The Next Step

It has felt like boot camp every time I’ve gone. The women to my right and left are trim, toned, and can lift the heavy weights. My mid-section is a bit pudgy being six weeks out of having my third child and I have to choose the light weights as a beginner.

As we dive in to chisel class, my fitness instructor, Galey, wastes no time through each workout and each set within the workout intensifies. My arm, back, and leg muscles strain and ache from the barbell lunges, squats, and dead lifts.

During pushups and abs, my arms are shaky and I wonder if I can keep going. I gaze at the clock wondering if I’m at the end yet. I’m starting to feel a little sick, but I know I can do it.

“This is hard,” Galey yells while crunching her abs. “Remember that’s OK!”

Finally, the ab drills are over. My whole body feels like jello and I can barely muster up the strength to do the stretching exercises. I put away my barbell and hand weights and smile at the other women. We all have that look of relief on our faces.

As I head out the door to pick up my kids from childcare, I overhear Galey talking with a new member of the class, “The key to these classes is you have to keep coming. Then you’ll start to get the hang of it and get better.”

I nod my head as I hear her talking. I know that the key is faithfulness if I want to see results. But not only would I need to be faithful…

Read the rest on

Whole Food, Whole Faith – Exploring a Plant-based Lifestyle

For a while now, I’ve felt like something was missing when it comes to my overall health and nutrition. If you were to ask me if I was a pretty healthy person, I would say, “Sure!” I try to eat really well and watch my portions.

I get good sleep and I exercise consistently. One day a week I do a strength training class at the gym that whips me every time. And I run 2-3 times a week. And walk regularly.

But lately I’ve been taking a hard look at my diet (thus what I’m feeding my family) and I’ve noticed were I really want to see some change and ultimately feel better. Here’s how I’ll sum it up borrowing from the words of popular food writer & UC Berkeley Professor Michael Pollan:

Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Cancer experts agree that adding green and other vibrant colors to your diet in addition to vegetables, fruits, legumes (dried peas & beans), and grains aids in the fight against cancer and other diseases.

We’ve heard it before. Foods so rich in phytochemicals and other fancy words can do nothing but help my diet. But this knowledge has never made a significant impact on my personal health and food choices until now.

Fruits & Veggies As the Foundation

In other words, I’ve never seen fruits and veggies as the foundation of my health. They have been more like a “side” item.

Going green in one form or another has been a trend for a while. Celebrities and politicians like Alicia Silverstone and Bill Clinton are adopting plant-based lifestyles. And movements like Forks Over Knives, Food Inc., Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and the Meatless Monday Campaign are making a big dent in how people view what they consume.

Recently, to my surprise,  I’ve discovered that several of my friends have adopted plant-based lifestyles as well.

From what I’ve read, a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you have to become a vegetarian, it just means that most of the food on your plate should be from plant sources. But with that, many people do choose to go all-out vegan or vegetarian.

Introducing More Color to My Kitchen

For the last four days, I’ve been off meat completely. I’m not sure if this is something I will do long-term but for now I want to see how my body feels and if I notice any differences over a span of several weeks.

This is huge for me because I love meat. Most of my favorite dishes involve chicken and beef. But for now, I’m going to get my “meat” from the protein that exists in plant sources and through dairy. We thrive on yogurt and milk around here.

Practically for us this week, my fridge and pantry is filled with foods like raw spinach (for eggs or smoothies), orange, red, and green peppers, hummus, tomatoes, celery, carrotts, whole grain bread, kale, organic yogurt, oranges, grapes, apples, satian (a wheat gluten), quinoa flakes, nuts, and more. I’ve decided to budget out organic crackers, fruit snacks and cereal for the kids.

Here’s our meal schedule until Thursday:

Monday- Chickpea Burgers w/ corn and brocolli it turned our really well. Very different than what we are used to but we didn’t go to bed hungry. Not sure if I’ll make it again.

Tuesday- Black bean & Zucchini Tortilla Casserole – delicious! a little weird without meat but the whole family enjoyed it.

Wednesday- Tortellini in Sweet Potato Sauce

Thursday- Vegeterian Greek Meatballs in Tomato Sauce w/ Feta Cheese

I’m on the hunt for good recipes that I’ll reuse and I know there are better ones out there. The main thing I’m remembering as we look into the plant-based lifestyle is that it’s a lifestyle.

If we have a party, are eating out, traveling, or at a friend’s for dinner, there is room to flex a little. I don’t want to be obsessed about it, but aware and conscious of my food choices with moderation and balance.

Whole Faith

So why am I going into detail about all of this health stuff on a blog that is primarily about faith and life? I guess first, I love sharing with you about what I’m learning, especially when I feel like it could encourage you.

