Chaotic Peace

It's been a long, busy week. I'm a mentally and physically drained introvert. I've got a long list of work-related items to knock out today, not to mention a full kitchen sink, messy counters, and the pile of Christmas lights that are still sitting on our bedroom floor because I just haven't managed to get them downstairs into their storage box. This is life. 

Life is messy, it's busy, it's filled with crazy chaos at times. While standing at the free (because our local martial arts studio loves parents!) coffee center at taekwondo last night, waiting to get a small cup of bean juice, I stepped out of character and started talking with the other mother who was getting coffee ahead of me. We laughed about the fact that we wake up in the mornings and our first thought is "how long until bedtime?" Every day this week has been hijacked by appointments (planned and unplanned), errands, and life. I am firmly convinced that God created coffee beans for parents. Step aside perky teenagers and college students...Mama needs her coffee! 

This morning over on Facebook, I've been staring at the blinking cursor after the words "January 18: #iamthankful..." for far too long, my mind drawing a blank. Sometimes it's hard to focus on gratitude in the middle of life...which is exactly why I practice the habit of intentional daily gratitude. One of our girls has put down, "thankful for the chips you packed in my lunch" every day this week for one of her 'thankful for' items. And while I want her to start thinking BEYOND food for her gratitude list, this week I have had to chuckle because sometimes the "bag of chips" is all you can think of -- and you truly are thankful for them!

On Wednesday morning, I was picking out bananas at the grocery store and looked up to see my childhood friend who tragically lost her husband one year ago (and gave birth to their son just hours before the funeral). She was picking out flowers and a balloon to place on his grave. I have watched her over the last year as she has worked through the grief of widowhood and the joy of being a new mom, sharing both the sense of loss and the wonder of new life through her Facebook posts and her blog. Seeing her in the store on the one year anniversary of her husband's death was a stark reminder to me not to take any of these crazy days for granted.

Last night, during all of our running around in the car, I told the kids that I was going to play the audio Bible that I'd been listening to. Although it was for me (and my sanity) and not specifically for them, as the narrator began to read out of 2 Thessalonians and then 1 Timothy, the car became calm and peaceful. As the last words of Paul to Timothy ebbed away, I heard my 7 year old son say quietly - from his seat in the very back of the car - "That was good." Yes, God's Words are always good. They are edifying and thought-provoking. They remind me that this life (and the chaos that often comes with it) are just temporary, and we are to make the most of every opportunity that we are given. Life is a vapor...live it for the Glory of God. And in everything, give thanks.    


In the Books (A #WOMNS Post)

We're two weeks into the new year, and I'm two books closer to reaching my 2019 goal of 50 books. Over the weekend I finished reading A Matter of Loyalty (A Very English Mystery Book 3), and Peril in Paris (Taylor and Rose Secret Agents).

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash
The first was the finale (sadly) of a series that I stumbled onto in mid-2018 and began listening to as an audio book (my first!) while walking this autumn. I enjoyed the narrator and his myriad of voices, and the story was intriguing. Nothing earth shattering, but an unusual mystery style, set in post-war England, and a good way to fill 20 minutes a day as I walked. You can read a slightly different review of it on Goodreads, if you're so inclined.

The second was one that - truth be told - I downloaded because it had "Paris" in the title, plus I had enjoyed some of the authors earlier work. These are definitely written for an audience of 9-12 year old girls who are not yet reading through the lens of skepticism that adults have. Of course the British Secret Service are relying on 17 year old girls to save the lives of royalty and solve the murder of a double agent in Paris! Think some kind of strangely modern Nancy Drew (young girls running their own, ethnically diverse detective agency), but set in pre-WWI era Europe, and you've got the idea. That being said, it's exactly the type of series I would have loved when I was the age of the target audience, and I read these - in part - because I'm always looking for options that one or more of our girls would enjoy and get sucked into. For my other thoughts, read the Goodreads review.

I have several books going at the moment, both physical and electronic. I'm taking full advantage of the free Prime Lending Library (up to 10 books at a time), and am currently involved (off and on) with The Widow Clicquot and The Bletchley Girls as a result of that.  On my actual nightstand, you'll find an old fallback (Poirot) in Mrs. McGinty's Dead, and a book that I requested (and received) from the Hubs for Christmas, World War One: A Very Peculiar History - which has been fascinating so far.

There are so many books on my nightstand and queued up in my Kindle, and so little time to read these days, but where there's a will, there's a way, right? Of course, right! Bookworms unite.

What are YOU reading?


