Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Seven healthier days? (#healthy65 Day 7)

This is mainly a checking-in post. It's the end of Day 7 of my #healthy65 Holiday Challenge. To my surprise, I've achieved my goal of reducing my gum consumption by at least half each day. (My goal was only to do so at least two days each week.)

I'll confess the amount of gum I'm talking about: It was typically 96 to 128 of the small squares of Dentyne Fire. That's up to eight packets of gum. For seven straight days now, I've chewed 56 pieces or less. I cringe to think of how much I'm still chewing, but I know it is a major improvement.

I don't see myself ever completely giving up gum, but I hope to never go back to chewing more than I am now, and I would like to reduce further.

Right now, it's still very much one day at a time to not go back. I really thought I would do it today. It seemed like it was going to be more gum or more food -- and before the day was over, I suppose I did eat a little extra. That is a related part of the goal that I'm actually still trying to figure out. I can eat a little more food in exchange for the missing gum calories. A serving of dairy and a serving of veggies are healthy choices. But many days I forget that. Maybe that's why I'm waking up feeling hungry.

Coming days and weeks will include many challenges for me to fall back into the old habit, grabbing another piece of gum without even thinking. It's only by thinking that I don't grab the extra. But the same thinking that is required to keep me from chewing more also takes my thoughts to a higher plane. This isn't just about gum. It's about a healthier way. It's about discipline. It's about hope. It's about gratitude. And I am grateful.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

#healthy65 Day 1

Even my lame gum goal is not easy. I still will not say how many pieces of Dentyne Fire gum I typically chew in a day. Cutting that amount by half as part of the Healthy 65 Holiday Challenge took an amazing amount of focus. But I did it.  And along the way, some other things somehow fell into place as well. The top of that list is that I left work on time so I wasn't late to choir practice, breaking an annoying habit. 

When I bought my midweek groceries, I replenished my Dentyne supply as if I don't expect to be able to cut back every day. But I am going to try. I think any number of charities will appreciate the more than a dollar I will save each day. 

My goal is just twice a week. I might as well try it again tomorrow and see if I am on a roll. It can't hurt. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My #Healthy65 challenge

A colleague has launched The Healthy 65 Holiday Challenge, and I want to participate.

Juliana Keeping began writing about it last week on her hithisiseli.com blog, and she officially started her 65-day push on Monday. Her intent is to go from Nov. 10 through Jan. 13 doing at least one healthy thing each day, with a goal of something greater.

From her introduction:

The goal is to do one healthy thing a day beginning on Nov. 10 and ending on Jan. 13. You can define what “healthy thing” means. It can be a choice that is physical or mental. You are free to do the healthy things in any combination, whether your goal is to cut back on caffeine for a week and see what happens, walk at lunchtime now and again or give kale a chance — at least once. If reading soothes the mind, that can be a thing. If drinking a glass of wine and spinning Johnny Cash soothes the mind, that can be a thing. Want to try yoga/Zumba/hip hop dance? This is your excuse. A thing can be anything that you know contributes to your own wellness — the mind, the body, the soul.

For those who want to participate, these are the steps:

Step 1. Think about what you’d like to get out of this. (For Juliana, 65 is a symbol of her nearly 2-year-old son Eli's chronic illness, cystic fibrosis, which at times has been referred to as "65 roses" by children who had trouble saying the name. "Doing something healthy with the number 65 in it feels like a move of solidarity with the CF community," she says. Also, 65 days provides plenty of days before, during and after the holidays to establish good and healthy daily practices.)

Step 2. She suggests writing down your goals, and keeping them simple, not extreme.

Step 3: "Do at least one healthy thing per day for 65 days starting Nov. 10. Feel free to do more than one."

Step 4: "Make sure to tell us about it." She suggests using the hashtag #healthy65 on social media, including Facebook.

Her column ran online on NewsOK.com over the weekend but didn't run in print editions of The Oklahoman until Tuesday. I asked her if that meant a person could start Tuesday or Wednesday or whenever and extend their 65 days accordingly, and said she said yes, of course.

So, I want to start Wednesday. But I'm still stuck on writing down some simple, not extreme, goals.

Why do I want to do this?

When I first read about Juliana's challenge, it piqued my interest. Over the years, with the support of church, family and a 12-step program, I've incorporated many healthy practices in my daily life, including eating fruits and vegetables and limiting fats and sugar; prayer, meditation and Bible reading; exercise; and journaling.

But I've been very aware recently of some things that continue to weigh me down, even if they don't add actual pounds to my frame. I don't get enough sleep. I chew way too much gum and eat more carrots than any human could really need. And while I don't eat sugar, my consumption of artificial sweeteners has concerned me for some time.

