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Love does.

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Break my heart…
You prayed what? Girl, you’re crazy.

Yep. It seems counter-cultural to pray that God would break our hearts. Why would anyone want to experience hurt, longing, see injustice, get dirty, spend time investing in something when you may not see a return?

It all started when a friend of mine, Courtney, shared with me her plans to return to Uganda. To live.

When I returned from two and a half months in Ghana years ago my heart had hardened. It was the toughest and most trying experience of my life. A part of me had to shut down so that I could function. There’s a ton more to explore there but for purposes of this post I’ll press on. The hardened heart combined with leaving the injustice/social concern projects in college and taking on the big world shifted me into a fairly selfish couple of years. My service was to my patients but outside of work my life revolved about what I wanted and felt I needed – making friends, putting my first place together, learning a new city and state, finding a church, hoping to meet the love of my life. Please hear me – none of these things are bad. I had lost my eternal perspective, which shifted the things above into a self-serving place. I continued to pray for local and foreign missionaries and refugees settling in to our city. I even thought about volunteering multiple times but never got plugged in. Even more, I had placed a pad-lock on the area of my brain/heart so formerly focused on foreign missions. I was all for other people going. I’d help fund them. I’d pray for them. But don’t even think about asking me. I was not a candidate. I was not “good at it.” I was not “built” for that. What I had felt my calling to be for so long was now changed and I felt I had failed.

Anywho, back to Courtney. She sold t-shifts to raise money for her move. Sure, I’ll buy a t-shirt. It’s for a good cause. And I needed a t-shirt. When I saw the design I froze. Inscribed across the shape of the Africa were the words “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God”. Whoa. Um. Could I really wear that? Could I ever want that again? Brokenness. I knew enough to know that it wasn’t going to be pleasant. This wasn’t going to be easy or fun. No smiley, butterflies and lovey feelings. But instead pain, longing, grit, hands dirty, thought-provoking, and a time of praying for help. Over the next few days Jesus and I had a heart-to-heart. I was scared the Band-Aids would be ripped from my eyes and the site of overwhelming need would paralyze me. I prayed that he would gently begin to open my eyes and to break my heart. I knew it would force me to return to what had shut down my heart in the first place, to relive my experiences, the loneliness, the stress. But I knew He was with me. The verse that held me through my time in Ghana was coming full circle.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me.
Your right hand will hold me fast. – Psalm 139:9-10

I put on the shirt and trusted that the Heavenly Father would bring me back to a place of opened eyes and compassion.

Let my heart be broken

Shortly after that the boyfriend and I attended an event where Bob Goff spoke on living out faith through love. Loving others. Putting others first. Intervening. Helping those in need. It was convicting, challenging and spurred me on. “Okay, Lord. Help me start small.” I prayed. Over the next few days He presented opportunities, opened my eyes and gave me the courage to act. Each time I trusted Him and each time a little bit more of that wall crumbled.

A couple of weeks later my dear friend Mary and her husband came for a visit. She has a knack for accepting people “as is” and is one of the most compassionate people I know. It was refreshing to get to spend some time together. She left me a birthday present to open after they left. It was a journal where she wrote about how Jesus was around 30 when he started his ministry and encouraged me to a year of service. I knew I’d fail over and over. I knew I needed a heep of grace because I was going to mess it up. But the time had come to stop thinking about me and to instead feed and clothe the poor. Give water to the thirsty. To be the “hands and feet of Christ”. To believe in redemption and restoration, even if I don’t see it in my lifetime. To love those society has deemed unlovable. To write love on her arms. To love. My eyes peeped open, ever so slightly, and the desire grew in me to help those in need locally, nationally and internationally. It’s been a challenge and my selfishness is still readily apparent but I’m growing. My boyfriend and I plan to dive into some hands-on service this month with a local food bank and our community group is discussing the next service project. Love is on the horizon.