Obviously I’m not a health expert or nutritionist- I’m a writer and stay-at-home mom. My husband is an amazing RN so I’ve heard a lot of health-related stories. My sister is a gifted Registered Dietitian and has taught me a lot about health and wellness.

But the truth is that we don’t have to be experts to understand that our health greatly impacts our spiritual life, and vice-versa.

Here’s what I’ve experienced:

  1. When I have more energy, I’m highly productive during the day.
  2. When I get sufficient sleep, I’m quicker to go for decaf coffee than caffeinated.
  3. When I feel good about my body, I often treat others better.
  4. When I’m properly fueled, I have energy to carry a conversation and share my faith with someone.
  5. When I’m renewed in God’s Word and prayer, it changes the attitudes and choices I make.
  6. When I see my body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, it changes how I steward my body for God’s glory.
  7. When I pray, anxiety and stress is lifted as I give my burdens to God.
  8. When I exercise, I release endorphins that give me a “high,” making me feel better than I did before while decreasing depression, moodiness, or irritability.
  9. When I serve others as the hands and feet of Christ, it gets the focus off of me and my problems and onto helping people.
  10. When my overall health is well-balanced, I’m inspired to keep at it and persevere in my faith.

Well I’m not exactly sure what my diet will look like months from now, but I do know that I’m going to make better choices. I know that this lifestyle will require sacrifice and hard work, no doubt. I know it’s a road less traveled in our American, fast-food culture. But I’m excited to start this journey and see where it will take me and my family and my faith.

I’d love to hear from you- Did any of the 10 points jump out to you when it comes to your health and faith? What would you add? Do tell!
If you’re interested in more resources regarding the plant-based lifestyle, these have been helpful for me:
5.) Vibrant Life Magazine- faith & health

2 Things I really want for 2010

I have a few goals I’ve written down for this year. I gave you a little glimpse of them a few posts ago. I’ll write a few I’ve landed on:

1.) Spend more than 20 minutes in the Word daily. 2.) Exercise intensely 3 or more times a week for one hour. 3.) Write book proposal by July 23, then begin process of sending to agents. 4.) Pray for my husband and son daily for God’s will in their life. 5.) And… go see Avatar this week because everybody else is doing it!

I am happy with these goals as I feel they’re realistic for the season I’m in. BUT, something even greater stuck out to me while I was on vacation. A light-bulb turned on as I meditated on this verse:

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart” (Prov. 3:3).

Steadfast love and faithfulness.

I want my life to be marked by these two things  in my relationship with Jesus and to others. And I sense the urgency in this verse to protect these things by binding them around my neck and writing them on my heart.

I think God is really saying something to all of us here. Perhaps that this wisdom can be easily lost and forgotten. I know people who have lost their love and faithfulness to God and it scares me because I’ve seen the devastation of what it can do. I too, have had times where my love for God is not as vast as the ocean like His love is for me. And it’s evident in how I treat others.

Proverbs 3:4 goes on to say, So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.”

I definitely want success in my goals for this year. I think we all do. But more importantly, I want the success that comes from loving God and loving His Word.

What about you- Is there anything you really want in your life for 2010?

Prayer for Matt Chandler

My heart broke today in hearing the news about Matt Chandler’s health via The Village Church blog. Matt has a wonderful ministry partnership and friendship with my work. He just spoke at our conference in November. And just in the last year, I’ve listened to a lot of his podcasts. He’s my favorite pastor (or should I say “podcast preacher.”)

God has used Matt to rekindle a passion in my heart for the gospel and God’s glory. A lot of the writing on this blog has been inspired by a mix of Matt Chandler sermons and God’s word.

I’ve asked God a lot today: Why Matt Chandler? Of all people, why him? And God continues to whisper: This is my calling right now for him to take on brain cancer. I’m sovereign. Will you trust me?

And all I can do is trust.

The hospital where Matt is getting rehab is a block from our apartment and I can see parts of it from my window on the 9th floor. This evening while in my son’s bedroom, I saw the sun setting over the hospital. Bursts of magenta, orange, pink, and navy blue filled the sky.

The sun set reminded me that God is sovereign and is in total control of Matt’s life. And I loved the tweet that Matt wrote today:

Path report is 2ndary at best…good report doesn’t mean much, bad report doesn’t mean anything…my days r numbered and nt by ths report

It is God alone who determines our days. I pray that Matt and his precious family will endure well and experience God’s strength and love in the days ahead.

We love you Matt, Lauren, Audrey, Norah, and Reid.

Video: Bethany Allen- Outrunning Breast Cancer

Just a few years ago one of my best friends was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’ll never forget the day she called me telling me the news. I remember sobbing with her on the phone and doing all I could to lift everything up in prayer with her. She told me on the phone that she was still going to run her marathon she’d been training for. It was only in a few weeks at Disney World.

