I take New Year’s resolutions very seriously. They have served me well through the years in shaking up troublesome habits as well as galvanizing better ones. New (or restored) habits that nurture the body AND the spirit.
Today we started another sugar detox to deal with those few extra pounds from all the great holiday eating. Also started a gentle-on-the-heart decluttering project. Will deal with exercise at some point.
What I’m most excited about are the resolutions that were actually spurred on by our pastor during his sermon Sunday [podcast of 12/31/2017 here]. Cliff challenged us to commit to some to the Lord…together.
In fact, before the end of the service, we were to think, pray, and write down our resolutions and place them in a self-addressed envelope. He will mail them back to us in three months to encourage us back to resolve if we have faltered at that point.
Cliff preached from 1 Corinthians 1 about the callings God has placed on our lives…and with the callings He empowers us, providing all we need to be successful. Our responsibility…privilege, really…is to resolve to enter into the life God intends for us, rather than play around with something much less. God calls us into deep relationships with him and with each other. We can miss that by paddling around in the shallows of life…choosing superficial over the supernatural.
Anyway, I was resolved, before that sermon, to go deeper with God this coming year and to surrender myself to Him in my relationships with others as well. Cliff’s encouragement came at just the right time. I especially appreciated a phrase he used about God being the “first voice” in our ears each morning. Not our phones, not email, not social media, not any other distractor. Just His voice…first.
Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th century preacher and theologian, definitely understood the importance of praying through and writing out resolutions that would inform his daily life. Over the course of several months, he composed seventy resolutions for life. You can read them here. The five resolutions I made during church on New Year’s Eve are weighty enough for me…can’t imagine 70! Edwards just gives an example to us of a man who, even as deeply devoted as he already was, did not want to miss God in a busy life of ministry. Nor did he want to miss the people God placed in his life as the focus of that ministry.
Resolutions help us to keep the main thing the main thing. Sure, we may struggle to keep our bodies and houses in order. Those are temporary situations. Where we hope most to be successful is in keeping our hearts tuned to what matters most. Going deep with God and others. I am resolved…
Friday! This time of year, it’s squeezing out those last vacation days before school starts again (after Labor Day in Virginia). Many of our friends in other states have already shut down their summer as kids returned to school this week. Can’t you just smell the fragrance of new school supplies? For us here, it’s still making hot August day memories with little guys.
While you finish your cup of coffee or break from work, let’s get down to this week’s Friday Faves.
1) Joni’s 50 Years of Quadriplegia – A woman who has taught me much about living through hardship with grace is Joni Eareckson Tada. She is a writer, speaker, artist and advocate for persons with disabilities. More central than all of that is her deep faith and dependence on God…especially in the 50 years since a diving accident, at 17 years old, put her in a wheelchair for life. I discovered her through an old feature film and her autobiography – Joni: An Unforgettable Story. The testament of her life points always to a God who gave her the grace to “count quadriplegia joy“. She is an amazing woman empowered with His love and that of those by her side, especially her husband, Ken Tada.Photo Credit: Joni and Friends
2) Lord of the Rings Guitar Cover – One of the feature films with the greatest impact on our family is The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The stories are gripping; the heroes are the stuff of legend; the villains are loathsome; the music is spectacular. Nathan Mills, Beyond the Guitar, has finally given us an arrangement of one of the great themes: Riders of Rohan from The Two Towers (second film of the trilogy). You can hear the theme in context with the story here (music rises after minute 5).
Nathan’s arrangement is here…and all us LOTR fans loved it (126,000 views and counting).
3) A Low-Carb Surprise – Earlier this week, we had a big supper with friends. A regular event where we take turns bringing food to share. This amazing cook in the bunch made loaded mashed potatoes. Having just finished a sugar detox, I have minimized carbs in my diet for over a month. Those mashed potatoes were so yummy. Not really ready to dive into unrestricted carb eating, I’ve been doing something very different (and appalling for me). Substituting cauliflower for potatoes and rice. Here’s the surprise. I’m shocked to confess that cauliflower is actually good…enough. With a lighter carb load and other nutritious qualities as well. Last night I made Shepherd’s Pie with a cauliflower topping. I don’t food-process the cauliflower; just steam it and then either mash it or crush it a bit with a fork (to use as rice).Cauliflower takes on the flavors added to it. Just as with mashed potatoes, butter and a bit of milk completed the substitution. Cheese on top and…hello!
