Monday, February 27, 2012

Traveling Mercies

There were four things that stood out for me this weekend while traveling and making crosses. First, it's hard to be creative and crafty while traveling, especially in a truck at a gas station. Second, knowing that I needed to find time to make a cross on each of the days we were away concentrated my attention on God much more than is usual on a weekend driving trip like this one. I was on the look out for something that might present itself as the perfect medium for cross making and I was listening; listening to hear what God might say to me in my search.

When we were eating at Freebird's we noticed that previous diners had taken their foil wrappers and made them into figures they then displayed on the bricks on the wall of the restaurant. I tried and failed to make a cross (out of Parker's foil) that would hold together! I pictured my little cross sitting beside the little foil cowboy on his little foil horse, or next to the sword and shield (turning it into an armor of God message) or as a counter point to the witch someone had left behind. These were delusions of Freebird grandeur! It is sad when your artistic abilities do not meet your artistic aspirations in a fast food establishment!

This is the cross I made in the hotel room after the competitions on Friday and after the failure to make a foil cross at Freebird's. The cross is made from pieces of paper from Sweet and Low packets. I enhanced the picture using Instagram, an app for Iphone.

Third, I was reminded of the complicated issue of God and sports. This brings up so many topics from how to acknowledge God in your sport (Tebowing?), how to win and lose graciously, and the one I often struggle with: how to pray for your children when they are competing.

As I sat in the stands Friday I was tempted to pray that Bailey would  make the finals (similar to praying for a win). I then thought of all the other girls and all their moms and I thought about how God knows what each person needs to do that day, everyone can't win, everyone can't qualify.  So what I prayed for was that I would be AWARE that however Bailey placed in the race I needed to align myself with God's will. I needed to come to the place where I could accept graciously His will for her running and her life whether we were disappointed with the outcome or not. Bailey did qualify, just barely and went on to place 7th in the final earning All-Big 12 honors and a medal. I then found myself in a different circumstance. I was not having to align myself to an unwanted we were happy, we were celebrating!
Bailey is in black and gold with the #1 on her shoulder.

This brings me to the fourth and final thought. Why do we feel guilty when we are happy and why are we sometimes less engaged with God when things go well? When Bailey or Parker have lost races or performed less than hoped for I feel completely engaged with God. I am struggling and asking Him, "why when they have worked so hard have they come up short? Why have You (God) brought them this far for them to be disappointed? What is the purpose in this? Please help me accept the bad as well as the good! Please help me keep things in perspective...people are suffering while I lament over a sports event! Please help Bailey/Parker not be discouraged. Please comfort them. Please help them get through the disappointment without doubting You or themselves." These may not be the "right" prayers but I am completely engaged with God, nonetheless.

Contrast that with the quick "Thank you" I send up to heaven when the outcome is good. I might manage another quick "thank you" as we rush out to eat and relive the race over quesadillas and chips and salsa. Only later do I return to God and really thank Him for His many blessings and think through what His plans and purposes might be. This time, and I think it was primarily due to making crosses every day, I was more engaged with God during and after the happy moments.

In Bible study we are studying the book of James. The lesson I did today talked about the verse, James 5:13 "Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise". Beth Moore, the author of the study, wrote: "We will run our race on one leg if we can only engage with God in our suffering and sickness. He is the author of life. 'From Him and through Him and to Him are all things' (Romans 11:36)". We can talk about coincidence or God's timing another time but I did notice that I happened to read this lesson on happiness at just this time and that the verse talked about running. Deliberate or happy accident these coincidences (or accidents by design) make me happy!

She mentioned another verse, "The Lord be exalted. He takes pleasure in His servants well-being.".

I think one of my problems is that I feel badly for the other competitors because while we know what it is like to win we also know very well what it feels like to lose. Also, I don't want to appear obnoxiously happy nor do I want to say something that would push someone away from God. If you say, "We are so blessed by God" do we imply that we think God did not bless the runners who didn't medal, that somehow God chose some over others?" I do not believe that is the case. In the end, I focused on the blessings that I knew were legitimately mine to claim. I was blessed by God and thankful to Him that Dean, Bailey, Parker and I were all together, that we are healthy, that we love each other and enjoy being together and that we had something fun to celebrate together! . Our ultimate blessing and the one we don't focus on often enough is our salvation through Jesus Christ! Isn't it always appropriate to celebrate that most amazing gift?
We were also blessed to share our happiness with friends:  Bailey's friends and teammates who stand by her through good and bad, friends who came to the meet to see Bailey compete, Mizzou friends who joined us for dinner to celebrate after the meet, friends at home who are always encouraging and share in our celebration as I excitedly post updates on Facebook and in text messages. God is good, that does not change with our circumstances.  I cannot let my inability, during bad times, to comprehend that truth keep me from fully embracing the same truth during the good times!

One friend said this reminded her of a magnet she has that says something like "God loves Aggies too". Another friend said it reminded her of "Tebowing". I made this cross from the map to the Texas A&M facilities that was given to Bailey so they would know where to warm up and where the athletes entrance was. This is the cross I made sitting in the truck at the gas station!

