pink torrent

September 22, 2012

Today I’m going to volunteer my time in a local mall sitting at a table for two hours. (Westroads Mall – my shift is from 2-4 if anyone wants to come by!) The Komen people are hosting some kind of event there and have allowed our group, the Community Breast Health Navigator and Cancer Support Program to have a table to introduce ourselves and our services to people. The event will be held from 10am til 7pm I believe, but we’ve only got three of us to cover three two-hour shifts today. We’ll be there from 10-4.
I’m hoping that women and men will stop by and ask questions or share their stories. I’m hoping that I can be living proof that there is hope for people diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m hoping that our name will become well known so that when a woman finds a lump in her breast, she’ll call us for help before going to see a surgeon!

I’m hoping that this one small act on my part will become a droplet which helps form a flooding torrential movement that rescues women from unnecessary fear-based surgeries.

You see, most women when they find a lump, if they get the proper kind of needle biopsy, will find that they don’t have cancer, but a cyst of some sort. If they do find it is cancer, most surgeons won’t tell them that having chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor will allow for a relatively simple outpatient lumpectomy, saving the patient physical trauma, expensive hospital care and their breast.
Having chemo first will allow for two important things to occur. First, it will show the doctor and the patient if the chemo is effective. If the tumor shrinks, they’ll know that it’s working! Then, if the tumor shrinks, that means that the breast won’t be completely disfigured and she can save herself all the discomfort of a mastectomy and subsequent reconstructive surgeries, (not to mention time and money and her own body part!)

Yah, yah, I know, nobody wants chemotherapy. Believe me, I get it. I’ve had it twice! I’ve been bald twice and have lived through both times and now have long lovely hair. What I don’t have is my breasts. Hmmmmm, hair or breasts. Hair that grows back or breasts that don’t.

Let me tell you also, that despite what you may think, reconstructed breasts, no matter how close to the real thing they might get are still not the real thing. They have scars bisecting them. They don’t have the same feeling/sensation ability. They look pretty good under clothes, but that’s about as good as it gets. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’ll be the same. It isn’t.

Well, I got off track a bit. There I go again, getting passionate and running with it!

Hope to see you at the mall!

Kris

summer linguine

September 17, 2012

Several months ago I came across a recipe in a little insert to the Sunday paper called “Relish.” It looked interesting, and I didn’t take the time to read it, but tucked it away for the future (as I do so often – my Pinterest behavior before Pinterest ever came along!)

Mid-July I finally took the time to peruse it and came across an interesting recipe I wanted to try, but knowing my family would balk at me adding blue cheese to anything, I made a few changes.

original recipe

I loved the concept of cooking the dish in one pot plus it included ingredients I already had on hand (minus the blue cheese) so I gave it a try one evening. It was a hit!

I substituted a few cheeses I already had on hand – feta and parmesan instead of the blue – and I don’t think it deterred from the flavor one bit.

I’ve got a mini Cuisinart that made chopping the almonds a snap!

Here’s a pic of the final product – doesn’t look nearly as good as it tasted. I’m going to make it again tonight!

my rendition

my rendition

Here is the original recipe; you can alter it as you like!

Linguine with Greens, Yogurt, Almonds and Blue Cheese

This Greek inspired one-dish meal embodies the Mediterranean diet. You can use almost any greens and substitute feta or Parmigiano Reggiano for the blue cheese.

1    pound linguine

1    pound mixed greens or spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

4    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2    garlic cloves, minced

2    ounces Roquefort, Gorgonzola or Stilton, mashed with a fork

1    cup creamy Greek yogurt or whole-milk yogurt

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup coarsely ground unskinned almonds

fruity extra virgin olive oil for drizzling (optional)

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. One minute before the end of cooking drop greens into the pot. Drain pasta and greens, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.

In the same pan, warm olive oil over medium heat Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add pasta and greens, cheese, yogurt and about 1/2 cup or more cooking liquid, enough to moisten pasta. Add salt, pepper and almonds and toss well.

Serve in a warm bowl or platter. Drizzle with fruity olive oil if using. Serves 8.

Recipe by Aglaia Kremezi. Reprinted with permission from K. Dun Gifford and Sara Baer-Sinnott’s The Oldways Table: Essays and Recipes from the Culinary Think Tank (Ten Speed Press, 2007).

Per serving: 396 calories, 17g fat, 11mg chol., 369mg sodium, 47g carbs., 4g fiber, 14g protein

September Sorrow

September 11, 2012

Yesterday, 9/11/12, was a day of remembrance for our nation. Eleven years ago our country experienced our most egregious attack and thousands of people mourned the loss of loved ones, stolen from their lives forever. Our losses and their effects have forever changed our lives.

