is none of those things.

Instead of leading you the short way to what you want, God will often lead you the long way to what you need. It may not be the easiest, but it will be the most purposeful.  

Monday, February 20, 2017

Who's in Control?

When we consider that God created everything – the entire universe: planets, stars, mountains, oceans – it really is amazing and maybe a little intimidating. With all of that in mind, what do you think is God’s greatest creation? Don’t be shy; it is us! The Bible tells us that we were created in His image, which is a pretty high compliment. Human beings are incredible creatures. There are so many things that happen in our bodies that keep us alive without us having to think about any of it. Some of our involuntary functions include breathing, blinking, and swallowing. These things we do have some control over (when we want to or try). Other things, like our circulatory system, we don’t have direct control over. Did you know that if you were able to line up, end to end, the arteries, capillaries, and veins of one adult, it would stretch 60,000 miles! I found that online, so it must be true J. As a reference the circumference of the earth is 25,000 miles. So, each of our veins and stuff would go around the earth 2.5 times.

Other things, like our muscular system and nervous system, also are very complex and perform without much active thought from us. Many of us have, at one point or another, worn pedometers. Most of the time, our goal is to reach 10,000 steps per day. But, we don’t have to consciously think about every step that we take. Do you know how many muscles it takes to take one step? 200.

I posted a quote on Facebook a few nights ago that said, “How cool is it that the same God who created mountains, oceans, and galaxies thought the world needed one of you too.” The Bible tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. The Bible also tells us that God knew us before we were even formed in our mother’s womb. So, God didn’t just think, “I need another human on Earth.” No, he thought specifically of you; he knew you, and decided that the world needed you for this specific time. You have a purpose. If you think too much about it, it can seem daunting to try to figure everything out. It can make us feel inferior.

But, is important that we always understand that this life that we live is not our own; we belong to God. When he is in complete control, there is nothing for us to fear. Remember with the different systems in our bodies (the nervous system, circulatory system, muscular system, etc.), we can control portions of what happens. But, if we don’t try to take control of the involuntary actions, our bodies know exactly what to do and when to do it. We can mess up the rhythm when we try to take the control. The same is applicable in our lives. We need to remember that when we give our lives to God, we should also give him control. He doesn’t need us to intervene and mess up the rhythm. When we allow God to order our steps, we are still able to work in faith but know that we are walking in his will.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Don't Follow Your Heart

We often hear people say “follow your heart.” But, what does that mean? Most of the time, I think what people are saying is “do what makes you happy” or “don’t do something that makes you unhappy.” It could also mean “don’t do anything that you don’t want to do” or “only do what you want to do.” Or, maybe it is even tempting us to stay in our comfort zones. After all, that is where we are content.
While the phrase, and the people saying it, mean well, it is not Biblically based, nor is it a mature, Christian way to approach our lives. God often calls us to do things that are outside of our comfort zones – things we don’t want to do, things that we aren’t comfortable doing. Sometimes people who are shy are called to ministries that put them on a stage. Or, extroverts may be drawn to a calling that doesn't have an audience. I believe that God uses us in areas where we aren't so comfortable so that we learn to rely fully on him instead of our own strength. 
But, sometimes, it is much simpler than that. There are callings in the Bible that are global. We have a tendency to want to forget about these. But, they require just as much obedience as our individual callings do. One such calling is that God calls for each of us to love one another. I taught a version of this in my Sunday school class. I told them that I can easily say that I love each of them. They make me proud to be a part of their lives. Even when we don’t agree with each other 100%, we have a spirit of unity and comradery among us. So, it’s easy for me to love them. Other people, not so much. But, we are commanded to love our enemies, not just our friends. Maybe you’re thinking, “I just can’t do that.” Of course, you can’t in your own strength; we all must rely on Christ’s love and spirit that lives within us to do what we are called. Anointed preachers don’t preach on their own volition. They preach through the Spirit of God living within them.
I recently began keeping a prayer journal. In it, I have a list of things that I am specifically praying for: my job, our YA group, my marriage, my family, church leadership. I have several other categories too. But, in looking at my list, I noticed that it was not just full of people whom I love; it was full of people who love me back. Those are the people that it is easy to pray for. So, I added a page about praying for my enemies. I will be honest, the prayers that I want to pray for my enemies (God, please get them, make them pay for what they've done, etc. You see the theme.) are not the prayers that I wanted to write in my prayer journal. So, I Googled and found some good points of how to pray for our enemies (ask that God forgive them just as Jesus did on the cross, ask that God give them a spirit of wisdom, ask that God root them and ground them in love, etc.). These prayers have made it to my journal. It isn’t always easy. But, saying those prayers is starting to change my feelings toward my enemies.
Matthew 5:43-49 MSG
43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
"Grow up?!" Ouch! Most people will encourage us to give what we get, but revenge isn’t ours to give. If we just follow our heart and do what feels good, we can easily justify poor behavior toward our enemies. Our hearts like to think the best of ourselves and worst of others — unless those others happen to think well of us, then they are wonderful people. But if they don’t think well of us, or even if they just disagree with us, well then, something is wrong with them. And while our hearts are pondering our own virtues and others’ errors, it can suddenly find some immoral or horribly angry thought very attractive.
I recently saw a video from the Olympics. A Russian skier had broken a ski during a cross-country competition and was struggling immensely to keep going. But, a coach from the Canadian team brought a ski to the Russian skier, "Because I know the hard work it takes to get here, so I wanted to make sure that he [the Russian skier] finished the race."
We are all in a race and pressing toward our calling. Like the Olympians, we may even find ourselves on different teams: Young Adults, Soul Patrol/Children's Church, Church Board, Worship Team, Senior Adults, Widows/Widowers, etc. But, we are all striving to finish the race before us. How many times do we see others on our journey with a broken ski, spiritually speaking? When that fellow Christian has brokenness, what do we do? Do we just keep our eyes forward and act like we don’t see it? Do we tell them that they messed up, and if they had done things the right way, their ski wouldn’t have broken? Or, do we get our spare ski and offer it to them so that we are sure that we both finish the race? It is easy, and most likely our natural inclination, to do what would benefit us the most and not give much thought to those who aren’t on our team. So, we must learn to incline our hearts in that direction (Psalm 119:112).

