Carb Cycling: Low Carb Recipes Without Regret

I know, I know.  This recipe post was supposed to happen last Thursday, but I had a procedure on my knee at my orthopedic doctor’s office.  Even though it has taken away nearly all the pain in my right knee, it did cause some initial discomfort.  It also happened to be a weekend that was filled with family and church commitments that kept me busy and away from the computer.  So, I offer you my sincerest apology and am happy that I can bring this to you today, on Weight Loss Wednesday.

For those of you who might have forgotten or are new to the blog, I have lost thirty pounds carb cycling.  (See related articles for an explanation of what that is and why I eat this way).  There is a verse in the Bible that speaks to how I feel about carbohydrates (or I should clarify:  too many carbohydrates) in my diet.

“We are allowed to do all things,” but not all things are good for us to do. “We are allowed to do all things,” but not all things help others grow stronger.  (1 Corinthians 10:23, NCV)

This is Paul speaking about our freedom as believers.  He’s asking us to judge for ourselves the things that would hinder our Christian influence.  An example is given about eating meats that had been offered as sacrifices in the temple.  There was nothing inherently wrong with that, but what he was asking (then and now) is for believers to watch what they do so that their influence to others (especially unbelievers) isn’t hurt in any way.  If it would cause another person to stumble by our action, we should consider whether or not to follow through with that action.

I don’t think my eating enormous amounts of carbohydrates is going to derail my Christian influence — at least not at first.  I believe we should eat all things in moderation.  In the same chapter of 1 Corinthians, verse twenty-six states:  You may eat it, “because the earth belongs to the Lord, and everything in it.”   My point is this:  I don’t digest carbohydrates well.  Feasting on carbohydrates (and sugar) with abandon caused me to gain seventy-five pounds.  Watching my carbohydrate intake and carb cycling has helped me lose fifty pounds (twenty on my own, in 2009-2010, and thirty with carb cycling, since January 2013).  I feel full and I never feel deprived.  I have more energy and am in the best health I have been in twenty years.  My pain management doctor is astounded at the kinds and amounts of medicines I have eliminated since first going under her care twelve years ago.

So any knowledge I have gained, I will pass on to you.  In fact, I’m taking a nutrition course online because I want to know more about this wonderful body God gave me and how I can use His nutrients to be the best I can be!  God cares about our weight.  He cares if we’re hurting — emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  What’s important to us is important to Him!

So, here is a recap of a sample low carb day menu (in my carb cycling eating plan):

BREAKFAST

Basic Breakfast Scramble*

1/2 cup Confetti Veggie Hash*

1 cup green tea sweetened with stevia

MID-MORNING SNACK

I cup red seedless grapes

15-20 raw almonds

LUNCH

Bun-Less Burger Salad*

MID-AFTERNOON SNACK

2 wedges Laughing Cow Herb & Garlic Spreadable Cheese

Unlimited celery sticks

DINNER

Grilled Spicy Cod Fillet*

1/2 cup Confetti Veggie Hash*

2 (or more) cups of tossed salad

1-2 Tablespoons Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing or Lite Vinaigrette Dressing

And, better late than never, here are the accompanying recipes:

Image Source:  Sandra Hall Rosser

Basic Breakfast Scramble 

Ingredients:

1 egg

3 Tbsp. liquid egg whites

1 tsp. sour cream

Salt/Pepper to taste

Cook’s Note:  This recipe makes the fluffiest scrambled eggs!  And it’s even fluffier if all the ingredients are room temperature.  I just take break the egg into a mug, add the egg whites and sour cream, cover and let sit on the counter for 15-20 minutes.

Directions:

Add ingredients in a coffee mug and use a fork to whip them together.  Melt 1 tsp. coconut oil (or olive oil) in small saucepan on medium heat.  Add egg mixture, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon until it reaches the consistency you like, whether soft-scrambled or hard-scrambled.

Serve with Confetti Veggie Hash.

Nutritional Information:  116 calories, 5 g fat, 169 mg sodium, 1 g carbohydrate, 11 g protein

Image Source:  www.lovethatfood.com

Confetti Veggie Hash (Adapted from Hello Taste, Goodbye Guilt! — the official cookbook of the American Diabetes Association.  You can buy this on the ADA website.  It has all low glycemic index recipes! Highly recommend!)

