Memorial Day Murph

Memorial Day is always a special time to us, and we annually seek out a ceremony to attend in order to show honor to all those who have lost their lives for our country.  Yesterday, Rob and I participated in a new (for us) Memorial Day event that I was introduced to through my Crossfit box called Memorial Day Murph.  We may have a new family tradition!

Many Crossfit workouts are named after heroes – various people who have lost their lives in the line of duty.  “The Murph” was named after a Navy SEAL named Lt. Michael Murphy.  The story has it that this particular workout was one of his favorite crossfit workouts and he performed it multiple times a week.  Unfortunately, on June 28, 2005 he was killed in action in Afghanistan.  Now each year on Memorial Day, Crossfitters from all over gather together to complete this workout in his honor, and also to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Foundation.

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Oh, and to make it even more challenging….to truly do this workout Rx style (“as prescribed”), you also wear a 20-pound vest!  We didn’t do that this time, but many people did.

My local box made this into a huge event! So many people came – from our own box, and other boxes in the area.  There was food and a bounce house for kids, and so many people bringing donations for the Wounded Warrior Foundation!  The workout was split up into heats of around 10 people each that were staggered to start every 30 minutes.

Rob and I were part of the first heat and I think we did great!  My amazing hubby agreed to do the workout with me and was by my side the entire time.  Running is still really hard for me (but I’m getting better!), so my runs were super slow – but he was right there pacing himself with me! He could have easily lapped me since he’s an experienced runner, but instead he was right there beside me cheering me on (and even singing to me when I asked for music) as I jogged my way through that first…and then the last…mile.  That meant the world to me!  I was so proud!! I managed to run the 1st mile COMPLETELY without walking at all!  That was a milestone for me. When I first started Crossfit, I could barely run 200m (1/8 mile) without stopping.  I might have been slow, but it wasn’t a race.  It was all about each person doing their own workout competing only against themselves.

When I went into this, I told myself I would be proud of myself if I even completed 1/4 or 1/2 of “The Murph”.  I’ve never done it before, and I’m still working on my very-scaled pull-ups.  In Crossfit, scaling an exercise means adapting it to your ability.  I can’t do strict pull-ups yet, so I use a resistance band on the bar that I put one foot in to help provide some assistance in pulling myself up.  The bands are like giant rubber bands in various strengths each providing a different amount of help.  I use the biggest one that gives the most help….for now.  My goal is to be on a much smaller band, or not at all, by next year!

Anyway, I was shooting for completing 1/4 – 1/2 of the workout, but when I hit the 1/4 mark I knew I could keep going!  Then I got to the 1/2 mark, and I knew I still had some life left in me so I kept going some more.  Just past the halfway mark, my muscles started to fail so I set my sights on doing 3/4 and I did it!!!

I did 75 pull-ups, 150 push-ups, and 225 squats!  Then, I completed the last full mile run again with Rob by my side.  I did stop and walk a little bit a few times, but I ran most of it.  So so proud of my accomplishment!

1 mile run + 75 pull-ups + 150 pushups + 225 squats + 1 mile run = 1 hour 3 minutes!!

Rob did the FULL Murph in the same amount of time, but his time would have been much faster if he ran on his own.  He was more interested in doing it WITH me than in getting a fast time though.  I love you, Babe!!!

 

I want to share with you the story behind Lt. Michael Murphy.  I found this posted online and it’s a great read as a reminder of why we have Memorial Day, and why we were willing to go through a little physical suffering in honor of all those men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

Why Memorial Day Murph was started:

On June 28, 2005, deep behind enemy lines east of Asadabad in the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan, a very committed four-man Navy SEAL team was conducting a reconnaissance mission at the unforgiving altitude of approximately 10,000 feet. The SEALs, Lt. Michael Murphy, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny Dietz, Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew Axelson and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marcus Luttrell had a vital task. The four SEALs were scouting Ahmad Shah – a terrorist in his mid-30s who grew up in the adjacent mountains just to the south.

Under the assumed name Muhammad Ismail, Shah led a guerrilla group known to locals as the “Mountain Tigers” that had aligned with the Taliban and other militant groups close to the Pakistani border. The SEAL mission was compromised when the team was spotted by local nationals, who presumably reported its presence and location to the Taliban.

