The Work of Our Hands…

I’ve been reading some great blogs lately, as well as some yummy novels. I love to read. It keeps me grounded and peaceful.  And I am loving my Young Living Essential Oils. I apply “Joy,” “Peace & Calming,” and “Stress Away” almost daily and just enter this zone of zen and peace. It is awesome. Before I work out I add “En Er Gee” to my liver and along my spinal cord. It keeps me in my workout, with energy to spare. One of the trainers at the gym calls me her “Zen Lady” and asks to come and stand by me each time I am there (I work out 5 days a week, at least).  I love that she senses my peace, and enjoys the scent of the oils.  And in the past few days, I am getting excited for, and enjoying, the onset of spring. You can feel it in the air. Even the bugs are out! (Stupid mosquitos). We are planning our garden and already have the wood for it. (Raised beds work best here). We got a couple of starter berry plants and have great plans for what we’ll grow this year. My pantry is almost devoid of food, with my son eating the last of his Top Ramen, I think. We are trying to get out of the habit of packaged foods! And now, our refrigerator is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with some healthy carbs and lots of fresh, lean meats and fish. We are changing our lives and it feels pretty good.

Last night we went to dinner with some dear friends at this amazing restaurant, located on the 20th floor of a hotel in downtown. The view was stupendous. I could not stop looking out, gazing at the awesomeness of where we live. The bay and all the inlets were beautiful, with the tide slowly easing out. The snow-capped mountains out another window just made the view perfect. My husband and I want to return when summer is in full swing and green is everywhere. The view in each season would be amazing, I am sure! I’m going to add a photo below of the view. I hope you like it, too!

CrowsNest2015

We are feeling very blessed lately and it is a good feeling. We are still walking carefully and listening to God and His Word for our lives. But I think He’s been speaking and perhaps we weren’t listening as we thought we were. I say that because I find myself living in an absolutely amazing location, surrounded by evidence of the Providence of God every day as I gaze out at the sea or onto the majestic mountains. And I find myself among some friends who I believe will remain friends for years to come. I feel like I am finally home. I miss my life in SoCal, somewhat. I certainly miss my kids and grandkids who live there, my mom, incredible sister and brother, but not the lifestyle. I miss some of my Church family there. But lots of them moved away, too. I miss WA and the glorious weather and the terrain, the beauty of both spring and fall. But I know this is where I am supposed to be. We are settling in here and making a life for ourselves and the blessings are beginning to flow. I think we were looking back to where we had come, without fully embracing where we are. And we certainly weren’t looking forward, nor planning for our Happy-Ever-After being here. But now I know God has been guiding us, and making our path for us. We just didn’t realize it. God is so good to us, even when we don’t see it or realize it.

I know God blesses the work of our hands and the devotion we give to our labors. I have always felt that God blessed work because Christ demonstrated it Himself, being a master carpenter. (Opus Dei was begun specifically to honor our work and to help us focus on devoting each moment of our work to the good of God). You have to apply your hands, the sweat of your brow, and your mind to become good at something. Christ gave 100% of himself to being a carpenter until He was called by God to begin His ministry. Can you imagine living in the town with Christ, prior to His ministry? What an example of exemplary work and work ethnic He must have shared with those around Him. Work is a good thing. And I believe we all have a lot of work to do.

