Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Subtle Changes

I've been going to the gym regularly for over a year now, except for a brief hiatus over the busy summer. When I first started, I took things easy. Then in January of this year, I decided to take things up a notch. I started following a more intense workout program, focusing mainly on my upper body, with some brisk walking mixed in. The pounds started falling off at a rate of one a week. Feeling a little too confident in that, I became less diligent about what I was eating, and the pounds crept back on...

Once my summer "break" was over, I started in again, but this time I made a few more changes. Instead of focusing on weight training on my upper body, I started working in some lower body weights. Instead of following the same circuit on the weights, I began varying my routine. (They say that keeps the muscles more fit, not "anticipating" the same exercises at the same time...) I didn't focus so much on walking a mile in 17 minutes or so. I added running to my regimen and now run two laps (not consecutive ones) during each workout. Next week I think I'll run three. It's been nice, actually.

I haven't been too sure of the progress I've been making lately. I weigh in each Wednesday after my workout, but the numbers don't change that much. (I know part of it is still battling my eating habits.) Some people have mentioned that I look like I've lost some weight, but I can't really tell.

Two weeks ago, the weather was cool enough for me to need blue jeans for our afternoon errands instead of my usual capris. I hadn't tried on my jeans since sometime last spring, and I didn't have time to try them on before heading to work out. I stuffed them in my gym bag and hoped I wouldn't end up having to wear my workout clothes all day. The moment of truth came. I fit easily into my jeans! They were comfortable, not too tight, but not baggy either. Yes!

This morning I noticed something else. I usually wear some capri-length workout pants and a baggy T-shirt to the gym, but today I needed to wear longer pants. I pulled out a pair that had been a little on the snug side ever since I bought them (without trying them on first...). I decided I'd give them a shot and if they didn't feel right, I'd pull out my larger pair. They fit! Better than they've ever fit! I guess working out my lower body and the running are helping after all! Yes! That inspires me to try to do a little more.

Hmmm. I still have my jeans from a size ago hanging in my closet. I wonder if I'll be able to get back into them before too long...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Like Chewing on Tree Bark

When I was younger, I always had something specific I saved my allowance for. Whenever we'd make a trip to the mall, I'd make sure I had at least $1 with me so I could get my special treat. Mixed nuts. (Yes, I know. I'm weird...) I'd go up to the counter and ask for a dollar's worth of mixed nuts, then I'd munch on them as I strolled along with whoever I happened to be with.

I still love mixed nuts, though now I can't eat as much as I'd like. (They really help with packing on the pounds!) Caleb shares my love of them, too. His favorite is the Brazil nut, which was once my favorite. I was scooping out a few cashews (my current favorite) and almonds this afternoon and handed him a Brazil nut to chew on. I decided to eat one and it brought back memories. It also felt and tasted like I imagine chewing on tree bark would be. I wonder what the appeal was?

The Value of Life

The missionary who spoke to our Sunday school class last weekend shared how his wife has gotten involved with families of Down Syndrome children in the Philippines. Children with any type of disability are kept locked in back rooms. It's taboo for them to be out in public. (Based on the discussion that followed his mention of this, it's true in many countries outside of "the West".)

Through her efforts, she has encouraged some of the women there to take their children out in public, to let them enjoy being outdoors and experiencing the sights, smells, and sounds they've been kept away from for so long. Thankfully there is no persecution for what these ladies are doing, and more women have started taking their own disabled children out after seeing others do it. There's also talk of building a park for these children so they can have a place to play.

What touched me so much is that my older cousin Lori has Down Syndrome. I can't begin to imagine if she had lived in a society that kept its handicapped hidden away for life. She has such a love for people, and she never forgets anyone she meets. When she and her mother go "downtown" in their small country town, Lori knows everyone she sees and calls them by name - even people her mother doesn't know! And everyone loves Lori, too. She gives a big smile and says hello and always asks, "How are you?" And she's always ready with a hug. Lori is also a champion participant in the Special Olympics. She has countless medals for swimming. Those things in her life provide her with an excitement and a purpose.

Lori celebrated her 40th birthday this summer. I wasn't able to go to her party, but I heard it was wonderful. Lots of family and friends were there, and she had the time of her life, surrounded by people she loves.