A fierce firefight erupted between the four SEALs and a much larger enemy force of more than 50 anti-coalition militia. The enemy had the SEALs outnumbered. They also had terrain advantage. They launched a well-organized, three-sided attack on the SEALs. The firefight continued relentlessly as the overwhelming militia forced the team deeper into a ravine.

Trying to reach safety, the four men, now each wounded, began bounding down the mountain’s steep sides, making leaps of 20 to 30 feet. Approximately 45 minutes into the fight, pinned down by overwhelming forces, Dietz, the communications petty officer, sought open air to place a distress call back to the base. But before he could, he was shot in the hand, the blast shattering his thumb.

Despite the intensity of the firefight and suffering grave gunshot wounds himself, Murphy is credited with risking his own life to save the lives of his teammates. Murphy, intent on making contact with headquarters, but realizing this would be impossible in the extreme terrain where they were fighting, unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own life moved into the open, where he could gain a better position to transmit a call to get help for his men.

Moving away from the protective mountain rocks, he knowingly exposed himself to increased enemy gunfire. This deliberate and heroic act deprived him of cover and made him a target for the enemy. While continuing to be fired upon, Murphy made contact with the SOF Quick Reaction Force at Bagram Air Base and requested assistance. He calmly provided his unit’s location and the size of the enemy force while requesting immediate support for his team. At one point he was shot in the back causing him to drop the transmitter. Murphy picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy who was closing in. Severely wounded, Lt. Murphy returned to his cover position with his men and continued the battle.

An MH-47 Chinook helicopter, with eight additional SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers aboard, was sent is as part of an extraction mission to pull out the four embattled SEALs. The MH-47 was escorted by heavily-armored, Army attack helicopters. Entering a hot combat zone, attack helicopters are used initially to neutralize the enemy and make it safer for the lightly-armored, personnel-transport helicopter to insert.

The heavy weight of the attack helicopters slowed the formation’s advance prompting the MH-47 to outrun their armored escort. They knew the tremendous risk going into an active enemy area in daylight, without their attack support, and without the cover of night. Risk would, of course, be minimized if they put the helicopter down in a safe zone. But knowing that their warrior brothers were shot, surrounded and severely wounded, the rescue team opted to directly enter the oncoming battle in hopes of landing on brutally hazardous terrain.

As the Chinook raced to the battle, a rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter, killing all 16 men aboard.
On the ground and nearly out of ammunition, the four SEALs, Murphy, Luttrell, Dietz and Axelson, continued the fight. By the end of the two-hour gunfight that careened through the hills and over cliffs, Murphy, Axelson and Dietz had been killed. An estimated 35 Taliban were also dead.

The fourth SEAL, Luttrell, was blasted over a ridge by a rocket propelled grenade and was knocked unconscious. Regaining consciousness some time later, Luttrell managed to escape – badly injured – and slowly crawl away down the side of a cliff. Dehydrated, with a bullet wound to one leg, shrapnel embedded in both legs, three vertebrae cracked; the situation for Luttrell was grim. Rescue helicopters were sent in, but he was too weak and injured to make contact. Traveling seven miles on foot he evaded the enemy for nearly a day. Gratefully, local nationals came to his aid, carrying him to a nearby village where they kept him for three days. The Taliban came to the village several times demanding that Luttrell be turned over to them. The villagers refused. One of the villagers made his way to a Marine outpost with a note from Luttrell, and U.S. forces launched a massive operation that rescued him from enemy territory on July 2.

By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit and inspirational devotion to his men in the face of certain death, Lt. Murphy was able to relay the position of his unit, an act that ultimately led to the rescue of Luttrell and the recovery of the remains of the three who were killed in the battle.

This was the second worst single-day U.S. Forces death toll since Operation Enduring Freedom began nearly six years ago. It was the single largest loss of life for Naval Special Warfare since World War II.

Just don’t quit

In my last post I told you about Crossfit and some of the great things about it.  Now I want to share a story with you about something that happened to me a few weeks ago so you can really understand why I love it so much.

One Saturday morning 3 weeks ago, I was driving to my Crossfit box for the morning workout.  It had been a while since I had been there so I was just praying all the way there that it would be a strength based workout.  I love those.  Lifting heavy weights makes me feel strong, and even though it’s hard, I’m much more capable at those than other things.  Like running.  Or burpees.

If you don’t know what a burpee is, watch this.  It looks easy, doesn’t it?  Go ahead and try one.  Better yet, try 5 in a row.  Not as easy as it looks, especially when combined with other exercises.

