Eat Clean in 2017!

Hello Everyone!

Welcome to a New Year! A New Year means resolutions and change for many.  And you can guess what the number 1 resolution is:  weight loss.

For me, it’s not just that I’ve overeaten…I have pretty much binged on sugar. So now the clean eating begins….

When I say, “clean eating,” do you feel defeated?  Don’t!  It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.

  1.  Protein
  2.  Veggies
  3.  Healthy fats

As long as you have these items on hand, along with some kitchen basics (e.g. reduced sodium broth), you can eat clean EASILY.

Here’s how simple this original recipe was….

Leftover zucchini, red bell peppers, sweet onions, green beans, chicken meatballs, and chicken broth.  Add cracked pepper or other spices if desired.

In summary, sauté any and all veggies you have on hand.  Add broth and protein.  You’re done!  It really is THAT easy.

Soup with protein and vegetables fills you up and gives you all of what you need to eat clean.

This is Hope Unveiled.

IMG_1971.JPGIMG_1972.JPG

Advertisements

Relationship Tips as You Gather

“The Heritage of the Past is the Seed That Brings Forth the Harvest of the Future.”

This quote from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. is dense with meaning and application.

Gathering Together…

The first gathering for thanks most likely occurred in 1621 even though it wasn’t officially recorded until two years later. As you learned early in your academic studies, the settlers had had many obstacles in the heritage of their past that posed challenges unlike any other.  Let’s face it.  The majority of us will never know what kind of hardship and trials they faced.

These families focused on what they DID have, not what they had lost.  Unlike the photos and popular belief, they wore clothes of bright colors and enjoyed song, dance, and outdoor activities. In fact, this tradition began after they had experienced a two month drought. Gratitude.

As You Gather Together….

These are the “seeds” that you plant in the present:

  • Refuse to react.  If someone “pushes your buttons,” you make the choice that it will not bother you. Take a deep breath, leave the room, or let it roll off your shoulders. Learning the skill to de-escalate will take you a long way.
  • Find common denominators. There tends to be a focus on what divides in relationships.  I encourage you to intentionally find what unites. This could be as simple as watching a movie, playing board games, cooking, sports, etc.
  • Focus on the people. Focus on the people who are present.  What do they enjoy? What are their interests?  What are their hobbies or career interests? What current challenges do they face? How can you encourage them?
  • Don’t “go there” with hot topic issues. Decide ahead of time that if you know people at the same gathering have different philosophical ideas, a boundary should be erected before the conversation begins to snowball.  If someone tries to push buttons among the group, kindly respond that it’s not the time or place. Use appropriate body language, words, and tone. Shift the focus on an idea or topic for all to contribute.
  • Ask open-ended questions.  Nothing will diffuse a potential argument than incorporating this technique.  If someone offers an opinion,  ask the following: “Tell me why that’s important to you,” and then leave it at that.  Don’t offer your own side of looking at things. You won’t change someone’s belief system while gobbling down turkey.
  • Ask each other what you are thankful for.  This is an especially useful “tool” if you’ve experienced hardship or grief this last year.  Why?  Science has proven that if you intentionally focus on what is going well, it balances out your cognitive thinking so the negatives don’t spiral you emotionally. The perfect ratio is >3 to 1 (listing at least 3 things you are thankful for even in the midst of the one negative event).
  • Be flexible. If families have changed, are blended, or experienced loss, be flexible and forgiving with the traditions of the past (what to fix, when to meet, etc.).  Remember:  it’s not the tradition that you’ve held, it’s about creating memories with people you care about.
  • Forgive. This isn’t about the other person, it’s about you.  Forgiveness is a process (much like grief), and must be “walked through” with a pastor, counselor, or life coach.  Forgiveness is about letting yourself off the hook, not the offender.  Life’s too short to hold to grudges and bitterness.  Do something about it now. It’s about YOU moving ahead in life.
  • Grief. If you have experienced loss, somewhere along the line you’ve adopted a belief that says, “I must stay strong for the family.”  You have permission to cry and acknowledge your loss among your gathering. Of course things are different. You are embarking on a “new normal” and right now you have no idea what that looks like.  So, cry together, laugh together, and remember the person who is no longer there.  It promotes the healing promotes and is the first step in the grief process. In holidays to come, you may want to remember their memory in a special way at family gatherings.  Be creative and allow your idea to fully embrace the person who is no longer with you.
  • Dress colorfully. As simple or silly as this may sound, there’s psychological benefit to wearing something that positively affects your emotions and makes you feel good.
  • Hobbies. Between gatherings, be sure to build your resiliency “tool box” with things you enjoy – reading, resting, painting, etc.  These hobbies and healthy coping skills make you resilient during times of stress.

