Six Week Challenge

I stepped on the scale about two months ago and the number was higher than my previous personal highest.  I was busy, in the midst of finishing up writing a book, and knew I didn’t have the time and energy to do anything about it.

Now that its a few months later, the book is finished and I have realized that taking care of myself isn’t something that can or should be put off.   So I signed up for a six week challenge through a local “transformation center” and I’m going to give this a go.

There is a very strict nutritional plan that goes along with said challenge, and I’m working hard to keep myself on track.  Basically, every meal has 4 oz of protein, 2 oz of carbs, and unlimited vegetables.

I spent today doing a bunch of meal planning and some of my food prep.  Although I might get a little bored with my meals, I’m going to stick to the plan!  Pinterest has been a great friend here!!!


Steel Cut Oatmeal:
– put into 1/2 cup muffin tins.  Based on the amount I cooked up in one batch, I should have 12 days worth of servings with 2 “muffins” each.

Egg White and Spinach Muffins:
– I made the turkey sausage today (a big batch) and I’ll make the omelets tomorrow.  I’m planning on 3oz egg white and 1 oz sausage per muffin


Lunch and/or Dinner: 

Sheet Pan Chicken w/ Sweet Potatoes:
– I adjusted this recipe per FTDI instructions and made 7 servings worth. I cut up the chicken into 4 oz portions and left out the apple & only used a spritz of oil. I’ve got 1 extra chicken breast I can use for a snack.

Tuna Lemon Rice:
– I haven’t made this yet, but plan to do up a big bunch of brown rice. I might just add the tuna/spinach/seasoning each morning I want to take it to lunch or add it in the evening

Balsamic Chicken and Veggies:
– I haven’t made this yet, either

Cilantro Lime Chicken:
– I have a batch of this going for tacos tonight. I plan to portion out leftovers and use for salad  with brown rice and vegetables during the week.


Other things I’ve pinned for the future…

Apps and Folders

How you categorize something matters.

It speaks to the importance you place on it and the function it serves.

My smart phone has the ability to create folders for my home pages and various apps go in them.

I have one for tools (flashlight, calculator, etc.).

There is one labeled fun (Netflix, Pandora, and whatever game I have loaded – currently 2048).

A folder called work contains my Bible app, pages manager, and the link to our CMS software.

Social media apps like Facebook, twitter and Snapchat are included in social.

And then there is my self care folder. It contains fitness and running apps, a link to our insurance app, and WordPress.

For a long time, I couldn’t figure out where to put my blogging app. For a while, it was with the social apps. Relationships, community, conversation are all part of the reason I blog. It could fit with work, because I usually blog about things related to ministry.

But I realized that primarily, I blog for me. I blog to think. I blog to let go of things. I blog to discern. It is a spiritual practice, as every bit as important to my self care as what I eat, or how much sleep I get.

Why do you blog or write? How would you label your practice?

An ideal Saturday in the making

Format Status

1) sleep in

2) eat a late breakfast/lunch

3) work out (because I promised myself I couldn’t do #5 until I did)

4) surf the web / blog / facebook

5) play skyrim

6) cook an awesome dinner

7) chill, preferably in front of the tv (tonight it will be the ISU bball game)

8) SLEEEEEEEEEEEEP (because Sunday mornings come early)

Did you notice what isn’t on there?

Yeah, writing sermons.

Because days off should be days off!


This week at an annual conference worship meeting, Jorge Lockward, who works with the General Board of Global Ministries asked a simple question:


“Do you have the bandwidth for that?”


He wasn’t talking about our technical capabilities in the venue.  He was asking about our spiritual, physical, and emotional capacity to take on a new piece of the project. We didn’t, so we let it go.


Bandwidth-imageThis month, I have pushing my bandwidth past capacity.  In the midst of winding down our Imagine No Malaria campaign, we are also gearing up for the “big finish” of Annual Conference and a gigantic youth event we have put together. We are closing on our new house next week. Beginning to pack up boxes around the house. Dreaming and praying about my new appointment to serve a local church and all the possibilities for ministry in that place. Alongside district and conference teams I’m working with.


When my husband and I need extra bandwidth in our home for  technology, we pay for upgrades to our system.  But what can we do in our everyday lives?


“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” – Martin Luther

When we get busy, we often leave off those things that fill us the most and expand our capacity to respond.  To help me through this crazy, busy month, I picked up a new devotional and I’m spending more time reading in the morning and evenings.  It helps me to go to sleep without the list of tasks there is to do on my mind.

Prayer also helps connect me and ground me with the source of energy and power in my ministry.  I’m not alone and I’m not the be-all-end-all of these projects or the world.  My prayer life often reminds me of the interconnectedness of our work and our immense capacity to do more together than if I stubbornly hold my piece all by myself.

But self-care is also about our physical selves as well.  I’ve started doing some stretching yoga poses before bed.  I need to get out and run more and play a few more rounds of disc golf a week… if only it would stop raining and warm up.


