The Whole Scoop on My Whole30 – Part 2

keep-calm-header-360x330I had so many wonderful things to say about my Whole30 that I decided to split the blog post into two parts. Part one was a general Q and A about our experience. This post focuses on the method behind my meal planning madness!

Establishing routines in the kitchen is challenging, but changing established routines is even more challenging. I did not cook at all until I got married but over the last ten years I have learned to cook, embraced cooking and found my own cooking “style.” There are some recipes that I can cook on auto-pilot. If I need to do the week’s grocery run on the fly, I can usually do a basic grocery store sweep without a list because I am steeped in routine. So taking on the Whole30 challenge felt alot like meal planning repentance. I literally had to stop going in one direction, turn around and head 180 degrees in another direction. I realized this when I thought we could jump in the deep end and try doing the Whole30 last November.

Come on Sandy, Don’t Make Me Laugh…

I was in over my head and I knew it. So I spent the end of 2014 researching, gathering, planning and preparing for this truly radical life change.

I got the books: It Starts With Food, Against All Grain, and Meals Made Simple; I started following blogs like nomnompaleo.com, theclothesmakethegirl.com, and meatified.com and I also reviewed my own “staple” recipes to see if any were Whole30 compliant (I found one) and if any could be modified a bit to be compliant (there were a few).

As I found recipes I liked, I collected them in Evernote. If you do not have Evernote, get it. It’s a very easy way to keep track of recipes but you can use it for all kinds of things. I use it primarily for meal planning. I have a “stack” called Food and within that stack I have several other “notebooks” (e.g. new recipes to try, rotation, menus and lists, party food, etc.) Even before Whole30, I spent time each week intentionally searching for new recipes and saving the ones that are appealing into the corresponding Evernote notebook. Also I get a TON of food blog emails. And follow a TON of food blogs on Facebook. So whenever I see something appealing I quickly paste it to Evernote and its there waiting for me when I go to plan our weekly menus.

The bottom line is: using Evernote and Whole30 approved recipes, I made a plan and then I worked the plan. I pretty much planned all the dinners for the month before we even started. That way I could just choose from a list that I already “vetted” and decided would be a good dinner for us. This made weekly planning super easy. I typically grocery shop weekly on Fridays (my husband’s day off) and then spend the afternoon organizing and prepping for the week. This takes up a good chunk of the day but it makes life so much easier throughout the week.

On a daily basis, I try to do a little bit here and there throughout the day so I am not stuck with one big dinner effort during the “crazy hours” of 4-6 pm. While kids are eating breakfast and lunch, I will chop some veggies or get some chicken marinating or whatever. I do a little bit as I go throughout the day. For Whole30 I stepped it up significantly. Did alot more veggie prep on weekends and tried to make my sauces and ghee once a week when Brian was home to help with the kids. Most of the time, nap-time is food-prep-time. Depending on what’s for dinner and how the kids are doing it doesn’t always work that way. But once the afternoon rush quiets down and I no longer hear the Disney channel on my TV I turn off all the noise and I go to work, enjoying the sounds of only my knife against a cutting board. Cathartic, you see?

Another practical point is that it helps tremendously to have the right kitchen tools and accessories. Tools are fun and make things SO MUCH EASIER. Some kitchen tools I used during my Whole30, if not daily, then weekly include:

Immersion Blender (lovingly referred to as emulsion blender)
Spiralizer
Ninja (for blending and processing)
Whisks of many sizes, my favorite is the mini
Meat thermometer
Mandolin
Cast Iron Skillet
Le Creuset 5 qt dutch oven
Good Knives (we use Shun)
Gas Grill
Mason Jars (for ghee, coconut milk, mayo, ranch catsup etc.)

Keep in mind, I did not go out and buy all this for the Whole30, I collected my tools over the last 10 years of cooking. I have written about my love of kitchen tools and gadgets on my blog many times!