Might the #healthy65 community provide the extra incentive for me to improve in one or more of those areas?

But which one? I pretty quickly felt doubtful I could achieve goals of improvement in any of those areas. If I haven't with my 12-step program, why would I with this?

Yet, I can't shake the desire. So I signed up. And I haven't given up.

So, even as I'm up past when I need to go to bed to improve on my sleep, I'm trying to define some goals.

-- Two days a week, I will chew at least 50 percent less gum. (And no, I'm not going to say how much I usually chew, but I know the amount and will be honest about whether I achieve this.)

I must admit: This is agonizing. IS THAT THE BEST I CAN DO FOR A GOAL?!?!?!?! Yes. Sigh. My hope is that, by even attempting this, I might feel empowered to do more. And above all, not give up.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I voted. Now what?

About 13 hours ago, I joined the ranks of my Facebook friends who posted a link showing that they had done their civic duty and voted in the mid-term elections.

I added the comment: "OK, me, too. Still uncertain on a couple of races. And I have to check the state election board site for the judges and county races. Seriously, if I don't know who is on the ballot by now, should I even be voting???? (I do know who is on the ballot, but that still doesn't help me decide. Is it better to flip a coin? Or should I leave that one blank?)"

One friend noted that to leave a race blank is to vote for the winner, and expressed surprise that I was uninformed.

I replied that I wasn't so much uninformed as unsure and skeptical. "It seems like in a lot of cases, no matter who wins, nothing really changes. And the more I dig for information, the more confused I get. In some races, candidates and their supporters on both sides make a good case. And in a few races, neither side really wins my confidence. But I will vote. And pray!!...."

Disillusioned is the word that comes to mind now to describe how I felt.

A post on the Denison Forum by Jim Denison offered some guidance and perspective. In a nutshell: "Ask yourself before voting: which candidate is most likely to lead in accordance with God's Kingdom purposes? Research your options; learn the candidates' positions; seek the Spirit's guidance. Then vote as though the election depends on you, and pray for the winners as though their effectiveness depends on God."

I'm also praying for the citizens. Although I'm glad the elections are over so that the campaigning -- on TV and radio, in the mail and over the phone -- comes to an end, I'm concerned about the great frustration being expressed by people who were hoping for change that did not occur, at least in Oklahoma. What will it take to turn bitterness and frustration into productive, effective action? What will it take for the winners to listen to the side that didn't win and hear those concerns, rather than just view victory as a mandate to run roughshod over the minority viewpoint?

I truly think only God knows. But I pray to discern what He would have me know and do to be a positive force for good as a citizen and as a Christian.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Shepherd, the Psalmist's Son and My Daddy's daughter

In a rare scheduling occurrence, I knew two weeks ahead of time when I would be attending what I consider my "home" church, where I spent most of my growing up years and where my mom and other family members still attend.

So, I did what I do, which was to ask if it would be OK for me to do a solo. My request was granted, and I began trying to choose a song.

I love to sing, but I am not a confident or trained vocalist. My heart says sing, but my mind often tries to talk me out of it. And that can make song selection difficult. For the most part, through the years, singing special music at church has become a spiritual adventure. The processes of song selection, practice, second guessing, finally singing it and trying not to keep doubting typically provide many lessons and insights. This time was no different.

I think the first song that came to mind was Mark Altrogge's "I Stand in Awe of You" (Ecclesiastes 5:7), a relatively new one to me that has words and a melody I love. "You are beautiful beyond description, too marvelous for words; too wonderful for comprehension, like nothing ever seen or heard. Who can grasp Your infinite wisdom? Who can fathom the depth of Your love? You are ... majesty, enthroned above. And I stand in awe of you ..." I have at least two hymnals with the song, but searched in vain to find either. At the same time, I wasn't convinced this was the song I would sing. I continued to pray.

Somewhere along the way, the thought of singing "Blessed Assurance" came to mind. I don't remember if this was before or after I realized it would be the Sunday before the anniversary of my Daddy's death (what is it now? three years ago?). But that song, which i sang at the celebration of Daddy's life, didn't seem right for now, either.

On Friday, as I read my favorite Jesus Calling devotional, one of the referenced Scriptures was the 23rd Psalm. And I became pretty sure that's what I wanted to sing. So I started looking for my sheet music of my favorite version. I could not find it, either.

Most of the time, along this journey, I end up finding my copies of the music, and that becomes a confirmation of my song choice. This time I did not. But I found ways to practice both songs without the music. When Sunday came, I wasn't sure which song I would sing. But I ended up singing "The New 23rd" by Ralph Carmichael. And it was the right choice.

