Saturday, May 28, 2011

That we may know it's by His hand and not by accident. Part 1- He chooses the youngest, weakest, least likely to lead HIs people.

I've been noticing this theme throughout the Bible, from beginning to end, that God uses the least likely so that He will get all the glory.  Paul calls himself the "chief of sinners" acknowledging that anything he's accomplished comes by the work of God who "works in him mightily".

Just for fun I thought I'd list how many times the Lord chooses to bless or use the younger son over the older son.  Remember this runs contrary to the culture of primogeniture prevalent in Bible times.

1.  Seth over Cain (Genesis 5)

2.  Abraham not Nahor or Haran (Not definite, but seems to be the case from Gen 11:32, 12:4, Acts 7:2-4 and Genesis 11:26 taken together.  Apparently, Terah began having children at 70 and Abraham was 75 when he left Haran after his father died at age 205.  So, Terah began having kids at 70, but had Abraham when he was 145.)

3.  Isaac over Ishmael (Genesis 21)

4.  Jacob over Esau (Genesis 27)

5.  Joseph over Reuben (1 Chronicles 5:1)

6.  Ephraim over Manasseh (Genesis 48)

7.  Moses over Aaron (not that Aaron wasn't significant, but the Lord chose to use Moses, the younger son,  to deliver His people).

8. Gideon (Lesser tribe of Manasseh, weakest clan in tribe, least in father's house, but chosen to deliver Israel.  Judges 6:15)

9.  Jephthah (Illegitimate son of his father and a prostitute, driven out of his father's house and inheritance by his half-brothers, but chosen by God to deliver Israel.  Judges 11)

10. David was the 7th or 8th son of Jesse (1 Samuel 16:10-11 and 17:12-15, 1 Chronicles 2:13-15)

11. Solomon over Amnon, Daniel, Absalom (killed), or Adonijah (David's 4th son who later contested Solomon's kingship 1 Kings 1). 

Interesting, isn't it?  Why did God do this?  Why did He choose men to lead His people contrary to the world system for choosing leaders?

Let's hear it from the mouth of God.

In the case of Gideon:  "Please, Lord, how can I save Israel?"  Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house."  And the Lord said to him, "But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man."  (Judges 6:16)

Spoken to Zerubbabel:  "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts."  (Zechariah 4:6)

"For consider your calling, brothers:  not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God."  (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

Paul further said of his thorn in the flesh:  "Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."  (2 Corinthians 12:9)

So the Lord wants to magnify Himself and chooses those least likely to be able to lead on their own.  This way the focus and the credit goes to God. 

"So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations.  Then they will know that I am the Lord."  (Ezekial 38:23)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Insanity update- one month down?!

I can't believe I finished day 27 of Insanity yesterday!  I've tried to go in the correct order and according to schedule except for a couple of minor rearrangements like when I have to take a day off unexpectedly (then I skip the scheduled day off making it a wash).  I'm happy to report that Insanity is working.  I may not be in the best shape of my life, but my husband and oldest son say they can see a difference.  My arms are more toned and my hips "less wide" (is that a compliment?!)  More importantly, I feel stronger, especially in my legs.  Oh, and I can finally do all the workouts, well pretty much.  Cardio Power and Resistance was the first workout I was able to complete start to finish without stopping.  I've made it through that one 2-3 times now.  I just completed Pure Cardio for the first time a few days ago, though my frog jumps may have more closely resembled turtle hops.  (Don't turtles hop?  Well, you get the idea then.  I may not have been catching much air, but I didn't stop, not even for a second.)  And night before last I completed my first Plyometric Cardio Circuit without putting my knee down.  (My plank form definitely left something to be desired the last time through ski abs and in and outs, so there's still room for improvement!!)  I still haven't made it through a Cardio Abs workout without putting my knee down (tough plank combination at the end), but I also haven't tried the workout fresh, yet.  Oh and there's this killer double leg lift combination that I can't do.  Anyway, I've finished all of month one.

But, I have a problem now.  We're heading out of town June 5-10.  How will I do Insanity on the road?  Somehow I just can't imagine myself sweating with Shaun T. in a hotel room in front of the whole family.  I'm sure they wouldn't appreciate it either.  Especially considering month two is tougher than month one, though it's hard to imagine how.  This could definitely be embarassing.

I think what I'm going to do is tack on another week of workouts to month one then align the recovery week of Core Cardio Balance with our vacation.  Surely a recovery workout won't be as bad to do in front of the fam.  In fact, the kids can join in if they want to.  If it's anything like Cardio Recovery, I shouldn't break a sweat.  Then I can get into month two when we get back from Dallas.  Does that sound workable? 