September is annually a time of grief for me for another reason. It was 19 years ago this month that my mother was taken from me, my family, my children and our lives, forever. The cost of this loss of her precious life is incalculable, and try though I may, I will never get beyond the heartache of life lived without her.

Monday night, I attended a class of a group of women who have met together monthly for a year, learning and preparing to help navigate women through the maze of information and procedures involved with breast health and breast cancer treatment. The program is the Community Breast Health Navigator and Cancer Support Program.

We were sharing stories of women we’ve spoken with, advocated, navigated, and encouraged. Sadly, nine times out of 10 it seems, regardless of the information given them, these women opt for a mastectomy even though in most cases the much less invasive lumpectomy would take care of things. We were discussing two causes for their poor decisions: Fear and Ignorance. Ignorance not only on their part, but quite often on the part of the doctors these women choose.

These are topics for future discussion, but what struck me last night was the heart ache that we all carry, but seldom reveal.

I was chatting with a friend I was sitting next to, I’ll call her Sue, and casually asked her about her mother. Sue shared how her mother had fought and won a battle with esophageal cancer. Stupefyingly, in the myriad of doctors appointments this woman had, no doctor ever checked to see if she’d had a mammogram. So at the age of 69, sixty-nine, she got her first mammogram. And wouldn’t you know it, there was a lump which later she learned was breast cancer. In less than a year, Sue’s mother had died. This is a tragedy of negligence in medical care – slipping between the cracks. A hero who fights and wins an impossible nearly incurable disease, falls prey to a very curable one afterwards. It was September when she died.

I asked my friend if she feels the grief every September. She said she didn’t think so, but that every time she heard the National Anthem sung, she’d lose it. Her mother had a beautiful singing voice, and was always the one asked to sing the anthem at various events. As my friend told me this, her eyes welled up with tears and she said maybe it effects her more than she realized. September is a difficult month for her, and hearing a song sung that used to bring her delight, now brings only sorrow and the reminder of her loss. Untimely, wrong, death by oversight.

Another friend was standing across the table from us. She said September is a very difficult month for her, and it showed in her face. She told us that her mother had died of breast cancer at the age of 39. Unbelievable. That’d mean my friend, let’s call her Jill, was probably in middle school. There were 4 sisters, all left without a mother. Sadly, that’s not the whole story. These girls grew up motherless, yes, then one died of cancer, young. This prompted Jill to find an excellent doctor who encouraged her to get genetic testing. All the sisters were tested. Jill was the only one who tested negative for the gene. Unfortunately, Jill’s sister didn’t have as good a doctor. He wasn’t as aggressive or quick to respond. Her sister listened to his advice and died of breast cancer within the year.

Jill told us how she’d teach Monday through Friday then catch a plane to spend each weekend in September caring for her dying sister; her eyes welled with tears, but she held them in check. This is the second September since the death of that sister and she grieves her colossal loss. She’s angry, and rightly so. She’s angry at the disease, and she’s angry at the lackadaisical ineptitude of some doctors, particularly the one treating her sister. With hardened face and red-rimmed eyes she swore under her breath as she walked away from us. “Damn waste.”

My mother died at the age of sixty. She’d gone to the doctor several times over the course of a year complaining of a ‘fullness’ in her abdomen. Her doctor told her to lose some weight. He told her she was imagining it. He finally relented and ordered a test – by that time the tumor on her ovary was the size of a grapefruit. During surgery, they accidentally broke it open, spilling the toxic waste throughout her entire abdomen. They ‘did their best to get it out’ and sewed her up. Rounds of chemo and hours of pleading with God for her life, she made it through – for almost five years. Another situation with that doctor finally motivated my mother to find another doctor who mis-interpreted her scan results. She picked them up and took them to a third doctor who gave her the news she’d suspected. Yes the cancer was back, and it was bad. Too little, too late and a husband and five children and 8 grandchildren were left without the warmth and love of the only wife, mother and that special one-of-a-kind grandmother they’d ever have.

My son had just turned 5 and my daughter 1 when we attended my mother’s funeral.

I think about the twinkle in her eye they’ll never see again and the warmth of her soft skin that they’ll never feel and I ache.

