Things to Try in 2016

Looking Forward to 2016

If you’re anything like me your email inbox has been clogged with “How to make 2016 your best year ever!” subject lines.  Maybe it’s because I follow a lot of fitness and mommy accounts but my Instagram feed is overflowing with invitations to join the next challenge group that will blast away my excuses and extra pounds.  This post makes no such promises.  Nope.  I will not be promising that you’ll have a perfectly manicured life if you sign up for any of these services or buy any of these products.  These are just some things I’ve read/done/eaten/tried this year and enjoyed (or plan to read/do/eat/try this coming year) that I wanted to share with you.

One Word by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page. I shared about my One Word experiences last year and I can’t recommend going through the process enough.  You can get a copy of the book here and if you’re not into pen and paper like I am you can purchase the Kindle version.  It’s a super short read but worth the purchase price regardless of the format you decide to get.  My word for 2016 is abide.  I know it’s the perfect word for this year because I’ll be working on a pretty big God assignment and I’ll need to stay focused on the One who gave the assignment rather than all the directions I can run with it.

Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace & Purpose in a World of Crazy by Alli Worthington is one of the best books I’ve read this year.  I started several book this year, but I read this one all the way through so that’s saying a lot.  She mixes biblical principles, real life tips, humor, and humility so effortlessly I felt like we were just chatting over coffee.  Well, she would be drinking coffee but I’d be drinking tea because I can’t stand coffee.  We did in fact chat via Tweets as I was reading the book which was quite fun.  I couldn’t help but jump on Twitter as I was reading because there were so many moments of “Oh, that’s so true!” and “That’s so simple it’s brilliant!” that I wanted to share.  The book releases January 26th but you can pre-order a copy here. {I just read in the launch group that there will be pre-order goodies to be had, but I don’t have the details, yet.  I’ll post an update here as soon as I get them.}

Grokker is an awesome streaming service that provides everything from cooking lessons to workout sessions – including yoga.  You can stream on your mobile device or television via Chrome Cast (which is what I’ll be using), Apple TV, or HDMI cables. I learned about the service through FitFluential and recommend you visit their site if you plan to research all things health and fitness.  What I’m most looking forward to with using Grokker?  The FREE access to the Grokker experts.  I will be starting my free trial this weekend.  You can get yours here.

Green Blender is another health service I learned about thanks to FitFluential.  Each week 5 recipes along with the pre-proportioned ingredients are delivered straight to your house.  It’s enough to make 10 smoothies – two 12 oz smoothies per recipe.  You can share one or drink a big 24 oz smoothie.  I geeked out when I first learned about this service because back in September I stopped ordering a particular super smoothie and I’m down to my last full bag.  I was starting to research other protein options but not seriously trying anything because the choices can be a little overwhelming.  I was planning on using some of my Christmas money to try the service but this morning I got an email saying that as a FitFluential ambassador I was selected to get my first shipment free.  Woo-woot!  I even got this cool unique url for you to use in order to sign up.  They run cool analytics to see how many people sign up using the link.  I think.  Because they also gave me a code to give you – reina.  I know you use the code, just not totally sure about the link.  Can you tell I’m new to this?  My first box will arrive the week of January 7th and I’ll have a blog post dedicated to my thoughts on the 5 smoothie recipes up by the 15th.

Revelation Wellness Instructor Training I will be completing a process I started back in August of 2013.  I finished all the online training and attended all of the phone based chats but was not able to attend the instructor retreat.  I was pregnant with our twins and couldn’t afford to give up five days of leave.  I needed every day to go towards maternity leave.  Two years later I have some leave saved up and the boys – all of them including my husband – can survive me being gone for a week.  I’m actually not so sure about that so I’ll probably be asking my parents to come out from California and help out.  If you have ever felt God leading you in the direction of faith then fitness, you should definitely check out Revelation Wellness.  If not as an instructor, then at least check out their Periscope account and their YouTube channel.

So, these are the things that have me looking forward to 2016.  What about you?  What do you want to try out in 2016?

Trust But Verify

God has been giving me some very uncomfortable assignments lately, and this post is one of them.  I trust that obedience is better than sacrifice.

The Pope’s recent visit to the States got me thinking about my own journey with God and organized religion.  {I was really tempted to make a Grateful Dead reference but thought better of it}

I left the church when I was very young.  I held a lot of resentment against God.  At least I thought my anger, frustration, and disappointment had to do with God.  It turns out that all of the things I didn’t like about church were things that weren’t in God’s Word.  Well, some of them were, but they were antiquated practices that we could let go of because we were under the new covenant.  Again, I did not learn this until I was much older.  After I had stopped running from God and was simply too tired to be mad at Him anymore.

I share all this because God put it on my heart to do so.  To say that it’s great that the Pope’s visit stirred up some feels in lots of people.  And to say, be aware of the feels.  If someone, anyone, says something that stirs up feelings of shame, guilt, or condemnation, check what they said against the Word of God.  If His Word supports what they said, that’s called conviction.  If it isn’t, that’s from the enemy.

