Mr. Babcock, knowledge is power!

In the 1958 film, Auntie Mame, played by Rosalind Russell, one of my favorite stars from that period, declares to the boorish banker, “Mr. Babcock, knowledge is power!” This in defense of her young nephew, Patrick Dennis, who is preparing said banker the perfect martini and states that he haauntie-mames learned to “stir, never shake, bruises the gin…” and that “Auntie Mame says olives take up too much room in such a little glass.”  Mr. Babcock considers it inappropriate for little Patrick to have such knowledge. Ahhh, knowledge – who has it, who wants it, who is being denied access to it, who shapes and molds it? It comes in so many shapes, sizes, contours, and forms. Knowledge can be expansive or narrow, hard and set or fluid and malleable. For some it might be how to scale the tallest mountain in the world, while others would be content to “know” how to bake a cake or drive a car with a manual transmission, clutch and all. I almost want to talk about “fake” knowledge – but I think I will leave that for another post… Likewise, don’t get this blog post title confused with the original sin of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As a side note, knowledge and truth are not the same and philosophers, pragmatists and other deep thinkers have argued since the beginning of time about the definitions, similarities and differences of these two terms.

Knowledge has always been my nectar of life, my source, my rock. Knowing has been my defense, my offense, the solid foundation upon which I stand with steadfast and utter righteousness. Starting with the letter, “A”, my young mind, thirsting for knowledge, voraciously consumed the encyclopedia set bought one by one with green stamps from the grocery store. I was fascinated by this source of knowledge and what I thought of as the absolute truth. I think I reached approximately the letter “K” before the green stamps ran out. The set was never purchased in its entirety so I was left with a giant hole in my knowledge base that starts with L and ends with Z. So don’t ask me about zebras or xylophones. The sheer vastness of it was overwhelming and exciting and this decades before the Internet was invented by Al Gore. I’ve never stopped wanting to know, know more, seek out knowing, and be knowledgable.

On the flipside, “not knowing” is my kryptonite, my nemesis, the stuff that causes me nightmares and anxiety, throws me off, makes me feel vulnerable and extremely uncomfortable. Faking it is not an option for me… In fact, acknowledging and being very transparent in situations where I find myself in a state of ” not knowing” is also a way of avoiding that sense of dread that I experience. However, I have also come to some self-realization that I am the last one to ever ask for directions (even when I’m lost) or make an inquiry about something that I clearly should know already… In other words, I fear that I build a lot of my self-worth, esteem, sense of self, and pride on knowing.

THE POINT: Knowledge opens doors. As Auntie Mame says to Patrick, “I’m going to open doors for you… doors you never even dreamed existed.” I am an example of how the unrelenting quest for knowledge has afforded me opportunities… opportunities I never even dreamed existed. In many ways, I believe knowing has allowed me to transform my poor, immigrant, non-English speaking youth into a solidly, dare I say, upper middle class professional life. Knowledge is power. And given I have spent my entire professional career in the Kindergarten to Grade 12 education space, this is what I hope and want for every young person who walks through those doors, the opportunity to develop an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. The love of learning cannot be legislated nor taken away from you by anyone. Once acquired it sustains you for the rest of your life. And it’s a good life.

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The Lord’s Prayer 2018…

Anyone who grew up in the Christian church knows the Lord’s Prayer and can most likely recite it from memory. And many of us are exceedingly familiar with the King James version with plenty of thee’s, thy’s and thine’s. The Lord’s Prayer feels majestic, ritualistic, and VERY churchy. But I have a feeling that, though highly appropriate for the people living in 1611 in England when this version was completed, much of its true meaning has been lost in the modernization of the English language. We cling to the feelings it evokes when we “recite” it in the King’s English, but I have often wondered if it is, for the majority of us, truly a prayer, that is, a personal encounter with God.

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During my morning commute today, I was listening to a prayer meditation on YouTube that used Psalm 118:24 as its foundation. Inhale with “This is the day the Lord has made.” and exhale with, “We will rejoice and be glad in it.” As I breathed in and out, God told me that if I had never really understood the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer, to rewrite it as if I was talking to God like I do every day… So I have on my heart to paraphrase the Lord’s Prayer in my own words. Firstly, to give it meaning for me and make it come alive and secondly, to give others another way of thinking about the Lord’s Prayer. In some ways, I am bewildered that it has taken me so long to do this. I pray that God will reveal God’s words to me. So here goes…

The Lord’s Prayer in Ludy’s words inspired by God:

Lord, you abide in a peaceful, beautiful paradise watching over us. When we say your name we know it is holy and that it brings us life.

