April 13, 2016

Giving Thanks

It is a good Wednesday here in sunny and mild Phoenix. I cannot believe I am saying "mild and Phoenix" in the same sentence, but there you have it! Yes, the weather is somewhat mild today. The temperature is right around 66 and our high is expected to hit about 84. It is perfect weather to be out of doors. Sigh! I guess it is a good thing that I will be on campus today. At the least, I can enjoy my time walking to and from my classroom buildings. God is so good to me, so very good to me. He has provided the BEST job I could have hoped, prayed and imagined. I am giving Him all thanks, all praise, and all honor, this good, good day! Selah!

Making Progress

So I passed another restful night last night. I slept with the fan on again, and I have to say, it does seem to be helping with my night flashes. I didn't fall asleep quite as quickly as the other night, but I did get a solid 6 hours of rest, and for that, I am very thankful. I am thinking the reason I didn't get to sleep right away was because I did my workout after dinner. I normally try to do it between 3-5 p.m. This time slot works for me. Even on work days, I like to get it done before I have dinner. This gives me a good couple hours to relax afterward BEFORE I turn in for the night.

Last night, I got hung up with my grading so I didn't get to start my program until nearly 7 p.m. Still, I did my "Shred," and really pushed myself. I am feeling the "burn" today -- oh yeah -- my thighs, arms, and abs are definitely feeling that "day after" soreness. I have to admit that I kinda like that feeling -- I like the tightness I experience after a really solid workout. I guess it is just the reminder that my body is getting stronger, that I can workout and improve my fitness level. I am not sure, but thanks to the Lord, I am really enjoying this new found process of diet and exercise. It is a good thing, a really good thing!

I don't have anything to report on my "Shred" progress other than to say that I am continuing to see cardio improvement daily. Yesterday, I was able to complete almost all the cardio without stopping. I still had to catch my breath at the end of circuit 3, but even then it was just for a quick moment. I am doing well on all the strength exercises except for the side lunge/lateral raise movement. I cannot get it right yet. I can do the side lunge, but not raise the weights. Or I can raise the weights, but I can't lunge correctly. I am working on it, steadily, making some progress. Overall, I love this DVD. It is still interesting to me, and I am finding that the 20 minutes just flies by. I love that I can workout intensely for 20 minutes, cool down, and be done. I so wish I would have found these workouts sooner -- but then -- I might not have used them considering how busy I was at the time. The Lord's timing is always perfect. I am thankful for His grace and His mercy and especially His timing. Selah!

My goals are to stick to my program -- both diet and exercise -- so I can reap the benefit of better cardio health and overall strength/fitness. I am noticing continued tightening of my mid-section, and my thighs, while not "shredded" yet, are taking on some new shape. I decided that my goal is to create really strong lower body muscles rather than strive for "thin thighs." You know, I've never had super thin thighs. I had bowed thighs (I still do), but over time, they filled in so they don't look that bowed anymore. Still, I tend to have that hourglass shape (large bust, tiny waist, and large hips). I am flat, though, very flat, so my goal now at age 50 plus is to build some character to my shape. This means I would like to have a bit more "backside" curvature, and since I cannot really get my thighs to drop 2-3 inches so they will be super slim and trim, I can make them rock solid and very toned. So my appearance going forward is to be strong, muscular, and very fit. Yes, I want that fit body that says "this is the shape the good Lord gave to me, and I am thankful for it!"

Just an aside: It is sort of funny, really, but last night while I was checking out my progress in the full-length mirror, I noticed that my breasts were not quite as saggy as before. Perhaps it is just wishful thinking, but for those of us blessed with large breasts (D, DD or bigger), well age doesn't always do us a favor (KWIM?) Yet, I swear that I noticed an uplift, a tiny little uplift, that says to me -- "Keep on doing those chest flies and shoulder/back exercises, Carol!" Woohoo! Did I say that I am loving this workout program? Well, thanks be to God for His provision of this particular DVD series. Thank you, Lord! Thank you for caring enough to help me choose the BEST workout series for this task and goal. You are GREAT, you are GOOD, and your GRACE exceeds all imagination. Selah!

Little Changes Can Reap Big Results

Yesterday, I blogged about how it takes 90 days to change your lifestyle. I started thinking about this idea, and it came to me that the same thing happens when you change your thinking about anything, really. For example, I made the decision on Sunday to let go of the past so that I would no longer be trapped by those feelings and memories. It is not that I am forgetting my past or not keeping memories of happy times. No, not at all. But what I am doing is no longer remembering the past, revisiting it to think about what happened to me or reimagining the painful elements of past experiences. I have let all that go, and in letting it go, I simply mean that I am making a "lifestyle" choice that says I will not drum up old experiences. They are done, they are buried in the past, and I am not going to go digging them up again.