“Givers have to set limits because takers rarely do.” – Irma Kurtz

We have to set boundaries for ourselves.  We have to say no.  We have to be fully aware of our capacity to respond and not feel guilty if we can not do so in that moment.

And I have to fully admit.  I have sucked at this lately. The reality that I have only a month and a half left in my work has warped my sense of boundaries… the many good things left to do all feels like it needs to be crammed in together.  But because I am saying yes to some things, in reality, I’m also saying no to other things that I don’t wish to.  Time with family for one.

Lately, I have felt like a “taker”. Taking time from this and that person to help get the projects and the work done.  I’m grateful that there are people in my life who are helping me say no and set boundaries when I’m taking too much time away from those people they do know are important to me.


There’s a temptation to multi-task everything, but you can’t multi-task presence.” – Cindy Crawford

We all try to multi-task, some of us more or less successfully than others. But this quote is a reminder that quality is really more important than quantity.  I can spend a whole day with someone, but if I’m constantly distracted by emails and tasks and my focus is scattered, then I might as well not be there at all.  I found myself in a meeting earlier this week, trying to listen in to the conversation while I responded to an email.  I was a poor friend in that moment.  We cannot do it all right now.

Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I needed some time together to relax.  But I also had a t0-do list a mile long.  So he asked how long it would take to cross six things off that list.  It ended up being 1.5 hours.  But I focused on those tasks, got them done, and felt immensely better when they were.  Then, I was free to truly be present with him.  I didn’t feel the weight of edits that needed to be made or feel like I should send emails during commercial breaks. My mind was at rest and I could be fully present without distraction.


With Careful Intention

I have a nasty smart phone habit.  Every commercial break, every need to stretch, every chance I get, I check my phone.  I browse through Facebook posts.  I glance at tweets.  I absorb a lot and pay little attention to what is happening right here, right now.

I realized that I often do not interact, therefore, with much intentionality.  I don’t really take the time I need to engage, because I’m just giving content a skimming glance.  By the time I have time to sit and think and reflect and engage… well, something else new and shiny has distracted me.

So I reorganized the apps and widgets on my smart phone so the notifications and alerts and temptation to take a quick glance is less prominent.  I put all social media into one folder that isn’t so easy to get to.  I have a whole page dedicated now to “self-improvement and edification” that includes writing, prayer, health, finances, etc.  I’m trying to take give myself just a little bit more sense of organization, time management, and focus.

What this means, is that I also need to take intentional time each day to truly interact and engage through social media.  No more hit and runs but prayerful, thoughtful engagement. That hasn’t been too difficult so far and I’m actually finding I have MORE time because that effort is focused.

I would often check posts as I was stirring at the kitchen stove or walking up stairs or between episodes on Netflix.  I have more time to be present in the moment, to breathe, and I think I’ve tripped a few less times.

I’m also a lot less anxious.

When I have constantly been flooding my presence with news and disaster and debates and provocative posts then my senses are on high alert all the time.  Before Christmas, with the flood of Duck Dynasty and Schaefer Trial posts I was on edge, all day long, feeling agitated, frustrated, and not sure how to really respond.  But to pull back a little bit allows space for engagement and time for processing.  I’m not worried about the sinking ship all the time.

Philippians reminds us that fretting and worrying push God out of the center of our hearts.   I’m not necessarily only going to focus on the good posts people share and ignore the struggles and trials of life… but being intentional about how I read and respond is giving me the opportunity to transform my engagement into something good, rather than crude and ugly.

Turning It Off

The balance of self-care, Sabbath, and work is sometimes a tenuous one in my life so I try to set boundaries and guidelines for myself.

They are:

  • never work more than two blocks in a day (morning, afternoon, evening)
  • take two days off every week
  • take all of the vacation time allotted to me

The easiest to follow probably has to do with vacation time.  My family has planned some vacations together and setting aside those weeks to go and be with them has made it easy to take full advantage of the time given.

One of the ways that I try to honor my commitment to take two days off every weeks it to be flexible about which days those are.  With my work as a state-wide coordinator, my schedule varies greatly.  Sometimes those days off are a full Saturday and Sunday.  Sometimes I move them around and take time in the middle of the week instead.

The same goes with the two blocks in a day.  To allow for the chaos of ministry, focusing on those two blocks means I can sleep in after late evening meetings, or take an afternoon off to play disc golf if I know I’m going to be working the rest of the day.  If in a particular day, it is not possible, then I steal a block from another day and make space for two blocks of rest then.  At least, that’s the idea.

Lately, however, I’ve been struggling.

light switchesIt is a blessing and a curse to do work that you love, because while it is incredibly fulfilling, it is also very hard to put down.  I have been fed by and energized by this work and there is always so much to do.  It is never-ending work and while I trust in God’s working even when I take time to rest, I really don’t want to stop!  And I’ve been discovering that there are a few particular things that make this idea of rest even more difficult. It’s hard to turn off your brain.  It’s hard to turn off the phone.  It’s hard to turn off the computer.