Send us peace, love and joy so you can reign in our lives and remind us that everything we experience here in this life can and should be a reflection of heaven.

You know our every need so thank you for providing the nutritional, spiritual, and emotional nourishment that gets us through the day and is renewed every morning we wake up. Be gentle and merciful with us, Jesus, because we constantly fall short of the purpose and greatness you have in store for us. Likewise, help us to be gentle and merciful toward others who have in one way or another made our lives difficult.

Help us with our struggle to do your will because we are so often distracted by everything that is happening around us. Protect us from the perils and dangers seen and unseen that threaten our walk with you and remind us that you are with us always.

We know you are everywhere and in everything. We acknowledge that all things are under your control. Your greatness is impossible for us to even imagine but once in a while we catch a glimpse of it through our prayers and meditations. If I close my eyes and imagine the most beautiful colorful sunrise or warmest sunset, it gives me a tiny insight into who you are. And we are so happy that this is how it will always be.

Amen

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How God kept me through it all

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Ephesians 1 Word Cloud

I am here, as we say in the church, “but for the grace of God.” Born protected. Not sure why, certainly nothing I did. As I look all the way back on my life, every step along the way then fast forward to today, I see a distinct thread leading me through the worst and the best of times – yes, God has kept me through it all.

It has not always been easy. My faith has come and gone in wave-like patterns, sometimes of tidal wave proportions, other times a small ripple in a pond. I actually thought that for several decades of my adult life I had turned away from God. But God never turned away from me, never left me, always, provided, protected, prevented, preceded… I serve a faithful God that has never given up on me, even when I gave up on God. And I am, therefore, even more humbled by this steadfast, loving, unequivocal, unceasing relationship — one that I am finally, after a lifetime of struggles in faith(fulness), taking more seriously than ever before.

Even in the times when I thought I was exercising my faith, I now realize that I was often just going through the motions. Using my life as a hula dancer as a metaphor, I started out dancing hula upon moving to Hawaii. I had a grand time learning the motions, studying some Hawaiian language and memorizing chants, and enjoying the camaraderie among my hula brothers. I became a front line dancer, confident in my precise footwork and synchronized movement. I chanted louder than anyone, projecting my voice across spaces and places. I was chosen to become an alaka’i, a person who assists the kumu (teacher/leader). I did this for years. And then I stopped, feeling a bit of burnout on fundraisers, rehearsal schedules and the pressures of prepping for competitions. Several years later, I realized that I missed hula too much not to keep dancing. A dear friend, Maile Loo, became the hanai (adopted) daughter of the preeminent Hawaiian cultural phenomenon named Auntie Nona Beamer. Maile had been a “Beamer” dancer for years and was officially recognized as a kumu hula in the “Beamer” style. She convinced me to join her group as the sole male dancer, no competitions, no fundraisers…  Unbeknownst to me at the time, my next hula journey would be transformational. This approach to dancing hula was completely different even though footwork, posture, motions were just as important. Before we were shown even one step, we studied the lyrics of every mele (song) and chant. We learned the meaning of every single word, the origin, the composer, often we visited the place that was being celebrated. We were taught to embody the lyrics and the traditions as a dancer… and then we learned the movement. The first time I danced hula this way, I came to the realization that for the many prior years of highly proficient dancing, I had never truly danced hula. I felt a freedom, a depth of understanding, an authentic emotion as I swayed to and fro. I wasn’t just dancing hula, I was the hula… And thus ends my metaphor for faith. We can become highly proficient at going through the motions, but have we ever experienced the moment when we become our faith?

