Considering Valentine's Day

originally in Abilene Families

My family experienced some minor medical drama the week between Christmas and New Year's while traveling out of state. On one of my many trips to the drug store, I had to stop dead in my tracks. I was perusing the Christmas decorations and wrapping paper on clearance. I turned around to look for more, and was faced with a shelf full of boxes of Valentine's cards that children will use to declare love for classmates. Before the confetti of the New Year's holiday is swept up, the shelves in stores are fully stocked with hearts, balloons, and all manner of Valentine props and paraphernalia.
Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 Maybe it's age, maybe it's motherhood, maybe it's global warming, but I don't think of Valentine's Day the same way that I did as a young, single woman or newlywed. Valentine's Day is a fun, light-hearted opportunity to lavish love on those around you, but life has shown me that love rarely looks like the front of a Hallmark card.

Love is not running along a beach hand in hand. Love holds the flashlight in the middle of the night, make-up long gone and tempers flaring, holding your tongue while your sweetie attempts an emergency home repair. Love isn't demonstrated by dewy eyes across a candlelit meal, but rather by one more run to the doctor or pharmacy when you are exhausted beyond reasonable or rational thought.

Valentine's Day lends itself to romance. Romance is wonderful and exciting, but won't take you very far when the stomach bug hits, or your "Love Shack" floods, or one of your parents is critically ill and/or dies. Romance will not be found in any of those situations, but love is there larger than life. Love brings the cool wash cloth again and again for the stomach bug, and mops and covertly repairs damaged keepsakes during the flood, and cries and holds and works and loves with an ill family member.

Love is not rose petals and champagne, but aching backs and work gloves. Love at my house never dances in an evening gown or tuxedo, but love supplies the elbow grease, the patience, the encouragement, and the clean clothes to face each day and, Lord willin' a comforting place to come home to when the day seems to come out on top. Love is holding tight when no words will fix it, and tears the only language uttered.

Love is not a polished, glimmery state. Love is messy, inconvenient, and frustrating. Love is giving up the last ounce of energy, sleep, time, or chocolate for the well-being of another. Love isn't found in romantic restaurants or destinations, but in hospital waiting rooms, the lobby of funeral homes, and kneeling in prayer next to race-car or princess beds in the middle of the night. Love is less about flowers and cartoon hearts, and everything about the value of another soul on this planet. I guess that's a little harder to put on the side of a coffee mug.

I will play along this Valentine's Day, like all the others, and I certainly hope for you to feel cherished on that day. But, later in the year when the toilet overflows while the drama at school comes to a boiling point and work causes too many demands to keep everyone civil, love will be there with a plunger, Kleenex for the tears, and hugs, pats, and kisses for all the things the plunger and Kleenex won't fix. Consider that your own Valentine's Day -- but don't look for Hallmark to make a card for it anytime soon.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

(Sarah's note: This was originally published three years ago and has been borrowed for sermons and published in various places around the Internet. It still is one of my personal favorites, too. Thankful for a day to stop and remember the love we have for each other, but more grateful for the God we worship that allows us to start over when we get it wrong.)


Strong In My Weakness

I caved. I gave in. I broke.

I just broke a 20 day streak without Diet Coke at lunch today.

Starting over.

Please don't feel obligated to tell me all the ways Diet Coke is horrible for me to try to encourage me to break my habit. I know.
By Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 As a migraine sufferer, I gave up Diet Coke "for good" in 2010. In my prolific reading about migraines and triggers, one point made sense to me: any triggers that you can get out of your life, you should, and caffeine addiction is an obvious one. This particular author recommended that migraine sufferers put down caffeine and never return to it. I did, and felt better.

(Yes, caffeine is used to treat migraines. Different story. I am happy to discuss what I know about migraines with you if you are interested. Email me.)

Made it all the way until June, too. Don't know why I took a sip or two of Satan's milk. But I did. And there you go. I was a goner. That six month stretch is the longest I've had since (but that also is when Troy lost his job, so trying to give up my serious addiction in the face of unemployment, then long-distance marriage/ single-motherhood/ house for sale, then move/ relocating teenagers.

January is when I tried (AGAIN) to really get off of it for good. I went a little too cold turkey on a rainy, hormonal week and kept a migraine for about 5 days, but I was NOT turning back at that point.

