Monday, July 28, 2014

Friday-Sunday

It was another busy weekend full of friendship!

On Friday night, we went to a pool party given for our small group by our friends the McCandlesses. 

Here's two photos from the evening. Alot more were taken and shared on Facebook, but left to right in this picture it's Kim, Jessica, me, Deltra, and Vanessa.  There were other ladies and men at the party, but they just aren't in this picture. 


Here's a photo of some of the our kids. They aren't all shown here. We have a lot of kids.


On Saturday morning, I got up and went for hike all by myself.  I prayed a lot and I heard from God over many things including my anxiety about my future plans and my desire to memorize the Scriptures


On Saturday afternoon, my friend Kim in the photo above came over and babysat our girls while Dwayne and I went to our friend's Ray and Donna Pennoyer's daughter's wedding and reception. Ray and Donna also go to our church and Ray is a gifted Bible scholar and teacher. I do not know their daughter Danielle, the bride, very well at all, actually. We haven't had the opportunity to get to know her new husband Ben, either. But perhaps God will work it out so that I will have the chance to get to know them in the future.  However, we love and enjoy Ray and Donna so much and being parents ourselves, we couldn't pass up the invitation to see their joy and celebrate with them.  I stole this photo from Facebook.  It shows our friend Ray giving his daughter away. At the ceremony and reception, we sat next to our friends the McCandlesses, the same ones who gave the pool party the night before, and we had a great time visiting with them without kids around.  Not that I don't love kids, but it was nice to be able to focus on my friends completely.  



On Sunday morning, we went to church as usual.  But this week, our church had a baptismal service, a service where people who want to follow Jesus can be baptized.  My friend Kim's son was one of the people who wanted to be baptized, the same Kim from the photo above, the same one who babysat for us the day before.  Here's a photo of her son Jack in the baptismal before he was immersed.  The guy on the right of him, Trevor, is Deltra's husband, the same Deltra from the pool party photo above. 


After the baptisms, everyone in the church ate BBQ and then I led the kids in some parachute games in the gym.


Several people helped me coordinate all the kids including my friend Vanessa from the pool party photo above and also a young lady named Elizabeth. I just adore Elizabeth and a few of the other younger ladies in our church, including Katie McCandless, daughter of the same McCandlesses as previously mentioned and Nicole Pennoyer, another daughter, not the bride, of the same Pennoyers as previously mentioned, too.

Then on Sunday evening, a few of the young people from church came over to our house for a Bible study including Elizabeth in the photo above and Matt, the McCandless' son, the same McCandlesses from the pool party and the wedding.

As I type all this out, I realize just how intertwined our lives are becoming with the people in our church.  It's so fun to have friends of all ages. That's one of the coolest things about being a Christian, in my opinion. I can be friends with people and I can be friends with those same people's kids. I can enjoy people who are older than me and people who are younger. The Holy Spirit is a great equalizer.

It makes me think of some of the verses describing the earliest Christians from the book of Acts in the Bible.  One of the verses says, "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." Acts 2:46-47 


Isn't it amazing how the Holy Spirit is still doing the same kind of thing thousands of years later with different people?

We are disciples of Jesus Christ. He is the One who makes all this friendship possible. 

"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Lord's Joy

I have big plans. I am pretty sure the Lord has given me those plans. That's why I pursue them.  But as I look around right now, it's not at all obvious how the Lord will work it all out for me.

So I brought the matter to Him in prayer today. I imagined everything that would need to happen before my plans are realized. Places that don't even exist would probably have to come into existence. I'd have to learn so much and become capable of things I can't do even begin to do. I'd have to meet, build, and enjoy relationships with people I haven't even met yet. I pictured all these things in my mind and it was like they materialized around me. I looked all around at the obstacles and then I looked up to God with a question forming on my lips. But before I was even able to ask it, His Holy Spirit said to me, "These things, all of these, are a simple matter for me."

Instantly, I was corrected and greatly encouraged.  I felt overwhelming peace about my future, whatever it is.  I still don't know for sure what will happen. I still can't imagine how the Lord will bring everything about. But all of that is really simple for Him and I am no longer worried about it.

