Thursday, February 18, 2010

Eating Out WITHOUT Getting Fat

If I had a dollar for every person I've heard blame their overweight issues on eating out, well lets just say I'd have enough dollars for a very nice meal or two :). Eating out is lots of fun (not to mention convenient) and almost every social event seems to revolve around food, but the excess portions and calories that usually accompany a meal out can quickly make it not worth it when you're trying to be healthy or loose weight. It is possible, though, to eat out and even indulge occasionally without sabotaging your health and your diet. As long as you prepare and inform yourself ahead of time you can avoid the guilt and frustration and not be afraid of your scale the next day.

At the very most basic it always goes back to being aware of what you're putting in your body. Most restaurants make nutrition information available either on their website or upon request at the restaurant itself. This is a good place to start, it's helpful to know that the soup or salad you thought was so healthy is actually loaded with calories and/or fat. Most of us are not as good at estimating the nutritional value of foods as we think we are. It's also a good deterrent to see that the cheesecake you're thinking about eating all by yourself is over 1,000 calories with 40 or more grams of fat most of which are saturated. Know what you're putting in your body! (I know I sound redundant but I want it embedded in your brain) Even if you are purposefully indulging(and in my opinion that is totally ok on occasion) it should be planned, if you know you're going to binge on a 1,500 calorie dinner it's a good idea to save some calories earlier in the day, be extra careful that week, or at the very least be prepared that you won't be happy with your scale for a couple days or longer. You also need to know that you can indulge in food that tastes amazing (and isn't great for you - yes I know it never tastes as good if you know it's "healthy") without putting unnecessary processed or chemical junk in your body. Many bakeries are using all natural ingredients to make delicious sweet treats and you can find other kinds of all natural "junk" food at almost any grocery store these days.

Along those same lines, you will be amazed at how much easier it is to make a healthy choice if you decide what you're going to eat before you ever get in the restauraunt. When you show up unprepared and spend time looking over the menu you are setting yourself up for failure. Apetizing smells all around you and wonderful descriptions of savory fried or buttery deliciousness will tempt you to make the wrong choice, especially if you're very hungry. So plan ahead, know what you can eat that won't wreck your health and you won't have to spend time looking at the menu when you're hungry and tempted, you'll already know what you want. Even deciding ahead of time that you will only eat one breadstick (or roll or whatever they bring to the table) will strengthen your willpower and help you keep your hands out of the basket.

Here are just a few places I like to go that I know have healthy vegetarian and/or vegan options:
Ramsi's Cafe on the World - on Bardstown Rd. in Louisville is representative of one of the many reasons I love Louisville, amazing local restaurants. They have a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes and the food is amazing.
North End Cafe - another local favorite on Frankfort Ave. in Louisville. From their website "
Panera - here you can download a list with basic nutrition information for all menu items or click on the nutrition calculator which will give you both the nutrition information for your meal and the ingredient list. My favorite here is the low fat garden vegetable soup with basil pesto and a whole grain baguette. With the pesto (which contains some romano cheese) the entire meal has 320 calories, 4.5g fat, 9g fiber, and 12g protein. Without the pesto it is vegan(with the exception of honey in the baguette-the french baguette has no honey) and has 290 calories, 1.5g fat, 9g fiber, and 12g protein. I will note that the sodium in this meal is a little high, but other than that I think it is a good choice for a healthy meal out.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