Still…the next time it’s my friend’s turn to cook, that mashed-potato queen, I will not be slow to take my serving. Low carbs, not no carbs.
4) Blind Spots – Life coach and writer Martha Beckdefines blind spots as psychological “aspects of our personality that are obvious to everyone but ourselves“. She even prescribes a way to discover them.
“I know how valuable honest feedback can be, how much precious time it can save in my struggle to awaken. I still have to force myself to go looking for it, but when I do I almost always benefit.
Try this: For a week, ask for blind-spot feedback from one person a day, never asking the same person twice. Just say it: “Is there anything about me that I don’t seem to see but is obvious to you?” You’ll probably want to start with your nearest and dearest, but don’t stop there. Surprisingly, a group of relative strangers is often the best mirror you can find. I’ve worked with many groups of people who, just minutes after meeting, could offer one another powerful insights. Like the emperor in his new clothes, we often believe that our illusions are confirmed by the silence of people who are simply too polite to mention the obvious. Breaking the courtesy barrier by asking for the truth can change your life faster than anything else I’ve ever experienced.” – Martha Beck
As hard as negative feedback is to stomach, it is a great help to avoid continued odd responses from people or the distancing that can happen when our blind spots get in the way of intimacy and care in relationships.Photo Credit: Vimeo
Now blind spots and “buttons” are different and yet connected. Buttons – those things people do that make us crazy – actually point to some of our blind spots in the way we respond to people pushing those buttons.
For instance, one of my buttons is when someone treats me like I’m stupid, or gullible. Like when a person tries to help me understand a decision he/she has made as if it’s a good thing when I know, and he/she knows, it’s not necessarily a good thing for me. This sort of thing makes me really burn (standing in the need of prayer here). OK…that’s a button, but my response reveals a blind spot. My blind spot is that if I take a stand in some area then it means that I am totally right in that stand. Sort of the same as the button but from a different direction, you know what I’m saying? It’s helpful to know our blind spots and our buttons so we can work out ways of being more honest and honoring in our communications.
He talks about the hazards of indecision. Taking responsibility for our lives means to make decisions based on where you are and where you want to be at some future time. Life isn’t meant to happen haphazardly. Yet, because of our fear of failure or insecurity about making good decisions, we default to not making the decision. Then we languish in our current situation, losing ground even…rather than taking hold of our life and moving it in the direction we believe it’s meant to go.
Commitments are important to make and to keep. When we commit to something publicly, we have even more impetus to do what we’ve said we will do. This isn’t shaming or guilting…this is operating as a mature and responsible individual. These kinds of commitments also grease the tracks for success in that expressed decision.
Making a commitment means you’re seeing it through to the end. It means you’re leaving yourself no escape routes. You’re burning any bridges that might lead to lesser paths of distraction. Your decision has been made. There’s no going back. You’ve passed your point of no return.
Where decisions are made in a single moment, commitment is seeing those decisions into the future. Especially when life gets difficult. – Benjamin Hardy
A friend made the statement “You fake it until you make it.” I’ve heard that spoken before but never by her. “Faking it” is something that doesn’t fit this incredibly wise and reasoned woman. What she further explained though brought the meaning. So what if we aren’t sure of ourselves in the decision. What if our desire is to commit to something but we aren’t sure we can actually follow-through. Then we “fake it”, or really, in her further explanation – “You walk the talk until the talk becomes your walk”. Make the decision; execute the decision.
Make the decision you want to. Eventually, you grow into that decision through your commitment and personal resolve. Your goals are something you grow into.
Happy Friday! I hope you’re ending your week on a high note. If not, you might find some help right here. So pick your Friday Fave, and dig in.