My tentative plan:

Wednesday May 25:  Cardio Recovery
Thursday May 26:  Cardio Abs and run
Friday May 27:  Cardio Power and Resistance
Saturday May 28:  Pure Cardio
Sunday May 29:  Plyometric Cardio Circuit
Monday May 30: Cardio Recovery and run
Tuesday May 31:  Cardio Power and Resistance
Wednesday June 1:  Pure Cardio
Thursday June 2:  Cardio Abs and run
Friday June 3:  Plyometric Cardio Circuit
Saturday June 4:  Core Cardio Balance (Transition week of recovery between months 1 and 2.)
Sunday June 5:  CCB
Monday June 6:  CCB
Tuesday June 7:  CCB
Wednesday June 8:  CCB
Thursday June 9: CCB
Friday June 10:  Rest (drive home including stop off half-way to see friends)
Saturday June 11:  Fit test and Max Interval Circuit (beginning of official month 2 of Insanity)

Notice how I moved Cardio Abs away from Pure Cardio.  Hopefully I'll get through all the exercises on the workout that way.  At least, this is my plan at this point.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Training our girls in hospitality

Let me start this post by being completely honest.  Although my mom is the "hostess with the mostest", also affectionately known as Martha Stewart on crack, something got lost in translation when it came to passing on her gift of hospitality to me.  Maybe it's because I was a tomboy more likely to be found cleaning guns with my dad than helping in the kitchen.  Maybe it's because I spent so much time at swim practice.  Maybe it's because I was a spoiled only child.  Anyway, my mom set a great example, always opening our home to others and taking such pains to make her guests feel important and welcome.  I want to follow in my mom's footsteps and I'm determined to train my girls now so that they can help me be better prepared to practice hospitality when they grow up.

1.  Encourage them to play hospitality.

Measle working in her "kitchen".  She loves making mud pies, or mud casseroles, cakes, and loaves of bread in this case.

Queen at a local children's museum setting the "table" for supper.

Cooking over the hot fire.

2.  Let them help you.  This is easier said than done.  It takes a little planning to come up with age-appropriate jobs for each of your girls.  Once you add in the demonstration and oversight it may take more time to have them help you, but consider it an investment in their future and yours.

Twinkle Toes (10) buttered and garliced three loaves of french bread and sliced the carrots for the salad we're taking to church tonight.  You see she has a little "helper", as well.

Mealse (7) washed and separated two bags of grapes into bunches and washed and tore two heads of red leaf lettuce into pieces for the salad.  Measle and Twinkle Toes added the other ingredients to the salad and tossed it.  Measle is wearing an apron that has my name on it.  See, my mom really did try!

OK, Queen (2) was no help at all, but doesn't she look cute in her apron, which was also mine when I was a little girl by the way?!

3.  Praise them.  I'm so proud of my girls and they really did help me get the meal ready for church tonight.  I put the casseroles together last night, Smockity Frock's cavatini, and the girls helped me with the fruit, bread, and salad.  As a special reward I bought my little helpers mochas from a local coffee shop.  Twinkle Toes and Measle have both asked if they can help serve the meal at church tonight.  We usually have 50-60 turn out for supper and I try to take the meal a couple of times each summer.  Our wonderful church secretary usually slaves away in the kitchen all day on Wednesdays and is such a blessing to all of us.  Her cooking is much better than mine, but I wanted to give her a little break and thought it would be a wonderful training opportunity for my girls.  You know what?  My girls didn't even know they were being trained.  They've had fun!

The Worst Hard Time... Again?!

photo credit
A year or two ago I read The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan.  It's the story of the Dust Bowl that swept America's High Plains during the Great Depression.  My grandmother and her family survived the Dust Bowl living in a dugout here in the panhandle of Texas.  People were tougher then.  A woman in our church lived through it with her family of 22 in a two-room house, if you could call it that, in New Mexico.  She doesn't remember it as being as "hard" of a time as Timothy Egan paints it.  But then sharing a room with 19 siblings wasn't "hard" according to her either!  (Actually, she says only 15 of the kids lived at home at the same time because of the age spread.  Oh- and the kids shared one room with one bed in it.)  Anyway, back to The Worst Hard Time.  Egan explains that the over-tilling of the Great Plains in combination with severe drought led to the Dust Bowl.  Before the plains were tilled up, they were covered with buffalo grass.  Burton Folsom Jr. in New Deal or Raw Deal blames the over-tilling of the plains on a cycle of increased farm efficiency which led to a surplus of wheat and falling global wheat prices followed by U.S. government (New Deal) propping up of wheat prices which encouraged further tilling.  This might have worked (though I'm opposed to the strategy in theory, preferring the government to stay out of the business of our food) had it not been for unprecedented years of drought across the plains.