What about you? Are you up for the challenge? With a little over seven months left in 2014 I encourage you to get involved with your neighbors, those in need in your city, state, throughout your country and globally. If you need an idea for global assistance, please consider supporting Courtney as she moves to Uganda to work with A Child’s Voice. For more information about Courtney’s call, the organization and how you can be involved please read her letter. And if you feel led to donate, she has $5,879.29 left to raise in the next six weeks 🙂

Have a wonderful week!

Plot twist

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125 days

One hundred twenty-five days ago I was awakened by sharp neck pain, chills, headache and unable to turn or bend my neck more than a few degrees. It’s been 18 weeks since I’ve been consistently pain/stiffness free. Months of physical therapy later I am back to the low range of normal in neck mobility. I’ve worked on flexibility, posture, core strength and shoulder and back strength. I’ve learned that my neck stiffness and pain correlate with stress and poor posture. The toughest part of work involves my time in an ambulance – the most ergonomically void box ever. Understandably, it’s not about me in the ambulance. The next toughest part is looking down for long periods of time. I have made modifications within my work environment that make it tolerable. Thankfully, most days are pain-free now but I still occasionally struggle with twinges and stiffness in the lower right side of my neck. It’s more annoying than anything but improves with staying calm, stretching and self-mobilization of my cervical facet joints.

It’s also been 125 days since I’ve done anything remotely close to triathlon training. I’ve gone on walks and jogs here and there but nothing like before. There were many days of tears and I returned to unhealthy eating while embracing limited mobility, not just in my neck, on the couch. The result: weight gain, muscle loss, weakness and depression. These 18 weeks also served as a reminder, a painful one, of what life was like before I focused on being healthy. Boy, I would have much preferred a verbal reminder instead of a physical one. Apparently I needed the 2×4. But you know what? My story doesn’t stop here. This is my plot twist.

KeeperThrough the tears and frustration I prayed that God would let me see that He still cares about me. Richard and I joined a new community group in the fall and last week we studied the parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-32. A couple of years ago I went through a study by Tim Keller called Prodigal God. It was life changing for me and I encourage you to read the parable then listen to Tim’s sermons. Anyway, for several reasons I look at God as my father and at community group we were given minutes to ponder on and thank God. I thanked God for His keeping love that night. I believe that He has a hand in everything that happens in my life and that the purpose of my life is to glorify Him. Boy, do I fail time and after time and feel like a road block sometimes but His love redeems and keeps me. I don’t understand why he let’s things that I perceive as bad happen to me but I understand that His story is bigger than mine. His perspective is different and at each turn, good or bad, He is revealing himself to me and teaching me to trust Him. I know my neck issue pales in comparison to some of the sorrows you guys are currently walking through. It’s been my struggle though and I’ve been discouraged. In addition, my grandma, whom I love dearly, is my go-to for wisdom and who is just plain awesome, almost went to see Jesus. She spent time in an ICU during a winter storm that veered 120 miles off predicted course. Because of the storm her procedure had to be repeated when the correct device could be delivered to the hospital and she had the same ICU staff for ~ 60 hours straight. Working in an ICU I know that fatigue and stress can play a huge role in medical error. I prayed that God would protect her, knowing full well that she was ready if He wanted to call her home. Good news, with some living modifications she is recovering and doing well! It’s heart-wrenching knowing those you love are hurting and struggling. Then later in the week I had a stressful day of work when I wasn’t even there. How does that even happen? Tell me I’m not alone in that!?! As I was driving to meet some friends, completely caught up in life’s recent stressors, I played the song “How He Loves”, by John Mark McMillan, on repeat. Many of you may know the version performed by David Crowder Band.

“He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.”

“Afflictions eclipsed by glory” – I finally experienced and understood those words! Have any of you ever been so overwhelmed by His love when the world would tell you to doubt, to give up, when something tragic or completely frustrating happens? That was the moment I had in the car. A time of worship despite my circumstances, a time of thankfulness for His keeping love that I can’t be too good enough not to need or disappoint him too many times to lose. It was some good truth time. John Mark explains more about his song in the brief video, link below. It’s worth the five minutes. Trust me.