I'm not sure this even qualified as cross making! I used the etch-a-sketch app for Iphone to make this cross.

 With both this challenge to make a cross every day leading up to Easter and my previous challenge to run every day for 30 days the biggest difficulty comes when traveling. I never did a quality run while traveling and I do not think these will be my best efforts in cross making either!  Too many times I refuse to try new things or accept new challenges because I fear I will not follow through. Allowing myself to give less time and attention on the days when it is very difficult to persevere has given me the freedom to accomplish my goals! I have mentioned real world crafting and time limitations before, we cannot allow these constraints to keep us from living the life we were designed to live: active, thoughtful, creative!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Making Crosses Day 2

Another busy day, I can see that it will be a challenge to make a cross every day. With regard to my ongoing projects I managed to squeeze in a mile run tonight after seeing Parker run in the DMR at the Prosper Relays; I began my Project Life scrapbook; and made a cross for day 2 of Lenten cross making (not in that order).

In the writing prompt for cross making the author said something that really sets the tone for the entire cross making project and coincidentally also fits with the Project Life philosophy and life in general: "God wants our attention not our perfection." So much of what I do has to be squeezed in like my one mile run. Was that a quality run that I'm proud It was what I had time to do and it was better than no run at all. Each day I prioritize those things that I will not rush through, I choose which activities will get my full and undivided attention. On the long run day it's running. On each day I try to give the things of God my full attention: prayer,devotional, Bible reading, preparing for Sunday school, Bible study. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I do three lessons of Bible study in one day and I do several days of the read-the-Bible-in-a-year plan in one day to catch up. Sometimes I get distracted while praying but the point is that often I am successful and it is my intention to put God first.

Reading the affirmation that God wants our attention today was perfect on this day when there was so much to get done. Another thing the author mentioned is that "everything can be salvaged". She was speaking of the creation process, that if you make a mistake it can be morphed into something that isn't a mistake. And of course, she means that we as people can also be salvaged. I feel I am in a process of being salvaged by God's grace.

Madeleine L'Engle wrote: "Something we regret at the time as abysmally stupid may well end up being the one thing needed under the circumstances".  This made me think of the often-quoted verse (from Bible Gateway):

Romans 8:28

New International Version (NIV)
 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. 

The Bible Gateway notes say it this way: Or that all things work together for good to those who love God, : or that in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good

I can take a mistake I make while making a cross and turn it into something else, if I need to glue something over the mistake or paint over it, so be it, whatever it takes, it can be salvaged. Amazingly, God does the same for me. Whatever mistake I make, whatever sinful state I fall into, God can make it right. God doesn't have to resort to gluing something over the mistakes in my life, He is the original creator and what God does is transform, renew, restore. But the point is, I too, can be salvaged.

For my cross I wanted to do something that symbolized transformation. I thought of butterflies.

For the cross I copied images from Google of butterflies into Power Point and printed them out. Using a rubber stamp and brown ink I stamped all over the butterfly page. I then used watercolors and watercolor crayons to overlay color onto the entire design.

So I worked on Project Life, did my devotional and made a cross, went to Parker's track meet, ran one mile and then made butterscotch/peanut butter candy to take to Bailey tomorrow (Big 12 competition).

My mother and grandmother made the candy every year at Christmas. I am making it now because it travels well! Recipe below:

Taking the time to make the cross seemed impractical today. I am so glad I took the time to do it. It has given me great comfort throughout the day to picture God as the ultimate creator, creating something from so little and allowing me to return to Him again and again to be salvaged.

When It Rains It Pours!

This week I made a card for a friend. She had one of those times where it was one thing after another. And these were not minor things, they involved surgery for her, a fall by her mother and hip replacement and rehab for her mother and other things. The least I could do was make a card!!

Happily, I had the opportunity to practice my tangling! I still need to work on balancing the heavier patterns with the lighter ones. I delivered the card on Tuesday, my friend liked the card and everyone is recovering nicely!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cross Making

Each year leading up to the celebration of Easter I try to focus my attention more fully on Christ and all that He has done for me. One of the things I have chosen to do in preparation for this Easter is to make crosses. The idea evolved from several sources. There are many blogs and websites that promote doing something every day. One friend posts a picture of an art project that she completes each day. Another blog I visit frequently features a different drawing each day. One of the Zentangle blogs features a weekly challenge using Zentangles.  A while back I purchased a book, Making Crosses, by Ellen Morris Prewitt. Prewitt uses found objects and scraps to create crosses as a way to express her relationship with God. In her book she offers a daily exercise to be used in making a cross.

I will use her book loosely to make a cross every day until Easter. Instead of using found objects I will be inspired by whatever aspect of God or Christ I am focused on for a particular day or by the direction the Spirit leads.