Let this season of gathering be joyful – regardless of hardship and trial – and decide now to take ownership of what YOU bring to the table.

Life Coaching Tip:

Regardless of the “heritage” behind you, you decide what “seed” to plant TODAY that will reap a future “harvest” in your life.

This is HOPE UNVEILED!

 

 

 

Why Hacksaw Ridge Brought Me Full Circle

It was only fitting that I would choose this movie as the week closes on Veterans’ and Election Day.

I watched the movie as close to home as I have gotten in the last 15 years – Smith Mountain Lake – since my parents have passed. Ironically, this location is only an hour from the setting of the movie and where my parents took retirement after active service (Lynchburg, VA).

One of my earliest memories is meeting my father in Honolulu while he was on R & R from Viet Nam. He had already served in World War II and Korea. I wasn’t more than five years old when we swayed and danced to The Girl from Ipanema. He led while I positioned my feet on top of his. But something happened in those post retirement years, not long after our dance. How one handles horrific experiences of combat is unique.

In the years that followed, I went to college, married, and became a mother. My young adult self would utter, “I just don’t understand,” when my father, this Army colonel, never volunteered to discuss his more than 30 years of active service.

A few years before his death, I imploringly wrote a short note inside a Father’s Day card, asking him to share his experiences with his young grandsons. The card was coupled with a shadow box of medals I had stumbled upon that had been tucked away in old bandaid boxes. How could something so valuable be hidden or kept in this manner?

I “consciously objected” to what I perceived as his lack of understanding on my part to know his history. I was trying desperately to understand the father I didn’t. And to know the father who had survived 3 wars and 8 combat campaigns, but slowly died in life engagement during post retirement years. But you don’t know what you don’t know. And, because I didn’t know, I lacked understanding.

———

The graphically visual scenes of this movie left clear understanding of what these veterans lived through and died for on behalf of each of us. We don’t know what we don’t know. And we don’t know what we don’t see, live through, or experience.

Except for those who are or have been serving in the last decade or so, many in my generation have no idea what sacrifice means. And neither do our children. I don’t know what I don’t know. They don’t know what they don’t know. And for this I am convicted and feel ashamed. I have no idea what sacrifice means. Really.

The awareness that this movie provides is impetus for shattering some beliefs while strengthening others. Here’s what is true about life:

  • Battles in life can make us better or bitter.
  • Faith carries when foes throw us down.
  • Stamina is strengthened when strained.

My encouragement is for you to see this movie. Perhaps it will lend insight into a family member, yourself, or another.

And now I know what I know. And because I know, I understand. And because I understand, I can accept that to which I previously consciously objected. And maybe you will too.

Dad, I miss you. I have come full circle.

This blog is dedicated to all the men and women who serve this country. You truly know and understand. I salute you

H.O.P.E. for Helping Those Who are Hurting

It’s been an atypical week.

I’ve been on the receiving end of people who are hurting. Different “shapes,” “sizes,” and “scenarios” of pain. But pain, nonetheless. It can be pain as a result of having lost a loved one, pain from injustice, or pain from living in this imperfect world with imperfect people. Pain from any angle is still pain.

For any atypical week that I have, I handle and process these situations in my typical way – trying to offer a word of affirmation in the midst of life events that blindside the people we know.

We try hard to comfort, but let’s be honest. Many of us are uncomfortable in their pain and, because we care, we want the pain to go away quickly. Sometimes we don’t know what to say or we say nothing at all.

Here is a simple and powerful formula to help those who are in pain:

H. = Hug

When appropriate to do so, a hug says… “My words are void of making you feel better, but my touch imparts how much I care.”

And let’s face it…there’s nothing you can say that will lessen their pain.

O. = Offer

If someone is grieving a loss, offer comfort after the casseroles have ceased. Offer a meal long after the week of the funeral.

Offering a service or an intentional act of kindness says that you know would help them says, “I acknowledge that this pain has interrupted your life. I still want to serve you in a small way even though time has passed.”

P. = Plan

Plan a time to get together with the person in pain. As someone who has experienced different “shapes” and “sizes” of pain, it hurts when people withdraw or disappear altogether.

To plan a lunch, dinner, or coffee date says…. “I want to check in and just see how you’re doing.”

That’s it. And if your time with the person hurting is just a time of allowing them to cry while supplying tissues, it’s not wasted time. Be a safe and confidential person with whom they can let down their guard and cry or vent as needed. Be the person who offers no judgment, just a shoulder.

