The road is long…

Sometimes, life is weary-ing. My tough week began with a fender-bender on Thursday night, and has continued with some serious health concerns for a family member and some difficult issues at the church.

I am tired and suffering from a head-cold. It’s not the worst cold I’ve had in recent memory, and I’m quite sure it will be gone fairly quickly, but it’s one more brick added to a heavy load.

The lyrics of one of my favourite Neil Diamond songs is going through my head tonite:

The road is long, with many a-winding turn,
That leads to who knows where, who knows when
But I’m strong, strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
So on we go
(Neil Diamond, “He Ain’t Heavy”)

I was thinking about faith and fitness. Due to busy-ness and then illness, I haven’t worked out for the last 3 days. No walking, no WOD, no nothin’. This makes me antsy. I feel nervous. I somehow still have a fear that all of the weight that I’ve lost in the past year is going to suddenly reappear on my body just because I haven’t gone for a walk or done some situps for a few days. It’s irrational, but it’s what I fear. I think that I fear that because I am so aware that fitness is a never-ending-road. This isn’t a project that ends when I hit my goal weight. It isn’t something that has a finish line at all (or at least, the finish line is death, which I hope is so far off as to be almost unworthy of time spent thinking about it). So every new day, every new week, is a new challenge. To do the work that my body requires to reach and maintain physical fitness.

The same thing is true about my faith. I don’t have a list of the tenets of Jesus or the the commandments, or anything else that I am checking off daily, hoping to reach the finish line. Instead, each moment, each situation, each conversation is a new challenge, a new opportunity to try to live like Jesus would.

For some, this might be discouraging. You might think “I’m never really going to GET there, so why try?” You might think you’re not strong enough to continue to travel this long road with it’s winding turns. But I see it in a more positive way. I am always going to have another chance to try, another workout to do, or another opportunity to show Christ’s love. This is a gift, this is a beautiful thing. And the strength I have doesn’t come from me, but from Jesus. I have an endless, boundless store of His strength to rely upon as I face the next leg of the journey.

It is true that sometimes it is wearying, but I think that only means it’s time to take rest, and then get up and face a new day with new challenges and opportunities.

Workin’ it…

I took a Sabbath from blogging last night. The weekend was a little crazy, and last night I sat in front of my computer screen trying to come up with a blog topic. I was so tired, I couldn’t come up with anything. After 2o min of trying, I closed my laptop and went to bed. Woke up this morning and realized I had a topic, I had just forgotten it. Whoops. That topic has been stored away for future use.

Tonite I need to do a little physical-fitness bragging.  I was invited to an Outdoor Bootcamp by a friend. I could try it out for free (well, a food bank donation), and then drop in to any class at $10 a go. So tonite was my first experience with it and it was great. We did burpees (I’ve never done them before. UGH!!!), Superman burpees (super-duper UGH!!!), froggers, long jumps, pushups, ball pushups, ball passes (3kg ball), Ball slams (??? 3Kg ball on the ground, squat down, pick it up to over head, then slam it down to the ground), leg raises and heal touches (abs). I didn’t think it was so bad during class, but I’m still feeling the workout and it ended nearly an hour and a half ago. Killer and awesome!

I’m excited to have another weapon in my fitness arsenal. Also, I was excited to learn some new exercises and variations on exercises that I can incorporate into my Deck of Cards WOD. It was great to work out with others and to do it outside (didn’t hurt that today, though windy, was absolutely gorgeous).

And I am amazed that somehow, in the past year of journeying towards greater physical health, working my body hard like this has become a form of worship. I am, during a workout, aware of my body and the things it can do. I am aware that it is a gift from God, and one that, sadly, I have abused for much of my life. I am aware that as I work out, I am treating this gift well, pushing it to its limits, making it better and stronger. I am aware that during a workout I am valuing the gift given to me by my Loving Father. It is amazing to me that something as seemingly mundane as a workout can also become a deeply spiritual exercise (pardon the pun).

Warm…

So, apparently, when you lose 62.8 pounds (my current loss total), you begin to experience temperature in a whole new way. It makes sense – fat acts as an insulator and once you remove the insulator, that which once was hot can now become quite cold.

All winter I have been freezing. My friends have made fun of me as I sat in their house, wearing 3 layers of clothing (one of which was my winter jacket). This winter has been an unseasonably warm one. It has also been strangely light on snow. I have hated every frigid second of it.

So I simply must take a moment to reflect on the miracle that has been our weather this week. It has been whatever the Spring equivalent of Indian Summer is. Warm. Sunny. Gorgeous.