That's when I realized I don't even really care whether or not my plans come about. Not really. I think the Lord wants the same thing as I do. But if I've got it all wrong and He has something else in mind, I believe I will be fine with whatever it is, whatever He works out in the future.  Fortunately, the Holy Spirit helped me articulate what I wanted to tell the Lord in that moment. I told Him, "Whatever it is that I do, I just want what I do... to cause you joy." Actually, I am not entirely sure I meant what I said until I said it, but as I said it, I meant it and as soon as I had said it, it felt good to mean it. 

And just as if I was walking along with a friend, the Holy Spirit quoted the Scripture, "The joy of the Lord is my strength." So I thought about that verse.  (Nehemiah 8:10) I have heard it often. I have always thought that it is talking about my joy, supernatural joy that the Lord will supply to me as I do His will. But I realized the verse might not be talking about my joy at all.  There is something far more important than my own joy and that's the joy that belongs to God, the joy He feels over what I do.  His joy, imagine it! His joy would give strength to do anything, anything at all, and continue doing it, if only I knew whatever I was doing was bringing Him pleasure.

As a parent, I understand this joy. I love fireworks. But I don't actually watch fireworks anymore. Now I watch my kids watching fireworks.  We had family movie night, but I didn't actually watch E.T. I watched my girls watching E.T.  and seeing their faces as Elliot flew past the moon made that scene better than ever.  So, of course God feels this joy over us since He is, "Our Father in Heaven..." And His joy, that is and will always be true strength of purpose.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Common Jingle Shells

#52 out of 100

White Cushion Moss

#51 out of 100






Gypsy Moth 
 
#50 out of 100




# 49 out of 100

Note:  The edible, delicious red chanterelle mushrooms look similar to Jack o'lantern mushrooms which are poisonous. The only way we can be totally sure about this identification is to look at the gills underneath closely which we didn't stoop down to do.   

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Thursday through Sunday- Beach, Camp, Friends


 
Thursday-
I took my kids to Silver Sands State Park with my friends Kim, Vanessa, Deltra, and Tricia and all their kids. We four ladies all go to church together and attend the same small group through that church.

Note: For anyone who doesn't know what a small group is, it's a group of people who go to the same church, who usually share the same faith- hence the going to the same church- who live near each other, recognize their need for friendship, and agree to spend time together for the purpose of, hopefully, making lasting friendships with one another over time.  We ladies weren't total strangers to each other when we started meeting together as a small group, but we really didn't know each other that well at the time our small group started a few years ago.

Anyway, back to Friday at the beach, we four ladies together have sixteen children! Here's a photo of almost all the kids before we headed home from the beach. Are we friends because we all have so many children? No. We are friends because of our faith. But I chuckle to myself when I see this photo because it is certainly no coincidence that the God we four ladies believe in is the same one infamous for the words, "Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth..."  Clearly, this God has had an influence on our actions, no?  Though we are four very different women, it is clear that God has influence what we value. 


Friday- Dwayne took the day off and we spent the morning packing up our vehicles. Then we drove over to Kettletown State Park and settled into our campsite just in time to make dinner- Frito Chili Pie.  


I told the kids they couldn't play their tablets until they were in their sleeping bags at night. So we did low-tech things for fun. We bounced a yellow bouncy on the road right next to our site- simple- but fun, actually. In this photo, Avril is walking back to our spot after retrieving the ball. That evening, we also rode our bikes around the camp circle over and over, jumped rope, drew with sidewalk chalk, and played jacks.


Dwayne built a fire, of course, and so we made Smores, of course. After dark, the girls and I all walked over to the bath house and showered off in the family-sized shower room. I put the girls to bed in the tent and then Dwayne and I sat up watching the fire a little longer before we crawled into our sleeping bags. I did not sleep well the first night for a variety of reasons including a late-night cup of coffee, a baby who kicks and takes up the whole air mattress, and neighbors who talked and laughed with regular voices/ regular laughs until 2am at least. I think I will write a blog post about camp etiquette sometime soon.  


