Healthy Body

How I Set Balanced Weight Loss Goals

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I have officially been back on the healthy train for two months now. And in those two months I have lost exactly 20 pounds.  I have done this largely as a result of following a Whole30 lifestyle.

However, Whole30 is not really concerned with weight loss. In fact, if you follow the rules, you should not weigh yourself at all while participating in Whole30.  So I packed away my scale the first time I completed a Whole30 and I think it was the best thing I could have done.

Numbers on a scale do not define success.

But numbers get people’s attention. Numbers get my attention. I will say over and over again that a number does not tell the whole story, but it does contribute to the story.

That 20 pounds that is off of my body, that’s 20 pounds that my joints had to carry around every step I took. That’s 20 pounds that was eating up my energy and the resources I was putting into my body to fuel it. That’s 20 pounds that I no longer have to account for in my daily life. That’s a big deal!

So how do we come to a healthy balance of knowing the scale isn’t everything and knowing that it does mean something?

For me, a lot of it comes down to goal setting. If all of my health goals are based on numbers going down on a scale, then yes, I will be super concerned with those numbers and base my view of success around them. But if we can expand our goals, I think we start to achieve balance.

How do I set healthy goals?

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1) I define my “why”

Why do I want to lose weight?

I want to have energy to live my life. I want to work throughout the day without a 3 o’clock pit of despair (my totally non-dramatic way of describing what usually happens to me mid-day). I want to have energy to play with my kids when they get home from school. I want the energy to cook a healthy meal for my family. I want to be able to keep my eyes open to enjoy my husband after the kids are tucked in at night.

I want ALL DAY energy!

I want to feel comfortable in my clothes. I’m not talking about wearing a specific size, just to feel like I can move and sit and live life in comfort.

I want to fit into small seats. This became a big motivator for me on one of our flights a year ago. As I buckled the seatbelt around me, I realized I was dangerously close to not making the “click”. Around the same time we started our first Whole30, we also booked a dream vacation for our family the next year that would require me to be able to fit into rides and buckle safety belts. That vacation is still four months away and continues to be a big motivator for me.

I wanted to heal some health problems I was experiencing that I was pretty certain were linked to my diet. I made a list of all the things that felt slightly off—or even way off! Many of these issues have cleared up at this point, and that’s great! But I keep a running list of things that may or may not be related to what I put into my body.

And most importantly, I want to gain a healthy perspective on my body. As a Christian, I believe this body that I live in is important. I believe God created it in His image. I believe Christ died for it. I believe the Holy Spirit indwells it. I believe my physical body is important to God. And I believe that I can take care of this body as an act of worship to Him.

Looking at this list, I have quite a few “whys”.

Maybe you have one big one. Maybe you have more than me. But have you ever sat down and actually written them out? Can I encourage you to do that right now? Open a note on your phone or grab a pen and a piece of paper.

Actually take the time to physically define why you want to lose weight or get healthy.

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Take the time to write out your reasons

2) I set measurable “non-scale” goals

These goals relate directly to my reasons I set out for wanting to be healthy.

My Why: I want to work throughout the day without a 3 o’clock pit of despair.

The Goal: Eliminate my afternoon cup of coffee.

While I cannot physically measure my energy levels, I can know weather I got to the end of the day without multiple cups of caffeine. (This is a goal I’m still working on by the way.)

My Why: I want the energy to cook a healthy meal for my family.

The Goal: Cook 5 meals at home this week.

This is measurable. It gives me some room to have left overs a few nights or go out if it’s just one of those days, But it sets the goal to eat at home which usually means healthier meals. Right now I probably cook six meals a week on average. It’s something that I actually enjoy and try to make a priority.

My Why: I want to feel comfortable in my clothes.

The Goal: Be able to easily button my jeans the first time I wear them after washing.

You know what I’m talking about here. There’s that false sense of excitement you get when you think your jeans are getting too big and then you wash them and suddenly “they shrunk in the dryer”. Yeah, it happens to all of us.

My Why: I want to gain a healthy perspective on my body.

The Goal: Memorize scripture that relates to this area.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 is a great place to start:

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

Write verses on notecards and tape them around your house, screenshot verses and make them your phone background. Do what you need to do to keep this journey in an eternal focus.

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I won’t go through all my goals, but I think the picture is clear:  Turn your vague “whys” into measurable goals that don’t mention numbers or require stepping on a scale.

3) I don’t tie my scale goals to a calendar date

I wanted to lay all that out first, but I also want to be honest that I do set scale related goals for myself as well. But I don’t link those goals with a certain time frame.

For example I don’t say, I want to lose 50 pounds by summer. I can control what I put into my body and how much I move my body, but I cannot control how quickly my body responds to that. So if I say I want to lose 10 pounds a month and I only lose 8, that’s failure. And losing 8 pounds should never be considered failure!

So instead I usually write out my weight descending 10 pounds every line.

For example, if your starting weight was 200 pounds, you would write:

200 —
190 —
180 —
170 —
etc.

And then I come up with a reward for each milestone.

This reward is not linked to seasons or clothes. So I don’t say I’ll buy myself a pair of flip-flops when I lose 20 pounds, because I might reach that in December. I don’t say I will buy myself new jeans when I lose 30 pounds because I might need new ones when I lose 15 and they still fit the same after I’ve lost 30. The number on your scale does not equal your body composition and does not predict the areas you will lose weight in.

Don’t set yourself up for disappointment.

Some rewards I have set in the past include: a manicure/pedicure, new book, sunglasses, massage, or a new piercing. They could build up to something big like a weekend away. I think it’s important to think of these rewards ahead of time and have them in mind.

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When rewarding yourself, a scary/fun selfie is a must!

I set my rewards at ten pounds because I have a larger number I want to lose. (Also my rewards usually cost money, and I need time to save up that money in between rewards.) But if you have a smaller amount you want to lose, set your rewards every five pounds or every two pounds. Or reward yourself every week that you stick to your healthy eating plan weather you lose weight or not.

Just please don’t reward yourself with junk food. That makes no sense.

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I found myself at one point deep in grief and heavy in weight gain. Since that point about a year ago, I have lost almost 50 pounds. That’s incredible! But it has actually been such a long year of back and forth, that I did not even realize that until I just looked back at my notes from when I first started and wrote out my goals and rewards.

Again I will say, write these things down.

You think you will never forget how you feel or that number on the scale right now. But you will. When you start changing your habits, you start creating a new normal, your body starts feeling different, and you forget that it used to hurt to move that way. Your scale gets stuck at a new weight and you forget that it used to be stuck much higher than that.

Nothing is as encouraging and motivating as remembering how far you have already come.

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And if you haven’t even started yet, let me encourage you with how far I have come. I haven’t arrived where I want to be yet, but that’s okay—it’s not a race, it’s a journey.  It’s not about weight, it’s about health.  It’s not just about physical health, it’s about total health. And I’m committed to continue on this journey. Even if it’s a year before I lose another 20 pounds, that’s okay.

The scale doesn’t tell the whole story.

Subscribe at the bottom of this blog to continue on this journey with me, and then tell me your ‘why’ in the comments below. I’d love to hear it and gain some encouragement from you as well.

— Rebekah

Healthy Soul

Why We Choose to Sabbath Every Week

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My husband and I both tend to be extreme people.

When we realized technology was playing too big of a role in our lives, we turned it off for thirty days.

When we wanted to eat healthier we removed ALL sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes from our diet for another thirty days.

When my husband felt like God wanted us to leave our job in the US in youth ministry and work overseas, he went in the next day and gave his boss his six-week notice with no idea of where our future income would come from. He just knew God wanted him to act so he did…immediately. (We did talk about it first, and I was onboard. I was scared out of my mind, but onboard!)

When we feel like we need to make a change, we tend to jump all-in and go extreme.

Usually, I love to blame my husband for our extreme actions. I always say he just jumps off cliffs when rational people are naturally afraid to even get close to the edge. But this most recent extreme jump began as my idea. It was a decision that came from a deep longing in my soul.

I felt as if my life was busy. My life was becoming chaotic. I felt overwhelmed.

I know I’m not alone. These are all words I hear many moms use to describe their life. Sometimes these words are used as badges of honor. The speaker claims to love this crazy life and wouldn’t change it for the world. Other times these words are cries for help from a life they feel they are drowning in.

I was part of the last group. My heart wanted to love this life I was living. I knew looking at my life from an outside, objective view, I had so much to love. But standing in the middle of my life I felt out of shape, out of energy, and out of control. I felt like I needed a change that was too big to make and I was just stuck. My life was full of a lot of good stuff, but it lacked passion and drive.

I felt like we needed to do something extreme.

So our family began to practice Sabbath. When I say that, this is what I mean: we set twenty-four consecutive hours aside to stop working and focus our life on rest and worship.