The first reading in Prewitts book is about God's love for us. I was uninspired by the writing prompt given. The idea would be to write something based on the prompt and then either pray or meditate on that aspect, in this instance - God's love, while making a cross. While trying to think about a moment when I experienced God's love in a profound way my mind wandered to something I recently read about God and joy. This came from The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard:

"We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that he is full of joy. Undoubtedly he is the most joyous being in the universe. The abundance of his love and generosity is inseparable from his infinite joy. All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilarating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth and depth and richness".

Wow! While it seemed a new and surprising view of God, it immediately rang true. Willard went on to describe a time when he was taken to a beach in South Africa. Apparently South African beaches are beyond other beaches in beauty, Willard described it this way, "Words cannot capture the view that confronted me. I saw space and light and texture and color and power...that seemed hardly of this earth."  Willard, I believe, experienced great joy at this sight and he began to realize that God sees such sights and more, sights beyond our galaxy that must constantly bring Him great joy: "I had some sense of what an infinitely joyous consciousness he is and of what it might have meant for him to look at his creation and find it 'very good'."

This was a completely new way for me to think about God and a wonderful insight. One more quote from Willard and I will come full circle to the making of the first cross of the Lenten season. "We are enraptured by a well-done movie sequence or by a few bars from an opera or lines from a poem.We treasure our great experiences for a lifetime, and we may have very few of them. But he is simply one great inexhaustible and eternal experience of all that is good and true and beautiful and right. This is what we must think of when we hear theologians and philosophers speak of him as a perfect being. This is his life."  

I immediately thought of the time I sat in a darkened and comfortable movie theater surrounded by my family. We were watching "The King's Speech". At one point, and I do not remember exactly which one, tears came to my eyes and I feared I would actually cry, not because the movie was sad but because it was so well done, so well written, so well acted. I had not seen anything of that quality in a long time and I was grateful to God for it.

I wanted to focus today, in prayer and in cross-making on God's infinite joy and the brief glimpses we get of who He really is. He is always there for us to "see" but comprehending, really understanding His character and nature is another thing entirely.

Cross # 1 using words from "The King's Speech"

I chose to make my cross from the words of the speech delivered in the movie (and in history) by King George VI. It represents a joyous moment in my own life that drew me closer to my understanding of the God who makes all joyous things possible. There have been, of course, many other joys and greater joys for me (meeting Dean, birth of children!!, amazing sunsets, great runs, beautiful hikes); however this was the very particular joy that came to mind today.

I believe there are 46 days until Easter. I don't know if I will post each cross or just the ones I like the most! Time will tell. I do hope that this journey in cross making will lead me into a closer relationship with God, into greater understanding of the sacrifice Christ made for me and will allow me to dwell longer beneath the shadow of His wings.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

One Thing Leads to Another Again!

So far today has not been a productive day! I heard something yesterday that reminded me of another something I recently read in Madeleine L'Engle's book, Walking on Water. The subject was truth in fiction. I hope to write more on that on another day but first I want to explain why it appears that I never get anything DONE. I accomplish many things in a day but often they are not the things written on my to-do list.

It began with looking up the sections of L'Engle's book that I remembered. Then I wanted to re-read what CS Lewis said on the same subject. I googled it. This led me to a webpage, The Rabbit Room where I read an article about truth in fantasy, this led me to subscribe to the Rabbit Room's RSS feed which took me to my Google Reader. There I began reading the most current article from the Rabbit Room about Christian Storytelling,  and I came upon the word "adumbrated". Not knowing that word, I googled it. This led to the Merriam-Webster page where I found that the definition to adumbrated is: 

1: to foreshadow vaguely : intimate
2: to suggest, disclose, or outline partially <adumbrate a plan>
ad·um·bra·tion noun
ad·um·bra·tive adjective
ad·um·bra·tive·ly adverb

After reading the definition I noticed a quiz that appeared to the right of the definition called "Name That Thing Quiz". I took the quiz, it was very exciting because I scored 2900 while the average score is 2420!! I am always excited when I appear above average!

Regardless of the tiny quiz boost to my self-esteem I now have spent too much time wandering about and chasing rabbit trails. The truth in fiction research will have to wait for another time. I  must now get to the to-do list which includes my Bible study lesson, catching up on You Version with my read-the-bible in a year project and doing laundry. One thing really does lead to another but the key is to resist running down the rabbit trail on days when you have run out of clean underwear! All this talk of rabbits, rabbit rooms, rabbit trails requires a cute bunny picture. Enjoy!

Jackson with Christmas presents!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Running Over the Serpent

Every run is an adventure.  You never know what you will see or hear. I had barely made it out the door when a semi-truck driver honked at me and I was barked at by a dog who fortunately was behind a fence.