I booked a flight and headed to Florida to surprise her. I’ll never forget her face! I watched her finish her race strong, and not only that but finish her last year of law school while enduring multiple surgeries, taking shots every day, and battling the pain of chemotherapy and radiation.

Last year, I asked Bethany if she would share her story for an upcoming series we were working on that dealt with prayer. The series is called The Sacred Echo with author and speaker Margaret Feinberg. When Bethany flew out for my baby shower last Septermber, in one tightly packed weekend, our team at Bluefish shot her story.

The link to Bethany’s story is here. I hope it encourages you in whatever trials you’re facing today and that ultimately you’ll put your hope, faith, and trust in God alone.

Savoring Solitude

1150829_algarrobo_beach_2Before we left on Friday for a Labor Day weekend getaway, the one thing I needed more than anything else was rest and solitude time away from the busyness and baseline stress that comes with living in a big city… and that comes from life in general.

As we drove into the wide open spaces, I felt my burdens lifted away. Jeremiah blasted the radio and rolled the windows down. John loved the breeze against his face. We sang, laughed, and talked. It was just the beginning of our journey to getting refreshed and encouraged again.

All throughout the gospels Jesus withdrew in solitude away from the crowds and the disciples to be renewed in his relationship with God:

“At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them” (Lk. 4:42).

“Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him” (Mk. 4:36).

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Lk. 5:16)

Knowing that Jesus did this often, speaks volumes to me. How can I expect to live life apart from being alone with God- just me and him? How can I expect to love others well if I don’t separate myself from people from time to time? How can I expect to be renewed by staying in the same place day in and day out without ever getting away? A few things I’ve noticed when I choose not to withdraw to my “lonely place” is:

1.) I worry, worry, worry

2.) I’m not sensitive to God’s leading in my life

3.) I carry stress and don’t easily serve others

4.) I don’t share the gospel and what God is doing in my life

5.) I am mean and sin more

It’s crazy to think that choosing not to withdraw has led to those things in my life, but it makes total sense. Solitude time is examining life, confessing sin, being refueled in God’s word, and most of all resting in Christ for his strength. Life is just too hard not to make room for his presence in my life.

While I’m far from being perfect, a few practical things have helped me when it comes to making solitude time:

1.) I write it on my to-do list. Since most of the time, I get done what’s on that list, my quiet time is non-negotiable as well.

2.) I pretend like there are no dishes to be done, laundry to be folded, voicemails to return, and that not one person needs me.

3.) I leave my phone off, shut down my Mac (no emails, facebook, etc.)

4.) I go somewhere quiet with my journal, Bible, and pen and most of the time, I do this when John is asleep.

5.) I try to be still and pray in the car on the days I commute to work.

Well, I’m sitting on the couch in my pajamas listening to the sound of waterfalls trickling into the pool. The morning breeze is so refreshing and the birds love it too. The past few days I’ve been renewed in God’s word and renewed physically and emotionally. I’m sad we’re at the end of our journey at my parents because the time away has been so sweet.

But I can say I’m ready to travel back to Dallas and face the realities of life again with a better perspective than when I left.

Orange Air & Anxious Thoughts

APW_orangeA lot of mornings in Dallas, there are what you call “orange air pollution” watches. I saw one on the marquees driving down the interstate this morning. I was also notified via radio. I can’t quite figure out what action they want me to take when they tell me about this orange air. Do they want me to turn around and carpool with someone last minute? Am I supposed to hide inside all day, in hopes that my respiratory system won’t be exposed? Do I need to text all my friends and tell them to stay inside? If anything, all these watches do is make me worry instead of take caution.

I got an email from a friend yesterday. She shared some of her struggles with having a “controlling, anxious personality.” I struck a chord with that. I battle anxious thoughts every day: Will I get sleep tonight? Will my brother in law be okay when he deploys to Afghanistan in a few months? Am I communicating well in my marriage? Is America going to recover from the current condition we’re in and are we really protecting ourselves well from terrorism?  And then it’s the more simple things like What will I eat next? Am I staying healthy? Will I survive my 15k tomorrow? Will I make it to that appointment on time?

God knew that we would be people of worry and he knew it would be one of my main struggles. He knew that I would have to refer back to this verse 10,000 times to remind myself: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-8).

So what’s the solution to worry and anxious thoughts? PRAY. Petition. Be thankful. Present all your concerns to God- yes that means your laundry list. But make sure you LISTEN. Complain to him. Talk to him. Believe in him. Depend on him. Have faith that he will answer. Rely on truth that he deeply cares about what you think. Stand firm in his power to give you strength to endure this life. SURRENDER.