How He Loves: A Song Story

Now for what’s to come after the plot twist…

Triathlon training is far from practical at this point. Realistically, holding my neck in the position for a ride on my road bike may no longer be possible. It turns just far enough to be able to breathe while swimming freestyle. Which leaves me with two sports, running and swimming. The good news? I can run and swim. I can walk, talk, breathe and dance. Well that last ones debatable, but I can move! Some triathlons have relay events available. I don’t have to completely leave the sport but I will have to modify and completing a race may now be dependent on friends competing with me. (If any of you are interested in the future let me know!)

Over the next several months I will focus on becoming healthy again. It was a long road the first time and there’s something to be said for naivety. This time I know how hard it’s going to be. My pride wants to go outside right now and bust out a 5K in 20 degree weather but my body and mind aren’t there yet. Getting real – today I completed T25’s Cardio workout, fully modified, focusing on correct form and building muscle strength. So what is getting healthier going to look like? That’s what I plan to blog about over the next year. Week by week I plan to share lessons, thoughts, struggles, wins, workouts and recipes. And I’ll need your encouragement. If any of you are going through something similar maybe we can keep each other accountable. I’m not giving up. Remind me of that.

New goals:

– Exercising 3-4x per week. I’m working a mixture of 12h day and night shifts until March so working out before or after work will be a challenge.

– Eating clean 80% of the time. Shoot, even 50% at this point would be huge!

– Two 5K events. One on my 30th birthday and another two weeks later. I’d like to run both of them. We’ll see 🙂

Blessings,

Clean and Curvy

Happy 2014!

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Happy new year, friends!

A few years ago I adopted monthly goals instead of a yearly resolution. I find it much less daunting to think in terms of a few weeks and it allows for freedom to shift goals as life changes. My fit-focused goal for January is to drink an adequate amount of water each day. I pretty much walk around in a dehydrated state… not good. Water. It seems so basic yet it’s one of those things that is essential to life, to health. For a few fun hydration facts and study findings click here and here. Nurses are at particular risk for dehydration, as well as athletes. Add in my predisposition for kidney stones and I’m doomed! So I was completely thrilled when I opened a Christmas gift from my mom last month – a HydraCoach Intelligent Water Bottle. I know what you’re thinking – really, a water bottle makes you excited? Yep. It’s not just an ordinary water bottle. The Intelligent part means that it not only calculates how much water I need to drink but also keeps up with my intake and reminds me when I need to drink more!

HydraCoach Intelligent Water BottleSo, how much water do we need? The answer is not necessarily 8 glasses/day. Rather, it depends on a few things like weight, environmental temperature and moisture, age, gender and daily activity level. Here’s a good rule of thumb for a person of average daily activity level:

  1. Weigh yourself. It’s the beginning of a new year – always good to know where you start.
  2. Divide your weight in pounds by 2. This equals your daily water/liquid intake requirement in ounces.
  3. For every hour of exercise you’ll need to drink even more!

For a quick calculator go here. For my European and Aussie friends – the calculator can be adjusted to the metric system (which makes more sense and I wish we used it in the States).

Not everyone needs a “fancy” water bottle but the calculator is a great tool to help toward hydration. For those of you who are a tad absentminded like me, the HydraCoach water bottle might be a good investment.