1) Financially Fit – One of my absolute favorite blog writers and thought leaders today is Benjamin P. Hardy. Unless I didn’t notice it before, he has been ending his blogs lately with a free Going Big Checklist. The checklist speaks to a person’s desire for financial freedom and heightened productivity. I got it and it’s really good! He also recommends a financial coaching firm by the name of Financially Fit. Hardy is actually one of their clients and has been for over a year. As incentive to do a phone appointment with one of their consultants, I could receive Hardy’s upcoming book The Proximity Effect. Sold!Photo Credit: Financially Fit
Before my appointment, I poured over their website. It was informative, user-friendly, and convincing. My conversation with Chris Patton, a client consultant, was even more compelling.
The focus of this company is to educate, motivate, and provide accountability to their clients toward debt elimination and wealth creation. I’ve never pursued wealth, myself, but after talking to Chris, the idea of creating greater cashflow was intriguing. Just think, to have the money to fulfill big dreams and life aspirations (not just for yourself but to help others) is something to consider.
Anyway, I’m also considering signing on for financial coaching with Financially Fit. The price is incredibly reasonable and there are no entangling strings attached. Check out their website, read some of the stories of people who have eliminated their debt and created wealth, and educate yourself. I’ll check back in with an update on my own financial fitness.
2) Beyond the Guitar – Nathan Mills, classical guitarist, continues to create beautiful musical content. Currently he is posting Daily Shorts – arrangements on request – on his Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter. They are tasty morsels of favorite themes that he arranges for classical guitar. Follow him and you won’t miss these dailies.
Inspired by violinist Lindsey Stirling‘s piece on YouTube. Both are gorgeous using different instruments. Here’s Nathan’s version:
3) Addiction Recovery – I’m not talking about street or prescription drug addiction but one that can cause some of the same struggle. Recently, I wrote about a sugar detox. Today I’m a week into dealing with my dependence on sugar. About three years ago, the articles written on sugar intake’s negative impact on the brain (especially memory) were beginning to pile up in my social media streams.Photo Credit: Pixabay
Memory especially is something I’d really like to retain. After watching my dad’s spiral downward with Alzheimer’s, it’s been cause for daily reflection – both on how much he loved sweets, and how much I love them.
I’ve successfully gone off sugar in the past, and I’m hoping to do it again…at least detoxing, and then strongly curbing my dependence on sugar. The first days of “no sugar” were not that hard. Then yesterday, I hit a wall of sorts. Depression is a struggle sometimes, and my ready remedy historically is a carb load (some sort of sugary or fatty carb-filled treat to sedate my troubled brain). An emotional cloud settled around me yesterday, and sugar wouldn’t be my go-to to pierce the cloud.
I have found that certain activities can effectively help with bouts of depression. They are:
Prayer – I prayed. It did help.
Exercise – Walked with the neighbors. Also helped.
Serving others – Helped a refugee family with paperwork and shopping. Also helped.
Still, the darkness didn’t lift altogether. Then something amazing happened. I texted the parents of our little grandson a longing sort of message (that not many adult children love receiving). My daughter-in-law wrote back quickly and proposed dropping by after an errand.
Added immediately to my list of depression aids and dealing with sugar withdrawal and addiction recovery – GRANDCHILDREN.
In very close proximity. If you struggle as I do, this is something I highly recommend. Even if you don’t have any in your family, find some! We have two grandchildren who are a complete delight to the heart and a brightening of any burden. OK…enough. Doing better today and still off sugar. Whew….
4) Parenting – Anyone who is a parent and wants to do right by our children have already read much of what’s out there. Victoria Prooday, an occupational therapist, writes a piece that won’t necessarily give you new information. However, The Silent Tragedy Affecting Today’s Children – and What to Do About It does succinctly propose direction for weary parents of over-stimulated, emotionally distant children. Prooday posts provocative statistics which may not be wholly verifiable, but her statement of problems of children today is spot-on. Technology addiction, sedentary lifestyle, and emotional disconnectedness are three areas that parents must address to help children grow into healthy adulthood.
