Oregó (REACH)

Nearly nine months into my fitness journey which I began January 5, there are 110 days until my birthday.
A significant part of my new personal fitness community or network is the family at No Fat Birthdays, a boutique fitness studio owned by Fitness Trainer/Coach Jamey Mixson. The studio or gym name grips you in a way that gives you a relatable focus point for your goals.
Entering into this new season on this first day of September, with Autumn officially arriving in a few weeks, I’m focused on or REACHing to achieve more progress by my birthday, “’cause no one wants to be fat on their birthday!”
The prompt for Five Minute Friday, http://katemotaung.com/five-minute-friday/ (I know it is Monday) is REACH.
After returning from our Alaskan cruise vacation a few weeks ago, I was so low because of all the delicious indulgences I enjoyed while we were away. For days I really struggled, beating myself up about it. I vowed I would not weigh myself for several weeks because I could not bear to step on the scale and see it move up. I could not see it myself, but people around me kept saying how great I looked like something drastic had taken place. In my mind I asked, what are they talking about? I cannot remember why I did it, but I stepped on the scale one morning and was pleasantly surprised to see I indeed had lost more, reaching another short-term weight loss goal. It was the breakthrough I needed to release me from the state I was in. Then I had a checkup with my doctor who had not seen me since I began my fitness journey. She was so impressed and, of course, encouraged me to continue … that was a huge boost for my motivation. I put on my big girl pants #beastmode and got back in the game, mind, body and spirit.
Now, I’m here, 110 days ’til my birthday with this REACH in my spirit. I am excited about where I am and optimistic about what I will achieve.
I have made a commitment to myself, which I intend to keep. “… REACHing forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize …” or the goal which I have set for myself.

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WOW, how powerful is that!

Family, friends and readers … Thanks for coming along for the ride and for inspiring encouraging, cheering and championing me along the way. Hang in there with me, I need you.

Bloom Among the Rocks

It is totally possible.
Possible to bloom beautifully, inspiringly among the rocks of your existence.

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These blooms, I’m not sure if they are weeds or flowers, but they catch my eye and thought every time I walk along the lakefront of my city’s national treasure, Lake Erie. I’m intrigued at the life that springs forth from boulders of rock, strangling weeds, litter and debris. I’m constantly reminded, it is possible, possible to live out of your rocky, stony, hard, difficult, seemingly crushing existence.

Life. Illness. Heartbreak. Unexplainable craziness. All of it. Whatever it is, whatever mold of its shape.
Because HE, our God is The a Lily of the Valley, it is possible to bloom in the hard places of our lives.

Oh it seems we are crushed under the weight of the boulders, crumbled to despair, fear and hopelessness, but I tell you there is life blooming, never giving up under the pressure. Blooms, pushing through, intertwining and weaving, slipping out of the chokehold, breathing beauty and life and hope. Blooms, opening up to reveal God’s grace and promise. They seem to say, ‘See Me, I Am your God in the midst of these rocks’.

Those boulders, they have their purpose, providing a fortress against other forces and elements that may indeed destroy us, BUT.
When our foundation is solid.
When our walls are secure.
When our faith is anchored.
When our commitment and confidence is unwavering.
We bloom life through the hard and the high places.
God gives it, He restores the life, He springs it forth as a new thing.

Sometimes it is so dark, painful, hard, disorienting, and scary as what, BUT.
Listen, God promised!
HE IS The Promise-Giver.
HE IS The Promise-Maker.
HE IS The Promise-Keeper.
HE WILL NOT FAIL.

The songwriter says, Live through it; Grow through it; Get through it; You can make it if you just – Pray through it …

I’m telling you, bloom through it.

Right, directly buried in The Rock (Jesus, The Christ).

Yes, God is giving You LIFE.

Our Enduring Love

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 LOVE suffereth long, and is kind; LOVE envieth not; LOVE vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. LOVE never faileth: ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

LOVE that is lasting, continuing, patient, persisting, surviving, growing, and enduring.

Thirty-six years ago today, I married my best friend. He loves me unconditionally.