So why am I bringing this up now?  Because we're in a drought again and the wind is blowing like crazy and when I look out my window, it looks like a dust bowl.  According to Egan, the High Plains never fully recovered from the Dust Bowl.  "The land came through the 1930's deeply scarred and forever changed." (The Worst Hard Time p. 309)  Farm subsidies begun during the New Deal continue to encourage the tilling.  "To keep agribusiness going, a vast infrastructure of pumps and pipes reaches deep into the Ogallala Aquifer, the nation's biggest source of underground freshwater, drawing the water down eight times faster than nature can refill it."  (p. 310)  This aquifer is a major source of water for us here in the Texas Panhandle.  Lake Meredith, our other source, is practically dry.  Yet farmers continue to till up land here where many rely upon primitive flood irrigation (cheap but costly in terms of water).  Our water supply is fast diminishing.  And it's not only the panhandle in Texas that's suffering.  Lake Travis in central Texas is also at its lowest level in years.

It wasn't always this way.  My dad remembers pools of water deep enough at their ranch when he was a little boy that you could dive into them from the cliffs above.  My husband was speaking to a 94 year old man on Sunday who told of the days he farmed cotton here- dry land (without irrigating).  He said those were the days when the farmer humbled himself before God and prayed for rain.  Those were the days everyone prayed for rain.  The days before all our groceries came from Walmart.  The days before much of our produce was imported from far away places like Mexico or Chile.  The days before Americans stayed holed up in their air-conditioned homes, except when driving in their air-conditioned cars.  Maybe we need to get back to those days.  Our little family has started praying for rain each morning during our devotional time.  It entails more than just a request.  It involves humbling ourselves before God and admitting our complete reliance upon Him and His mercies.  It requires repenting of our sins, as a nation, against God.  There, I said it.  I know it's unpopular, but God's Word is always true.

And it shall be if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil.  And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock, that you may eat and be filled.  Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, lest the Lord's anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you.  Deuteronomy 11:13-17

Our country has a godly heritage and the Lord has blessed America.  Truly He has blessed us for the faith of our fathers.  We are now nominally Christian or post-Christian or secular humanist or whatever label you want to give what we are.  We have forgotten God.  We have deluded ourselves into thinking that we have made this nice life for ourselves.  God's Word warns us about that.

Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest- when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God... then you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.'  Deuteronomy 8:11-14a, 18a  (emphasis mine)

And some people say the Bible isn't relevant!  This is exactly what's happened in our nation.  The colonists and Puritans and pioneers who built this country knew their very lives depended upon the grace of God.  They were in touch with the fragility of life.  Their lives were short and hard.  Our lives are easy and we have become soft and arrogant.  Let's humble ourselves, repent, and cry out to the Lord to bring revival in our land so He can bless our nation once more.  Let's get rid of our other gods (mainly self) and turn back to the Lord.  Let's pray for rain.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Calvin in his helmet

Calvin got his orthotic helmet today.  The next 5-10 days will be spent acclimating him to his helmet.  He will need to wear his helmet 23 hrs a day for 3-6 months.  He doesn't like our putting it on him, but once it's on he does really well.  Hopefully we'll get better at taking it on and off with practice.

Poor Calvin.  He's making the best of it, but the helmet does make his head even heavier!

He's been teething and finally decided he'd take a pacifier today.
Mealse making him laugh with "ride the bicycle".

Friday, May 20, 2011

Our First Step to a Simpler, More Abundant Life: Writing a Family Purpose Statement

A few years ago I read a little book called Better Off which started me down this path toward simplification.  I'm already more simple than many women I know.  I've never kept a day planner or family calendar in an effort to minimize our committments (yes, sometimes I do forget things).  I haven't carried a purse in years and have never carried a diaper bag.  I rarely buy new clothes for myself and often wear things way beyond when they should have been thrown in the trash (my husband says I always have on at least two items of clothing with holes in them at any given moment and I can confirm that as of this moment).  I don't wear make-up and don't carry a cell phone.  But this book, Better Off, chronicled one couple's experiment in radical simplification.  An MIT student writing a thesis on the real benefits of modern technology and his wife moved to Amish country and lived among very conservative Amish for over a year.  His hypothesis was that technology hasn't benefited our lives nearly so much as we think it has.  In the end, he and his wife moved to an urban location where they were able to get along without a car, computer, phone, and many so-called modern conveniences.  As soon as I finished the book, I permanently unplugged our answering machine (now you know why it still "isn't working".)  I also quit my career shortly thereafter.  Both changes lowered the stress level and increased satisfaction in our home life.  But I'm always looking for additional ways to simplify, and keeping our house full of stuff organized is a never-ending challenge.  This is why Organized Simplicity appealed to me.