Shifting to spiritual health…. My faith-focused goal for January is to be in the Word everyday. I am praying that the Lord will make me more disciplined in my walk with Him and increase my awe of Him. Today I spent time in the book of Hebrews. One of my favorite verses is one of hope and comes from Chapter 11, verse 13: All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

From this verse, and the context listed below, it is clear that “the ancients” (believers) who came before me were faithful. The lived their faith. It was not a one-time deal. They trusted God in the ins-and-outs of daily life. The lived expectantly. Just because they didn’t receive what God had promised during their earthly life didn’t mean that they weren’t good enough or that God didn’t honor his promises. They knew that God had been with them from the beginning, He was with them during the trials and times of rejoicing, and that they would see Him in the future. They had confidence and hope in God and believed through faith that His promises would come about. It wasn’t about their time schedule. It was about God’s. Something better was coming. Talk about perspective! Matthew Henry’s Commentary puts it this way, “Many, who have a part in the promises, do not soon receive the things promised. Faith can lay hold of blessings at a great distance; can make them present; can love them and rejoice in them, though strangers; as saints, whose home is heaven; as pilgrims, traveling toward their home. By faith, they overcome the terrors of death, and bid a cheerful farewell to this world, and to all the comforts and crosses of it. And those once truly and savingly called out of a sinful state, have no mind to return into it. All true believers desire the heavenly inheritance; and the stronger faith is, the more fervent those desires will be. Notwithstanding their meanness by nature, their vileness by sin, and the poverty of their outward condition, God is not ashamed to be called the God of all true believers; such is his mercy, such is his love to them. Let them never be ashamed of being called his people, nor of any of those who are truly so, how much soever despised in the world. Above all, let them take care that they are not a shame and reproach to their God…. The apostle tells the Hebrews, that God had provided some better things for them, therefore they might be sure that he expected as good things from them. As our advantages, with the better things God has provided for us, are so much beyond theirs, so should our obedience of faith, patience of hope, and labour of love, be greater. And unless we get true faith as these believers had, they will rise up to condemn us at the last day. Let us then pray continually for the increase of our faith, that we may follow these bright examples, and be, with them, at length made perfect in holiness and happiness, and shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father for evermore.”

From the book of Hebrews, Chapter 11:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”[a] For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[b] considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”[c] 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.

31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.[d]

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[e] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

From the book of Hebrews, Chapter 12:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Let’s approach this year with faith and confidence; not in ourselves but in our Heavenly Father and may it be a year of faith and health.

Blessings to you and your family in 2014,

Clean and Curvy

Happy New Year!

The Boy, the Kite, and the Wind

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Today the leaves danced. Yellow, orange, and red swirled along the road. It was beautiful. The few times I’ve felt well enough to run and enjoy His creation lately have left me in wonder at its beauty. Yet while the trees and leaves were glowing it was the movement, the dancing of the leaves that caught my attention – the wind. I cannot see wind but I can see the effects of it. It can come in the form of a gentle breeze or rage wildly. It can refresh or level structures. It is mighty and I cannot control it. It makes me think of the Creator and stand in awe.

Yesterday the pain in my neck flared again. Truthfully it has gotten worse over the past three days but I pushed through. At PT we had to work on pain management/alleviation instead of exercising. Through welled eyes I completed the hour. A step back after improving fairly consistently. It was fairly devastating. I asked some friends to pray for my attitude in the midst of the pain and for healing. I was beginning to fear I would never have another pain free day, I’d never be able to train, and that working would always cause me pain. Yes, maybe a bit dramatic but pain can have a crazy affect on a person. This morning I felt only slightly better when I awoke but better nonetheless. My neck is “catching” and is sore but I can function. During a conversation over lunch today my boyfriend told me to “stop and enjoy the redwoods”. Um, what? He said that when driving from Oregon to LA taking the scenic route, the highway takes you through a section of redwoods before the road becomes the PCH and continues down the coast. He said that people have two ways to think about the drive, 1) to wish you were already in LA or 2) to enjoy the redwoods. Okay. Well, at least those people are moving, on a fun journey. “What are my redwoods?” I asked. It was as if this pain was preventing me from enjoying the beautiful creation around me. I had to cancel a walk with friends today because I couldn’t easily turn my neck without it catching. Have you walked with three friends before? Remember we Southerners like to look at each other when we talk. Talk about whiplash! Thankfully, despite my pain, the Lord opened my eyes to seeing Him and thanking Him today. Have you stopped to appreciate God’s creation today, to worship the Creator, and to thank Him for eyes to see it, ears to hear it, hands and feet to touch it?