I realize that this concept is pretty foreign in today’s society. I think the best and clearest way to explain why we have chosen to do this, is to give you a glimpse into what Sabbath looks like in our home. But before I tell you what Sabbath looks like for us, I want to be clear about something:

Sabbath is not about rules, Sabbath is all about freedom.

 When I share what our family does or does not do on a certain day, it is not to create a list of rules other people should follow. I tell you all this in hopes of inspiring you to find what creates rest and worship in your life, and that you would pursue it with passion.

With all that said, this is how we Sabbath:

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We choose to Sabbath on Sunday.

There were not a lot of factors that went into this decision. Basically we wanted to celebrate Sabbath as a family and the kids are in school Monday through Friday, Saturdays usually included parties, church events or a lot of work preparing for Sunday, so the decision for Sabbath on Sunday was easy in our home.

Our entire family participates in preparing for Sabbath.

Not only do Brian and I appreciate a clean house, but we relax better in a clean and tidy atmosphere. However, there is no cleaning on Sabbath. So the preparations begin on Saturday evening. Either when we finish eating dinner or when we get home from being out, we send the kids to their playroom to clean while we get our home in order by cleaning up the common areas and doing a quick vacuum. Hopefully the house isn’t too trashed and this doesn’t take too long, but sometimes it does. That’s life.

Next we move on to the kitchen. Brian fries up bacon and sausage and preps the breakfast casserole for the next morning while I marinate meat or do whatever is involved in prepping lunch for the next day. Usually we finish this up around bedtime for the kids.

We make sure they are excited for the next day. After a few months of practicing Sabbath, we don’t have to really get them excited—a day of no cleaning and lots of family time is exciting on it’s own! It is at this point that we tell them their Sabbath is beginning. We read together, pray together and tuck them in. Again, this is on an ideal Saturday evening, it’s not always that picture perfect.

We might have a few more things to finish up before Brian and I are ready to begin Sabbath.

If I like taking a break from one thing on Sabbath, it’s laundry! So I make sure the kid’s school uniforms are ready for Monday morning. I don’t let myself make lists or even look at my planner on Sabbath so I will try to look over my calendar for the coming week and make any notes of things I need to know for Monday morning. At a certain point Saturday night, I will completely close down my computer, shut my planner and empty my desk. The house is clean, my mind is at ease, and I am ready to Sabbath.

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Brian and I often enjoy ending the night reading or watching a sitcom on Netflix. When we first began practicing Sabbath, I was going to be a stickler about a “no technology” rule. As I said earlier, Sabbath should be governed by freedom, not rules. I have since abandoned all strict rules except one (more about that later) and we occasionally use technology (actually I find it is way more useful to limit social media through the week when I am getting work done and then to enjoy it on Sabbath than the other way around.)

On Sabbath morning, I don’t sleep in. I am a morning person. I believe my best hours are in the morning and I hate to miss them, especially on Sabbath. Brian and I both get up and one of us gets the breakfast casserole in the oven. After this I get a cup of coffee and my bible and spend some time reading.

The kids wake up and play until it’s time for breakfast. Our Sunday morning breakfast actually pre-dates our Sabbath celebrations. Since we moved to Wales almost four years ago, we have enjoyed eating breakfast together on Sunday mornings and praying for the church service that was ahead. We have expanded our breakfast tradition to include praying for the Sabbath as a whole. I will often ask the kids to reflect back on their week and think about what they are thankful for or proud of accomplishing in the past week.

One of the things we remember when we practice Sabbath is that we are following the pattern God set when He spent six days creating and then rested. So we all take turns saying something we created or accomplished over the past week that we are proud of. This might be a story written, a Lego creation, a hospitable atmosphere in our home, or a really good meal. We take time to be proud of each other and thank God for the abilities He’s given us.

When breakfast is over, Brian leaves to go to the church early. I make sure the kids are completely ready and playing together in the playroom. Then I shut myself in my room to get physically ready for the day. At this point, I usually listen to a preaching podcast (Most Sundays, I am not in the preaching part of our church so this is my time to hear God’s Word). I might finish getting ready by using this time to paint my nails—something I don’t do at any other point in the week because it just isn’t a priority.

It’s finally time to begin heading to church together.

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If you’re new to my blog or my story, my family lives and does ministry in Wales and together we lead many areas in our church and organize a lot of what goes on. I realize church is a very cultural thing. When I describe our church, it might not sound at all like what you experience in your culture. That’s okay. Remember, I’m not trying to give you a list of rules to follow, I’m simply painting the picture of what our Sabbath looks like.

I wrestled for many weeks with how serving at church fit into the grid of Sabbath in our lives. ‘Maybe we shouldn’t even attempt to Sabbath on Sunday because it is too much work.’ But over the past two years we have been on a journey with God that has shaped our view of what God has called us to do.

So let me state what I mean when I said our family does ministry in Wales:

First, we believe that if you are a follower of Christ, your family is where they are to “do ministry”. It is the job of all disciples of Christ to make new disciples.

And secondly, and most importantly, we believe that this discipleship does not happen best on Sundays. Our belief is that the “big stuff” in ministry happens between Monday and Saturday making Sunday a day of coming together and celebrating what has happened over the past week. This takes the pressure off of Sunday. It is no longer the main event where we must show up ready to perform. It is the very heart of Sabbath—a time to look back on what the week has brought us and worship God for all He has done.

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What does this look like in real life? Am I standing in a flowing dress with my hair and hands free to worship God with my whole being and just an overwhelming sense of freedom? No. Not at all. I mentioned that we lead several areas in our church, didn’t I?

So a typical Sunday at church includes Brian going early for band practice, making sure technical glitches are all worked out, sometimes preaching as well. And then there’s me with a hand full of sign-up sheets organizing teachers, ladies meals, and children’s events.

But I realized a few weeks in to the practice of Sabbath, that I could make sure those sign-ups were ready by Saturday night. I could contact the many people I needed to talk to about events through the week and not leave it until I saw them on Sunday. I found that I could go to church without a running to-do list in my head and just genuinely enjoy talking with the people that were gathered there. I don’t get out my calendar and make plans on Sunday. I often say the phrase, text me this week and we can find what time works best for that. I am not avoiding commitment, I am purposefully choosing to keep my mind free of all the “need to’s” on Sabbath.

My continual prayer throughout the day on Sabbath is that God would keep my heart in an attitude of worship.

Sabbath is a practice.

I’m not getting it right every week. Some weeks I come home completely stressed out or at least have a stressed out moment in the middle. But for the most part, I have been able to thoroughly enjoy that sense of community and belonging I find at my church, and it has greatly enhanced Sabbath in my heart.

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We all come home from church together. At this point we usually send the kids to play and start on lunch. There have been weeks we just grabbed a quick sandwich lunch and went to take naps because we were just done. Then we would have a larger family meal later in the evening.   But for the most part, we have come to enjoy this time together. Most of the prep has already been done, so this is just the finishing touches phase. Cooking the meat on the skillet, putting together the salad, something like that.

Brian and I are both verbal processors. That is code for: we like to talk! So we talk through all the events of that morning, anything we feel like God has spoken to us about, I might talk about a podcast I listened to earlier in the day. We love this time of working side by side in the kitchen and sharing our hearts.

When the food is ready we call in the kids and sit down together. Now, by this point we are all pretty tired. It’s been a long day already. This is usually not a long drawn out meal with a lot of conversation.

What follows next would probably be best described as “quiet time” or even “alone time”.

Boston usually takes a nap. That kid loves sleep!

Brooklyn usually reads, writes stories, or draws pictures.

I often take a nap. It’s not because I feel like I have to sleep on Sabbath, it’s because my body is normally very tired from the week and days activities. On Sabbath, I choose not to ‘push through’ but to listen to my body and rest. I have also enjoyed reading or even doing a puzzle during the afternoon.

Brian stays far away if a puzzle comes out—that is not restful for him! He might write, go to the church and play the piano, sleep, read or when it’s nice out, run.

What constitutes rest is different for each of us.

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Once we have spent the morning in community and the afternoon in solitude, we come together in the evening for family time. Quite often this is comprised of breakfast for dinner and a family movie. But it might also mean a long walk together, a trip to the park, family game night or whatever else we decide to do together. Then it comes time to put the kids to bed once again and close out our Sabbath day.

At this point, our Sabbath is technically over.

I might spend some time packing lunches for the next day, open back up my planner and check out what Monday holds. Jot down some notes of things I need to remember to do.   But I don’t get into anything too heavy that night. Like I said earlier, I am a morning person. I love feeling refreshed at the end of Sabbath and going to bed early even.

I have found that I wake up Monday morning motivated and ready to go. This is weird! I used to hate Mondays. I hated the structure of sending the kids back to school after enjoying a weekend. I hated getting up early after being able to sleep in for two days. And I did not enjoy getting back to ‘real life’.

