Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Blueberries for M&Ms and Other Little Lessons - Week #13
Let's not beat around the bush. I did not make my weight-loss goal on my birthday morning. On February 21, I had set out to lose thirty pounds by May 16, and when I stepped on the scale two mornings ago, I really did expect to see the needle point to the magical number. I had worked so hard, even completing a full five mile run (for the first time) two days before with my friend Beth. But alas, it was not to be ... the scale showed 28 pounds lost ... still a great accomplishment but, darn it, not quite what I had hoped for.
My wise and in-tune friend Michelle had posted a fabulous talk by Elder Dennis E. Simmons of the Seventy on her Facebook wall last week entitled "But If Not". I had read it, loved it, and filed its message away in my brain. Little did I know, I'd need to open that mental file within a few days:
Elder Simmons recounted the story of Shadrach, Mesach, and Abed-nego from the Old Testament (Daniel 3) when they came face-to-face with wicked king Nebuchadnezzar after refusing to worship his golden image. King N. is furious that these three men would openly disobey him, and says, "Is it true, O Shadrach, Mesach, and Abed-nego, do not ye serve my gods, not worship the golden image which I have set up? ... if ye worship not, ye shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?"
S, M, and A answer: "...If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
"BUT IF NOT, be it known that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."
We know what happens next. Despite that powerful testimony of their faith in God, king Nebuchadnezzar's men do bind up and throw Shadrach, Mesach, and Abed-nego into the midst of the fiery furnace. God truly tested His servants to see if they would put their complete trust in Him. But AFTER THE TRIAL OF THEIR FAITH, God sent an angel to unloose the three men, and the king sees now four men walking unhurt in the midst of the fire, "...upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them."
Not only are S, M, and A saved, but the king sees the situation for what it really is and blesses the true and living God. Good stuff. The part that stuck with me this past week, though, were the three little words "but if not". To me, I knew with my weight goal that I had done nearly everything I could to reach my desired weight by my birthday, and I put my total trust in the Lord for making up the difference where my own efforts were insufficient. BUT IF the scale did NOT show what I wanted it to, I knew I would continue on in faith, knowing that sometimes His time is not my time. I would hit that 30 mark, just not quite yet.
And here I am. Still engaged in the fight, still asking for and feeling the guiding power of the Holy Ghost. I celebrate those 28 pounds, and believe me, I celebrate the fact that Beth and I ran that darn five miles. Life is good, and I will not be deterred!
I'd love to share with you some random thoughts of the past week that I'd jotted in my notebook. Let's make it a List of 18 again, just like last month. You know, 18 on the 18th!
1. In my "previous life", I often used little white ramekins (like the one pictured above) to hold treats of the candy nature. It was not unusual to find me curled up with a good book, with a dish on M&Ms perched close by. I loved having little yummies to grab between my finger and thumb as I read. Well, I still do this, only I've have replaced the candy with blueberries, arguably nature's perfect fruit. Genius, right?! Lesson 1: look for happy ways to replace old, bad habits with good ones.
2. A little shout-out to Marilyn, a visitor to my blog who had the courage to post a wonderful comment last week. Marilyn, I stalked your blog and would like you to know that you are adorable. Thank you for finding me and for letting me know that what is here is making a difference in your life. Lesson 2: when we share our life lessons with one another, we can not only strengthen existing friendships, but can even make new ones. Super cool.
3. I have am cooking up a real treat for you all. My amazing friend Julie has agreed to let me interview her, and I plan to post this "Know This Woman #2" in the near future. Julie has expertise in really living the Word of Wisdom, and I can't wait for you to meet her and learn from her. Lesson 3: sometimes the greatest of the great are in our very own circle of friends. Do we see them for who they really are?
4. My sweet husband was hugging me the other day, and stepped back to look at me. He said, "You're so....." and just left me hanging. I said, "Yeeessssss....? Finish that sentence, please...?" He looked apprehensive, I encouraged him, and he said, "You're so less bulge-y!" I couldn't help but laugh a big laugh!! What a great compliment! Who among us wouldn't like to be less bulge-y?? Hip-hip-hooray for less bulge!!! Lesson 4: never pass up the opportunity to share a genuine compliment with someone. It just might make their day!
5. My dear friend Missy took me to lunch on my birthday. Instead of ordering dessert "to celebrate" like we had in the past, we decided to walk across the street to the candy shop and buy two homemade salted pecan caramels for each of us. They were so delicious, and they were enough! Lesson 5: try to live Skip Hellewell's tip from his Word of Wisdom Living blog to never buy a bag of candy, but rather a piece or two.
6. We sadly lost a friend this past week to a two-year battle with cancer. Sarah and her family only lived in our ward for two short years, (more than ten years ago)but she impacted us forever. We all make "her" amazing, soft sugar cookies, and we still use many of her recipes that are just somehow "more and better" that the usual version. Sarah enveloped everyone she knew in two-armed hugs, and gave compliments as naturally as she breathed. She was such a happy presence who just radiated big-time love. We all miss her. Lesson 6: be more like Sarah.
7. I am teaching a class on Saturday at our Stake Women's Conference. If you come, you will get to hear my mother talk a little bit about her spiritual conversion of the past year. She is an amazing role model for all women proving that (Lesson 7) it is NEVER too late to make profound changes in your life.
8. I received some really wonderful birthday gifts this year from some really wonderful friends. I am humbled by how well my girls (and family) know me, and how thoughtful their offerings were. Lesson 8: take the time to really THINK about the person I want to give a gift to, and try to make it something personal, just for them. Keep a running list of ideas that come during the year for the special people in my life.