If all the stories of bad medical care were recounted, we’d have a murderous mob rioting at hospitals around the country. But most of us suffer our sorrows silently, doing nothing to promote change.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m extremely thankful for medical professionals. I’m indebted to a great many myself. If only every doctor was like the excellent ones I’ve found throughout my own cancer journey. Kind, compassionate, extremely intelligent, full of integrity. It isn’t these doctors I have a problem with. It’s the ones who are proud, ‘comfortable’ underachievers, willing to continue practicing using an outdated formulaic approach. The status quo is their friend.

I have met three doctors in my 50 years that I would nominate as “Best” doctors. Dr. Edibaldo Silva, Dr. Nagi Ayoub, and Dr. Jimmy Khandalavala. They don’t have an attitude of arrogance or complacency. They are learners. (To be a learner, one must be humble, because wanting to learn automatically expresses the acknowledgment that they know they don’t know everything there is to know. I’ve met some who actually believe they do know it all and I should feel lucky to be in their presence!) Best doctors are always reading, studying, keeping current on the latest studies and procedures, pioneering new methods and treatments. That’s the reason they get amazing results. These doctors are continually striving to improve, to hone their skills, perfect their practice and challenge the status quo. If only all doctors could be so excellent.

That’s why the medical profession is called a practice. It’s a place where they are learning and growing and practice is supposed to lead us toward perfection. Sadly, many doctors, once they get their credentials rest on their laurels. The women who go to them for treatment don’t receive the best care and consequently don’t experience the best outcomes either.

That’s why my friend ‘Jill’ is angry. That’s why Sue is sorrowful. That’s why we are a part of this fledgling group trying to advocate for women and bring about positive change.

We want to educate women before they find a lump. Before they’ve made up their minds (because of fear) to ‘just get them cut off and be done with it’. Our country has a campaign encouraging women to regularly examine their breasts and get a mammogram, but what is a woman to do once she finds a lump? Subject herself to an unknowledgeable or unscrupulous surgeon who will be happy to remove those problem breasts?

There are new procedures. New options! Mastectomies aren’t even necessary most of the time any more!!

I have said it before, and I will say it until I have no more breath. THE RIGHT INFORMATION + THE RIGHT DOCTORS = THE BEST OUTCOME!

Please, tell the women you love, think before you cut. Become informed, ask questions, challenge your doctor, and get a second opinion, or a third if necessary! It’s their life at stake. And it’s your future, spent enjoying the women in your life, or grieving their loss.

And stay tuned in here as we will bring articles and information that will empower you and those you know to make the best decisions and receive the best care possible.

Smoothies

July 23, 2012

I’ve been making smoothies a lot this summer! I kind of got into the habit when I was working out with a trainer who always urged me to eat some protein right away after each killer session. Once it got so hot, I started going to a nearby smoothie place and ordering a fruity drink with protein added.

Well, that gets expensive, and they really weren’t all that healthy for me. I mean, compared to a Snickers Blizzard, they were amazing, but as I’ve been becoming more health conscious, I couldn’t justify the sherbet and yogurt. (I mean, is it frozen yogurt? Is it non-fat or full fat? How do I really know what’s in them to make them so yummy?) I’ve been trying to do less dairy and more organic, especially with berries. So, I decided it was time to buy a blender and start making my own. I got online and started researching blenders.

I really wanted a powerful blender because I’ve thrown away my fair share of junky ones over the years. I read about the VitaMix and decided that was the one I was going to buy. There were testimonials! People’s lives were changed when they bought a VitaMix! How had I lived all these years without one?! I had to get one now! Then I checked out the price! Yikes! I could by my own smoothy franchise for what one of those costs! (okay, a slight exaggeration!)

So, back to the smoothy place I went. But I launched out and started getting the yummy chocolate and peanut butter drink. OHMYGOODNESS was it ever delicious! How could I ever go back to plain old fruit now?! Besides, peanut butter had lots of protein, and I was even adding extra protein. This had to be waaaay better than a fruit smoothy anyway!

It doesn’t take long to start chubbing out when you get a giant choco-peanut smoothy after every workout! This was an expensive habit in more ways than one!

I decided it was time to give up the VitaMix dream and just go get a blender already! I bought a gorgeous charcoal colored KitchenAid blender at Target, took it home and made my first smoothy – of course with yogurt, peanut butter powder and Hershey’s chocolate syrup! Thankfully it tasted awful and I vowed to never do that again!

My first few attempts at smoothies were pretty dismal. I was relieved to not have spent the big bucks on a VitaMix. I didn’t know how I’d justify owning the Bentley of blenders as I watched it collect dust on the counter!

