Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Just Breathe

Okay, I'm doing it.  I'm sitting down in silence and I'm writing. This is a big deal for me. I'm walking through something that I've never experienced in my life. A change so huge and uncalled for in my humble "I know better than God" opinion. So buckle up. I have no idea what's gonna come out.

We've moved.  We're settled in.  Many things have happened. Many changes.  Sandy and her Superstorm came to visit and so did my parents. (But not at the same time.) We have left our life in South Jersey and here we are - looking at NYC from our apartment.  It's what I've always said I wanted. Waking up to the view. Going to sleep to the twinkling lights of Midtown Manhattan.  Isn't this every city girl's dream? 

Yet, here I am in my paint stained yoga pants, tank top and hoodie. My hair hasn't been colored since well, the week of my birthday (that's August people. AUGUST).  I haven't left our apartment complex since Sunday morning and I'm not planning on leaving again until next Sunday unless something comes up.  There are good moments in all of this. Like my reading today to in 1 John 3.  That God loves his children SO MUCH he doesn't let them continue in sin. Oh how he loves us. Although I'm terribly ashamed to admit that I have doubted this in the last few months. Me.  This strong Bible educated woman of God, has doubted the love of her God. It's quite embarrassing to admit. I've honestly never questioned the foundational attributes of my maker in the fourteen years that I've been his child.  Not when Martin almost died. Not when Martin was recovering slowly. Not when we were in dark places financially.  Not when babies didn't come. And I have no idea why he's allowed this to be the time that I doubt. I have not gone boldly before the thrown lately. It's been more a slow shuffle. Like a child when they are being forced to apologize to someone.  There's feeling of embarrassment and shame. And this is contrary to the Gospel. Jesus bore this shame for me. Yet I like to take it back and wear it. Like picking old clothes out of the garbage when I have a new wardrobe ready and available to me.

Yet, I've really been worshiping the God of circumstance. This God is very fickle but I could visibly see him.  He gave me a job at a place that I loved.  It had its flaws but things were looking up and changing. This God also gave me a great house that was full of things. We were stuck in the house financially but hey, if you have to be stuck, it might as well have been there. He gave us a church in our neighborhood that we adored.  The God of circumstances also gave my husband a job that paid well. Nothing was perfect but in those circumstances, we were doing okay. We were slowly pursuing the adoption of a sibling group from Africa. We wanted that house full. And we bowed to the God of circumstance and said thank you for all you've given us. It isn't perfect but it's a full life.

Then God, the real God - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph. The God who loved me so much he called me into his family because he wanted to - not by anything I did, decided to take me away from my idols. And they were good things.  Good but not him.  And he moved us away from all of that.  No more job. No more money. No more friends. No more car. No more babies coming from Africa. How could a good God DO THIS TO ME? Doesn't he love me?  Doesn't he care?  Doesn't he. . .

And as he is stripping me of the garbage clothes I'm wearing, the layers I've built up, the safety around me - he has whispered to me that he does love me (strips me of our home).  He does care (takes me from my good job doing good things). He wants what's best for me (stops our adoption). He simply wants me to follow him (moves me away from my community and friends).  And all that is left is an exposed soul. But what he sees  - it is beautiful. And perfect. And good. But not because I am those things. But because Jesus is and I'm his child and he has accepted me.

So in this hurting time, I am trying to be thankful and I'm trying to worship the one true God, not the god of circumstance. For that god is fraud. He is a fake. He is full of good things but empty inside.

Instead I need to get to know again and more deeply:

El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty)
El Elyon (The Most High God)
Adonai (Lord, Master)
Yahweh (Lord Jehovah)
Jehovah Nissi (The Lord My Banner)
Jehovah-Raah (The Lord My Shepherd)
Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals)
Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There)
Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness)
Jehovah Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You)
El Olam (The Everlasting God)
Elohim (God)
Qanna (Jealous)
Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Will Provide)
Jehovah Shalom (The Lord Is Peace)
Jehovah Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Moving? Moving.

So, it looks like we're moving. Martin's job is transferring us way up north. Up north to North Jersey. That's right, Newark, NJ. Two hours from our sweet little home here in South Jersey. For those of you who don't know, New Jersey has two very different states. South Jersey is quieter, prettier, more rural and awesome. North Jersey is loud, crowded, more expensive and awesome. Did you catch that? I think they're both awesome. I really do. I have come to love this state and it's stinky "Armpit of America" nickname.

When Martin took this job, we knew we would have to transfer if he wanted to move up in the company. We simply didn't realize our first transfer would be only 2 hours away. We have both gone through MANY emotions during this decision. We have prayed and sought much wisdom. I sure wish our choices were black and white, but they rarely are. If he doesn't take the job then he doesn't have a job. If he takes the job then we have to move. We went from deciding to sell our house and losing a TON of money on it to deciding to rent it out and rent up there. We are completely open to other options, whatever they may be, but as of now we have decided that we need to move forward in the way it seems God is moving us.