I can't begin to - nor do I want to - imagine what Lori would've been like had she been born somewhere other than the United States. It seems that even though life isn't valued as much here as we would like, it's valued more here than most other places.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Missions Conference

Our church is very missions-minded; our "slogan" is "Equipping Locally to Impact Globally". We have several missionary families who have gone out from our church to serve as missionaries all over the world, and there are several who work in full-time missions locally. Each year our church hosts a 10-day Missions Conference and many of the missionaries our church supports come together to share with us what is going on in their work.

The 10 days are packed with various activities:
*small group dinners hosting missionary families;
*the International Missions Dinner, where each adult Sunday school class hosts a table featuring foods and decor from various countries;
*the Men's Breakfast at a local park, where they eat and listen to a missionary share what they do;
*the Women's Missions Brunch (This year one of our church families involved in Young Life shared what all is involved in their ministry.);
*guest missionary speakers in Sunday school and church for two Sundays; and
*the Harvest Festival, where every church member gets to participate in reaching out to our community.

Billy attended the Men's Breakfast for the third or fourth year in a row. It's something he always looks forward to. This year he saw how truly small the world is: Ryan, a Campus Crusade missionary bound for Hungary, mentioned a friend of his who works for Campus Crusade in Albania - someone Billy met and stayed with when he was in Albania this summer!

The International Missions Dinner was a lot of fun. Our class hosted an Italian table, so I took my homemade lasagna. There was also a green salad, a pasta salad, chicken tetrazzini, spaghetti, manicotti, stuffed shells, a veggie lasagna, and lots of garlic bread. (I think we had the most food at our table.) The table was decorated with various uncooked pastas and bunches of black, red, and green grapes, and opera music was playing quietly in the background.

Other countries represented were China, the Bahamas, Mexico, and New Zealand, where our pastor's wife is from. (That class won the food/decor contest and was awarded $200 to give to the missionary family of their choice.)

After everyone had gotten their plates and were seated in the sanctuary to eat, the program began. This year, Eastern Europe was the focus. Some missionaries from there weren't able to come for the conference, so they updated us through videos they had made. The ones present spoke about what is going on with their work or what they will be doing when they get there. Marlin and his family (from Kazakhstan) are here while he attends Dallas Theological Seminary; he shared what he will be doing with his church when he returns in a few years. Andrey and his family (also from Kazakhstan) are in the states for the second time. He came to DTS several years ago for his Masters in Christian Education, then returned three years ago to complete a Masters in Theology. He graduated last May and is currently working on his doctorate, which will take another four years or so. The Kazakhstan government is cracking down on Christians/missionaries there and is trying to pass laws that will make it very hard for Christians to spread their faith, even through the church.

Ryan told more about what his family will be doing in Hungary with Campus Crusade, working with both high school and college students. Apparently there's a high suicide rate there, and the government is welcoming Christians into the country in hopes that it will help the youth. The program with high school students is actually sponsored by the government.

Tim, whose wife is from the Republic of Georgia, shared how our church's donations helped a church there reach out to its local citizens who weren't able to leave the country when the fighting with Russia broke out. He and his family will be moving to the Middle East sometime in the next year, I believe. He's an ophthalmologist and will be working as a missionary in that capacity.

It was so interesting to hear how differently the countries react to Christianity, how one is trying to stop it and another is encouraging it.

On Saturday night, our small group hosted a dinner for Andrey and his family. (Jacob has also chosen them as his missionary family for AWANA. He has known their 4-year-old son since they came back to our church three years ago.) They shared with us what it was like living in Kazakhstan and showed us pictures of the city they're from. It was interesting hearing how they became Christians - after the fall of the Soviet Union and Communism. When they return in a few years, Andrey will go back to pastoring his church there, as well as do some teaching and training of pastors in a seminary there. (I think that's the same place our pastor goes to teach for a few weeks each year...)

Yesterday morning's worship service speaker was a missionary pediatrician in Ecuador. He and his family were part of our church for five years before they left for Ecuador two-and-a-half years ago. He mostly preached a sermon on how everyone plays a significant role in missions, whether they think they do or not. It was a bit long; I would've much rather heard details about how he's reaching children and their parents through his work.

