Fat Fridays: Week 15 Stress…and More Stress

Well, this has been an interesting week. I would say the keyword for this week is STRESS. Since last Thurs night, we have had the following: the car broke down when my husband and I were out on a date; while trying to fix said car, got a phone call from our teens who were babysitting, saying the baby was throwing up; had an incident at one of the kids’ schools that involved a gun and a hard lockdown; was without my van for one day and had to find alternative transportation for my kids to and from school; had one day when four teens had to go four different directions, each needing a car and a chaperone; three family members threw up in the night; had to cancel a gathering in our home at the very last minute because of the previously mentioned throwing-up family members; eight year old swallowed a penny that got stuck which sent us to the ER on a Sunday afternoon, along with several hundred other families who were also there; had to take a daughter to a mandatory meeting concerning her summer camp, got there and realized we were at the wrong location which then meant a race home to review the letter again and get the correct location, more racing around to try and get her there on time; the four year old went off to play and then fell asleep under a blanket, I went to find the four year old and he didn’t answer me when I called which then sent my heart-rate racing while I frantically looked for him, finally found him under the blanket, asleep; my oldest boy had his senior dues stolen; remembered at 7:05 this morning that my ten year old had an appointment at 8am which meant I had 10 minutes to get my two little boys dressed and fed and out the door with all the other kids so I could take everyone to school and then take the previously mentioned child to his appointment with two tired, fussy, little boys tagging along…I think I’m allowed to classify this past week as stressful.

So, what does that have to do with diet and weightloss issues? Well, I can tell you that last night (my weekly night off to go do whatever I want) I was fighting a really big craving to go to Five Guys and get a giant hamburger and large fries and then end the evening with a large ice cream. Instead I decided to be a good girl and go to the library that I remembered stayed open late on Wed nights. Got to the library and found out they had changed their schedules, and were now closed. Long story short, I ended up at a park with some fresh fruit and plantain chips to keep me company, and took a little walk. Then went home and read a book. Major victory. This morning, after getting home from our doctors’ appointment, I was practically pacing. I was so stressed and I didn’t know how to handle it. I just wanted to eat something yummy and not on the diet plan. Instead I went outside and sat in the sunshine and then finally fixed myself a tasty bowl of vegetables and beans.

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It has been really hard to find new coping mechanisms when the stress builds up, but I’ve been making it, one day at a time. It’s a good reminder that this whole weightloss journey has a lot more to it than just finding the right diet.

Other progress: instead of weighing myself, I have been occasionally trying on a pair of jeans I own in the next size down. Well, ladies and gentleman, I can now button and zip the pants without killing myself. Still have a giant muffin top, but it’s progress!

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I have to say, this whole change to a new diet, new coping mechanisms, new thought processes, it hasn’t been easy. It’s actually rather stressful, which has not helped my ability to deal with weeks like I just had. I’m hoping that this will stop feeling “New” soon, and just become a regular way of life.

So, plans for this week: stick to diet, exercise, be outside often, and start incorporating my way of eating into the family’s diet. (I’ve been cooking the regular meat and rice or pasta meals, and it’s getting old to cook food I can’t eat, they’re going to have to start eating more like me!). Here’s praying that my next week is a lot more calm and peaceful. See ya later!

 

Psalm 139 and School Lockdowns

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When I started 8th grade, I was in the north of Haiti, attending a little mission school. At that time there were probably less than thirty students in the whole school. We had three classrooms, with 6th, 7th and 8th all sharing one classroom with one teacher. That year we had a new teacher that we had never met. She was a volunteer missionary teacher, probably in her late 50s. An American who had decided to take on the challenge of living in Haiti and teaching a small classroom of English-speaking students. I can’t remember her name. She was only my teacher for about a month and half before the country broke out in a war of sorts and all the Americans were evacuated to the States. But, despite the fact I knew her for such a little time, and probably wouldn’t even recognize her in a picture, she left me a humongous legacy. The first thing she had our class do was memorize Psalm 139. She didn’t give us very long to do so and after we were able to recite the whole Psalm in front of the class, she presented each of us with a brand new Bible. I remember it was a golden brown, hardback Bible with gold lettering. NIV. It was a beautiful Bible. But even more beautiful was having Psalm 139 become a part of my memory, a part of my thought process, a part of who I was. Over the years that Psalm has formed a foundation of how I see myself and how I see God. “Oh Lord, You have searched me and you know me.” I am known, fully, completely, by the living God. “You know when I sit and when I rise.” Nothing in my life is inconsequential to him. “You perceive my thoughts from afar.” God is listening to my thought processes and it doesn’t scare him off…I could go on through the whole Psalm, verse by verse, an amazing testimony to how loved I am, how cared for, how completely I am in his sight at all times.

