Weight Loss Journey: Semper Paratus

Bakery lined with Pastries copyAlan used to quip “Little snacks make bigger slacks” as a joke when we were kids, but I never forgot his line, and this past week while Alan and I were in San Diego I used it as a mantra whenever I would be tempted to indulge in a little extra something with him…which was pretty much always something chocolatey. Tea Party copyNow, not all little snacks make bigger slacks. Many diet plans encourage smaller meals at shorter intervals, and that might be a helpful strategy for you. An apple, some raw veggies, or a small serving of some protein source like hard-boiled egg, cottage cheese, yogurt, or a a dozen almonds between meals on a scheduled basis might be necessary to keep you from becoming hypoglycemic and are unlikely to make you fat, but an unplanned snack of “fun food” at an irregular time (or even a routine bedtime smackeral of something yummy) is very likely to have an adverse effect on weight.

On this past week’s trip, Alan and I weren’t eating at regular times;  work and/or sightseeing schedules took precedence, and sometimes by the time we stopped to eat, I felt almost faint waiting for our food. A couple of times, I succumbed to the temptation to eat a fresh, warm roll that was beckoning me from the basket on the table (which isn’t permitted on my diet plan). Although it wasn’t as effective, once I tried adding a little sugar to my water to make “lemonade,” and another time (more effective) I ordered a cup of tea with milk and sugar, which the waiter brought out immediately and gave me something to play with long enough to keep me hands off the bread basket.

Much of the battle of eating right is always being prepared. “Semper paratus” (“always prepared”) is the motto of the U.S. Coast Guard, but I first learned it from my two big brothers, who were avid Boy Scouts and taught me all sorts of survival skills—foremost among them, to “always be prepared.” I brought some dried fruit and nuts on our trip, and they’ve come in very handy on a number of occasions for meals and snacks in our room, but it occurred to me that the wise thing would have been to carry a small, healthy snack in my pocket even “for such a time as this.”

It makes a lot of sense to be prepared for situations where we might be hungry but unable to eat for an hour or more. Otherwise, we’re tempted to eat whatever is available or eat so fast we overeat when we do get the chance. It may sound crazy to eat an apple as we’re heading out to a restaurant, but there are always to-go boxes for leftovers! From now on, I’m going to try “Semper Paratus” for my motto!

(P.S.—You might not want to take a round hunk of cheese on on a plane, however! I got stopped and thoroughly investigated on my flight home, because my round cheese was the “perfect shape” for explosives! :)  Live and learn!)

“If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:21).

(This verse is talking about purging ourselves from moral problems, but I think the principle works in reverse too: If we’re prepared to act wisely, we’re less likely to act unwisely.)