And on the flipside of that, if someone says something that stirs up feelings of “I can do whatever I want”, check what they said against the Word of God.  If His Word supports what they said, walk in that freedom.  If it doesn’t, be wary of the enemy luring you into sin like the pied piper.

Trust, but verify

Remember, God is the ultimate authority in our lives.

Wicked Women Of The Bible

I would like to thank Family Christian for sending me an advance copy of this book  in exchange for sharing my honest opinion.  “Wicked Women of the Bible” is available for pre-order now at Family Christian and will be available in stores on September 22nd.

Wicked Women of the Bible

I was instantly intrigued when I read the title of this book.  I’ve always wanted to know more about women like Jezebel and Delilah.  I was so excited when I go the book that book I opened it to a random chapter, “A Wicked Woman of the Night: The Story of Rahab”, and started reading.  I was not entirely surprised to see that Rahab had made her way into the book.  She was an innkeeper and as such it’s presumed that she ran a brothel and perhaps was a prostitute herself.  So how did a woman of the night make her way into the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11)?  Because she chose to help Jewish spies and trust that their God would spare her and her family.  I enjoyed the way in which author Ann Spangler shared Rahab’s story so much that I kept reading.  I was much more surprised to see that Deborah was the protagonist of the next chapter.  How is it that a judge, prophetess, and mighty warrior made her way into a book about wicked women?

A little bewildered, I decided to flip to the beginning of the book and read the introduction. Within the pages of the intro she shares that wanted to keep with the oral tradition of the Bible and do her “best to reimagine the stories of some of the Bible’s most fascinating women in order to bring them to life for contemporary readers”.  In my opinion, she nailed it.  She doesn’t contradict or stray from the Bible like so many biblically inspired movies do.  She fleshes out each of the women in such a way that I can identify with all of them, even the “wicked bad” women.  Through her writing style, be it in the main story or in the Takeaway section that follows, she prompts me to wonder about their insecurities and fears.  I start to question their motives and wonder how their story would have turned out if they allowed God to lead them.  As for women such as Deborah and Esther, they were included in the book because Spangler’s “aim has not been simply to highlight the stories of some of the Bible’s worst women but also to explore the stories of those who might be considered ‘wicked good’ or ‘wicked smart’.”

The timing of receiving this advanced copy could not have been more perfect.  For the past several months I’ve been feeling underqualified, not good enough to do the work I feel God is calling me to do.  Reading the stories within “Wicked Women of the Bible” has reminded me not only of God’s character, but that He can use anyone in His story.  If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about the women of the Bible, or wondered how God could use someone like you, this book is for you.

I just read this on the “Wicked Women of the Bible” site: Pre-order Wicked Women of the Bible before September 22, 2015 and receive a free copy of Wicked Men of the Bible. This 40-page ebook includes the stories of Cain and Jonah. Simply email a copy of your receipt to admin@annspangler.com. Once we receive your email, we’ll email you back the PDF of Wicked Men of the Bible and you can begin your wicked study right away!

10/06 Update: I am attempting to offer the first giveaway on this blog using an autogenerated giveaway widget.  I’m hoping it works.

Well, from what I can tell you need to click on this link: a Rafflecopter giveaway

10/12 Update: The giveaway is closed and the winner is Helene!

Winning The Bathing Suit Battle

I wrote this as a contributor for Veva Health.

I didn’t want to share this picture.  In fact, I promised myself I would never share progress pictures or photos of me in a bathing suit.  Never ever.

Cropped Splash Pad Photo

Even as God was tugging on my heart to share it, I couldn’t bring myself to post it on Instagram.  I was relieved in an odd sort of way when I realized God meant for me to share it here, with the Veva community.  Although I’m new to Veva as a contributor, I have been reading the content for some time, and it feels like a safe place to share scary stuff.  You know, the kind of stuff that we surrender to God, only to pick it up again and again.  The kind of stuff that we’re hesitant to share with others, but so relieved when we finally do, and they say, “Me too!”

As a middle school teacher I do not get to participate in many play-dates during the year—they are usually scheduled for weekdays.  So, this summer I jumped at the opportunity to go meet up with some ladies from my Moms of Multiples group at a local Splash Pad.  I didn’t give much thought to what I was going to wear until people started posting questions and comments online.  Even after I planned to wear my tankini with khaki shorts, I overlooked the fact that I had to get into the water with the twins.  Bottom line, at some point either the shorts were getting wet or coming off.  Wearing a wet bathing suit home is one thing, but wet clothes is just uncomfortable.  My third option was to keep my shorts on while the twins and I chilled on the grass and watched everyone else splash in the water.  My play-date at the Splash Pad taught three very important lessons.

Lesson 1: I will not sit on the sidelines of my own life

I wasn’t about to not take the boys onto the splash pad. Instead, I opted to bare my legs for all to see. For a moment, I wondered if the other moms thought that as a fitness instructor with sixteen month olds that I should be more fit or toned by now. But, God lovingly revealed those thoughts to be lies from the enemy, so I sent them back to where they came from, Hell. Being present and active in my own life, and experiencing a first with the boys didn’t give me time to be consumed by body image issues.  Their joy (Andrew) and trepidation (Michael) forced me to get out of my head and live in the moment, and what an enjoyable moment it was. Well, except for the time when some kids accidentally sprayed water directly into our faces. But even that was kind of funny.