Also, on Whole30 you have to be flexible, which sounds funny to write since the rules are so ridged. But here is what I am talking about: flexible on Whole30 means that sometimes you eat dinner for breakfast instead of breakfast for dinner. You may throw that left over taco meat in with some eggs for a quick scramble. Or you throw a bag of frozen broccoli in the microwave for five minutes and have that for your lunch (or breakfast). You learn to love your homemade condiments (that are already prepped and ready for use) and discover that the old lady from the Franks hot sauce commercial was right ;)

I said this on one of my photo posts but I found GREAT freedom within the rules. Once the headaches and sugar cravings subsided it felt good to stay on track and I looked forward to feeling better and better each day. It was fun to learn to make things I had never made before, like mayo and ranch dressing and frittata. It was a pain to find things without the off-limits additives (SUGAR FREE BACON HELLO) but I got good at reading labels and building my own internal database of new (Whole30 approved) go-to foods. I never would’ve thought that I would enjoy things like butter and coconut milk in my coffee or almond butter on apple slices, but I also never would’ve tried those things if not for Whole30. And now I have some new “better for me” food choices at the top of my mind. It no longer requires a lot of extra effort to make healthy choices. It is becoming more natural.

So technically speaking, I survived my first Whole30 by developing a plan, working the plan, prepping during free time and when I had extra hands around to help, and putting my kitchen tools to good use.

I will say that, other than keeping my kids fed, bathed, napped and somewhat educationally stimulated, my life was dominated by Whole30. I don’t think this was a bad thing necessarily. But I did not have time for much else and that was OK with me for a short period of time. And now that I have new routines established and a pantry and fridge with Whole30 Approved staples, it feels much more natural to continue cooking this way. I fact, it was such a big shift in so many different ways that its almost easier to continue on eating clean than “going back” to old ways.

I am 6 days into “life after Whole30″ and so far I would say we have maintained a 90% Whole30 compliant diet. We started reintroducing foods, more so to see if there was a reaction rather than to reincorporate those foods on a daily basis. So far we have tried non-gluten grains, KIND bars, and a tiny bit of cheese and so far the only real reactions were to corn tortillas (for me) and the KIND bars (for both of us). I have many more thoughts on reintroducing foods, recipes I love and other Whole30 “hacks” I want to share, so it appears that I have a lot more blogging to do! Thank you for sticking with me!

Exciting update: several friends have encouraged me to start a food blog and I have decided to do just that! It has been a dream of mine for some time to narrow my blogging focus and try to do something more substantial and less self indulgent with my blogging so I am going to attempt this food blogging thing and see where it leads us. Stay tuned for more info on that!

Click here to read part one of this series.

Posted in Cooking, Food, Gluten Free, Paleo, Whole30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Whole Scoop on my Whole30 – Part 1

My husband and I completed our first Whole30 on January 30 and stuck to it through to the end with no cheats. I documented the experience on Instagram and Facebook by posting a photo and a few reflective observations at the end of each day. I didn’t set out to post these daily photo updates, but as I posted I found great support from my friends on Facebook and the larger Whole30 community on Instagram, so I kept posting and appreciated the accountability of a daily check in with people who cared. I attribute a large part of our success to this online community so thank you all who cheered us on.

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Many of my friends had some questions about our Whole30 challenge so to recap the month I decided to write up a two-part Q and A, today’s part 1 will discuss some basics and tomorrow’s part 2 will detail the method to my meal-planning madness! If you have a question that isn’t covered here feel free to ask — we are happy to answer!

Q. Why did you do the Whole30?

A. Initially it was about weight loss. Before I starting having babies I had some weight to lose. But then after I had my babies (3 in 3 years) I had about twice as much weight to lose. Lucky me. I had heard a little about the Whole30 from friends who follow a paleo lifestyle but I didn’t know alot about it until I got the Whole30 book “It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways.”

The book lays it all out: why and how the authors initiated this challenge, the science behind it, the benefits of it (beyond the obvious ones) and more. What really resonated with me was a section of tough love in the book and on the blog. I shared this on my Instagram and Facebook but I will post it again here because it seriously was the foundation and driving force behind my resolve:

It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.