I see lots of interesting things when I run. Today I saw cows, horses, robins, meadow larks, and mockingbirds: and a yellow snake. I see the plastic yellow snake pictured above every day that I run near my home. He has been there for months. The first time I saw him I jumped even though I know that we have no bright yellow poisonous snakes in Texas. This plastic predator is not an accident, he usually waits for unsuspecting runners on the shoulder but occasionally he sits in the middle of the black-top lane to frighten a group of friendly cyclists that regularly pedal down our way. This particular stretch of road is near a pasture but I suspect he belongs to children in one of the nearby houses. People are funny and that is what I love about running near my house. Some people are friendly, some people are oblivious (on cell phones), some seem deliberately rude and enjoy seeing me leap off the road into the ditch because they would not move over or slow down, and some people put out plastic snakes to "scare" the gullible! The people who smile and wave, the friendly cyclists and the plastic snake people make me want to keep going.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made.
Genesis 3:1

The snake is not the first plastic animal to deceive me. Years ago I was running in a suburb when I spotted a very large owl on top of a huge ham radio antenna. I wound my way around various streets trying to get to the right house to see the owl, I was so excited. When I finally got there, I was devastated,  he revealed himself as a plastic decoy set up by the home-owner to keep birds away from his enormous antenna (and to keep the resulting bird poop off his roof). It's possible that running is more fun because I am gullible.

Philosophically the bright yellow plastic snake could be a metaphor for life. Many things that are initially scary, turn out to be nothing and sometimes they turn out to be fun or funny. And on the darker side, it's important not to be deceived by snakes, plastic or otherwise. Jesus told His followers, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves".  And this is why the plastic snake continues to entertain me every day when I run; because he gives me so much to think about, particularly the delicate balance between being shrewd and being innocent (or in my case - gullible)! 

Today was my 21st day of consecutive running. I ran 5.73 miles, a weird distance because I ran an out-and-back from my house, up and down several country and county roads, turning around where one road dead ends into a heavy traffic road. In training I typically follow the third-week rule which is that every third week you reduce your mileage and/or your long run. It is probably more important to do that when running every day. So I took it easy at the beginning of this week and will not do a long run. For the most part running every day has been great. This week I encountered some challenges and some days when I really didn't want to run. We traveled over the weekend and so I had to fit in running around our travel time. I ran one day on the treadmill in our hotel. I had much to do this week, had terrible allergies, and despised the wicked North wind but I made it out the door anyway and was glad I did! Be Strong, Be Brave! Happy Running!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Flourless Nutella Chocolate Cake

Valentine's Day at our house involves eating some form of chocolate and watching the movie Chocolat, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. This Valentines Day was not different. Even though we are not all together (Bailey is in Columbia), we all planned to celebrate the same way. Bailey told me earlier in the week that she and her roommate, Kelcey, planned to watch the movie and make something chocolate, I hope that worked out, sometimes college life, athletic training or study change the best laid plans.

Our Movie

Our Chocolate

 (the cake tastes better than it looks, this is where it becomes obvious that I am not a professional baker, my cakes are not always pretty but usually they are tasty!)

Flourless Nutella Chocolate Cake

(from the Unofficial Guide to Nutella, download for Kindle)
also available on the World Nutella Day website

200g  unsalted butter, cut into chunks (7.05 ounces butter)
100g dark chocolate  (3.52 ounces dark chocolate)
200g Nutella  (7.05 ounces Nutella)
100g white sugar  (3.52 ounces sugar)
6 eggs, separated
1 t. instant coffee or espresso powder (not for me)
hazelnuts for garnish

1.      Butter and lightly coat a 9- inch spring-form pan with cocoa powder. Preheat the oven to 350 and move your baking rack to the lowest rung/place in the oven.

2.    Cut the butter into chunks and the dark chocolate as well, and melt in a double boiler or in the microwave until smooth. If melting in a microwave, take out to stir every 30 seconds or so until smooth.

3.    Remove from heat/microwave and add the Nutella to the still-warm chocolate mix and mix well, until incorporated completely with a small whisk or fork. Add the instant coffee/espresso powder as well and mix.

4.    Separate the egg whites and egg yolks into two separate bowls. Add the white sugar to the yolks and beat for a minute or two with a hand mixer or a whisk.

5.    Add the chocolate mixture to the egg yolks and mix thoroughly.

6.    In a bowl where the egg whites are separated out, whisk/beat them until peaks start to form, tending toward stiffer peaks rather than just soft peaks.

7.    Add the beaten egg whites back to the chocolate mixture, mixing by hand until fully incorporated (this may take a few minutes) with a whisk.

8.    Pour the mixture into the spring-form pan and place into the oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes (mine was done closer to 30 minutes). Test after 20 minutes how jiggly the center of the cake still is – you don’t want the cake to be completely solid when finished but the center should not sway when moved. Stick a toothpick in a few places to make sure it’s cooked through and the toothpick comes out clean.

9.    Let cool (the cake will probably deflate quite a bit) at least 30 minutes before serving, and garnish with chopped hazelnuts or hazelnut halves.

I cooked the cake longer than 30 minutes, I checked it with a toothpick as suggested. I think it would have been good, just gooey-er if I had stopped baking at the 30 minutes. I garnished with walnuts because we didn't have any hazelnuts. I made a raspberry-chocolate sauce of my own design by melting chocolate chips and combining with (frozen) raspberries. We loved it!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Unsound and Furry

This was a busy weekend. Dean and I traveled to College Station to see Bailey race at Texas A&M. Meanwhile, Parker was left behind to take his ACT test and hang out with friends.