Portraits of the San Diego Zoo

Topiary ElephantsThe San Diego Zoo has long been among the world’s finest. Camel On some lists it was considered #1 even in 2013, Alligator at San Diego Zoo although I notice that as of now Trip Advisor rates it as #2, Elephant Bull having been surpassed by Nebraska’s Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Snake which is home to about 17,000 animals of 962 species and encompasses IMG_6176 over 130 acres  of land area, making it the world’s most extensive zoo, Galapagos Turtle including “the world’s largest indoor swamp, the world’s largest indoor desert,  as well as the largest glazed geodesic dome in the world.”IMG_6284 It’s Nebraska’s #1 paid tourist attraction, and I’ve got it down on my Bucket List! Lizard at San Diego ZooBut, today I want to share portraits from the San Diego Zoo with you, Camilia Rose because I was just there and think it’s fabulous! IMG_6232 As a family we visited back in 1989, Giraffe and even then I remember it both as one of the world’s premiere zoos IMG_6175 and as a botanical paradise. Turtle and Fish San Diego Zoo So, while Alan was working hard at a medical conference last week, I took offBalboa Park for Balboa Park to revisit the zoo. RhinoI was totally delighted and sometimes amazed! Rhino. Friendly (Isn’t “friendly rhino” an oxymoron?)  Lion. Female Over 4,000 animals (of more than 800 species) are now at home in the zooSan Diego Zoo from Skyfari on their 100 acres of beautifully groomed parkland. IMG_6316 Because of southern California’s sunny, maritime climate, almost all the major Brown Bearsexhibits are outdoors (I believe making it the world’s largest outdoor collection). Horned Toad?Since its inception in 1915, there always seems to be something new at the zoo! Polar BearSome of the most famous additions since we were there include the 1996 “Polar Bear Plunge” which was expanded in 2010 to include over 30 Arctic species.  Panda from Brochure In  2011 Pandas arrived at the zoo. I spent over 4 hours at the zoo, Kangaroo Bus zipping around everywhere on foot, by bus, by kangaroo bus, Skyfari and even by skyfari, but somehow I managed to miss the pandas, IMG_6165 although I very much regret failing to recognize what a rare opportunity I missed, because San Diego is 1 of only 4 zoos in the U.S. to house pandas. San Diego Zoo MapThe  zoo has steep hills and many byways, so to enjoy everything there is to see Gazellesreally takes a full day unless you’re super fast and never take any pictures.Mainland Clouded Leopard        In 2012 the zoo obtained 2 clouded leopards. Kookaburra copy In 2013 the ” Australian Outback” was added, Koala from brochure highlighted by one of America’s best koala exhibits and several very social Tasmanian devils (only 1 of 2 zoos in the U.S. where they can be found). Jake. The Tasmanian Devil This one is “Jake,” and believe me. I’ve seen Tasmanian devils in Tasmania, and Jake is truly laid back!   Orangutan from brochure In 2014 the cougar exhibit was built, and in 2017 “Africa Rocks” will open, showcasing additional new displays of lemurs, penguins, and baboons.RennovationsThroughout its existence, the San Diego Zoo has continued to develop and expand both as a zoo and as a botanical garden.Trumpet Tree The park has earned international acclaim for its 4,500+ trees and plants (many labeled) from around the world. So, if you ever get to San Diego and love animals and/or beautiful gardens, consider a trip to the zoo!San Diego ZooI would like to be like the San Diego zoo…always getting better! My father (in his 80’s) used to keep a sign on his bedroom door: “If things improve with age, San Diego Zoo Hippo I’m approaching magnificent.” It always made me grin because, of course, time does not improve my body. Nor does time improve our souls. Leopard In Jeremiah 13:23 we read, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” Cheetah Just as time didn’t improve the notorious criminal, John Turnipseed (whose autobiography I’m reading to review next week), time alone will not improve us. Manned Wolf However, the God who transformed John Turnipseed’s heart of stone into a heart of love is the same God who can tame,Kymoto Dragon Claws save, and transform each of us as we surrender our hearts and wills to Him. Alligator So, if you’re wishing to improve Blue Lizardbut feel like you just keep going downhill  IMG_6140 and can’t seem to make yourself do what you think you really ought to be doing,2-headed skink please consider asking the Lord to save you. Zebra and Donkey  He can truly change us into more than we’d ever hoped to be. Hibiscus+2:27:15“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16) Hybiscus

(I took all these photos last week at the San Diego Zoo, except for 4 pictures  I took of their brochure: the map, the koala, the panda, and the orangutan.)


Rise Up, My Love (125): Parallels Between the Fruits of the Spirit and the Fruits in Solomon’s Bride

Hydrengas. New Zealand copySong of Solomon 4:13-14 Last week we discussed the characteristics of the nine plants which grew in King Solomon’s (metaphorical garden) wife. This week, let’s consider the fruits of the Spirit, which are grown in the King’s garden of our heart. There are nine fruits describing the delights to be found within the bride: pomegranates, camphire, spikenard, saffron, calamus, cinnamon, frankincense, myrrh, and aloes. Spiritually, there are nine fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Today, let’s consider the first five mentioned in each list and note the parallels.

How is love like a pomegranate?…in fact, “an orchard of pomegranates”? First, just as the pomegranates were most to be desired, and the whole center of the garden was an orchard showcasing these magnificent fruits, so love is the greatest fruit of the Spirit, for God himself is Love, and “the greatest of these [gifts of the Spirit] is love” (I Corinthians 13:13). Love is the hallmark of the Christian, and the whole center of our heart’s garden should be a wondrous orchard of beautiful, colorful, fragrant, delightfully satisfying love.