Check out the video above for the narration of the book The Boy, The Kite, and the Wind by Al Andrews. Al is a counselor here in Nashville (Franklin) who runs a ministry called Porter’s Call for recording artists and their families.

Overcomer

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Above all, obey your body and the thermometer–not your training program. – Marc Bloom, Runner’s World

The last two weeks have been rather still due to a bad cold, fever, fatigue, a throbbing headache and pain when I turn my neck. It was really hard not to be frustrated in the waiting. My body screamed rest but my mind worried that I was falling behind, way behind. After seeing so much about pushing through and mind-over-matter I looked for some scientific articles. Surely I shouldn’t run with a fever or when it hurts to turn my head but how long should I wait to return to training? I came across these two that I thought were helpful – Should You Run When You’re Sick? and Principles of Detraining: What happens if you stop training? Missing two weeks of training means my aerobic capacity is ~8% less, my cardiac output is reduced by ~10% because my stroke volume is decreased (even though my HR was higher), my muscle capillary density is decreased by up to 7%, the lactate level in my blood during exercise now is almost 88% higher while my lactate threshold has dropped by almost 7%. If that wasn’t enough negative change my ability to use fat for fuel during exercise has decreased ~50% while the time it takes me to be fatigued is now ~10% shorter. Seriously? I was only three weeks in and now I have to back up a week and omit a week or two in the future. Awesome. Thanks to The Triathlete’s Training Bible for helping me map out a new game plan.

Before getting sick I had one of the best training runs I’ve ever had and posted my first negative splits. I started with a 5 minute warm up walk then jog/walked intervals of 3 min/4 min for 35 minutes.

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I worked the next day then came home exhausted with an incredibly sore throat. I’d feel well enough to return to work for a 12 and 24-hour shift then crash to recover for the next shift. My resting heart rate was higher and I wore out quickly. My chest finally felt light enough to go out for one jog last week. I planned on participating in the Worldwide WordPress 5K, September 23 – 29, but I missed the allotted week due to illness so I counted this training run as my WWWP5K. I ran 3 of the 5 intervals but accidently took my “long” route – almost 4 miles. At mile two my HR peaked at 205 after running uphill. I kept pushing until my hands went numb. Okay body, you win! I considered stopping at a random person’s home to ask for water and to take a breather. At mile three I almost layed out on the sidewalk and wanted to call my boyfriend to pick me up. I was exhausted and parched. I walked the rest of the time and made it home without stopping thanks in part to some encouragement I received from Mandisa on my new jog intervals playlist. The title track of her new album, Overcomer, is an upbeat encourager. I’ve included a few lyrics (written by Christopher Stevens and David Garcia):

Everybody’s been down
Hit the bottom, hit the ground
Oh, you’re not alone
Just take a breath, don’t forget
Hang on to His promises
He wants You to know
The same Man, the Great I am
The one who overcame death
Is living inside of You
So just hold tight, fix your eyes
On the one who holds your life
There’s nothing He can’t do
He’s telling You

You’re an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it’s hopeless
That’s when He reminds You
That you’re an overcomer
You’re an overcomer.

I think about Hebrews 12 when I hear this song, specifically verses 1-3: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on JESUS, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before HIM, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of GOD. Consider HIM who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

This is one of my favorite passages in Scripture. There’s so much packed into those three verses! More on Hebrews 12 and my spiritual journey to come.

Training has not been easy and getting worn down by illness is getting OLD. I thought about biking before my neck and spine hurt but I had no energy. It was hard to imagine swimming while I battled the cold. I’m hopeful that a visit to the chiropractor tomorrow will help my neck and back. This journey is painfully slow and I know there will always be challenges but I’m not giving up. And now that I feel well enough I’m getting my flu shot this week. Have you gotten yours?