Our hearts were never designed to be followed, but to be led. Our hearts weren't designed to be gods in whom we believe; they were designed to believe in God. So, instead of following your heart, I want to encourage you each to lead your heart. Choose who you love. Choose to love. Period.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

70 x 7

My husband and I had the opportunity to chaperone a YA Winter Retreat in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for the YA group at our church this past weekend. Below is a devotion that we did together. Enjoy!  

"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."  
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Some of you know about mine and Calvin’s 24-hour rule. When we got married, part of our vows were based on 1 Corinthians 13. In that chapter, the Bible tells us that love keeps no record of wrongdoings. So, if Calvin or I are upset with each other about something, we talk about it that day – get out all of our disappointments, frustrations, or anger. But, once the day is over, so is the argument. We have an agreement that we don’t bring up past mistakes or points of contention later on. What’s done is done, so we move forward.

The love that Paul was writing about in 1 Corinthians wasn’t specifically meant toward husbands and wives. Do you know who he was talking to? The Church. In his wisdom, Paul knew that we wouldn’t always like each other – we wouldn’t always like the decisions that are made or how someone does something in the church. He knew that is was inevitable that we wouldn’t always see eye-to-eye with everyone. I’ve said many times before that the more I know some people, the less I like them. Sometimes the situations or disagreements that we have with other church folks makes it hard to like them. Even when we don’t like what they have done, we are urged to love them so much that we don’t keep score. We have to remember to be willing to forgive that person over and over.

I borrowed the following from a devotion by Steven Furtick. 

"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'" (Matthew 18:21-22)

When Peter approaches Jesus about the issue of forgiveness and offers up the number seven, it's more than just a number. Within Judaism, forgiving someone three times is sufficient. So Peter's offer of seven is over twice the requirement and, in comparison to the law, a generous offer. At least, I'm sure that's what Peter is thinking.

But instead of approving of this, Jesus actually raises the stakes and tells Peter to forgive "not seven times, but seventy-seven times." I can almost see Peter's jaw dropping. Jesus is getting the point across: "It's not a numbers game." It's a heart issue, not a math problem. It's not about marking something off of a checklist; it's about living a lifestyle of love and grace.
Our world operates totally in opposition to this principle. We depend on give and take. Balance and counterbalance. Debits and credits. We like keeping score, which begins to look like a toxic game of tug of war: You hurt me, so I'll hurt you. You treated me nicely, so I'll treat you nicely. You offended me, so I'll offend you.

The problem with this is that when you keep score in a relationship, everyone loses. As followers of Christ, we're not called just to forgive when it's convenient and fair. We're called to live in forgiveness. And it isn't just a good idea or some helpful advice; it's foundational.
In every relationship, there's one thing for certain — both you and the other person will be imperfect. You will both mess up, you will both make mistakes, and you will both need to apologize. Rather than keeping score, though, try keeping a commitment to forgive.