It has been longer than I had hoped since my last post. Though there has been a lot on my mind I have wanted to share, there has been a lot on my plate to keep me from sharing it! Busy as I have been I have still been able to stick very closely to my new "vegan" diet. It will have been a month tomorrow since I started it and I must say that it has gone much better than I ever could have hoped. I have lost 10 pounds in 4 weeks, this weight loss is mostly reflective of my change in diet since I have had little time for exercise, I'm anxious to see how my weight loss changes once I am exercising more regularly. I have "cheated" and included dairy on a handful of occasions (for example: sour cream on a kid's naked grilled veggie burrito at Qdoba with no cheese or a veggie delight sub at Subway with cheese) and had a diet coke out of a fountain(my very favorite!) one time per week since I decided to "give it up" almost altogether. I can't really call it cheating though, for one thing it is premeditated and never an impulse decision, and for another it doesn't come with the guilt that typically accompanies cheating on a standard "diet". I must also note that I eat chocolate every day. You read that right. I control portions of course, and I'm careful about what kind of chocolate I eat, but most afternoons during a few minutes of quiet time while the kids are resting or napping I indulge. Newmans Own organic dark chocolate is my favorite, it is vegan and they use evaporated cane juice to sweeten rather than processed sugar. Rich healthy chocolate awesomeness :)

Another important difference I have noticed is an increase in energy. I used to start most days exhausted and stay exhausted all day, drinking at least 2 cups of black tea(I've never been a coffee drinker) and then 2 diet cokes or more in the afternoon. The caffeine would help momentarily but I would find myself feeling tired again in no time. Now I start my day first with a hot cup of green tea, then fresh fruit or a smoothie whenever I begin to feel hungry. I still, of course, occasionally feel tired due to lack of sleep or stress, but not nearly to the degree I did before, and sleepless nights are much easier to tolerate the next day.

The "fruit only for breakfast" plan started after reading SB. They shared the theory that fruit digests best by itself and should be eaten that way, either completly alone until your next meal or at least 30 minutes before eating anything else. There is (and always will be with any theory) research that contradicts this, but I found an interesting article on digestion that supports it that you might consider here. They make the same point, that fruit should be eaten alone 30 minutes before anything else and 3 hours after a meal(which, incidentally, makes breakfast the perfect time since you have been "fasting" overnight). As with everything else I've read there are things I agree and disagree with in this article, but our bodies are pretty good at telling us what is going on inside and my body seems pretty happy with the way I've been treating it. If I'm in a big hurry I'll just grab an apple or banana on my way out the door. I keep raw almonds on hand all the time so when I get hungry before lunch (which happens a lot) I can eat a quick healthy snack without being tempted to have something I shouldn't. If I have a little more time I'll make a smoothie which is a little more filling and satisfying. I've yet to find any research to tell how adding a little soymilk and peanut butter to the fruit and blending it affects the "optimal digestion process" of eating just fruit, but I know I don't really feel any different than when I eat just fruit aside from it taking just slightly longer to feel hungry. As soon as I find anything I'll be sure to share it with you. Meanwhile, here is my favorite smoothie recipe:

1/2 fresh banana
1/2 cup each frozen blueberries, strawberries, and peaches(or whatever frozen fruits you prefer, mixed berries are also good)
1/2 cup light plain soymilk
1/2 cup juice (I like Sambazon antioxidant trinity - it contains acai, pomegranate and blueberry juice, all three excellent sources of antioxidants and in the top 6 of a top 10 list of disease fighting antioxidants published by the University of California, LA.)
1T natural peanut butter

Combine all ingredients in your blender and let it sit for 20-30 minutes so the frozen fruit can soften enough to blend smoothly. Blend starting on the lowest speed and gradually increasing speed to blend smoothly and evenly to your prefered consistency. This may be a completely personal preference, but I prefer to drink smoothies through a straw.
And, for what it's worth, my two older kiddos love this smoothie as well. I can double it, put theirs in a cup with a lid and a straw and be out the door 30 minutes soon than if I have to fix them each breafast and wait for them to sit at the table and eat it, and more importantly they are getting something healthy rather than greasy unhealthy drive thru junk or toaster pastries.