So, as I make this faith journey, I love sharing what I discover along the way in hopes that it may help someone – I know it helps me to write it. Many of you may have already walked this path and might regard this as Faith 101 or Faith for Dummies. Nevertheless, I want to share some of my learnings that I truly believe are divinely inspired:

  1. Talking with God like a best friend, mentor, psychiatrist, family member and loved one builds a relationship that is real and tangible, not to mention, comforting, strengthening and encouraging. If you haven’t spent time with God in one on one conversations on a regular basis, how will you ever connect to God?
  2. Knowing God’s word (the Bible) is foundational to our faith. This is not just taking a few verses that support your belief and using them as weapons to reveal others’ shortcomings or “sin” or to defend your point. It is reading, questioning, struggling, immersing, visualizing and first and foremost seeking divine insights to gain a more holistic understanding of its meaning for our lives. I listen to the audio Bible nearly every day during my 1/2 hour commute to work and even the most familiar books like the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) have come alive for me. I feel like I learn or hear something new every time I listen to God speaking to me through the Word.
  3. Questioning what you believe is a healthy part of the journey. I have never been a fan of the concept of blind faith. For me, blind faith = cult = people control and bondage = nothing to do with God and can result in some very negative consequences (remember Jonestown?). Faith actually frees us to be the people God created us to be. And part of what we should be engaged in are healthy, respectful debates that challenge us to go deep and embrace the struggle.
  4. Faith is relational so it requires community. Faith is not a solo endeavor. There are aspects of faith that are deeply personal, but I now believe that to grow in faith requires interactions with others. Some people will lift us up and others may drag us down. For years, I believed that I could fully practice and grow in my faith in isolation through solo meditation and inward prayer. I have since come to understand how important an extended faith community is to our individual growth. As we share our lives, experiences, ponderings, challenges and insights with others, we expand our thinking and understanding and have the opportunity to be supported as well as provide support.
  5. Seeking God’s will for our lives is a deeply personal effort and is oftentimes confusing. In truth, I don’t think we are ever finished seeking God’s will. It is an ever present and ongoing effort. In our lives we encounter huge forks in the road as well as more minor daily decision points. As we are led by God in these spaces and every one in between, it is the seeking that counts. We sometimes get it right, but more often than not, many of us are unsure of many of the steps we take. And that’s why I say it is the seeking that counts – God takes our steps and missteps and turns them into gold. Each experience, each moment leads us to a better and brighter future because that’s how God operates. God takes our heartaches and turns them into our hallelujahs.
  6. Being filled by the Holy Spirit is real – it just looks different for every person. I never understood the shout or the running for God as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit until this year… I still have never run (I have, however, had a good jumping in place experience in a wee hour encounter with God). I think I’ve come close to a shout (also in the wee hours) during which I felt like I would burst out of my skin because of the overwhelming gratitude I was feeling toward God. But sometimes it’s just a glowing inside, a quiet peace that you know comes from God. Sometimes it’s a grand insight into something you’ve been struggling with that you know came from God. My main learning here is that it is a unique experience for each believer. As long as there is an authenticity and openness to the Spirit, it could appear in many different forms. My learning is to not allow your preconceived notions of what it means to be filled by the Spirit dictate how and what form it takes.

My hope is that these musings may inspire someone to think about their faith journey and try out something new. For in spite of ourselves, God keeps us through it all.

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The parable of the blind man

350_healing_of_the_blind_man_jekelThe metaphor of going through life blind is deep. I woke up this morning and opened my eyes. In the dimly lit bedroom, my eyes slowly grew accustomed to “seeing” again after a night’s rest during which seeing was through the eyes of my mind and not physically through my optic nerves. But even after I opened my eyes, was I truly seeing? As humans, we are constantly filtering sights, sounds, thoughts, feelings, sensations… And though this filtering process allows us to cope with the millions of stimuli we are subjected to every moment, if we are not vigilant, we will, in essence, go through life blind. The automaticity of filtering blinds us to many things. But being on auto pilot is in some ways comforting and reassuring. We automatically filter out everything that isn’t part of our “normal” routine and often do not see what is right in front of us. We pay attention to the details of the things that interest us and go “blind” to those that don’t. It’s kind of like remembering someone’s name. If you are interested or feel some connection, it’s easy to remember most of the time. If it is someone who does not hold our interest or even worse, someone toward whom we harbor some negative feelings, we often “conveniently” forget their name. So it is with “seeing”. The question is, “How can we open our eyes to all the wonders and miracles we experience on this life journey?”