I have been clinging to several verses. I literally say them over and over in my mind and verbally every day. The first is Proverbs 16:9, "The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." The second verse is James 1:5-6 "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting , for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind." I don't want to doubt that God is giving us wisdom when we ask him. But it is SO hard when you are getting opinions from everyone around you. I am thankful for those opinions but I have to remember that they are just that, opinions.

I wrote a few weeks ago (months? not sure) about missional living. I truly believe that is what God desires of us and in a way, I see how moving out of our comfortable life will force us to live this way. Now, I'd personally like for him to force us to live missionally by allowing us to stay where we are but I don't always get what I want (gasp). Our pastor preached on Sunday a very disturbing message. I did not like it at all. I mean, AT ALL. It was so stinkin' convicting I could hardly stand up. He was talking about how we in America support and pray for our overseas missionaries and we don't even make relationships and share life and the Gospel with our neighbors. THIS is what God has been working with me and Martin on for years. But Tedd went further (meanie) to say, "WHAT A SHAM!" What a sham that we pray for OTHERS to tell people about our God but we don't do it ourselves. That is what kicked me in the gut.

We're hoping to move into a furnished apartment overlooking NYC. We figured we'd might as well go big or go home. I will look for a job close to the apartment or in NYC. Martin will commute to Newark. If we do this, we'll go down to one car (talk about simplifying our lives). We will need to rent out our house. We're praying (PLEASE pray with us) that God would direct the renters he wants, to us.

So you might be wondering, What about adoption? Because I'm wondering the same thing. Honestly, we don't know. Our homestudy is pretty much finished. (Thank you LORD!) But Ethiopia has slowed down dramatically. So much so, that Martin and I had planned to go through all the countries again and take them before God and see if he leads us to another country. I've explained before that we didn't pick Ethiopia for huge spiritual reasons. We simply knew we wanted to adopt overseas. We knew there was a great need in the country. We only wanted to do paperwork once so we chose to do a sibling group. And honestly the country was a bit cheaper and faster than other countries (which isn't the case at this point).

We ask that you pray with us in this process. We want to first glorify God in all we do. With all that is put before us we want to pray and take out much of the emotions. We know that if we are pursuing God through praying, his Word and seeking wisdom we are doing his will. The rest is simply details. And who knows, something could change and we could stay here. And I'm going to be completely okay with that.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wedding Weekend!

The wedding weekend is over! Friday we headed down to Martin's parents house for a brunch with the Fern side of the family that was in from North Carolina and Ohio. It was nice to catch up with them. We then headed out to Ocean City. The rehearsal was pretty uneventful. Thankfully, everyone was on time and it only took about an hour to go over everything. I was a bit nervous at first because it looked like this for about 15 minutes:

Afterwards we headed to the boardwalk in Ocean City and had dinner at Brown's Restaurant. All of the out of town family was there and we were able to relax and enjoy everyone. We had a great ocean view at our hotel (right?)

After the rehearsal Martin and I had some fun taking pictures on the deck.

(I sure do love him)

Saturday morning we got up and walked the boards (that's shore talk right there folks). We stopped at our favorite coffee shop (okay, the only coffee shop on the boardwalk).

We slowly got ready in our room for the wedding. Before the wedding I ran some errands and Martin headed over to the best man's house to get ready for pictures. Missy and Tim decided to see each other before the wedding ceremony. Martin and I did the same thing. They had a fun "reveal" so that it would still be special and got most of the pictures out of the way. I personally love this approach. It's totally nontraditional but there is more time to enjoy each other during the crazy day. Yes, you miss the reveal as the bride is walking down the isle but there are special parts to both.

The wedding ceremony was simple and perfect. The dinner was yummy and relaxing. The night was just about perfect.

Here is Tim watching Missy walk down the isle. I love this picture because Maureen, Missy's twin sister is the one crying. One is gaining and one is losing. Makes me cry every time I look at it.

The happy couple after being announced as Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Fern.

Tim and Martin. Love this.

Oh, who's that good looking couple? Why us of course!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter in New Jersey 2012, Baby!

Martin's brother is getting married this weekend. I feel like they've been planning this wedding for 210 years. They've only known each other less than 2 years so I know that's not possible but it has seemed like forever. I'm thankful the Fern's are getting another Fern woman. We are now equal, 3 Fern men, 3 Fern women. The family is complete. Well, until we add kids and they add kids then we think it's finally complete and then one of us get a surprise and have one more. I'm totally predicting my future right now. I really have no idea.

That's really not what I wanted to write about. Easter is why I started this blog post. Martin and I alternate Easter and Christmas in Tennessee. We had Christmas in Tennessee so that meant Easter in New Jersey. My mother-in-law had no desire to bake a ham so we went to the boardwalk in Ocean City instead. (Isn't that what you do when you're m-in-l doesn't wanna cook?) We went to church in the morning then on to the OC for the afternoon. We had cheesesteaks and fries on the boardwalk and then Martin's parents walked his brother and fiancee back to their car and Martin and I spent some time on the beach. It was awesome as you can see in the pictures.

