April 12, 2016

Making Some Progress

It is a blessed Tuesday, and I am at home. Yes, I love my Tuesday and Thursday “free" days. I cannot thank the Lord enough for providing these down days for me. I find that I rest so much better because I know that there are two days free for me each week to just kick back and tackle projects here at home. I don’t know what I would do if I had to work five days a week again. Truthfully, I just don’t know.

It sounds weird to think about it, but I have gotten very used to this type of routine. I mean, I look to these days to get caught up, to take care of things that most people would do in the evening or weekend time off. I use it for teaching prep, mostly, and Regent, of course, but I also use it as “me” time. I love the fact that I can wake up to a Tuesday and do whatever I want to do. I am no longer trying to keep up with the Joneses or anyone else who feels that my “time” belongs to them. This means that I can plan my week and take control of my days as I see fit. I don’t always do everything I should, but most of the time, I do use my time wisely.

Lately, I have struggled to come to terms with my new role as “ABD.” I know it sounds weird to say it that way, but unless you have experienced it, it is difficult to understand why there is a disconnect from being a graduate student to being this “ABD” person. I am trying to stay focused, to stay on task, but I struggle because I don’t have the routine of weekly assignments keeping me in check. I have a list, for sure, but without the pressure to turn things in on time, I am finding that I laze about a bit too much. I need to get my head in gear, and get this project started. I am so kicking myself for my laissez-faire attitude right now. Sigh!

Still, here we are and it is a beautiful Tuesday, and I am home and thinking how blessed I truly am. I woke up at 7:30 a.m. feeling like a rock had slammed me hard. Not in a bad way, I mean, just like I had been knocked out over night. I slept with the fan on again, so I am thinking that the airflow has something to do with me sleeping really deeply. Anyway, I feel refreshed, and I feel like I am going to tackle my day and do well. That is my prayer for this good, good day.

Confusion or Peace

I’ve been in "deep thinking" mode the past couple days. I have been mulling over my options for longterm employment for the past couple weeks, just trying to understand how I will make ends meet if I am to remain an adjunct instructor (if this is the Lord’s end game) long term. I mean, I have been planning on a full-time position after making it to "ABD," but lately, I have gotten the sense, a feeling really, that perhaps the Lord intends for me to remain part-time as faculty and do something else full-time like ministry. I am okay with this outcome, but I have been wondering about it and thinking how can this be, how can this BE the end result of all my efforts to achieve my PhD.

The weird thing is that in my recent thinking, I have this sense of peace about doing part-time teaching coupled with full-time ministry. Yes, it is true. I have this sense of peace over every area of my life right now. It is as if there is this sense of "okayness," if that can be a word, that is permeating my entire being. I just feel OKAY about whatever the Lord intends to do right now.

It is like all of a sudden, I have this sense of peace about either pathway. If I am thinking of working full-time as a professor or working part-time as an instructor and doing full-time ministry -- either way -- seems like it is ideal. I don’t really “feel” or sense that I am off the track or missing His mark with my line of thinking, and that just is a bit weird for me right now. I guess this says to me that whatever I am feeling today, whatever peace I have is a confirmation of future opportunities blessed by His hand and set aside for His provision and His goodness. So while I feel unsure of the way to go right now, I also feel secure in this line of thinking. Sigh! I guess it is time to stop overthinking and to start letting these doubts and fears go. Yes, I need to let this go as well, to cease striving to understand His plan, and instead, just embrace what He has provided to me at this time and for this season of my life.

It is GO Time

It has been a couple days since I made the decision to “go” — as in — “get my backside moving toward the Lord’s will for my life.” It was on Sunday when I decided to go “all in,” and I made the decision during our church service to let go of my past hurts, disappointments, and memories, and to embrace my future 100% of the way. I decided that it was time to put my “future” lenses on and start looking toward His hand of blessing rather than looking at what seemed like a perceived lack in my life. I realized, just as the children of Israel did, that the wilderness was not their home. No, they had to do the “right thing” and get themselves out of the desert and move themselves (through obedience) into the blessed peace and prosperity of the promised land.

I have been stranded in the desert (literally and figuratively) for a long time. I have tarried in this place (AZ) far too long, and I have refused to go when the Lord said to me, “Carol, it is time to go.” In my disobedience, I sat down and refused to go (for a myriad of reasons), and in the end, I suffered the consequence of not moving as the Lord directed me. As I settled here in this place, trying to make it feel comfortable, I realized that nothing would make this place better because it wasn't the place the Lord had in mind for me. I tarried. I stayed when I should have "gone." I learned the lesson of life in the desert, and now that I am on the cusp of moving again, I don't want to settle down, to stop the forward momentum because of the big UNKNOWN out there. I am less scare of that UNKNOWN now than I was before, but still I don’t know what to expect or where He intends to use me. I want to get up and go this time, to really get moving, and to finally go to where He plans to send me. Selah!

