July 30, 2011

Sometimes Something Little Can Be Quite Big

After my parents' divorce was final my dad had visitation rights-2 weeks at Christmas and 2 weeks every summer. So, every Christmas, and every summer my mom would put me on a plane and I'd fly from Denver to Michigan to see him. At Christmas time there was too much going on for dad and I to have any time alone. It seemed like there was too much going on in the summer as well, but he did manage to squeeze a little time out for the 2 of us during those summer visits.
At some point during my 2 week stay dad would say, "Come on, Jude, let's go for a boat ride."
We'd climb into his row boat and he'd row around the lake for a little while. Then he'd stop rowing and look at me. "How are you?" he'd ask.
"Fine."
"Is there anything you need or want to talk to me about?"
"No."
He'd looked slightly relieved and we'd row home.
Well, way back in 2002 we had a family reunion at my dad's house and guess what? Early in the afternoon he strolls up to me and says, "Come on Jude, let's go for a boat ride." I was 41 years old and really didn't think I needed a boat ride in order to talk to him. But, apparently he did.
We climbed into the boat and he rowed around and then out to the middle of the lake. He stopped, looked down, sighed, then said sadly,
"I have floaters."

It took me so off guard I nearly spluttered. Well that isn't what I was expecting....

"I'm sorry dad....."
"That's ok. I just wanted to tell you...."

and we rowed home. It was such a sweet, vulnerable thing for him to do and it meant so much to me that he took the time to tell me. Of course, I can think of hundreds of things I would've rather heard, but I knew what he wasn't telling me. I love you. I trust you. I need you....
At least that's how I took it. :-)

A Teacher From the Git-Go

When I was a very little girl one of my favorite things to do was go dumpster diving. But, I didn't want to just dive into any old dumpster. Nope. It had to be our school dumpsters. Every year, after classes had been dismissed for the final time, the teachers would clean out their classrooms, their desks, their bookshelves and their closets. And that's when my fun would begin.

I'd wait until they were done with their spring cleaning then I'd climb into each school dumpster and oh the joy! Math books no longer needed. Crayons that smelled like colorful winter days when the playground was too cold to enjoy. Half empty bottles of glue. Wide lined paper we'd used to practice writing Aa Aa Aa Bb Bb... beautiful, shiny little scissors still alive, ready and willing to be put to work. Reading books full of wonderful stories...

I'd lug as many of those school supplies as I could carry home to our basement and put them on a little table we had set up down there. Then I'd go round up my friends and ask them if they wanted to play. Since it was summer time, and hot, we'd naturally gravitate to the coolest places we could find-quite often our basement was the place. I'd be so excited to have my friends over. So excited that they wanted to play! We'd sit there and talk, trying to decide what to do.

"Let's play school!" I'd enthusiastically suggest.

Is it any wonder we'd end up back outside in the heat? They were such a boring lot of kids. What was wrong with them? Why oh why didn't they want to do more math or practice their handwriting? Why didn't they want to read outloud to the rest of us?

I think that's what clinched my decision to be a momma. If I had babies of my own, they'd have to stay in the cool, quiet basement and do school if I said so.

Practice Makes Perfect

There are moments in my life when I need a time and a place to just talk and empty my head. Sometimes it seems like there are 29 little Judys running around in my brain, babbling as they go. Like a steam kettle about to pop I need a vent-someplace to let the pressure out.

Sometimes I can do that in prayer, sometimes I write. But, there are moments when I simply need to talk in order to shut those other voices up. Don't you ever feel like it's the talking about a thing that ends up being the fix?

For a time I can ignore the heat of those other Judys by keeping busy. Then suddenly, everything inside is churning, bubbling and popping, and then, watch out.

My 19 year is learning fast. (I'd like to know who his teacher is, btw.) He'll see my face and sense what's coming. Once I start it's like a word avalanche and there's no stopping the flow. He squirms, looks a little nervous, waits until I stop for air and says, "Mom? Is this one of those times where you just need to talk or do you want advice?"
"I just need to talk! I need to emote!"
His shoulders loosen up and a huge sigh of relief escapes his lips. He smiles at me, sits back, relaxes. I can tell he's thinking about his truck, his new aftershave, his job, or the next movie he wants to see, but that's OK. As long as that one ear is there, and occasional eye contact, I'm happy.

He's going to make a good husband and I think, secretly, he's practicing on me.

July 28, 2011

More Stuff I'm Stewing On

Way back in May of 2009 I wrote a post about some of the earth shattering questions I have about life. You know, things like,

-If hair is "dead matter", why is mine so moody?