I could beat myself up, wondering, when will I ever truly learn to just trust that God is going to work everything out -- and therefore I can skip all this stress? But I think it's possible what seems like stress I go through is maybe a refining process. I do know God works it for good.

I was grateful to be reminded of, and to share in music, the message of Our Lord as a gentle shepherd, as described by the Psalmist David, the man after God's own heart, and with whom I feel a special kinship through the name of my father, Charles Davidson, making me a daughter of the Psalmist's son.

"With blessing overflowing, His goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life. And afterward, I will live with Him forever in His home." ("The New 23rd" by Ralph Carmichael)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Iconic

One of the things I looked forward to on a leisurely trip to  San Antonio was shopping for artsy Aggie clothing and accessories. To my surprise and confusion, about all I could find was the burnt orange of Texas Longhorns. 

I finally figured out why. (And my deduction was confirmed in my mind when I found lots of Texas Aggie gear in suburban north Dallas on the trip back to Oklahoma.)

Longhorns are iconic Texan. Longhorns go beyond the University of Texas the same way Sooners transcend OU. So, in touristy areas, of course people are selling and buying - banking on -- the icon. 

Texas A&M and Okie State are more specific to universities. I get that. And it also helps me understand, as someone who still considers myself 100 percent Texan despite having spent 32 of my 55 years in Oklahoma, why I relate more to longhorns than Sooners. 

It's just the way it is. 

Fortunately, sports team gear in North  Texas (except for Gainesville, which seems to market more toward the Red River Rivalry between Oklahoma and tu) is fan-driven, so I was finally able to add the desired couple of pieces to my Aggie gear. 

Meanwhile, I'm especially glad that  bluebonnets also are iconic in Texas. I supported a few local artists by picking up some small pieces of work. 

What I didn't find  but would have had to buy was artwork that beautifully showed  bluebonnets, a windmill, a cat and maybe a mailbox and-or a barn. Oh, and toss in the Lone Star flag for good measure. 

Maybe next time. Even with all that burnt orange, I'll be glad to make a return trip to San Antonio, hopefully to again spend time on the River Walk, not far from the iconic Alamo. It does my heart good. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

If not for fear ....

If not for fear:

-- I would pledge $40 a month to K-Love, the listener-supported Christian music radio station I tune into every day in my car. (But maybe it's wisdom: How do I know someone isn't getting rich off of the donations? Or maybe it's love: I'm not sure my husband would want me to give that, and I don't want to rock the boat by asking.)

If not for fear:

-- I would express to more than my husband and a few very close friends and family members how troubled I am about certain cultural/spiritual issues .... But I am fearful, and I am now deleting the heart of what I had written about what I honestly wanted to express ... editing it in vague terms, to say, in my heart and soul, I am so FEARFUL for our nation. To me, it looks as if Americans -- including lots of Christians -- are defying the word of God that supposedly is our blueprint for life and relationships.  I know I do and have done some things that I think God clearly disapproves of, based on my understanding of God and the Bible. I can get myself to think God understands why I do what I do, but I can't get myself to think he approves. And so I strive for something better. I think the message is clear on selfishness, gluttony, greed, laziness, caring for those in need and other issues I struggle with, including fear. I can't fathom deciding that what I perceive as my weaknesses in those areas are just who or how I am and that I should accept them. I press on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ ... (Philippians 3:14)

On that note, if not for fear:

-- I would put people first (visit and help the homebound, grieving, sick and those in need -- my list is so long). Instead, I keep thinking I have to get my own house in order first. That's wise, really, isn't it? And it's showing commitment to my husband, who would love for my house to be orderly! But when I see how little progress I am making toward getting my house in order, I have to wonder.

-- I would eat more healthily.

-- I would take on freelance writing projects.

-- I would pursue more music.

-- I would have cats.

-- I would trust health care providers. What's with my skepticism of doctors? The latest has to do with blood work that shows a deficiency for which my doctor sells the supplement. Sigh. Is the skepticism based on fear, wisdom or something else?

That was 9 a.m. Oct. 9. At 11 pm or so, I pledged $40 a month to K-Love. I am totally trusting that God will make this OK. I listen to K-Love every time I am in my car, which includes a 25-mile commute to and from work and five miles to church. The music and messages help me stay focused on God. And it does sound like the ministry helps carry the gospel and hope to others. I want to be part of that. This seems like a positive step.

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." 1 John 4:18

I want to be perfected in God's love.

"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. 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."
(Hebrews 12:1–2)