Learning to Live Healthy

I weighed 95 lbs. when we got married (and I was 18 years old). Three years later, my final semester of college, I had to take a College Algebra class in order to graduate. Not passing it would have meant that I needed to take three additional math classes (so three additional semesters of college). I was stressed to the max (hey, I was an English major for a reason!), and spent the summer semester crying over my class, begging my teacher for mercy (which she gave in abundance - bless her!), and eating a large bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream every.single.day. I passed the class (which allowed me to graduate that August), but my clothes no longer fit. Although I never saw a number below 100 again on the scale, when I stopped shoveling ice cream into my mouth every day, my metabolism settled down and I got used to my new normal weight (still small, just not as small as I had been).

Over the next few years, the Hubs and I traveled the world, working with humanitarian aid organizations in Africa and southeast Asia. My weight stayed pretty even (around 108-110 lbs. - still super healthy for my 5'2.5" frame), thanks in part to the amoebas that we picked up everywhere we went and the stomach issues that went along with that. But when we returned to the U.S. in December 2008 and the Hubs went back to a 8-5 job, I was home alone with no job and a lot of time on my hands, and the numbers on the scale started moving up. Within two years, I crossed the 130 lb. threshold and was freaking out. To those out there (my current self included) who wish we could see 130 on the scale, let me share this insight: when you've lived your life to that point wearing size 0 and 2 (without trying), it's a shock. 

In 2010, the Hubs and I went on the South Beach Diet and I lost 25 lbs. and he lost more than 50. We felt better than we had in years, though a little foggy headed (the result, we later learned, of completely cutting out carbs - who knew your brain needed bread?!), and settled into the lifestyle of removing rice, bread, and sugars from our meals, whether we were eating out or at home. I blogged about it here, and was so pleased when I could fit back into my favorite skirt again. Life was good...but not sustainable, as we learned when I finally got a (stressful) job as a pharmacy tech in 2011 and home cooked meals were replaced with fast food options. 

In 2012 we both changed jobs, which allowed me to work from home, and I also developed an interest in cooking. Great for our taste buds, but since my inspiration was Julia Child and her love of butter, the weight began to creep back on as the South Beach Diet was forgotten. And then there was the (stress of the) adoption that God called us to. By the time we traveled to Central America in 2016 to bring the kids home, we were both at our highest weights. During our first 8 weeks with the kids, I lost over 15 lbs. (from stress) and the Hubs lost about 25. While the weight loss was an awesome boost during a very rough period of time, again, it wasn't sustainable. Once the stress-level went down, the weight returned...and more. 

In mid-September of 2018, I stepped on the scale and discovered that I was at my highest weight ever, and had crossed a line I never thought I would see. When the kids came, we lost our exercise room to storage, so using the treadmill was no longer an option. I wasn't sure what to do, but I sent a text to my prayer group and told them that I needed HELP! As it turns out, the three awesome ladies in my group (plus a couple of other friends who I regularly text with) were all in the same boat and decided to get on board and start holding each other accountable. One of my friends suggested trying it for 21 days, because she'd read that it took 21 days to make a habit. We each shared what we would be specifically working on, and the next day, I stopped in a parking lot close to the kid's school and started walking. I walked that day. And the next. And the next. More and more days I chose to turn into the parking lot, even when I didn't feel like it. It was only 20 minutes, I told myself, and somehow that made it doable. Day after day after day.

Before I knew it, 21 days had passed and walking was a habit. I actually found myself missing it on the days when something stopped me. I walked in heat and humidity, in rain and cold, in blustery winds and on perfect autumn days. I joked that I was turning into the post office of walkers! At first I saw no difference on the scale, but then one day I noticed that the waistband on my pants wasn't quite so tight, and with some hesitation, I stepped on the scale in our closet and was thrilled to see the number had dropped by two pounds. What made me happiest of all was that it really didn't feel like work. Even when our treadmills were actively in use, it felt like a chore. I had to put on my exercise clothes, I needed to select something to watch, I needed to go fast in order for it to count. As it turns out, all I really needed to do was just move. I don't walk fast, I don't dress for it - shoot, most days you'll find me walking in some kind of dress oxfords and pearls! But it's working for me.  

Since that time I've been faithfully counting calories (using the awesome and FREE app, Lose It - available on the Google app store) and walking an average of four days a week. To date, including two notoriously bad food holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas), I have lost 14 lbs, and I'm still pressing on. I feel better, have more energy, and don't feel like I've had to give up any of my favorite foods. I'm finally at a point in my life where I recognize that diets aren't sustainable, but moderation is. I don't fix separate meals for me while the rest of the family eats, I just eat less of what they're having. I've plateaued again, but I'm not stopping. And even if this is where I land, it's still healthier, my pants fit again, and I know I'm better off than I was before. Win-win-win.