You can read all the though love here. There is more but this is the first point and the one that stuck with me. Probably because I just birthed three babies. And that last pregnancy and delivery was a doozy. I mean it was hard. REALLY HARD. I’m talking the epidural wore off and I felt every last bit of birthing my 8 lb 11 oz bouncing baby boy with pitocin cranked up to maximum strength, hard. I think that pregnancy prepared me for the mental resolve I needed to do this challenge and stick with it to the end. Not to mention, when you are pregnant you give up and/or scale back on lots of things “for a season” because its good for you and your baby. So not only was I fresh off one of the hardest physical experiences of my life, I was also used to the whole giving up foods and drinks for pregnancy purposes. I think this helped me put on my game face with no excuses.

Q. Doesn’t Whole30 focus on organic, grass-fed, locally sourced food? Isn’t that EXPENSIVE???

A. YES. Save up and prepare to pinch your pennies. Stocking your pantry with things you have never heard of (like Coconut Aminos, which, by the way, taste like soy sauce) adds up fast. But you also are NOT buying things you normally would so it does even out a bit. We try to stick to the dirty dozen for organic produce and we have already been eating organic meat, eggs and milk. We are SO BLESSED to live a few miles away from the GREATEST GROCERY STORE IN THE USA — Wegmans. They have the BEST PRICES on organic. They match or beat Costco and Walmart (especially on shelf items). People think its expensive because they get caught up in the prepared foods section — that can add up — but if you shop smart you will get the highest quality for the lowest cost. I really should work for them. I love it there. Its crowded and crazy but its my oasis and the only place I frequent with regularity.

Q. How do you feel?

A. The Whole30 crowd talks lovingly of “tiger blood” basically the euphoric/energetic/powerful/etc feeling that comes with eating healthy. Did I feel tiger blood? I think so, as much as a worn out sleep deprived mom can feel tiger blood. I definitely roared a little more than I should have going through the first two weeks of detox but I don’t think thats what they are referring to with the whole tiger blood thing :) I do notice a difference in my skin and my energy level. I do feel more focus and clarity of mind. In terms of anxiety I have a pretty sound sense of well-being. And despite not getting a full night’s sleep, I do feel more rested with what I am getting than I did before. I did experience my tiger blood a little later than the average person would according to the timeline I started really feeling a difference around day 21.

Q. Did you lose weight????

A. Burying the lead here I know, I know. But YES I did. Whole30 discourages weighing until the end, so I followed their lead and I did not step on a scale one time during the month. Today I weighed and I have lost 9 lbs, 3.5 inches off my waist and 1.5 inches off my hips. This is STRONG motivation for me to keep going. I have a goal to lose 30 pounds by April 30 (my 10 year wedding anniversary) and a longer term goal to lose 20 more lbs by my 20 year High School reunion this fall.

Q. Where did you find your recipes?

A. Many places. The Whole30 blog features recipes, the book has recipes, and I used several recipes from Danielle Walker’s cookbooks Against All Grain and Meals Made Simple. Some of the blogs I frequented include:
http://nomnompaleo.com
http://clothesmakethegirl.com
http://meatified.com

Q. Yeah, about those three babies… how did you do this with three babies?

A. It’s true, the Whole30 takes a great deal of planning and alot of extra work. But I knew this going into it. In fact, we attempted to do the Whole30 in November but I hadn’t done the planning and prep work needed so we postponed until I could get my act together. So I spent several weeks reading, gathering recipes, planning and preparing to radically change the way I do everything in relationship to meal planning, cooking and eating. Then I worked the plan. I took time when my husband was home to do prep work and get ahead as much as I could. And he is a great partner in crime (he cleans — EVERYTHING!) So having a partner helped tremendously.

I do have more to share on the how-to behind my Whole30 and my next blog post will detail the method to my meal-planning madness!

Posted in Cooking, Gluten Free, Life as I Know It, Paleo, Whole30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Should I Write?

November is the 7 year anniversary of my starting this blog. I’ve talked about it on here before, I was at the After Eve Women’s Conference at my church where I heard Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist speak for the first time. The biggest take-away from that experience was this: “If you have a dream, if there is something in your heart you have always wanted to do, DO IT. Stop waiting for it to be the “right time” because it’s never the right time and you are not getting any younger.” Can’t you just hear either of them saying this to a group of young women? LOL

Well my dream is to write. I have had this dream my whole life. I have always needed to write for my previous jobs, so in a sense I did/do write, but I had never really written for me until I started this blog. And I started it because of the exhortation received at After Eve. But for many years as I continued working in a spokesperson role, I never had the full freedom to write FOR ME because what I said would always reflect back on my employer in one way or the other. I am good (IMHO) at speaking on behalf of others, but really have not grown in my ability to write on behalf of me.

