Monday, October 27, 2014

The Proving Ground

"He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed trusting in the Lord."

Psalm 112:7

"My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise."

Psalm 57:7

"Evil tidings"... When bad news, or difficult situations come your way, what is your reaction? Recently, I found myself reacting to bad news, and a difficult situation, opposite from the admonition of these verses. Instead of trusting in the Lord, I questioned Him. Instead of my fixed-heart singing and praising, I cried and complained. As I wondered why I had pouted my way through another struggle, my thoughts went to a playground full of children... .

The Coley Family 1996
In our early ministry life, my husband was an assistant pastor, and we both taught in our Christian school. At this particular time, our school had about 350 students, and this was the year that my daughter was in my Second grade class, along with 26 other students. Though everyone knew she was my daughter, we liked being teacher and student while we were at school, and so my daughter would call me "Teacher" instead of "Mom" while I was on duty.

Our Christian school had a great playground that was designed and built by our pastor, so there was nothing like it anywhere else. We had a huge climbing tower, restricted for the big kids in the Third through Sixth grades (8 to 12 year olds) , and a smaller Jungle Jim for the younger children in Kindergarten through Second grades (4 to 7 years olds). There was also an in-between piece of playground equipment that we teachers soon realized was being used as some sort of "proving ground" by the Second grade students. This piece of equipment was the Monkey Bars. Students would climb the three ladder rungs up and then stretch to reach the first bar, which was about seven feet from the ground. After they had firmly gripped the first bar, they would then start to swing their bodies back and forth until they had enough momentum to swing their arm forward and grab onto the next bar. They would continue, grabbing bar after bar until they had reached the other end, which was about twelve feet away. The students who had accomplished this feat, 7 feet up and 12 feet long, were no longer considered to be little kids of the playground, and no one would call them "baby" any more. They had proved their strength and determination to their peers, and their accomplishment was celebrated by all who watched.

One day, while most of the students were playing in the field, I noticed my daughter climbing the first three rungs of the Monkey Bars. This was not her first attempt; she had often climbed up only to become fearful and climb back down. But this time, as another teacher and I looked on, she stretched herself forward and caught the first bar... and then the next... and the next, until she was a third of the way through this "proving ground feat". Then she stopped, and began crying out to me. I could hear the fear in her voice as she cried, "Mommy, help me now!".

I came near to her, but I didn’t touch her. I knew she had just overcome her greatest fear by making it this far onto the bars. I had helped many others students through this "proving ground" test, and I knew she had the strength to finish: I just had to convince her. I told her I wouldn’t let her get hurt and that I was close enough to catch her if she slipped. I even told her to let go and I would catch her, but she wanted me to wrap my arms around her and lift her to safety. She continued kicking and crying, begging me to help her. I told her the strength she was using to pitch-a-fit on the bar was enough to get her across and she needed to use that strength to reach for the next bar.

She finally made it to the other side of the Monkey Bars. The other teacher and I were telling her how well she had done, that she was so brave to keep on going and that we were happy for her accomplishment! But my daughter wasn’t happy. All she said to me was, "Mommy, you were supposed to help me." I could hear the disappointment in her voice, and she walked away frustrated with me. She wasn’t relieved that she had made it safely to the other side. All she focused on was how I hadn’t helped her like she expected me to, and how I hadn’t kept her from being so afraid.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but even as an adult, I sometimes behave just like my daughter. When things on this proving ground of life get tough to deal with, I want my Heavenly Father to wrap His arms around me and lift me to safety. I don’t want to have to continue in the struggle... I don’t want to be afraid. I want help now! Just as my daughter’s playground expectations were disappointed by me, I had to admit that my proving ground experience was similar, and I found myself frustrated with the Lord.

Then I realized, once again, that I had pitched-a-fit when I should have been trusting the Lord. I had wanted help out of the struggle instead of help through the struggle. I wish there was an easier way to learn the lesson expressed in this Psalm, but the lesson of how to fix our heart on the Lord, through difficult situations, can only come while experiencing the difficult situation.

It was another day, and my daughter, surrounded by her peers, climbed the Monkey Bars again. While the children watched, she reached for the first bar. With confidence, she reached for the next bar... and then the next, until she had reached the other side, seven feet up and twelve feet long. Her peers celebrated her accomplishment... and she smiled.

Too often it is forgotten that spiritual strength is built through the struggle. Too often it is forgotten that "the proving ground" of faith is never a comfortable place. But often enough, when the struggle is over, we smile with contentment and a refreshed spirit knowing the Lord was with us all the way through.

"Yea, though I walk through... thou art with me...". Psalms 23:4

(More about Kimberly:
"Growing In Grief"
"The Most Unnatural Thing"
"Too Young to Die"
 "Embracing Grief"
"The Proving Ground"
"What You Don't Know About the Flu can Kill You" )

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Weight Loss Journey

Losing weight is never an easy thing, and I had failed enough times that another attempt was frightening to me.
But after seeing a picture of myself, taken from a view I could never fully see in a mirror, I was convinced I had to be serious this time.
The view I couldn't see in a mirror.

I didn’t like the way I felt in my body.
I felt like a sausage link that had been stuffed with too much pork. My bent arms and legs ached with the pressure, and I envisioned how a bent sausage link might split under that pressure. I also cringed knowing that my flesh would surrender and stretch to accommodate for my increasing size. I decided I had to do something about my increasing weight.

Getting started.
My weight loss journey officially began on the 27th of December 2012 when I took what would eventually be my "before" pictures. I had reached a weight beyond what I had promised myself I would ever allow, and I was embarrassed, ashamed, and uncomfortable. I had to get the weight off before it caused health issues that might not be easily reversed.