I spy with my little eye.

Easter 2012

Kitchen Redo :: Finished (sorta)

We finished the kitchen cabinets a couple of weeks ago but I was away for business two weeks ago then away at a ladies retreat that weekend so I finally got some pictures of our cabinets this weekend. I need to do a good scrubbing on the floors. We seem to have smudged some paint on the tiles. Thankfully a little scum remover will get that off. I just have to get on my hands and knees and that seems as fun as cleaning toilets so I'm avoiding it.

Just to recap here are some before, during and after photos.




I'm thankful for my husband and a friend who wired and installed our new microwave above the stove!




I brought some of my cookbooks out to the kitchen. I have them in our console table in our foyer and although I don't cook much with recipes, I do like the occasional glance at the ol' reliable Better Homes and Garden Cookbook. (That's where I learned to cook an egg.) (And where I learned to properly set a table.) (And where parts of a pig and cow are located) (By the way, it's not because my mother didn't try to teach me these things, I just thought I'd have a maid and or a cook to do all this stuff for me when I was older.) (I'm not joking, I really thought that.) I thought the books would bring some pops of color to the kitchen.

I didn't get a good shot of our fridge area before the reno but we had this charging station for our phones on the counter. I loved the idea of a charging station. I bought it on sale at Pottery Barn a few years ago. But these days we charge our phones by our beds and years ago we had phones and iPods but now we only have iPhones so it became obsolete for our family and the thing became a junk magnet. We decided to put our Keurig machine in it's place. This made the best sense because our coffee mugs and teas are in the cabinet above. It's been over five years but I'm finally getting the hang of practicality in the kitchen!



Basically we're finished with the kitchen. Basically. But we would like to put up backsplash. I'm not sure if we will ever get around to it. There are changes happening with Martin's job that I'll share soon. But we did buy a box of tiles and put them up to see if we like it. I do. But I think I'll give my poor husband a little rest first. I'm cool like that. Here's a preview of what's to come (maybe).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Open Apology to Marriage

Dear Marriage,

I'd like to introduce myself. I'm Sarah. I'm a Christian. I'm a wife. I live in America. I joined your institution back in 2002. I met a cute boy that I really liked (and still do). We both thought we could serve God together better than apart so we went before God, our family and friends and made a vow to stick together through good times and bad and we would not break our vow unless one of us died. I was 25 years old when I said these words to my husband and I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I mean, your institution is hard work!

I need to say something. I need to ask your apology for how I've treated you, how we Christians have treated you. You see, We've have fallen into the trap of thinking you belong to the government. That you weren't something that God made up for his people, for him to show the world the relationship between him and his church.

To be frank, we Christians have whored you out. We've allowed people who weren't serious and had no business getting involved with you take advantage of you. We have made you the solution to our heart problems instead of directing people to our Savior first. We've said, "Oh, y'all are living together? Well, you need to get married. That'll make it right." Or, "What? You're pregnant? Then go get married." We Christians are not the poster children for you. We look for our own selfish gain and when we don't find it in our spouse, we break our contract and leave. It's nothing like God taught us in the Bible.

So now, we Christians act surprised that people are demanding that all people of any sexual orientation should get married. This is a hot button in America right now. (I'm not sure how much you are up on current events. I'm not even sure you have eyes or ears or internet for that matter.) As you probably know, the reason we are upset is because part of the foundation of Christianity is God creating man and woman in his image. It's not that we think (or we shouldn't at least) that people with a different sexual orientation are less than us. We just know what marriage is designed for and when we see it being political and not spiritual, we get our panties in a wad.

It's a contradiction, I know. We Christians like to use you when we want and many of us then get upset when someone else tries to use you. Again, I'm sorry we've whored you out.

So, I wanted tell you, as a young Christian who loves what you do and what you represent, I will fight for you. I won't go to Washington D.C. to fight for you. I will fight for you in my life with my husband. I will fight for you as I disciple young woman. I will fight for you as I meet with woman who want to rip up your contract with their husbands because they aren't being fulfilled.

Side Note :: And for those who want equal rights with marriage, we're sorry we allowed marriage to become a government regulated thing. It's a spiritual thing to us and that's why we get so passionate about it. And don't get me wrong, I know there are some out there that use this as another way to spew hate at you. Please know that's not what God EVER intended from his people. We love Jesus. We want all people to get to know him. You can. Just read about him in the Bible. He's the solution. He's not the fix (cause you're problems don't magically go away). He's simply the solution.

Yours Truly,

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

So Close, Yet So Far Away

We have worked. And we have worked. We have labored and my bum might be eternally cold from sitting on the giant tiles in our kitchen, painting away. We see the finish line. It's close but yet, so far away. (See my play on lyrics? Hall and Oats So Close from 1990.)

(Which I used to think the name of the group was Hallenoats. That's a typical southerner for you, putting all the words together.)

(Which reminds me of I'm Every Woman by the late and great Whitney Houston. I used to think it was Climb Every Mountain. Sing it! You'll agree it COULD be.)