Since Friday I have been wearing summer shoes and leaving my jacket behind when I head out for a walk. I had to go and buy some summer clothes (thank you, Value Village), because I have nothing in my wardrobe that is for summer. The last time it was summer I was 30 pounds heavier, after all.

I know this weather cannot last straight through to November (oh, how I wish). I know that this could be more than a freak event and could actually point to the damage we are doing to our environment. I know for some people, this is the exact opposite of what they enjoy or what they need to make a living.

But for this week, for this girl, it has been an absolute blessing – a gift. Unexpected, un-looked-for and absolutely undeniable.

Sometimes it just feels like God does this: drops a gift in your lap. You hadn’t even thought of how to ask for it yet, and here it is. Because that is what a loving Father does. He stands waiting and watching and when we are still a long way off he runs to embrace us.

That generous kind of love is what draws me back to my faith whenever I wander. That kind of unexpected gift confirms the goodness of God to me again and again. This is why I give my life to serving God: not for what I can get from Him, but because I cannot imagine my life without Him.

Random!

I have had a lot going on lately and could use an early night, so I am doing my blog early. I don’t have a theme for today’s post, just a number of random thoughts. I have one friend who is a blogger who does “Random Thought Thursdays”…I’m sort of stealing her idea (thanks Becky!), but not doing it on a Thursday. Here we go:

1) I have mentioned before how blessed I have been by my colleagues in ministry. This week I have been especially blessed. A lot of really awesome friends-who-are-pastors have given me some of their time. Some have called (Alton! Jeremy!), some I have called (Janet!) and some have had time to grab a bite to eat (thanks Fred!). In each of these encounters I have been deeply blessed and hopefully have found a way to give back some blessing.

2) Haven’t been able to walk as much as I want to because Koski is still recovering from her spay surgery. I have intense guilt about leaving her in her crate in her cone while I go out walking. She FREAKS out. It’s not fun for either of us. So in order to get enough exercise, today I tried a workout from an iPhone app called Cards WOD (WOD stands for Workout Of the Day). It’s a great little program. You assign different moves to the different suits and then it ‘shuffles’ them and you do the number of reps that corresponds with the card value and suit (8 of hearts equals 8 jumping jacks, 2 of spades equals 2 pushups, etc.). Aces are a value of 20 and face cards are a value of 10. The jokers are one-offs that totally suck (50 burpees or 200 double unders). I only did about 80 percent of the work out (and no jokers) today, but it was a good workout. And as I get better at it, I should be able to do it in half an hour.

3) Loving the weather. It is warm and sunny and breezy today. It is supposed to be warm with a surplus of sun. It’s great to feel like the long grey winter is coming to an end. Can’t get enough of Spring!

4) Having coffee with a congregant this evening. It’s hilarious to me how much I look forward to a Skinny Vanilla Latte at Starbucks! Yum!

5) I am doing well on the financial struggle front. I have been able to stick to my budget and make adjustments where necessary. I was very worried about this month because it was time to buy Koski’s food ($100 output, but it feeds her for more than 3 months). But by the grace of God, I’ve been able to adjust the other expenses during the month to absorb this. If things go as expected for the next two weeks, my VISA should be completely paid off for the first time in a couple of years and I will be well on my way to rebuilding the loan I took out of savings to pay off the majority of the VISA. This is awesome, and I am feeling much “lighter” about the whole thing. I like knowing where my money is going and I haven’t felt really deprived of shopping. It’s become a bit of a game to see what bargains I can get when it comes to grocery shopping, as well.

Child of God…

Tonite I spent the evening with two wonderful women who are my colleagues in ministry and who have begun the WeightWatchers journey. It was wonderful to gather at the table and share laughter and faith and food.

Sometimes, I am so blessed by the people that God brings into my life, it is ridiculous. Who am I to deserve such good gifts?

Most of the time I am selfish, cranky, short sighted, lazy, judgmental, and fear-filled. I react in anger more quickly than in love. I doubt easier than I believe. I struggle more than I live in thanks.

So who am I to deserve such good gifts?

I am a child of God.

And somehow – through his grace and mercy and unfailing love – God sees that as enough of a reason to give me such unbelievably good gifts.

And I am thankful.

Processed isn’t good…

In my on-going quest to live healthier and lose weight, I have found myself drawn more and more to whole foods. I posted a while back about my granola bar recipe. It’s not that you can’t buy good granola bars at the store, but I am finding that I just don’t trust food that I didn’t make myself. If I don’t know what went into it, I’m less likely to want to eat it. (Which is such an about-face from this time last year!)