I arrived at the box, took a look at the workout board and saw that God had answered my prayer with a big “NO”.  Obviously, he wanted me to grow mentally that day.  He wanted me outside of my comfort zone.  He wanted me to have to depend on HIM to get me through.

The WOD (workout of the day) was a long run (long for me anyway – it was really only 2 miles, but I’ve never run that far before), and along the way we had to stop several times and do burpees.   Seriously?  I got sick to my stomach just seeing that.  I STINK at running.  And at burpees.  But it got worse.

Then the trainer tells us that we will be doing this in teams.  I take a look around and as I look at who is there, I know that whoever my teammate is – I will be slowing them down.  I got paired up with a girl who is great at running. That made me feel guilty before we even started.  I felt like a child all over again and no one wants to be THAT kid that loses the game for everyone.

I was literally in tears before we even started.  I won’t lie, I was having some anxiety about the whole thing.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)

At this point, my sweet friend who introduced me to this place came over and joined my team.  She volunteered to run just so she could come along and encourage me. Who does that? She’ll never know how great that made me feel.

So, we head out on our run and sure enough, our group was in the back of the pack.  But you know what I found? No one cared.  No one cared WHERE we were.  After all, it wasn’t a race and there was no prize for being first.  Instead, they only cared that we finish.  They cared that I didn’t quit.  They slowed their pace to match mine and talked to me the entire time.  They even let me rest at one of the burpee stops and did my part of the burpees for me.  I was running and crying at the same time – partially from sheer exhaustion and partially from being so humbled and in awe at this level of encouragement.

As we neared the end and the gym was in sight, the groups that had finished first came out and ran the last bit with our team.  They had already done their workout, but they came out to run MORE in order to cheer us on to the finish.  I get goosebumps and feel the tears welling up just typing this.  I was in awe.

At first I was so embarrassed.  I didn’t want the attention from being last.  I just wanted to do this workout on my own – not as a team.  I didn’t want anyone to see me fail.  Just let me do it myself.  But that’s the difference.  See, if I had done that workout on my own – if I had run alone, and came in last after everyone else was back – I would have felt like a failure.  I would have focused on the fact that I was the slowest one there.

Instead, because we did it as a group and I came in with other people – I felt like I accomplished something.  When those people came back to run with me I felt like I was worth something.  When my friend congratulated me for not quitting, and when the trainer said I worked hard – I felt like a winner.

And I should feel like a winner!  I ran 2 miles and did burpees along the way! I’d never done that before.  Each of those people running with me had to start somewhere too.  A few people told me stories about their first runs and how hard it was for them.  That gives me hope that one day I will walk in to the box, see a run listed on the board as part of the workout, and NOT feel like I want to turn around and go home.

THAT is why I love Crossfit, and my box in particular.  You won’t find that type of encouragement and support just anywhere.

“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

No wonder Paul uses running in so many of his examples in the Bible.  Faith and running have a lot in common – they both require endurance and keeping our focus on the Lord!

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a)

My journey into Crossfit

Earlier this year, I was talking to a good friend of mine and mentioned that I wanted to check out Crossfit as a means of exercise.  It turns out this friend of mine did Crossfit and it was how she got in the amazing shape she is in.  She told me about her Crossfit “box” (that’s what they call it instead of a gym) and invited me to check it out.

So I did.  That was a few months ago.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go regularly for a few months because of some other conflicts in my schedule, but recently I was able to clear some things from my calendar so that I can focus on my health & fitness.

This journey starts NOW!

I just turned 39 a week ago, and I really, REALLY, want to get back in shape and be Fit by 40!  To accomplish that, I absolutely have to dedicate myself to getting my Crossfit in at least 3x a week.  This past week, I went 4 times.  I can’t wait to go back tomorrow. I have finally found a type of exercise that I absolutely love.

“What is Crossfit?”, you might be asking.

I’ve seen Crossfit described many times as “different” from other gyms, but I think you have to try it out to fully understand.  Crossfit by definition is “a strength and conditioning program that combines weightlifting, gymnastics, body weight exercises, & aerobic exercise” but it is so much more than that.

Every WOD (workout of the day) is different, so I am constantly getting to try new things.  Some days we’ll be jumping rope, doing dead lifts and box jumps.  Other days, we’ll use the rowing machine and carry kettlebells until our arms feel like they’ll fall off.  Sometimes we’ll run and do burpees.  Other times we’ll throw heavy medicine balls at the wall over our head and do pushups.  All different, all the time.