Joyce Meyer says that we are to enjoy our everyday life. One of my favorite Joyce quotes is this one:

“Happiness is not a feeling, it is a choice. To be happy, one must choose to be happy, not respond to a circumstance that now controls your happiness.”

And when speaking about the past, Joyce says, "Our past may explain why we're suffering but we must not use it as an excuse to stay in bondage.” This quote in particular is from her excellent book, "Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind." If you haven't read it, and if you are struggling to overcome doubts, fears, and insecurities along with low self-esteem, this book is really worth the read. It is not difficult -- Joyce writes in a very user friendly way -- and the reading level is easy to digest (all levels). The content, though, can be life changing. I read this book back in 2008, and it was liberating for me. I hadn't even started to endure the biggest trial of my life, but I know that reading her advice on how to stop the battle in my mind, was necessary in order to prepare me for those difficult next few years.

Getting back to the quote at hand, however, reminds me that we choose what we will believe each day we are given. Thus, we can choose to be happy. We can choose to be positive. We can choose to be thankful. We have the power to choose our outcome (our mind, our attitude, and our heart-approach), but so often we allow our circumstances to dictate what we think about a particular situation. So, I made the decision to let go of the past. My past does not define me. It has prepared me for this day. It has shaped me and made me into the person I am today, but it isn't the sum total of who I am. No, it is just part of the package that makes up "me." I am letting my past go so that I can embrace my future. I need to be ready to tackle that future, and that is going to require work on my part -- in attitude, in heart-approach, and in mind -- so that I can be in the moment and be ready when the Lord calls me to do some special task. If I am always stuck in the past, always reliving those experiences, I will not be in the correct mindset to do what He needs me to do.

Joyce Meyer says that once we can talk about our painful experiences WITHOUT reliving them, then we are ready to move on. Each person is unique in the time it takes for them to move through the evaluation phase (whereby we examine our past experiences and hurts so as to allow the healing process to take place). Once we have evaluated those experiences, it then takes time to process them, to accept them and their outcomes, before we can move on. It took me a couple years of evaluation and processing before I was ready to move on. I didn't stop living during that time, which is why it has taken so long to move through each experience. Yet, I am ready now to pack those bags and send them off to deep storage. I am ready now for the next exciting adventure of my life!

Transitions and Waiting

Last night, I had two strong dreams that seemed to be echoing my present situation. The first was a dream where I was staying in a hotel. I was waiting for my brother to arrive to pick me up so that I could move to my next destination. I needed to make travel arrangements, but I couldn't do that until he picked me up. In the meantime, while I was waiting, I had a task to complete. I had to go and purchase an award for someone. I walked from my hotel to a nearby golf shop. I browsed the shop looking for the best gift to purchase. I was content in my ability to pay for it (on my credit card), but I remember calling my Mom to ask how much I should spend on this gift. The funny thing was that as I browsed through the shop, looking at shirts mostly, there was this man with his young son near me. He was grumbling and complaining about the quality of the products. He was grabbing at shirts, tossing them about, and generally behaving in a very immature and selfish way. I remember seeing him pay at the register, and I thought to myself, "Hum. You didn't like anything in here, and yet you are buying that shirt!" I am not sure why that moment seemed funny to me, but it did. I woke up after that dream, never finding the "right" item to buy, and never moving out of my hotel.

The second dream was different from the first one. I was in the middle of an ocean. I was standing on a platform of abandoned cars. Yes, weird. These cars where stacked on top of one another and at the very top was a room. I was in this room with several other people. We were waiting to be rescued. I remember thinking that the rescue ship (it was actually a helicopter) was slow to arrive. The room would tip this way or that way, and it was precarious in the way it was situated on top of these cars. The worst part was that there were sharks in the water. Lots of them. Some of them were bound with rope. They could still swim but they were tied up so that they couldn't do much damage. Other, smaller sharks were freely swimming along the bottom of the ocean. I remember seeing them and thinking that I wanted to get off this platform as quickly as possible. Yet, I remember the helicopter coming and picking up just a couple people at a time. Mostly children were air lifted first. I had to wait with the other people until it was my turn to be rescued.

What was weird about these dreams was the fact that both of them seemed to align with my current life situation. I mean, in the first dream, I am clearly living in a temporary home -- a hotel, if you will -- while I wait for permission (a car, transportation, etc.) where I can pack up and move to the next place on my journey. The interesting part to consider is that I was waiting for my brother to arrive. I have three older brothers, but only one of them is my natural/full-brother. My other two brothers are my half-brothers. I don't see them this way, but for illustration, I note them as such. My brother has taken great strides to help care for my parents. He is the only one of the three who has offered to take on the role of caregiver to them. I think this is why I was waiting for him, in particular to arrive.