Bailey placed second in the mile with a good time of 4:51! It was fun to see her race and to see her run the mile again! We have seen her compete mostly in cross country at 4, 5, and 6K distances and on the track in the 3k and 5K so it was fun to see her run a shorter distance.

 (Dean and I at Starbuck's with Bailey; inside the Texas A&M Indoor Facility- I love the flags!)

Parker and his friend, Tyler, did not oversleep (my greatest fear) and successfully showed up for the ACT on time. One test down, one SAT still to come!

(Parker supplies for ACT test-taking plus cash for food; Parker and Tyler snacks)

Parker, of course. stayed behind to take the ACT but he also stayed to care for our pets, primarily our geriatric black lab, Max. Max defies the tests of time! He is deaf and has arthritis, he is between 15 and 18 years old. He came to live with us when our neighbors could no longer keep him. At that time our vet thought he was three years old, that was about 14 years ago. We are told this is old for a lab.

 (Max, in his puppy bed)

All of our pets have lived extraordinarily long lives. Our cat, Abigail, lived to 18, with arthritis and near blindness. Even our hamsters have lived longer than expected! Bailey has told me that she always thinks this blog should be called Sound and Furry and she may be right. You would have to have lived with us these past years to fully understand why.

Bailey was thinking of our current menagerie of Max, the ancient lab; Cleo, the upstairs bunny and Jackson, the downstairs bunny but I was thinking of all the furry animals (and otherwise) who have shared our home over the years:
Dogs: Max and Zoe
Cats: Calvin, Carter and Abigail
Gerbils: Despereaux and Leonardo
Hamsters: Chester, George, Beethoven, Calvin, Albert and Gregory
Rabbits: Shakespeare, Cleo and Jackson
Others: a very sweet abandoned wild baby bunny hand-fed and later released into the wild as well as many other abandoned baby bunnies, many wild baby birds- later released,  ants (ant farm), butterflies (from chrysalis), hundreds of praying mantis' (hatched), a frog (who did not survive), as well as lady bugs and the very temporary guests: fireflies (lightening bugs), snakes and garden spiders. 

 (Jackson in the snow, taken last Spring during an unusual snowfall.)
 (Cleo in the snow)

Given all the mishaps, contortions, and intense care involved with a life with animals the blog title might better read: UNsound and Furry. I do know that I have never left my home without some sort of animal fur going along with me on clothing, purse, and especially on black pants even after using one of those sticky rollers to remove it! If there was ever a day that I successfully removed the fur from my person more would await me in my car! We like to think of dust bunnies as additional companions with whom we share our home. I do chase them with the vacuum cleaner but new ones emerge so quickly that it's best to make peace with them.

In the unsound department, I have fed a baby bird cat food with a toothpick every 2 hours and carried a baby bunny, eyes not yet opened in my purse to restaurants and track meets because she could not be left alone. We have driven the congested cat to the emergency vet clinic late at night, we lifted and supported Max constantly and for days when he suffered a bout of vertigo, and I sat with a dying hamster so he would not be alone.

I have loved almost every minute of our adventures with our animals though I must admit to having personality clashes with one of the dogs and one of the cats. And while I loved the little gerbils, one of them (Despereaux) covered his nose with his paws every time he saw me because I was the one who applied the anti-fungal nose medicine to his little nose when he was sick. His reaction, though understandable, hurt my feelings!

It is easy to see why Unsound and Furry should be the name of my blog and perhaps feature prominently on the About Me page!

Friday, February 10, 2012

I'm Nuts About You

Two posts today! We are driving to College Station today to see Bailey compete in an indoor meet at Texas A&M University. So I will not be here to post over the weekend but wanted to share the Valentine's I made for the kids in my Sunday School class. These were simple and quick to make. Again, this is real world crafting. I would like to have been more fancy but this is what I had time to do:

Early in the year a squirrel emerged as our class mascot. I found a picture on the internet of a squirrel with a Super man emblem on his chest and wearing a cape (photo-shopped). I used the squirrel with an acrostic of POWER that we were learning. P-pray in the Spirit, O-obey God's word, W- worship with the church, E- explain your faith, and R-read the Bible. I told the kids if they did these things they would be like Super Squirrel. The kids liked the picture so much that I began to incorporate super squirrel or some other squirrel in as many lessons and crafts as possible. So I was glad to find this Valentine stamp of a squirrel saying "I'm nuts about you!" As I mentioned this was a very simple and un-embelished card. Because of that I was able to make 16 of them Wednesday night and also have time to make the Lemon-poppy seed cakes! It would be wonderful to have more time to be creative! Happy crafting!