But Sabbath has changed Mondays.

I wake up Monday morning with a ton of motivation and energy to tackle the day. Our bodies were created to work. In my personal experience, when we take an entire 24 hours off from that work, we emerge refreshed and ready to tackle what lies ahead. And it doesn’t just end on Monday. I have more energy and passion to work throughout the entire week.

I love to observe Sabbath, but I do not wish to spend my whole life in Sabbath.

I believe it was created for a specific intent: to give us rest and a time to reflect on the beauty of the work that has been accomplished. Sabbath only functions in connection with hard work.

As I look back on my life three months ago and compare it to now, I can honestly say I no longer feel overwhelmed, too busy, or like I am drowning. I don’t have less responsibilities, in fact I have taken on more.  However, choosing to Sabbath one day a week has given me energy and inspiration to accomplish more in the other six days than I have had in a very long time. I have even tackled the hard areas of eating and exercise and organization and I feel like I am living in the zone God created me to live in.

Do I think Sabbath is a command that all people, or even all Christians, MUST obey? No. I believe we have freedom. Colossians 2:16 very clearly says we should not let anyone guilt us in to participating in any customs. It says:

Don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.

I don’t believe Sabbath is a law that current day believers MUST follow. I believe it is a gift that we have the ability to accept. And I believe that truly embracing this gift, has changed the way I live my life. I believe it has made me more intentional, more productive, and more passionate about life.

And I believe it can change the way you live yours too.

Will it take extreme action to make this a reality in your life? Maybe.

Will it be worth it? Try it for a month and then let me know.

 

— Rebekah

Home/Family Life

Getting My Life Back One Day at a Time

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My husband and I both tend to be extreme people.

When we realized technology was playing too big of a role in our lives, we turned it off for thirty days.

When we wanted to eat healthier we removed ALL sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes from our diet for another thirty days.

When my husband felt like God wanted us to leave our job in the US in youth ministry and work overseas, he went in the next day and gave his boss his six-week notice with no idea of where our future income would come from. He just knew God wanted him to act so he did…immediately. (We did talk about it first, and I was onboard. I was scared out of my mind, but onboard!)

When we feel like we need to make a change, we tend to jump all-in and go extreme.

Usually, I love to blame my husband for our extreme actions. I always say he just jumps off cliffs when rational people are naturally afraid to even get close to the edge. But this most recent extreme jump began as my idea. It was a decision that came from a deep longing in my soul.

I felt as if my life was busy. My life was becoming chaotic. I felt overwhelmed.

I know I’m not alone. These are all words I hear many moms use to describe their life. Sometimes these words are used as badges of honor. The speaker claims to love this crazy life and wouldn’t change it for the world. Other times these words are cries for help from a life they feel they are drowning in.

I was part of the last group. My heart wanted to love this life I was living. I knew looking at my life from an outside, objective view, I had so much to love. But standing in the middle of my life I felt out of shape, out of energy, and out of control. I felt like I needed a change that was too big to make and I was just stuck. My life was full of a lot of good stuff, but it lacked passion and drive.

I felt like we needed to do something extreme.

So our family began to practice Sabbath. When I say that, this is what I mean: we set twenty-four consecutive hours aside to stop working and focus our life on rest and worship.

I realize that this concept is pretty foreign in today’s society. I think the best and clearest way to explain why we have chosen to do this, is to give you a glimpse into what Sabbath looks like in our home. But before I tell you what Sabbath looks like for us, I want to be clear about something:

Sabbath is not about rules, Sabbath is all about freedom.

 When I share what our family does or does not do on a certain day, it is not to create a list of rules other people should follow. I tell you all this in hopes of inspiring you to find what creates rest and worship in your life, and that you would pursue it with passion.

With all that said, this is how we Sabbath:

IMG_9603

We choose to Sabbath on Sunday.

There were not a lot of factors that went into this decision. Basically we wanted to celebrate Sabbath as a family and the kids are in school Monday through Friday, Saturdays usually included parties, church events or a lot of work preparing for Sunday, so the decision for Sabbath on Sunday was easy in our home.

Our entire family participates in preparing for Sabbath.

Not only do Brian and I appreciate a clean house, but we relax better in a clean and tidy atmosphere. However, there is no cleaning on Sabbath. So the preparations begin on Saturday evening. Either when we finish eating dinner or when we get home from being out, we send the kids to their playroom to clean while we get our home in order by cleaning up the common areas and doing a quick vacuum. Hopefully the house isn’t too trashed and this doesn’t take too long, but sometimes it does. That’s life.

Next we move on to the kitchen. Brian fries up bacon and sausage and preps the breakfast casserole for the next morning while I marinate meat or do whatever is involved in prepping lunch for the next day. Usually we finish this up around bedtime for the kids.

We make sure they are excited for the next day. After a few months of practicing Sabbath, we don’t have to really get them excited—a day of no cleaning and lots of family time is exciting on it’s own! It is at this point that we tell them their Sabbath is beginning. We read together, pray together and tuck them in. Again, this is on an ideal Saturday evening, it’s not always that picture perfect.

We might have a few more things to finish up before Brian and I are ready to begin Sabbath.

If I like taking a break from one thing on Sabbath, it’s laundry! So I make sure the kid’s school uniforms are ready for Monday morning. I don’t let myself make lists or even look at my planner on Sabbath so I will try to look over my calendar for the coming week and make any notes of things I need to know for Monday morning. At a certain point Saturday night, I will completely close down my computer, shut my planner and empty my desk. The house is clean, my mind is at ease, and I am ready to Sabbath.

IMG_2924

Brian and I often enjoy ending the night reading or watching a sitcom on Netflix. When we first began practicing Sabbath, I was going to be a stickler about a “no technology” rule. As I said earlier, Sabbath should be governed by freedom, not rules. I have since abandoned all strict rules except one (more about that later) and we occasionally use technology (actually I find it is way more useful to limit social media through the week when I am getting work done and then to enjoy it on Sabbath than the other way around.)

On Sabbath morning, I don’t sleep in. I am a morning person. I believe my best hours are in the morning and I hate to miss them, especially on Sabbath. Brian and I both get up and one of us gets the breakfast casserole in the oven. After this I get a cup of coffee and my bible and spend some time reading.

The kids wake up and play until it’s time for breakfast. Our Sunday morning breakfast actually pre-dates our Sabbath celebrations. Since we moved to Wales almost four years ago, we have enjoyed eating breakfast together on Sunday mornings and praying for the church service that was ahead. We have expanded our breakfast tradition to include praying for the Sabbath as a whole. I will often ask the kids to reflect back on their week and think about what they are thankful for or proud of accomplishing in the past week.

One of the things we remember when we practice Sabbath is that we are following the pattern God set when He spent six days creating and then rested. So we all take turns saying something we created or accomplished over the past week that we are proud of. This might be a story written, a Lego creation, a hospitable atmosphere in our home, or a really good meal. We take time to be proud of each other and thank God for the abilities He’s given us.

When breakfast is over, Brian leaves to go to the church early. I make sure the kids are completely ready and playing together in the playroom. Then I shut myself in my room to get physically ready for the day. At this point, I usually listen to a preaching podcast (Most Sundays, I am not in the preaching part of our church so this is my time to hear God’s Word). I might finish getting ready by using this time to paint my nails—something I don’t do at any other point in the week because it just isn’t a priority.

It’s finally time to begin heading to church together.

IMG_5402

If you’re new to my blog or my story, my family lives and does ministry in Wales and together we lead many areas in our church and organize a lot of what goes on. I realize church is a very cultural thing. When I describe our church, it might not sound at all like what you experience in your culture. That’s okay. Remember, I’m not trying to give you a list of rules to follow, I’m simply painting the picture of what our Sabbath looks like.

I wrestled for many weeks with how serving at church fit into the grid of Sabbath in our lives. ‘Maybe we shouldn’t even attempt to Sabbath on Sunday because it is too much work.’ But over the past two years we have been on a journey with God that has shaped our view of what God has called us to do.

So let me state what I mean when I said our family does ministry in Wales:

First, we believe that if you are a follower of Christ, your family is where they are to “do ministry”. It is the job of all disciples of Christ to make new disciples.

And secondly, and most importantly, we believe that this discipleship does not happen best on Sundays. Our belief is that the “big stuff” in ministry happens between Monday and Saturday making Sunday a day of coming together and celebrating what has happened over the past week. This takes the pressure off of Sunday. It is no longer the main event where we must show up ready to perform. It is the very heart of Sabbath—a time to look back on what the week has brought us and worship God for all He has done.