I looked up smoothy recipes on Pinterest and found one that sounded good. The “Superfood Smoothy” by Heather Kneisler. I’ve made some adjustments to it, and I’m satisfied that I’ve made the switch from expensive fast-food smoothies to homemade, delicious, nutritious ones! Now I’m getting more fruits and vegetables and cutting back on the sugar and extra calories I really don’t need! I mean, I never ate veggies in the morning! I feel healthier each sip I take!   smoothy recipe

Oh, and I found some protein powder that I really like. I don’t do soy protein powder (which is in nearly everything!) because I’m a breast-cancer survivor (estrogen-driven type) and soy mimics estrogen in the body. Whey is supposed to be a good alternative, but it’s a by-product of cheese production and I’m trying to do less dairy . . . so when I came across this at Whole Foods the other day, I had to read the label and make sure it wasn’t too good to be true! It’s incredible! This protein powder is made from sprouts – and they are all organic! Brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, garbanzo bean, lentil, flax, and so on.

Protein Powder

protein powder

It wasn’t cheap, but no protein powder I’ve seen is. It also has live probiotics and enzymes, no fillers or synthetic nutrients and the best part is that it doesn’t make my smoothy taste funky. And, let’s be real here, if it doesn’t taste good, it doesn’t matter how nutritious it is, I’m not going to eat it more than once!

Here’s the recipe:

Superfood Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 2 handfuls spinach
  • 1/2-3/4 c. orange juice
  • 10-12 baby carrots
  • 1/2 ripe banana
  • 1/2 c. plain non-fat greek yogurt (I use goat’s milk greek yogurt from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 c. frozen blueberries or mixed berries
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1/2 T. raw honey
  • 1 cup crushed ice

Method:

  1. In a reliable blender, puree spinach and orange juice until only small flecks of green remain.
  2. Add carrots and chop, then puree until tiny flecks of orange remain.
  3. Add all other ingredients. Blend until smooth.

Drink and enjoy feeding your body the nutrients it craves!

I have a story

April 3, 2012

I was thinking the other day that I haven’t updated where I am in the whole working out process. If I were you, I’d think that I’d fallen off the wagon and given up for good! (Believe me, I’ve considered it!) The fact that I don’t blog about my workouts would lead you to believe that I’m just hoping you forgot that I used to! Thankfully that isn’t the case. My life, my health and mental well-being depend on working out. (darn-it-all)

You see, I floundered around for a few months after my trainer, Nick, died. Then my brother died of a heart attack. Then my other brother was hospitalized with heart problems eventuating with open-heart surgery. Started me thinking about my own heart health.

Christmas was right around the corner and I continued half-heartedly working out…until I had surgery requiring six weeks off. I loved the excuse to not work out! But, I lost much of the progress I’d made.

I was discouraged with my lack of discipline and with my body, but my husband wasn’t going to let me slip into an emotional abyss! He knows all the signs. We’ve been married nearly 30 years! He found me a new trainer pronto and I started back up in January. It’s amazing how a good workout can change one’s mindset! (It’s supposed to change your body too, but mine is particularly stubborn!)

I made the huge transition from private training to a much more public venue – Lifetime Fitness. I had to hoist my big-girl panties and just decide I wanted it bad enough to deal with the possibility of being watched. I can’t let myself look in the mirror at the gym as it’s too rudely honest. My imagination sees me as 30 pounds lighter and 20 years younger! I’ll keep my eyes averted and let my imagination run with it!

I just go where my trainer takes me and do what my trainer says to do and give it my all and hope that a middle aged, not-stick-thin mother of two, two-time breast cancer survivor can somehow inspire someone to hang in there just like me! I know I’m probably a sight to see!

So, here I am, three months along in the process with my new trainer. He’s excellent, by the way. I know I’d see more progress if I could get all my cardio in each week, but I have these pesky little nuisances called injuries to deal with! (And what is up with that?! I turn 50 and start falling apart?!)

A shoulder that snaps and clicks loudly and with searing pain. (It’s improving finally, in case you’re wondering.)  A foot that has such bad bunions that just walking without a limp is a feat. (pun) Can you hear the violins playing as I waaaaaaaaah?! And yes, the doc wants me to have surgery . . . not if I can help it for as long as I can manage!

I told my trainer the other day, if this is as good as it gets, being half a century old and needing a 50,000 mile overhaul, by golly, I’m keeping at it! The only alternative is quitting and that won’t help me one bit! In three months’ time, I’ve lost only 3 pounds! I can guarantee that if I didn’t work out, I’d gain a lot more than three! He’s still young. He just grins a confused grin. Someday perhaps he’ll listen with enlightened understanding. =)

The deal is this. Every time I go to the gym I need a reality check. I need to remind myself that I work out because I feel better emotionally; I feel stronger physically and I usually sleep better.I work out to become healthier, not because it will make me something I am not – young and svelte!  It’s always good to remind myself of this lest I get discouraged!