Today I watched a video about leaders and leadership. It was an interesting video of a man, dancing shirtless on a hillside, and trying to get other people to dance with him. The setting looks like a summer concert in the park, on a hillside. This dancer gets one to dance with him, then two, and finally a crowd joins him. In the background you can hear someone saying, “How did he do that?” He gathered a crowd around him and they were all dancing with him, with just his enthusiasm and joy in dancing to entice others to become one with him. I thought of Christ and how He gathered His Apostles, with His love and joy.  He then told them, “Go out and baptize all the nations.” What a job description! The Apostles fearlessly did just that, spreading the Gospel into each and every corner of the world. And in the video, the shirtless guy dancing is called the nut; the shirtless nut. Can you imagine how nutty the ancient world thought the Apostles were? As nutty as they were, they did not deviate from the simple message of the Gospel, and they changed the whole world. And yet, even now, we are called to do the same. Are we the nut, dancing on the hillside, getting others to join us, for the pure “joy of the dance”? Are we calling others to Christ? I think we, personally, are being blessed now because we are slowly gaining what the Oola Guys call Oola Balance. We are getting all the 7 F’s of Oola in balance (Faith, Family, Friends, Fitness, Finance, Field, and Fun. I’ve talked about the Oola life in previous posts). More importantly, as we build the “F” of “Faith,” we are also building community. A community of like-minded people who truly love God and want to share His message with others. If we think about it, 12 men changed the world. Can you imagine our world if each of us who profess Christ actually did something about it? If we stood up and said “no” when it needed to be said? If we voted our conscience and our faith in every election (even small, local ones)? If we helped our neighbor, even if we dislike our neighbor, when they needed it? In cities around the country, there is death and destruction, rioting and lawlessness. An athlete opined on his FB page today about the violence and that the only way change can truly take place is if we change ourselves, through returning to a faith-based culture, and if each of us shares the love of Christ with every person we meet. Legislating change just becomes more laws on the books, with a culture becoming more and more hedonistic by the day. How do we change? It starts in our own backyard, in our own families. A simple smile, an assist to someone in a grocery line, letting a car get in front of you on the highway, inviting someone to attend Church with you, offering childcare to a worn out mom, bringing meals and comfort to the shut-ins, visiting the weak and the sick. We can all affect change and it can be very easy. The work of our hands, the sweat of our brow, the concentration and dedication in our minds and hearts… God has always dignified work and blessed those who work. Let’s work for the Kingdom of God, right now, here in our midst, for as Scripture tells us, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

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Technology, Yoga Pants, and God

Blogging has become something of a chore of late. WordPress (who I blog through) is changing how you blog, and my computer is not playing nice. It is old and although it doesn’t seem to me that it’s so old that I need to replace it, it’s so old that I need to replace it. I have a MacBook and I love it. But its operating system is so ancient, I cannot upgrade. My keyboard is starting to stick and more often than not, spaces are not where they should be, or keystrokes are flat out missing.  Some keys have no letters on them any longer; others fly off when I type. So, I get frustrated. I had this amazing post all ready to go last week and each time I saved it, it deleted it. So frustrated. I am trying again, using the new format. Another new factoid for you – did you know that double spacing between sentences is no longer required? The typesetting abilities of computers space each letter, according to its need, so we no longer have to leave big spaces between sentences. If you do, your typing will look all off-kilter. I often have to go back and re-space things.  Another frustration! Ha-Ha!

So here I am, musing over many things today. Let’s just say, I have little, annoying “peas in my mattress.” For me, when something keeps popping into my head, it means I have to deal with it or I don’t get restful sleep or good days of accomplishments. One thing for me is the whole area of education, Common Core, standardized testing. Ugh. We opted out of testing this year. It took some courage, but we decided it was not in the best interest of our family. So we did not play. In addition to that, I discovered that our homeschool program requires participation in statewide, national standardized testing (aka Common Core) and will not compromise (as in allowing other tests or not testing at all). So now I am feverishly looking for schooling alternatives for our son. He only has two years left!!! And here I was, thinking we could cruise through the next two years! Unfortunately, because dollars yell louder than parental rights, Common Core is becoming required in all districts who take federal funding (and all programs who taking funding, homeschool or brick-and-mortar schools). Add to that the ACT/SAT are now CC aligned, and recently, even the GED became CC aligned. You can’t get away from it. But I am certainly going to try. It infuriated me, when I learned the details of CC and the annual testing. What the government wants to do with our personal data (I am not fooling myself; I know there really isn’t much personal privacy any more) makes me so angry, I am just not going to play their game as long as I can. Today I have been researching independent programs that do not take funding and do not test, and are not CC curriculum, either. The list is not that long. How sad. Moving to the “Last Frontier” is life saving in the sense that there are a lot of independent thinkers here. I was able to connect up with a few and will be attending a statewide conference this next weekend. Vendors will be there, so I can look at actual curriculum and decide what we are going to do.  Constitutional attorneys will be speaking. Legislation will be discussed. Good opportunity to learn about our options. Check that off my “pea in the mattress” list.