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My cheat meal yesterday turned into a cheat potluck

My cheat meal yesterday turned into a cheat potluck

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Yesterday I lost a patient. A little one. I was a part of a great team but it’s tough when you work so hard just to see your efforts fail. Our team made handprints and footprints in a memory book and molds of the baby’s hands and feet for the family. We dressed the baby in a handmade gown, swaddled, then I placed the tiny body in the mother’s arms. It’s just now as I am writing this that I am letting myself grieve. Death is hard. Still, I am thankful that I serve a God who sees and understands, who never leaves me – even when I question the reason that things happen. I may never know why this infant’s life was cut short (by our terms) but I know the Lord is sovereign and has a plan. Regarding my time with the brief, precious life I cling to the following from Psalm 139:
You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.
 
I believe that the Lord knew what was planned for me before I arrived at work that morning. He knew I’d be told I had to come in and work extra this weekend and that two hours later I’d be called to be with this patient and family. He provided mercies throughout my day in the form of a fellow believer who was encouraging and helpful, who cared for my other patients while I was working with this one and who was empathetic when I returned and shared my experience. He provided an excellent team of skilled medical professionals for me to work with, and a night of mostly stability among my ICU patients that allowed for brief but refreshing mental and physical rest. He provided.
 
After the loss, one of our team members asked what he could get each of us. I looked down to the small can of Sprite that I had been given. I know, not clean but it had been six hours since I’d eaten a real meal and my blood sugar felt pretty low despite my cortisol level probably being through the roof given the previous situation. I replied that I was fine and thanked him for offering. He asked again, this time with soul-searching eyes. “Chocolate”, I replied. Thoughts of clean eating swirled through my head but it would be at least two hours before I could get to what was in my lunch box. He smiled and returned with four boxes of chocolate goodies for us all to share.
Prior to that “cheat” I had made it through one temptation. At a meeting earlier in the day someone provided GiGi’s cupcakes. Oh my goodness! They’re the kind of cupcakes where there icing is just as tall as the cake portion. So yummy! I declined to partake and drank water while some of my colleagues enjoyed the deliciousness. When I returned to the office later that evening there was a mint green box sitting on the desk – left over cupcakes. This time my will power had taken a nose dive. I opened the box. (Insert the angelic “Ahhhhh” with a yellow glow around a particular peanut better cup cupcake). I closed the box. Nope. I couldn’t do it. Yes, I had had a rough day. Really rough. Okay, just one. I don’t have to eat the whole thing. I reopened the box and got the cupcake, put it on a plate and covered it with a napkin. I went to the fridge and grabbed the bag of green beans I brought to steam with dinner then took the two to the break room. Green beans and a peanut butter cup cupcake. It was supposed to be green beans and a sweet potato. Fail. I gave in again. Chocolate then 2/3 of a cupcake. My non-planned cheat meal became a potluck.
 
Has this ever happened to you? I’m going to give myself grace and “get back on the wagon”. I packed healthy snacks for work but wasn’t able to access them due to extenuating circumstances. In life, we can plan with the best of them but there will be times that negate our plans. I think what’s important is that we don’t give up, that we acknowledge what happened and then try again. I learned that a non-refrigerated snack that I could keep in my work bag, though it may not be truly “clean”, may have given me the edge I needed to avoid going for the chocolate. Then again, sometimes a girl just needs chocolate. And that’s okay – in moderation. Now, the cupcake? That just means I put a little extra effort in today’s workout.

The Valley of Vision

The Valley of Vision
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LORD, HIGH AND HOLY, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
            where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
            hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
            that the way down is the way up,
            that to be low is to be high,
            that the broken heart is the healed heart,
            that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
            that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
            that to have nothing is to possess all,
            that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
            that to give is to receive,
            that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
            and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find light in my darkness,
            thy life in my death,
            thy joy in my sorrow,
            thy grace in my sin,
            thy riches in my poverty
            thy glory in my valley.
                                                               – The Valley of Vision
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