In the gospels, there are several instances where Jesus heals the blind. Each follows a slightly different sequence, again, a metaphor for how we each individually experience blindness in our lives. Some of us spend our whole lives wandering in the wilderness blind to the miracles that surround us. Others are on a constant journey of seeking out the next wonder. Yet others have periods of blindness, a relationship that should have ended but lingered; the job that didn’t quite fit, but fear kept you there; the love that you let go because you couldn’t see its beauty; your career that was so all consuming you were unable to enjoy the world around you.

Of greatest interest to me is the healing of the blind man from Bethsaida. This healing happened in stages – not too different from how we, in life, can go from total blindness to perfectly clear vision… Jesus took this man through a process before he could see it all. Maybe because the man wasn’t ready to see. Maybe he couldn’t handle what he would see. Jesus in his infinite wisdom helped the man adjust to his newly opened eyes. I love this concept. First, Jesus took him away from all the clatter of every day life (outside the village) – perhaps so he could focus on Jesus? We could all use a retreat from the clatter. Then Jesus physically treated him with his saliva (applied to the man’s eyes) followed by the laying on of Jesus’ hands. Then when this was complete, Jesus did not declare, “You can now see.” Rather, he asked the man if he could see anything, leaving it up to him and his faith to indicate his healing. Apparently, the man needed another touch from Jesus. Sound familiar? Sometimes our faith is not sufficient the first few times and we just need another touch. It was then that the blind man from Bethsaida was healed and he could see and experience the world around him with total clarity.

Mark 8:22-25 (NIV) — They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

Today, my prayer for myself and all of you is that (1) we would recognize and acknowledge what we are blind to; (2) our eyes would go through the process of being opened through faith; (3) we would be able to see and experience the wonders of this world with all its beauty and not let it pass us by for even one more second; and finally, (4) we would lovingly support and actively reach out to one another so that none of us continues to walk through life in the dark.

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I surrender all…

During my time with God in the wee hours thisMom_cute_hair morning, I remember how Mom would always cry when she heard the hymn, I Surrender All. As a young and naïve son, I never understood her tears. What could drive anyone to such an outpouring of emotions? It couldn’t be just this old hymn…

A little more than a year since my Mom’s passing, and having lived enough years to experience a few of my own ups and downs, I have finally been given some insight into my mom’s feelings, her sufferings, pain, and helplessness, her unimaginable burdens – those things that drove her to weep upon hearing that hymn. In spite of life’s crushing disappointments and seemingly insurmountable challenges, she persevered and came out triumphant. Though I have no real say in the matter, I am convinced she has since walked through the pearly gates of heaven and is alive on the other side – overjoyed to finally be one with God.

You see, my mom had a deep and abiding faith. She would always tell me when I shared my problems with her, “Bid maar, Lude. Onze lieve Heer slaapt niet. (Just pray, Lude. Our dear Lord doesn’t sleep).” In those few words she taught me, in essence, to surrender all…

In life we mostly think we can figure it all out by ourselves and we spare God of the many easy moments we have that don’t “require” a divine intervention. This morning, I give thanks for the people who make my life difficult, for the worries, for the stressors, for the circumstances for which I have no answers. It’s especially at these times that I feel closest to God – for that’s when I know I can’t possibly survive out here on my own. I have no choice but to surrender all. I am reminded that God is, in fact, omnipresent in all situations, the good ones, the bad, the ugly, the delightful, the disappointing, the challenging, the “jumping for joy” times as well as the “sobbing on my knees” moments. By giving up control and casting my cares upon God, I am certain of victory; An important lesson of which I lose sight in the shuffle of life’s trials and tribulations. It’s an easy concept to write about in my early morning musings, but so much more challenging to put into practice.

So, Mom, today, I’m going to “just pray”. You were right, surrendering all makes so much more sense.

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The Door of No Return…

Door of No ReturnDon Lemon, whom I love for so many reasons, went on a journey exploring his ancestry that brought him back to his roots on the slave coast of Africa. During his visit, he had an emotional encounter with what they call the “Door of No Return”. The guide told him that through that door millions of people left behind the known for the unknown, security for insecurity, to be loaded onto a ship and treated as cargo. And centuries later, still be struggling to escape the bonds of slavery both from external foes as well as internal demons.