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What does this look like in real life? Am I standing in a flowing dress with my hair and hands free to worship God with my whole being and just an overwhelming sense of freedom? No. Not at all. I mentioned that we lead several areas in our church, didn’t I?

So a typical Sunday at church includes Brian going early for band practice, making sure technical glitches are all worked out, sometimes preaching as well. And then there’s me with a hand full of sign-up sheets organizing teachers, ladies meals, and children’s events.

But I realized a few weeks in to the practice of Sabbath, that I could make sure those sign-ups were ready by Saturday night. I could contact the many people I needed to talk to about events through the week and not leave it until I saw them on Sunday. I found that I could go to church without a running to-do list in my head and just genuinely enjoy talking with the people that were gathered there. I don’t get out my calendar and make plans on Sunday. I often say the phrase, text me this week and we can find what time works best for that. I am not avoiding commitment, I am purposefully choosing to keep my mind free of all the “need to’s” on Sabbath.

My continual prayer throughout the day on Sabbath is that God would keep my heart in an attitude of worship.

Sabbath is a practice.

I’m not getting it right every week. Some weeks I come home completely stressed out or at least have a stressed out moment in the middle. But for the most part, I have been able to thoroughly enjoy that sense of community and belonging I find at my church, and it has greatly enhanced Sabbath in my heart.

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We all come home from church together. At this point we usually send the kids to play and start on lunch. There have been weeks we just grabbed a quick sandwich lunch and went to take naps because we were just done. Then we would have a larger family meal later in the evening.   But for the most part, we have come to enjoy this time together. Most of the prep has already been done, so this is just the finishing touches phase. Cooking the meat on the skillet, putting together the salad, something like that.

Brian and I are both verbal processors. That is code for: we like to talk! So we talk through all the events of that morning, anything we feel like God has spoken to us about, I might talk about a podcast I listened to earlier in the day. We love this time of working side by side in the kitchen and sharing our hearts.

When the food is ready we call in the kids and sit down together. Now, by this point we are all pretty tired. It’s been a long day already. This is usually not a long drawn out meal with a lot of conversation.

What follows next would probably be best described as “quiet time” or even “alone time”.

Boston usually takes a nap. That kid loves sleep!

Brooklyn usually reads, writes stories, or draws pictures.

I often take a nap. It’s not because I feel like I have to sleep on Sabbath, it’s because my body is normally very tired from the week and days activities. On Sabbath, I choose not to ‘push through’ but to listen to my body and rest. I have also enjoyed reading or even doing a puzzle during the afternoon.

Brian stays far away if a puzzle comes out—that is not restful for him! He might write, go to the church and play the piano, sleep, read or when it’s nice out, run.

What constitutes rest is different for each of us.

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Once we have spent the morning in community and the afternoon in solitude, we come together in the evening for family time. Quite often this is comprised of breakfast for dinner and a family movie. But it might also mean a long walk together, a trip to the park, family game night or whatever else we decide to do together. Then it comes time to put the kids to bed once again and close out our Sabbath day.

At this point, our Sabbath is technically over.

I might spend some time packing lunches for the next day, open back up my planner and check out what Monday holds. Jot down some notes of things I need to remember to do.   But I don’t get into anything too heavy that night. Like I said earlier, I am a morning person. I love feeling refreshed at the end of Sabbath and going to bed early even.

I have found that I wake up Monday morning motivated and ready to go. This is weird! I used to hate Mondays. I hated the structure of sending the kids back to school after enjoying a weekend. I hated getting up early after being able to sleep in for two days. And I did not enjoy getting back to ‘real life’.

But Sabbath has changed Mondays.

I wake up Monday morning with a ton of motivation and energy to tackle the day. Our bodies were created to work. In my personal experience, when we take an entire 24 hours off from that work, we emerge refreshed and ready to tackle what lies ahead. And it doesn’t just end on Monday. I have more energy and passion to work throughout the entire week.

I love to observe Sabbath, but I do not wish to spend my whole life in Sabbath.

I believe it was created for a specific intent: to give us rest and a time to reflect on the beauty of the work that has been accomplished. Sabbath only functions in connection with hard work.

As I look back on my life three months ago and compare it to now, I can honestly say I no longer feel overwhelmed, too busy, or like I am drowning. I don’t have less responsibilities, in fact I have taken on more.  However, choosing to Sabbath one day a week has given me energy and inspiration to accomplish more in the other six days than I have had in a very long time. I have even tackled the hard areas of eating and exercise and organization and I feel like I am living in the zone God created me to live in.

Do I think Sabbath is a command that all people, or even all Christians, MUST obey? No. I believe we have freedom. Colossians 2:16 very clearly says we should not let anyone guilt us in to participating in any customs. It says:

Don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.

I don’t believe Sabbath is a law that current day believers MUST follow. I believe it is a gift that we have the ability to accept. And I believe that truly embracing this gift, has changed the way I live my life. I believe it has made me more intentional, more productive, and more passionate about life.

And I believe it can change the way you live yours too.

Will it take extreme action to make this a reality in your life? Maybe.

Will it be worth it? Try it for a month and then let me know.

 

— Rebekah

healthy family

How to Raise an Enthusiastic Reader

5 Steps to Take Your Child from Media Zombie to Engaged Reader

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I travelled many places growing up.

I went to the world’s largest chocolate factory that was only accessible with a golden ticket.

I became friends with a girl named Fern who was trying to save a runt pig.

I even went back and experienced primitive times on the prairie.

From my little small-town Indiana home, I could go anywhere with a good book. When I was reading those classic books, I was learning new vocabulary, I was learning about geography, I was expanding my worldview. I didn’t know this when I was young, I just knew I loved reading! And when I became a parent myself I knew I wanted my kids to love reading.

We have read to our children since they were babies. I think this has established a basis for them loving a good story. They love when daddy uses silly voices and the suspense that hangs in the air while you turn a page. I am a huge advocate for reading to your children. But that’s not where I am going here.

As our oldest learned to read on her own, we saw that just reading to her was not enough to make her love reading herself. There seemed to be a disconnect and a lack of desire to take the leap from passively listening to devouring the books herself. Last spring I realized I had a child who could read, but had no desire to read. I’ll be honest, this kind of broke my heart. I was not content to just say, “Oh well, reading is not her thing” and move on. I knew something needed to change.   I knew I needed to take action.

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When I was growing up my parents did not have to come up with a plan to make me love reading. I was a youngest child and I constantly saw the other people in my house reading and I wanted to read. I remember sitting with a pile of Berenstain Bear books and looking through pictures while the other four members of my family all sat with “real chapter books” on quiet week nights and I just couldn’t wait until I was old enough to do that too. Okay, I know I’m a nerd and this scenario might have been a bit weird even back in the late Eighties, but I cannot imagine this happening in too many living rooms in today’s culture!

So what has changed?

A lot has changed. But I think the glaring truth is, screens have invaded our kid’s lives. I know this sounds all doom and gloom, as if I think technology is the devil. I don’t think that at all. But I think the advancement of technology and amount that children are exposed to it has hugely impacted their attention span, interest levels, and lives in general.

I said that reading to my kids made them love a good story, but so did watching an exciting episode of Paw Patrol. They could be just as entertained by holding a tablet and watching a show or playing a game as they would be reading a book, and they didn’t have to think nearly as much to watch the show. The problem came when I told them to turn off that show and they either threw a fit or had no idea what to do on their own to have fun. They had a playroom full of toys, desk full of art supplies and shelf full of books, but they were constantly at a loss of what to do. I started realizing I was raising kids dependent on being entertained in an easy, fast way. And I didn’t like it.

Fortunately, I also realized my kids were still very young. I knew there was still plenty of time to make changes. I knew that technology was not the only problem. We made some changes in habits and I got a little more intentional about learning my own child, and it worked!

These are the steps we took:

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  1. Limit Technology Time

This seems like an obvious first step. If you want to keep your children from being dependent on technology for entertainment, you need to keep them away from the technology. It sounds so simple. Yet this is probably the hardest step for us as the parents. Technology is easy. Technology is convenient. And chances are, your child already loves playing games or watching shows on their tablet, phone, or the TV.

When I got serious about wanting our oldest to love reading, we went on a 30-day no-screens adventure as a family. Yikes, this just got personal. If I wanted to detox her from the constant flow of images and screen time, I knew I needed to do it myself. Kids are excellent imitators. They also are excellent at pointing out hypocrisy. My husband and I were both on board to set a good example. Together we did 30 days of no TV, video games, or computer games and very little phone usage. We had a few exceptions—texting and face timing, business on the computer, or family movie nights. But we locked up the kindles for a month and told our kids they had to find a different way to entertain themselves.

Fortunately, we are at the stage in parenting where we can unplug the TV and hide the tablet and our kids don’t have a way of going around the system. As your kids get older, I’m sure this is harder to inforce. This is where you have to be determined. Your kid will throw a fit. They won’t like that you have taken their favorite toy away. The more reliant they were on the device before, the bigger the tantrum will be when you take it away.