The classes and the trainers push my limits and encourage me to go further than I would on my own, and as a result I’ve realized I can do things I never thought I could do before.

You compete against yourself, not against everyone else in your class.

It is a community – a family.  Everyone there is at a different level physically.  Some are recovering from injuries or accidents.  Some are top champion competitors.  Some are stay at home moms trying to get back in shape.  Some are military men and women looking to change up their physical training.  Some are there because they want to compete, others just want to get in shape.

Everyone is encouraging and helps one another.

I hear a lot of people say Crossfit isn’t cheap.  Maybe not, but I don’t think you would find the level of encouragement and one-on-one training for the money anywhere else!  Each time I go to class, the trainer is right there working with each of us individually on our technique and form, pushing us to do a little more than we think we can, and modifying the workout to meet each individual’s needs.  In addition, the other class members are cheering each other on – whether they know each other or not – and making sure the person that finishes last feels like they did the best.

If you are looking for a new way to exercise, I highly recommend you look for a local Crossfit box in your area.  Don’t be intimidated, just go in and try it out.  I think you’ll be amazed.

Yesterday, my Crossfit box had a block fitness fair so we did our workout outside as a way to “demo” to the guests what a WOD might look like.  Man, was it HOT out there and it’s not even summer! The workout was hard and fast and I felt miserable in the middle of it, but when it was over I felt amazing and couldn’t wait to go back.  That’s how it is every time.  The workouts are crazy hard and the time goes super fast.  In the middle of it you wonder if you can possibly go on or finish, but then all of a sudden it’s over and YOU DID IT!  Then those endorphins kick in and you feel proud of yourself and excited about doing it all again.

Our workout yesterday has us in teams again.  As a team we had to complete several rounds of burpees and ball slams.  We could split it up between us depending on our strengths or how tired we got but we had to complete a certain total for each round.  Thankfully, my partner ROCKED the burpees and took up the slack where I couldn’t, but I was able to pull the weight on the ball slams.  Once again, she had nothing but encouraging things to say the entire time.  She didn’t give me a hard time for not being great at burpees or complain when I needed a break that we were going to be last.  She just kept working and encouraging me.

My darling hubby was there and got a few pictures of me in my glory.  That’s a 15 pound medicine ball that I was lifting over my head, slamming down to the ground and squatting to catch it while it “bounced” off the ground.  15 pound balls don’t bounce very much so you have to squat down there fast and low to get it.

 

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I look forward to seeing my body get in better and better shape and I go through this next year.  I’m already feeling a difference in my strength and tone, so it will be fun to see the changes.  I’m not shooting for a particular weight number on the scale, although I do have a range I’d like to be in.  Most of all, I want to be healthy and strong.  I want to stay active and try new things.  I want to be confident in myself and be brave enough to try things I wouldn’t before.  I want to avoid the plague of health problems that run in my family.  So far, I’ve been incredibly blessed, but with 40 around the corner I know that getting in shape will play a major role in how the next 40 years go for me.

A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step, so here I go!

 

I thought this verse I came across in my quiet time a couple days ago was particularly fitting.

“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” (Hebrews 12:11-13)

Mommy Daughter Day

Today I had a much needed date day with my daughter, Emily!  As a homeschooling mom, I am with her 24/7, but we are usually focused on making sure chores, schoolwork & errands are done.  We don’t always make the time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.

Today was just a day to do that.  No chores.  No errands.  Just fun. 

We started the day meeting our Friday playgroup at the park for some fun in the sun.  Emily got a few hours with her friends, and I enjoyed my time with the other mommies.  After lunch, we headed off on our date.

 

First stop – Starbucks!  We needed a potty break and I thought a couple drinks were in order.  Tea for Mommy, juice for Emily.

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We then headed to Hobby Lobby where Emily had requested time to just wander around and look to her heart’s content.  She is such a crafty girl at heart!  Usually when we go in Hobby Lobby we are picking up supplies of some sort and in a bit of a hurry.  She has been asking for some time to just be able to browse and really look at all the fun goodness in that store.  We spent 3 hours in there today, and she had an absolute blast. 

New hair clips, anyone?

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I think she could have spent a couple extra hours just on the row with all the hard animals.  So many to choose from!