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that every legitimate "diet plan" you've tried has encouraged you to eat breakfast every day. I'll have to reiterate, it has more benifits than I can list here from mental to metabolic, so if you take nothing else from this post, please start eating breakfast! Something healthy is obviously going to be the most beneficial, even if you don't subscribe to the "fruit only" plan, whole grain toast or cereal, even egg whites and turkey bacon if you're still against the vegan or vegetarian route.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Food for Thought

I need to start this post by saying something you probably (or hopefully) already know. Don't believe everything you read. I've said before and I'll say again that I am no expert(and even the ones who are get it wrong sometimes). I have been doing research and reading books on diets and fitness and nutrition for years. As much as Skinny Bitch motivated me change some of my eating habits and the way I think about food, my knowledge it is a culmination of things learned over time. Many things they recommended were things I already knew and did to some extent. I don't smoke or drink coffee (not that an occasional cup of coffee is severely detrimental to your health, but depending on it daily for energy should be a sign in itself that it's not a healthy habit - more about that later I hope). I exercise regularly, or at least try to amidst the business of raising three children 4 and under which is a form of exercise in itself. When cooking at home and sometimes when eating out I try to maintain a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, monounsaturated fats and, until recently, lean meats. Most of this is common knowledge I think, if you ever turn on the news there are segments almost daily about ways you can take better care of your body. And of course the Biggest Looser has brought to light for millions of Americans the problems a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits can cause for you health at the most extreme. There are also the recently popular "doctor" shows filling in spaces along side Oprah, Ellen, and Dr. Phil. Dr. Oz and The Doctors seem to be trying to make taking better care of our bodies more accessible to the average American without a MD.
That said, if you're a stay at home mom, a working mom, or just a working woman trying to get in better shape and take better care of your body it can be so overwhelming and time consuming to try to find out what's good for you and what fads won't work in the long term. How can you get back into your skinny jeans or yes, even a bikini, after 3 c-sections? How can you counteract the seeming aging effects of caring for you children and balancing a career or managing a home? Don't get me wrong, there is no perfect diet that will keep you from aging forever, but why not take the best care of yourself in the process and maybe slow it down a little? So rather than bore myself writing blogs so few and far between about the monotonous but never boring day in and day out of raising my 3 children who I adore far more than I could ever expect you to, what if I share with you some of the things I've learned along my battle with weight loss and baby weight and trying to take better care of my body for the sake of teaching my children to do the same? Then maybe I can feel like my brain has more purpose than just memorizing songs and nursery rhymes and who's turn is it to push the button on the elevator or pick out the story, who needs to go to the doctor and which child needs what medicine when. Even if no one ever reads it, it will be a good outlet for my mental energy I think.

One quick thing to consider today, as I read SB I found myself comparing it to prior knowledge about nutrition and weight loss. The diet they recommend for optimal health and maintaining a healthy weight is a vegan diet. For those of you who don't know, this basically means you only consume things that grow out of the earth and not animal products (no meat fish, eggs, or dairy). They eat fruits, vegetables, all kinds of whole grains(bread, pasta, rice, etc) beans, lentils, nuts, and the like. The first thing that came to my mind was not a diet or nutrition book at all, but the book of Daniel. A couple years ago I did Beth Moore's Daniel bible study at my church, it's probably one of my favorites. Near the beginning of the study we spent some time on Daniel 1:5-16. Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine and devised a 10 day experiment with the official in charge and some of his friends to see if eating vegetables and water would be healthier for them than the royal food and wine. Short story shorter, Daniel was right, at the end of only 10 days they looked healthier and better nourished than the others. Beth Moore explained that the word translated vegetables in this passage actually meant anything that grew from the earth. Daniel was a vegan. Please be clear, I AM NOT SAYING THE BIBLE SAYS WE SHOULD ALL BE VEGANS. God provided quail in the dessert for Moses and the Israelites, vegans and vegetarians don't eat quail. All I'm saying is that it worked out well for Daniel, he was "healthy and well nourished", and that's an example I'm more than willing to follow. Just food for thought.
I'll leave you with one last thing before I end this very long post...If you're anything like me it's your attitude about food and eating that decides how healthy or unhealthy(or how skinny or fat) you are. We look at the word diet all wrong, we think we're being deprived or that we "can't" eat the foods we love. Yes, I love food too, eating is, and should be, a pleasurable experience, but that is not it's primary function. Primarily food is fuel for your body to do the things you need it to do to make it through the day, fight off illnesses, grow, and heal. I think the most powerful thing I learned from reading SB is this basic truth that seems so obvious I can't believe I didn't figure it out on my own. You are (most likely) an adult and, most importantly, created with free will. You CAN eat or drink whatever you want. Nobody is telling you you can never again eat a greasy slice of cheesy pizza, or some rich delicious chocolate dessert. You can also choose not to. Think about what you're eating before you put it in your mouth and weather you really want it or if grabbing a piece of chocolate out of the candy dish at work is something you do out of habit or because you really want to sit down and enjoy a good piece of chocolate.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