But please, take this to heart—you are not depriving your child!

If the tears and the constant begging begins to wear down your resolve, take a moment to Google the effects of technology on a young child’s brain. (oh wait, that uses a screen, you better do it before you begin and print the article out!) There are studies that compare the use of screens to the use of heroin and the results are scary-similar.

However, all the articles I have read have also said that screen addiction might actually be harder to break and cure than drug addiction! What?! Mama, if your 5-year-old was hooked on cocaine, would you give up the detox a week in just because it was just too hard on them? No way!

As hard as that beginning week may be, keep the end goal in mind. During the thirty days, I actually saw my daughter blossom into a voracious reader! It was kind of amazing to watch. Now is this guaranteed to happen on a technology break? No, of course not. But your child might become a Lego-building maniac, or a dedicated artist, or develop their creativity in ways you did not even see coming. Be ready to notice these new developments and praise them like crazy when they happen!

I know I compared screens to a drug, but the problem is the addiction to the screen, not the screen itself. Technology is neither good nor bad—it is a tool. After the total break from technology, we brought it back in moderation. We use wisdom now to try to guard our kids from that addiction. They use their Kindles two evenings a week when we have company over and we basically need a babysitter.   They can watch TV on Fridays when their brains and emotions are tired from a long week at school. And sometimes this mama just needs to get some work done uninterrupted and they get to watch a show or movie.

We don’t have strict rules on technology. I think it’s fun. I think it’s useful. I think it is important for my kids to know how to use it. But more than anything, I think it needs to have an appropriate place in their hearts and priorities. In order for our family to get to that appropriate place, we had to start extreme.

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  1. Discover Your Child’s Genre

Once your child is detoxed from technology and in a place where their creativity is awake, next you must begin to foster that love of reading. At this point the question becomes, what books would my child actually enjoy?   You can start by asking for recommendations or doing a Pinterest search for ideas. It’s a great start to find a general list on the Internet of ‘Books 7 year-old Girls Love’.

But not all seven-year-old girls are the same. Remember, I knew our daughter could read, she just didn’t want to read. So, we looked at her interests. The girl loves animals! She also loves make believe—fairies and magic. Once we combined those two loves and found some books on magical creatures and animals—she was engaged!

As her love developed and she read more and more she reached a point where her ability outreached her maturity. She could be have begun reading larger, more challenging books. But she was still seven-years-old and still loved short books about magical animals and people that get swept off to their land. I knew her time for bigger, more mature books would come, but I didn’t push it. The goal here was for her to enjoy reading.

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  1. Become Friends with your Local Library

We knew that short, magical books was our daughter’s sweet spot. The problem is that she can read one of those books in a night.

How do we keep fresh reading material for her without going broke? Use your local library!

Create a love of the library in your children. Most libraries have story times you can take your kids to when they are young. Make it a fun adventure to pick out books. Get to know the librarian by name. Let them know what types of books your children like so they can help.

Our local library is very small, so we checked out all of the fairy books and animal books there in a very short time! But they have an interlibrary sharing system with the entire county. So, when she finds a new book she likes and finds out it’s one of a series, we let the librarian know and we pull in books from all over! It’s an endless free stream of books at your fingertips.

I often check out a few books outside of her normal genre, just to see if she’s changing. Sometimes she reads them, sometimes she doesn’t. But I haven’t wasted any money if she looks at the cover and turns it down. Not only are we saving money with the library, but space as well. If you’re a mom who dislikes clutter, this is a great way to get books in your kid’s hands without having to find a place to put the large collection they are growing.

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  1. Set Attainable Goals and Rewards

Our girl began reading like crazy in the Spring. When summer holiday came around, I decided to challenge her. I told her she would earn £1 for every book she read. Money is a powerful motivator. Pick a reward you know your child will love, but be careful that it does not reinforce the wrong thing.

If 20 minutes of reading is rewarded with 1 hour on the tablet, you are not lessening the pull of technology on your child’s heart. I’m not a big fan of using food as a reward either, but do what works for you.

Summer holiday was six weeks long, we were gone for two of those weeks, I thought money was a reasonable reward. In those four weeks, she read 39 chapter books! Yikes! I don’t think we will be using money as a motivator for reading anymore—I can’t afford it!

The point is to find what motivates your child and go for it. What motivates your child may change as they grow and their ability grows. Don’t try to get it perfect from the beginning, just start with a small goal and small reward and work your way up.

Prize boxes work well for our kids at their current ages (seven and four). You could let them choose a small prize for every 100 pages read or 500 pages read as they grow. If you have multiple reading age children or a community of friends you can use competition as motivators as well. See who can read the most pages or books in a month, have a group ice cream party if they can read 100 books together over the summer.

Why limit parties and group goals to schools and classrooms? Bring the celebration home!

Once they start reading, don’t be conservative with your praise! If you really want your children to love reading, reinforce that with your words and face. After they finish a book, have a special date with that child to discuss the book. Make two hot chocolates and sit down at the table and listen as they describe all the events of the book. Ask them what the character’s names were, who in the book they liked the best, why they liked them.

Let your children relive the story in their own words.

If you are a reader yourself, you know you are never quite ready to exit that make-believe world in your head when you finish a book. Let your child stay there a little longer.

I’ll be honest here, magical creatures are not my genre (unless we are talking Harry Potter!). A story about a Pegasus who injures its hoof is not really peaking my interest. But for the ten minutes it takes my daughter to tell me all about the book, I act like it is the coolest thing I have ever heard.

We don’t discuss every book she reads, sometimes she is not in a talkative mood, but this gift of your attention and time can be a powerful reward for your child.

One last tool we use to track reading and rewards is goodreads.com. This is a free site run by Amazon where you can record all the books you have read and review them. I set our daughter up with a private account (there is a social aspect that we don’t use) at the beginning of the year when she set a goal to read 100 books within the year. There is a tracker for your own personal reading challenge. She loves going in and recording which books she has read and watching the progress percentage go up. As she records what she has read, there are suggestions on the side of books that she may like. This has been a helpful tool for her as well.

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5) Set the Example 

I touched on this earlier when talking about limiting technology, but I want to end by restating the importance of this. It was up to me, and my husband, to set the example of what would be important in our home.

In our family, I had to look at myself when I was questioning why my daughter was so addicted to technology. I went back to that same weeknight scenario in my childhood home, the one I talked about earlier. I compared the old image of my family sitting around reading books to the current situation in my adult home I was creating. My husband and I on our phones while the kids either ran around crazy or sat in front of their own screens. There was a constant cry of my heart that there wasn’t enough time in the day all while I spent countless hours scrolling through social media feeds.

I know that my children are their own little people with their own big personalities and hearts with very real desires, but they are a product of me. I don’t say this to guilt myself and for sure I do not say it to shame you if you have a child you are struggling with. (I have had many struggle moments, weeks, even years!)

I say this because I am passionate about having a healthy life and a healthy family. By ‘healthy’ I mean our bodies, our souls and our family rhythms. All these areas are important and they all take work. This health depends on a lot of balance. The funny thing about balance is you can’t just find it once and live out the rest of your life balanced. Balance is about constantly readjusting and changing to fit your needs. Keeping a balance requires action.

What action does your family need you to take?

Do you need to sit down with your partner and decide on a social media break?

Do you need to set aside ten minutes each day this week with your child to learn what they are interested in and encourage those interests?

Do you need to take a trip to your library and check out a book?

Maybe you can schedule a no-technology reading night tonight. (Seek and Find books are great for young non-readers on these nights.)

Whatever you decide, comment below and let me know. And give me your ideas! What works to motivate your kids to read? What books are they reading right now? I’m always looking for more ideas.

 

-Rebekah

Note: All of these fun photos of our family reading together were part of our family photos last fall photographed by the amazing Hannah K Photography

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Healthy Soul

The Life-Giving Gift of Rest

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Every year Brian and I choose a word for our family. It’s a word that we want to describe our family or that we want to learn more about. In general, it’s the tone we want to set for our home for the year.   We have been doing this for a few years and our previous words were exciting action words like experience and thrive. They were concepts that pushed us out of our comfort zone. We made hashtags and took lots of photos of our experiences. They were fun for us as a family and fun to share with others. With excitement and anticipation, we sat in a coffee shop at the beginning of January together and discussed what our word for 2018 would be.

Before going into this year’s word, I feel like it’s important to mention last year. If you have been following this blog, or our family’s story, at all, you know 2017 was a hard year for our family. That is an understatement. We went into the year on an extremely high note. God had been teaching us many new exciting truths, we had a growing little family with three kids that were so demanding but so rewarding. We went into the year expecting to continue right along the same path we were on. January 4th we went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows when our baby boy passed away. The year that followed was so very different than the year that we expected.