This year I have been memorizing scripture with my kids on the drive to school every morning. We did 1 Corinthians 13 in the Fall and this Spring semester we have started on Psalm 139. Every morning I hear the verses, over and over again, and it is a wonderful way to start the day. It’s also very sobering. “Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely Oh Lord.” Yikes. God is very aware that I yelled at my toddler today for spilling yogurt all over my jeans. Sorry Lord, please help me to be more patient! But, as I remind my children every day before they jump out of the car to go to school, God Knows You Completely, and He Loves You Completely!

These past two weeks we’ve been working on the verses, “If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” I’ve been pondering what that means today, and I realized it really ties into something that happened this past week.

On Friday, during the school day, I got a call from our kids’ high school. .They were informing us that due to rumours that had been going around about possible gun violence, they had decided to put the school on a soft lockdown. All authorities had been notified and they were taking care of the issue. Ok. Unfortunately, we have had this call several times. We live in a rough neighborhood and even if something potentially dangerous happens close to the school, they put the school on a soft lockdown. I texted my husband to keep him informed, said a prayer for safety, and then really didn’t think too much more about it. Then a while later my daughter texted me from school. She said that the school had been put into a hard lockdown and she was scared. Unfortunately, she was in a large classroom at the time with a substitute teacher who was not really equipped to handle the situation. The teacher did not inspire confidence and my daughter was feeling very nervous. I told to her follow the teacher’s directions and I was going to see what I could do. I called the main office, but of course, it was a hard lockdown so they weren’t answering phones. I then asked some friends of mine to please pray, and I texted a teacher I know at the school, explaining my daughter’s situation, asking if he could find a way to send someone over to that classroom to help out the substitute. I checked in with my daughter again, and she said that the class had calmed down and things were looking better.

In the meantime my son was with the high school forensic team at a competition at another high school. My husband had been volunteered by our son to drive the team to and from the other high school in our van, so he was there as well. They were being told that due to the situation at our high school, they could not drive the students back until everything had been resolved. They had been told that someone had fired a gun. Lots of rumours were flying all over the place. And I was sitting at home, clutching my phone, not sure what to do except pray. Long story shorter, everything got resolved before the end of the school day, no one was hurt, life continues on. Aside from a residual stress that lingered for a couple days, all is well.

Later, thinking back on it, I wondered, should I be more freaked out about this? I can’t seem to muster up any fear. Is that odd? I don’t think so. There is evil in this world, but evil doesn’t keep God from seeing, from being present, from having power to act. “Even the darkness will not be dark to you…” How can I be afraid when I know that God is intimately involved with every single detail of my life, of my children’s lives. “…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” How can I be afraid when God is in control? Does this mean that bad things will never happen to me and my loved ones? No. We live in a sinful world. Free will for me, means free will for those around me. There are no guarantees, except that God will always be with me, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” The only guarantee, the best guarantee we have is that God will never leave us. And if God, who loves me completely, is here, what else do I need?

Our family has been called to live here in this neighborhood. We have been called to put our kids in the public school system. We pray daily for safety and peace on the schools. We have been blessed greatly in our time here, the opportunities and experiences our children have been able to have so far have been amazing. Though the world is a dangerous place these days, we refuse to live in fear. “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

God is good.

 

P.S. Just to make sure this is real. Knowing God is in control, not living in fear; this doesn’t mean I don’t have my episodes of being afraid, and it doesn’t mean that crazy stuff doesn’t stress me out. It does. But, when I am afraid, when I’m feeling the stress, I can come back to scripture and remind myself of God’s presence, his love, his involvement in my life, and somehow, it rolls off my back, and I can keep going.