Thirty-six years is a long time. Time that God has given to us, woven by all that HE IS. The essence of Who God is has given sustaining and enduring life to our marriage.  No marriage is perfect, because no two people are perfect; only God is perfect. Enduring Love is what perfects our marriage covenant. Faith, wisdom and reverance for God as the center of our marriage is what has made it an Enduring Love.

Enduring Love is not jealous, is not self-centered, is not arrogant, is not strong-willed, is not selfish, is not controlling, is not impulsive, is not disrespectful, is not revengeful or begrudging, it never gives up. It is not a fairytale.  Enduring Love is all that the Love Chapter proclaims, it suffers long, is kind, is committed, is sacrificing, is giving, is caring, is honest, trusts, honors God, never retreats or gives up, it grows forward, stronger and greater, it endures.

In thirty-six years there have been some tests, some mistakes, some poor judgments, some uncertainties, some challenges. But overwhelmingly there has been a lot of joy and God’s goodness, dreams come true, blessings on top of blessings, lessons learned, experiences and memories to cherish, children and grandchildren.

Some years ago I had the privilege of presenting a seminar for married couples. The conference theme was “The Race of Your Life-Making It To The Expected End” so I entitled the presentation, “Enduring Love Covenant Marathon” (Running With My Mate — A Marathon to The Finish”.  The focus was that marriage is not a sprint or a relay, it is a marathon. A marathon is a race of endurance. Much preparation, training, and conditioning is necessary to FINISH a marathon.  Because at the FINISH is where you receive the rewards, the expected end. The key points I shared was understanding the runners in the race (two, ‘together’, making a team of one) (Matthew 19:5-6); determining and understanding the singularity of your goal(s) (1 Corinthians 9:24-25); conditioning for the covenant marathon with the mindset to win (Romans 8:37); actually running the race, the huddle experiences, and seeing (always in view) your goal, seeing your marriage at its expected end, claiming the rich rewards of enduring love.

“Do you think our love can make miralces? I do.

“Do you think our love, can take us away together?

I think our love can do anything we want it to.” (Allie & Duke/Noah from The Notebook)

[Reflecting now, that was a good presentation.]

So today, we’re still running this race with so much more maturity and wisdom. We’re running it with our enduring love as the wind in our backs and beneath our wings. We’re enjoying some rich rewards too, a life well lived, blessed by the favor of God, children who make us proud everyday, and grandchildren who literally take our breath away and consume our hearts with joy.

Thank You, God, for my gift, my husband, my lover, my covering, my friend, my confidant, my covenant partner, my forever love, Terry D. Lipford.

Thank You, God, for our Enduring Love, ‘ageless and evergreen’.

Love, soft as an easy chair
Love, fresh as the morning air
One love that is shared by two
I have found with you

Like a rose under the April snow
I was always certain love would grow
Love ageless and evergreen
Seldom seen by two

You and I will make each night a first
Every day a beginning
Spirits rise and their dance is unrehearsed
They warm and excite us
‘Cause we have the brightest love

Two lights that shine as one
Morning glory and midnight sun
Time we’ve learned to sail above
Time won’t change the meaning of one love
Ageless and ever evergreen

(Lyrics of one of our wedding songs, ‘Evergreen’ by the incomparable Barbra Streisand.)

Don’t You See It?

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This is what God says,
the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
who carves a path through pounding waves,
“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? – Isaiah 43:16, 19 (MSG)