Running, One Day at a Time

Never, ever in my life having run every single day, my body is amazed! It is interesting to see how much this one change in my running has effected my life. This time of year I am usually battling mightily the urge to hibernate.  My mood and outlook on life are definitely influenced by the weather; and in the winter, not in a good way. We have had some unusually warm and sunny days which has helped but this week has turned colder and markedly grayer. Even so, I remain upbeat and very, very busy. Running every day makes me very tired by the end of the day but in general has given me much more energy. It certainly has improved my mood.

Parker and I have been drinking Emergen-C for a while now on Bailey's recommendation. Her fellow athletes at the University of Missouri often drink Emergen-C as a precaution when  they start to feel sick. The description on the products' webpage: " Emergen-C dietary supplements feature immune supporting vitamin C,* B vitamins to enhance energy naturally* (no caffeine, no crash), electrolytes to refuel and replenish post-workout,* and more!"

On a shoe buying excursion to Luke's Locker we discovered another recovery drink: Nuun. The helpful man who assisted Parker with his new running shoe purchase recommended Nuun over other rehydration drinks. In our family when information goes into that area where you cannot quite keep up with the jargon, usually a situation where you just want to be given the bottom line this is what we hear: "Blah, blah, blah nutrition, blah blah blah vegetables". We get the main points! In this instance, what I heard the helpful and informative young man say was: "blah, blah, blah hydration, blah, blah, blah, sodium is bad, blah blah blah LOW CALORIE". Some ideas stand out more than others. So we have been trying Nuun. Parker and I both like the taste and real or imagined we get an energy boost after drinking it. Here's the description of Nuun from their webpage:


The following is the nutritional information for a serving of Nuun based on one tablet dissolved in 16oz (500ml) of water. There are under 8 calories per Nuun tab.
Active Ingredients level (mg)
Sodium (carbonates) 360.0
Potassium (bicarbonate)  100.0
Calcium (carbonate)  12.5
Magnesium (sulfate)  25.0
Vitamin C 37.5
Vitamin B2 500 mcg

Trying new things is fun and adds novelty and freshness to the many, many miles over many, many years. I would never have thought this one change (running EVERY day) would make so much difference. I did have the IT band pain which I now think may have been caused by some hill repeats two days prior to my longish run. I used the foam roller, stretched and ran only 1 mile for three days in a row. The pains disappeared. Monday and Tuesday of this week I ran 5 miles on each day, Wednesday I ran 1 mile, and Thursday my longish run was 8 miles. I will probably not try hill work again until after the 30 consecutive days. I am half way to my goal and am so glad I decided to try this. By the way, my favorite Emergen-C flavor is acai berry and the only flavor I have tried of Nuun is fruit punch (I like it!). Happy running!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lemon-Poppy Seed Pound Cake

This has been a busy week! I am still working on the three projects that I have going right now. Today is day 15 of my 30 days of consecutive running project (I have reached the half-way point!!!); I am still in Leviticus in my read-the-Bible-in-a-year plan (I am 6 days behind- but not to worry, I have been this far behind before and I will catch up); and I am still taking a picture a day for Project Life (while waiting for the Design A pages to become available again!).

One of my Facebook friends received a book for Christmas that she mentioned as 365 Days of Creativity, however I couldn't find that exact title anywhere.  She started a blog to provide accountability and to document her artistic and creative journey with the book. Apparently there is a prompt every day to get you started: make something out of money, make something out of an old book, create something depicting something you saw in a dream. It sounds like so much fun. I just can't figure out how I could make time for one more thing that has to be done daily. I am considering using the book in a different way, maybe a project a week. I ordered the book that I think she is using from Amazon and will decide what to do with it when it arrives. 

Last night I made 2 Lemon-Poppy Seed Pound Cakes, one for a friend who had surgery and one for Parker and Dean. Apparently I have made it before because in the cookbook beside the title I had written "very good". I don't know if everyone does this, but my mom and my grandmother would write a quick two word review along with noting a different cooking time or oven temperature beside recipes they liked. My grandmother would also add the date and make note if it was served at a holiday dinner. I have continued the two word notation.

My two cakes came out more like a lemon-poppy seed bread than a cake, I don't know why. Regardless of the texture, Dean and Parker consumed the cake entirely (minus my one slice) in about 3 hours. I thought there would be some left for today, but sadly NO.

 prep time: 25 minutes, cook: 1 hour

Cooking spray
1 tsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup  butter, softened
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
1 T. grated lemon rind
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 Ts. poppy seeds
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
2/3 cup powdered sugar
4 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Coat an 8x4 inch loaf pan with cooking spray; dust with 1 tsp. flour
3. Beat granulated sugar and butter with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 4 minutes). Add egg whites and egg, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in lemon rind and vanilla. Lightly spoon 1 2/3 cups flour into dry measuring cups, level with a knife. Combine 1 2/3 cups flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan, bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack, remove from pan. Poke holes in top of cake using a wooden skewer. Combine powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl, brush over warm cake. cool completely. Yield: 12 servings. CALORIES: 226, FAT 6.7g, CARB 38.2g

This recipe is from the book All-New Cooking Light. My pans were 9x5, I always cook for less time and check with a toothpick, my cakes were ready at 50 minutes rather than an hour probably due to the different pan size.