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh broccoli florets  (or 1/2 c.  purple + 1/2 c. green, as shown above)

1/4 c. red bell pepper, diced

1/4 c. yellow bell pepper, diced

1/4 c. orange bell pepper, diced

1 c. sliced mushrooms

1/2 c. onion, chopped

1/2 c. trimmed asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 tsp. coconut oil (or olive oil)

Salt/Pepper to taste

Add your favorite spices for variety.  (I love garlic and ginger.)

Directions:

Add oil to a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add all vegetables, except the broccoli, and your spices.  Stir-fry them until they are slightly wilted.  (About 5-6 minutes)  Add broccoli.  Continue to stir-fry until broccoli is slightly soft but still crunchy and retains its bright green/purple color.

Cook’s Note:  Any vegetable can be substituted or deleted in this recipe, depending upon your tastes.  This is enough for four (4) 1/2 cup servings and can be reheated and added to lunch or dinner.  I sometimes use zucchini and yellow squash.  Other times, I add fresh corn, cut from the cob.  You can make this recipe your own.  And despite what the nutritional value I give says, it won’t change significantly if you use peas, corn, or sliced potatoes. (Except where carbs are concerned and only slightly then.)

Nutritional Information:  45 calories, 5 g fat, 18 mg sodium, 4.6 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein

Image Source:  Sandra Hall Rosser

Bun-Less Burger Salad 

Ingredients:

3 oz. turkey burger patty (I like Jennie-O)

2 cups mixed greens

6 grape tomatoes, sliced

2 Tbsp. green onion, chopped

1 Tbsp. Lite Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing

1 Tbsp. Yellow Prepared Mustard (like French’s)

1 Tbsp. Sugar-free ketchup (I like Hunt’s)

Directions:  Grill or pan fry the burger.  Put it on a paper towel to cool slightly, then cut the meat into strips or small bite-size pieces.  Assemble the salad.  Add the meat to the top of salad.  Drizzle salad with ranch dressing, mustard, and ketchup.

Nutritional Information:  289 calories, 13.5 g fat, 870 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrate, 29 g protein

Cook’s Note:  Feel free to add any other fresh green vegetables to your salad that you like.  I like lettuce, tomato, and onion on my burger, so that’s how I assemble the salad.  You can also use a beef patty or vegetable patty (like Morning Star’s Spicy Black Bean Burger).  This will change the nutritional information a little.  (And yes, that’s a fast food salad bowl you see in the picture!  My son, Martin, is working at Burger King while he’s in school and thanks to him, I have an assortment of these great containers that are good to use if you’re taking your lunch with you!)  You can have as much lettuce as you want.  The greener the leaf, the more nutrients the lettuce has!

Pan-Grilled Spicy Cod Fillets 

Ingredients:

Two 4-5 oz. cod fillets

Spice Rub

1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. coconut oil

For spice rub:  Mix 1 tsp. of each of these dry spices:  garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder (or Cajun spice powder), cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper (optional), basil, and thyme.  This can be done ahead of time and stored in plastic bag or container.  

Directions:

Heat 1 Tbsp. coconut oil in a medium-sized frying pan or griddle.  Use 1 tsp. coconut oil to brush on each side of the fillets.  Add spice rub to shallow plate and dredge the fillets in rub until both sides of each fillet are well-coated.  Pan grill the fillets about  2 minutes per side.  Serve with tossed salad and 1/2 cup Confetti Veggie Hash.

Cook’s Note:  Any white fish can be substituted for the cod fillets.  You can also grill the fillets on your outdoor grill, but use aluminum foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and wrap the fillets in the foil.  Place on the grill (indirect heat) and cook for 6-7 minutes (or until flaky).  

Nutritional Information:  Per fillet, 112 calories, 2.4 g fat, 112 mg sodium, 1.2 g carbohydrates, 20.5 g protein.

If you try any of these recipes (or have tried a similar recipe), please comment below. If you have a recipe that would work on a low carb day, please send it to me at freshpaint04@aol.com.  I’ll be sure to share it and give you credit.  If you have a picture of your meal, send it as well.  A visual representation a recipe makes it even better!

God bless you and bon appetite!

shr

Carb Cycling: What It Is and Why I Do It

When I was planning this post, a thought came to me:  what do I know anyway?  Who am I to tell anyone what or how to eat.  I was already looking for another topic on which to write and then I had my Upper Room devotion this morning.  This is what the LORD said to Moses:

But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.  (Exodus 9:16 NIV)

Now, I am not Moses.  But I am called for a purpose:  to show the power of God and proclaim it on this earth.  I love God and my entire weight loss journey has been about renewing my body, my Temple, for His purposes.  He gave me a brain and a fair amount of intelligence.  He gave me a love for people – men, women, and children of all ages, races, socio-economic status, and religious (or non-religious) affiliations.  He gave me a forum to share what I know.  So, I kicked the devil and his lies to the curb, and decided to write what I know — the way I’ve succeeded in losing weight.  I am going to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked about how I lost the weight and what eating plan I follow.