Saturday- We woke up in our tent anticipating a day with friends.  One of the same friends from the beach photo above, The Kroemers, had arrived after dark the night before and had set up their tent across from ours. Another friend from the beach photo above, Vanessa, would be setting up at the site right next to ours with her kids, and other friends also from our small group, who weren't interested in camping, were still planning to come with their kids just to hang out and have dinner and Smores around the campfire that evening.

Before breakfast, I took my two oldest kids on a short hike.  Before lunch, I went for another, longer hike with my oldest kids and my friend Deltra and two of her kids. Then, before dinner, Dwayne and I took all three of our kids on another, much, much longer hike.  I carried our two year old in a hiking carrier on my back most of the time. It was brutal, but it made for an amazing workout.
  

Here's one photo of a beautiful brook we hiked next to.  The photo makes it look treacherous, but it was quite safe and peaceful.

I took the photo below when we stopped to rest on our longest, family hike on Saturday.  You can tell my kids were already exhausted.  Little did they know the hike wasn't even half over at that point.


We got back from our last, longest hike as our friends were arriving for dinner.  We grilled burgers and hotdogs on our site and everyone contributed buns, drinks, or brought sides like baked beans and potato salad.  We ate and talked and laughed at each other/ with each other while the kids played. 



Dwayne and I don't have any family here in Connecticut, so over the last few years, our friends from church have become like our family.  When I think about our small group from church, I think about this C. S. Lewis quote from his book The Four Loves-

“But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,' can truly say to every group of Christian friends 'You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another." The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others. They are no greater than the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them. They are, like all beauties, derived from Him through the Friendship itself, so that it is His instrument for creating as well as for revealing. At this feast it is He who has spread the board and it is He who has chosen the guests. It is He, we may dare to hope, who sometimes does, and always should, preside. Let us not reckon without our Host.” 


Throughout my years of knowing Jesus Christ and being involved in Christian churches, I have been blessed with so many deep, abiding friendships with people from church.  I think this is one of the most basic, vital ways God blesses His people. Friendship is like unseen wealth God pours out on us. Looking back, I realized that I learned how to be a wife, mom, daughter, etc. by spending time with Christian people of all ages from church.

In the church, through the years, I have seen people of different ages, cultures, experiences, statuses, etc. come together and really enjoy one another regardless of differences.  I am convinced that it is the Holy Spirit that makes this possible.  When a person gives his or her life to Jesus, Scripture teaches (and Christians worldwide give testimony to the fact) that the Holy Spirit takes up residence in their hearts and lives and when the Holy Spirit is present with a group of people, He makes it possible for them to enjoy deep, abiding fellowship.

I have been in groups of people without this fellowship of the Holy Spirit and it is always remarkably different.  Even in groups of people who I really love and enjoy and who share my greatest interests and passions in this world, the fellowship is never deeper than when I am with people, however different they may be, who are connected to me through the Holy Spirit.

I always marvel at this difference the Holy Spirit makes. Perhaps that is one of the reasons Jesus said, "It is better for you if I go away. Unless I go away, the Advocate (the Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you."  I wonder if the earliest Christians, particularly those twelve disciples of Jesus who were so different and who fought about who was the greatest when he was with them, could tell the difference in their fellowship after Pentecost. I bet they did! 

A few years ago, I really wanted to move to be closer to family or at the very least, travel to be with family more often.  I asked God why He had us in Connecticut and why it did not seem like He was making it possible for me to travel as often as I could. For one reason or another, though we had the ability to travel, it never worked out, so I knew God was preventing it for a reason. Over and over again around that time, His Spirit said to me and showed me that He wanted me to, "Be a friend."  It didn't make that much sense back then since we were just then beginning to make friends, but now, seeing what God has done over the past few years, it makes sense. 