Happy Baking!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Humility: If I Ignore It, Maybe It Will Go Away

"Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." - Mark 10:43-45

I was reading about the discipline of humility and how this discipline helps us to be humble by dwelling on what Christ was willing to do for us. I cannot imagine leaving behind glorious heaven to come to earth for 30 plus years, becoming a servant, a sacrifice, a stand-in for sin. I become unhappy if I have to wait in line at Michael's or Walmart. I am put out if I have to make an extra trip out to pick up something forgotten. While I may enjoy sending a card to a friend or making bread for someone who has been sick, I balk at any real notion of service. Something that would require a significant sacrifice of time or effort terrifies me. And even on occasion when I muster the will to volunteer for something outside myself, though it seems to be a huge task for me it is really nothing compared to the self-less life and sacrificial death of Jesus.

The gap between Jesus and me is so large that it prohibits almost entirely any ability on my part to truly grasp what He did for me and what it may have meant for Him in terms of sacrifice. We had a dog named Zoe who when confronted with something she knew we did not want her to have, to eat, or to attack (like the cat, our dinner, or one of the hamsters), would turn her head and refuse to look at the forbidden fruit. You could hold the disgruntled kitty right up to her nose and she would forcefully turn her head as far away as she could and refuse to see the cat. It simply did not exist to her as long as we were watching. Who knows what or who she would have eaten if we were not present. I am like Zoe, I pretend things do not exist, not things that I'm not supposed to have but things that I financially cannot have or intellectually cannot grasp. I was able to "do" math up to the level of pre-calculus. I needed much help and encouragement from my husband Dean to get that far but I made it through. However, toward the end of my class in pre-calculus I caught a glimpse of what lay ahead. I can tell you that math beyond pre-calculus exceeds my intellectual ability and for the most part I pretend it doesn't exist. I don't like to think there is anything out there that I can't understand given enough time and a patient tutor but the fact is there are many things out there that are beyond me. For the most part I refuse to acknowledge them!

(pictures of one of the hamsters Zoe was not permitted to eat!)

I take the same approach to many things including extreme wealth. I am not likely to ever be extremely wealthy and so I don't spend time thinking about what it would be like to live that lifestyle. Why dwell on what I cannot have or do? In this case it would do me well to remember that compared to most people in the world I am rich beyond measure and even here where I live, in Lexus-Land I am rich in blessings and provision. The point is that I approach overcoming the extreme discrepancy between Christ and myself as something so impossible, so much like learning calculus or astrophysics or as improbable as living the lifestyle of the rich and famous that I do not dwell on it, I ignore it and miss the opportunity for change.

When I am forced during sermons or study to see the great sacrifice and fully realize the weight of all that Christ has done for me I do experience humility. But it doesn't last long. I return to my world with my false sense of control and my own importance. How then, to remember, how to fully realize, how to carry the knowledge of the humility of Christ on my behalf into my everyday life; that is my dilemma.

I think the key may be to incrementally meditate on those scriptures pertaining to the life of Christ, taking in small pieces of His life and letting them sink in little by little. I will never be like Christ on this earth but I am called to follow His example, not turn away from it because it is so far beyond what I can imagine in myself. By meditation on scripture, through the power of the Holy Spirit, with faith in Christ, giving thanks to God, I can "renew my mind" and move toward becoming the "new creature" I want to be. Perhaps like Zoe, I may still turn my head but instead of not looking at all, I can "see" with my peripheral vision the great love that Jesus has for me and then slowly "see" more and more in the safety of that love.

With regard to material excess or theoretical physics it's probably OK, perhaps beneficial to my self-esteem, to pretend they don't exist, but to ignore the overwhelming sacrifice of Christ is to deny what He has done for me. Grabbing hold of my running motto I must "Be strong, Be brave" and journey on to the point where I can look full on at the Cross.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Tangled Valentines

One of the personal issues that frustrates me is that I enjoy a wide variety of things but never seem to master any one thing to the degree that I might be perceived as accomplished. I like to knit but I am just a beginner and everything I knit looks terrible. Also, I always abandon crafts that use yarn, thread, or string because something always goes terribly awry. In sewing I was constantly getting the thread tangled near the bobbin. In embroidery, the back of my project looked like a complicated insect nest. With counted cross stitch I always lose count and my whole design is off. With knitting I forget my row and end up doing it backwards or one row is different. I never moved beyond chain stitch in crochet.

I like to draw but am not good at it. I like to craft but nothing I do ever looks professional like the cards, crafts, etc. that you  see on other people's blogs. I made Bailey a card for Valentines day, inspired by an image of an owl on The Queen's Scene . I envisioned my version of a precocious little owl. Well there were some issues with my owl and while I could have improved upon him the second time around I didn't have time to make him a second time. Real world crafting has time limits.