Dec. 27, 2012 - Before

Dec. 27, 2012 - Before
I didn’t just want to drop the extra pounds, I wanted life changing and sustainable results. 
I wanted to learn how to maintain my lower weight on a long-term bases. To maintain my weight meant creating "a new normal" with my eating habits. I knew this creation of "a new normal" couldn’t take place if abnormal undertakings were used and that’s why I didn’t prescribe to many of today’s popular methods for weight loss. I didn’t want to buy another book... take a pill... drink a powdered mix... eat appetite suppressants... join a group... have surgery... restrict myself to certain types or kinds of foods... see a psychiatrist... try hypnoses... or invest my money in any other sort of gimmick, gadget, or program.

I knew I had to patiently wait for results.
Creating "a new normal" wasn’t going to be easy and I had learned that any quick fix plan was the equation for delayed failure. How ones takes off their weight seems to be equivalent to how it returns... "easy go, easy come back on" was my observation, and I couldn’t have that happen again. Taking the weight off in spite of the wait was my new goal.

I had to settled my food issues.
I didn’t even know I had food issues! But here’s the thing, eating is not optional... it’s the what, when, where and how we eat that is optional. Since the what, when, where and how were putting too much weight on me, then I had food issues to settle.
30 lbs. less - July 2013 

30 lbs. less - July 2013

Counting calories worked for me.

When I calculated how many calories I was eating, it shocked me to discover that I was taking in between 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day! That was great... if I ran 10 miles a day, but I didn’t and I had to reduce my calorie intake.

I learned that it takes the reduction of 3,500 calories to lose one pound. I also learned that it’s very important not to go below 1,200 calories per day. When your daily calorie intake is that low, you could be putting your body into a starvation mode. A starvation mode lowers your metabolism and makes weight loss more difficult, not to mention that it’s difficult to receive adequate nutrition when your calorie intake is too low.

I didn’t want to be restricted in any of my food choices.

I gave myself permission to eat anything I wanted. Learning the calorie content of the foods I ate helped me to balance my meals. If I wanted a piece of cake, that was fine; but I would need to plan low calorie meals, for the entire day, to enjoy the calorie blasting sweet treat.

The greatest adjustment I faced was reducing the quantity (amount) of food I enjoyed eating. After eating a meal, have you ever felt unsatisfied by the meal... like you just needed a little more to top-it-off? I realized it had little to do with what I ate, but a lot to do with how much I ate... it was a volume issue, not a food issue. I also knew it was possible for my stomach to naturally shrink in its capacity, and that became my goal, to slowly reduce the volume of food it took for me to feel satisfied.
After taking off 40 lbs. - Sept. 2013

After taking off 40 lbs. - Sept. 2013
The best way for me to battle this volume issue was by drinking water.
Eight glasses of 8 ounces of water... 64 oz. a day was my minimal goal. The best start to accomplishing this minimal goal was for me to stop drinking so much of everything else.

I love hot tea, and I could drink as much as 6 cups a day... that actually added up to more than 60 ounces of tea a day. I also liked drinking a soda or two a day, and that added another 12 to 24 liquid ounces to my day. So, I was already taking in more than enough liquid ounces, I just needed to change what type of liquid I was drinking.

Adjusting to the taste of water is just like adjusting to the taste of anything... give it time and you can adjust. I had adjusted to the flavors of diet sodas and artificial sweeteners, and they really had a horrible taste. I had adjusted to those horrible flavors hoping that it would help me to shed pounds, but the artificial sweeteners were giving me artificial results, and I stopped them years ago. Water has so many health benefits that it’s a shame I didn’t appreciate it much sooner in my life.

I started keeping a daily food journal. 
If you won’t commit to keeping a daily food journal, then it’s doubtful you will be successful at your weight loss.

Yes... I wrote down everything I ate and drank and calculated the calories. It drove me crazy!!! Then my niece told me about My Fitness Pal ( which really made it simple and fun. I was now able to keep my food journal with just a few clicks and all the information was posted in my private profile. I do like this particular program, but there are many free food journals to choose from. The important thing is that you keep a daily food journal even to the point of "forecasting" your meals. Forecasting your meals means that you calculate the calories before you eat.

Aug. 14, 1978

I weighed myself every morning.

Most weight loss programs will tell you not to weigh yourself everyday, but this worked for me. I weighed myself every morning and kept a written weight record in my Bible journal. This was my accountability routine, and I reaped many benefits with this method of accountability.

Success! I reached my goals!

December 27, 2012 - I began my weight loss journey. February 2, 2013 - I had lost a total of 10 lbs.
April 22, 2013 - I had lost a total of 20 lbs.
July 6, 2013 - I had lost a total of 30 lbs.
September 21, 2013 - I had lost a total of 40 lbs.
November 16, 2013 - I reached my wedding weight and had lost a total of 45 lbs.
February 8, 2014 - I had lost a total of 50 lbs.
April 28, 2014 - I had reached my goal of taking off 55 lbs.
September 2, 2014 - I had lost a total of 58.6 lbs.

...and my journey continues, not to lose more weight, but to keep off what I have lost.

If I have made weight loss seem easy, then I must apologize.
There is absolutely nothing easy about losing weight. But it is possible, and I do hope this post has given you something helpful to use in your weight loss journey.

God bless,
Jane Coley
(October 2014)

Questions and comments are welcome. ~ Thank you for reading my post.

58.6 lbs. less and standing by a 50 lbs. bag of rice.

I took off more weight then I can lift!

Before taking off 58.6 lbs.