You may not have lost a child, but I’m fairly certain you know what it’s like to have your expectations unmet. It can crush you or it can make you stronger. For us, it did both.

We depended on others as grief settled heavily upon us. We slipped into survival mode and we used all our energy to get through the days. Brian and I grieved very different, but we kept talking. We kept discussing and somehow we even kept dreaming for our family. It wasn’t instantaneous, but eventually we made the choice to thrive in our current circumstances and looking back we feel like we did that. It was not a year of incredible goal setting and attaining. Thriving for us looked much different than it might look for someone else. The year was not all forward progress, there were a lot of setbacks. But God faithfully carried us through the year and allowed us to come out with a growing excitement for a new year.

I think it’s natural for us to long for new beginnings after a hard phase of life. We like fresh pages, Monday mornings, January first. They hold the promise of a new start, new week, new year to do things differently.   This is true for me. Our one-year anniversary of losing Beckett lined up with a new calendar year. In no way am I saying that after a year I was done grieving. Grief is something I will carry with me the rest of my life. But I am saying that the one-year anniversary and a new calendar year seemed like a time to set a new tone for our family life.

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So there we sat, in a coffee shop on January 4, 2018, discussing what we hoped 2018 would hold for us.   A sense of excitement began to grow as we allowed ourselves to dream and look forward. There were many areas of life that held an excitement for the future. A word seemed to surface over and over and the word we chose for the year was Expectant. We paused in talking and I wrote a blog detailing why we were choosing expectant as our family word for 2018. This is a small part of that blog:

I am expectant.

Expectant that God will change my heart.

Expectant that God will grow my relationships.

Expectant that God will renew our marriage.

Expecting God to give me wisdom as a mom.

Expecting God to use me in a fresh way.

Expecting a change in my health.  

I don’t mean expectant as in, ‘I will tell God what I want to happen and then expect Him to work in exactly that way’. That is having expectations. Expectations set me up for disappointment and ruin things.   I mean I am expectant for God to work in His own way. Maybe this seems like a petty difference, but to me it feels very different. I am done with expectations. I am ready to be expectant. I am expectant for God to show up in my life, in my relationships, in my ministry in 2018.

But I never published that blog about being expectant.

I really planned to publish it, but something held me back. That day as we sat together and talked about the coming year, Brian said God kept bringing the concept of Sabbath to his heart. Sabbath—the Old Testament principle of rest. The fourth commandment we learn in Sunday School, “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”. Between expectant and Sabbath, the first seemed way more exciting and challenging to strive for. To be completely honest, I felt like we had already spent a year of not doing much. I did not want to focus our family on taking a break. I wanted to focus on looking forward to God working in our lives!

So I started the year ready for God to show me new and exciting things. And He did. Right away. The next day, actually. I listened to a podcast about the practice of Sabbath and I knew—this is it. I knew I had no idea what Sabbath truly meant, but I knew we needed it. Like I said, we didn’t need a break, we didn’t need a day off, we didn’t even need a vacation. We needed to experience the glory of Sabbath that God created for us.

I needed to practice Sabbath.

Somehow over the next few months our word changed, or more importantly our focus changed. I began reading, researching and praying for Sabbath in our home. God has overwhelmed my heart with a fresh concept and a fresh fire. I don’t even think I’m exaggerating when I say: Sabbath is changing my life. I know that Sabbath is not an irrelevant Old Testament law, but a life-giving gift. I’m learning how to make Sunday a day of Sabbath while being in the ministry. I’m learning how to prepare the night before. I’m learning Sabbath is just as important to my health as eating well. I’m learning how to teach my kids to Sabbath. I’m learning to use Sabbath as a verb instead of a noun!

Can you be this excited—this expectant—and rest all at the same time? Yes, I think you can. And I think that’s the point.

When we truly expect God to work in His own way, it may not be what we are looking for. It’s going to be better. It’s going to be what we actually need.

I don’t think this concept of Sabbath is just what I need or what my family needs. As I look around our 24/7 society, I think we all need it!

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Please take a minute to subscribe to this blog and follow along this journey with me. You can also follow me living this out in photos on Instagram.  All of these things I’m learning, I’m excited to share them with you in more detail. I’m going to share the victories and the failures and together maybe we can experience some real enjoyment and rest in the midst of our busy lives. It may be odd that I am posting about a ‘word for the year’ when we are well into the year. Not all fresh starts begin in January. Those blank pages and fresh calendar years, they are great. But we can experience a fresh start any day of the year, any time of the day.

Today seems like a pretty good day for one to me!

— Rebekah

P.S. I Don’t want to confuse or offend anyone, I want to be clear from the start that I am not practicing orthodox Judaism.  I am a Christian and my viewpoint will be from that.  What I am describing and will be sharing in future articles is not an official Jewish Shabbat.  Thank you for your understanding.

 

 

 

 

Marriage, Parenting

Resting While Moving Forward

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Every year Brian and I choose a word for our family. It’s a word that we want to describe our family or that we want to learn more about. In general, it’s the tone we want to set for our home for the year.   We have been doing this for a few years and our previous words were exciting action words like experience and thrive. They were concepts that pushed us out of our comfort zone. We made hashtags and took lots of photos of our experiences. They were fun for us as a family and fun to share with others. With excitement and anticipation, we sat in a coffee shop at the beginning of January together and discussed what our word for 2018 would be.

Before going into this year’s word, I feel like it’s important to mention last year. If you have been following this blog, or our family’s story, at all, you know 2017 was a hard year for our family. That is an understatement. We went into the year on an extremely high note. God had been teaching us many new exciting truths, we had a growing little family with three kids that were so demanding but so rewarding. We went into the year expecting to continue right along the same path we were on. January 4th we went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows when our baby boy passed away. The year that followed was so very different than the year that we expected. You may not have lost a child, but I’m fairly certain you know what it’s like to have your expectations unmet. It can crush you or it can make you stronger. For us, it did both. We depended on others as grief settled heavily upon us. We slipped into survival mode and we used all our energy to get through the days. Brian and I grieved very different, but we kept talking. We kept discussing and somehow we even kept dreaming for our family. It wasn’t instantaneous, but eventually we made the choice to thrive in our current circumstances and looking back we feel like we did that. It was not a year of incredible goal setting and attaining. Thriving for us looked much different than it might look for someone else. The year was not all forward progress, there were a lot of setbacks. But God faithfully carried us through the year and allowed us to come out with a growing excitement for a new year.

I think it’s natural for us to long for new beginnings after a hard phase of life. We like fresh pages, Monday mornings, January first. They hold the promise of a new start, new week, new year to do things differently.   This is true for me. Our one-year anniversary of losing Beckett lined up with a new calendar year. In no way am I saying that after a year I was done grieving. Grief is something I will carry with me the rest of my life. But I am saying that the one-year anniversary and a new calendar year seemed like a time to set a new tone for our family life.

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So there we sat, in a coffee shop on January 4, 2018, discussing what we hoped 2018 would hold for us.   A sense of excitement began to grow as we allowed ourselves to dream and look forward. There were many areas of life that held an excitement for the future. A word seemed to surface over and over and the word we chose for the year was Expectant. We paused in talking and I wrote a blog detailing why we were choosing expectant as our family word for 2018. This is a small part of that blog:

I am expectant.

Expectant that God will change my heart.

Expectant that God will grow my relationships.

Expectant that God will renew our marriage.

Expecting God to give me wisdom as a mom.

Expecting God to use me in a fresh way.

Expecting a change in my health.  

I don’t mean expectant as in, ‘I will tell God what I want to happen and then expect Him to work in exactly that way’. That is having expectations. Expectations set me up for disappointment and ruin things.   I mean I am expectant for God to work in His own way. Maybe this seems like a petty difference, but to me it feels very different. I am done with expectations. I am ready to be expectant. I am expectant for God to show up in my life, in my relationships, in my ministry in 2018.

But I never published that blog about being expectant.

I really planned to publish it, but something held me back. That day as we sat together and talked about the coming year, Brian said God kept bringing the concept of Sabbath to his heart. Sabbath—the Old Testament principle of rest. The fourth commandment we learn in Sunday School, “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”. Between expectant and Sabbath, the first seemed way more exciting and challenging to strive for. To be completely honest, I felt like we had already spent a year of not doing much. I did not want to focus our family on taking a break. I wanted to focus on looking forward to God working in our lives!

So I started the year ready for God to show me new and exciting things. And He did. Right away. The next day, actually. I listened to a podcast about the practice of Sabbath and I knew—this is it. I knew I had no idea what Sabbath truly meant, but I knew we needed it. Like I said, we didn’t need a break, we didn’t need a day off, we didn’t even need a vacation. We needed to experience the glory of Sabbath that God created for us.