An Aromatic Perspective for Life

An Aromatic Perspective for Life

Five Minute Friday: BLOOM

We live in a world where everyone is consumed with their devices, checking social media, surfing the ‘net, living life through a brightly lit screen.
We’re missing the blooms. The blooms of God. What He is doing, saying, commanding, in and of us.
Even in His Sanctuary, we’re recording and capturing photo moments, scrolling the timeline, texting our neighbor, checking dining menus. Ouch!
He is blooming new things in a realm so much higher and wider than who, where, or what we are or think.
No, we don’t see it. We’re missing it, we’re missing Him.
Every day it seems we’re running, but we’re not gaining any ground; we’re striving, but we’re not increasing … we don’t see it.
We’re taught that vision is not in the eye, but in the mind. In the mind is where we see what God is doing in ourselves and in His Kingdom.
We must be alert and present more instinctively by our spiritual nature to see the blooms (the evidence) of His planting in and through us.
The blooms of His redemption plan for mankind, of His call to holiness, of the great hope He gives us of eternal life in Him.
My son said recently, ‘we must never become a spectator church’, but we must remain spiritually engaged and connected to God, Who He Is, and what He is doing that we may be representative of Him in the Earth and to a world that does not know Him.
The evidence of God’s doing is always in bloom, springing forth, bursting out!
Look UP unto Him, don’t you see it?

Because I Choose, I Belong

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It was so odd.
I chose my seat, the same seat, in a group session at work, where I am the only African American in the room. I sat in the first seat near the speaker to be sure I could hear her. Nearly fifteen other people sat at that table 3-5 seats away from myself and the speaker. Even when they were prodded by the speaker to move closer, no one did. It gave me the feeling I didn’t belong. I still am a bit bewildered by it (knowing it wasn’t my hygiene), but I literally have no clue.
It is a dark, lonely place where we feel we don’t belong.
It can be a dangerous place where we feel we don’t belong.
It is a place that compromises our wholeness where and when we feel we don’t belong.
This quote, though, from Ansa puts the responsibility of belonging into our own hands.
“Claim what is yours. You belong any where on this Earth you want to.” ~ Novelist Tina McElroy Ansa quoted by First Lady Michelle Obama (Spelman College Commencement, 2011)
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Here, Dr. Maya Angelou further enforces it, “You only feel free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place …”
We belong ‘every place’ so we must claim our place, our belonging.
It is a challenge when we feel like we don’t belong. To find ourselves always on the outside looking in, trying to fit, wanting to be accepted, needing to belong.
We must choose to belong. Many environments and situations are out of our hands but we must not let them frame our entire sense of belonging.  We must find the place we want to be and include ourselves through our sense of purpose, abilities and contributions to be apart, to belong. When we get out of our comfort zone, make new discoveries and enjoy the things we love and are passionate about, we make our own place to belong. We must decide not to be controlled by the opinions, perceptions, judgments, prejudices or indifferences of others, instead we must choose to belong.
It is my choice. Stretching myself beyond myself makes place for me to belong.  When I use my giftedness in a place, for a cause, in a group, I make my own place to belong.
Even when I may not feel accepted, when I claim what is mine, I belong.
Even when I am rejected, when I claim what is mine, I belong.
Even when I am unsure, when I claim what is mine, I belong.
‘What is mine’ is my choosing to belong.
Because I choose, I belong.

I’m linking up with the Five Minute Friday group again.  

Mind Games

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I’ve done so much.
I’ve come so far.
Then the reality test of whether your commitment is greater than the novelty of when you first began.
Mind games.
I recently had a consult with a personal trainer, two as a matter of fact. All of my success was smacked in the face with real numbers of my BMR (basal metabolic rate), BMI (body mass index), fat weight to muscle weight ratio, you’ve been doing well with this, but you need to incorporate this, your goal will take this much time and more commitment is needed in this area. All good to know, but it echoes ‘not enough’.
Working out, pushing myself, stretching myself, embarrassing myself, fighting.
Mind games.
A plateau, not necessarily a weight loss plateau, but a mental plateau.
Mind games.
Throwing a wrench into my gears, locking and pulling at my resolve.
I’m there. On a plateau of performance anxiety, perfectionism, irresolution.
All the encouragement I hear, why isn’t it enough?
Meltdowns at the thought of not succeeding, seeping into my determined core. I fight back the tears, I won’t be defeated.
Mind games.
Yes, I said it before (wrote about it too, http://simplyphenomenal.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/fight/)*, I know it is true, this is a spiritual battle, not just a physical one.
So, here I am, at a place, needing God to elevate my mind to yet another, HIGHER plain.
This writing is definitely for me, I’m writing through it, writing for a breakthrough.
Seven months into the journey.
I’ve done so much.
I’ve come so far.
I’m more than a conqueror through Him Who LOVES me.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
With God, all things are possible.
Adopting this …
‘We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought (mind games) and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.’ – 2 Corinthians 10:5 (MSG)
WARRING WITH HIS WORD.
I WIN!