Our Sunday school speaker was raised in a Christian family in India. When he was 17, he left India to get away from his family, their Christian beliefs, and his country. He told us that as his plane was taking off from Bombay, he waved to his country and said, "I'll never come back!" After coming to the U.S., he ended up enrolling in a Bible college, finding salvation through Jesus Christ, and eventually returning to India to serve as a missionary for several years. He and his family are now serving in the Philippines, where they have been for the last two-and-a half years. Next summer he and his family will be on furlough, but they're undecided on where they'll spend the majority of their time: his oldest sons (twins) will be starting college somewhere in the U.S.; his wife is from Mississippi and her mother there is dying of cancer. They hope to spend at least part of their time at our church, their home church. He shared so much information with us, that it's impossible for me to remember it all. There is one thing that he talked about, though, that really touched me. I'll share it in a later post.

Last night's Harvest Festival marked the end of the Missions Conference. It's just one of several ways our church reaches out to our local community each year. Throughout the conference, church members are encouraged to donate candy for the festival, as well as sign up to work the different booths. It's a way we can be missionaries to the people in our church's backyard - people we only see a few times each year through our outreach programs. I worked a 30-minute slot at the Cubbies'-sponsored booth, handing out candy to the kids after they played our ping-pong drop game. Probably half the kids I saw at our booth were not from our church. Maybe I'll start seeing them there one day.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Oh, my good name has been besmirched!

The 20-year-old college student and McCain campaign worker who claimed to have been physically attacked because of her politics has now stated that she filed a false police report. (Read about it here.

Maybe her 15 minutes of infamy will be over in a flash and people will soon forget. In the meantime, I hope no one says to me, "Hey, you've got the same name..." We'll see how weird it gets.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Out of the Mouths...

As we were driving in toward Dallas on this cloudy morning, I noticed the sun was shining on the buildings downtown, making them seem to glow. Caleb saw it and said, "It looks like downtown Dallas heaven."

I don't think those words have ever been spoken in the same breath before - and probably never will be again.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


While at the gym yesterday, I decided I'd give running another shot. I haven't run by choice (except as part of a team sport like softball) since I was on the high school track team my junior year. (I quit my senior year because the coach had me training for long distance running and I didn't like it.) The one exception to that was when I attempted to run a lap around the 0.1-mile track 3 months ago, and I didn't fare so well...

I was considering giving it another shot as I walked my first laps around the track. During my second round of laps around the track, I decided to just do it. (And I wasn't even wearing Nikes...) I changed my iPod tunes from the more upbeat songs by Third Day and Switchfoot to something by Josh Groban, then I started into a slow run. I was determined to make it one whole lap.

Surprisingly, the Josh Groban tune I was listening to was also a little fast for my run. (I wasn't going that slow. He does sing a few more upbeat songs.) Still I slowed my pace enough to be sure I could last to my mark. I made it!

It wasn't bad, and it's something I think I'm going to start doing more of. (Big surprise!) Next week, I'll try two laps. Not in a row, of course. I'll run one during my first round of laps, workout a bit, then run another one during my second round of laps. Eventually I'd like to work up to running every other lap. Oh, and next week, I'm going to listen to some Norah Jones when I run.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Menu Plan Monday #34

Oh, last week's lasagna was the best I've ever made - though certainly not the prettiest. I used the same basic ingredients (only switching to oven-ready pasta), but I added some fresh mushrooms and mixed my sauce and meat together instead of layering them separately... Yes, I'll be adding that to my recipe blog soon. :o)

On to this week's fare, a little more variety than last week...:

Monday: Breakfast Burritos

Tuesday: Creamy Tomato Basil Soup and Cheesy Garlic Bread
My friend Tricia gave her easy recipe for this and it's delicious! I'll definitely be posting this recipe later, too!

Wednesday: Chili-Cheese Corn Dogs

Thursday: sandwiches
We'll be at the state fair all day, and I know I'm not going to want to cook anything when I get home!

Friday: leftover soup with grilled cheese sandwiches

Saturday: Chicken Pot Pie

Sunday: leftovers or sandwiches

For more menu plans, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

What're you cooking this week?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Just Wasting Time

What Your Burger Says About You

You are very gluttonous. Even if you're full, you'll still clear your plate.