I’ve been thinking about this a whole lot lately. I feel like I still have something left in me to achieve from a writing perspective. I just don’t really know what it is. I have asked God a million times and I still am not sure that he has given me a specific direction on what to write.

This compelling urge to write, coupled with an extreme vagueness on what my topic should be, has left me paralyzed. This blog is all over the place and there is no real focus. I’ve given myself permission to just let that be as I try out different topics and styles trying to find one that fits. But I still don’t think I’ve found it.

So today as I pondered these things, I thought I would present the question here and see if those who actually still read the few things I do write had some input on this.

What do you think that I should write?

I am feeling really vulnerable putting this out there like this.  Honestly, this scares the fool out of me. I am afraid of what you will say (or won’t say) and I am afraid of being real about my struggles with this. But the fact is that fears — lots of them — are the reasons why I stay stagnant but the fear of regret is becoming stronger than the fears holding me back. I think I am now at a place where I am ready to face those fears and try to pursue writing beyond the hodgepodge, inconsistent, self-indulgent stuff I’ve been posting here.

I participate in a Bible study at my church called “Chase” by Jennie Allen. We are studying the life of King David in the Old Testament. It is really powerful and each week the questions are very thought-provoking; the kind of questions that really make you think and sometimes make you feel uncomfortable answering truthfully.

Today’s question was: If you were to meet God tomorrow, what would you regret?

At the time, I couldn’t come up with an answer, probably because I was too afraid to face it.  But this afternoon as I found myself with a few quiet moments (nap time, hooray!) I spent time reflecting on this question and here is what I came up with:

Today at Bible study, the question was “if you met God tomorrow what would you regret?” well that’s easy: Writing. I write all the time for my own enjoyment but I do have a dream to do more with my writing, and (gasp) perhaps bring in some added income to our family. I dream that my words would influence others in a positive way, that my words would validate and inspire hope in others. My biggest fear in writing is being “wrong” and being criticized. I do not receive criticism well and I don’t want to cause confusion or be misunderstood. Those are huge obstacles for me. I keep searching all my life for this “thing” that will be “my” thing. My calling. My purpose. If I met God tomorrow I would probably regret that I didn’t take the time to figure that out and actually do something significant with this talent/skill/dream that has always been in my heart. 

And not long after that, I had the idea to write this blog post and ask those of you who read my blog what YOU think about all of this.

I really do want feedback of any and all kinds. If you prefer to email me privately please do at annielauriewalters{at}gmail-dot-com. I am eager to receive your thoughts on this ever-vexing question: What Should I Write??

 

 

 

Posted in Courage, Writing | 5 Comments

Aslan is on the move

I just love this quote from C.S. Lewis’s “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”. It’s probably one of my most favorite literature quotes of all time. There is something so powerful and exciting and hard to really wrap my arms around entirely within the context and the feel of a very short sentence that, for me, is packed full of both meaning and mystery.

It’s 3 am and lately this is the hour I’ve done my best thinking and writing. My littlest one wakes me to feed and while he dreams so do I… Big, God inspired dreams that only God can bring at 3 am.

In this season of life, it’s so easy to be distracted by the negative… By the challenges…

But that’s what’s so absolutely awesome about our dear Aslan… He is always on the move.He is never distracted. He is never worried. He never even sleeps. He doesn’t have to. While we dream, whether awake or asleep, He is always always always on the move.

This Spirit, of hopeful mystery that does not disappoint, thinks it best to speak to me and inspire me in these wee hours caring for wee ones. And all I can think is that Aslan is on the move.

I pray that mysterious hope fills my heart and mind when sleep and rest do not…When I type my stories with one thumb in the middle of the dark because in this season that’s the best time for stories to be recorded.