*I find it so interesting that the link I referenced to a past blog post, I wrote on the first day of my journey … God took me back to where I began to speak to me now. Love Him for that.

 

Find Your Essence

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(Five Minute Friday: EXHALE)

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Take everything out of your hands.
Sit back in your seat.
Let your arms rest.
Close your eyes.
Take a deep breath through your nose.
Exhale through your mouth.
Again.
Now slowly open your eyes.
Rub your hands together. Feel that heat? It is an energy source that you can give back to yourself, to your essence.
We’ve been taking these cleansing breathing moments during my Nourish Up (Nutrition) class for the past few weeks. It is amazing how a brief concentrated exercise can renew you just by closing off everything and EXHALE-ing.
Releasing it all into the atmosphere, like a vapor rising into the air.
These cleansing breathing moments are available to us freely, at any given time during our day, during our lives.
We’re so overwhelmed with the cares of life and being and doing so much and often more than we should.
Our lives are a whirlwind of tasks, responsibilities, activities, commitments, engagements, stressors.
Family, work, ministry, school, life!
We need to exhale.
For a brief moment, stop, find your essence. Linger there even for a brief moment.
Releasing it all into the atmosphere, like a vapor rising into the air.
Exhale.

LOST In A Quagmire

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I am joining Lisa- Jo Baker for http://lisajobaker.com/2014/06/five-minute-friday-lost/.

We gather once a week to write for five minutes on a prompt. No editing, just raw and real. This week’s prompt is LOST.

For so long I was LOST in a quagmire of excuses and defeat. For at least thirty years (after birthing babies) I lost the weight loss battle time and time again. But that was then and this is now and this is not a writing of what used to be.

“Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.” ~ Thomas Carlyle

I’m winning now! Having LOST more than thirty pounds over the past 24 weeks, I have much to be thankful for, much to celebrate, and still a ways to go. [Photos: January 2014; June 2014]

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It was beyond my reach, beyond my ability to believe enough that I could do it. I was so afraid of failure I wouldn’t even try. Fear will do that and it never goes away. At every juncture of a new challenge or commitment I’m fighting through fear but with a new perspective. Because it is every fear we look in the face and defy that brings us closer to the achievement of anything we desire in life. It is the small victories that empower us the more. I have a goal-driven tenacity that pushes me to stay true to my commitment to myself.

[So I've lost track of time and expect I've exceeded the five minutes for this writing.]

But I’m somewhat of an ambassador now and I want everyone to achieve the goals that I have achieved and more. I want a crew in this with me fighting and winning this battle together.

If you’re reading this and you feel like you’re sinking in a quagmire of defeat, fight!
No. 1, pray and trust God like you do for everything else in your life.
No. 2, change your thinking, change your speaking, change your behavior … Change.
No. 3, take the first step, strategize for success, set goals, focus on your goals, make a plan, work your plan.

“Without weight loss goals, and diet and exercise plans to reach them, you are lost with no direction.”~ Felicity Luckey, Great Minds Think Fit

No. 4, if you get knocked down or pinned to the ropes, don’t be defeated, get back up, get back in the fight.
No. 5, give it your all, stretch yourself, try new things, you’ll discover you can do more than you ever imagined.
These are a few starter tips to inspire you – from me, an ambassador … Who knew?!

 

My Life Is In YOUR Hands

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Throwing caution to the wind, writing for five minutes, linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday, http://lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday/

The prompt for today is HANDS

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[This print is the beautiful work of artist/photographer Georgia O'Keefe. I captured it last month while visiting her Museum in Albuquerque NM]

The Choir pulled out an old one this past Sunday, a Kirk Franklin classic.