I believe God really cares about how we treat other people, particularly those people who we call friends. Even if we only have one friend, He cares about how we treat that one person. From that one friendship, He can and may likely give us more and more friends someday. I have not always known how to be a good friend and I am still learning how to be a better friend everyday, but I know that God is the best teacher, He values friendship, and He will help me live out friendship more and more.  "Love your neighbor as yourself" is the second commandment, right next to "Love the Lord your God."  Jesus said that we could actually fulfill all the laws of God if we could just somehow manage to love Him with our whole heart and love our friends as ourselves. Of course, we can't in our own power.  But with the Holy Spirit, I see that He makes friendship, like all other good works, possible.




  

This is a photo of my friend Robin. She's an excellent wife and mom- capable, strong, smart, and very funny.  I have learned so much from just talking to this lady as often as I get to see her.  "As iron sharpens iron," women like this are making me a better woman.

I know I have gone off on a tangent about friendship, but this is the conversation I was having with God in the back of my mind as I enjoyed myself with my friends this weekend. 

Anyway, after dinner, I took out my beloved parachute and took the kids (and some adults) through some parachute games.


By then, the fire was blazing because all the men had made Tim-the-Toolman noises as they worked on it together, so we made Smores again.  With supervision, most of the kids made their own.  The adults had Smores, too. And brownies. And some adults also had coffee percolated over the camp-stove. I didn't.  I had learned my lesson the night before. 


Here's a photo of my youngest eating a Smore. Notice the marshmallow sticking her chubby little hand to her even chubbier little leg.  She was so filthy, sticky, and happy all weekend. 


After everyone went home or to their own tents, we crawled into our sleeping bags for another night in the tent.  I slept so hard that night in spite of our noisy neighbors.  I think it was because of the hikes I had taken. I also put Adele in her own bed and stayed away from the coffee after dinner, like I said before, but mostly, I believe it was because of the hikes. Miles! Hills! Adele weighs over thirty pounds! It also rained on Saturday night/ Sunday morning.  That was a beautiful experience. The sound of the rain on the tent helped me sleep even better.

Sunday morning-  We woke up and had breakfast- hot coffee, scrambled eggs, and blueberries for me. I tried to eat fresh foods as often as possible.


Dwayne and the kids had cereal. I bought one of those "fun packs" of a variety of cereals in cute, little boxes.  I know it's junk food, but the kids enjoyed picking out which cereal they would have each morning and we only do this kind of thing sporadically. Did you notice that my middle child is sharing her cereal with her baby sister? Loving your neighbor begins with loving your own little sister, after all. 


Here's a photo of our friend Vanessa arriving back from a hike with her kids that morning.  

 

After breakfast, we sat a little longer, sipped coffee, talked, and let the kids play. Then we packed up the vehicles and headed home.


Once in the house, we all had legitimate baths, checked for ticks, napped, enjoyed the air conditioning and the electronic screens we hadn't seen in several days/hours, etc. I did some unpacking, but I still have so much piled around me as I take the time to type this. Camping is a lot of work. It might be nice to own a camper someday, when we can save and pay cash for it. But since we had such a good time with friends this time, it was really worth all the trouble to tent camp. 



Monday, July 7, 2014

Fireworks 2014


We took the girls to see fireworks last night.  We always hope to see Ziggy there, a local celebrity who is famous for loving all things American. He waves flags on roadsides and hill tops and everyone smiles, honks, and waves. He actually parked his red, white, and blue van right next to us, so we got to chat with him longer than usual.


We stopped by the grocery store to take stuff for dinner out of the cooler.  The older girls chose Deluxe Lunchables. Yuck! But they really enjoyed being able to eat fun food/ junk because it doesn't happen often.


Our oldest is nine, almost ten, but she actually had a few "I'm bored." and "This is boring." moments. I took a photo to commemorate one of these occasions, evidence to me that she's really growing up.


Like total amateurs, we parked right in front of the ice cream truck, so, of course, we ended up caving and getting the girls ice creams by the end of the night.


We took a CD of patriotic songs, sparklers, bubbles, and the girls played in a nearby pot hole that had filled up with sand and dirt and gravel over the years like it was like their own personal sandbox.  They were filthy, but somehow, I managed to relax and let them play.  I tried not to notice when they reached those same dirty hands into the bag of ginger snaps over and over.  We took wagon rides and did a little jump rope with a group of girls nearby, anticipating the fireworks after sundown.