Image Source:  https://lbtk.wordpress.com

Carb cycling — what is it?  It’s a way of eating that changed my metabolism.  It is, in scientific terms, cyclic ketogenic dieting. Carb cycling involves eating a low carb diet on some days during the week, interspersed with high carb days.  The reason carb cycling works is because it helps put (and keeps) your metabolism in a constant state of fluctuation.  Your body doesn’t get used to the amount of carbohydrates you consume, so you are less likely to hit a plateau.  If you reach a plateau in your weight loss (a place where you consistently stay the same weight for an extended period of time), you have to jump-start your metabolism so your body will signal the cells in your body that it’s time to burn the fat that’s stored in them.

I

Source Image:  www.amazon.com

I first learned about carb cycling when I saw Chris Powell on Dr. Oz.  Then I watched him on “Extreme Makeover:  Weight Loss Edition.”  (This year they changed the title to “Extreme Weight Loss” and it comes on ABC, Tuesday nights at 8:00 pm.)  This is how Chris teaches his client to eat and the results are incredible.  So, I bought his book Choose More, Lose More for Life.  After four months of eating as outlined in his book, I lost twenty-eight pounds.  (There are many book that promote cyclic ketogenic plans, like The 17-Day Diet, but I’ve read them all and like Chris’s book the best.)

There are four ways to carb cycle.  I am using the “Turbo Cycle” because it gives you faster results.  But during vacation, I used the “Classic Cycle” because we ate out more and you get more high carb days.  For the first time in my life, I didn’t gain weight on vacation!  (You can also choose from “Easy Cycle” and “Active Cycle.”)

So, how does my “Turbo Cycle” work during the week?  On low carb (LC) days, I eat 1200 calories and limit my overall carb intake to 25-30 grams or lower.  On high carb (HC) days I eat 1500 calories and my overall carb intake is between 50-75 grams. This is the my week at a glance:

Monday – LC

Tuesday – LC

Wednesday – HC

Thursday – LC

Friday – LC

Saturday – HC 

Sundays are special days.  Sundays are days that are for a special meal that you would not eat during the week.  On Sundays, I eat low carb with the except of eating a special food that is usually a no-no on any other day of the week.  For example, if I want to eat Papa John’s pizza, I eat it on Sunday AT ONE MEAL ONLY.   If I decide that I’m going to have a big bowl of ice cream, I do it on Sunday afternoon, but I eat ONE BOWL.  There are other people who carb cycle that use the whole day to go on an eat-fest.  But I can’t do that.  I can’t promise that I can rein myself back in after an all-day, eat-whatever-you-want, free-for-all. So I choose one special dessert or meal for Sundays and the rest of the day, I eat low carb.

When do I weigh?  I weigh once a week on Saturday morning because that is what Chris Powell recommends — weigh on a the same day each week and on a day AFTER you’ve had a low carb day (or a couple of low carb days on the Turbo Cycle).

Image Source: http://www.easternshoremedicalweightloss.com

How long do I carb cycle?  Carb cycling should be done in three-week increments.  On my fourth week, I eat high carb every day for seven days, 50-75 overall carbs per day.  I DO NOT WEIGH ON THIS WEEK.  Why?  Because I will gain 1-2 pounds during this week.  You have to do a HC week because it will allow your body to gather energy to burn fat for the next three weeks.  If you’re a lifelong dieter, this will be hard for you.  It was for me, so that fourth week, I just continued carb cycling.  By week six, I had reached my first plateau.  I was hard-headed so I just ate low carb the entire seventh week – and I gained three pounds!  So, I did the HC week under personal protest.  The next week, I returned to carb cycling and I had lost five pounds! NEVER SKIP THE HIGH CARB WEEK!

What do I eat?  I eat real food.  I eat no processed foods.  I eat low glycemic index foods because they don’t spike my blood sugar (and spikes in blood sugar can cause cravings).  I eat fruits, vegetables, and grilled/baked/broiled meats.  I watch my intake of starchy vegetables (like corn and potatoes) and limit my intake of bread.  When I do eat bread, I love Ezekiel 4:9 breads and English muffins.  These breads are made from sprouted grains and are on the low glycemic index.  The Ezekiel 4:9 Cinnamon Raisin bread is my absolute favorite.

Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. ( Ezekiel 4:9a, NIV)

Image Source:  http://trainwithheidi.com

How do I know what’s good for me?  I read.  I research things on the internet.  I talk to people who have been doing this longer than I have.  I exchange information with friends.  I never put any food in my body whose ingredients I cannot pronounce. I get enough good fats.  You have to consume fat to burn fat!  I stick to whole foods because I know what’s in them.   If you are a vegan or have a special needs diet, then carb cycling can be adapted.  (Chris addresses this in his book.)

Image Source:  www.food-woo.com

Sounds complicated and time-consuming!  At first, it was.  But then I remembered that fast and easy was how I gained 75 pounds.  Not caring about the food I put into my body brought me to the point of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and pre-diabetes.  So, it takes a little planning.  At first, I almost became overwhelmed, but at the end of my first three weeks of carb cycling, it was almost second nature.

If you have questions, please leave them in the comment section.  I will answer them.  If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find the answer.  Carb cycling changed my life.  It may sound cliche, but it IS a lifestyle change.  Below is a sample menu from a LC day.  If you see an asterisk (*) beside an item, then there’s a corresponding recipe coming in tomorrow’s post.  I do not share recipes that I have not personally made. (Let’s be honest – some low carb recipes are a waste of your food resources and time!  They taste B.A.D.)  I am pretty creative in the kitchen so a lot of these will be my own recipes. If I’ve adapted them from a source, I’ll tell you so you check out the original. All recipes have been approved by my family — I figure if THEY won’t eat it, neither will anyone else!

This sample menu is made up of foods that I actually have eaten on a LC day:

BREAKFAST

Basic Breakfast Scramble*

1/2 cup Confetti Veggie Hash*

1 cup green tea sweetened with stevia

MID-MORNING SNACK

I cup red seedless grapes

15-20 raw almonds

LUNCH

Bunless Burger Salad*

MID-AFTERNOON SNACK

2 wedges Laughing Cow Herb & Garlic Spreadable Cheese

Unlimited celery sticks

DINNER

Grilled Spicy Cod Fillet*

1/2 cup Confetti Veggie Hash*

2 (or more) cups of tossed salad

1-2 Tablespoons Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing or Lite Vinaigrette Dressing

What about a snack at night?  I don’t eat after 8:00 pm.  But if you like a snack at night, choose raw almonds or walnuts, a tablespoon of nut butter (peanut or almond) on celery sticks, or an Extend snack.  (Extend snacks are made by the Extend Company and are made for diabetics, so they adhere to the low glycemic index and will not cause a spike in blood sugar, which could really derail you at bedtime.

Beverage Consumption?  I drink water.  That’s pretty much it.  I don’t drink carbonate beverages — even diet sodas.  My daughter and I gave soda up for Lent three years ago and we’ve just never picked it back up. Divide your body weight by half and that’s a good estimate of how many  ounces of water you should have a day.  I do drink green tea or coffee in the morning, but I am caffeine sensitive, so only at breakfast.  I do love de-caffeinated ice tea with stevia, though.

Do I fall off the plan?  At least once a week.  But I get right back on track.  That’s the only way to get where I’m headed:  get up and just keep going.  Carb cycling never leaves me hungry.   It’s a huge amount of food to eat in one day.  It’s the way I’ve chosen to eat for the rest of my life because I don’t feel deprived.

I hope this helpful.  Just writing it made me appreciate how carb cycling has changed my body and how grateful I am to God that I found this way of eating.

shr

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Music Monday: Die Another Day

Last year in July, I had life-changing knee surgery.  After being in pain for eighteen months, I had surgery to repair a tear in the meniscus in my right knee.  Six weeks later, my knee movement was great and was experiencing no pain from the knee or the surgery.  (Oh that I could have that kind of relief in my back — but that is another story.)

Image Source:  www.medicineworld.org

Then two weeks ago, I pressed on the gas pedal to accelerate my car and something in that knee “popped,” for lack of a better explanation right now.  (I’ve had an MRI and will find out what it shows this Thursday.)  I’m back to always using a cane, instead of just occasionally using one on really bad back days.  I’ve taken more pain medication than I like to take.  I’ve iced it, propped it, babied it, and prayed over it.  So far, no relief.