Next Steps and Update

So my next steps are to wait on the Lord for His provision to physically go. I mean, I am ready mentally. I have said good-bye to the past, and I have embraced the future possibility of "going." I have determined that it is best for me to walk in faith and to be obedient to His call. Thus, I have let go all these other attempts I have made to try and "make" my future happen. This means that my wants have been pushed aside in favor of His best for me. I have let go my desires and my needs in order to receive His blessed provision for my well-being. I have chosen to follow a path that doesn't seem to make sense to me right now. In fact, I would say that it is opposite of what I believed would come to pass. Instead, it seems really doable, like really doable (Lord willing) for me. Furthermore, I sense that this might be His will for me, as in complete will, for my life. I am feeling this call toward a specific line of work, a ministry position that would be both "job and Lord's work," and that excites me. I am not sure what will be, but I feel that perhaps all my toiling here in the desert has produced some fruit, some very good fruit. I mean, I am thinking now of possibilities for my career that are not directly in teaching, yet not in outside of teaching either. I know for certain that I am not to look at corporate or industry-related work. No, my PhD is for ministry, and the work I have done thus far is to prepare me to help the Church communicate faith more effectively. This I know for certain. Yet, I struggle with how to do that, how to make that happen. I have thought for a long time that I would start a ministry on my own, that I would run a ministry organization and develop curriculum that would serve the Church in this way. Now, I am not so sure about that path. It is not that I am to do something different, but it seems like the way to produce those results has changed for me. Now, I am sensing this pull toward a different way.

Hmmm...I need to pray more, think more, and rest more until this new line of thinking clears a bit. Either the Lord will confirm it to me or I will come to see that I am not thinking clearly and He will help me change my mind about it. I am trusting Him today to provide clarity of vision, an understanding of what this all means, and a reasoning for me to follow after what I believe He is saying to me. I will trust in Him this good, good day! Selah!

"Shred" and Diet Update

So today marks week 2 of my "30 Day Shred" program. I am so proud of my efforts thus far. I have actually stuck with this program for one whole week (hooray!) I have seen some good results to start, and I anticipate more as I move through the program and make it to the finish line. Some totals from week 1:
  • Pounds: .08
  • Inches: 1 inch all around 
I haven't done Atkins well this week at all. I started it off, but about mid-week, I found that I needed to eat more calories (thanks, Jillian). I switched from tracking my progress on the Atkins tracker to the MyFitnessPal tracker, which offers a bigger food diary. I also like the MFP because it tells me how many calories I can have each day, rather than just focusing on carbs. I am trying to choose good foods to eat and to follow a sensible diet. I know that if I restrict my carbs more, I will probably see a bigger drop in weight right away. However, I am okay with the slower progress of a pound per week. I only need to lose 20 pounds so doing it week by week works for me. Sure, I would like to be down 6 pounds right now, you know, and able to fit into my skinny jeans. But in truth, does it really matter? I am trying to change my lifestyle and that takes time. 

I found this graphic online and it reminded me that the slow-go often is the best approach. We've all heard it said that it takes 21 days to create a habit, but when you are trying to change your life, really make a major life change, well it is going to take more than 3 weeks to do that and make that change stick. Thus, this coaching advice -- 90 days -- to create a new lifestyle makes sense. If I want to replace my bad eating habits and lack of exercise routine with good eating habits and weekly fitness goals, then I need to create new habits for both of these things. But, I cannot expect overnight results. No, if I want to create a lifestyle change that will be consistently applied long term then I must be patient and be diligent to implement this change every single day. It is a commitment to better health, wellness and vitality rather than a commitment to seeing the number on the scale drop drastically in the shortest amount of time.

I know, mind blowing stuff here, but I hate to admit the fact that I, too, get suckered into the "get the weight off quick" fads. Yes, I have done the grapefruit diet, the all-fruit diet, and even the paleo diet (not really a diet but a healthy way of eating). I am looking to lose weight, for sure, but I want to do it in a sensible way rather than just following a fad diet that might end up hurting more than helping me achieve long-term weight success.

Of all the approaches that have worked for me over the years, the only way I lost the weight and kept it off was through Weight Watchers. I did WW Points System back in 2001 and I lost all the weight I had gained over the previous years of bad eating and zero exercise. Yes, the day stepped on that jumbo scale of theirs was the day I received my biggest "wake up" call ever. I had no real idea that I had gained 35 pounds over the course of the previous 6-7 years. I simply didn't see myself realistically back then; I didn't see myself accurately as having put on that much weight. In many ways, I still thought I was the same size I had always been even though I was buying bigger clothing to fit my expanding backside. Now that I think about it, I realize that I had the reverse experience of women who suffer from eating disorders, whereby no matter the scale reading or their actual size and shape, they still see themselves as fat. I was just the same way, in that I justified my size by saying that I was only 10-15 pounds over weight, when in reality I was almost 40 pounds over weight. So when the scale read how many pounds where actually on my 5' 6" frame, I was shocked, horrified, and absolutely devastated by the truth. I just didn't realize how my emotional eating had affected me.