(I should do a blog post on all the sayings I've thought wrong. My worst? In sickness and in hell. I was nineteen and I finally asked my dad how that part of the marriage vows worked doctrinally)

Enough A.D.D., enough!

Last night, Martin put the drawers back in the cabinets. I put our cute contact paper in all of them and added the hardware. I then started putting contact paper on all of the bottom cabinets but Martin pulled me away at 10:30 so we could go to bed. We looked like two old people walking up the stairs complaining about our aching backs.

We still have the cabinet doors to paint, hardware and hinges to install, our new, smaller cabinet above the stove to paint and install and the microwave above the stove and electrical outlet to install but we are on the homestretch. The last lap. The final frontier. The end. Well, until we start the tile backsplash but it could be years until I decide what I want.

{progress in blurriness}

Monday, March 12, 2012

14 Week Challenge :: Week 5

I'm sorry to say that we took the week off of our challenge.

It's all because of this:




{the mess}

{visited NYC with friends and went to visit this}

The good news is that we did relatively well during our week off the challenge. We stuck to salads and an occasional Chick fil a run. We are back on it this week with minor alterations (like actually cooking at home). I'm thankful for a working dishwasher, oven and refrigerator. Our renovations aren't THAT intense.

Friday, March 2, 2012

14 Week Challenge :: Week 4


I weighed in.

I feel we need a preface. The thing is. Well. You see. It's like this. I didn't actually weigh before I started this challenge. For about five years I have teetered around a particular weight and I knew I was above that weight when I started because my clothes weren't fitting very well (which means the buttons were coming off my pants).

I should have weighed but I didn't. And today I got on the scale thinking (and by thinking I mean hoping) that I had started four weeks ago on the number I thought I was. But then I looked down and I was that weight. Here is what went down in Sarah's head:
Wait, what? What the crap? Does this thing need batteries? How could I have lost zero pounds? I should've weighed four weeks ago. I'm totally not blogging about this. Maybe I should lie. Get off and get back on. Nope same weight. There is no way I was more than this four weeks ago. This was my starting weight in my head. It's my go to number. I'm so not blogging about this. I just wasted four weeks of my life eating healthy. I could've been eating Chick-fil-a. I could've been eating french fries. I bet my body shut down. I bet my body shut itself down and went into starvation mode. Yep. My poor body. I should get a Wawa hoagie today to shock it back to life. The big classic hoagies are on sale. I can't possibly blog about this. But my clothes are loose on me! Get off and get back on. But I feel better. I actually feel better so that's a good thing, right? I'm pretty sure this thing needs new batteries.
That all went down in a matter of 30 seconds. I went into the bedroom and told Martin the sad news. He said all the right things but I didn't want to hear them. He finally did what any sensible husband would do, left the room so I could hash it out with God.

After praying about it and calming down, I asked Martin for his forgiveness and concluded that my pride had stopped me from weighing in four weeks ago. I knew I had gained weight. I knew I was bigger than I have been for years. I was just hoping I would pass my "go to" weight and weight less than what was in my mind. Oh that pride. It gets you every time.

So, technically I've lost weight. But technically I have no idea how much that is.

The positives to better eating have been:

1. My clothes fit better
2. I feel better
3. I don't feel bloated all the time
4. I am eating what seems like all day long
5. I have more energy

There. I have confessed to you my pridefulness. I've been humbled (humiliated) and I actually feel better. Part of me wanted to throw it all to the wind and pick up a chicken biscuit this morning from Chick-fil-a but I instead ate some pistachios and a Luna bar. It's the little decisions I make that will make the biggest difference. Especially the decisions that are acted on when I'm an emotional wreck.

And let's face it. I don't want to look like Cindy Crawford (she was the "it" model back in my day). I just want to be healthy and learn who I am in Christ. I guess it's not ultimately about a number I want to be at but where my heart is in the midst of it. And people, that's okay with me. (Well, now it's okay with me, in those 30 seconds while on the scale it was NOT okay with me.)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Couple of Things Part One

I'm a learner by nature. I love to be in charge of what I learn but God usually pulls the rug from under me and allows (and by allows I mean makes) me learn what he wants me to learn.

I just wanted to document some of the things I have been learning. Some have been of my choosing and some of God's. I intended this to be a shorter post but like Mark Twain said, "I intended to write you a short letter but I didn't have time." (I've actually seen that linked to Twain, Voltaire, and Pascal. So let's just say those quotation marks are used lightly. Thanks.)

Missional Living.

Martin and I have had a desire to reach our community for years. We have wrestled with how that looks and what we should do. The easy choice for me was to move somewhere else and start over. But God, who is ever so patient, has slowly shown us how to live missionally right where we are.

One of the major steps we made in this missional living is leaving our church.


Yes, we left our church. We have been struggling with a discontentment for almost a year and half. We loved our church but couldn't put a finger on what was wrong. We decided to get more involved with not just one small group, but two. We also stayed on the missions committee. But the restlessness was still there. We visited some churches in downtown Philly and God showed us that going even further away wasn't what he wanted.