Image Source:  www.freefoto.com

Enter this morning:  it’s rainy and cold in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  My husband, who teaches Criminal Justice in our public school system here in Cumberland County, started a new school year today.  My daughter, who starts school NEXT Monday as a junior, spent the night at a friend’s house so her mother could take them to cross country practice (thank you, Terrie Fonseca, from the bottom of my hurt little knee).  I was alone in a semi-dark house laid back on the easy chair in which I’ve slept for the past two weeks because it keeps my knee at in incline, which in turn, keeps it from swelling like a melon.

And the self-pity party started.

I started to turn on the television so I could watch the news.  (And find out which was the worst story so that I could at least say, “Ha!  At least my life is better than that!”  Oh, come on.  You know you’ve done it, too!)  Instead, I picked up one of my devotional books from the end table beside my chair.  (God‘s Promises & Answers for Your Life by J. Countryman for Thomas Nelson Publisher.  I wholeheartedly recommend this book because it is a compilation of scripture by subject matter.  For example, “Understanding the Liberty that is in Christ,” or “How to Know that You’re Saved” are two of the subjects listed in the book.)

There, on page four, was this scripture:

If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NCV)

“The old things have gone.” It was like a slap in the face and I was ashamed at my initial reaction for the start of my day.  You see, I used to start every day in a deep funk because I forgot what I learned as a child:  Jesus makes me a new creation through His blood.  Because I am His child and He gave me this day, rainy and all, I have a new start.  I have to lay down my feelings of self-importance, pride, anger, and anything that will keep me from being all that this “new creation” is meant to be — including my self-pity.

And that reminder led me to today’s song.  I’ve made a pact with my Heavenly Father that should another morning come that I want to wallow in self-pity and be discouraged at my situation, I’m going to play this over and over till my attitude is new again.  The words to the chorus of this song get me every time!

I die to my ambition.

I die to selfish pride.

I take up my cross and cast my will aside.

My life upon the altar, as a sacrifice, I lay.

What joy to live and die another day!

Image Source:  http://stephaniehalstead.wordpress.com

What about you?  What did you promise God this morning?  What will you promise Him now?

Die Another Day (Brian Free and Assurance)

shr

Weight Loss Wisdom 2: Seven “Stress-Less” Steps to Slimming Serenity

Image Source:  www.bing.com

Cortisol — it’s both friend and  foe to the body.  It’s a steroid hormone and more specific, a glucocorticoid produced by the adrenal glands.  Its job is to raise blood sugar, suppress the immune system, and aid in fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism.  To read more about cortisol, here is an link that has a far better explanation that I can provide in a few words.

Like most things, too much cortisol isn’t good for us, especially women.  When stress causes cortisol to be released into our bloodstream, too much of it can cause fats and sugars to be deposited around your belly, hips, and thighs.  Over the past few months, I’ve picked up some ways to reduce to stress that comes in daily living:  lots of prayer, a good eating plan, exercise, breathing, and taking some time for myself.  I know a lot of us do these things.

Here are other ways I’ve found that reduce my stress levels, which you might never have heard before:

Image Source:  www.bing.com

1.  A Rosemary by any Other Name

The scent of rosemary calms the brain’s anxiety center.  In as little as two minutes, sniffing rosemary oil (an essential oil found in health food stores) can stop stress surges dead in their tracks.  (I have also made a rosemary sachet using a toddler’s white cotton sock, filling it with four to six tablespoons of dried rosemary and tied at the open end.  I always make sure to crush the dried rosemary in the palm of my hand or with a mortar and pestle before adding it to the sock. This releases its essential oils.)

Image Source: http://www.bing.com

2.  Take a Chill Pill

A recent Canadian study has shown that if you take a regular-strength acetaminophen tablet twenty minutes before stressful events (like public speaking or being around people with whom you don’t necessarily get along), it seems to lower anxiety levels.  Preliminary results show that the acetaminophen interrupts brain signals that cause psychological distress.  (And it’s easier to obtain and less expensive than Xanax!)  Of course, you should always check with your doctor because too much acetaminophen isn’t good for your liver.

Image Source:  http://30daysofdoodle.blogspot.com

3.  Doodle for Your Noodle

Distract your brain and start those soothing alpha waves flowing by doodling for two or more minutes.  You don’t need to be a great artist like Karen Palmer to get great results.  Even something as simple as drawing circles, squares, and triangles and shading them in seems to lower your stress hormones.

Image Source:  www.buzzle.com

4.  Put Down the Phone and Step Away from the Computer

Taking regular breaks from your cell phone or computer can lower stress in as little as twenty-four hours.  Try turning them off during coffee breaks, meals, and family time to decrease the cortisol release from your adrenal glands.