Last year, one (of my four) words for the year was "gentleness." This struggle has given me gentleness with those struggling with real addictions. If I can't lay down my bubbly goodness for more than 20 days, then I am sure not going to throw stones at people trying to walk away from tobacco, alcohol, a prescription they've found they rely on, or anything like that.

The Lord is also leading me to see that, though I am a healthy eater, I (still) have some food addictions I'm not quite ready to give up. Foods that I know aren't the best fuel for my workouts or body, but I just flat don't want to walk away from. I believe with all my heart (when it comes to types of food) that “ 'Everything is permissible'–but not everything is beneficial." (1 Cor. 10:23). And as I try to do what is most beneficial for me in my food choices, I find that I am very, very weak.

A friend urged me to claim 2 Corinthians 12: 9, 10 for this year:

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" 2 Corinthians 12:9,10 

Um... that's not very fun. But oh, so true. And I have seen the many many ways God will work if I will remember that He is strong in my weakness.

This sounds pretty heavy for one cup of Diet Coke, huh?

So... I'm taking suggestions on how to completely walk away from this habit. Starting over...NOW. I'm considering paying myself $1 or $2 (the cost of one out) when I am super tempted. When I break 20 days again, I'll either treat myself to something fun or keep saving up for something big. 

I think I used to be more strong-willed than this and just got tired. What about you? Strong willed? Habit you're trying to break? Want an accountability partner? I'm in!


Looking Back at My Struggles

It's a gray morning here. Rain is in the forecast, and my looming migraine tells me it's on the way.

I don't know -- now that I'm almost half-way through February -- that I will ever go back and confess to you how much I did not get accomplished on my Twelve by 2012 list. I think that was the post where I saw someone write, "I am not one to not finish what I started." It has become glaringly obvious to me that I rarely finish anything that I start.

Except a Diet Coke. 


I get in the middle of projects and leave them half-done and guilt-ridden in the middle of my floor. I make a meal for myself and am SO! HUNGRY! that I SAY to myself that I will clean it up later and... later never comes. As you can imagine, housekeeping is not my strong suit...

However, in looking at my list, I did (somewhat) accomplish 8 of my 12. Instead of registering for a half-marathon, I am now registered for a 10K at Cowtown. I just didn't feel ready to take on that level of training -- mentally or physically.

The thing that most people commented on the most was my "Sarah is unavailable file" -- my file of what will happen when I am deceased. Yeah, that is something I have started and never finished. Don't let anything happen to me until that is finished, okay? And if it does, someone give my poor dog her meds, okay?

I still haven't done much house decorating. Meh.

So, don't you worry. I still have plenty of things to work on IN 2012!

As 2012 is chugging along, I am being made aware day by day of marriages that are struggling, people that are battling some of my same battles, and so many heartaches and heartbreaks in this world.

God is putting on my heart what a blessing my past struggles have been. Places that I have struggled and come out stronger, places that I can look back and still see the battlefield. There are times in my life that I wouldn't take a million dollars to walk back through -- but I wouldn't take a million dollars for the experience, lessons, and blessings that came from those times. From big things like unemployment and marriage struggles and parenting doubts to small things like organizational challenges (yeah, still in the middle of that) to budget struggles (okay... still there) to the diaper days (NO! Not there!)

I am sad with the people that are in the midst of those struggles, but at the same time, I hope that I can foster hope by standing on the other side of the mire and saying, "You can get through it. I promise. I know it's hard. I know you want to quit. It is so worth it. Keep trying."

It's that hope word again. Only available through Christ in me. Powerful.
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect," 1 Peter 3:15

And Christ in me also provides comfort:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Without the hope of Christ, without the comfort of Christ, my past struggles and battles would have completely overwhelmed and consumed me. But God. 

So grateful today. If you're in the midst of a struggle, may Christ in you offer you hope and comfort that another day will come, and that it's not forever. Blessings.


Seriously. I'm Here

I honestly didn't mean to be gone again FOREVER, but Jiminy Christmas -- what a week.

First -- Matt's funeral? Most beautiful and holy experience I have witnessed. So thankful we were able to make it.

My ladies class at church is studying the life of David. We had just, the week before, read 2 Samuel 12:19,20:
"David noticed that his servants were whispering among themselves and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.  “Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.” Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped."