That is not an across-the-board kind of statement. I fully admit that I eat mini chocolate bars and chocolate cheerios and some other things that fit in the processed-food category. But I am slowly taking steps away from that. Once my stash of mini chocolate bars are gone (which will take a while because I don’t eat more than one a day), I will be doing my best to make the switch to 70% cocoa dark chocolate for snacking. I am not sure how that will go, but I will make the effort to develop a taste for it.

Because I have been ill all week, I haven’t been cooking. So when I was at the store for Imodium and soda crackers the other day, I decided to pick up a couple of boxes of the Gardennay boxed soups. I used to love these. I used to eat them all the time, and they were on sale, so I picked up two flavours. Yesterday, when my appetite began to make an appearance again, I decided to have one of these boxed soups. All I could think was: Wow, I make a much better black bean soup. Mine is so much more flavorful.

I couldn’t stop thinking about my own black bean soup after having this disappointing processed black bean soup. So, I thought I would make some today. I went to bed thinking about picking up some canned beans this morning in order to make the soup. But as I lay there, another thought occurred to me: I have some dried beans that I could use. Using the dried beans meant two things: 1) a break to the budget (not having to buy beans when I already have some) and 2) I wouldn’t be consuming the salt and preservatives that are typically found in canned beans. So I found myself tromping downstairs in the middle of the night to put the beans to soak (dried beans typically need to be soaked for about 8hrs before cooking).

Now – I won’t say that the soup turned out perfectly. I didn’t adjust my recipe to account for the fact that I was using dried beans instead of canned and I had a tough time getting the beans to actually cook. I think all I needed was to make the soup in the slow cooker with the lid on instead of in the large wok without a lid. That is what I will do next time. In any case, I’m glad to have taken one more step towards whole foods with this bean adventure. I will definitely be using dried beans from now on.

(Here’s the recipe I use – revised for dried beans, using a slow cooker – ust in case you’d like to give it a go! This is adapted from the Spicy Black Bean Soup recipe found on the Weight Watchers website.)

Ingredients
2 medium uncooked onion
2 sweet red peppers
2 heaping teaspoons minced garlic (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp dried chipotle pepper (or to taste)
2 tsp dried cumin
2.5 c dried black beans
1 box fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes

Instructions

  • THE NIGHT BEFORE making your soup, take 2.5 cups dried beans and immerse them in 8c room temperature water for at least 8 hrs
  • when ready to make soup, drain and rinse the beans and set them aside
  • Chop onions and peppers, place in frying pan on medium heat and cook until soft (I don’t use any oil to cook them in, I don’t find it necessary)
  • Place onions, peppers, beans, tomatoes, cumin, chipotle and chicken broth in slow cooker and cook covered on high for 4 hrs or until beans are tender.
  • Once beans are tender and soup is done, scoop batches of soup into blender and blend until smooth.
  • Eat and enjoy!

Press on…

I have decided to kick up my physical activity as I continue to try to break the weight loss plateau that I have been on since Christmas. So this week along with the walking that I do (on avg, 90 min a day) and the stability ball core strengthening (3 times a week, about 15 min each time), I have added 20 min on the elliptical trainer, about 4 times a week.

People keep telling me that I look great and that I could quit losing weight now. But the thing is – I have a goal. And at this moment I am 25 pounds away from that goal (I put on 2.6 pounds at last weigh-in). I want to reach my goal.

At first I was quite down hearted about the plateau that has plagued me for several weeks. But on Monday it hit me that down-hearted-ness was getting me nowhere. If I wanted to break the plateau, I was going to have to DO SOMETHING to break the plateau. It also hit me that if I am as serious about my goal as I say I am, the the only thing to do is to press on towards it.

Paul wrote these words to the church in Phillipi while he was in prison: “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:14 NLT)

Even locked in a cell, Paul refused to give up on the life to which Jesus had called him. I admire his determination. Often I have felt a lack of determination in myself. I am, at heart, a lazy creature.

But ever so slowly, Jesus is growing me up. And as he does that I am discovering things about myself that I never really knew were possible. I am determined to reach my fitness goals (and it really has become more about being fit than being skinny I. The last few months); I am determined to keep a blog as a spiritual practice – part of my ongoing relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

For the first time I feel like I have an affinity for Paul’s phrase “press on”, and I think this new determination will serve me well in the long run.

My friends, whatever you are facing, may God give you the strength to press on, too!