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Next stop was Petsmart.  We don’t have a zoo close to us, but that’s ok because Emily loves the free trip to Petsmart.  She loves to see the kitties, birds, lizards, hamsters, and all the dogs people bring in. 

After we had exhausted the animal entertainment, we headed to one of our favorite local used bookstores where we found a few deals we couldn’t live without. 

After the bookstore, we were both running out of steam.  It had been a long, but fun day.  We stopped at the grocery store for some cheese, crackers & pepperoni to make a snack tray for dinner and also grabbed some ice cream for a treat.  Normally we just make our own at home, but this was a splurge.  She had requested frozen yogurt, so we stopped in a new place to check it out.  I requested to see their ingredients to make sure it was safe for us to eat, but after looking at the list of chemicals on the ingredient label and realizing how few real ingredients were in this “frozen yogurt”, we decided to skip the Fro-Yo place, and just grab a good brand of store bought ice cream instead. 

We set up our snack tray, grabbed some ice cream (topped with melted chocolate and fresh strawberries), and enjoyed our dinner while watching Andy Griffith. 

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What a blessed day!  I’m so thankful for these special times with my girl.

Earth Day Green Cookies! (Grain/gluten/egg/nut/dye FREE)

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I am always looking for fun science experiments to incorporate into our homeschooling, and this one did not disappoint us.  What a great experiment for Earth Day, St. Patrick’s Day, or just anytime for a tasty science lesson.  Not only is this recipe FUN, the results are extra yummy!

If you are a nut-free family, you may have already tried this or even accidentally stumbled across it in your kitchen.  If so, I’d love to hear what you made.  If not, you must try this!  The kids will love it. 

All you have to do is make a batch of cookies (recipe link at end of post).  On first glance, they will look like any other batch of cookies.  As they cool, you will notice the result of a chemical reaction.  The cookies will turn GREEN inside! 

The trick is that you have to use sunflower seed butter.  It’s like peanut butter, but made with sunflower seeds.  I have a Vitamix, so I made my own using organic, shelled, sunflower seeds.  If you don’t want to make your own, Sunbutter is found in most grocery stores and is commonly used as a substitute for nut butters.

Why sunflower butter?  Because it reacts with the baking soda in the recipe and that is what makes the cookies turn GREEN!

All plants contain chlorogenic acid, mostly in the stems and leaves, but sunflowers also have it in the seeds.  This acid reacts with the baking soda in the recipe, and causes the cookies to turn a bright green color inside as they cool.  The longer they cool, the more green they get. 

 

Our cookies looked pretty normal when we put them in and took them out of the oven, but with a little patience we were rewarded with a fun result.

 

The dough (and my favorite sous chef)

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Going in the oven

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Fresh out of the oven (notice the inside is still brown…..do NOT eat all the cookies yet!)

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After cooling for 2 hours

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After 6 hours – now we’re talking!  Isn’t that cool?

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The Cinnamon ‘Oat’meal Raisin Cookies recipe we used came from the Against All Grain website.  Notice “oat” is in quotes because there are no oats in the cookie.  The “oat” texture comes from shredded coconut so these cookies are completely nut-free, egg-free, gluten-free and grain-free.  Most of the sweetness is from applesauce and dates with only 2 TB of honey for a dozen cookies.  YUM.

Or you can make green waffles instead using one of our absolute favorite waffle recipes.  We make extra and keep them in the freezer.  Or we try to.  We’ve always made them with almond butter, but I might have to try some green ones next time.

 

Enjoy!

Homeschooling makes me happy!

My homemade weighted sensory blanket!

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Weighted blankets are very helpful for so many people.  Children with Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, and/or autism benefit greatly from the sensory input that the heavy weight provides.  This allows the child to relax, sit still and fidget less, thus allowing them to pay more attention or relax to rest.   Adults even enjoy them in larger sizes.  I don’t have one, but I do enjoy sleeping under a few blankets just for the weight, even when I don’t need the blankets to stay warm.  I’ve read that weighted blankets are beneficial for people who deal with insomnia, restless leg syndrome, or even cancer as well.  The blankets can be used as a sleep aid or as a calming tool to help relieve anxiety.

Emily has been asking for a weighted blanket for a while, so I took her to pick out the material she wanted and got to work!  She chose an animal pattern (no surprise there!) and we went with a lightweight cotton since we are heading into the warmer seasons.  I can always make a fleece cover for it when the cold weather returns.