A few months ago, my coworker told me about her church. She said it was small and simple, meaning no programs. Then she said something that got my attention, she told us it was in our town. She encouraged us to visit with no strings attached.

I had nursery one Sunday so Martin decided to go and visit by himself. He text me and said they were having a baby dedication. To be honest, we aren't big fans of baby dedications. Most of them feel like christenings and well, we're just not into that. But he then text again saying it was for adopted biracial twins and the whole dedication was really simple and cool. That got our attention. We desired to be at a place that had diversity (which our town has) and having adopting parents in the church, well that was a BONUS (there just aren't that many of us around, people).

I was counseled to be cautious and take our time as we're looking for a new church. One day, as I was telling a friend about the church, I was explaining that we were taking things slow and something struck me that I had not thought of. Could it be that God simply brought us right to the place he wanted us to be? Can't he be merciful and gracious?

We made an immediate connection with the pastor and his wife and it just so happened he lived in our neighborhood. He shared with us his vision of missional living and how he has been praying for people from our neighborhood to start coming to New Life.

God has brought us to a church in our own town that speaks the language our soul has been crying for. It's not because it's better or cooler. It's because it's where God wants us to be and we're sure of that today.

We are praying and thinking about how our life is not about us 6 and a half days a week. It's about Christ and what he did for us and for the world. It's about us talking and getting to know our neighbors. It's about getting messy. And it's about not simply talking about it but actually putting feet to our faith.

That couple that was dedicating their babies, well they live in our neighborhood too. And we adore them. They have the same heart we have and we're working on starting a gospel community group. Not a small group or a Bible study. But a group where we can invite those around us and getting together may mean doing things outside of our houses. It's walking through crap with them and they with us. It's about hanging out. It's about opening God's Word and walking through it. It's about praying for our neighborhood and each other. It's about eating together. It's about laughing, a lot of laughing. It's not about us huddling in our houses all week (although we're doing that way too much right now). It's not about talking about getting together, then not. It's not about saying with our words we want to change, but then doing nothing.

The hard part is waiting on the change. I want everything now. But I have seen God transforming me in small ways. Honestly the ways are probably small because I don't truly want change, but he's so good and patient with my ever wandering heart.

Our pastor showed us a video. It was about a pastor who did a church plant in Washington state. His vision for the church is missional living. And he said this:

A lot of churches have just become orphanages. They know how to have babies and they have a couple of dads and moms for the babies but not nearly enough to care for them well. And they don't send them off to start new families. So its a perpetual orphanage that they created. I think a church committed to multiplication will have great leaders because they have to train them up to raise their own family some day.

I have chewed on that for weeks. In my laziness, I am drawn towards someone else doing the work of Christ. But thanks be to God that I am not a girl who has to continually live a Romans 7 life. I am a girl that gets to have the victory of Romans 8.

More later.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

14 Week Challenge :: Week 3

Week 3 in our 14 Week Challenge is coming to an end. One more week and I'll weigh in. I hate having a number in my head of where I want to be but the thought of not losing more than 4 pounds kills me. And yes, I know that I need to think positive but let's just say, you'll know how I feel about what I've lost when I post it. If there are exclamation points then you will be able to easily guess my mood.

Martin has lost around 8 pounds already. But he's a boy so he doesn't count. (But I am SO proud of him.)

Let's talk exercise.

With all the shows on like Biggest Loser and well, that's all I can think of, I seem to think I need to spend hours at the gym. My doctor told me a few months ago that I only need to do 30 minutes a day of cardio then if I want to tone, do light weights every other day. She said that in order to be healthy you need to workout your heart muscle. To workout your heart muscle you need to keep it at an elevated rate for 20 to 30 minutes a day. The way you lose weight and keep it off and BE HEALTHY is in what you eat. (Yes, Aaron you've told me this before too. I just don't like to think it's that simple!) (Aaron's my brother, he's a doctor.)

I've been going to the gym and doing 30 minutes on the elliptical. It's easy and I LOVE the personal trainer button they have. It breaks up the time by telling me to do specific stuff like go at least 6 mph for one minute or pedal backwards for two minutes. I go up on the resistance about every two weeks to keep my heart rate up.

I'm in my brother-in-law's wedding in April and I have to wear a short strapless dress. That means I need some attention on the ol' arms. That's where the kettlebell comes in. That's right, the kettlebell. All one word. Not Kettle Ball like I have been calling it for longer than I would like to admit. I bought the 7 pound one at Target the other day (which people seem disappointed when I tell them it's 7 pounds, like they expect me to say 55 pounds or something?) and it came with a free 30 minute Bob Harper workout DVD. I thought that was special. OH MY WORD. I did the video last night and let's just say, it was not about being special.

That thing ripped my body all to shreds. I did more squats than anyone should do in a lifetime. Bob was making me (yes, making me) squat down and pick the kettlebell up off the ground, swing it out in front of me and then PUT IT BACK. Over and over and over. Then I had to do this balancing thing on one foot while lifting the kettlebell with one hand. Over and over and over. Then I had to do the windmill. Just trust me it was torture.