I needed to practice Sabbath.

Somehow over the next few months our word changed, or more importantly our focus changed. I began reading, researching and praying for Sabbath in our home. God has overwhelmed my heart with a fresh concept and a fresh fire. I don’t even think I’m exaggerating when I say: Sabbath is changing my life. I know that Sabbath is not an irrelevant Old Testament law, but a life-giving gift. I’m learning how to make Sunday a day of Sabbath while being in the ministry. I’m learning how to prepare the night before. I’m learning Sabbath is just as important to my health as eating well. I’m learning how to teach my kids to Sabbath. I’m learning to use Sabbath as a verb instead of a noun! Can you be this excited—this expectant—and rest all at the same time? Yes, I think you can. And I think that’s the point.

When we truly expect God to work in His own way, it may not be what we are looking for. It’s going to be better. It’s going to be what we actually need.

I don’t think this concept of Sabbath is just what I need or what my family needs. As I look around our 24/7 society, I think we all need it!

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Please take a minute to subscribe to this blog and follow along this journey with me. You can also follow me living this out in photos on Instagram.  All of these things I’m learning, I’m excited to share them with you in more detail. I’m going to share the victories and the failures and together maybe we can experience some real enjoyment and rest in the midst of our busy lives. It may be odd that I am posting about a ‘word for the year’ when we are well into the year. Not all fresh starts begin in January. Those blank pages and fresh calendar years, they are great. But we can experience a fresh start any day of the year, any time of the day.

Today seems like a pretty good day for one to me!

— Rebekah

P.S. I Don’t want to confuse or offend anyone, I want to be clear from the start that I am not practicing orthodox Judaism.  I am a Christian and my viewpoint will be from that.  What I am describing and will be sharing in future articles is not an official Jewish Shabbat.  Thank you for your understanding.

 

 

 

 

Healthy Body

Life Between the Before and After Photos

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Something amazing happens when you lose a significant amount of weight. You have a confidence and belief in yourself that is sky high. You have just done something hard. Real hard. When you start seeing results from hard work that you have done, it makes you believe that you can keep doing that hard work and you can keep getting those amazing results. Weight loss is addictive. At a certain point it turns fun! Passing up baked goods and sweet coffee is no big deal because you know you are on track. You start to believe that healthy feels better than junk tastes.

I was there two years ago. I had lost 60 pounds in just 9 months. (I even wrote a blog about it.) I didn’t do any crazy diets or ridiculous workouts. I just changed my habits. I ate good, nutritious, real food and I moved a lot. I was changing my mindset not just doing a quick fix.

This phase of losing weight is usually documented by lots of full-length mirror selfies.

Then I got pregnant. It was planned, it was wanted, but pregnancy changes everything for me. Actually, it was a pretty healthy pregnancy but I still did not move as much and I did not eat as healthy. But all of that was easily excused by a little human growing inside of me. I could say, this isn’t forever, just nine months—and then eat the brownie.

Some phases of life require you to give yourself some grace and do the best you can.

This phase of life is often documented by lots of growing belly shots.

Pregnancy alone is a short phase and in my opinion, it’s doesn’t have to sabotage healthy eating habits. It’s the post-baby newborn phase that does me in! Combine the lack of sleep and lack of time to prepare healthy meals and all of my hard work just a year ago was gone. The scale was back to where it was pre-weight loss and I was drinking lots of coffee with sugar and eating all the pastries. But again, I could tell myself, this is only temporary. Babies are only babies for so long.

Some phases of life require you to give yourself some grace and do the best you can.

This phase of life is documented by lots of face-only selfies at a good angle that also include the cute baby as a distraction.

Then came the unexpected tragedy. That baby that I had sacrificed my weight loss for, the one that I lost countless hours of sleep over, the one that I was willing to change my life for—was gone in an instant. Suddenly my life was about one thing: grief. All of my energy went into making it through each day. Healthy eating and an active lifestyle weren’t really important factors in my mind. Grief is overwhelming and it affects everyone differently. I went through a lot of phases with grief.

Some phases of life require you to give yourself some grace and do the best you can.

This phase is best documented with photos of things that really matter. Things that still make you smile on the darkest days.

A few months into the grief process, I had gained about 40 pounds and I was smacked across the face with the fact that I am an emotional, comfort eater. I have a memory of a clear, defining moment when I came to grips with this. I was staring at a photo taken of our family on the day we had a memorial service for Beckett. A lot of people had prayed for our family over the past month. A lot of people had prayed for that specific service. I wanted post a photo on social media to thank everyone for their prayers and tell of God’s goodness on that day. The problem was, I was not at all happy with how I looked. I debated for longer than I care to admit about just posting a comment with no photo or not posting at all.   But I finally told myself, this is reality, people see me look like this every day, and I am not changing anything by refusing to post a photo of how I look. I was in essence saying, this is how grief has physically changed me:

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I would love to say that moment was a wake up call and I took control of my health after that. But I didn’t. That moment lead to a few brief healthy months, but it was exhausting. People continually made comments about how strong I was. I wasn’t. I was in shock.  I honestly don’t think I truly started to grieve Beckett until about 5 months after he died. Then it hit me hard. I stopped caring so much about eating healthy and working out and instead focused on starting to actually work through my grief.

Some phases of life require you to give yourself some grace and do the best you can.

This phase of life was not photo documented too well. It was spent writing, praying, reading and tucking myself away for a little while.

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Around September I knew I was at a pivotal point. We were 8 months into grieving and we were approaching Beckett’s first birthday—a moment I knew would be emotional for me. Not only were we approaching what would have been a birthday celebration, but we were sending our other two kids to school. I would be alone in the house each day and I would be faced with the fact that my baby was not there with me. There also came a point when I knew I needed to get healthy. This was not because I was unhappy with how I looked (I was), it was because I realized how much life I was missing out on by being constantly tired and not feeling my best. I knew grief and a busy life contributed to part of this feeling, but I knew what I was eating and putting into my body contributed to a large part as well.

If you are—or ever have been—overweight, I’m sure you have come to this all-important moment as well. You know you need to change, you just aren’t sure if you can. Maybe you’ve tried before and haven’t been successful. Or maybe, like me, you have tried before and have been very successful. But you know how much effort and work it took to be that successful and you just don’t know if you have it in you to do it again.

Despite a very low confidence in my self-discipline, and the knowledge that I was an emotional eater, I decided to go big. I suggested to Brian that we do a Whole30 for the month of September. Don’t worry, this is not going to turn into an advertisement for Whole30. In a nutshell, Whole30 is thirty days with no grains, no dairy, no alcohol, no legumes, and no added sugars. (It is so much more than that and I do have SO much to say, but I’ll save that for a different post) I won’t try to sell anyone on a certain program, but it was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time.

I didn’t just read an article and jump into a crazy strict diet. I bought the official book about Whole30 and I bought fully into the concept of rewiring my eating habits. I went through a month with a lot of emotional triggers, and I was forced to find different, healthier ways to deal with my grief and stress than my normal choice of coffee and chocolate.

I celebrated what would have been Beckett’s first birthday by serving cake to close friends and abstaining myself.

I took a bath at night to relax instead of going to food or drink.

I promised myself I would walk the kids to school every day, no excuses—and I did it!

I started shifting my focus from weight loss to enjoying a healthy life with energy and focus.

Some phases of life require you to give yourself some grace and do the best you can.

And sometimes ‘the best you can’ is pretty freaking awesome!

This phase of life was documented by photos I took but didn’t share. They were the “before” and “during” photos that would one day look great next to my “after” photos.

I should have written and shared my journey at that time. I was excited and I was going a new direction. But I didn’t. It’s scary to share a journey when you are still in the middle of it. I like to write about lessons I have learned once they are over. I really wanted my next health post to be, “5 Things I did to lose 60 pounds…Again!” and be able to show the success of my hard work once again.

I don’t have that success story yet. But I do have a success story. I am daily making healthier choices and I am more convinced than ever that what we put into our bodies makes a huge impact on every aspect of our lives. This time I’m not waiting until I have arrived to look back on the journey. I’m taking a step out there to share the ups and downs.

My hope in sharing this whole story is that someone might see themselves in one of these phases.   And if that someone is you, that you would be gracious with yourself and do the best you can. New mamas—that might mean slowing down instead of racing forward right now. If you are grieving, give yourself time and the emotional space to do that. And by the way, grief doesn’t just come from the death of a loved one, you may have experienced the loss of a job or the death of a dream. It all sets you back. There are legitimate reasons to prioritize other parts of life and take things easy.