Not just the idea, but the TRUTH, that my wonderful, powerful Aslan is always on the move, will always be enough to help me rise and keep hoping and dreaming and believing that, because of Him, I am enough and because of Him, I will do even greater things.

I will never know what it is about 3 am that inspires me so. But I am certain Aslan is behind it. And I’m so excited to see where He is moving me and you and us.

aslan

Posted in Believe, Courage, God, God's Promises, Life as I Know It, Writing | Leave a comment

Growing Up GOP

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Today I came across a New York Times article titled, “Why Teenagers Today May Grow Up Conservative.” I found these observations to be quite legitimate and wanted to share how my own personal experience reflects these findings.

I was born in 1977. When I was 8 years old, I wrote my first letter to the Reagan White House. I was in the second grade at the time but I was not writing for a school assignment. I had a question about how the government works and my family encouraged me to write. I received a huge pack of info and will never forget the impact that made on my little 8-year-old heart and mind. A few years later, I remember learning about term limits and feeling so scared when I realized Reagan wouldn’t be our president forever. The only way I could make sense of this was to campaign for George H.W. Bush because if he served with President Reagan than he obviously should be the next president. And by campaign I mean sticking Bush/Quayle 88 stickers on my trapper keeper.

August 1996, I was packing my bags preparing to return to Union University as a rising sophomore when I first heard Elizabeth Dole speak. She was addressing the Republican National Convention on behalf of her husband Bob (of course).  I remember being so moved by her words but more so by her presence. She began her speech by saying,

“Now, you know, tradition is that speakers at the Republican National Convention remain at this very imposing podium. But tonight I’d like to break with tradition for two reasons — one, I’m going to be speaking to friends, and secondly, I’m going to be speaking about the man I love. And it’s just a lot more comfortable for me to do that down here with you.”

As a young woman, a conservative, and admittedly idealistic 19-year-old college student, you can imagine the impression she made on me. The whole time she was speaking I kept thinking, “what a classy lady. I want to be like her one day.” Little did I know at the time that, in only a few short years, I would be working in the U.S. Senate and attend the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, not to mention passing Senator Elizabeth Dole in the halls of Congress on a regular basis.

The next stop on my journey was the year 2000. Y2K had failed to destroy the world and I was back in Memphis after a brief stint as a one-man-band TV news reporter in suburban Atlanta. It was a typical sweltering August day when I got a postcard inviting me to a campaign stop for presidential candidate George W. Bush — only two miles from my parents house in Bartlett. Of course I went and I was so incredibly fired up by the experience that I emailed my friend Jay from Union who was working for our Congressman, Ed Bryant, and asked him if he knew of any jobs in Washington. It just so happened that our senior U.S. Senator Fred Thompson had an entry-level position open. A few weeks later, I’m on a flight to DC and on September 11, 2000 I began my nearly 8 year career working on Capitol Hill.

To bring it all full circle, I was working on the Hill when President Reagan passed away. It was one of the highlights of my time in DC, to have the opportunity to participate in several memorial services and events to celebrate the life and legacy of a leader who I so admired and respected, even from such a young age.

I do not come from an overtly political family. We never went to fundraisers or campaign events or anything like that. We are hard-working, military and war veterans, public school retirees and small business owners who believe the best way to order life is God, Family, Country. You work hard and you earn your way… this was the essence of being American. Yet it is upon this foundation that my exposure, experiences and interactions with conservative republican ideology significantly shaped, not only my future voting decisions, but the trajectory of my career and where I would spend the majority of my adult life thus far. After reading the above referenced New York Times article, you can see the that author’s observations played out in my own life.

Certainly there are other factors involved in shaping the political ideology of an individual, much more so a generation. But as a late 30’s Gen-X-er, mother to (nearly) three children all under age 3, I can’t help but think about how the landscape will look as my children become aware of the world around them and how the cultural majority will influence their own ideologies whether I agree with that influence or not. I am especially curious to see what becomes of the oft analyzed and mystified “Millennial’s” and how they will (or won’t) leave a lasting mark that shapes the political views of my own little brood.