I think this goes without saying but, I can hardly walk today. I hurt. But do my arms hurt? No. It's my booty. And my legs. And my knees. And my back. And my toes. But my toes hurt because it's gorgeous outside and I felt need to wear my five inch high, open toe heels today to celebrate the sixty-something degree weather. Dumb.

But they look great. See?

So I guess no pain no gain applies to shoes too, right?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

14 Week Challenge :: Week 1

As most of you know, I started this blog with the intention of writing my struggles in all parts of life. I want to be honest and real. But as I've told more people I write a blog, the more I've wanted to appear all together. When you put something "out there" it gives people a sense of ownership in your life. Whether that ownership is used for good, is another story.

Saying all of that, I haven't wanted to write about my struggle with overeating. I've struggled with blogging about what is being done about it. But I know God has used me and my struggles to help others. And it's only pride that keeps me from being transparent.

Two years ago, I said that we all have our vices. One of my biggest vices is overeating. But those who have a handle on their weight could have the same struggles I have which is eating poorly and not planning. That person may simply choose not to eat instead of grabbing whatever. Maybe your vice is gossip. Maybe it's your temper. Maybe it's a weakness with men. Whatever it is, we're all the same. We like to think we're different but when it comes to struggles we're in the same boat. And I'm not going to be able to help you fix it. If you are looking for a how-to, 10 steps to a better life, then I will (and so will any one else) fail you. Only Christ can satisfy that hole we have. I am thankful that Jesus called me to him. I'm thankful that he has died for all my crap. I didn't and can do nothing to deserve his sacrifice. It's because of him that I have hope. It's because of him that I can love. It's all because of him.

I do, however, think you should fight against your weaknesses. We all need to struggle. It's when we stop struggling that we fail.

Martin and I have some big things coming up. His brother is getting married and we're both in the wedding. We're going to Scotland for our 10 year wedding anniversary. He's running his second half marathon. We have fluctuated in our weight quite a bit in the past few months. I knew we needed to do something that worked for us. We went on the Flat Belly Diet over a year ago and loved it. The only problem was once we did the 30 day diet that was written for us, we never did anything beyond that. So, I decided to make our own menu for the week. I take principles from the Flat Belly Diet and I am writing two week menus at a time. Here's what I've done:

  1. Chose four meals (3 meals and a snack) that are around 400 calories each.
  2. I write out three days of meals. Then Sunday/Friday, Monday/Wednesday, and Tuesday/Thursday we eat the same food. Saturday is our free day. If we go off the plan for a meal during the week, we make up that meal on Saturday. Almost redeeming the meal.
  3. I write out two weeks of meals then write out a Trader Joes list (which I am trying to go every two weeks since it's 45 minutes away). I also write a monthly Sam's list (I buy most of my meats there). I then write out a weekly ShopRite list for week one and two. That list usually consist of fresh foods.
  4. I post the menu for the week on the magnetic wall in the kitchen so it's visible for Martin.
  5. I also keep another copy of the menu on the kitchen table so we can have easy access while we're making our meals.
  6. On Saturday or Sunday I am trying to thaw the meats that we'll be using that week. I then grill them, cut them and separate them into what we need for the week.
We've completed week one and it's nice have a weekend off from planning meals. I think every two weeks is best for me.

I've called this our "14 week challenge." I'm sure I'll start repeating my weekly menus around week five or six.

So what does our weekly menu look like you ask? Here is a breakdown of week one (remember most of these are from the Flat Belly Diet):

Sunday and Friday:
breakfast - PUMPKIN CRUNCH CEREAL (combine 1c kashi puffs, 1c skim milk, 1 banana, 2tbsp pumpkin seeds)
lunch - CHICKEN APPLE SALAD (combine 3c salad, grannie smith apple chopped, 3 oz chicken, tomato, 1tsp evoo, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, 2 whole wheat crackers crumbled)
snack - APPLES AND CRACKERS (6 whole wheat crackers, 2 tbsp almond butter, 1 gala apple)
dinner - GRILLED PORK WITH SALAD (grill 4 oz of boneless pork marinated in evoo, lemon juice, garlic, sea salt, and pepper. 2c salad, light dressing)

Monday and Wednesday:
breakfast - MANGO STRAWBERRY SMOOTHIE (combine 1c skim milk, 2tbsp almond butter, 1/2c frozen strawberries, 1/2c frozen mango in blender - this fills a Solo cup which is great for the go)
lunch - PEANUTTY CRANBERRY WRAP (on 1 whole wheat wrap, spread 2tbsp crunchy peanut butter and sprinkle 2tbsp cranberries then roll up. on the side - 1c carrots)
snack - LUNA BAR (1 luna bar and 1/4c semi-sweet chocolate chips)
dinner - GRILLED LIME CHICKEN SALAD (salad, 3oz grilled chicken that has been marinated in evoo, sea salt, and lime juice. sprinkle sunflower seeds and 2 tbsp light dressing over top)