Well, here it is 2 years later. I'm 50 now, and I'm still questioning things. I thought by the time I was 50 I would have all the answers. After all, I've been roaming the planet for half a century. Sadly, that is not the case. If anything, I have more questions now than I did when I was 15. Lately I've been wondering things like:

-What is a mother-in-law? What do my daughters-in-law need from me? Anything? Am I a friend? An observer? An example? (Now that's a scary thought. I think I'll think on that one some other time.) I was pondering this question back in May of '09 and I'm still wondering about it today.

-Who am I if not a mother/teacher? I only have 9 years left and our nest and school will be empty. When I think about that my heart feels overwhelmed with sorrow. I feel like Scarlett at the end of Gone With the Wind, "Rhett! Rhett! Where should I go? What should I do?" I'm praying I get a better answer than she did.

-What does one do with her time once her nest is empty? I thrive on challenges and need work to do. I need something hard to put Me into. Even now, with only one little boy around, and a tiny house to clean, I'm beginning to grow bored and restless. Life certainly has its challenges, but I'm thinking about the day to day living of it. The minutes ticking by. Not the challenges of making ends meet or other stresses that bulldoze their way in. Just the need for something constructive to do.

-I need bi-focals to see tiny things now. How on earth do women paint their toe nails? They are so far away I can hardly see them, let alone get the polish on without covering each toe as well!

-What on earth will become of me if Mike dies? I have no job skills or training. I'm still recovering from back surgery and holding down a job would be nearly impossible. Who would hire me anyway when there are so many young people in need of work? To be honest, I think about this frequently. I don't want to live with my newlywed sons. I don't want to be a burden to them financially. I don't want to have to depend on them....

-Why do we seem to be running out of spoons? Not forks. Not knives. Just spoons. Where on earth are they going?

-Should I go back to school once Barrett is a little older? If so, what's a good career for a woman of a certain age to go into?

-Every single year, for the last many, I've had 1 new year's resolution. One. Only 1. My goal for each year has been to send out birthday cards and thank you notes on time. Every single year I fail. It's not that I don't love people, or don't have a thankful heart. Why do I do this?

-Why is it that nearly every man I know seems a bit sad? A bit lost. You can still see a little boy hiding in there and he feels overwhelmed.

-Why don't shins have more padding on them?

-Do we ever have only ONE motive for anything we do?

-Why are most dinner plates round?

July 26, 2011

How We Ended Up With A Bear-Setting the Record Straight

In the ten years we've had The Bear, only one person has ever had the bravery to bring the subject up. No one has ever asked us how, or why we have a Bear. No one has ever come right out and asked, "What on earth were you thinking?! Why did you have a baby at 40?! Are you nuts?" Even the guy who mentioned The Bear quoted The Bear's big brother. "Now, Barrett was a surprise wasn't he?"

Good grief. If the boy's big brother doesn't even know the story, and is assuming Barrett was a "mistake"...a "surprise"...it's time to set the record straight. If nothing else, that kid's brothers ought to know why he's here.

In many ways Barrett was a surprise. One doctor even called him a miracle. I was 39 when he was conceived. I have one ovary, had endometriosis, and a "damaged" falopian tube. That doctor said the only reason we were able to conceive a baby is because God wanted that baby conceived. (which is true in all cases but you get the point)

But, there's more to this story than that. He's way more than a miracle. He's an act of surrender, trust, submission, and hope.

It began really, about 19 years ago to the day. (give or take a few) I was pregnant with our 3rd baby. That pregnancy was a nightmare from the git-go. I'll spare you all the details, but it began with me laying on the couch throwing up if I even moved my head and ended with me spying the words, "Judy may need psychiatric help" on my medical chart during one of our prenatal visits.

We'd often wrestled with the whole birth control issue. Is it biblical? Do we, as Christians, have the right or freedom to tell the Creator God how often He can use our bodies to create? Sometimes we looked at birth control as a modern day gift, at other times a curse. If we really trust God and believe He knows what He's doing, can't we just trust Him to determine if and when we have babies?

Well, after that pregnancy I didn't care. I told my husband I was never going to ever have another baby again as long as I lived. And I angrily, fearfully looked God in the face and told Him the same thing. No way are you going to use this body to put another human on the planet. I'm done.

Those words became a wall between me and God. I don't think it was the idea of being pregnant that was the wall; it was me wanting control and telling God what He could and couldn't do with my life. But I was so afraid. Those words, "psychatric help" haunted me. I just couldn't face feeling that crazy again.

Finally, after 8 years of living with that wall between me and God I caved. I knew I had to surrender my will and let God have His. If I "went crazy" again, so be it. We really did want more babies, but my fear had held us back.