You Are What You Eat

I don't think I've ever met another woman who wasn't concerned on some level about her appearance. Even those women you see eating greasy fast food who look like they might blow away with the next strong breeze worry that they're too skinny. While I was working at GNC during college I used to be amazed at the number of women who would come in wanting to know how they could put on a little weight. It's easy to say you'd rather have that problem than the frustrating extra 10 pounds you've been trying to get rid of forever, but I'm sure they would just as quickly trade as you would. No matter how perfect a woman may look on the cover of a magazine or in a perfect pair of jeans, she is, in fact, human and not as perfect as you think. I think we've all heard the stories about the beautiful actress or model seeing herself on the cover of a magazine and not recognizing her own picture or wishing she looked like that.
There are about a million different fad diets and theories about the best way to loose weight, diet supplements, gyms on every corner (right next to the McDonalds), personal trainers, group classes, weight and cardio machines, cardio theaters (my personal fav), and an endless selection of exercise videos and home gym equipment. So why is America among the top 10 fattest nations in the world?? I am no doctor or nutritionist, but I think it's pretty safe to say that if you put garbage in your body you will either feel like garbage, look like garbage, or both.
Because I'm not one of the lucky(or unlucky depending on your perspective) ones with a freakishly high metabolism who can eat whatever I want and still fit into a size 2, I have spent most of my adult life learning about the best and worst ways to loose weight and take better care of my body. Until recently being "skinny" was the priority and I either just assumed or ignored for a long time that being skinny was equivalent to being healthy. In reality though, that is not the case. There are plenty of really unhealthy ways to loose weight. The Atkins diet for one. I hope I don't have to explain how a diet that won't allow you to eat whole grains and fruit but will allow you to eat bacon and other meats high in saturated fat is supposed to be healthy no matter how much weight you loose. Again, I'm not a doctor, but I'm not an idiot either and I'm proud to say I never fell for that one. I do know some people who lost weight on it, but they gained it all back so if that's not proof enough... The problem with "fad" diets like Atkins is um...they don't work. Americans, well overweight people everywhere I'm sure, are so bent on finding a way to loose weight that will allow them to still eat whatever crap they want that they'll believe anyone who makes that promise without using their own common sense or doing a teeny bit of research to find out how it will affect their body. There are plenty of other unhealthy ways to loose weight besides the atkins diet. I have tried some that I am now ashamed to admit. Diet pills and not eating top the list. I at least had done enough research to know that the basic formula for weight loss is calories in-calories out=weight loss or weight gain. Easy enough, I started eating 500 or less calories a day and excercising for several hours. I did loose weight, but the lack of any real nutrition and rapid weight loss let to a handful of other health problems (thankfully not permanent). I've tried other things in between, some worked and some didn't, but what I finally learned is that weight loss has to be a side effect of getting healthy and making permanent changes in order to last. Getting skinny by whatever means necessary does not make you healthy. My most recent research has led me to a total lifestyle change I never thought I would even consider embracing. After 2 weeks though it has stuck (so far), and while it hasn't been easy it hasn't been impossible and I finally feel like I am taking good care of this one body I have been given.
A couple weeks ago I happened acroos the book Skinny Bitch. I tend to be pretty old fashioned, so I was a little offended by the language in the book and there were some things I didn't agree with, but aside from that it was really interesting. I try not to believe everything I read, so I plan to continue to do furter research (which I hope to share with you as I go). But I did decide to do a few things right away. I'll explain a little now and elaborate later...
I gave up diet coke. I used to drink 2 or more diet cokes a day. I knew they weren't necessarily "healthy" but I was sort of in denial about how unhealthy it really is. More about that later...I have had one fountain diet coke per week the last 2 weeks and it hasn't been nearly as hard as I expected.
I stopped eating meat. I thought this would be much harder than it actually has been, but I can't think of one time in the last few weeks I've even felt a little tempted.
I'm not eating any other animal products either, at least mostly. Ok I'm not joining PETA or anything. This is primarily about taking better care of my body and secondarily about poor treatment of factory farmed animals. It will probably be a long while before I master the art of eating nothing with eggs or dairy in it, I may never. But I have been very careful, primarily staying away from eggs, cheese, and milk right now.
Buying organic - I actually started this several months ago. If you buy nothing else organic for whatever reason, you should at least consider buying all organic animal products, then, if you're so inclined, check out these links for the dirty dozen foods you should buy organic and top ten foods you don't need to buy organic. Again, I'll try to elaborate later
Limiting or cutting out refined sugar - cutting it out altogether is hard, but more because it's hard to find products that don't use it than because I crave it. Natural sweeteners are just as satisfying. I must clarify that I have not given up chocolate!! I have found several organic dark chocolate bars that use no milk fat or refined sugar that are ammmmazing :) And I have a little almost daily :)
I feel great, I've lost 7 pounds in 2 weeks, and I know I'm putting things in my body that are beneficial (even the chocolate has monounsaturated fats and, believe it or not, fiber). I think the most important thing I have gained from reading this book is the mentality that I am choosing to give up (or limit) things that are bad for me because it's what's best for my body rather than having the attitude that I am "not allowed" to have certain things because I'm "dieting"
I really hope I'm able to find the time to share more of what I'm learning with you, but based on my incosistency with blogging in the past I will make no promises :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Answered Prayer