Tuesday and Thursday:
breakfast - GRANOLA PARFAIT (1 banana, 1 c fresh raspberries, 6oz nonfat greek yogurt, 3/4c granola)
lunch - GRILLED CHICKEN WRAP (In a whole wheat wrap add 3 oz grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, light dressing. on the side - string cheese, 2 tbsp peanuts)
snack - CELERY AND PEANUT BUTTER (1c celery, 2tbsp peanut butter)
dinner - TILAPIA AND RICE (4oz tilapia coated in evoo and season salt baked at 425 degrees for 18 minutes, 3/4c brown rice, 1c green beans marinated in evoo and season salt)

I modify some of this for my own taste. Martin works best with what is written and I am more flexible. For instance, I don't like yogurt (even though I've tried!) and I'm tired of raspberries so I eat 3/4c of granola and add a splash of skim milk and hot water to make it nice and warm. Then I eat a banana later in the morning. I add 1 tsp of canola mayo to my chicken wrap instead of dressing. Sometimes I add a little hummus cup for our carrots at lunch. That's about 150 extra calories. If we work out that day, then that won't hurt us.

The reason we eat Luna bars instead of Clif bars is because there is slightly less sugar in the Luna bar. Martin was freaked out because it says protein bars for women. But I assured him it only has natural things in it that woman need more of than men. I'm pretty sure it hasn't affected his masculinity! We buy our Luna bars in bulk with Amazon. They seem to have the best price and also have a great variety.

Coffee. We both still have our coffee in the morning. Martin drinks his black but I add flavored cream. I was adding 3tbsp to my 10 oz of coffee but I'm down to 2tbsp and I hope to be down to 1tbsp soon.

Working out. We both have been doing okay working out. We'll do bad one week and good another. I had developed the attitude that if I don't go in the morning, I won't go at all. I've found that if we're doing four meals, I can go after work and we're not ravenous when we get home. Plus prepping my meals on the weekend helps too. My goal is to workout five to six days a week. But I'm thrilled with three days. I worked out four days this week.

Results? We both lost more than 20 pounds with the Flat Belly Diet before. We know it works. The principles are great. Martin is weighing in every week and this week he lost four pounds. He was sick with cold and only worked out once. I am weighing in every four weeks. I'll let you know how I do.

The goal is discipline. We need to be disciplined in our lives in all aspects. We both thrive on planning and fall hard when we're lazy.

I'm excited to blog about this (hopefully I'll write about the progress every week or so). It's great accountability and for me, it's good therapy.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Quitting Adoption

Last month and what seems like every other day as of late, I've wanted to throw in the towel and quit our adoption process. The waiting is frustrating and long. The longing for what's to come, fades. Life keeps going while this calling we seem to have doesn't move.

I've told some that I expected to wait while our paperwork went to Ethiopia but I wasn't anticipating the wait for our homestudy. I guarded my heart towards bureaucracy in another land but not towards the happenings in America. It's no one's fault. Honestly, we haven't waited that long (4 months) but God has exposed much during this waiting time.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, our life is very full. I pity the fool who feels sorry for Martin and I for not having children. We know our life will change for the greater (or the different?) with them. Those who have known me for more than 10 years know children were my passion in my teens and twenties. Now of course, I sit at in an office every day with two giant computer screens in front of me. I've always wanted to be a wife and mom. But God has given us a very full life without children. So then why on earth are we adopting?

Adoption is so very messy. It's bringing tiny people into your world who know nothing of you or how you live and you knowing nothing of them. Those little ones do not know their life was lacking a mother and daddy just as we do not know what we're lacking not having them in our lives. They come with junk that you have to sift through, emotional and physical. Adoption is expensive. It's writing the same things over and over again on pieces of paper or online to strangers for grants. It exposes your financial history and current financial state. It allows people into your life that you never asked to in.


Adoption to God is different. He adopted us as sons and daughters. He chose us. He sees us as beautiful. It's all because of what he sent his son down here to do. Nothing that I did ever could or would merit that love. He owes me nothing. He owes us nothing. And when God speaks of orphans he speaks of them as his. And if we're his hands and feet down here, then how can I look at adoption as anything else but doing the work of God? How can I get upset that things are taking longer than I think they should? How can I ever simply throw in the towel?

I hope you know I don't have a savior complex. I know I'm not this superhuman doing something extraordinary while others can marvel at my inner strength. I'm just a girl who willingly serves a King that demands everything of me.

We'll be asking many to walk side by side with us soon, as we send our papers over to Ethiopia. We'll be asking for money, cold. hard. cash. It's not because we need it, it's because we're all called to the cause of the orphan. And I'm not going to allow my friends and family to sit by and cheer us on. I'm going to ask that you guys come and get dirty with us. And also it's because I need people to pull me up when I fall down. And turn me around when I start walking the other way. And scream in my face when I simply quit trying.