E. = Empathy

Empathy doesn’t come naturally; it is learned.

Empathy says…. “I don’t need facts,”  “I can’t imagine the pain you must be feeling, ” and “I am so very sorry.”

Empathy allows their pain to override the amount of facts you know. If it is someone outside of your family, the true test of whether or not you really feel empathy for the one hurting, you won’t desire the need to know facts. The other’s pain is enough. Put yourself emotionally in their situation.  Be in the moment with the person hurting. Don’t hurry into their future by offering painful platitudes such as “There is a reason,” “There is a plan,” or “You’ll be fine.”

Learn the art of offering hope in an atypical way. This is Hope Unveiled!

Why Women Need Other Women

I’ve never been “in” to girl drama.  But there’s HOPE!

Needing other women in my life has absolutely nothing to do with drama.  It has everything to do with the value they bring to my life. My peers. Older. Younger.

This past week I deeply missed our sons for family vacation.  But what did God do for me?  He confirmed for me what I will affirm for you:  Women need other women.

Here’s why:

The physiology of our brains is similar (unlike our male counterparts). We literally process life and relationships differently.  Women have more connective tissue between the two hemispheres which, in turn, allows for differences in communication and understanding.

We need to carve out time to BE with these special women face to face.

Social media does not take the place for this kind of shared space. 

We need same age peers to encourage us. My trusted peers have been part of my life for decades.  They’ve seen me at my best and worst.  

We share milestones and stumbling stones. Through it all, they are my stepping stones.

We need older women to teach us.  My older female friend has been a part of my life since I was a toddler.  I learn from her in ways she doesn’t even know.  She encourages me as a woman, wife, and as a mother. She’s wiser, gentler, and kinder.

She is further along on the path.  Through it all, she is my corner stone.

We need younger women to inform us. We must stay abreast of current societal and cultural trends. I’m older and (hopefully) wiser, but I don’t know it all.  And the challenges that affect generations after us are unlike any that we’ve experienced.

They clarify culture, refine me, and polish my understanding.  Through it all, they are my gem stones.

Do you have generations on each side of you to teach you?  Do you have trusted friends – just a few – to encourage you?

Don’t look for “girl” drama.  Look for real HOPE by connecting with a selected few.

This is Hope Unveiled.

 

 

 

Why Not Being Athletic Doesn’t Matter Anymore

The irony of it all.

PAST

My father went to college on a football scholarship.  He majored in P.E., took a leave during World War II, and then returned to complete his degree and become an Army officer for life.

He and mom adopted me as a baby so, unfortunately, I didn’t have his gene pool.  But he was determined to trade the gene pool for a swimming pool, and we spent endless summer days with him trying to teach me to swim and dive. My skills in both still leave a lot to be desired.

As the years of childhood progressed, I was usually the last to be picked for the kickball team in P.E. class, hated anything to do with physical activity, and used a supposed heart murmur to keep me from intentional exercise during high school and college. As a college senior, I was praying I wouldn’t fail the freshman P.E. class due to having to run a mile and a half in a certain amount of time.  My only goal was to keep up with my roommate who used to run in high school.  I’m thankful I didn’t literally pass out or worse… I had had NO physical activity throughout my life until that very day.

While my husband was in dental school, my mother bought me the Jane Fonda workout video.  That was my first attempt at any cardio.

PRESENT

Today, I’ve progressed from Jane’s workout to cardio, strength, and other forms of physical activity.

Since I’m adopted and I have no medical history, I have made a decision to control all the variables that I CAN without knowing my genetic pool.  Of course, this includes diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices.  Don’t think for a minute that your lifestyle choices – day in and day out – don’t have a cumulative effect on your overall health.  If nothing has happened yet, let these statements resonate from Gary Thomas’ book Every Body Matters:

“Fitness isn’t about avoiding disease; it’s about avoiding frailty” (p. 114).

“About 66 percent of adults in the United States are either obese or overweight, with abut one-third being obese” (p.120).

“The reality is, however, that exercise usually adds to our lives.  A Harvard alumni study, which tracked deaths among 17,000 men for more than two decades, suggests that “overall, each hour spent exercising adds about two hours to a person’s life expectancy” (p.165).

FUTURE

Here’s the reality:  I have no idea how many days have been ordained for me (Psalm 139:16). But God has created you and me with a WILL to choose how we each will be a steward of the ONLY body He has given us.