Fat Fridays: Week 7 Crying Babies, Stress, No Autopilot Eating

Today my kids had an unexpected day off from school. We decided that the best thing to do on a wonderfully warm February day with nothing scheduled, was to go visit Grandma and Grandpa, about an hour away. I took the six youngest with me and we had a wonderful day playing outside, helping Grandpa with projects, doing crafts with Grandma, just relaxing. Finally, the kids started getting tired and fussy. I checked the time, almost 7 pm. Time to load everyone up and head home. My plan was to leave at seven and that would get us home at bedtime so the kids could just go straight to bed. It was dark and I was driving on poorly lit, country roads. I hate night driving. I can see, but I feel tense the entire time, sitting up straight in my seat, gripping the steering wheel. I put on a Disney Music Station and had it blasting in the car, trying to drown out any whining and fussing and also make it clear to the kids that we were going to sit and listen to music instead of trying to talk to mom or get into fights with siblings or start a loud obnoxious game. I turned down the volume just long enough to remind the kids that Mom didn’t like driving at night and she needed to concentrate on driving and please don’t try to talk to mom.

Well, the two year old was sitting in his car seat right behind my seat. He got into the car crying and then proceeded to cry for the entire trip. All seventy-five minutes of it. I asked my older kids to try and figure out what he wanted/needed. All they were able to establish was what he didn’t want. He didn’t want a bottle of juice. He didn’t want a water bottle. He didn’t want his toy fire truck. He didn’t want his brother’s pillow. And he didn’t want anyone to talk to him. In desperation I finally bent my arm behind my chair and offered him my hand to hold. He held my hand for a couple minutes, taming his crying down to a whimper, and then he would suddenly push my hand away and start kicking at my seat and start up crying even more. Meanwhile, I am trying to drive carefully at the speed limit, straining to see the road in the dark, trying to not get blinded by the headlights of oncoming cars. Music is blasting and the other kids are singing along gustily. And the baby keeps crying. I put my hand back again and he holds it for a couple minutes and then pushes it away. We then proceeded to repeat this process for thirty minutes. To say that I was stressed would be a bit of an understatement.

As we were getting closer to home I started thinking about what I was going to do when I got home. The first step would of course be to hand the crying baby to my husband. Tag, you’re it. And then I thought. Toast. Some nice hot toast with melted butter and maybe a bit of jam. That sounds really good. That sounds really soothing. That sounds heavenly. And then I stopped. I realized what I was doing. I was majorly stressed and so I was now fantasizing about what yummy food would help me feel better. This was not good. I wasn’t hungry. It was past supper time, heading towards bedtime, I didn’t need any food. Really, a much better way to handle this stress would be to get home and immediately step on my elliptical machine and walk off the stress instead. Of course, I am a mom of many children and it was coming up on bedtime. Fitting in a workout right away was not going to happen. So what could I do?

We finally got home whereupon the baby instantly stopped crying. Of course. I handed him over to my husband and went about the business of emptying the car and getting everyone headed off to bed. Then my little girls wanted me to sit with them while they went to sleep, they were afraid of the dark. Then after they finally went to sleep the nine year old needed a bit of one-on-one time and then finally everyone was where they were supposed to be and I could finally check out. It was almost 10 pm. Too late to make toast. And I thought about what had just happened. I had been stressed and reacted in my normal, habitual way: think of what food will help me feel better, make plans to eat it as soon as possible. And then I had stepped back from the habitual thought process and recognized what I was doing. Instead of it being a non-thought-out process, it became something that I was thinking about and analyzing. And when I recognized what I was doing, I was able to put off the food until I finally didn’t want it anymore. Because really, my old me would have told my kids to go to bed, made toast, quickly ate it, and then run upstairs to sit with the girls.

This is my takeaway. I need to continue to make Thinking about Why I am Eating, a priority. When I realize that I am eating for reasons other than hunger, I am able to take steps to stop. If I go about in a haze and just eat on autopilot I’m never going to get anywhere. So, that’s my goal for this week, no autopilot eating. Think about what I’m doing. And then hope I can make good decisions.

P.S. Clean Jeans Test this morning told me that my jeans are definitely getting a bit looser!

Finding Peace, It’s a Daily Thing

In the past week or so I have been fighting the sensation that I am just keeping about 2 feet ahead of an avalanche. Like I’m scurrying around moving as fast as I can, but I just can’t keep up and something catastrophic is going to happen as soon as I slip too far behind. People have asked me how I’m doing and I answer, “staying about 2 feet ahead of the avalanche” and everyone nods and says, “Oh yeah, I know all about that”. So apparently, this isn’t a feeling that is particular to just me. So, in typical me-fashion, I have been trying to figure out what this feeling is all about.