None of us could imagine worshiping the Lord after losing a child -- until I witnessed Matt's parents doing that very thing. Beautiful. Holy. Sacred.  


We came back into town JUST in time for Ashley's appointment -- to get her driver's license! Yay! And for Riley to turn in his science fair project! ENORMOUS yay! Then there were mandatory meetings for a class Ashley is taking, orthodontist appointment, vet appointment, a band concert, groceries? You want groceries? Then Friday afternoon and ALLLLLLLLLLLL day Saturday I had a volunteer obligation as band parent. I was coordinating something for the Solo/ Ensemble contest that was being held at the high school campus. In short, Saturday was the longest day of my life and I spent most of it fantasizing about my Sunday afternoon nap.

And for some reason I signed up to give blood Monday afternoon. I knew I would be tired last night, but all day today it's pretty much been all I could do to walk across the room. Which is unfortunate, because I had grand plans to whip this house into shape after being ignored after all the comings and goings last week (I had a hair appointment yesterday morning and was gone all day). 

Through the mayhem of the time, my kids continue to be an affirmation that I have a blessed life. Not a perfect life, but immensely blessed.

Miss being here among you. On my way back. Pinky promise.


Surviving the 4th (or any holiday) Without Blowing Your Diet Progress

I am involved in a fitness/ weight loss class at my church. I wanted to encourage my class mates about the upcoming holiday and thought this would be the best place to write it all down.

You are welcome to "listen in"... or just wait and tune in when I have something else fascinating to say. :-)

Thoughts and ideas about how to get through the 4th without sabotaging your efforts:

'Fireworks' photo (c) 2008, bayasaa - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/1) Remember the reason for the holiday:
So many of us approach holidays and family gatherings as food-centered events. The average American gains 10-12 pounds from Thanksgiving to New Year's (and few take them back off the following year). So... if you think about it logically: simply because we appreciate the pilgrims, honor the birth of our Lord, and watch the calendar turn the page, we eat our way through 6-7 weeks? It really isn't a reason to eat. Nor is celebrating the freedom of our country. Focus on the people that you are gathered with, enjoy the company, and enjoy going home without feeling uncomfortably full.

2) Approach celebrations and parties with a plan:
Do you know what food will be there? Do you know which of those foods are your greatest temptations? Offer to bring some fruit so that you will have something to munch on instead of chips, as well as something you can snack on instead of cookies. Budget your calories to include your favorite foods. Maybe workout extra long in the morning so that you can have some potato salad.

3) Don't show up to a celebration starving:
Have a small snack of some nuts and/ or fruit, maybe some yogurt (something with protein) shortly before you go so that even the tablecloth doesn't look like a good snack!

4) Everything in moderation:
Anything at a picnic or celebration will fit into your calorie budget for the day -- if you stop with a few bites. Enjoy the bites that are truly worth it.

 “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive." 1 Corinthians 10:23

5)Truly TASTE your food:
Is it worth the calories it will "cost" you on the budget? Or is it just forbidden fruit? It may not taste as good as you remember it. Taste test before you gobble!

And for "the day after..."
6) Don't step on the scale:
Even if you did all of these things -- you probably had more sodium than usual, and you'll be all prepared to pat yourself on the back... and be sorely disappointed. Or you didn't do any of these things and you want to know how badly to beat yourself up. No. Today's a new day, with the same calorie budget as yesterday. Slate is clean. Go.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22, 23

 7) Water is your friend:
Drink plenty of water (as you should be anyway). That will help flush out the sodium, any extra fluid you may have on board, and help get you back on track quickly. (I'm a HUGE fan of drinking LOTS of water -- all the time! It's basically my answer for everything!)

8) All is grace:
Remember to measure successes in a variety of ways, not just the numbers on the scale or the fit of your clothes. You have to have success with your relationship with food before you have permanent success on the scale. Were you able to stop at one dessert instead of needing 3? VICTORY! Did you only have a half-serving of Aunt Margie's potato salad (when you REEEEAAAALLLLY wanted to sit down with the whole bowl)?? SUCCESS!! Don't beat yourself up for the mountain that you have yet to climb. Turn around and enjoy the view behind you -- and realize that you have the power to PERMANENTLY leave it behind you.

And keep climbing! Just one baby step at a time!

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