I finally filed my taxes on Saturday. Yes, I was avoiding it. I learned a valuable lesson – again. I need to trust more. I need to pray more. I need to realize the sky is not falling. It was a piece of cake. I sat there after e-filing my return and just sighed. We are even getting a small refund. Yay! Better than owing! Another check on my list.

As some of you know, we started working out and watching what we eat. We are overhauling our lives. We joined a health club and my husband even engaged a personal trainer for me, for just 1/2 hour a week. It does help. The other help is that we are doing this with our son and his wife, too. My husband, our married son, and our teenage son all meet at 5:00 AM, five days a week, Monday – Friday, and workout together. It’s funny, because there is not a lot of chatting going on, but being together just makes it better. My husband loves watching our sons interact and he is enjoying the “guy time” with his sons. My daughter-in-law and I work out in the afternoons together. Our health club offers free childcare, but she leaves the kids with my son when he gets home from work. They get time with Daddy each afternoon, and my DIL and I get girl time. Once again, not too much chatter going on, but we’re together and I love it. I miss her when we go separately due to scheduling conflicts (not much conflict at 5:00 AM!!).  Along with working out has come some realizations for me.

When you are not your best self, you can fall into habits that are not promoting a good life for you. Somehow, over the past 30 years, I became a couch potato. I am not sure how it happened, but it did. I’ve never been overly athletic, but I could hike and camp and fish. Now, taking a long walk hurts. It was one of the motivating factors to lose weight and get in shape. (Along with wanting to be there for my grandchildren). There is just so much to do outside here, that I wanted to be able to do it all and not be hindered by my lack of physical shape. I also realized that when someone is overweight, we don’t really see ourselves. I look down and think, “This looks good. I look okay today.” And then I see a photo and realize that I did not look great. I was fooling myself. When I look in a full length mirror, I see the truth of how I have let myself go. I am reminded of the Scripture passage from Corinthians, “We see darkly as in a mirror.”  Well, I actually looked and what I saw surprised me. I did not honestly realize what a large person I had become, because I don’t feel that way inside. I am the same as when I wore a size 8 and weighed 115 pounds. But that is not my reality. My trainer brought this to my forefront of thinking, having me work out in a mirrored weight room. You can’t get away from yourself. It was not on purpose for him; it is natural because most weight rooms are designed that way. I don’t think he even realized it was an issue for me. He also asked me why I did not wear work out clothes. I told him I could not find any my size. He told me to look harder. I have been working out in sweats. Let me tell you, working out being overweight creates enough sweat without adding to it by wearing “sweat pants.” I don’t need any extra help sweating. I wanted to find better shoes for both my son and myself, and so I went shopping with my daughter-in-law, my son, towing our adorable grandchildren with us. I had a sale coupon sent to me by my favorite deal app, “RetailMeNot” and so we headed out to Sports Authority (who had also sent me a coupon). I found shoes! Yay!  But, I also found work out gear specifically for heavy people. Imagine that! I had been looking at my local retailers and online, but honestly did not think Sports Authority would have work out clothes for me. I bought a pair of work out pants, or Yoga Pants, as they are called. I was nervous, but excited.