You’d think that by the time any person turned 50, they’d know themselves well enough to not be pestered by the same trivialities that pestered them their whole life? Well, apparently not. The temptation is still there to judge myself harshly and compete with and compare to others and come out the loser. At least I’ve learned not to give in to it. The temptation is always there, but I throw it aside.

Something I have come to grips with is that these things will still dog me, but my value isn’t based on my appearance. Maybe to some people, but not anyone who loves me.

I have a story. There’s history hidden beneath this skin! I have purpose. I have people in my life who love me and count on me. They’d miss me if I were gone. They’re just glad to have me around, and don’t care if I’m buff or tan or young or svelte.

If someone only sees me and makes a value judgement based on what they see, they’ve missed the biggest and best part of who I am! Besides, I don’t really think all that many people are even looking! They’re all too worried that someone is looking at them!

What’s your story?

spring winds

March 5, 2012

March has arrived in all its blustery glory. The saying is that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Unfortunately, here in Nebraska, this lion is slow and grouchy and usually he crouches and leaps his way into April as well. Perhaps he eats the lamb, or frightens it into hiding, (although lambs aren’t smart enough to hide . . .) but I digress.

Even though March is still cold and the wind is annoyingly persistent, just the calendar turning from February to March brings me hope. Our wind chimes are being beaten to death, our stacked and covered yard furniture gets pushed along the porch, covers billowing loudly and our poor trees are being given a brutal lashing! The weather is nastier than all of December through February combined, minus the snow, but that could still come!  Even then, I’m hopeful because each day brings me one step closer to the warmth and flowering beauty of True Spring (which for me is warm 72-75 degree days, sunny, barely breezy and perfectly pleasant, which amounts to about 10 days total in a year, only making me savor them more!)

It seems my life has imitated the weather this year. My heart has taken a beating – losing my trainer, and then my brother; almost losing my other brother and all this after having lost my father a year ago. Life is hard; real life isn’t for wimps. It’s brutal sometimes and the winds feel as though they will be my undoing, but here I am, clinging to life. The sap inside begins to loosen, soften and flow and I find that warmth is returning to my spirit and life to my bones!

Springtime reminds me there is always hope. Life after death, songs after silence, laughter after tears. Life as it was may never be again, but life is still good despite it’s difficulty.

The advent of Spring always retrains my focus. It reminds me to look for the hopeful and celebrate the good. I will always remember the sorrow, but I choose to leave it behind and find new joy. As the crocuses sprout up and the forsythia bloom, my heart begins to delight in all things new and fresh and lovely as I anticipate the days of True Spring which will inevitably come!

noise and floss

January 13, 2012

I was at the dentist yesterday to have a tooth looked at. Over the holidays, I took a nice bite of peppermint bark and crunched away until I realized there was a little piece of ‘bark’ that wasn’t dissolving . . . . Yuck! A piece of tooth! Gross!

I fished the offensive bit out of my mouth and felt around and located the spot on the tooth that had broken off. It was a minuscule bit of enamel but was very noticeable to my mouth! Isn’t it amazing how the smallest difference can be perceived as gigantic! I was quite relieved that it was as small as it was, but knew I needed to get it taken care of. I so dread going to the dentist, even for a cleaning. But I made the appointment and a week later found myself signing in and sitting, waiting, listening.

The young, beautiful dental assistant walked me back to the room, put that lovely blue bib under my chin and left the room. (Just love it, demeaning preparation + fear makes for such a lovely experience!) As I was reclined in the dentist’s chair (sounds so relaxing but it wasn’t) waiting for the doctor to come take a look, I heard the whirring, grating, buzzing, jackhammering sounds of equipment in other rooms. 

My mind journeyed back to my childhood, sitting in the chair, waiting for the dentist to come in, hearing all those frightening sounds, planning an escape, and then a thought, a question came to mind. Why, WHY am I still hearing the same exact sounds 4 decades later? Let’s say I was 10 at my first visit to the dentist (I was really much younger and cavity prone) that means 40 years later things haven’t changed much if at all, especially in the noise department!

I thought to myself how my washing machine is almost silent compared to the one we started out with which used to fill the entire house with its racket.

There are vehicles that are quieter than dentists drills! How is it that some cars are nearly silent and yet dentists are still grinding away with noisy, fear intensifying drills?!