The blanket is filled with polyethylene pellets.  These are the type of pellets you would find in a stuffed animal or doll, and they are completely washable.  The pellets are sewn into squares so that they are evenly distributed across the blanket and they won’t all roll to one side or the other.  This particular size blanket has 120 squares – wow!  The nice thing about using cotton fabric and the poly pellets is that the blanket provides the weight desired without providing too much warmth.

Emily absolutely loves it and has been under it or playing on it almost every minute we’ve been home today.  She’s already planning to take it next time we go to the dentist because they just won’t let her keep the x-ray vest (They give out stickers & lollipops, why not cool vests?).  I do have to take the blanket away from her at some point today to erase my removable fabric marker lines that I used to sew straight lines, but she’s looking forward to sleeping with it tonight.

It was a great success and I think I’ll get started on a second one.  This time, I’ll make her a lap-sized pad that would be easier to take to church or meetings where she has to stay put for an extended period of time.

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Easter Weekend

Happy Easter! 

This year our family celebrated Easter a little different – no egg hunts, no baskets full of candy & gifts.  We decided to just keep it simple and instead just enjoyed a full weekend of fun family time.   I don’t have anything against baskets & egg hunts, but Emily hasn’t believed in the Easter bunny in years so we just decided to do it different this time. 

We spent the day Friday venturing out to the “big city” of Raleigh.  It’s only an hour and a half away, but we haven’t had a chance to go in a few months so it felt like a treat.  We enjoyed the road trip, spent a few hours at Whole Foods (there isn’t one near us), then let Emily play on a playground before heading home.

Saturday we spent the first half of the day at my local Crossfit box.  Rob and Emily came along to watch me during my workout class, and then we hung out to watch a competition known as The Open.  A couple of my friends were participating so we wanted to cheer them on.  Next year, I hope to join them!   We also ran some necessary errands to prepare for Easter dinner.

Sunday morning we celebrated Easter at church, and then we spent the rest of the day celebrating with some dear friends.  We hung out at their house, ate lots of food, let the kids play, went for a nice walk, and enjoyed lots of great fellowship.  We also made a homemade ice cream sundae bar!  We took our Vitamix to their house and Rob made 4 flavors of ice cream – all natural, no dye, no sugar – just frozen fruit & a tiny bit of coconut milk!  We had banana/mango, banana/blackberry, banana/cocoa, and banana/strawberry.  We had an assortment of toppings to choose from to make our healthy ice cream not-as-healthy, and it was so fun!  Rob even made some banana-only “ice cream” for our friend’s baby!

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In case you are wondering, Emily didn’t even miss the egg hunt or candy basket.  She was perfectly content to pick out a few treats at Whole Foods on Friday, and was more excited to spend Easter playing with friends and eating homemade ice cream than hunting eggs. 

Here are some pictures from our after-church photo shoot.  Considering it had been dark and rainy all morning, these turned out pretty good.  So thankful the sun decided to come out!

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(We can’t have a photo shoot without a silly picture!)

 

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My sweet girl, growing up!

 

As I talk about Easter, one of my favorite songs makes me think about my grandmother.  She went to be with our Lord a few years ago, but this song was one of her absolute favorites.  It’s called “Because He Lives” – Enjoy!

 

I hope you had a blessed weekend with your family as well!

A Christian’s thoughts on the Battle of the Same Gender Marriage

Warning:  This post is controversial.  I’ve been debating whether or not to post it for some time now, but I just have to take the stand.  You will either love me or condemn me for it, and that’s ok.  My God is the one I seek approval from.  All I ask is that if you choose to comment, BE KIND.  You do not have to agree with me, but any rude or disrespectful comments will be deleted.

 

My Facebook page has exploded lately with same-sex marriage talk.   It is seriously taking up over half of my news feed.  People are changing their profile pictures to show the world they are for it, or against it.

For           Against

So far, everyone that I’ve seen post as against it…is a Christian.

People, this breaks my heart.

Do I believe that homosexuality is a sin?  Yes, according to what I read in the Bible I do believe it is a sin.

HOWEVER…

There are 2 main points that so many of my Christian friends seem to be forgetting.

The first point is that we have ALL sinned.  Lying is a sin.  Anyone tell a lie this week?   Divorce is a sin.  Some of my best spiritual mentors and friends have a divorce in their past.  Getting drunk is a sin.  College, anyone?  Losing your temper and yelling at your husband or kids in anger is a sin.  Did that one hit home?  Having sex before marriage is a sin.  Many people quote the term “fornication” in the Bible and use it against people who live a homosexual lifestyle, but that word simply refers to sex before marriage – period.  Anyone guilty?  I know I am.