Yes, adoption is super messy. But I'm willing to get a little dirty. Christ did it for me. He did it for us.

Here is a sermon a friend sent me. She knew just what I needed. And it wasn't a pat on the back. The sermon is an hour long. It's wonderful and worth every minute. Below the sermon is a video he shows in the middle of the sermon. That video is only 8 minutes long. Watch that if you don't have an hour on your hands (but find an hour at some point).

Eric Ludy - The Band of Rescuers from Ellerslie Mission Society on Vimeo.

Depraved Indifference – Eric Ludy from Heart Chronicles on Vimeo.

He says at the end:

I'm willing God, to fight for what is yours.

For our King and his glory, we will rescue these little ones.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Christmas 2011

It's the last day of January and that seems like a great time to post about Christmas.

Ten years ago, Martin and I decided that since we were the first to marry out of our siblings that we should establish a tradition for Christmas. We would love to be home (New Jersey) and home (Tennessee) for every Christmas but with ten hours in between the two, we knew this wasn't possible. So we started doing every other year. It's hard being away from one family for Christmas but we wanted to be fair and wanted to establish a tradition before any kids came into the picture.

This year was our Christmas in Tennessee. I refer to every Christmas as our Tender Tennessee Christmas. It's by far one of my favorite Christmas songs ever.

There were some things that were different this year than other years. My granddaddy died last December so this was our (Martin and mine) first Christmas without any grandparents. God has been so gracious and has taken each of them one at a time. So it was a gradual loss. The upside was that my mom and dad had more time. They were able to relax and enjoy their children and grandchildren without thinking about or taking care of their parents. I feel like I was able to chill with my daddy more this year than in years.

Here are some pics of our time. Sadly (and pretty typical for me), I didn't get any of Martin and me. I've got to work on that. Maybe when we go to Scotland this year I'll remember (yes, we're going to Scotland for our tenth anniversary!).

This was Layna's first Christmas. She looks like a Jones doesn't she?

Caryss has always loved dressing up and Braelyn (now 3 yrs old) loves it just as much. They were going to put on a show for us but Caryss got cold feet (she is such a mini-me)

This is what happens after four children open presents.

Uncle Clint got Braelyn a Supergirl outfit and she had to put it on immediately

And Gavin got Superman footy pjs.

Here are all the grandkids with Nana and Granddaddy
(LtoR - Caryss 7, Layna 11 months, Braelyn 3, and Gavin 6)

On Christmas day after church we headed over to my Aunt Linda's house. Here are all the second cousins on my mother's side. The Jones/Disney (all Lawson) crew
(LtoR - Layna, Alysha, Caryss, Allison, Gavin, Preston, Kristin, Bethany and Braelyn)

I made my sister put on my nerd glasses and we did a side by side. She obliged. She's cool like that.

We had to get back to New Jersey right after Christmas because I had a biopsy on my thyroid three days after Christmas. It hurt. I'm not going to make it sound pretty. My neck was swollen for over a week and I had a hard time talking for 8 days. You know not talking was super hard for me.

I took a picture of myself on New Years. I wanted to show off my new pink lipstick. (It's MAC speak louder.) I love it. But this picture is mainly to memorialize my biopsy marks. Everything came out negative (remember, this a good think in medical terms!) The expression fits how I felt (annoyed - that I had to get a biopsy even though my blood work came back normal, sleepy - I slept a lot after the biopsy, sad - that I had no power to my voice).

Last thing. (If you've lasted this long you must be family.) I am thinking about changing my major. I'm majoring in Management Information Systems (MIS) right now and I have about a year left if I continue full time but the courses are getting more challenging and I'm not sure I want to keep on with them. I am LOVING my business courses and I'm able to apply what I'm learning right away in my job. If I continue on in my MIS degree I'm going to have to go down to part-time and it's going to take me two years to complete the degree. If I change my major to business, I'll be able to continue full time and simply go one more semester than I had planned. Decisions, decisions. The reason I started a degree in computers is because of my job and that job has changed drastically. I'm not working in computers as much as I originally was. I've got to decide soon so if you read this, pray for wisdom for me.

Last night I was studying in my study chair in the living room and I just couldn't stop smiling at this little spot in the living room. So I took a picture of it. It just makes me happy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Never Once

While I was home for Christmas (hopefully I'll get a post up of some pics soon), my three year old niece, Braelyn wanted to dance in her pretty dress up clothes. My brother had a Matt Redman CD and she would ask for him to turn it on "Scars and Bubbles." The song is actually, "Never Once" on his 10,000 Reasons album. She knew all the words. But one part says, "scars and struggles on the way but with joy our hearts can say..." Matt Redman's English accent can easily mess up struggles and bubbles in a three year old (and a 34 year old!).

I bought the album and have themed "Never Once" as our theme song for 2012. I've really needed the truth in the song this week because I'm kind of ready to throw in the towel and quit it all. (More on that later.) I wanted to put the video on here with the lyrics. I enjoy SEEING what is being sung. I cry more that way. Enjoy.