I love my dentist, I really do! He has taken exceptional care of my teeth all these years and he is quiet and kind and gracious and gentle, nothing at all like the tools he uses! 

Is it because dentists don’t want to spend the money to update? “They work just fine, thankyouverymuch,” or is it because no one has taken the time to improve dentist equipment? Is there a dental conspiracy to keep everyone in fear? haha

Whatever it is, it keeps me flossing, because I don’t want to go back for a very long time! 

I used to have this dentist when I lived in Kentucky who would tell me each visit, “Only floss the ones you want to keep.”

Gee, thanks. That’s helpful.

I’d go home and have nightmares of losing my teeth and gumming my food! Seriously! Every now and then those words play back and I want to run upstairs and floss! His technique worked, but like in so many areas, fear is the worst motivator. Effective, but awful.

I will eventually have to get a cap for that tooth that broke; it’s structure is weakened, but I was relieved to learn that my dentist could patch things up and keep me going for a while, before I have to pay out the big bucks for a shiny new crown, which will entail lots of chair time and lots of noise.

All I know is I’m staying away from the peppermint bark and keeping floss in my pocket!

Christmas cravings

December 9, 2011

I have spent entirely too many hours this week looking through glossy catalogs and surfing the internet, looking for just the right gifts for family and friends. 

I must confess, though, that all the glamor and glitz of the pretty things I saw worked a number on me, and before long I was circling items in catalogs that I wanted, emailing gift suggestions to my husband, for myself!

I’m so ashamed at how quickly I fall prey to the age old greed that accosts me every year at this time, more than any other season. I just give in, like the frog in the pot of boiling water, I don’t even know what’s happening until I’m nearly cooked! 

Then I read 1 John 2:1-17 this morning and it spoke right to me, where I’m at, now! I’m always amazed at how the Bible, thousands of years old, is so relevant to my daily life, little old me, a tiny fragment of a speck of dust in the whole universe of all eternity. But somehow it does, and that’s only one of the amazing things about God that I marvel about! He’s relevant forever!

Anyway, I’ll just write bits and pieces of what grabbed my attention this morning.

“My dear children, I [John] am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.”  Already, I’m blown away. John writes to us so that we won’t sin. But he knows mankind, as he was a man himself, and knows that being sinless is nigh impossible on our own. What arrests my attention, makes me stop in wonderment, is that in spite of my sin, Jesus pleads my case! Wow! He talks to God on my behalf! He says something like, “Remember Kris, Father, she loves you. Yes, she’s sinned and still does more often than she likes, but I gave my life so she wouldn’t die because of her sins. She is made clean because of what I’ve done! Have mercy on her, Father, because of your love for me and because of your faithfulness and kindness….” Is that ever humbling and precious and powerful! 

After that, John talks about the connection between love and obedience. Profound. (A topic for another post another day!) 

Then John gives this word of advice, an admonishment: “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”

Busted! Ouch! I know these things! Why, for pity sake, (to quote my grandma) why do I continue to fall into this trap?! I am just like a little kid, so enamored with pretty colors and trinkets and sparkling new gadgets and am so easily fooled, shielded from seeing reality: these items will lose their fascinations, will age or break or go out of style. They won’t make me more lovable, acceptable or desirable. Nothing will, but Jesus!

Craving. Craving things, craving experiences, craving people’s high opinions of us. John goes on to say, “These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever!”

The older I get, the more in touch I become with the reality of ‘fading away.’ Youth fades, strength and health and vitality fade. Our socks get holes. Our windows fog up or rot out or both. Our cars rust out and break down. It’s the way of our fallen world. It’s no wonder that the prince of this world wants to keep that ugly little fact a secret. He wants to beguile us with more and more, better and nicer and prettier things!  

I think we are designed to crave beauty and newness. That in itself isn’t a sin. Originally, we were made for paradise. It’s in our DNA. God put that desire in each of us. The Garden of Eden was just that before sin began it’s crumbling. It was new and beautiful and perfect and breathtaking and so much more. The problem, where we go wrong and get derailed is when we look for the fulfillment of those cravings in things and achievements, not in Jesus. Think about it. He never changes, he never fades or ages or forgets or lets us down. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I’d interpret that in this way, in light of what’s on my mind. Jesus is new always. He is able to satisfy always. He is perpetually desirable, enjoyable, delightful to see, and besides, he knows us better than anyone and loves us more than anyone in spite of our sin! That’s real paradise!