I will admit I am pretty much the worst blogger in the history of blogging. I won't even make up an excuse this time, because the truth is you make time for the things that are important and most days blogging just isn't it. With three young kids constantly demanding my attention there are days I can feel drained before I've even started and when I do have downtime the last thing I want to do is sit at the computer and type about...nothing. I've shared quite enough about what a difficult season we've been in and honestly there's not much else to say. The daily grind has drained me so that the last thing I want to do is write about the monotony. In fact I can be known to snap pretty fiercely at my husband should he dare to walk in the door and ask "What did you do today?" He's learned to ask questions like "How was Bible Study?"(because I am almost always in a good mood when I've actually showered and dressed up a little and gotten out of the house)"Can I help you with that" or most appropriately lately simply take the unusually fussy baby (7 teeth within about 2 weeks people!) from my very tired arms and let me walk without a word to the bathroom, lock the door and take the shower I didn't have time for that day...or the day before sometimes. I love my kids so much, though. Gracie is going to be four in less than two weeks, Will is making his transformation from baby to little boy and Walker is sitting up in his high chair eating babyfood...I just don't know where the time is going! Even on those hardest of days when everyone is grumpy I still find myself wishing life would slow down just a little.
Today was our last day of Bible Study until January, "celebration day". The holiday season is so wonderfully busy I probably won't miss it as much as I think I will, but it's just especially bittersweet today. I've been blessed in some way by every Bible Study I've done, but this was was extra special. We did the God Seeker Study by Kristen Sauder, and in the beginning I rose early in the morning as often as I could(translate wanted to and had nothing more pressing, like more sleep) to have my quiet time and work on my "heartwork" but about halfway through the study, maybe a little earlier the transformation began. We were studying Exodus 33, particularly verse 7 about Moses and the tent of meeting.
"Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the "tent of meeting." Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp."
Before this study my quiet times were somewhat regular and I was in Bible Study each semester studying the word, but I was not wholeheartedly seeking God. I moved my "tent" to a more secluded and quiet spot and began making a daily habit of rising obediently at about 5:30 to meet with God, wholeheartedly seeking him. Making the decision to do that has transformed my heart almost as powerfully as when I first accepted Christ. If you have not experienced it yourself it is my prayer that you find that being a Christian is not about praying to a distant and abstract God, but one who will speak to you "as a man speaks to his friend."(33:11) I still, of course, have a long way to go. It is a lifelong process that, not unlike motherhood, is painful and yet so very rewarding. Through this process I have been praying quite adamantly on my face for an end to our seemingly never ending search for an answer about John's employment situation. He has been on temporary orders at Ft. Knox which end Dec. 11, we have bills that are behind, Gracie's birthday, Christmas, and a trip to Disney(planned and mostly paid for over a year ago) coming up. Today God has begun to answer many prayers that have been prayed by me and others. I'm quite sure, though I'll never be positive this side of heaven, that his waiting had a lot to do with work he was doing in me. I can now let go of my pride and tell you there was a time I was angry at God for making me suffer when John was the one who needed to change. He was, after all, the one looking for a job with no luck. While it may be that He was working on both of us, now that He has removed the log from my eyes, I am not sure how I saw around it to find fault in John or anyone else for that matter. I feel amazingly freed and humbled and I am so thankful even for the painful process that got me here. I finally gave in and shared today (quite reluctantly in fact) a little bit about how this study has transformed me and got to my car to see that I had 3 text messages from John. The military has finally medically cleared him (we have been waiting on this for a long long time) and we were not only approved in about 24 hours for an interest free sort of emergency relief loan through military but he already had the check which will bring all of our bills up to date (we have till April to start paying it back and it will remain interest free through the life of the loan). I am so joyful about this amazing news that I am reluctant even to mention that this isn't quite it. He has to be assigned a duty station and given official orders still. I will continue to pray that he is able to stay at Ft. Knox because I am just not ready to leave Louisville right now for so many reasons. But I will obediently follow wherever he leads if I must, how could I not?