While I believe this with all my heart, please don’t park your mind there. There were a lot of people who assured me I was right to focus on my grief and not care so much about my physical health. The month that I was facing a lot of emotional triggers that I talked about earlier, it would have been acceptable to those on the outside for me to ‘take it easy’ through that time. Only I knew the inside. I knew I was ready to handle more. I knew I was ready to make a change. I knew my health and my quality of life needed a change. You know if you are in a legitimate season of taking it easy or if you are in a season of excuses. If you are at a point where you know you need to make a change and you are just scared, quit saying you are doing the best you can and take that first step out into the journey. Make a choice to get healthy and tell a friend or your spouse. Find support of some type and start to share your journey. Don’t do it to look better or to compete with someone else, do it because your physical health is important.

I would love it if you even let this be your first step—comment below and tell me what phase you are in. Is this your first time trying to get healthy? Have you been down this road only to come back again? I would love to be able to tell you that you can do this! Let’s be people that can do hard things and let’s do them together.

Let’s document this phase of our journey with “in the middle of it” photos and not wait for the “after”!

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— Rebekah

 

healthy family

Four Ways Grief has Changed Our Family

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Today marks one year since we lost our baby boy, Beckett.   In the past year we have learned a lot about grief and we have been changed by grief.

Our family has changed 4 different ways this year.

1) Brian
2) Rebekah
3) Brooklyn
4) Boston

Probably one of the hardest things to handle for Brian and I was this summer when four-year-old Boston started verbalizing his questions and grief. For a few weeks straight he prayed, “God, please send Beckett back to us.” He told us each on different occasions, “I didn’t know Beckett was going to die.” We have patiently explained that we didn’t know either and answered questions to the best of our ability.

We have prayed as seven-year-old Brooklyn has become more introspective and less talkative about her grief.

I am an introvert. I don’t feel comfortable talking in depth about all I am feeling. It takes an intimate setting and a lot of trust to pull these conversations out of me in person. But I also process my thoughts with a cup of coffee and a keyboard. I have found comfort in writing privately and publically throughout the year. Being around people often drains me.

Brian is more extroverted than me. He might not like to talk about his emotions, but he is energized when he is with a group of friends having fun and deep conversations about other aspects of life.

We hit ten years of marriage this year. I had long thought this was a milestone that would put me in the “expert” category. (I’m only slightly joking) Instead of feeling like we had things figured out after ten years of marriage, we found ourselves feeling more like we had no idea who we were anymore.

Grief is as individual as the people experiencing it. I don’t feel I can give any advice on how to comfort someone else going through the same situation we did, unless I know that person. It’s not about what has happened, it’s about whom it has happened to.

I don’t know what to say to anyone else, but I know how we have handled this year.

We have loved each other where we are. It’s been hard. But when Brian looks at me, or hears what is coming out of my mouth, and doesn’t recognize me, He has shown me love anyway. I don’t expect Brian to be the same husband today that he was a year ago. I don’t expect myself to be the same mom I was a year ago.

This is true for us in grief, but I think it’s a good rule for all relationships. People change. Hopefully we are changing and growing in good ways, sometimes we aren’t. But life is constantly changing and people change with it. In friendship we have to give people room to change. I love the friends that I can sit and talk with and explore new thoughts and concepts I am learning and not feel like I have to apologize for contradicting something I previously said. I’m not talking about being inconsistent, I’m talking about growing and changing as people and leaving room for others to do that in our relationships.

Grief is not something I like experiencing. But change—that’s becoming exciting. As we round the one-year corner, we are starting to feel a fresh stirring in our souls. I am starting to feel expectant for the year to come. I know God has not left us this past year, and I am excited to see what He has in store for the coming year. And I am excited to share those lessons with others.

Rebekah

healthy family

Celebrating and Grieving at Christmas Time

IMG_6563Christmas Baking Day 2016

Today was our 3rd annual Christmas baking day. The kids were excited, we had fun and we carried out our plan. We enjoyed the day. We have had a lot of fun this Christmas season already and we have a lot more plans for even more fun. When I smile and enjoy Christmas this year I am in no way being fake, I am enjoying the present.

But each new memory we make brings back memories from last year. Memories with Beckett. Sometimes we talk about those memories. Sometimes we just all get quiet and know what we are each thinking. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I get a bit hard to live with.

We are going to the States for Christmas. I am so excited to see my family! The kids are so excited to see grandparents and cousins and we have plans. I made an itinerary. For real. I am excited. But I am not going “home” for Christmas. I am home right now.

I am home because this is where God has placed our hearts. This is where we have a house that we have made memories in. I am home because this is where Beckett lived his life. As I walk the streets, as I do routine things, I remember him with me as I did those things a year ago. I daily see people that knew Beckett too. They held him, they cuddled him, they loved him. It keeps him close. I don’t have to talk about his memory, because it feels alive. It feels like it’s here. I had an irrational pain when we went to the States last February feeling like I was abandoning my baby. It didn’t make actual sense, he was gone, but the pain was real.

I know grief is a weird thing. It’s different for everyone. It knows no time boundaries and it knows no rules. I know if you are human, you have experienced loss in your life. Loss of a child, a parent, a friend, a person, a pet, a job, a dream; none of us escape grief completely. I also know Christmas is a time when people struggle more with handling this grief than most other times of the year.

As Christians, Christmas is a time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is no small thing that He was called Immanuel. Immanuel means God with us. As much as I grieve Beckett no longer being with us, I celebrate that God is always with me. He came in the form of a baby so many years ago, and He comes to me continually in Spirit form. He is the Comforter.  I don’t say this lightly. I say it because it’s His power that saves my life daily. ‘God with me’ is what I celebrate when I celebrate Christmas. And as hard as this Christmas season has been and will continue to be, it also has held a whole new meaning and specialness in my heart. I’ll say it again, everyone grieves differently and I certainly do not want to shame anyone who is struggling to celebrate this Christmas. But for me this Christmas, I’m not just putting on a smile for the kids. I’m not just faking my way through the holiday season. I feel like I have tried to be pretty transparent all year long and this is no exception. This Christmas I am celebrating. I am celebrating memories in my heart, new experiences, special time with family, and most importantly I am celebrating God with me. Thank you God for sending us a rescue plan!

Rebekah

healthy family

Choosing to Thrive

I believe you can go through life one of two ways: You can survive or you can thrive. I have a hard time defining what these two lifestyles look like, but I don’t think I have to. I think if you stop and think about your life, you will know exactly what I mean. You can probably think back on times of your life when you can say, man that was great, I was thriving! Then you could look at times—months, years, decades even—when you say, I was doing all I could to survive.

Before January 4, 2017, our little family was thriving. And then we lost Beckett. It was an event that we had no control over. It was not something that we chose, and it was not something that we liked. We slipped into survival mode. It took all of the energy Brian and I had to go through the normal motions of life. Grief is exhausting. Emotions take a lot of energy. Every day I miss Beckett. Every day I am reminded of him in some way. I could choose to focus on all of the things my life is missing. I believe this choice would plant me firmly in survival mode. I don’t want to live my life in survival mode.

Instead I want to choose to thrive. I still feel sad. I don’t expect that to change any time soon, if ever. I still do not like being a family of four again. This life we are living right now—it’s not part of my perfect plan. However, I believe with all of my heart that in the midst of imperfectness, we can catch glimpses of perfect. And when we begin to look for those things and notice and appreciate those little moments, we begin a mental shift that takes us from surviving to thriving.

This concept of thriving is not original to me. Over 2000 years ago Jesus told his followers, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) The Message puts that verse this way:

I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

For me, my choice to follow Christ changes everything about this life. Yes, it gives me a hope for after this life. But right here, right now, in the midst of some serious ‘stealing, killing, and destroying’ of my life; I have a strength, a peace and a better life than I could ever dream of. And that strength does not come from me, it comes from God within me.

Sometime around the end of January, Brian and I took a look at our life and we decided it was time to make the choice to thrive again. It wasn’t an instantaneous, one time choice. The first time it was a choice we made to take Brooklyn and Boston out bowling for the first time. We laughed at the kids; we had fun as a family. We missed Beckett. Deciding to do one fun thing as a family did not “fix” our pain. But it did set us on a path to thrive. Next, we made a choice to get away as a couple for a night. The next month we went miniature golfing.   We did family nights and went for walks. The choices slowly started adding up.

At first, I had a hard time grasping the concept of thriving in these circumstances. It almost sounds irreverent or wrong to even think about.   I can’t give a generic definition of thriving, because I think it looks different for every person and every family. But if I personally define thriving as choosing to be thankful, choosing to look for glimpses of perfect, choosing to trust God despite how I feel—then I want nothing more than to thrive in this season of life. And I want nothing more than to encourage others to do the same. On the top of the mountain or in the bottom of the valley, look for the chance to thrive, thank God when you find it, and share it with someone else.

-Rebekah