In addition, He has a plan and purpose that only YOU can fulfill.  That only I can fulfill.

It’s your mission.  It’s my mission.

How can you NOT take care of yourself to complete the tasks He has for you?  How can I NOT take care of myself to complete the tasks He has for me?

I’m now in a class with likeminded students as we encourage each other to fitness. Forget the P.E. class of old.  It doesn’t matter anymore.

The irony of it all.

If I can change, so can you. Today.

This is Hope Unveiled!

 

 

 

 

Questions Before and After My Naturalization Day

IMG_4805

I still remember this day.  I was 4 years old. My mother, grandmother, and I boarded a train in the middle of the night to Washington, DC where we met my father for the Big Day.

My Big Day was a Big Deal.  The shrouded details of mystery in leaving one country to enter this one are still just that, shrouded.  There are many questions that still linger.

Since I was obviously a minor at the time of my naturalization, my mother filled out the questionnaire on my behalf.

Here are the questions:

  1. Have you married, or been widowed, separated, or divorced?
  2. Have you been absent from the United States?
  3. Have you committed any crime or offense, or been arrested, fined, or charged with the violation of any law whatsoever?
  4. Have you joined any organization?
  5. Have you become a member of the Communist Party?
  6. Have you claimed exemption from military service?
  7. Has there been any change in your willingness to bear arms on behalf of the United States; to perform non-combatant service in the armed forces of the United States; to perform work of national importance under civilian direction, if the law requires it?
  8. The law provides that a petitioner for naturalization shall not be regarded as a person of good moral character who, at any time after his or her petition for naturalization has been filed, has committed adultery; has been a prostitute; has procured any person for the purposes of prostitution; has been a narcotic drug addict; or has dealt in narcotic drugs illegally in any way.  Have you committed such an act or been such a person?

The questions for the process of naturalization have, no doubt, changed.  And the questions that still remain unanswered are still a mystery to me.  I waffle between HAVING to know and TRUSTING in what I don’t.  Nothing changes the result:  God’s sovereign hand in literally plucking me from one part of the world and placing me in another.

Some questions answered, some not. Regardless, I have been given freedom in the Land of the Free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Who You DO Have

img_01121.jpg

If today is a “glass half empty” day for you, please keep reading (and stop scrolling through Facebook).

Maybe your father is gone.

Maybe your father is still alive, but isn’t present.

Maybe your father has “checked out” in some form or fashion for reasons you may come to understand in years to come.

My father who has been gone since 2001 would have qualified for all the above. While life is  mysterious and complicated, goodness and forgiveness abound.  There’s not a Father’s Day that goes by that I don’t remember  and truly miss my dad. And now with a whole lot more understanding and insight than my younger self realized.

But I felt compelled to shift my focus this year, so please come along with me as I explain…

Currently, the men you see in this photograph “have my back.”  As I gazed at this impromptu photo taken a few weeks ago, I began to think about each of them in a special way.  Why?  Because these are the men who I focus on today. No, not all of them are fathers, and that’s my point.  For me, these men – in their unique ways – influence me more than anyone else I know.  Here’s why:

For one of them, I am learning what it means to shake up the status quo and look at the world and people differently.  To think and rethink.

For another, I am learning what it means to never complain and to live out a life that is honoring whether anyone notices or not. To love and be lovely.

For the third, I am learning what it means to view blessings and opportunities humbly while seeking a greater purpose.  To reserve and to serve.

For the last one,  the father of my sons, I am learning what it means to partner continually with a sense of “we-ness.” To tackle that which delights and dismays.

Each man in this photo impacts and influences me to become a better person.  I see in them who I am yet to be.  The mirror they hold up causes me to see a reflection of who I truly am and how I need to change. To reflect and introspect.

Celebrate the men in your life who “have your back” and encourage you to be a better version of yourself.  I challenge you to pick up the phone and call (no texts allowed) someone who has touched your life in a special way, whether they are fathers or not.

The glass is half full, remember?

 

 

Anxious Living: “Y” in R.E.S.I.L.I.E.N.C.Y.

This is the last blog in my series on stress management.

IMG_0025

You wake to another day of stress.  Instead of a “new beginning,” it seems more like “here I go again.” Chronos time instead of kairos time.  The former indicates the time ticking off the clock, while the latter connotes time that is “pregnant with purpose.”  Keep reading.

The “Y” in R.E.S.I.L.I.E.N.C.Y. implies leaning in and saying “yes” to whatever the particular life challenge may be that is causing stress.  Let me make a clear distinction here….