According to Tsh Oxenreider in Organized Simplicity, the first step toward simplifying your home and life is to come up with a family purpose statement.  This makes perfect sense, because how can we eliminate the "excess" from our lives until we've defined what's not excess?  As I go from item to item in our house and activity to activity in our schedule, I need a litmus test as to whether each one should stay or go.  Our simple life may not look like your simple life, but to keep things simple we all have to be consistent with our perceived purpose.  Our home and schedule should reflect the priorities of our family.  In one sense, this is obvious and we all do it to some degree intuitively.  In another sense, it is profound, and writing out a purpose statement helped me to see why I'm frustrated with certain aspects of our lives.

A couple of final notes about the purpose statement before I share ours:

-I'm terrible at writing these kinds of things so I relied on Tsh's model and just filled in the blanks.  I left the blanks so you can take this skeleton and fill it in to come up with your own family purpose statement.

-It's important for your purpose statement not to be too general (it won't be much help) or too specific (it will drive you crazy).  Initially, I tended toward overgeneralizing our purpose like- "Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves".    This is a wonderful purpose, but it's so general that it would be tough to go item to item in our home and ask whether it should stay or go based on this purpose.  It needs to be fleshed out a little first.  In other words, what does it look like to love the Lord and our neighbor in terms of daily practice?

Our family purpose statement:

We the ___________s believe that our purpose as a family is to bring glory to God.  We will accomplish this by:
- Valuing God's Word and the example of Christ as our main guiding principles.
- Making our home a place of Bible study and worship, fellowship with one another and the body of Christ, and making disciples of Christ.
- Prioritizing things of eternal value above lesser values.
- Interacting with each other in a spirit of encouragement, spurring one another on toward good works.

Just because this is our family purpose statement, doesn't mean we do this well all the time, or even most of the time, but it's a starting place.  It helps explain why my husband and I love having Bible studies in our home, but why we're frustrated that one daughter is playing volleyball right now (pulling us all in different directions 3 nights a week!).  It helps me remember to keep our homeschool focused on God's Word first then all our other subjects second.  It helps us evaluate each item/piece of furniture in our house by whether it helps our family and others study God's Word, fellowship with one another,  focus on eternity, and encourage one another.  In short, it's our litmus test. 

So here I go.  Starting Monday I'll take 10 days as outlined by Tsh in Organized Simplicity to simplify, organize, and clean every room in our house!  At the end of the 10 days our home will not be perfect, but it should more accurately reflect our purpose as a family. 

What's your family purpose?  Are there things in your home or activities in your schedule that are contrary to your purpose?  Is this causing you stress and frustration?  Join me as I strive to make our house more of a home after our hearts.

Calvin's last photo shoot before the helmet

Calvin's helmet is in and he'll be fitted in it Monday.

This is Calvin's cheesy grin. 
He reminds us of my father-in-law, whom he's named for, in this picture.

Here Calvin looks like Monk.

Here he reminds me of my mom and her dad.

Another shot where he looks like his big bubba.

I don't know what this is!

Here he looks like my grandpa again.

Bubba again.

My favorite.  He's just cute.
Calvin will have to wear his helmet 3-6 months for 23 hrs a day.  We're not looking forward to it, but we're so grateful Calvin doesn't need surgery!  Hopefully the helmet will allow his head to become more symmetrical as he grows.  You can't really tell when you see him from the front, but when you look down on his head from above you can see that it protrudes out on the front right and the back right is more in.  The right side of his head is pretty flat, whereas the left side is more curved.  This plagiocephaly has caused his face to slide around and one ear is a couple of inches anterior relative to the other.  Anyway, it's not really that big of a deal and is mainly cosmetic, but we've decided to try to fix it.  Surely he can't be any cuter, though! 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Losing that baby weight!

The 4 Moms of Many addressed losing the baby weight today and I wanted to chime in.  For one thing, I'm just interested in weight and fitness.  I majored in Sports Medicine, swam competitively for 15 years, and still try to maintain some semblance of physical fitness.  For another, I've survived 5 pregnancies and births!