If I could show promise in one area then I would invest in the tools of that particular trade. I would buy all the stamping stuff or all the drawing stuff or all the scrapbooking stuff. Some of the equipment for paper crafters is essential if you want to get a professional look. I like to dabble in all those things so I don't actually own a good paper cutter or a die cut machine, I own lots of stickers, random paper, regular scissors, some stamps, some ink pads, all kinds of pompoms, yarn, pipe cleaners, some sketch pads, a regular pencil, lots of different kinds of markers (from Crayola markers to Prismacolor to micron pens), and (I can't stress this enough) I never feel like I have the right glue for whatever I'm working on!

My latest interest has been Zentangle. I am not an artist and I am not interested in using Zentangle for meditation but I do like to doodle and this seems like advanced doodling to me. Here's how the Zentangle website describes Zentangle: " Our Zentangle method is a way of creating beautiful images from repetitive patterns. It is fun and relaxing. Almost anyone can use it to create beautiful images. It increases focus and creativity, provides artistic satisfaction along with an increased sense of personal well being. The Zentangle method is enjoyed all over this world across a wide range of skills, interests and ages".

I have used the book Totally Tangled by Sandy Steen Bartholomew to get ideas and practice different tangles. 

 I used the book Illustration School, Lets Draw Cute Animals by Sachiko Umoto to draw the little animals in the center of the design.

Most of my tangles have been fun but not uniform and again not "professional" or polished. I may need to accept my creations as they are and as with every other area of  my life: persevere. I need to take the running mantra mentioned in my previous post and apply it to creativity: Be Strong, Be Brave! Happy Tangling!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Be Strong, Be Brave

Day 9 (today) of my 30 consecutive days of running project was a recovery run. Yesterday was a not-very-long long run. Over the last 9 days I have run 27.38 miles, 20.25 of those miles this week. My running week begins on Sunday, ends on Saturday and usually includes a longish run on Thursday.

For the first seven days everything was great. I felt very energetic and excited about how the mild winter and sunny days were really helping me stick to my goal. The weather held up but my energy and my body didn't. When a runner or any athlete "overtrains" or exceeds what their body is comfortable handling in training the body responds by having an increased heart rate. Some runners will experience an inability to sleep or irritability. I began to sleep less and less. I can fall asleep easily but wake up early and cannot go back to sleep. Wednesday night I had to announce to Dean and Parker that I was irritable, not because they couldn't already see it for themselves but because if I warn them sometimes they are nicer to me!

Thursday morning was my 8th consecutive run. It was the longish run of 7 miles. It went very well, I didn't feel tired until mile 7. So far so good. I went to lunch with friends, came home, sat on the couch and talked to Parker for a while and when I got up I had a pain. At first I thought it was just the stiffness setting in. After walking around and working out most of the stiffness I had a lingering pain running down the outside of my left leg.

Parker said it was probably my IT band (Iliotibial band). I got out the foam roller and rolled the side of my leg while whining loudly! I performed a stretch for the IT band that stretched my lower back more than my leg. The foam roller was painful but after doing it the pain was much less.

Today was a recovery run anyway and it was rainy so I ran one mile gently.I then read two articles on running to help me continue my journey. Runner's World writer and runner, Amby Burfoot has written an article entitled The 10 Laws of Injury Prevention. The article doesn't really include anything new or earth shattering it just reminds runners of the things we need to do to stay healthy. Many of us do not enjoy stretching and particularly do not enjoy stretching the backs of our legs which is number 8 on the list.

Rule number 1 is Know Your Limits. Hmm. I am hoping that running for 30 consecutive days will not prove to be beyond my limit! The article does give the sage and ubiquitous guideline:  "10-percent rule: Build your weekly training mileage by no more than 10 percent per week. If you run 10 miles the first week, do just 11 miles the second week, 12 miles the third week, and so on." The problem here is that I began this project to get me back into more regular running and to get me off the couch and out the door. In each of the two weeks prior to beginning the 30 consecutive days of running project I had not run more than 13 miles. Theoretically I shouldn't be running over 14.3 miles per week. This week I will probably run 21-23 miles which obviously exceeds the 10 percent rule. In the last month, however, I did have a 15 mile week and a 19 mile week. I was just fluctuating wildly, some weeks running an ok week of 19 miles while other weeks I was barely getting out the door at all. Tomorrow I will run no more than 3 miles and possibly only one mile if I still have pain. I will be foam-rollering frequently and reluctantly stretching. I am the least flexible person on the planet!

To keep me motivated I read another Runner's World article, The Magic of Mantras. Christie Aschwanden states in her article: "To achieve your running goals, powerful legs and big lungs aren't enough—you also need a strong head. Doubts and distractions can derail your attempts, but a well-chosen mantra can keep you calm and on target". The article includes a handy "mantra maker" so that by choosing words from 4 lists you can create your own mantra. I created: "BE STRONG, BE BRAVE".

As I cautiously proceed on my 30 day journey I will try to follow (sort of) the rules of  injury prevention and will repeat over and over in my head, "Be strong, be brave". Life is, after all, a balance between pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and maintaining sanity and health. Happy running!