This is not permission to continue with a frantic lifestyle.  If your schedule is stressing you because your problem IS saying “yes” to too many things, this is an issue of boundary setting.  Your life needs margin on every level: physically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually.

These are things that you ultimately have control over, whether or not you believe it to be so.

What I’m specifically referring to in this blog are the stressors that you have no control over. Examples would include, but are not limited to, grief; family crisis due to another’s actions; caregiving; conflicts in relationships; marital difficulties.

These are things that you ultimately don’t have control over, but are affected by.

Neurobiology is currently clear about the psychological and physiological benefits of tackling issues instead of avoiding them.  And here we have the concept of “fight or flight” coming into play as well as one’s interpretation of the stressor itself:

“I can do this. It’s not an easy time, but I can handle this”   rather than    “This is the worst thing that can happen,” or “Why is this happening? I don’t deserve this.”

For instance, grieving people need to clean out their loved one’s belongings, dine at frequently visited restaurants, etc.  In other words, saying “yes” to those things they wish they didn’t have to deal with. The process of doing so, however, is not only healing, but also allows them to grow in confidence as they journey toward a new normal.

You are actually more resilient than you believe you are, but how you interpret an unexpected life stressor is crucial to your ability to maneuver through it.

Here are some additional coaching tips for a season of stress:

  • DAILY GRATITUDE.  Yes, gratitude.  Be intentionally thankful and focus on what is going well (e.g. physical wellbeing, healthy relationships, what you’re thankful for, etc.). Be grateful for the smallest, often taken for granted, things.

The Positivity Ratio (>3 to 1) postulates that learning to incorporate gratitude as a habit when life is going well will be psychologically beneficial when things aren’t.  It help you cognitively balance out the negative (the “1”).

  • DAILY RECOVERY TIME.  If you are in daily chronic stress, have daily recovery time (e.g. listening to music, reading a book, a favorite hobby, etc.).
  • DAILY INQUIRY FOR GROWTH.  Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, encouraged his post WWII patients to look for the “bigger picture” perspective (e.g. “How can I allow this event to not be wasted in my life?” or “How can I help others later on?,” or “What can I now contribute to society [mankind] because I have gone through this experience?”

Lean in. Say yes. Be proactive as possible.  Seek professional help if needed.  Practice self care.  Set boundaries (either for self care or relationally).  Allow margin.

Each day has an ending.   One day you will awake to a new beginning where you find yourself to be stronger, wiser, and better able to encourage others.

This is Hope Unveiled!

 

Anxious Living: “C” in R.E.S.I.L.I.E.N.C.Y.

IMG_5884

The “C” in R.E.S.I.L.I.E.N.C.Y. acknowledges four concepts for buffering stress. Consider the following:

CALM

Learn to cultivate calm evenings.  In particular, there are two recommendations:

  1.  Do not discuss “heavy” topics at night with family members.  This activates the brain in ways that is not conducive to restful sleep.  If needed, discuss stressful topics during daytime hours.
  2. Develop a calm bedtime routine.  This may include a relaxing bath, soft music, no blue light (for an hour and a half before bedtime),  reading a hardcover book, etc.

CONNECTION

Share your stress with a trusted friend or professional.  You are a “jar of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7) and need to have an “inner circle” to connect and commune with during challenging times.  In addition, these trusted individuals can bear the burden of your stress by either just listening, or actively serving you to lighten the load. In either instance, put pride aside.

CAFFEINE

The tendency to be stimulated during a time of stress is a vicious cycle, especially if you haven’t been able to sleep well.  Be intentional about greatly reducing your caffeine intake.  If you’re used to caffeine at all three meals, begin by deleting it at the dinner hour.  Once your body is used to this, delete the caffeine at lunch as well.  Ideally, drink your cup of Joe in the morning and be done.  Your body is already stressed enough; caffeine doesn’t help the cause.

CRY

My grandmother always told me that a good cry was good for the soul.  Neurobiology has confirmed her wisdom.  The hormone that causes the production of cortisol is found in your tears.  Specifically, a 2-4 minute cry has stress reduction benefits. So go ahead and cry; however, beware of a pattern.

With these 4 concepts in mind, how can you…..

A. Make one change – and eventually more – in your bedtime routine to alleviate stress?

B.  Identify a trusted friend, family member, or professional to share your stress with?

C.  Monitor and delete your caffeine intake? Perhaps a family member to hold you accountable?

D.  Not suppress your feelings and give yourself permission to cry?

In summary, use these tips to manage stress.  Remember: The idea is to buffer and build (resiliency).

This is Hope Unveiled!