Then what? His peace will consume you and guard your life. You won’t be able to explain it because it transcends human comprehension. Your anxious thoughts will be turned into thoughts of trusting in someone Greater.

So, what do you need to give Him today? Do you trust that he will carry whatever burdens you have?

Well I guess the next time I see “Air Pollution: Orange” I’ll be reminded that God is in control, even when we do stupid things to our environment.

Running for Sunrise

Part of the White Rock Trail

Part of the White Rock Trail

On Sunday morning, John was up and ready at 4:30 AM so I decided to do my long run of 7 miles for the day. I started at 5:00AM. Since it was still dark out, Jeremiah followed close behind me in our SUV. Running that early just isn’t fun to me. Everything is closed. No one is around. And I longed for sunlight.

No matter how far I run, I always run on Swiss Avenue, a well-known street in Dallas lined with historic mansions. I pictured everyone snug in their beds. Past Swiss Avenue, I jogged on the sidewalks of Lakewood, a charming area where my final destination would be. On the left in the distance, I saw a few workers at Whole Foods getting their day started. I smelled doughnuts from a local shop, reminding me of my intense hunger pains. Past the neighborhoods, I reached White Rock Lake where I had around 3 miles left.

At last, the sun  pierced through the clouds- bursts of bright pink and orange. Fishermen were out for their morning catch. Cyclers, walkers, and runners breezed by- sweaty and short of breath just like me. The light I had longed to see had finally arrived and it was beautiful. It gave me a new burst of energy to finish what I’d started.

There are days where I sense darkness, that I’m in a valley and I just long to be with Jesus and to be at home in heaven. This is not at all to say I don’t love life. I absolutely do. God has given me fullness of joy in His presence. I love my husband, my son, family, and friends. I’m overwhelmed all the time by God’s grace and goodness in my life. And it’s depressing to think about dying one day. But I still have days where my heart longs for my eternal home in heaven- where I’ll be healed from the brokenness of sin within me and restored to God’s perfect image.

At the end of 7 miles and wanting to eat a dozen doughnuts, I was encouraged that in Christ, there is no darkness at all. He is the light and gives light to everything. He alone is what our hearts are chasing after.

Why Chick-fil-a is the best Chain Restaurant Ever

In my opinion, no greater restaurant chain exists than Chick-fil-a. I don’t eat fast food barely at all, but if I do it’s Chick-fil-a.

They’ve probably asked you the same question at the drive-in: “How may I serve you?” Just look at that question and its contrast with “Can I take your order?” like you would experience at a Wendy’s or a Taco Bell.

I’ve always been greeted with a smile at Chick-fil-a and a readiness to refill my sweet tea. This kind of service is just unmatchable. This morning, I was running behind and grabbed a chicken biscuit from them and once again, they delivered their best and helped get my morning off to a better start. On my way to work, I started thinking about Chick-fil-a and Christianity. (as I often think about random connections while driving down the interstate).

I really want to serve those I come in contact with every day and be genuine about it. To greet them with a smile, look them in the eyes, and say their name. I want to genuinely seek to meet their needs whatever they might be. And it’s my hope that when I’m gone, a lasting mark would be made and they would know when they see me again, that I am one who seeks to serve.

S. Truett Cathy, you had it right.

Tim Hawkins wrote a song about his obsession:


Truth on a Starbucks Sleeve

coffeeIt’s wet, cold, and rainy here in Dallas. I’m off work today as well due to a severe case of strep throat. Before my husband left to workout with his friend Jay, I hinted that I would love a warm cup of Starbucks. A few hours later he came in the door with one. I was so happy he remembered! While sipping on my white chocolate mocha, I noticed the writing on the sleeve advertising their new Tea Time drinks. It read ‘Your next “action item”: Do as Little As Possible.’ 

I just loved reading this simply because that is what I’m trying to do in my life. I don’t know if you struggle as much as I do with that “to-do list”. I have things to get done and when they don’t get done, I get frustrated. And sometimes my mood is determined by what hasn’t been done. I don’t focus on what has been done. As Americans I think we also characterize success by what we “do.” But I think we can be successful and still do only a little. Little in the fact that we’ve come to understand priorities, moderation, and balance in day to day life. Not being so overcommitted or stressing ourselves out to the point of physical, mental, and spiritual exhaustion. Maybe it even comes down to not being so hard on ourselves to be all things to all people.

I saw this lived out on my trips to Argentina, Guatemala, and Africa. Tea time and siestas was a daily thing. They lived simple lives, they loved well, and were relationally driven. They probably have less heart attacks than we do. 

Success in the simple really is attainable. I’m striving hard for it. Do you think living a simple life is possible in our culture today?

Switch to mobile version