To make a long story shortish, I told God, and my husband, I was sorry for taking control and living in fear, rather than trust. We asked God for another baby, but told Him it was completely up to Him whether He gave us one or not. Let me tell you, I was shivering in my boots while this was going on. After one year of waiting and praying Mike and I had a chat. We decided that we'd waited a year for another baby and that was long enough. We weren't getting any younger and maybe we should just be happy with the 3 we had. We decided to go back on birth control and be done. But, it was too late. The Bear was already there, growing inside, we just didn't know it yet.

One doctor, when I was 38, had told me, "If you get pregnant now you'll have a nightmare pregnancy and a down syndrome baby." All through this pregnancy those words haunted me. I kept waiting for the nightmare to begin again and wondered if this baby would indeed have down syndrome.

The pregnancy turned out to be a normal one and so did the baby. The only glitch came when we actually had the baby. He weighed ten stinking pounds! That was a fun experience, let me tell you. And, btw, that's why we named him Barrett. His name is German and means, "Strong as a bear."

After this pregnancy we wondered about birth control again. Should we use it? Do we have the right to use it? We've finally concluded that it's between each couple and God. The bible doesn't seem clear on it, at least to us. So, this time we humbly prayed and said, "God, if it's ok with you, we'd like to be done having babies. We're old and we feel it...." And He said, "OK."

I"m not sure how to end this post...it did help me to write it out. As I re-read what I wrote I noticed there's a pattern in my life. I want control, I wrestle with God, He wins, good comes of it. I want control, I wrestle with God, He wins, good comes of it.
So anyway, that's how we ended up with The Bear.

July 23, 2011

Losing Weight Without Any Self Control-Part 3

OK, on to step 3. This is the one that actually talks about food and eating. Like I said before, I did not count calories. I did not count fat grams. I did not pay any attention to the food pyramid, a raw diet, a vegan diet, or the diet the Israeli army puts their soldiers on in order to train them for battle. I ate exactly what I wanted to-I put "healthy" on the back burner and tried to focus on being able to remove those cute little blubbers from our fridge once and for all.
Oh, I did have a few psychological tricks I played with myself. One was, I decided not to tell anyone I was attempting this. For some strange reason, every other time I'd go on a "diet" and begin to lose weight I'd stop trying the minute anyone said, "Hey, are you losing weight?" No idea why I did that, but I did. I also started this project in the winter so I could wear baggy sweaters and hide the fact that I was shrinking.

Now is when the rubber, (or should I say, blubber?) met the road for me.
The bible says that: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 I kept waiting for self-control to magically appear on my doorstep and I'd be thin, only it never did. Finally I got sick and tired of waiting and I knew something had to change. OK, if self control won't come to me, I'll just do it myself!

Even though I think Gwen Shamblin is a little off in her theology, I decided to try her weight loss method anyway. In a nut shell, here's what it is: eat when you're hungry, stop when you don't feel your stomach any more. That's not Full. That's, "Hmmm, do I even have a stomach? I don't feel my liver or my kidneys and now I don't feel my stomach." See the difference? If I ate til I was Full, I wouldn't lose weight. No stomach, and I'd lose. The problem for me were those 2 little words: self control. I just couldn't do it.

To begin with, you're supposed to wait until you. are. very. hungry. We have a saying for that kind of hunger in our house. It's called After Church Hungry. That's when you're so hungry you'd cheerfully eat any road kill you happened by on the way home from church. That's when you're so hungry you trample your children in your mad dash to beat them to the fridge once you do get home from church. That's how hungry I would force myself to get before I ate anything. I would tell myself, every single second you don't eat, your body is losing fat. It's gnawing on all that blubber hanging around your middle instead of the food you want to give it.

So, on a practical level, here's what you're supposed to do:
Wait to eat until you're super duper hungry.
Take a tiny plate and put as much food on it as you can/want to.
Cut the food into fourths.
Eat 1/4 of the food, slowly, taking sips of water in between bites.
After eating 1/4 of the meal, stop eating.
Wait 15 minutes. if you're still hungry, eat another 1/4. If not,
wrap the food up and put it away.

Sounds easy right? It is if you're not using food as a reward, a stress reliever, a comfort, a reason to party, something to do because you're lonely or bored, etc. etc. But, if you're addicted to food like I was this is not so easy.

After the first 30 minutes of being on this plan I failed. It was soooooo hard to stop eating when I couldn't feel my stomach any more. After a few days of failed attempts, I really started praying. I would say, "God, I cannot do this. I need you to do it for me. This is way too hard. Please help me not to eat right now. I'm not hungry..."