This earthly, fallen, paradise lost, will one day be a faded memory, and everything in it that I craved will have returned to dust. I, and the things I have and the ones I love. But! Dust is not the end for those who love God!

John says it right at the very end in verse 17: “But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever!” (This will take us back to the connection between love and obedience mentioned earlier.) I love God, I live my daily life with that always at the forefront of my mind and motivations. As I obey God, I show my love for Him. 

All is not lost! I just need to yank my distracted eyes off of the glitz and tell my cravings to get in line!

Then I can begin to enjoy a craving for peace and love and joy that Christmas is truly about, not all the stuffl

I don’t want to be distracted by things. I want to be devoted to Jesus. I want to engage my heart and mind in Advent this year, craving his presence in my life and seeing Him satisfy it like no one or nothing else can!

 

home

October 27, 2011

I absolutely love the Switchfoot song This Is Home and could listen to it over and over. (Sometimes I do!) It touches something deep inside my heart. I mean, just the word ‘home’ unearths memories and feelings. It’s fraught with an immense gamut of emotions. It’s my guess that we all long to experience ‘home’ in the best sense of the word.

I think that’s why, especially over the holidays, we can get so emotionally conflicted. We find ourselves grieving at a time when everyone (it seems) is celebrating. We long for home while at the same time knowing ours wasn’t really a place of love or safety, or perhaps it was but we’ve moved across country or our parents are divorced or no longer living. We long for home to be static, to be permanent, yet it is neither of those.

Our hearts long for home regardless of our age or gender. Not necessarily our home, but a home to go home to, to be welcomed in with open arms and hugs and aromas of favorite foods made especially for us. We ache for a home that isn’t filled with anger and resentment, that isn’t pocked by emotional scars left by prior fights and arguments. If we do manage to go home, we tiptoe around to avoid setting off any land mines that might ruin another visit.

If that isn’t our experience, perhaps we wish our family was home long enough all at the same time to actually be together. We long for parents who aren’t so busy in their own worlds that they notice us, make time for us and value us. Maybe we yearn for what used to be but is no longer.

Inevitably, eventually our earthly home will be invaded by loss of some kind. Whether by growing up and moving out, job changes, aging parents, health issues, death or divorce, families change. Home changes. Nothing stays the same. If we could freeze a frame from our life to go home to it’d probably be a favorite Christmas or birthday or family meal of some kind that made us feel special.

my childhood home

Home is supposed to be a place where we are safe, accepted as we are, loved, cherished, nurtured, enveloped and valued. It’s supposed to be a place where our needs are met, our presence is enjoyed and our dreams are fueled and fulfilled. It’s supposed to be a haven, a refuge, a place of rest and refreshment and recuperation. In Isaiah 32:18 God says, “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” Doesn’t that sound incredible?! I think this is God’s ideal for our homes: to be places that are safe, secure, peaceful and restful. Ahhhhhhh. Home.

I don’t need to point out the discrepancies between the ideal and reality. And, despite all our best efforts to hold those longings at bay, to tell ourselves to be logical and analytical, we still find our hearts wistful.

We’re on the brink of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years. We’ll be making or feeling the pressure to make trips back to the homes in which we were raised or to attend meals with family. These activities have the potential to be catalysts for reopening old wounds or creating new ones. This time of year inevitably focuses our attention on what we feel should have been yet isn’t and perhaps will never be. It yanks our hearts back to aching for Real Home.

The other day I came across these verses in the Bible. Psalm 90 verses 1-2. Moses was talking to God. “Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God.”

The very next psalm begins this way: “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.” (Ps. 90:1-2.) Here’s a verse to hang onto as well, Malachi 3:6 says, “For I the Lord do not change.”

I have said before that the only thing in my life that never changes is the fact that nothing ever stays the same! But there is one other reality. God never changes. He is the same yesterday as He is today and as He will be tomorrow and forever. There is a home that is perfect and will never change!  That encourages me! God is my safe place. As I put my trust in Him, as I believe that He is my Ultimate Home, I will experience home even though my home of origin is no longer in existence. My parents and oldest brother have died. The home pictured above is inhabited by another family. I have memories but that’s all that remains of my childhood home. I know you can relate in some way yourself.

I have a little framed print that says, “Home is where your story begins.” I love that saying and I look at it pretty much every day. I love it because I think of my precious children, now adults.

Our home is where they found their beginning. It wasn’t a perfect one, although we tried and gave it our absolute best. But the beautiful reality is that word ‘begins’. Their stories began in our home, but they aren’t set in stone. The same is true for me. I had a good home, yet I suffer the effects of life begun in an imperfect one. But my story isn’t over either! It is still being written! And the best part of the story is that my home of origin is not my final home. God is my safe place, my Home. I am safe in Him. In Him I am secure, loved, cherished and nurtured.