Reading this article was a refreshing reminder that, while there is nothing new under the sun, it is also true that the times are always changing and shifting. Events both predictable and completely out of our control all play a large part in shaping both political ideologies and public opinion. It will be interesting to review these observations 10 years from now and see if history does in fact repeat itself, as it so reliably has since the beginning.  

“The only constant is change” – Heraclitus of Ephesus (535-475 BC)

Posted in Life as I Know It | Leave a comment

Lent, Fasting and Me

Nearly two months in to 2014 and this is my first post. I am very pleased to tell you that I have been busy reading my chronological Bible as I indicated my intention to do in my last post of 2013. I have read through Genesis, Job and Exodus along with John 1 (alongside Genesis 1) and a few Psalms spattered in here and there. So far its been great. I am very glad to discover this chronological reading of the Bible. It is the fresh perspective I needed to bring these readings to life, especially the tough “books of Law.” I start Leviticus tomorrow. Pray for me.

I have several ideas for blogs whirling around in my mind, alas I have not made time to write. I really enjoyed my “month of writing” last November and I thought it would spur me on to continue writing regularly. It didn’t. I haven’t. But I hope that is about to change.

Growing up Southern Baptist in West Tennessee, I never really knew much about observing Lent. I scarcely recall seeing anyone with ash on their forehead until I moved to Washington, DC. Ash Wednesday on Capitol Hill is probably a bigger day for St. Joseph’s than Christmas or Easter Sunday combined. My first Ash Wednesday on the Hill, I was so fascinated by all the people around me who, apparently, observed Lent. I actually felt I was in the minority because I didn’t have the cross of ash swiped across my brow. This naturally led to some investigating and educating on my part, to learn more about Ash Wednesday, Lent and what it all had to do with Easter.

In my investigating, I began to understand that many of my friends — particularly the non-Catholics/Episcopalians — observed Lent as a way to practice fasting and focus on eternal things leading up to Holy Week and Easter.  In my religious tradition, the teaching on fasting was as scarce as fasting itself. So over the last 10 or so years I have researched this important Christian discipline. I practiced it a few times surrounding my mission trips, but I suppose I am not supposed to tell you that since our fasting should be done in secret (Matthew 6:16-18).

Nonetheless, I have never practiced a fast longer than a day at most (sundown to sundown). I have wanted to. I have prayed about it. But I never did it. At one point I thought I should be “led” to fast, and while the Bible does not expressly command Christians to fast; I am not sure that we should wait on specific “leading” to do what appears to be a beneficial thing for all Christians to do. Fasting and prayer went hand-in-hand for Jesus, and if my goal, as his disciple, is to follow his ways, then perhaps I need to examine why I don’t already practice this spiritual discipline, rather than wonder “if” I should.

I recently read the book “7” by Jen Hatmaker. According to her website, “7” is the true story of how Jen took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence. In other words, she fasted for 7 months, each month fasting from a different area of excess including: media, stress, possessions, shopping, food, clothes, and waste. The book is a journal of her experiences with this fast.

Talk about a page-turner! I read “7” in about 2 days because I had to know how it ended :) I now plan to go back and reread it slowly and deliberately, and discuss it with some women who are much wiser than me! However, in the process of reading “7” among other things God has been teaching me, I have decided to do a fast of my own.

Aligning with Lent, I will fast from social media until Easter Sunday. Social media meaning all of it: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and, yes, even this blog. At first I thought that eliminating social media from my life may actually enable me to actually do some writing! And I hope that is some of the “fruit” of this time, but as I prayed about it I am certain that God was saying, to really do this in a powerful way, I need to fast from all of it, including the blog. So if writing does come out of this fast, the posts will come after Easter.

Despite Matthew 6:16-18, I am telling you that I am fasting, largely because I don’t want folks to think I fell off the face of the earth. The fact that I would even write that is indicative of the necessity of this fast, as if the world would even notice my voice removed from the online conversation.

Social media is amazing and wonderful and its the standard for how we share information. I am not hating on it and I am not leaving it forever. I am fasting from it because I want to take some time to focus on the most important relationship I have: my relationship with God through Jesus Christ. And when I return to social media, my prayer is that I will return with clear boundaries in place to ensure that I do not allow this to become a dominate force in my life. If we are honest, I think that we can all relate to times when Facebook takes over our life. It sounds pathetic, but its true and its a temptation that all of us will face if we haven’t already.