Camphire—intensely fragrant; found at weddings and celebrations, clustered at the breast, or perfuming a home… As the pomegranate of love sustains life, so the camphire of joy adds fragrance to every celebration, heart, and home. Joy beautifies those who apply it to their hands and feet, their faces, and even those about them! Joy is the “bath salt” that makes the every day necessities (like cleansing) become a pleasant experience. I wonder—am I radiant with joy?

Spikenard—not native to most of the world, but found growing free, high up on remote mountain sides; rare, costly, and very precious; given as a special anointing to our Lord before he faced the cruelty of man and the wrath of God. What is more rare or more precious than peace? What is it that we find when we climb the mountainsides with God? What makes it possible for us to face the lions’ dens and walk on in faith, though our lips may tremble and our feet may falter? What did Jesus give us when He left? “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). May our hearts’ garden always keep some high ground where peace flourishes.Autumn CrocusesSaffron—subtle but distinct; requires 4,000 blossoms to produce one ounce of spice. Is it easy to see how “longsuffering”…“patience” is like saffron? Think of the patience required to gather 4,000 blossoms! The next time we are enduring a trial, let us remember the 4,000 single flowers that are required to gather an ounce of saffron and hope that it takes fewer than 4,000 trials to develop an ounce of patience in us!

Calamus—made from a broken, crushed reed, used in combination with other ingredients to prepare those who ministered at the temple, mentioned only rarely in Scripture…are there metaphorical similarities to the fruit of the Spirit known as gentleness? Yes! Gentleness is also mentioned only a handful of times in Scripture, but it is one of the necessary “ingredients” found in a man prepared for service in the church. “But the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men…” (2 Timothy 2:24); “Put them in mind…to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men” (Titus 3:1-2). Like calamus, gentleness comes from being broken and crushed—not our spirits, but our wills. God breaks our wills like a horse trainer breaks a young stallion…not to discourage us, but to make us useful. But, “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth” (Isaiah 42:3). Our precious Lord takes our wills and allows them to be ground to powder, so that we might become gentle under his hand, but he does not break and crush our spirit. He revives our bruised and smoldering spirit, and with a gentle touch, draws us into his likeness: “Thy gentleness hath made me great” (Psalm 18:35). “So tender and precious is He; Contented with Jesus I’ll be! (From “The Way that He Loves,”  by W. Elmo Mercer)

How is the garden of your heart coming? I’m afraid mine needs quite a bit of work. May the fruits of the Spirit grow and abound in our hearts!



Look Who’s Home for Dinner!

10994972_10100470560107658_6472890611977388160_n-1Well, who do you suppose has come home in time for dinner? Sam 2Samuel came through his surgery with flying colors, Sam 3so somebody lent him a cap and gownSam4& the doctor approved his discharge without any oxygen, tubes, or extra “stuff!” Samuel in his basketSo, Daniel and Brianna just whisked him away to their home, sweet, home, Samuel in his cap and gownand little Samuel is a bonafide NICU graduate and glad to be home body!
I was so excited that I couldn’t wait until next Saturday to share the good news!
Thank you once again for your prayers, love, and concern during this journey!!!

“But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble.”   (Psalm 59:16)

(P.S.—Starting next Saturday, Lord willing, I may start sharing from a book I wrote called Bless Your Baby, which will give weekly ideas for how to be a blessing to babies during their first year of life.)