Interestingly, I tried something slightly different after each of my pregnancies, although they all included exercise and watching what I ate.

1.  I was 26 when I had my first, a boy.  He nursed like a champ and the 40 lbs I had gained with him just seemed to melt off.  I also swam and walked whenever I had the chance.  (P.S.  I swam between 2,000 and 3,000 yards daily while pregnant with him, so that probably helped, too.)

2.  I was 28 when I had my second, a girl who was not particularly interested in nursing, though I persisted for 6 months.  I knew after Twinkle Toes that I was going to have to try something "extra" to lose the weight I gained with her.  My mom was working for weight watchers at the time so I attended meetings and weigh-ins and loosely followed the points plan (meaning I paid more attention to eating the freebies, but didn't really count every point.)

3.  I was 30 when I had Measle Bug and had not exercised much during my pregnancy with her, except for walking up and down three flights of stairs several times a day (grad school building).  So I took up running after Measle.  I ran pretty seriously for several years and the weight fell off.  (Have you ever known a runner who was fat?  Just sayin'...)  But it was tough and time consuming and eventually after spending a month in Kazakhstan where we adopted Prince, my first year of teaching college, I got out of the habit and just couldn't get back into it.  I was thinner at 31-33 than pre-kids.

4.  Queen was our first quiverfull baby and I was pretty freaked out about being an "older" mom (if you consider 35 as being older, which of course I now see as silly).  I swam and walked religiously throughout my pregnancy with her.  Surprisingly, I didn't do much after having her, though.  Maybe this is why I never lost that last 5-10 lbs.  ( I could probably also blame this on taking up blogging.  Not exactly a high caloric expenditure activity!)

5.  My pregnacy with Calvin was filled with walking, walking, and more walking.  I often walked twice a day with him and sometimes did circuit weights while waiting at the gym for my kids.  I swam a few times, but just couldn't get it in the schedule consistently like with Queen.  I even ran some at the end of the pregnancy, but am afraid that may have contributed to his tweaked head, poor kid.  Calvin nursed like a champ right from the beginning, which helped the big weight melt off.  When Calvin was 6 and a half months old I started Insanity and am 24 days in right now.  Supposedly I'll be in the best shape of my life in another 40 days, so time will tell.  I'm enjoying the challenge and am amazed at how out of shape I had let myself become.  (Guess I've been living in denial : ).

My diet hasn't changed much over the last 15 years or so.  I'm a simple person and like simple food.  Often I eat crackers and peanut butter or crackers and cheese for lunch or dinner while my family eats something else I've prepared, especially if it borders on "home cookin'".  I also eat Total Raisin Bran for breakfast most mornings even when I make the kids waffles, pancakes, cinnamon rolls, etc.  I don't buy chips or sodas so I don't eat and drink them.  A couple of years ago I started the bad habit of drinking those fancy high caloric coffee drinks like frapuccinos and mochas.  I'm trying to cut back to 3 or 4 days a week.  I also love a nightly cup of hot cocoa and if it's been a really tough day, two cups.  I joke that I drink most of my calories, but that may not be far from the truth!  I eat lots of fruit, some veggies, and gummy vites, though I'm sure I'm just paying for expensive urine (another post.)  I have started making homemade bread, bagels, etc. and do indulge in those tasty treats with peanut butter or honey when they're around.  (I try not to keep them around too much : ).  I'm also addicted to Kimberly's granola bars (though I do cut the sugar to 1/2 c) and make them at least once a week.  I also eat lots of nutty granola (WW magazine recipe) with yogurt.

All this to say that while my body has shifted here and there over the years (use your imagination), I'm still the same size I was in high school. 

Finally, I want to share a Scripture verse that has meant a lot to me in the food department through the years, whether I was struggling with not eating enough or with eating too much.

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Mathew 6:25

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Spring Cleaning and ANOTHER Challenge!

It's that time of year again.  That time when school is drawing to a close (or has already ended in our case) and you look around and notice that while you've been busy all year your house has gotten messy (or messier in our case).  One of the many perks to homeschooling is being able to bribe motivate your kids to help you with housework.  (As in, how 'bout I let you out of school 2 weeks before public school and you help me get the house in order.  Deal?  You've never seen such enthusiasm over cleaning!)

The girls cleaned their bathroom and hallway today, focusing on our neglected floors.
Hey, whatever works.  There's no rule that says cleaning has to be boring.