I joined WW with my Mom in September of 2001, and it took me 16 weeks to drop 12 pounds. At first it was hard to reduce my portions at each meal. I was used to eating whatever I wanted and whenever I wanted to eat -- even when I wasn't hungry. The WW Points system appealed to me because I liked the fact that nothing was off limits -- it was a matter of playing the points game each day -- so that meant I could still have chocolate or chips if I wanted to have them. I like the fact that as I decided what to eat, and I decided how many points to save each day, I was in control of what went into my mouth and body. I found the whole experience empowering. And, as I took control of my food choices, the weight just fell off of me.

In many ways, it was easy to do. I was religious about my points and I was very good at writing everything down in my food diary. As I totaled my points each day, added more water to my diet, I watched as the weight dropped off me. In all, I lost 35 pound in about 9 months. My weight slowed down after the turn of the new year, but I still lost the weight. It just dropped from 2-3 pounds at first down to about 1/4 or 1/2 pound thereafter.

Since that time, however, my weight has yo-yo'd back up and down as I have dealt with a number of emotional and psychological issues. As the years turned toward the half-century mark, I also have had to deal with peri-menopause and now menopause. The weight gain has been difficult for me because it seemed that nothing I tried would work. Thus, I have lost 10 pounds, then gained it back, then lost it again. It has been a vicious cycle for me. I have not hit back to that high again for a while, but I've come close. It scares me to think about being overweight again. I hate feeling overweight. I hate it when my clothes do not fit well. I hate it when I cannot do the things I want to do with ease. Yes, I hate feeling like I am stuck in cement when I want to move, move, move!

So this spring, after exams and all were finished, I made the decision to take my health seriously. I thought that this time around, I would use Atkins again because it does tend to produce quick results. Normally, I can lose about 6 pounds in two weeks -- when I do the program correctly -- and not just do it half-way. It seems like a lot of the weight loss is water loss, but still that big drop in scale weight motivates you to keep on with the program. I've tried Atkins twice now this year, and neither time was I able to stick with it for more than a couple days. Still, I gave it a good try last week, but I found that I am struggling to keep with Atkins for some reason. It is not that I mind eating eggs, bacon and Atkins bars for breakfast or relying on Chef salads for lunch, but rather it is that I find I need more to eat each day. I am hungry all the time -- and Atkins generally doesn't do that to you. Normally, your hunger and cravings subside in a couple days. Now, I am thinking this is because I am working out. When I did Atkins before, I just did the program. I didn't work out (well, except for walking). It was easier to follow when I wasn't burning calories like I am now.

So midweek, I switched to a more user-friendly calorie-counting diet, and by relying on healthy food choices, I seem to have found a happy medium, so to speak. I mean, I choose the items to eat just like I did on WW. It is up to me to choose what to stick in my mouth, and since I am counting calories right now, this means that I have to give-and-take when it comes to how much I consume. Thus last night, for example, rather than eating that Snickers bar in the fridge, I chose instead to have two slices of Banana Nut bread for desert. The trade off wasn't much, calorie-wise, but I enjoyed the desert more, was more filled, and less amped up on the sugar. My plan is to choose healthy options for my foods, so while the Banana Nut bread wasn't really healthy, it was better than the candy bar. Baby steps. Baby steps.

My goal is to lose 20 pounds permanently. I want to get back to weight I once was, which I feel is healthy for me and manageable long-term. Furthermore, my goal is to build muscle and strength and endurance so I am not suffering with age-related debility as I move into my mid-50s.

Goals for Week 2

My fitness goal for week 2 includes moving up a level on the "30 Day Shred" (probably on Saturday). I am also going to purchase 3-lb hand weights at Walmart this week, just to have them ready so I can up my strength training regime. My diet plan is to remain consistent. I am allotted 1200 calories each day, and I am choosing foods high in protein and fiber so that I don't feel so hungry. My weight loss is on track right now and I am okay with the slow process. If I can lose 1 pound per week, that means by the end of the summer, I would be 20 pounds lighter. If my metabolism kicks into gear with these HIIT workouts, then perhaps I will lose 2 pounds instead of 1, and will meet my goal in 10 weeks instead of 20. In all, I hope to be feeling better and looking more shapely by summertime! Woohoo!

Turning Toward the Finish Line

As I close out this blog post, I am thankful to the Lord for His provision and His goodness toward me. He has made all this possible -- everything -- from passing my exams, to completing my proposal, to finishing my semester strong, and to losing the weight and getting fit. He has enabled this progression, this move toward wellness and wholeness in my life. Therefore, I give Him all the praise, the honor, and the glory, this good, good day. He is my all-in-all, my sufficiency, and it is in His name that I lift up all my achievements, my goals, and my desired outcomes -- for only He is worthy to receive our honor and our praise! He is good, so very good to me!

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