Ultimately, heaven will be my final destination and it will be Home like God intended from the very beginning.

In the words of Switchfoot:

“Created for a place I’ve never known, this is home . . . I’ve got my heart set on what happens next . . . it’s not over yet  . . . Oh, this is home, now I’m finally where I belong, where I belong, yah this is home, I’ve been searching for a place of my own, now I know this is home. . .”

exercise for now and later

October 20, 2011

I came across this verse today as I was reading my Bible. It arrested my attention and reminded me to keep my focus and my priority.

Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way, because it promises life both for the present and for the future.  (Good News Translation)

I’ve been working out at Fitness Together for about 22 months. I’ve seen some very encouraging changes in my body and my attitude! I feel stronger, healthier, enjoy better balance and stamina and am so very glad to be able to work out there twice a week!

Monday I went in to my workout appointment with Ashley armed with my eating/exercise journal and a new resolve. I told her I’ve got to get out of this slump and that I wanted to face the ‘Big 50’ next month with 10 fewer pounds! She said it’s possible but that I’ve gotta be willing to pay the price. (translation – I’ve gotta get my fat butt in there more often to do my cardio – more cardio – longer, more strenuous cardio!)

Even as I do pay that price, I’m still an almost 50 year-old middle-aged woman fighting the calendar and gravity! Working out won’t make me look like a 29 year-old fashionista model! (Dang!)  It will help me be a healthy, fit 50-year-old!  Ha!

It’s so typical to work hard at trying to get/stay fit but let’s face it, each day gravity gains more ground! We continue to fight fat, eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, drink enough water and yet natural law has the upper hand at least for now!

That’s where this verse comes in. Physical exercise is helping me live physically. But one day this body will give up/check out/sign off.  But my spirit is eternal. It will get a new, way better spiritual body to live in one day. I need to continue doing my spiritual exercises daily because it not only will strengthen me for living day-to-day right now, but it is also preparing me for my future forever-life! My spirit doesn’t have to fight gravity or age! It becomes stronger, more agile and beautiful and more alive the more I nurture and train it!

So, how do I exercise my spirit?

For starters, I spend a little time every morning reading my Bible. God’s Word. The words of God. Spoken to people and written down. Wow. I can know some of the thoughts of God! They’re here for me to read! I just have to open the book and read them and let them sink into my mind and heart. As I do that every day, it impacts my life – my thoughts, my actions, my relationships, etc.

Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.  (2 Timothy 3:16-17 The Message Bible)

Another way I exercise my spirit is to pray. This, I have to admit is harder for me than reading. So, this is why I persevere, because I know it’s important. It is my lifeline to God. Talking to Him is vital. I mean, how can you grow a friendship with someone you never talk to? So, I mostly write my conversations with him. (At least my end of them, ha!) Although sometimes I just talk out loud. In my kitchen or in the car. I tell him what grabs my attention from what I’ve read in the Bible and how I want it to change me. I tell him about the concerns I have for my family and friends and myself. I ask him for help, for wisdom. I tell him how amazing I think he is. I marvel at the creation he designed. I tell him or I gasp or gawk! Like the time a huge hawk flew just above me. Or when there’s a gorgeous sunrise or sunset. I don’t use religious language – Thees and Thous. I just talk and write and marvel.

Another way I exercise my spirit is to go to church. It’s way too easy to sleep in! Waaaaaaaaaaaay too easy! Excuses abound – I don’t even have to go looking for them. They are ready and waiting! (Kinda like all those excuses to keep me from working out!)

Going to church isn’t some way of making myself feel better about myself. I don’t go to ease my conscience. Going there puts me in contact with other people who are in the same boat as me so to speak. We’re all on a spiritual journey. We’re all wanting to know God and grow spiritually. None of us are perfect, nor are we pretending to be. We are learning to leave our pretenses at the door.

Being at church encourages me. It lightens my load. I leave refreshed, and challenged and armed with knowledge to help me make changes in my life and trust God more.

So, there’s my beginning description of what it means to exercise my spirit. I hope it encourages you to exercise yours.

Here’s a bonus tip, no charge! Sometimes I “multi-task” and listen to worship music as I run/walk. I talk to God as I pant my way along the treadmill or trail. I could even start memorizing scripture as I run! But I always find something to shake my head at and tell God how astoundingly amazing he is!

Happy exercising to you – physically and spiritually!