I got home and tried on my new shoes (which are neon green and blue – Go Seahawks!) and my Yoga pants, which are black. My teenager laughed at me when he saw my new outfit. I guess I shocked him, as I usually dress very conservatively and am mostly, “covered up.” I cried. And then we hugged. And then I went and sat down and prayed about it. Should I wear these Yoga pants in public? Euww… would I gross people out?Could I do this and be okay? And I realized a bunch of things about myself. God loves me. He loves me fat, skinny, sick, or healthy. He loves me as a sinner or in a state of grace. He flat out loves me. Regardless. No strings. No attachments. He loves me. He certainly doesn’t care if I wear sweats or Yoga pants; He is happy I am taking care of myself. But I don’t really love myself. I am disappointed in me and now that I really see me, I am sort of embarrassed. My sloth and gluttony are there for everyone to see. And wearing Yoga pants is truly no big deal. Everyone around me has been seeing me as I am for years – I’m the one who is just catching up. And because I realized I am joining the game pretty late, it spurred me on to keep at it. We’ve been taking the weekends off from working out and I can honestly say I miss it. And trust me, that is quite something for me to say. I showed up for my session with my trainer in my Yoga pants and shoes. I also wore my hair in a tight bun, exposing my white hair – ha-ha! But he greeted me warmly and we worked out for 45 minutes. Two ladies came by to ask me where I got my shoes (how funny is that? More Seahawks fans than you think up here!) and I was not embarrassed walking around the gym, mirrors and all. I am there. I am sweating this out, but I am present. And I am proud of myself for finally allowing myself to really look in a mirror. God taught me something about humility and unconditional love. All these years of being overweight, I still made friends; I was always welcomed into women’s groups and homeschooling groups. I stayed married to my best friend (who tells me all the time how beautiful I am. I love that man so much). And my Lord and My God loves me, even on my worst days or ugliest moments.

God never stops keeping us company; He patiently waits for us. He loves my frustrated pecking on this darn computer, and whispers thoughts to me to actually share with others. He walks with me as I deal with governmental over-reach and decisions for our youngest son and his future. He is there as we struggle through homeschooling and being a family. He encourages me to meet my debts and walks with me as I try to offer to Caesar what is Caesar’s (taxes). And God wants me to live a full, and long, life. So He is walking with me at the weight room and on the elliptical. He is in my daughter-in-law’s smiles and her high-fives when I get past my newest goal. He is in my husband as he texts me happy faces as I am working out. He is in our teenager as he scrounges for goodies in the cupboards and only finds healthy foods to eat, and eats it without grumbling. He is in my oldest son, hugging me and telling me how proud he is of me finally taking my health into my own hands. He is with me in the affirmations from our son who lives out of state. He is with me in my brother, calling out of the blue to encourage me. And He is with me in all the friends who stand with me and pray for me, and with me, for success in these areas and so many others. I am so blessed.

There is just one more thing that is bugging me today. When we are resurrected with Christ, we get our best selves, right? So if this getting into shape thing kills me, maybe the effort will get me bonus points and I’ll resurrect as my 20-something self? I am tongue-in-cheek kidding, I hope you know! But think about it. What is our best self? Is it when we are kneeling in prayer, covered in grace by Our Lord? Is it as a 20-year old, who thinks they have that “tiger by the tail”? Is it when we cross that finish line in our first marathon in our late 20s? Is it when we show up to work out, bravely wearing work out gear? Is it when we help our brothers, friends, and especially, our enemies? Is it when we work for the glory and money and fame? Or is it when we feed the poor or visit the shut in? Is it when we share our successes and try to help others? I’ve been ruminating on this over and over again. We are called by God to always strive to be our best selves. But when will we know we’ve accomplished our best self? Is it one of those moments where we reminisce about the “good old days?” I have memories of especially close moments to God, when I have felt Him touching me. Can we peak and then slide down again? (Since we are human, I automatically think, yes, we can slide down again). And every so often, I am glimpsing what I can become and what I can be, for God. Not for me, but for God. Will He tell me when I have reached that moment of Theosis, or being “one with God”?

My body is God’s temple and it needs an overhaul and deep cleaning. Great Lent is over and we are in the light of the gift of Easter. How am I honoring that gift? His patience with me? I plan to pray; I plan to keep working out to become healthier. I plan to remind myself often that God stands with me; my guardian angel stands with me; all the saints who have gone before me, they also stand with me. My husband, children, and friends – we stand together in faith. We are all working out our journey to God and together, all of us, we are the Church. We hold each other up and in prayer and love. And together, we can conquer all of this, in the name of Christ, Who gave His life for us.

He is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!