First of all, I feel guilty just to be feeling this way. I don’t feel like I have any right to this feeling. I don’t work a high-pressure job. I am not the sole breadwinner of the family. I don’t have any deadlines pressing on me. As I was trying to figure this out I questioned myself. What’s the worst that’s going to happen if I don’t accomplish all my tasks today? Ok, the house will be a mess, we might end up eating Little Caesar’s Pizza if I don’t cook supper. The kids might get some points knocked off of their behavior charts if I don’t keep their homework folder up-to-date. So what? None of that is really a big deal. Why do I feel so much pressure to keep up?

Have I been hanging on to unrealistic expectations for my life? Trying to keep my house in order has been a big part of it. I have 10 children (ok, 1 is at college now, but she still pops in regularly). I am in a constant quest to keep the laundry caught up, keep the trash taken out, keep the fridge full of food, and keep the dishes washed. And of course the impossible task of keeping the house clean when there is a toddler walking right behind me, undoing everything I do. (My latest cleaning spree had me cleaning one room, going to the next room, and by the time the next room was clean, the toddler had managed to destroy the first room…ack.) Again though, it’s housework, it’s not brain surgery, working as an EMT, or some other high-stakes job. So, apparently, high or low pressure jobs have nothing to do with this feeling. So, what is it?

Peace. Or rather, Lack of Peace. I think that is what is missing. When I am at peace I can roll with the punches, take each toddler disaster as it comes, orchestrate 12 people’s schedules without even blinking an eye. I’ve lost my peace somewhere along the way. As I write this I find my pulse racing, anxiety settling onto my shoulders. How did I get myself into this state? A week ago life was great and I was swimming in contentment. Why does peace seem so fleeting? Like trying to hold on to a cloud.

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So, I walked away from this puzzle and have been thinking more. Went to church. Spent time in worship and hearing God’s word. Felt my peace slowly returning. I think I’ve come to some conclusions. I have always struggled with “never-ending” chores. By this I mean things like washing dishes or doing laundry. You wash the dishes, the kitchen is clean and beautiful, you walk away and 3 hours later, the kitchen sink is full of dishes again. It never ends. The dishes always need to be washed. Same with laundry. You know, I’m 40 years old and I still do this. I wash all the laundry (and for a family of 12, that’s a lot of laundry) finally get it all folded and put away (never happens all in the same day) and then I feel this feeling of accomplishment. Hurray! I did it! I successfully did all the laundry. And then I promptly forget about laundry for several days because in my mind, I did the deed, I finished the task, I shouldn’t have to think about it again, right? And then halfway through the week I look up and there’s a giant pile of laundry again, and I experience this shock, like, What the Heck, I already did this! Now, if I was a disciplined, logical person, I would just wash one load of laundry every day, fold it, put it away, and I would never have an overwhelming pile of laundry to deal with.  I guess Peace is kind of like that. Jesus gives us peace. Spending time with him gives us peace, reading his word, spending time in worship, it all gives us peace. But I tend to get into this mode of, Ok, I just got a great dose of Jesus, I’m feeling peace and contentment and I’m ready to conquer the world with Love. And then I go about my daily business and kind of put Jesus on the back burner. Like, Ok, I did that, check. But having peace is a daily endeavor. It’s a daily seeking of God’s presence. I know how to do that. I know how to focus on him, even on busy days. I just forget that it’s necessary. And then suddenly I’m bogged down with a lack a peace and it’s like me staring at the pile of laundry, like, Where did you come from? Well, if I had invested in seeking out God every day, I probably wouldn’t be in this state.

When I was a kid I listened to a children’s musical called Music Machine. It was fun, had a bunch of songs about the fruit of the spirit. My favorite song was the one about Peace. I don’t remember all the words, but I do remember the last phrase of the chorus,

Peace, peace, I think I understand. Peace, peace, is holding Jesus’ hand.

Today when we were driving home from church my toddler was crying in his car seat. He was tired, needed a nap, had just spent the whole morning away from his mama, playing in the nursery. He just wanted me. I finally put my hand back and he held my hand the rest of the way home. He stopped crying and settled down. As I held his hand, I thought about the song from Music Machine and peace. This is what I need in my life right now. Just to focus on holding Jesus’ hand. Get his perspective on life again. Bask in his presence. And remember that I need this daily.

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