Monday, August 10, 2009

One More Thing

Dare I ask what else could go wrong?? Honestly...a lot, so I won't, but really I hope something gives soon. Yesterday on the way to church the battery light came on in the Suburban(the car I have to drive to fit all three kiddos safely in car seats when I'd really much rather be driving my smaller safer easier to park Discovery) then the radio went out as I pulled into the parking lot, then the air stopped working as we drove around looking for a parking spot. I'm no mechanic, but I know these are not good signs so I tried to call John (7 hours away in Atlanta) to prepare for what I could only assume would be a car that wouldn't start by the time we were ready to head home. No answer, but sure enough I was right. I got out to the car in the 95 degree heat and to my relief it started, but by the time I had strapped all three kiddos securely into their car seats and loaded up the stroller, died. What?!?! I prayed "Please just let me get home!" I got the kids back out of the car and parked them in the shade of a nearby tree to try to keep them out of the heat while I tried to figure out what to do, I popped the hood, but that's about the extent of my car repair abilities. No one I know that would have been close by has a car big enough for me plus 3 car seats and much to my disappointment many many people drove by without offering to help a single mother with 3 kids three and under stranded in the heat. Finally a man stopped by and attempted to jump start the car. It started, he left, and as he was pulling out of the parking lot it died again. The parking lot was nearly empty and I was unloading the stroller to take the kids inside to get some lunch at the cafe and cool down assuming I would have to wait a while for a ride home when a family of 4 came by and offered to help. After I explained the situation the wife and 2 kids offered to stay at church while the man took me and my kids home. He is an officer with the Louisville metro police department and I felt at ease(and also desperate to get my children home and out of the heat). So I loaded all three car seats into the back of his old Buick sedan and he drove us home only to realize I had neglected to get the house key and garage door opener out of the truck before we left. I unloaded the kids and we waited in the shade while he went back to pick up his family and my house key. While we waited I thought and prayed about all the things that had gone wrong in the last 16 months...Single parent to 2 kids for a year while John was away, deaths of 3 loved ones, difficult pregnancy, John comes home unemployed, the stress of taking care of 3 kids 3 and under when one is a newborn, alternator goes out in the Discovery, water heater busts, John has to leave again, single parent to 3 kids, still no word on active duty assignment...suburban dies. I suppose I would be pretty justified to be depressed or at least down, but then I thought about all the blessings I have and how much closer I am to Jesus than I was before all this. Our basic needs are met and then some, we're nowhere close to loosing our house, we have cars to drive, good food on the table, my family has been supportive and helpful, and most importantly I have 3 beautiful healthy children. There may be a lot of things I want, but I have everything I need, for my father in heaven know what I need even before I ask him (Matthew 6:8)Comforting to know on days like yesterday when I try to pray but can't seem to find the right words. The thing I'm most thankful for though, last night before bed when we were praying Gracie prayed "Thank you that we got to play outside in the grass at church and please help us so our car will be fixed." What a blessing to have a child that can see the good in a bad situation.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Purpose in Pain