9. I need eight or even nine hours of sleep a night to really feel my best the next day. I am not the kind of person who can do well on less. And that's okay! Lesson 9: figure out and embrace what my body needs, and even if it is different from others around me, work to make it happen.
10. Our ward Young Women organization has embarked on a journey over the next four months called "I Can Do Hard Things", thanks in part to the inspiration and example of our General Young Women president Elaine Dalton. Each young woman and leader in our ward will: complete the new biography of our prophet, Thomas S. Monson, and start to train so that she can participate in our 20-mile group walk from our stake center to the Seattle Temple at the end of the summer. Our ward YW president, Eileen, hand-stamped silver disks with "I Can Do Hard Things" and strung them, together with a red and a turquoise bead, on chains for the girls to wear around their necks as an ever-present reminder. Lesson 10: find tangible things to wear or surround yourself with that remind you of your goals ... one more way to keep them in the forefront of your mind.
11. With all of the mental energy and physical focus that goes into working on personal goals, I have suddenly realized that I've let opportunities slip by for helping other people. I think, well I know, that I have become a little self-absorbed. I am trying to make good on a few promptings that came last week that I put off ... it's better to follow-through eventually rather than not at all, right? I had a long, wonderful conversation with my elderly neighbor yesterday about the health of her husband, and will try to be more open to ways that I can help them in the future. Lesson 11: personal goals are fantastic, but don't get so wrapped up myself that I miss important opportunities to serve others.
12. I would just like you to know that I am committing to using recycled, cloth grocery bags from here on out. (Even though they are in my car, I cannot, for the life of me, remember to bring them into the grocery store.) Lesson 12: sharing your commitments with someone else helps keep you honest.
13. Newfound "dessert" fix: Australian Noosa Yoghurt (in the yogurt section of the grocery store) pretty much tastes like cheesecake filling. It comes in raspberry, blueberry, or mango, and even though the label says that each container contains two servings, I find that just a few BITES does it for me. It is that rich and delicious. I have to fight my daughter for it. Sometimes I even hide it behind the pickles, which are behind the bag of flaxseed.
14. In our family, we are going to work on true, heartfelt blessings on the food at mealtimes. We need to be more mindful about what its (the food's) purposes are, where (and Whom)it came from, and how much of it our bodies really need. My goal as Mom is to help break us of those rote, word-for-word-the-same-for-twenty-years blessings that tend to get offered. Of which I am particularly guilty. Lesson 14: remember to practice eating mindfully, and set the stage by a real pause at blessing-time.
15. I am trying something new. On the days when it's possible, I am preparing dinner in the afternoon, around 4pm. I am eating my day's final meal then, and then sitting down with my family at the regular time with a glass of water with lemon/lime and maybe a portion of salad or vegetable. I feel that finishing eating the bulk of calories earlier in the evening is a key to continuing to lose weight. I'll let you know how it goes. Lesson 15: be open to new inspiration along the journey. Don't be afraid to mix it up and try new things, as the Spirit dictates.
16. Get a little friendly with the feeling of an empty stomach. Replace the thought of "I'M STAAARVIIING!!!!!" with the thought "Hey, this is a good feeling. I'm making progress toward my goal." Instead of thinking "I can't GET to the fridge fast enough", think "I'm going to go upstairs and take a bubble bath, read that good book, and go to bed a little early." Truth be told, I'm still working on this. Even at this very moment. But when I do it, I feel empowered and in control, rather than giving in so easily to my physical appetites. Lesson 16: practice "mind over matter" whenever you get the chance. Each time you prove to yourself that YOUR MIND controls YOUR BODY, you get stronger and you believe it more. It's kind of like the idea of slowly strengthening a muscle.
17. Remember I told you that I'm keeping a list of "Embarrassing Things That Happen When You're Overweight"? And that I'd publish it when those things stopped happening to me? Well, I'm ready to share two.
#1: When I first started running ten weeks ago, I would put on full, control-top panty hose under my running pants. Yes, it was awfully hot, and yes, I felt bound-down a bit. A lot. But those factors were outweighed by my own mental image of my backside shaking along down the (very public) streets. Here's the deal: whatever it takes, you know?! That crazy practice helped me to get that selfsame "rear in gear", and now, I proudly wear activity-appropriate Spandex.
#2: My daughter and I were in the grocery store last year, and a woman she didn't recognize was chatting me up like we were longtime friends: calling me by name, asking about my family, my church, you know, my life. As my daughter and I walked away, she asked who that was. I couldn't see any way around it. I had to tell her that it was the cashier from the drive-through window at the local Baskin-Robbins.
Lesson 17: As you make progress on your goals, allow yourself to look back and laugh at the crazy things you used to do. Laugh really hard at them. If appropriate, share them, even with blogging audiences, and let them laugh at them. Know that you are NO LONGER that person and allow yourself to feel terrific about that fact.
18. Today I came across a wonderful paragraph in the writings of one of my favorite authors, Ann S. Madsen, wife of Truman Madsen. I'll close with this, and hope that you like it, too:
"Dare the encounter with God. It is up to each of us. We must choose. God does indeed stand with his arms outstretched, waiting, and a voice within us demands that we ascend. Such an encounter has its risks and its costs because, once we know, we become responsible. But, once we know, all His options are open to us. This is one of the unique teachings of the Restoration. His course is not easy, even now. He weeps or rejoices over us just as we do over our children. Our constant questioning, "Where art thou, Lord?" is mirrored in his final question to us, just as he called for this earth's first children in the garden: "Adam, Eve, where art thou?" (Genesis 3:9) The day will come when I myself, the me whose heart he can read, will be the only answer that will be given."
Really, have a great week, friends. I hope that sunshine that we're being blessed with here in the Pacific Northwest is shining over you as well. 'Til next week...