After the show, we sat in traffic for a while, as always. Ah, the rattle of the bass from the tricked-out Honda behind us in line.  It really doesn't like the 4th of July without a little hearing loss.  When we got home, I gave the girls quick showers to wash off all the nasty and we put them right to bed, another year of fireworks in the Boulden history books.    

Friday, July 4, 2014

Group Fitness Instructor- Organizational Tips



I am a part-time group fitness instructor.  I thought I would share some of my organizational tips here.  By no means am I claiming to be the best organized person or to have the most efficient system.  This is simply how I keep up with my work schedules, choreography notes, music, etc. 



This is my file folder. It holds almost all of my printed materials including my certifications, pay stubs, and freestyle choreography notes. I organize my freestyle choreography by CD name, class name, or workout type.


I am also recently certified to teach Bodypump! I keep my Bodypump choreography notes in these simple three-prong folders and keep them on the shelf. I only have two releases so far- 89, the release I was certified on- and 90, the latest release.  These are so precious to me.  I spend a lot of time with them.  I actually enjoy studying them with my iphone and headphones whenever I have free time. 


This is my gym bag. I don't use it for anything else.  It holds everything I need to do my job- my music, my notes, my mic belt, mic covers, a towel, my heart rate monitor, extra batteries for the microphone, water bottles, floss, tissues, tampons, you name it!   I always decide what music I will use, what choreography I will use, etc. and pack up my bag the night before, so I am not stressing right before work.


I download most of my music.  I have some music stored on my iphone, my Bodypump releases are on my phone, for instance, but most of the time, I still like to use CDs that I burn myself. Old habits die hard.  I keep all my CDs in a big folder like this, arranged by beats per minute, CD type, or class type. For instance, all the songs I use for cool downs are on their own CD in the back of this folder.

I always try and keep track of the music I use every class on a word doc. on the computer. I create a class record for all of my regular classes. I don't worry about keeping track of anything for the classes I sub. By keeping a record, I don't use any CD too often and I rotate through my music well.

Note: I find that I spend a lot less money on music this way since I can make the most of one CD and I will know for sure that I haven't used that same CD in six to eight weeks, etc. because I am keeping a record of everything on the computer. When I get home from work and empty my gym bag, I just try and sit down and make a note of what all I used before I put everything away and forget.



I keep my freestyle choreography notes and my gym schedules in a pocket folder that is dedicated for this purpose and goes in my bag.  I sub a lot and at more than one gym so I am not always sure about start and end times for classes. I have found it is good to have all the current gym schedules on hand for reference.  

I know some people like to create and print their notes via computer.  But I actually prefer to write out my own freestyle choreography notes with black sharpie on basic printer paper. I will name my choreography notes (kickboxing 1 or step 5, etc.) and put the name on the bottom, right corner of the page in pencil so it doesn't show unless I look for it. In addition to the music I use, I keep track of the choreography I use as well, that way my classes stay fresh and I don't do any class plan too often.

I keep my freestyle notes on stage in front of my feet and glance at them. I don't do this with Bodypump since I memorize those classes by heart.  But with my freestyle classes, cardio and muscle alike, I don't take the time to learn the classes by heart before I deliver them.  I come up with the choreography myself, so I am already quite familiar with it, so I just glance down as needed. 


I store everything on one shelf.  You can see I have a clip board. I use that when I am writing out my new choreography. And I also have a basket that holds my clean towels.


Last but certainly not least, I have a calendar.  I know some people like electronic calendars because they can synch with your phone and give you reminders, etc.  But that wouldn't work as well for me since my phone doesn't stay in the same place all the time and it certainly isn't always on hand. But again, that's just me.  This written calendar sits in the same place on the desk near my door and as long as I look at it carefully every morning and evening and glance at it once or twice during the day, I know when I am supposed to work.

That's my system.  I definitely works for me!