There have been some heavy things on my heart and mind the last couple days. I woke up Sunday morning thinking about the challenges my family and I have faced over the last year and a half and how it has affected my faith. Even now I can't recall the verses I was thinking of, but I can recall my frustration as we struggled to get ready for church on time and that I could see on the screen that the message had already started as we were getting our children checked into childcare. We are members at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville and we LOVE our church. They speak truth from the word of God and they never sugar coat it for the sake of making people more comfortable to be there. Christianity is not comfortable, growth and change require some pain and it is easy to feel like an outcast when you embrace Jesus Christ in a world that rejects him. I am not a preacher or theologian, I do not even feel equipped to be a small group leader and I have a terrible memory which won't seem to allow me to memorize as much scripture as I would like, but I do know this, God does not make mistakes. Our current sermon series is on seeing God, and this Sunday it was on "Seeing God in My Pain". I cannot adequately summarize it so I really encourage you to click on the link and watch or listen to it, especially the interview with Cindy Winters, wife of pastor Fred Winters who was killed in his church in Illinois. God knew this was exactly what I needed to hear this day, I don't question that one bit. I had been second guessing myself and my ability to handle difficult circumstances. I grew up with this "suck it up" mentality, in my family it was never acceptable to complain or let difficulties affect your performance. I'm not saying there is necessarily anything wrong with this, to not complain is biblical, but we have to be careful about being too legalistic and find a balance between complaining and sharing our struggles with those who can reach out to us and lift us up in prayer or even grow closer to the Lord because of the struggles we are facing. To not complain does not necessarily mean to keep it to yourself, I think it has more to do with the attitude behind it. As I sat in church on Sunday listening to Kyle share about Job and the incredible pain he experienced and how God redeemed that pain I didn't necessarily feel comforted, in fact I cried through most of the sermon(something I don't really care to do in public), but I did feel hopeful. God's purpose for us is not happiness, but he does love us and He will redeem us, maybe not in this life, but he will. Job's pain was redeemed during his life on earth, he was blessed with family and wealth and I would say he deserved it though no human, fallen as we are, really deserves any blessing we receive. More than that, as Kyle shared, people have been reading his story for years and years and growing closer to the Lord because of it, amazing.
My struggles are pretty minimal compared to most. I have more than adequate shelter and can put food on the table for my family and clothes on their backs. I never had to try to get pregnant, let alone be denied that opportunity altogether and I have not lost a child which I can only imagine is the worst pain possible, and I am a pretty healthy person in general. That said, my pain is still real. The past year and a half has brought financial struggles, unemployment, loss of three loved ones, a difficult pregnancy, being separated from my husband and having to care for my very young children and maintain our household alone, and after months of looking for a job and waiting for answers we still don't know what the future holds for us. Those are not easy burdens to bear, but given the pain Jesus endured for me on the cross it hardly compares. He may redeem it in this life, he may not, it may get worse before it gets better, it may never get better. But the purpose of my life is not for my happiness, it is to bring him glory to God, so my prayer is just that. I will praise him in joy and in pain and hope that someone may grow closer to Jesus because of it. "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God." Romans 8:18-21