As I, with similar emotions, watched the CNN segment, I could picture my ancestors on both sides of the family – ancestors who left home to seek a better life, some compelled by circumstances to flee their native lands, some brought in shackles by force, some on slave ships as cargo and some as crew. Others were native to the land but enslaved by the Dutch and other European overseers whose only goal was to extract the riches that the exotic Spice Islands yielded. And yet others were me and my parents.

BarbesteinI know for sure of one unwilling piece of chattel. This is the story of our maternal great-great-grandmother, the slave woman Apu who walked through the Door of No Return from Africa to the Dutch East Indies on the ship Barbestein. This branch of the family was fortunate to endure only one generation of enslavement, sailing East and providentially not West which placed our family on a totally different trajectory for generations to come. Her children would not be born slaves but free like their Dutch seafaring father, Wijnand Lucas Baggers, and become part of the mixed race folk who would fill the Dutch East Indies multicultural melting pot with a flavor all its own.

And what of our Japanese paternal great-grandmother, Ogide, whom we know so little about except that she was reported to be just another member of our great grandfather’s multiethnic harem? Why did she have to walk through the Door of No Return leaving Japan for a place so far away? Family stories weave a tale of intrigue and exoticism about Henri Alexander Wasch – this part Austrian gentleman born in the Indies is said to have had a Dutch wife, but also Chinese, Javanese and Japanese women with whom he had many children including our grandmother, Louise Fanny Wasch with the Japanese Ogide and our father’s half uncle, Harry Wasch, with the Chinese woman.  I wonder how these women led their lives in the shadows of a culture that did not empower them and in fact, regarded them as property. Somehow they were able to rise above, survive, thrive and recast the culture that intended to silence their voices.

Fast forward to 1957 as my parents flee the now independent Republic of Indonesia, the only home they had ever known. Five children in tow with just a few suitcases that represented multiple lifetimes and generations on Batavian soil both natives and immigrants from all corners of the world deeply rooted and steeped in its colonial history. They walked through the Door of No Return as they too embarked on a ship leaving behind the known for the unknown and the security of language, culture, family and a way of life destined for a lifetime of insecurity and never again truly belonging.

A few years later, they again walked through the Door of No Return when they decided to leave the Netherlands where at least the language, some cultural notes and extended family provided a bit of security and familiarity. But the lure of the United States offered all sorts of opportunity in the early sixties. What better place to find new life, fresh beginnings, and unlimited possibilities?

Although I walked through the Door of No Return as a small child with no real knowledge of leaving anything behind, ever present in my consciousness is the reality of my parents’ risky, courageous and selfless decision to seek out more for us; their ways though curious and old fashioned are woven into my DNA; their willingness to be foreigners in a foreign land. In some ways it is ironic that I still feel the insecurity of the unknown even with so much American cultural insider information. A foreigner in a foreign land like my parents. We walked through the Door of No Return together and though I live what is unarguably a charmed American existence, I often wonder what it would be like to walk back through time retracing the steps of those who came before me. What would I find on the other side? Java, Holland, Japan, Sulawesi, Ghana, China, Austria, Belgium? The Dutch East Indies no longer exists as a physical space but the vestiges of our culture can be found among the diaspora of those who passed through the Door of No Return carrying with them nothing but their hopes and dreams for the future.

 

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Creating more peak moments… Thank you, Dan Heath

I was privileged to be among 1400 fellow educators listening to, no wait, interacting with Dan Heath, best selling author of Switch and the keynote speaker at the Carnegie Summit in San Francisco. I was struck by how Dan connected to each of us through his words, gestures. anecdotes, humor, video clips and energy. In my mind, I thought to myself, I want to be a “Dan Heath” – so confident and self assured, telling stories that brought people to tears, asking us to stop for just a moment to ponder about how to create more “moments” in our lives. Moments that matter. Moments that change the world. Moments that have an impact. Lasting moments. Unforgettable and forever moments…

Reflecting on his presentation, I can’t help but feel like I haven’t, especially in the most recent past, been doing very well on creating what Dan calls “peak moments”. You would think given my rather controlling personality that I would be the author and finisher of many peak moments, simply because I want them. But the more organic, spiritual me also has a deeply rooted belief that overall, we are certainly not the authors and finishers but the seekers and stumblers, just trying to keep everything moving in a positive direction with the knowledge that actually, God is in control. And if I believe that even the albeit fewer hairs on my head are numbered and that God knows all, sees all, hears all and orchestrates all for me to live an abundant and meaningful life full of peak moments, then why do I keep trying so hard? Why wake up in the wee hours worrying about future finances, bills to income ratios, and whether life is sustainable were something to happen with work, health or ??