The second dream is similar to the first in that I am waiting in a temporary location. I am waiting to be rescued from the precarious position I am in. I see others around me who have greater needs, and their needs must come first, so I let them go ahead of me. But, I also sense the danger in the water, those sharks (evil), that are seeking to bite and devour us. They are bound, most of them, so they cannot hurt us, but there are few small ones swimming freely by that are not bound. I must wait for the Lord to come to rescue me. I cannot get off that platform without His heavenly helicopter (His provision).

These dreams serve to remind me that where I am today is temporary. I am waiting on someone, my brother and the Lord, to take the next steps. I cannot get free without either stepping in to resolve some aspect of my situation. I haven't spoken to my brother about my situation here at home, but he has offered and has taken steps to help in many ways. I wonder if the Lord is pressing on him the importance of taking on more responsibility for my parents. I think this may be so, I think it may be so. Until the Lord rescues me, I am to remain where I am. I am to stay put, for a time, until He arrives with His provision. Until then, I wait patiently, helping others, doing what I can do, and then He will come. He will come and He will rescue me from my precarious and difficult situation.

Making Ends Meet

I am thankful today for the way the Lord has provided for me to make ends meet. He has made it possible for me to teach part-time while I finish my PhD program. He has provided enough income to meet my monthly expenses, and He has provided new opportunities (as in new jobs) where I can earn more money down the road. In all, He has seen to my needs with sufficiency. I still wonder how I will get out of debt, how I will handle my student loans, etc., but so far, He has provided, and I have no doubt that He will continue to do so. He is good that way, so very good. Now, I must rest in the ability He has given to me. He has provided good practical work for me to do. He has shown me a good way to go. He has directed my steps, my schooling, and shown me how to achieve success. He has told me what to do, advised me repeatedly on the next steps. I am to be obedient, to listen to Him, and to abide in Him. There is nothing I need that I don't have access to at this point in time. But, I must trust Him. I must follow His instructions. If I do this, then I will find sweet success. If I do not, then I will find toil and hardship. I have decided to listen to the Lord, to follow His advice, and to pay attention to His instruction. There is no need that I cannot address with His guidebook. There is no need that cannot be supplied with His good instruction. Thus, I realize today that Proverbs 3:5-6 is correct. When we lean on our own understanding, we often reap the reward of our own effort. But, when we lean on the Lord's instruction, His counsel and advice, then we reap heavenly rewards (goods, services, and blessings in this life as well as in the life to come). I have chosen this good, good day to seek the better portion. Yes, I have chosen like Mary did so long ago, the better part. I have chosen to place Jesus as the center of my very being. Every thought, every idea, every word held captive in order to be in full submission and obedience to Him and to His authority. I want to experience that crop, that abundant yield that only comes through His hand of blessing. I want His BEST in every area of my life, and to receive His BEST, I must choose to do what He says IS BEST for me. He is good, so very good to me! Selah!

Therefore, as I close out this blog post, I realize that He has been trying to get me to listen to Him. He has been trying to get me to accept His determination on every aspect of my life. I have been leaning on my own understanding, questioning His advice and counsel. In this way, I have been considering if His way is BEST, when I have already known that it is so. As a result, I often have missed His BEST for me. I was too busy thinking about what He was saying to me. Instead, I should have been doing what He said, being faithful and obedient to Him. I could have shaved off a lot of time from this whole process had I just done what He asked me to do the first time. Yes, first-time obedience is always BEST.

Deuteronomy 28:1-14 AMP

I am reminded of the powerful blessing given by God to the Children of Israel (and to us, by grafting in) in Deuteronomy 28:
Now it shall be, if you diligently listen to and obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all of His commandments which I am commanding you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you pay attention to the voice of the Lord your God. 
You will be blessed in the city, and you will be blessed in the field.
The offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your animals, the offspring of your herd and the young of your flock will be blessed.
Your basket and your kneading bowl will be blessed.
You will be blessed when you come in and you will be blessed when you go out. 
The Lord will cause the enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way, but flee before you seven ways.  TheLord will command the blessing upon you in your storehouses and in all that you undertake, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you. The Lord will establish you as a people holy [and set apart] to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk [that is, live your life each and every day] in His ways. So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will be afraid of you. The Lord will give you great prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your livestock and the produce of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord will open for you His good treasure house, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow. The Lord will make you the head (leader) and not the tail (follower); and you will be above only, and you will not be beneath, if you listen and pay attention to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today, to observe them carefully. Do not turn aside from any of the words which I am commanding you today, to the right or to the left, to follow and serve other gods.
Oh yes, Lord! May I be faithful and obedient to you, to your WORD, and to your commands this good, good day! Selah!

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