I also had a journal that I started the day I started all this. Each day I would write the date, my weight in the top right corner, and then I'd find a bible verse or two to focus on for that day. I would leave the journal open and would write frequent prayers and pleadings in it. I'd look at the verses and beg God to help me focus on pleasing Him with food. I also used that journal as simply a place to emote or write my deepest, darkest secrets. :-)

One of the other things Gwen Shamblin says is actually a promise. She promised that if we would "fight like a tiger" for a time, eventually the control food had over us would be broken and we would be free of it. I can promise you she's right. It happened for me, but it took a while. Food was my go-to for every emotion. But, after fighting like a tiger for a few months that power was broken. And for me, the only, only, only way I could fight like a tiger was to ask God to do it. And He was faithful to do it for me. Minute by literal minute sometimes.

I have to tell you I did a lot of talking to myself during this time. "Judy, you need to fight like a tiger...fight like a tiger. Do not eat. God please give me your self-control since I obviously don't have any.Judy, you are NOT a garbage disposal. Stop eating...." My family thought I was losing my mind along with my blubber!

One other trick I used on myself was this: sometimes I would force myself to eat in front of a mirror. I'd stand there and look at my fat cheeks bulging with food they didn't need and it would really gross me out. All in all, it didn't take that long to lose the bulk of the weight I wanted gone. I think on average I lost 2.5pnds a week.

Oh-If I wanted sugar I would slowly suck on ONE chocolate chip. It shocked me how satisfying one measly chocolate chip could be if I focused on actually tasting it.

Now that the weight is gone, I find I have a stronger desire to eat foods that are healthy. I drink a green smoothie every day, and have cut out a lot of bread. We eat a lot of vegetarian meals and even the boys have noticed they feel better when they eat this way.

So, I think that's it. Please let me know if you have any questions or whatever.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13

July 19, 2011

Bittersweet

The last few years have been bittersweet for me. Three of our sons have graduated from our tiny school, two have married, and one of those "marrieds" has just become a daddy. As our sons have moved on, I've moved over. There's no stopping their progress nor the sudden speed with which their lives are changing. If I didn't move over, didn't make room for the changes taking place, didn't let go...if I would've clung to them in my need, I would've been trampled. They would've resented me and my clinging.
(Why is it so painful to let go as a mother, but so easy for a child to move on? Why doesn't it hurt them to grow up and leave the nest? )
Instead, I've learned, step by step, day by day, sometimes a minute at a time, to release them. To surrender them to the One who owns them anyway. I knew this day was coming the minute each of them left my body. There was a sorrow there even then. A tiny seed waiting for their firsts...their first meal that didn't come from the region of my chest; the first time they crawled away; their first steps toward something new. Each first watered the seed and the sorrow grew roots. But, surprisingly, that plant, the one I call Sorrow, is actually beautiful. Beauty with thorns. I love, love, love watching my sons from a distance. Watching as they learn how to become husbands, work on a house, figure out how to parent. I love watching them as they become men who love the Lord, and are striving to become what He wants them to be. That's the miracle of my life!
As they've taken their firsts and moved on, I've struggled...and wondered about my life. What now? Who and what am I if not a mother? What's my next step and where will it take me? I've thought, well, I'm taking up oxygen and space on this planet and I'm certainly not needed anymore.... (at least not for long; only 9 years left with Barrett....)
But then Sunday night the Lord handed me a gift. A hug. A new reason to stick around for awhile. My second son celebrated his first wedding anniversary Sunday night and we were allowed the incredible privelege of babysitting our new granddaughter. It was such a sweet few hours. I was able to hold and rock and cuddle that tiny person. We dozed together on the couch, our tummies pressed together, breathing almost in sync. She smelled amazing. Each tiny fingernail a miracle. I looked at her kissable little mouth, her large, beautiful eyes and felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Another small person to enjoy, to love, and then release. Another little person to pray for. I'm so thankful for this gift and I'm so looking forward to sharing oxygen and space on the planet with her, for however long the Lord gives me. I don't know if she'll ever need me, but it's a sweet gift just to be able to see her and watch her grow. I'm looking forward to her firsts and seeing who she'll become and what the Lord has planned for her. I've moved over and now I'm finding deep joy just watching from the sidelines.

July 17, 2011

Losing Weight Without Any Self Control-Part 2

Before I go on with part 2, I forgot to mention one little thing about those darling little blubbers hanging on the fridge. I put those on the fridge months before I ever got serious about trying to lose weight. Well, I was serious about it when I hung them up, but not serious enough to actually begin. As a matter of fact, they hung on the fridge so long their colors began to fade. By the time all was said and done, they were probably 5 shades lighter than when they began life in the kitchen.