I know this is not an original concept. I am one in a very long line of many who have taken a social media “break” so I know I am in good company here. But for me, I am at a point where I want to go deeper in my walk with the Lord. Reading “7” really challenged me. I may even consider following her example and fasting from other areas of excess in the coming months. But to start, I knew without a doubt that my BIGGEST area of excess is social media. I recently had this thought, that one day when I stand before the Lord, he may look at me and say, “Really AnnieLaurie? Really?? You spent THAT MUCH TIME on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc etc etc” at the expense of other things that have much more value — especially “in real life” relationships and experiences.

So we will see how this fast goes. As I said, I begin the fast with Lent on Wednesday, March 5 and will continue through Easter Sunday. I really really hope that this time of quieting my mind from all the noise results in many new blog entries. But my primary focus during this fast will be on enriching my relationship with the Lord, and if that includes writing than I will be a very happy girl!

Have any of you fasted like this? Any tips for a beginner? :) Let me know!

Lent

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My Focus for 2014

I began 2013 committing to focus on one word for the year: Believe. This turned into Believing God and a secondary focus on God’s Promises. I set out to scour the Bible to learn about God’s promises and how I could rightly apply those promises to my life. This was, in a way, my mission statement for the year.

As 2013 comes to a close I realize that, while I have learned much and been given many opportunities to “Believe God,” I still have so, so much to learn… about the Bible. In my pursuit of God’s promises I realized that I really have only scratched the surface of the depth and breadth of the Word of God. Perhaps one will never come to the end of this depth but I have come to realize (admit) that, despite my pride, I really don’t know the scriptures as well as I think. Why does this matter?

Some of the other insights gleaned from this year of Believing God, include a proper instruction and total conviction of the living and active power of the Word. As a believer in Jesus, God’s word is the most valuable asset in which to invest my time and on which to build my life. I think that I have done the best I could up until now. I have memorized verses, I have read chapters of the Bible, some verses are highlighted and others are underlined. I have definitely spent alot of time over the years of my life studying the Bible. But I have never read it all. I still have so much to learn.

Furthermore, and I have said this on the blog before, the biggest insight of this year is that the entire Bible is a promise. All of it. A promise of redemption, forgiveness, salvation, freedom, eternal life and more, if there could even be more than those. So for me, what started as a quest to know God’s Promises turned into a realization that, in order to best understand God’s Promises I must obtain a clearer and firmer understanding of the entirety of his Word.

So my focus for 2014 is going to be on God’s Word. Its a broad topic for sure. But I am thrilled about it because I will learn SO MUCH along the way. I am especially looking forward to obtaining a deeper connection and personal application to the concepts of mercy and grace found all throughout the Bible.

To help me in this new quest, for Christmas my husband gave me four extremely valuable resources to get me deeper into my study. I am going to read the Bible chronologically using a method called Read the Bible for Life, written by Dr. George Guthrie, a professor from my alma mater, Union University.  I am so excited to dive into a chronological reading of scripture. The readings are thematically chronological, for example I wont read the entire book of Psalms at once, the Psalms will be placed in chronological order as their context applies to other books of the Bible. I probably didn’t do a great job of explaining that but I hope it makes sense.

So I got the book explaining the method, the Bible laid out in chronological order, the year long reading plan, and the workbook designed to assist the reader in a deeper study of the daily reading.

What I love about this plan is that it lasts all year, unlike other Bible studies that typically only last 8-12 weeks; its all laid out and ready, all I have to do is make the time to read it. The daily readings are not dated like other year-long reading plans so I wont feel super stressed if the calendar doesn’t match up with the day I am on in my reading because lets face it, I am going to fall behind a bit. There is no way around that one, I have baby, a toddler and even more surprises to come in 2014.

So my hope is that this time next year I am celebrating something I’ve never been able to complete in my life: reading through the entire Bible. I can’t wait to discover all the richness that awaits!

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

But Jesus answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

 

Posted in Believe, God, God's Promises, One Word 365 | 4 Comments