You are a very open eater. You like many types of tastes, and you'll eat just about anything.

You tend to gravitate toward strong, pungent foods. Even if it means having bad breath!

You are emotional. You have a big heart, and you tend to go for comfort foods.

You have trouble making decisions quickly. Everything looks good to you... especially at a restaurant.

Sadly, this is true. On to the next one...

Your Autumn Test Results

You are a energetic, warm, optimistic person. You approach everything with a lot of enthusiasm.

When you are happiest, you are calm. You appreciate tradition and family. You enjoy feeling cozy.

You prefer change to come slowly. You need a long transition period when your life changes.

You find love to be the most comforting thing in the world. You feel at peace when you're with your loved ones.

Your ideal day is active and full. You like to keep busy with your favorite things, and you appreciate a routine.

You tend to live in the moment. You enjoy whatever is going on, and you don't obsess over the past or future.

Pretty accurate. And finally...

What Your Peanut Butter And Jelly Sandwich Means

Your eating style is gluttonous. If you like something, you're going back for seconds... no matter how full you are!

You have an average sweet tooth. While you enjoy desserts, they aren't exactly your downfall.

Your taste in food tends to be conservative and traditional. It's likely that you prefer "All American" favorites like mac and cheese or hamburgers.

You belong to a class that's all your own. You resist rules and traditions of any sort.

You are a tough person who isn't afraid to live life fully. There isn't a lot that scares you.

Precise and controlled, you can be a bit anal retentive when it comes to how you like things. You're definitely a perfectionist.

The bit about resisting rules and traditions is off, as is the part about preferring "All American" food. I like food from every culture I've sampled so far! But the rest is pretty accurate - especially about being anal and perfectionistic.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Car Games

I remember growing up my family always played "Beaver" - and I have no idea why it was called that. Whoever spotted a VW Beetle and called it first got a point (or two if it was convertible, 5 if it was red, and 7 if it was a red convertible). I always thought it wasn't fair when Daddy won because he was driving and saw everything quicker than we did.

More recently, my sisters played a similar game with Jeep Wranglers. (Lindsay, you'll have to remind me what you called it, as well as the rules.) I think there was hitting involved.

I knew it would only be a matter of time before the boys started playing games like this. Well, without the hitting, of course. Caleb had started making a game of finding certain cars as we drove along. I told him about "Beaver" and he decided we needed to make up our own version of it. I don't think we've given it a name, but we've come up with some rules.

1. Each day we choose 2 different cars to find as we drive around. The more common vehicle is worth one point; the less common one, two. Convertibles get 3 points. (The points are just for determining how many we find; there are no teams, no "winners". That may come later, though.)

2. There's always a bonus car: the Smart Car. (We added this on later, after we saw this Smart car in the parking garage of my gym.) Since they're so rare, they're worth 10 points.

3. At least two people have to see the car for it to count. (Jacob can't always recognize the cars we're playing with for the day and will add points willy-nilly.)

4. Cars in parking lots are okay. Car dealerships don't count, though.

5. You can't count the same car twice - coming, then going.

Yesterday was our first day to play. Caleb decided we'd be on the lookout for VW Beetles (bugs - 1 point), Scion xBs (boxes - 2 points), and Chevrolet HHRs (PT-wannabes - 3 points). By the end of the day, we were at 73 points - including the 10-point Smart car. (We took it down to two cars after realizing how confusing it gets to try to keep up with three.)

Today we looked for Mustangs (1 point) and Corvettes (2 points). Caleb had a stipulation that if we saw a blue one with white racing stripes, it was a 5-point bonus. Lo and behold, if we weren't driving down a side road on the way home from gymnastics when a bright blue sports car with white racing stripes drove past. Caleb was so excited and I was so shocked about actually seeing one that we didn't notice what kind of car it was. (I know it wasn't either a Mustang or a Corvette, but we counted it anyway.) Our short trip netted us 22 points.

I shouldn't have been so hard on Daddy about winning "Beaver". It takes a lot of concentration to pay attention to your driving and look for specific cars at the same time. Good eyes!