Image Source:  http://psalm168.wordpress.com/author/kaceyterry

5.  Give a Girl or Guy a Fish…

And both will lower their blood pressure, which will in turn reduce their stress levels in every area of their body.  Daily fish oil supplements are a good source of Omega 3 fatty acid and help reduce blood pressure.  Another, more tasty way, to get this effect is to eat two to three ounces of fish at least three times a week.

Image Source:  www.cottlefarms.com/blueberries.htm

6.  Find Your “Hunger Kill” on Blueberry Hill

Feeling hungry increases your stress level.  Blueberries are an excellent source of antioxidants, fiber, and natural sweetness that contribute to the feeling of satiation for which we long. A 3/4 cup serving of fresh blueberries (frozen will do in a pinch) and a small handful of raw almonds as your afternoon snack will activate the receptors in your small intestine that signal the brain that you’re full.

Image Source:  www.bing.com

7.  Make a List and Check It Twice

Pre-planning a busy day by making a list of chores or activities can ease your worries.  Checking each off the list once the chore or activity is complete gives you a sense of accomplishment.  That sense of accomplishment can be a calming effect on your nerves.  When your list is finished, display it in a prominent place so you can see how much you’ve gotten done and continue the calming effect.  If you don’t get to all the items on your list, start a new list for tomorrow with anything you don’t get done today.  More importantly, don’t stress the small stuff.

Sources of information:  Psychiatry Research Journal, Woman’s World Magazine, Health Magazine, Self Magazine

shr

Music Monday: Ask Me Why

Yesterday, I received a phone call that made my heart stop.  My son’s girlfriend called and frantically cried, “Sandy, we’ve just been in an accident and the car flipped.”

The first thing I asked was if she, Steven, or Joshlyn (my granddaughter) was hurt and her answer was “No, we’re all okay.  Steven’s really upset and Joshlyn’s crying — but that’s because I can’t find her pacifier.”  She also clarified that it was the other vehicle that had flipped and my heart rate began to go down.  They were on their way to the beach for the day when the accident happened, so I assured her that my husband was on the way to pick them up.   Then I got on my knees and said a long prayer of thanks for God‘s protection and providence.

After Kelly had collected them and brought them home, Steven said, “Mom, I really messed up.  I ran the stoplight by accident.  Both airbags deployed.  My car, my car…what am I going to do?”

My response to him was this, “Have you thanked God that you’re all safe?”

“Yes ma’am” he assured me.  “That’s the first thing I did — even before I got out of the car.”

I explained to him that his car was just a hunk of metal, plastic, and rubber.  It could be replaced.  It was temporal, worldly. The most important fact was that they walked away from a terrible accident, badly shaken but physically unscathed.

I walked over to my mother’s house and told her what had happened and she just looked at me.

“What?” I asked.

“There have been times in the past that you would have been freaking out uncontrollably right now,” she commented.

I agreed with her.  If this had been ten years ago, I would have had to take some kind of anxiety medication and would have probably gone straight to bed, crying with abandon, and just generally have fallen apart.  It wouldn’t have lasted for just a night — it would have lasted a week or more.

And the reason is clear — I relied on Sandy a great deal then and God, not so much.  I thought I could control my world and the things that happened in my world.  When things happened that were out of my control, I lost it.  I was devastated.  It took me a long time to recover.

Isn’t that outrageous?  To think that I had some kind of control over the events that take place in this world is ludicrous!  I have no more control over what happens in my day-to-day life than I can control the movement of the earth, the change of seasons, or the passage of time.

Image Source:  www.artbarnett.com

But I know the One who does control these things, and that is my secret.  I knew this secret when I was younger but I let the losses and trials I faced in my thirties cloud my judgment and erase the memory of that wonderful secret.  When things weren’t going my way, I tried to take the reins of my life and drive the chariot.  The result was that both the chariot wheels came off, the chariot ended up in the ditch, and the horse ran away, leaving me with nothing but God — Who (by the way) is EVERYTHING I ever need.   I’m sad that I wasted a period of my life only half-trusting God.

In this last decade, I’ve grown up a great deal spiritually.  My mother says I’m the “old” Sandy, but I put it another way:  I’m the “new and improved” Sandy.  I am the Sandy I always wanted to be because I lean solely on my God.  I let Him drive the chariot, read the road map, make the pit stops, and be my GPS.