But I want to get back to thinking about increasing the number of peak moments in my life. Living more consciously and deliberately is one way, I think, to get there. Setting aside the have to’s, must do’s and should be’s is also an approach. I don’t “have to” wake up at 6am ever morning and be at work between 7-7:30am – especially given that I have a much more flexible schedule than that. I have boxed myself into this particular “have to”. I “must be” responsible for everything and everyone is another one that has given me a feeling of being trapped – were it just me, I might think differently about it (though I doubt that). I “should be” kinder, better, more successful, etc. is the one that gives me most pause. I grew up with so many should’s in my head.  Blindly believing in all the things we should do and be but ignoring who we truly want to do and be…

There are times I feel like I can’t breathe – possibly caused by a lack of peak moments in my life. The absence of peak moments to me, at times, has been equivalent to a life filled with inconsequential, unimportant, soul destroying moments that can last a lifetime if we let them. So as I search for, orchestrate and endeavor to create more positive moments for myself and others, let me also be mindful that it is not just the peak moments but the in-between moments that can bring joy, laughter and meaning. I hope my soul, heart and mind can be open to all of it.

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Happiness as a daily choice

Each morning should be a celebration. Many of us are fortunate enough to open our eyes and find ourselves lying in a comfortable bed with clean sheets and an oftentimes VERY nice roof over our heads. But it is seldom a celebration. The alarm goes off at exactly 6:15 a.m. and we inevitably utter a groan with (1) the feeling that we did not get enough rest/sleep; (2) the question: how did the weekend go by so fast?; (3) the dread of not knowing what the day of work will bring; and/or (4) the feeling that there has to be more to life than this. Sometimes we jump right out of bed and start the morning routine, other times we delay for a few precious and heavenly extra minutes of rest. Operating as the good little robots that we are, we do what we are supposed to do. The responsible ones among us NEVER roll over and utter these words,”I’m going to skip work today!” When was the last time YOU just decided on a spontaneous whim not to go?

Frankly, I can’t remember the last time I gave myself a pass to take a day solely for myself with no plan, nothing to accomplish; a day to contemplate, relax, rejuvenate, reflect, re-energize, pray, breathe, meditate… Does life in the 21st century even allow for this, even on our “free” weekends? Maybe we should deliberately do this and institute a “mental health” day on some schedule we think might work for our life. Of course we all live in so much fear. Fear that we will miss something. Fear that we will fall behind. Fear that someone might give us a hard time for being absent from our desk. Fear that we derive most of our self-worth from our work. Fear that we might be lonely if we didn’t have to go somewhere. Fear, fear, fear…

I am slowly but surely transforming; letting go of fear; transforming (I pray) to a new creature that believes and is convinced that my higher power, my God has it all under control. As this relationship becomes more intimate – when I start seeing and operating through the eyes of God – what will come next? I’m fairly certain the possibilities are infinite and immeasurable. My first step in this bold new world? I choose happiness first, every day. Why would I not?

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Chronicling this Lenten journey

I hadn’t really been taking this Lenten journey seriously until last week when God brought me to my knees and got me to admit that I can do nothing without God. To surrender myself totally to God’s will and not mine. Would I be able to say yes to God?

You see, I have always approached God with such expectation of God’s grace and mercy and steadfast love for me – a God that never fails me. Going deep into introspection with God and discerning what God’s will is for my life are almost an afterthought. For isn’t anything and everything I do part of God’s greater plan? Even the parts I am not so proud of, even the wrong turns and poor decisions – weren’t they just part of my ordered steps toward salvation?

I discovered this past week that God wants MORE from me – what that entails is coming with clarity and force and so I await, with anticipation, God’s orders. I am in some ways terrified while at the same time exhilarated. Would God ask me to leave everything I know and go into the unknown without a plan of my own [which not incidentally is how I have operated for most of life]? Could I possibly fully operate in the Holy Spirit and completely surrender? Could I enter a space that looks, with my human eyes, to be impossible – a space where only God could make a reality?