Imagine No Malaria has provided an outlet for a lot of creativity in my life.  I’m doing graphics, website design, social media, writing – all sorts of things I love.   And I could tinker with graphics and websites eternally.  I’ll wake up with an idea about how to sell an idea or a plan to present something and those ideas don’t stop when I’m baking or hanging out with friends.  I have scraps of paper littering my desk with ideas and to-dos of things I have thought up at random moments.  More often than not, I’ve been in my office, working hard and forget to stop for lunch or lose track of time and need to be reminded by my husband it’s dinner time.  When you love what you do, it’s hard to turn off the brain and let go of the work.

I’ve also noticed that working from home, the technology I use day in and day out makes it harder to find balance.  When I hop on the computer on a day off to check my personal facebook account, I also find myself glancing at the project page or responding to a question someone posted.  When I left something open on the desktop and come downstairs in the morning (even if I’m taking that morning off), I find my eyes drifting to it and starting to work on it even when I didn’t intend to. My office is also the place where I play video games and listen to music and practice guitar.  It is not some separate place I can close the door on and leave behind.  My car takes me to speaking events and to the grocery store… and glancing in the back seat on a day off I’ll notice that thing that I had forgotten and will go home and pick up the piece of work instead of letting it rest.

And then there is my phone.  I’m typically okay at screening phone calls and letting them go to voice mail on days off… at least when I was in the local church.   But it’s a lot harder to do that when it’s the Bishop who is dialing your number.  It’s hard to ignore the blinking blue light on my phone that indicates a new email.  I’m not getting emergency phone calls in the middle of the night, but that quick text back to someone who asked you a question about a document seems so easy to do when you are in the middle of watching a football game with your husband.

I guess one of the things that is a common thread, one of the reasons it is hard to turn off the work is that it doesn’t feel like work.  It is a joy.  It is fulfilling.  It is making a difference.  But the truth is, I’m not very good at keeping it from impinging on sacred time of rest.

So I’m going to work harder at turning things off… turning off the wi-fi that picks up new emails… turning off the ringer on game day… closing documents… closing the door to the office if I have to.  I think that also means allowing myself to turn off the brain and let a few ideas go instead of pursuing them immediately.

Yesterday, I re-installed a game on my computer and played for two hours.  I ignored the documents.  I let the ideas rest.  It was nice to turn off for a bit.


I hopped in my car last night to go get some chinese food for our quiet little new year’s eve.  We had movies and the first season of Spartacus to keep us company until the ball dropped and it was a new year.

I turned the key in the ignition….


No little sputters.

No noises.

Just my car radio reading “ERR” and then flickering off.

My battery was dead.  Past dead.  Kaput.

Which… in all actuality… was kind of good news.

It meant that when I said I wasn’t going to work over the holiday break, that I kept my promise.

It meant that my car had not been driven for 5 days.

I wasn’t driving all across the state. I wasn’t in meetings.  I wasn’t commuting to Des Moines for a day in my cubical.

Instead, that dead battery means days full of time with my husband and family, days when we were home instead of out and about in the crazy rush of the season.  Nights of carpooling with my brother-in-law to dinner with the rest of the family.    I was baking and playing Guild Wars 2 and singing Christmas carols very loudly.

Now, I should have probably gone and started my car a few times.  We have a bit of a headache on our hands today, because it is not taking a charge and needs to be replaced.  But I’m going to look at the bright side.

I was home, recharging my batteries while my car’s was draining.

spring is just around the corner

This evening I placed my order for seeds from Burpee.

I could almost feel the dirt between my fingers as I poured over images and reviews and mapped out the different parts of the garden.  There may be a chill in the air tonight and snow might be in the forecast, but all I can think about is spring and color and the taste of a ripe tomato.

Gardening has really been a spiritual experience for me these past couple of years.  It is hard work, down on your hands and knees, working with the earth.  Watching the miracle of life come from a tiny seed reminds me of the gifts we recieve every day from our Creator.  Nurturing the plants… but mostly pulling the weeds… has reminded me that our faith life needs to be tended as well in order for growth to happen.  I have experienced joy from sharing the fruits with others and simply looking out over that bounty with thankfulness.

This year, my vegetable garden will expand a bit, but I’m still going to use the same basic “bag-gardening” design I started with.

What is new will be flowers.  I have done flowers in the past in the beds leading along the front steps.  But between the tulips and other assorted bulbs I planted last fall and the seeds that I just ordered, there should be color everywhere!

My first big project will be to start the seeds inside.  I have had terrible luck with this in the past.  We dedicate our guest room for the planting – mostly because we can control the temp (nice and warm) and because we can close the door and the cats won’t bother the seedlings that way.  But unfortunately, I tend to forget about things I don’t see.  And forget water and things like that.  Bad for growth.

So I’m mentally wrapping my head around the idea that in two weeks, my gardening year starts.  Those tiny seeds being tended inside will be my babies. And while it’s not as backbreaking work as tending the plants outside, they require dedication and attention and I am going to give it to them!