If you are reading this and you teach fitness classes, too, I would love to hear how you manage everything.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Most Worthy Pursuit

When I was young, I was devoted to my sport- cheerleading. Before some of you laugh because I called cheerleading a sport, hear me out.  It might not be true in every high school, but the cheerleaders at my high school were truly among the best female athletes at the school. The cheerleading program at my school was rigorous. We had the most amazing coaches who made us condition and train as hard or harder than other athletes participating in team sports at my school.  We cheered at ball games, pep rallies, and community events like regular cheer squads, but we also worked for hours everyday and on weekends to perfect routines for competition.  We competed in regional, state, and national competitions, winning regional competition, winning state, and placing at nationals.  Back then, I had dreams of going on to be a college cheerleader and eventually becoming a professional cheerleader, too.

This is a photo of my junior varsity squad. I think I was a sophomore in high school at the time.  I am in the back on the far right. 

Back then I had an autographed poster of the University of Georgia's cheerleading squad on my bedroom wall. This poster was a real prize to me.  The poster showed all the fit, gorgeous women on their cheerleading team lined up with their arms behind their backs, showing off their rock hard, tanned abs in their mid-drift uniforms. The team was co-ed, so the guys on the team were also in the picture.  They were lined up behind the ladies with their incredibly built arms also crossing behind their backs. I used to admire the people on the poster.  I wanted to be like them and attain the same physical perfection and level of skill in my sport.

But something else was happening in my life around this time.  I had started to ask questions about God, life and death, heaven and hell, eternity, etc.  So, in my free time, I took to reading the Bible to see what it had to say about those topics. Then I started going to church with friends. I started to believe in Jesus. And eventually, I surrendered my life to Him. As soon as I did that, my soul was deeply satisfied and I had a radical shift in my perspective and my priorities pretty much overnight. Just like that, I was a new creation.  "Behold, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:17

There were a lot of changes in my life, but one in particular was in the way I cheered. I found I didn't need to pursue physical accomplishments to find fulfillment anymore. I was already fulfilled in the deepest parts of my being.  Now the most important thing was getting to know Jesus better and better. One verse I found back then and loved immediately was Philippians 3:8. It says, "I count everything as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ." That's how I felt about cheerleading (and everything else in my life, really). I still enjoyed cheering.  But I felt that it might as well be nothing when I compared it to my relationship with Jesus. 

I kept cheering, but something was fundamentally different, so I was no longer as desperately driven to excel in it like before.  Therefore, I can't say that I became a better athlete after coming to faith in Jesus if I want to be honest. My coach even admitted once that she felt my faith had "ruined me" for athletic pursuits.  I no longer cheered to find meaning because I had found it. Now I just cheered because I really enjoyed it. I still worked hard at it, but mainly because I knew God would want me to work hard.  I didn't feel like I had to succeed at it like before. I just wanted to do well because God wanted me to do my best at everything.

Many Bible verses were brand new to me back then.  Another verse that I discovered around that time was 1 Timothy 4:8. "Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." I was probably sixteen at the time and I was thrilled to find words to express what God was doing in my life. My spiritual life was now much, much more important to me than my physical one. 

Time went by. The poster of the UGA cheerleading team still hung on my wall, but I didn't admire it like before. In fact, I hardly even noticed it for a long time. But one day, as I was standing in my room, I saw the poster and I almost decided that it was time to take it down and just throw it away since it didn't represent me anymore.  But then I felt a mischievous joy and I had an idea. I cut out a long, narrow piece of paper and wrote 1 Timothy 4:8 on it.  "Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."  Then I took some rubber cement and pasted the verse right across all of the cheerleader's faces, directly onto the poster that had been so precious to me for so long. There would be no way to peal the verse off without ruining the picture. The verse was in just the right spot to still see all the cheerleaders' beautiful physiques, rock hard abs, and toned biceps, but now I could also read the words and be reminded of what the Lord had done and was still doing in my life.  He was more important to me now than the physical performance that dominated my life before. Ruining that poster was an act of solidarity. I knew it meant that I was on a different path forever.  I kept the poster like that for several more years until I trashed it.