At times I have felt like I was on the very cusp of it – that moment when I knew God was with me, yes little old me, that I was fully and totally in sync with God through the Spirit. I said I have often felt on the cusp of it. But I always fall short. Never able to shift to the other side of total surrender and never allowing myself to be totally filled with the Spirit of God. How I long to reach the other side. What would that be like? I can only imagine.

So this is my prayer, oh Lord. Let your Spirit fall fully and freshly upon me like never before. Open my heart, my mind, my spirit, my whole being to experience your presence, your reign over my life, with me completely out of the way. I await you, God, in terror and anticipation, for a new thing to be done in and with me.

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Follow up to “My so-called 600 lb life…” Three words: THERE IS HOPE!

Six months ago, I wrote a post about my frustration with weight – the extra 20 pounds I was carrying and the hopelessness I felt trying to figure out how to DO something about it. Today, I am miraculously 18 pounds lighter (maybe a few more if I’m honest about my true starting weight which was 194). Let me tell you about my journey…

 

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Evidence that I was officially the fattest of the four VAN BROEKHUIZEN brothers

After having had some blood work done as part of my regular checkup, I received a call from my doctor’s nurse with my results. She proceeded to inform me, as if we were chatting about the weather, that my results showed I was way too high in several areas I shouldn’t be (including A1C and blood pressure). I had NEVER had a problem with high blood pressure nor that other dreaded number that was a diabetes indicator… Without fanfare the nurse read off my numbers and said the doctor recommended I go on a diabetic diet and see what happens… WHAAAAATTTT????? I felt like my world had just caved in. When such news is delivered shouldn’t there have been someone there to catch me if I fainted, or standing by with a glass of water in case I was feeling woozy, or at the very least, shouldn’t it have been the doctor on the phone sharing this emotional, dramatic and traumatic news? As a true foodie (that’s a person who really LOVES food in all its splendor and glory, not just the hyped up, faddish, need to be sophisticated about food trendsetter), this was a devastating blow. I truly felt a bit betrayed and reacted (as you might expect) as if I had just been given a death sentence. I was determined to prove the doctor, the nurse and medical science wrong – I would get my counts back to the levels of a healthy 25 year old… well at least back to something that does not totally derail my sense of self.

With my mind made up, I decided to cut out all refined sugar products (I pictured all my favorite desserts floating away on a long and endless river), all simple carbohydrates (goodbye white rice, goodbye beautiful artisanal breads, goodbye life…) and red meat (and even though I am not a huge meat eater, I felt an utter sense of loss – no more BBQ ribs, bacon, pork chops). I started reading labels and though I was not counting calories, I monitored my food intake very closely, keeping a daily diary of my morning weight, a summary of what I ate during the day, and whether I went to the gym or not. I would also comment in the title of my entry how I felt about my progress. This all started on October 20, 2017. Here are a few of my comments to myself: “Going in the right direction!” ” “Oops” “Super encouraging results” “Praise God”  “Yay” “It’s working!”  “Too much eating yesterday.”

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I’m wearing skinny khakis…

I have to admit, seeing immediate results is an amazing morale booster. After the first two days of this new food plan, I had already lost 3.1 pounds. I would experience steady losses every day for the next several weeks, weighing in each morning after brushing my teeth. I started an exercise routine at the gym – it began with just a day or two a week but noticing that my weigh ins after a gym day would always be better than non-gym days, I stepped that up as well. Now it is not uncommon for me to go to the gym 3-4 times in a week. And I’m enjoying it! I feel so encouraged – the hopelessness that I was feeling when I wrote the “My so-called 600 lb life” post seems to have vanished. I am now, six weeks later, at or below my target weight and am doing my best to firm up and gain some muscle mass back from my years of derelict and unabashed eating and lethargy. I have gotten a really good sense of what I can eat and how it will affect my weight and overall well-being. I feel like I’m so much more in tune with myself and my body. So as I wrote in the title, THERE IS HOPE!

NOTE: I started this program a month before Thanksgiving and two months before Christmas. I figure if I can make it work during these challenging months, I can make it work FOREVER!

 

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