OK. Enough babbling.

Step 4. I found a picture of myself from my not-so-blubberous days and hung that up on the bathroom mirror. I'd see that and then the "new" me. You get the picture?

Step 5. I wrote out bible verses and other quotes that convicted me about who I should be and who I wanted to be. I hung those cards up in the kitchen on all the cabinets that had food in them. Sometimes I would ignore those and eat anyway, but more often than not they would stop me dead in my tracks.

Have you ever heard of Gwen Shamblin and the Weigh Down Workshop? It's a weight loss program "loosely" based on biblical principals. I say loosely because when all's said and done, I think Gwen is off her rocker. This post isn't about her so I'll just leave that at that. The Weigh Down Workshop was held in churches all over the country and it was expensive. So, another motivation for me was the money my poor husband had poured out so I could go through that program not once, but twice. And that was a couple years before I got serious about all this. I'd gone through the program twice and lost not a pound. I felt sooooo guilty about that. All that wasted money!

Anyway-here are some of the things I had written out and posted on our kitchen cabinets: (and where they came from)

-Gwen: When you feel hungry, your body is burning fat

-Gwen: Remember Eve. When you're not hungry think about how much harm one bite can do. (using Eve in this instance was taken completely out of biblical context, but this quote did give me food for thought. Every bite I take when I'm not hungry harms my body)

-So that he can no longer spend the rest of his natural life living by his human appetites and desires, but he lives for what God wills. 1 Peter 4:2 (bible)

-Consistency. A living model of patience, determination, and strength. It's an obvious mark of maturity. It's hanging in there day in and day out in spite of everything that could get you sidetracked. (not sure where this came from-dictionary maybe?)

-And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Gal. 6:9 (bible)

-All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.
1 Cor. 6:12 (bible) Mastered=to be held under the authority of something
This verse isn't talking about something lawless or wicked. It's talking about something that is lawful but not profitable. You know, things like pigging out.

I knew I needed to stop rationalizing my over eating and making excuses for it. And now I'm going to say something that may sound harsh or judgemental. Please don't take it that way. This is my personal story and what I felt God speaking to me.
In my list of reasons for losing weight I felt like I should include:
-to glorify God

I wondered what it said to people when I told them I was a Christian and Jesus was my everything and then I sat there wearing a size 18 pair of shorts. Um, excuse me? Who is your God? I knew in my heart that I was going to food for everything; stress, sadness, joy, anger, fear....anything at all that came down the pike was a reason to eat. I felt so guilty every time I put something in my mouth. It occurred to me that I might even be hurting God's heart. Not that that's possible, really, but the bible does say He is jealous for us:
—for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Ex. 34:14
And for me, I knew food was an idol I worshiped.

July 14, 2011

Losing Weight Without Any Self Control-Part 1

I've battled being overweight most of my life. I was a chubby little girl who wore a size of clothing "unpolitically correct" called: Husky. Now that alone should've motivated me to lose weight, especially when I hit my teen years and was still, well, Husky. I managed to lose a bunch of weight when I was 15 and kept it off until I graduated from high school. After that my blubber cheerfully found me and crawled back onto my body for the long haul. I kept begging God to help me lose weight. I cried over it. I pigged out because of it. I tried every diet known to man and womankind. I kept waiting for self control to find me. Finally one day I got sick and tired of being plump. It was December 20, 2005. I realized that my life was probably well over half-way done and I'd spent most of it well rounded. That morning when I woke up I decided then and there that I was going to finish the last half of life on the planet not-so-fat.
Several people have asked me how I did it. Enough people have asked that I've finally decided to write about it here, step by step, in embarrassing detail. If I can do it, anybody can. So, here's what I did first:

Step 1. I wanted to lose 40 pounds so I cut out 40 little pieces of happily colored construction paper and taped them onto the side of the fridge. Those were my "blubbers". Each time I'd lose a pound I was able to rip a "blubber" off the fridge and throw. it. away.
If I gained a pound back, I cut out another happy piece of paper and taped it to the fridge. That was a good visual for me every time I went to eat something. All those cute blubbers hanging there, staring at me.

Step 2. I had a pair of skinny jeans I wanted to fit into so I took those and draped them over a chair in our bedroom. Good motivation.

Step 3. I made a list of all the reasons I wanted to lose weight. Some of those were very personal, others not so much.

That's all I'm going to write tonight. I have a little person waiting to be tucked in and kissed!