You don’t have to worry and don’t you be afraid
Joy comes in the morning; troubles, they don’t last always
For there’s a Friend named Jesus Who will wipe your tears away
And if your heart is broken, just lift your hands and say

THIS!
I know that I can make it, I know that I can stand
No matter what may come my way, my life is in Your Hands
With Jesus I can take it, With Him I know I can stand
No matter what may come my way, my life is in Your Hands

So when your tests and trials, they seem to get you down
And all your friends and loved ones are no where to be found
Remember there’s a Friend named Jesus Who will wipe your tears away
And if your heart is broken just lift your hands and say
I know that I can make it, I know that I can stand
No matter what may come my way, my life is in Your Hands
With Jesus I can take it, With Him I know I can stand
No matter what may come my way, my life is in Your Hands

Anticipating the birth of his firstborn (our first grandson), I remember something my son said. While contemplating all the things on his plate at the time, decisions to be made and his baby, at that time, still comfy in his mother’s womb past his due date … My son said, ‘there are so many things out of our hands”.
Isn’t that the time our faith pulls us into all that we believe and trust God for, the time when we must realize, accept, embrace and rejoice in the fact that our life is in His Hands. What an assurance that whatever comes our way, our lives are in His Hands. He holds us and all that concerns us in His Hands and we can trust His ability to hold us, to cover us, and to protect us.

With Jesus iIcan take it, With Him, I know I can stand!
No matter what may come my way, my life is in Your Hands.
Listen hear, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzTITwcnT9w

Thank You, Jesus
I’m in Your Hands.

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Six Months Later

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The winter of 2009 I sat and listened to the teaching of Evg Dawsolene Burrel at the Sisters in Fellowship Women of Excellence Conference. The title of her presentation was “Excellence In Maintaining the Temple”. It pricked me to the core, the insights she shared about maintaining our physical temple. Several of us pledged that a year later we would be different, we would be better, we would apply the teaching of discipline and sacrifice to achieve our desired goals.

Like so many other times, I didn’t fulfill the pledge that time either. I had heard, read and consulted with others time and time again – I knew what to do, but doing it was the challenge. Timing is everything. Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Fast-forward, the winter 2014, MY time!

Today, marks six months since I began my ‘Anew Life’ journey. It started with a 21-day Daniel Fast, January 5, 2014. The fast, for me, was not specifically for spiritual growth although it’s spiritual concepts greatly enforced my personal goal. My ultimate goal was weight loss. Fortunately, the benefits of the fast were not one dimensional but enriched my life in so many ways. The success I achieved in those 21 days has literally changed my life. More than the physical that I sought to achieve, I have gained so much more.

So today, I pause to celebrate and give thanks for the journey thus far, not finished, but a benchmark to reflect and propel forward.

When I needed to buy size 20-22 dresses and didn’t want to see myself from behind, that was the ‘fed up!’ point for me. The structured and supported plan of the Daniel Fast was the intervention I needed as well as support I received from others. To lose those first inches and pounds was so rewarding and motivating … There is no greater motivation than achievement.

Today, six months later, I have lost 34 lbs and I am down 2-3 dress sizes depending on the style and designer.

Additionally, I am committed to the fruitful performance of my goal every day by exercising and healthy eating.

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Since the fast I have continued to eat a plant-based diet and seafood, only special occasion sweets (except for mindless treats from time to time). When I get off track, I just get back on. I still have to discipline myself about my Starbucks indulgences. I’m proud of myself and my husband is proud of me too … Yay! Every time I pass up something unhealthy to eat, I do a fist pump inside for ME! Every time I finish a workout (even if I’m flailing around like I have no clue), I do a fist pump inside for ME! I celebrate every VICTORY!

Goal-driven, I make a decision EVERYDAY to win, to finish, to reach my goal.

A local trainer calls his fitness studio, No Fat Birthdays. Well, being very transparent and honest, I don’t want to be the fat girl. In order for that to happen, I have to work. Work my mind and work my body. It still scares me. I’m 56 years old! Can I do it? Will I make it? Will it last? But everyday I grow stronger and stronger. Everyday is filled with promise of Yes, I can. Yes, I will.

Oh yeah, I have Boot Camp tonight!

“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” ~ Psalm 103:1-5

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