SIDE NOTE: Not all bodies are created equal. I don't want this to sound overly-simplified. Despite what you might think ("this skinny gal has no idea!"), I'm married to a man who has fought his large Dutch genes his whole life. These days (as he counts his calories along with me), he often says that the only thing that's changed is that he's now counting the calories that he eats while weighing the same. It's frustrating to me (on his behalf) to see how little he eats and to know he's paying attention and yet seeing no downward movement on the scale. He's spent the majority of his adult life actively battling his weight. In some instances, genes seem stronger than willpower. But to quote Galaxy Quest, "Never give up, never surrender!"      


The Year of OPEN

Psalm 119:18 says, "OPEN my eyes so that I can see all the wonderful things in Your teachings." In past years, I've chosen a word that I hoped to focus on over the course of twelve months, but usually around month three I've forgotten the word and moved on. It's been a while since I've picked a word for the year, and had no intention of selecting one this year - and yet here I am. In 2017 my unofficial word was "survive" and 2018 felt more like "grow", but over the last few weeks I've felt like God has continually led me back to the idea of being OPEN in 2019. 
  • OPEN to what the Lord has next - we don't believe that adopting five kids was the only plan He has for us. And we don't want to get comfortable thinking, "Okay, we've done our big thing, we're good to retire from service now!" While we are aware that our biggest job at present is to continue to love, instruct, and disciple these five, we also want to be OPEN if He wants us to teach them by including them in doing and not just listening to us saying
  • OPEN to following Him outside of my comfort zone (again) - adopting five kids was never on my radar and certainly not in my comfort zone, so I find it funny that this is one of the areas that being OPEN has been impressed upon me because most people (myself included) would probably say that I have a lot of experience in doing just this. But here's what I also know - it's so easy to find a new level of comfort and stay there
  • OPEN to what He wants to teach me this year - again, a bit of a surprise because I feel like I've been on a crash course for the past few years in learning what I don't know and how much I need Him, but there's always room for more of Him and less of me. It's easy to think you've arrived and to begin to feel superior to others (at least, it's easy for me to feel that way), and I need God's painful reminders that I won't arrive this side of Heaven
  • OPEN to getting messy with people - because people ARE messy. They take up your time and mental space, and suck introverts dry (being totally honest here). God has brought me a long way in learning how to love people, but I'm still not a people-person by nature. Even though I think there's a time and a place for recharging (while wearing noise-cancelling earphones and hugging a good book), it shouldn't be at the expense of saying 'yes' to God when He nudges me to get involved in the lives of others, even when it's not convenient for me. And speaking of being an introvert (and married to one as well), I also want to be willing to... 
  • OPEN our home up more often - this might just be the hardest one for me because it means relaxing my grip on my false sense of control. Things will get broken, messes will be made, and people will stand in my kitchen and get in my way...but that's just doing life together, right? This year I want to be intentional about inviting people in and practicing hospitality, offering encouragement, creating a safe environment to share concerns, and (most of all) boldly, but lovingly, giving Biblical responses that go against the grain of our society. I want our home to be a place where people see Jesus clearly reflected in our actions, reactions, words, and advice - not because we are amazing, but because HE is. 
Choosing to be OPEN this year causes me to feel a bit like this sign in this image (which I did not take). The experiences, bumps, lessons, and people that God has placed in my life over the last 37 years have made me as unique as this sign - not pretty, but functional. Just as the maker of this sign had a plan in mind before welding it together, the Maker of me had a plan in place for my life long before I was born. And as He continues to OPEN my eyes to His story for me, I choose to be OPEN to what He will write in to this year's chapter. 

What about you? Do you have a theme, idea, or word for 2019?



Happy New Year, friends! I closed out my 50th book on Goodreads two nights ago, just in time to make my 2018 Reading Goal. I *might* have cheated just a bit there at the end as I began to count Christmas books that I was reading to the kids, but I didn't feel too bad about it as several of them were new to me (even if they were short). I've got my 2019 goals in place, and if you're a reader on Goodreads, I'd love to connect with you there and exchange reading recommendations!

If you've been around the blog for any time at all, then you know that I'm a fan of mysteries. Although 2018 found me expanding my authors and detective circles, I have long been hooked on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes character, and Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot.

My personal library contains a number of volumes by both authors, and this Christmas the Hubs indulged me a little bit more by stuffing my stocking with Sherlock Holmes footwear. But as I curled up on the bed to re-read a classic Poirot (Mrs. McGinty's Dead), I couldn't help but wonder if it was wrong to be mixing my detectives in such a way...what do you think?


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