This is a photo of my cheerleading squad my sophomore year in college. I'm on the bottom right this time.

Fast forwarding through twenty years- I cheered in college for two years then quit cheering, got married, finished college, worked as a teacher, got pregnant, stayed home, had two more babies, started teaching my kids at home.  All the while, I gained a lot of weight. I was still pursuing my relationship with Jesus, but I had no good reason to give time to physical pursuits.  I was doing the other things the Lord called me to.  But then I felt the Lord call me to lose the weight, so I felt I had to obey Him. I started praying about it. I learned about healthy eating and then, finally, I started exercising again.  I thought God just wanted me to be healthy.  But then I felt the joy He had when I exercise. I also realized how much joy I have when I exercise, how much joy it brings me to exercise with others, and how much I love leading others in exercise.  So I started teaching group fitness again, using those gifts that had laid dormant for a long time since I was no longer cheering or training for anything.  After some more time, I realized the Lord was actually calling me into group fitness as a vocation. My job is part time so that I have time to fulfill my other callings, too. The Lord works everything out in detail.
  
This family photo was taken in May 2012.

Interestingly, now I look at my life and find myself pursuing physical excellence with even more fire than I had before I knew the Lord. I never watched what I ate when I was young. Now I take time and effort to really nourish my body well.  I am also performing physically again, even more often than I did back then and I have more muscle than ever.  But something is really different this time.  This time, I feel like I am being called back to it by the same God who called me away from it so I could pursue my relationship with Him and His other purposes for me.  Obviously, I want to pursue the Lord's will for my life and it feels as if I must pursue this to fulfill His perfect will for me. So I am really going for it now!  Maybe I won't always feel this motivated to make such physical gains. But, for some reason, I am convinced His will for me now includes the pursuit of a strong body that can perform really well.

The Lord will often speak to me when I am exercising. I think that is another reason why I enjoy it as much as I do. I find Him in it and He is my great love.  All those dreams I had about becoming a professional athlete died when I died with Christ. I thought they were nothing but mere childish vanity.  I had pretty much forgotten my own story, how much I used to love the hard work of training, how I had dreamed of becoming a professional cheerleader someday, teaching others at camps and events, coaching and leading them in physical pursuits, etc. But, in a moment, when I was lifting weights the other day, He brought all that back to my mind and the memory took my breathe away.  I saw who I used to be, who I used to want to become, and  I saw who I am now, totally different, yet, somehow, the same again.  That's when I think I heard His Spirit say something like, "You see, if had given it to you then, you wouldn't have had me. And that would have been nothing. I am a loving God. Now you can have what you want and you have me- that is everything."  He said all this in the middle of a set of squats! I was already breathless, but then, even more so!

Here's a recent picture of me with that same little baby in my arms! 

So I pursue physical fitness now out of a love for Jesus and in obedience to His calling on my life.  I dedicate my work as a fitness instructor to the Lord and I pray, prepare, and work really hard so that I can be a blessing to the people who come to my classes.  I also hope, pray, and work hard because I want to improve and become better and better at my job as time goes by.  And as I imagine the things God may have in store for me, I am excited about the future. I was a little worried about the fact that God waited as long as He did to solidify His calling to me in this area,  fearful I missed opportunities while I was beginning the other things He wanted done in my life. But I have seen that many women in my profession are reaching their physical and professional peeks well into their fifties. That's thrilling. God's timing is always perfect, so there is plenty of time left for me if the Lord wants to keep me on this path for a while. And I hope He does.  But it is up to Him, truly.   

Everything we do can be worship if we do it for God. I believe I do what I do for God. It also feels as if I do it with Him at times since His Spirit sometimes speaks to me when I exercise.  Like Eric Liddell famously said, "When I run, I feel His pleasure."  Sometimes I can feel the Lord's pleasure when I exercise and it makes me work even harder. But even as I work toward these very physical goals, my relationship with God remains my most worthy pursuit.  And like His Spirit told me during that set of squats, when I have Him, I have everything!    