My mother and I sang the special music at my home church (Judson Missionary Baptist Church) last night.  I gave a word of testimony about yesterday afternoon’s events before we sang “The Longer I Serve Him.”  (You absolutely cannot go wrong with a Bill and Gloria Gaither song!)  Afterwards, the pastor came to me and said, “I have to ask:  what if Steven, Casey, and Joshlyn had all died?”

Without hesitation, I said “I would still be praising God for allowing me to know and love them.  I would be infinitely sad, but I would give thanks to God for His mercy.  You see, even if they had perished, they know Jesus and have asked Him to be their Savior.  I would survive because I know I’d see them in Heaven.”

Always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. ( Ephesians 5:20, NCV)

That’s always (meaning in every situation) give thanks for everything (meaning the good, the bad, and the ugly) to Jesus.  You can’t pick and chose those things for which you are grateful.  It’s an all or nothing proposition.  Your reward for this kind of thanks is lasting peace that passes our human understanding.

So if you ask me why I am thankful, I’m always going to point to Jesus.  I’m always going to celebrate God, even when it seems the odds are against me.  My favorite new quote is this:

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Good or not-so-good — what are you thanking God for today?

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Ask Me Why” (Legacy Five)

It Takes Two (But More is Better)

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Two people are better than one, because they get more done by working together.  If one falls down, the other can help him up.  But it is bad for the person who is alone and falls, because no one is there to help. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NCV)

Have you ever had to do a big job all by yourself?  It might have seemed overwhelming to you.  You may have fretted over how long it would take you to get it done.  You may have stressed over time restraints or requirements for the job that made you want to quit, or at best, pull your hair out.

Ever had someone offer to help you get that task completed?  Didn’t it feel good not to have to shoulder the burden all by yourself?  Did your attitude immediately improve?  Did finishing the job with the aid of a helper even make the job more enjoyable?  Dare I say, fun?

The idea that two people working together can accomplish more than one person by himself/herself isn’t new but in today’s “all about me” society, it’s kind of gotten lost.  Part of the problem seems to be that if your share the work load and it has a successful outcome, then you have to share the prize at the end of the journey — be it something physical or simply words of affirmation that it was a job well done.  We, as the whole of society, are not good at sharing.

We need to get away from this kind of thinking.  I am proud to say that I attend a church where people love to work together.  Everyone has a part in the success (or failure) of the mission of our church.  We look to our pastor for guidance and support, but we all have jobs that are necessary for the good works of the Kingdom of God.  How absurd would it be if the pastor of our church greeted the congregants, taught the Sunday school classes, counted the offering, led the singing, played the piano, took up the offering, kept the nursery, and preached the sermon in our service?  No pastor I know would (or could) do all those things by himself.

Jesus calls us to be in each others’ corners.  We help when we’re asked, but we should also offer to help without being asked.  Jesus asked His disciples to follow Him and help Him spread the gospel.  When He left this earth, He asked them to carry on with that same work.  That’s our goal today.

I have to tell you that I depend on many people to help me in my life.  We work together as friends and family to do far more than we could accomplish if we worked singularly.  I fall down a lot and I need people to lift me up.  How sad would it be if I was down and out, reaching out to people for help and support, and NO ONE responded?

One of the reasons I’ve had success in losing weight is because I’ve made myself accountable to other people.  I’ve shared my successes and failures.  I’ve asked for ideas to help me get my temple in better working order.  I admit when I fail (and I fail many times a day).  I pass on encouragement when I can.  In fact, I offer encouragement to many people about many things because God encourages me daily.

And you know what?  No one has ever said to me, “Just stop!  Stop making me feel better!  Stop telling me that you understand the crisis I’m in!  Stop telling me you love me no matter what!  Stop showing me kindness!  Don’t you dare offer me any hope!  And while we’re on the subject, stop praying for me!  How dare you talk to God about me behind my back?”

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Besides belonging to a really great body of believers in Christ, I have the ultimate support of my family and I am also in two great weight loss support groups.  These are ladies and gentlemen who have walked many miles the same kind of walking shoes I’m wearing.  If you don’t have anyone who gives you support and you’re struggling, I can help.  I promise to care because that is how God programmed me.  I care about people.  I care about you.

My message is this:  you don’t have to go it alone.  You don’t have to face this big, scary, ruthless world all by yourself.  The more people you open yourself to, the more you will gain in return.  What you may find is that while you started reaching our to receive, you just may make it your mission in life to give.  You can’t receive or give all by yourself.  It really does take two — but more is even better.