Now for my newest challenge, since I know you're wondering.  Tsh Oxenreider in Organized Simplicity challenges her readers to simplify and clean their homes room by room in 10 days.  I read the book over a week ago and am still gearing up for the 10 day challenge (we have a big house).  I guess I needed a head start.  Last week I took down all the decorations (and there were TONS of them) down from the tops of my kitchen cabinets, and vacuumed and scrubbed the tops of the cabinets.  I also simplified the outside of my fridge using the author's idea of adhering favorite photos onto all those commercial magnets we've collected over the years.  This really cut down on the clutter, but still allows us to showcase our cute kids.

Calvin made the best of my little project and took it all in stride, as usual.
 I'm planning on blogging more about this book and challenge in the future (so hopefully I will : ).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Insanity Update- Day 16

I'm still at it, so I guess it's official- I'm insane.  Seriously, I really like this workout.  Many of the moves are somewhat familiar to me, but I know them under different names.  I jokingly refer to Level 1 Drills as lookin' for the paci and Suicide Drills as pickin' up the paci (I repeat these drills frequently throughout the day).  Ski Jumps are washer to dryer to washer to dryer and Hurdle Jumps are over the dog gate.  Power Squats could be wipe toddler's bottom/nose and Insanity doesn't even have a drill that compares to picking up Calvin in his carrier!  That said, the workout is tough.  But you know me, I love a good challenge!

Insanity is quite the topic around here.  Monk completed the Cardio Power and Resistance workout with me the other night and Measle Bug (7) has been leading Prince (5) in exercise classes each afternoon.  They're really serious about it- as you can see.  The Bug has always had moves.  She would have loved to have been a cheerleader.  She was just born to the wrong parents for that.  Poor girl.

I've been pretty much following the Insanity workout calendar, but I did switch around my day off last week to accommodate our late night at the ranch Saturday.  This meant that I did not get a day of rest before taking my fitness test yesterday.  I still improved in all the drills so I can't complain.  And I probably should have completed Cardio Abs separate from Pure Cardio instead of doing them back to back the day before my test.  Some days I also walk, some days I run on the treadmill and some days I don't do anything but Insanity.  I don't think I've lost any weight, which is ok, but I think I'm beginning to tone up a little more.  The exercises are definitely getting easier!

What are you doing to get in shape or stay in shape?

School's out and we're celebrating!

by scooting...


and having fun in the sun!

Are you finished yet?  How are you celebrating?

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Purpose of the Wilderness is the Purpose of Life

We went to the funeral last week of an incredible young man. This always begs the question of why. Not just why did he die, but why do any of us live? I mean, why to everything? Why planet earth?

Although I believe every word of the Bible is absolutely true and historically accurate, I also see many types and shadows in the Old Testament that find greater meaning and fulfillment in the New Testament. For instance, take the story of the Exodus. Moses, the deliverer of Israel, is a type of Christ, our ultimate Deliverer. The Promised Land, while also a literal place, foreshadows heaven, our true home and final resting place. (Hebrews 11:14-16) And the wilderness experience corresponds to our time as pilgrims and wanderers on the earth (Hebrews 11:13). Deuteronomy 8 reveals the purpose of the Israelites' wilderness experience, and by extension sheds light on the purpose of our time on earth.

And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you. Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land...   Deuteronomy 8:2-7

So according to this passage, the answer to my question about the purpose of life is... learn to rely on God, let His Word sustain us, keep His commands, and fear Him. The reason He tests and humbles us is so we'll know we can't make it on our own. We're totally at His mercy. The reason He provides for our needs and disciplines us is so we'll know He loves us.

Would we be able to grasp His love apart from our need? His mercy apart from our testing? His deliverance apart from our bondage?

If life's a breeze all the time, it isn't fulfilling its purpose.  Life on earth is supposed to be tough, challenging, painful.  Life is supposed to bring us to the end of ourselves so that we turn to God and rely completely and utterly on Him.  Then that "good land" He's bringing us into becomes the hope that strengthens our faith. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Are you a tiger mom?

The controversy over the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua sparked my interest from the get-go.  My mom and I were throwing around the term tiger mom in our conversation and discussing the pros and cons of the author's parenting philosophy before I even read the book.  When my friend Ying, who incidentally is Chinese and disagrees with much of the book, offered to loan it to me, I jumped at the chance.  Once I started reading, I could not put it down.  I LOVED the book.  After hearing the controversy, I expected to hate the book, or at least smugly sit in condescension over the author's obvious barbaric views.  So imagine my surprise when I absolutely LOVED the book from start to finish. 