Samuel at 41 Weeks

Look Mom, no tubes!Good things have been happening in Samuel’s tiny world. Here’s what Brianna shared last Tuesday: “Word on the street is that Samuel’s eyes are ‘mature.’ He will have an outpatient follow-up exam in two weeks to verify. Considering how extensive his disease had become, this is remarkable news! Thanks for the many prayers on behalf of the little man. Thank you Lord for answering with a ‘yes’.” Sleeping Preemie        Because Samuel’s eye exam went so well, he had surgery on WednesdaySmiling preemie                                                 to repair his inguinal hernias.Three generations of Armstrong     Here are a few “family photos” from the last time we saw him before surgery.Happy Family (but not Chinese dish)        Brianna and Dan have been real troopers throughout this whole ordeal!Mom and Baby resting       This is Brianna comforting Sammy before he was prepared for surgery.Baby with a pacifier                                He’s gotten quite attached to his pacifier!Just before surgery  Ready to roll? His surgery went very well, and recovery has been so rapid Resting with Mom after surgery   that there’s talk of his being able to go home this weekend! It may be that we’re close to the end of Baby Samuel’s scary hospital journey! Wouldn’t that be nice!Preemie in isoletteSo, Samuel and  his traveling buddy, D.J., are both safely home, but we’ve connected with yet another preemie family. Tiny Elin Faith was born just a couple of weeks ago at 24 weeks and 15 oz. So far, she’s hanging tough. Family of preemie Here are her mom and 3 older sisters, who (along with their daddy) are also trying to hang tough. If you have any interest in following Elin’s progress or praying for her, her family is posting on Facebook under “Elin Faith Updates,” and they welcome you to follow there.

“O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” (Psalm 34:3)

Totally Not PC Quotable Quotes

Amelie Sarah LouiseOne of the most unexpected blessings of my kids growing up is enjoying friendships with their mother-in-laws…precious women I would probably never have met otherwise. For instance, Gerlinde’s mom, Sarah, had never been to America—nor had I ever been to Germany—until our kids married, and yet  we’ve become good friends and even share a name sake, little Amélie Sarah Louise (who just turned 3 last week). What a deal! At any rate, Sarah is also a blogger, and she had a series of funny quotes last week that I just loved, so she’s letting me pass them along to you. Hope you enjoy them! A1-SqEn2m9xo8VDJslpE5tJpKCFZO7VPBfjzRcU1rqtHOnb5fyGyQZbC_kY5-KMTHjcLviGsX4_H-7AgX60dasDneqDEczwwrXqJV3WOSx_RSSDsosd1xNnd7Ewmx2RE=s0-d-e1-ftcw8maM9gVeHPFlTXnvOSLQNurk0KJ8aHiVuDUtE0I9H8yk0fGlLfTkoV-DCrqPrFwJ4eDcGgk2tt-21QMc_RY9qlKwIDLM1sv7pEPrRe7OS0kokF-_5bpKKuxkaHakBgX4GjDw=s0-d-e1-ftcalvin-cooloige2-934xh8rs2UwZyw72vjsYqBnBKl-D0ejw2Oj4NnC4IXLbwmaF7lIowAl1WKK1ytbQsLtU6eOvj1XlVhZjkqOp4P-abkiabKOdXkDNu59xdsL6vQitzU-c8VqIncpNEIWXfgKNfA=s0-d-e1-ftwRcQGXcPaEJWZWaYxrtD-ieDfO1KxFh1YcpEzZfiEeBnAzZQxBBi3zNSwNlSxCKAONakDo2IH8kZJUjrdsLoyTEY1JmbsVvz65otoU1HuAKTDUP-DsIo217PJkc8oDc57g=s0-d-e1-ft5ZcaPf9ZeSDnGQp1DabQODwmCTK7QDmuM4z9koCrNn0tuTB8OvLy3DQQXZdTVqD3im_7XoN5uU_RktLeUiJAK4aqdjtyVhga0BhCIeJbeENv-naX8h8I-1ID7jeKely_gscrJwo=s0-d-e1-ft7SpF_S-0CH7wbPuw9HlRzkOd91jEtjxhAhe7eNNnOVgFP90_bXDzLCp0A2ttUJzDc--jPLBL8raLdPkxCAKF4seVvgWv7_mGsbuPTDTGumtLZzuPW7226M8PddjjO8A6PE8=s0-d-e1-ftWVRIknUY8gxXmo7v1Y-d38WSLDlpgLhIZslAvbvmkfATTCBU7HkvbkqNAp-Y6DDgHJCiJDJHTt-crTGAvQIQyMkNaj6lpFoF2xv_2RololoDS6Yhma43GCsnLu86VlpGHz2VUSYv6vzmYQ=s0-d-e1-ftNhqjHEINjgBoYZp1JFe-x-rc_SyaZyVw6OwiJn84d1sqtrwDq_8KYeNTeUi77uY_XJwiMfaTW-dsoDVe7cUzTejECvPMWd4CiYL29_SOJHe1AOFFiDGcicjSPwddefoTGxQLRXCC5mlWLbA0Je8krVrV5zG-Lpw4S31QDOjPT8AV7LAvPJ8l1A9a32DA=s0-d-e1-ftACHPRuR-S_6bIEfNPC57MvJZiV0IU2GMyLcfXAs5e-7ywcNKwGXMjdK_2o41utfnRHBl1DxtxpFWkNuhxm-r2BaxXt3MPDUxh_t1CVprAMY6Fity6rH8DXXUM0SsxXhFZhj58Cc=s0-d-e1-ftTkVR0XWk5Mm_Ln_Y237E20T8AFLc5kJzfiJZn1mnb1vo4As_4Yo6CdyUMw2JseEUzxjfZVVVYNUMSiN-oPEbn_Z1ODHrGSyM66oxz65eSnzD-I2XDzu5JlbThf1q4a_yeC3fqg67ixF5dK8=s0-d-e1-ftUzevw67syygEj8kzhcysVuOH3TfSvfY6RvMhJxsZEBtb_W6QtpHC5jdsORuhUDKIzyce8Ga0fZUZ1TFPE3OCS-_InmttRHCHKMXAuMLKFxi2ls7yQPF5ITOIow0f7BqZerNBKsoU=s0-d-e1-ft