I’ll be open and honest here and tell you that I lived with my husband before we got married.  I admit, I wasn’t in the right place in my walk with the Lord at that time, or I would have made a different choice.   However, it’s in the past and I’ve asked God to forgive me for it – and He has!

I realize as Christians we are to take a stand against sin.  The problem I have is that it seems like so many of my Christian brothers and sisters are forgetting that this is more than a political issue.  These are real people, with real feelings being talked about.  These are people that God created and whom He loves dearly – like you and me.

Something to think about…Are any homosexual people choosing to stop their lifestyle because of these posts and this outrage against them done by Christians? Or, are we simply pushing people further away from Christ because we are acting like their sin is worse than our own? 

Think about this.  If you had been divorced, had sex before marriage, gotten drunk, or lost your temper, how would it make you feel to constantly see people posting about how awful you were?

Wouldn’t you rather see and hear about the grace of God?  How Jesus came to die and take the punishment for ALL our sins?

If you are a Christian and believe homosexuality is a sin, then don’t engage in it.  Pray for those that do.  But, please stop rallying against them like they are hurting your children.  Why don’t we see this much effort and rage being brought up in regards to prostitution, child abuse, children being used as sex slaves, getting drunk, pornography, burglary, stealing, or lying?  Let’s change our profile pictures to condemn those things.

Some people say that homosexuality is different because they are choosing to continue in their sin, rather than repent from it.  Again, I say let’s look at ourselves.  Are we holding grudges?  Holding unforgiveness in our hearts day after day?  Getting drunk every weekend?  Addicted to anything?

The Bible wants us to stand up against sin, but God also tells us to first look at our own lives.

The second point that I’m sad to say so many of my Christian brothers and sisters are forgetting is that Jesus told us to LOVE our neighbors.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:36-40

Loving God and loving others are THE 2 most important things we can do.  Period.   Jesus is our model and He went to the homes of sinners to eat dinner and fellowship with them.  He didn’t shun them.

 

For the record,  I would like the government to stay out of this completely. It should be a personal choice, not the government’s choice.

I even saw a quote that said, “It is God, not man, who has the right to define the institution of marriage”.   The quote was being used against same-sex marriage, but I am sharing it because it is how I feel about the government defining marriage.

I don’t want the government telling me who to marry, so why would I want them to tell anyone else?  It has nothing to do with whether I think the issue is right or wrong, but that’s a slippery slope and I don’t think they need that much control.  Of course, I feel that way in regard to many issues.  I wouldn’t want it to be illegal to get divorced either, even though I have no plans to do so.

I also don’t agree with many of the arguments against same-sex marriage.

They can’t reproduce.   Neither can myself or my husband thanks to infertility.

People will end up choosing to marry their pets or children! Where will it stop?  Really? We are talking adults, people.  Consenting ADULTS.

Their marriage is unstable.  Or the sanctity of marriage will be destroyed. Really?  How many straight people do you know who have been divorced multiple times, or had marriages last less than a year?  How many great marriages do you see in Hollywood or on the TV shows we watch?  Honestly my friends, if the heterosexual Christian community had a better track record for marriages, I could get behind this.  But, even in the Christian community the divorce rate is around 50%.

 

Fighting against same-sex marriage is not winning anyone to Christ.  Inviting the couple over for dinner and spending time with them just might.  At the very least, it would show them that Christians love people rather than hate them.  You can love someone and still disagree with their lifestyle.

Jesus does.

Laughing our way to a better marriage

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Friday night, Hubby & I had a date night. Mark Gungor, author of “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage” came to Fort Bragg to do a free show for the military.  He had spent the week traveling to a few different Army posts and we were his last stop.  If you have not heard Mark Gungor, let me introduce you to him.  He is hilarious!

Watch this 5 minute clip as he describes the differences between men’s brains and women’s brains.  He is right on!

Rob & I were first introduced to Mark’s series when we watched a DVD at a marriage retreat where we also received a copy of his book.  We really enjoy reading it to each other, and it opens the door for some great communication as we are constantly seeking to better understand each other and make our marriage stronger as a result.