If you know me, you may not pay any attention when I tell you I loved a particular book because I'm always reading and I love lots of books.  So let me put this in perspective for you.  There are whole chapters of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother that I've read 3-4 times because I just HAD to share- with my husband, my mom, the kids, anyone who would listen.  Also, I began the book on Tuesday and finished it on Wednesday (with very few opportunities to read between 7 am and 9 pm).  I remember looking at my watch as I was reading late into the night and thinking, "Oh no, 6 more hours until Calvin will want to be nursed."  And then, "Yikes, only 5 more hours until time to nurse Calvin."   It was that good.

The issue/controversy in a nutshell:

Chinese parenting is superior to American-style parenting in preparing children for successful, productive lives.  Delayed gratification is at the heart of Amy Chua's parenting philosophy- train your children to work hard now so that they will be happier as adults.  Happiness is not bound up in doing as you please or having lots of leisure time, but in achieving your best and honoring your family.  Her philosophy requires sacrifice on the part of both mother and children which will pay off down the road when the "virtuous circle" kicks in and the children begin to experience the fruits of their labor.

Where I agree AND disagree with this philosophy:

Just like Tiger Mom, I find myself going against the grain of American culture much of the time.  My husband and I agree with the concept of delayed gratification.  We also believe in helping our children to develop skills and a work ethic that will serve them well the rest of their lives.  We do not allow our children to watch tv or movies during the school week.  Our kids do not have much time for playdates (except for the spontaneous variety with our neighbor across the street).  Our kids seem very busy much of the time with homeschool, Bible study, swimming, church, and piano or violin.  I "schedule" much of our summer time in productive activities.  I choose my kids' sport.  We give them a limited choice of musical instruments (piano or violin).  They can't choose neither (initially).  Our kids often feel different and sometimes even deprived because of all this, so I found myself nodding in agreement to much of the author's thoughts on parenting.

However, the author is not a Christian, so our ultimate goals for our children are different.  My husband and I define "success" differently than she does, but we largely agree with what's required to arrive there.  As believers, we want our children to give their all, not because we want them to "win" or make it into Harvard, but because God says to do everything heartily as unto Him.  (Colossians 3:23)  As believers, we want to train our children up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6), not because it's a successful parenting technique, but because God tells us to and we want our children to glorify Him. 

What resonates the most with me about this book, and probably the reason for much of the controversy surrounding it, is the contrast between the Chinese way of thinking of self as an extension of family or community versus the Western way of rugged individualism.  I remember in a college humanities class being startled by the difference in emphases of Asian art and Western art during the Renaissance period.  The Eastern paintings would have one or more tiny people, almost incidental in the foreground or background of a large and imposing landscape.  The focus of the painting was never on the individual, but rather on the part the individual played in the whole.  In contrast, portraiture became one of the most popular forms of painting during the Renaissance in Europe.  I think these examples from art nicely summarize the competing philosophies of East versus West.

Interestingly, as followers of Christ we should be more Eastern-minded when it comes to how we view ourselves. We are to see ourselves, not as rugged individuals forging our own way in the world, owing nothing to anyone and living for our own happiness, but as members of the body of Christ, the church.  (1 Corinthians 12)  Our respect and honor for our family should also reflect that seen more often in Asian families, but not for the same reasons.  Believers are to honor their parents, not because of cultural norms or pressures, but out of obedience to the commands of God (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2).

How we view our children, either as an extension of the family or as individuals, will shape how we parent them.  I just finished reading Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider, which I also loved by the way, and in it she asks parents to write a purpose statement for their family and then to make the home a reflection of that purpose statement.  Going through this process helped me to see that we really do have purpose as a family, not just as individuals.  This purpose is an umbrella that should govern how we do school, sports, activities, music, ministry, everything as a family.  Our purpose statement would differ from Tiger Mom's, but what we have in common is a plan for each of our children to fulfill his or her purpose in and for our family and community of faith.  A plan that requires work and leaves little time for slacking off.   Her goal is Harvard, ours is heaven : ).

Our Father Abraham by Marvin R. Wilson discusses briefly the tendency that Western believers today overemphasize their individual faith and personal salvation, at the expense of de-emphasizing their place in the family and church universal or local.  (This explains why so few church members are involved in any type of ministry within their church.)  If we rightly see ourselves as existing for the glory of God and serving Him from within the context of our families and churches, then we'll adjust our goals accordingly.  Making money, for example, will become merely a means to providing for our families and giving to others in need (1 Timothy 5:8, Ephesians 4:28).   Providing for our parents may be seen as a duty both to Christian children and Asian children for different reasons.  It seems strange to me, but interesting, that the Chinese way of life often seems more Biblical (incidentally not on purpose) than the typical American way of this generation.  How can this be?  Radical:  Taking Back your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt is another book I've read recently that examines the clash between American culture and our Christian faith.  Maybe he's hit the nail on the head.  American culture today (although it certainly didn't start this way) is opposed to the family-driven, others-centered faith taught in the Scriptures.  Our cultural norms are a stumbling block to living out our faith in obedience.  This is true not just on an individual level, but when it comes to our families, too.