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Healthy Broccoli Cheddar Breakfast



Broccoli Cheddar Breakfast

I was in the mood for broccoli cheddar quiche, but quiche isn't a great idea when you are trying to eat healthy.  So I just took some of the same ingredients minus the heavy cream and pie crust, etc. and created a breakfast with them.  This breakfast has all the same flavors, a lot less calories, and a lot more nutrition.  

You need:
a bag of fresh, frozen, chopped broccoli- found in the freezer section
eggs- one or two, depending on your appetite
shredded, sharp cheddar cheese
butter
sea salt and pepper to taste
fresh berries- raspberries, blueberries, blackberries

To begin, put a cup or two of the frozen, chopped broccoli in a sauce pan with a cup or so of water and turn up the heat.  Let it simmer till the broccoli thaws but is still quite firm. I don't know about you, but I don't like mushy broccoli.

While your broccoli is simmering, put a half tablespoon of butter in a skillet, turn the heat to medium and let it melt. Use your spatula to spread out the melted butter.

Then crack an egg or two, depending on how many you want to eat, right into the skillet and scramble them around with your spatula, letting them cook a bit, then mixing them around again, etc. until the eggs are done.

While the eggs are cooking, you can get your cup full of berries ready in a bowl.  

When the eggs are done, take the skillet full of eggs off the heat.

By now, your broccoli is probably done. Drain it and put it on a plate or into a bowl.

Salt and pepper it a bunch. This is key. I like sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Note- All food, including healthy food at home, tastes so much better with salt.  When I am craving restaurant food, I usually take that as a sign that I need to put more salt on my next meal at home.  And if you exercise a lot, you need it.  I can't seem to get enough salt at this point. 

Now dump your eggs on top of the broccoli and sprinkle a little cheese on top, just a little, like an eighth of a cup. 

This breakfast is right around 400 calories and it is very, very nutritious.  So enjoy!   

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Gee-Gees Go Bye-Bye


My husband's parents have been visiting for the last week, but they left this morning. Avril takes after her dad, so she cried hard for about half an hour after we said, "Goodbye."  When I told her I thought we should get up and do our chores, she put her head and shoulders down and said quite sincerely, "I believe I will find it too hard to do anything without them."  She is a very sensitive and affectionate child.

Grandma Karen has special toys she brings out for the kids when she comes to visit or when we go to her house. Adele enjoyed sitting at the table with "Gee-gee." That's the word she used for Grandma and Grandpa. She would also ask for the toys, each by the name she had for them. She played with the "puppy house," the "baby ducks," and the "aars."  In this video, she is playing with Gee-gee's "aars."  That's her word for "cars."



All the toys are pretty low-tech. Some of them are delicate and old, belonging to my husband or his siblings. The kids have to be careful with them, but they always really enjoy them.

Dwayne's parents keep the kids well occupied while they are here and that's nice for me. I got to nap once or twice, maybe even three times, in the last week and I also got to run some errands alone mid-day.  Here's a photo of them playing "Go Fish" with the older girls.

 

We adults just sit around and chat a lot and drink a ton of coffee, a ton of coffee, and munch on snacks. Grandpa is notorious for liking cookies, so we always get a ton of those when he is visiting.  We laughed a lot this visit and that was nice.

I'm really thankful for my in-laws.  I don't think every wife can say that, but I can.

They always measure their words. They've never said anything that I can recall that has been a source of offense or division as long as I have known them. They always support and encourage our marriage and our parenting. I am beginning to see how remarkable that is.

They both really love Jesus and are devoted to one another through everything. They pray together every morning and evening. As they are growing older (just like we are, of course), we see them helping each other throughout the day with lots of little things and that makes them an inspiring picture of what it means to be married and really love one another through the years.

I know they also pray for us. I think their prayers may be the only reason things work out as well as they do for us sometimes.

They give sound advice and we tend to ask for their advice more often now. As we get older, we realize that we don't know everything, we need good advice, and we are recognizing that they've done so much so well for so long, setting incredible examples for us to follow.

Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. -Proverbs 17:6