“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.”
(Proverbs 26:4-5)

One Workout Won’t Wipe Out One Pig Out!

Not everyone who’s part of our Wednesday weight-loss journey comments on this blog. Some just let me know personally, and some respond via email or Facebook messages. Whether or not you’ve been keeping company with us since January 1, 2015, or happen to notice our support group for the first time today, Welcome! I hope you find these posts on our “Weight Loss Journey” encouraging, and if you have any extra pounds that are weighing you down…may you be inspired to work hard at losing them! If you’re already at your ideal body weight…well, the principles probably work for losing emotional or spiritual weights as well. Bakery Cakes copyOne non-blog response I just loved this week came from “Lisa” (used by her permission): “I am down .5 lbs, but I am tempted to ride up and down with the scale and daily fluctuations can be discouraging.  This weekend I was up 2, and I can testify that one workout does not wipe out a pig out.  :)    I am praying for you and all of us trying honor God with our bodies, that He will strengthen, encourage, and sustain us.”

Amen, Sister! I think Lisa touched on two key issues that make our attempts at weight loss so frustrating. For one, weight fluctuates, notoriously in women throughout adulthood, but increasingly also for men as they age. There’s nothing women can do about the monthly ups and downs except (as Lisa pointed out) refuse to ride up and down emotionally in response. But, both men and women need to be cognizant of how salt causes water retention and temporarily elevates weight. I try to compensate by eating fish at home on Tuesdays (before my weekly weigh-in on Wednesday morning) rather than beef out (or any especially salty dish). Eating out is deadly for me, because even if I don’t overeat, restaurants make their food sooooo appealing by using hypersaltation.
(Ya, I know that’s not a word, but you know what I mean.) Buffet Lunch copy And her other point is well taken, too. One pigout could be as much as 1,000+?? calories beyond our normal daily needs. I don’t know about you, but I have trouble burning 350 calories during a 1-hour workout, and life has to be quiet to find that hour. Outdoor exercise like walking is more pleasant, but not when the temperatures are dipping into icy negatives, and walking burns even fewer calories. Calisthenics and stretching are super good for us—but they garner fewer calories still.This is the "Brown Cow," but who's counting? copySo, what’s the answer? For a starter, I’m really trying to avoid pigging out in the first place! If it’s a special occasion, maybe a bite instead of a serving. I’m trying to remind myself, “A taste is as good as a feast” and savor my taste carefully.  Jane commented a couple of weeks ago: “I want less of me, not more of that!… I tell people all the time. I can have anything I want. I just can’t want much. That works for me.” When it comes to disciplining ourselves to become more of what we know we ought to be, let’s figure out what works and then do it…be it pounds or any other weighty weakness.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).