Amy Chua didn't address most of these issues that I just discussed, but I can't help but think these are the real culprits- the issues behind the issues, so to speak.  There I go again, reading between the lines!   Anyway, I loved the book and highly recommend it.  Don't expect to agree with everything in it, I didn't, but it's a stimulating and entertaining read.  Now please excuse me while I go round up my children and make them be productive for an hour before bed.  For the record, after reading much of the book to my kids they claim I'm no Tiger Mom, and not even in the realm of Tiger Mom.  Strangely, that hurt, just a little.  My husband says I may not be a Tiger Mom, just a tiger.  That felt a little better.

Calvin is 7 months

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Testing of our Faith

I have much to blog about, but haven't had the heart.  A precious young man in our church family died Sunday from an aggressive cancer that he has fought for the last two years.  We all rejoice with him that he is now healed and in the presence of the Lord, but we grieve the loss of him.  We grieve for his parents, his sister, his grandparents, his nephew, and his many cousins, family, and close friends. 

Why does this catch me off guard?  Why is it that even after doctors have given up hope for a recovery, we persist to believe the Lord will heal him?  We know He is able and we know He desires to bring glory to Himself.  It seems to us that it would bring the most glory to God if He would perform a miraculous healing such that no doctor or bystander could doubt the great power of our Lord.  I have no answer as to why God chose to take Connor home now rather than to give him an extended stay here on earth.  Sometimes I think the timeline of earthly events when viewed by God is seen from such a perspective that it's more of a dot than a line. One thousand years, thirty years, one day.  They are the same with Him. 

But that isn't accurate.  We aren't ants and God doesn't see us as such. He cares intimately for us and sympathizes with our weaknesses.  We have examples in Scripture of His tender sensitivity to our perspective of time like when He gave Hezekiah an extra 15 years of life in answer to his pleas for healing.  And of course, those of us who know the Lord have all personally experienced His undeserved grace in the circimstances of our own lives.  Which brings me back to my perplexity.  I can't understand it- why physical healing sometimes and not other times.  I know God is good and that heaven is better, but it's hard to understand how it can be good for his family to have to live the rest of their lives without their son.  It is this lack of understanding that tests my faith, our faith.

I'm grateful that the testing of our faith produces endurance.  We need endurance to make it in this life.  I'm also thankful that the Lord is merciful with us when we struggle to believe.  His mercies are new every morning.  Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. 

Connor with his mom and dad a couple of months ago.

Please pray for Connor's family and friends.  Pray the Lord's comfort for his mom and dad.  The funeral is Friday.  Connor was a very popular young man.  This will be a big funeral attended by many who don't know the Lord.  Please pray that God will continue working through Connor's testimony of unwaivering faith and that God's Word will prick the hearts of many young people who have never given a thought to eternity and where they will spend it.

Connor will be missed.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Fun at the ranch

My mom and dad are teaching directors for the local Community Bible Study class.  This was my mom's annual party for the children's leaders.  These sweet ladies are such a blessing to us!  I had a car full of kids- mine plus two.   I'm pretty sure this was Calvin's first time to the ranch, but we may have taken him once before. 
Our neighbor on the zip line
Monk swinging

She's even cute with a dirty face!
Prince hanging out with his friends.

Nana working hard in the kitchen, as usual.
One of Monk's friends, armed and dangerous.
Plenty of room to play "war".
The girls having fun with their sodas.

Synchronized drinking.

Calvin never complains, but he was really wanting nursie and bed at this point. 
Can you see the get-me-out-of-here plea in his look?

Queen has thing about blowing her nose.  I was trying to get her to hurry up so she wouldn't miss the train. 
She would not be hurried. 

Grandfather pulling the new train with his Gator. 

Measle knows how to have fun!  Look Ma, no shoes.

Our sweet neighbor friend sharing a seat with Queen.

Prince enjoying the ride- and his cup of ice.

Twinkle Toes giving me the "peace out" sign.

The train was a big hit!  Thanks Nana and Grandfather!


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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.