One of the things I really like about Mark’s presentations is that he’s a down to earth guy that makes himself relatable to all the guys in the audience.  He is a Christian preacher, but his presentations are not preachy in any way.  I feel like that allows the audience to let their guard down and really listen as he describes the differences between men and women.  We aren’t created to be the same, yet so many marriages struggle because the wife wants a husband to be just like her best girl friend, or the husband expects his wife to be just like his guy buddies.

There are many, many verses in the Bible about understanding, but I want to share one in particular with you.

“Folly brings joy to one who has no sense, but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course.  Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”  ~ Proverbs 15:21-22

This says that if you have no sense, you will find happiness in your folly, but one who has understanding keeps a straight course.  The straight path leads us to God, so we first need understanding.  The better we understand our spouse, the better our marriage will be.  If I really try to understand my husband AND I am seeking to please God by loving my husband, then I will want to love him the way HE needs to be loved….which I can only do if I first UNDERSTAND him.

The second part of that verse refers to getting counsel.  That doesn’t necessarily mean going to a counselor – although if you need one, they can be an incredible resource.  It means getting advice from people who know what you are going through because they have knowledge and experience.  Seeking wise counsel (from someone with the same values, faith & beliefs as you), will allow you to gain a new perspective and give you tools that you can use to make it work.

Learning more about your marriage doesn’t mean your marriage is broken.  Seeking wise counsel about how to have a successful marriage doesn’t mean you have problems.  It means you are being proactive and trying to create a situation that will best allow you to succeed.  Don’t be too proud to seek advice and wisdom from people who have a successful marriage.  Seeking ways to make your marriage better means you are STRONG, not weak.

If you were going to build a house, or renovate your home, you would seek counsel from someone who had done it before, wouldn’t you? (I hope so!)  If you were going to start a cake decorating business, you would first take a class to learn how.   If I wanted to change the oil on my car, I would read a book, watch a video, or ask someone how to do it.  I’ve watched many a video on YouTube to learn sewing skills, or to follow a recipe.

Why not apply the same reasoning to our marriage?

From the first year of our marriage, Rob and I made a commitment to attend a marriage retreat, seminar, class, etc. at least once a year.  If we couldn’t attend one for some reason, we will go through a marriage book together.  Something each year to help us keep our equipping skills sharp, to help us learn more about each other (and ourselves) and foster our communication.

We have learned so much over the years and have adapted our communication styles as we learn new things or as we grow and change.  We are committed to doing this right – the first time, so we must stay on top of it.

Above all else, put God first in your marriage.  If you are each individually seeking to grow closer to the Lord, you will automatically grow closer to each other. 

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Let God be that third strand of the rope that holds you two together. 

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” ~ Ecclesiastes 4:12

My talented husband!

10 years ago if someone asked me or Hubby what our favorite hobby was we would have answered in unison, “SCUBA diving!”.  These days, we are more land-locked so we had to find some new hobbies for this season of life.  I’ve started sewing and embroidering again, and Hubby has entered the world of woodworking.  We are having so much fun!  Family business in the making, maybe? 

Rob got a router for Christmas, and shortly after we added a scroll saw.  The latter came after Emily and I found a book at the library about making natural wood toys using a scroll saw and we were filled with ideas.  Rob and Emily have had a great time picking out toys to make and we are getting quite the collection of little wooden animals.  Bunnies, squirrels, hedgehogs, a tiger, a kitty cat, and many more to come! 

I just have to show you a few of the things Rob has been making.  Isn’t he awesome?  I know, I’m biased.

A cross Rob made me for our anniversary

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A plaque for a guy at work (it was a joke because the weapon was broken while being cleaned…thus the rope sticking out of it)

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A wind-chime for Emily for Valentine’s Day

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A jewelry holder for Emily  (Rob cut out the stars and made the board.  Emily & I did the painting)

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An Easter decoration set for my parents – All stained NATURALLY using coffee, cocoa, berries, & spices!

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A plaque for some dear friends  (We made 3 for families of our House Church who have moved / are moving away)

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A tiger & kitty cat – Emily designed them using a stencil as a guide and making a few changes.  Rob cut them out, then Emily stained them with cocoa powder & paprika, and Rob burned the stripes on with a wood burning tool.  So cool!

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Our squirrels & hedgehogs still need to be sanded before we photograph them.  I have another of his awesome creations I can’t wait to share, but I have to wait until the recipient of the gift receives it so I don’t spoil the surprise!  So, stay tuned for more!