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Check out these great groups and make sure to tell Karen and Jackie that I sent you!

Get Skinny & Healthy with Karen and Jax Skinny Friends

Soul Survivor

There’s a reason the first three letters in the word DIEt are DIE.  Any diet I’ve ever been on has left me feeling deprived, alone, unhappy, and thinking “I’d rather DIE than go another day eating (or not eating) this way.”  I was always waiting, waiting, waiting for the day that I could ditch the diet meal plan and “eat normally” again.  I should add that what I truly meant was over-eat normally again.

My friend, Michele, and I did a Bible study together that started in January of this year.  This was the beginning of the new me.  If you’ve not read Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst, I highly recommend it.  It’s not a “how to” plan, so don’t look for recipes or sample menus in this book.  It’s all about gaining your “want to” where eating healthy is concerned.  This is a woman who has been in our over-sized pants!  She is a woman of God that decided that her temple needed better upkeep and discovered why she couldn’t do it with just will power — because it’s not about will power.  If it was about will power, then some people would do well from sheer determination and others would never leave the comfort of their easy chairs.

Do you want to lose weight?  And if you do, do you know why you want to lose weight?  Do you feel your current weight situation is unfair?  Do you feel like the whole world is conspiring against you?

As a Christian, I honestly have to tell you that my weight loss journey has not just been about the pounds, the food, or the exercise.  It’s mostly been about finding peace — the peace of knowing I am healthier; the peace of knowing that because I feel better, I can be more pro-active in my daily walk with God; the peace of knowing that food is no longer first place in my life and that God is.

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Here are a list of questions I used to make my “soul assessment” at the beginning of our Bible study.  How many of these apply to you?

  • I think about food way too much.
  • My food choices are mostly high in fat and/or sugar.
  • I feel embarrassed about my weight and appearance.
  • The thought of changing how I eat makes me feel sad.
  • I’m reluctant to bring this issue to God.
  • I have gained and lost weight too many times to count.
  • I feel defeated and discouraged about issues that deal with weight or food.
  • I don’t have as much physical energy as I once did and wish I had more.
  • When I need comfort, I turn to food before I turn to God.
  • I say negative things to myself:  “You’re so fat” or “You will never change.”
  • I’m not sure God even cares about how fat I am.
  • I feel guilty or embarrassed about what I eat or the size of my portions.
  • I have health issues that are weight-related.
  • I eat foods that are considered unhealthy several times a week, every week.
  • I am an emotional eater.
  • I sometimes feel like food is more powerful than I am.
  • I sometimes eat in private or hide food.
  • I avoid physically exerting myself.
  • When it comes to food and weight, I feel like I am trapped in a vicious cycle with no way out.

Based on your responses, which of these statements is true for you?  (Remember — be honest because no one will know this but you and you cannot change what you don’t acknowledge!)

  • Issues with food are not waging war on my soul.  I am healthy physically and spiritually.
  • Issues with food are a threat to my soul.  I deal with some of these occasionally.
  • Issue with food are waging an all-out war on my soul.  I have no peace.

Dear friends, you are like foreigners and strangers in this world. I beg you to avoid the evil things your bodies want to do that fight against your soul.  (I Peter 2:11, NCV)

If you know your soul is longing for peace, then I invite you to pray this prayer with me.  It’s my personal prayer from my prayer journal, dated January 1, 2013.  I used to pray it every day and still go back to it when I allow myself to replace God Almighty, who made me to crave Him alone, with the god of food.  I invite you to make it your personal prayer too.

Dear Lord:  You made me, every part of me.  I am wonderful and beautiful.  But I have replaced my love for You with my love for food.  What I realize now is that this has left me empty and lifeless.  I cannot be the person You’ve created me to be because my life is consumed with the folly of Taco Bell, Cheetos, and Samoa Girl Scout cookies.  I am not living to find out what I can do for You, but how I pack ten pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the outside freezer and then consume them without anyone knowing that I ate them all by myself — including the two I inhaled tonight.  I do not have peace.  I feel like Satan is hammering away at my sanity with this food obsession of mine.  So tonight, I give these things to You because I have proven to myself that I have no will power.  The only power I have is through You.  From the time I was a small child, I learned this scripture:  I can do all things through Christs who gives me strength.  (Philippians 4:13).  Until this second, I have believed that only in part.  When I get discouraged, remind me that I am Your child.  Remind me that I have all I need because of You.  Help me become the Sandy You created me to be.  I ask this prayer in the name of Your son, Jesus Christ, amen.

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