Being a visual learner, I love infographics. Here’s one on caring for “one another”. The teaching of Jesus focused on this as second only to our love for God. We all long for community. No matter our religion, the wisdom of “one-anothering” can transform our relationships. What do you think?Photo Credit: Overview Bible
Hope you’ve had a good week, since it’s pretty much done. Deep breath! Friday Faves coming at you right now.
1) Storytelling – When I was growing up, listening to stories was one of our favorite forms of distraction. Huddled around a campfire or under blankets at a sleepover, we would listen to funny or scary stories that kept us wanting more. In these days, good storytelling seems a neglected art form. Our friend Tom Elliff tells great stories and we never grow tired of him repeating them. Very little of Tom’s storytelling has been captured on film (you can enjoy some of his stories in this sermon). Fortunately for us, Tom has published some of his stories because you don’t want to miss them.
Communicator David Grossman has written many helpful pieces for us who would love to sharpen our storytelling. Two are linked below. His quick formula for excellent storytelling is depicted here:
I’ve written previously about storytelling here and here.
How’s your story-telling? Please comment below about your experiences with story-telling or good story-tellers.
2) The Restorative Nature of Music – I love music. Choral music is my favorite, but some instrumental music, as well, has captured my heart (this musician in particular). I sang in choirs from the time I was a small child. In college, I had the opportunity to sing with the Emory University Choir, a very different experience than that in a smallish Baptist church choir in the South. It amazes me to this day how music can touch emotions…even to the point of being therapeutic and restorative. Whether it is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or Alzheimer’s Disease, music can have a positive soothing effect.
Watch these two short videos of the impact of music on two elderly persons. So beautiful.
3) A Film Company – I don’t know how I first became aware of local filmmaker Nathan Clarke. He is the founder of Fourth Line Films in Richmond, Virginia. Here is how he describes the work of this company:
“Fourth Line is a Richmond, Virginia based production company specializing in documentary and authentic storytelling. As lovers, students and champions of film, we know the inherent power of a good story exceptionally told. That’s why we apply cinematic tools and techniques to produce engaging, authentic stories that captivate audiences. We strive to create films that don’t just entertain, but incite a response.”Photo Credit: Fourth Line
4) Ethnic Food – Across the street from each other are two of my current favorite ethnic restaurants:
Habanero Mexican Grill – This is a tiny restaurant with most of the seating under umbrellas on the patio. It’s an order-at-the-counter experience, but they handle groups really well. Mexican food doesn’t always love me, so it’s not my go-to dining experience. This is the exception. Really great fajitas and taco salad, just to name two.
Mediterranean Bakery & Deli – This restaurant (deli and market) caters to anyone who loves Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food. So good. The grocery products, the music, and the tastes and smells take us back to our life in North Africa. The fatayer (an inexpensive pie of meat or spinach, with or without Feta cheese added) is so yummy. Always our go-to.Photo Credit: Mediterranean Bakery, Twitter
If you’re a Richmonder, please take a moment to comment below what your favorite ethic restaurants are around here. Thanks!
5) A Sugar Detox – I can’t believe I’m writing on this topic outside of a piece on addictions. Still, mentally and physically, my resolve is steely right now to deal with sugar in my life. After a few days of family vacation ahead of us, I’m coming back to do a sugar detox. Photo Credit: Pixabay, Saramukitza
Diets of any kind are suspect for me because they never seem to have lasting impact. Diets also force you to be “consumed” with food – which is so counter-intuitive since it’s the unhealthy consumption of food that is already the problem.
Twice in my life, I came completely off sugar – once while pregnant with Nathan, and the second time 3 or so years ago. Both times were very positive experiences, once I got past the addictive pull of sugar. Even now I just don’t eat chocolate or doughnuts (two lovely trigger foods for me)…everything else has become fair game again…and I am quite fond of sweet treats.
So…here’s the weekend. Hope you have a safe and refreshing one with lots of loves around. The world today seems to breed loneliness which is so odd with the myriad ways people are able to be “connected”. It helps for me to be aware, and to reach out instead of throwing a pity party of one. Hope you have no idea what I’m talking about. For the rest of us, let’s reach out.