Lesson 2: I will capture the memories

I experienced horrible pregnancy acne with the boys. It was so bad I avoided having my picture taken and used as many filters as possible when it was unavoidable. I regret not taking more pictures to document my ever-expanding belly. God reminded me of that regret as the boys and I were getting ready to dry off.  I asked my dad to take a picture of us and trusted that in the years to come I would focus on our faces more than my thighs.

Lesson 3: I will step out in faith

I was shocked and confused when God first prompted me to share this photo. He knew about my promise and He knew the reasons behind it.  And yet, He nudged me to share it.  He gently told me to get over myself. That sharing the picture really wasn’t about me, but about giving other women permission—permission to get off the sidelines of life, to create memories and capture them without worrying about thigh gaps or giggly squishy bits, and permission to fearlessly be the women He has called us to be.  As uncomfortable as I was sharing this picture and the accompanying story, it was incredibly freeing to do so.  I love how faithful God is to use all things for the good of those who love and obey Him.  There is no greater reward than freedom through grace.

I pray that you will join me in doing and sharing some scary stuff to bless others with the relief of “Me too!” Use #lovebeyondlooks and #vevavida on social media to share your “Me too!” moments. If you want to win the bathing suit battle, check out our Bible study on body image: Love Beyond Looks.

What scary challenges have you faced lately?

How has God spoken to you? 

Finish the Work

1

I used to think that the phrase “Jack of all trades, but an ace of none” suited me perfectly.  The truth is, though (sticking with the analogy) that I’m more the queen of starting many things but finishing few.  I look around my house and see unfinished books.  Lots of them.  Logging into the dashboard of this blog shows more unfinished drafts than I care to count.  I held on to the paper bunnies from our sons’ first daycare room just in case I ever get around to decorating it with things they liked when they started attending the daycare.  In August.  Of last year.

That’s the story of my life.  Great intentions but inconsistent follow through.  When I get honest it comes down to a fear of failure. What if I fail at implementing all of the tips and life lessons an author shares with me?  What if I pour my heart out in a blog post and it resonates with absolutely no one?  What if I muster up all the craftiness I can and the family collage I create for the twins is an epic Pinterest fail?

So my solution over the years has been to halfway do something.  Either give a halfhearted effort by procrastinating to the point of having to rush to complete something or letting my interest in a project wane until I have an “Eh, oh well…” kind of attitude.

Wanting to do life differently, I looked over my One Word for the past three years and prayed over my word for 2015.    I joined the One Word party late in 2012.  My word for that year was INTENTIONAL.  I wanted to be more intentional with my time and more present with my husband and son.  In 2013 my word was STEWARD.  I prayed that God would help me be a better steward of everything He’s gifted me – especially my time, my body, and our home- and then expand my territory.  But God has a serious sense of humor.  He expanded my territory by blessing me with twins before helping me with managing my priorities.  I guess He knows me better than I know myself and knew that I learn best when it’s a sink or swim scenario.  I can’t remember what my word for 2014 was.  I know it was a year marked by lots and lots of GRACE, though.

After much reflection and prayer, God gave me FINISH as my word for 2015.  Finish the assignments God has given me over the years but I pushed aside saying “There’s someone better for that, Lord.”  Finish all of the books I started but put down.  Finish the decluttering and organizing projects I’ve started over the years but walked away from when I felt too overwhelmed.  Finish the small but meaningful projects I promised to do for friends but never got around to completing.

I started out 2015 with the intention of finishing everything I started and even going through unfinished tasks and tackling those as well.  But then I ran head first into the reason why I struggle with finishing in the first place.  Fear of not completing a task perfectly.  It’s not as though I wasn’t aware of this issue.  I just naively thought that I could forge ahead with FINISH as my sword, when I really needed to allow God to attack the lie of perfection on my behalf with His grace.

While I set out to finish reading books (my plan was to alternate between one I had started and put down with a new read) and projects around the house, God had other plans.  He started performing surgery to remove the deeply imbedded lie of perfection from my heart, and showing me that I’m not alone.  I’m not the only believer sidelined by a bruised ego, too afraid or weary to go another round with the unrealistic taskmaster that is perfection.

With God’s prodding and guidance, I started putting the Finish the Work challenge together.  I knew it was going to be a social media campaign, so I didn’t really see the need to write anything out.  But knowing recovering perfectionists the way I do, I knew that people would want something tangible to refer to as needed.  It isn’t super complicated, but I created a PDF file so people wouldn’t have to search through blog posts to find it.  Who am I kidding?  I don’t post that much content.

I wanted to share my #100DaysofFTW “to finish” list with you.  It’s a comittment to spend at least 10 minutes a day (no more than 20) for 10 days on one thing.

  1. Finish “The Best Yes”
  2. Read “Do Over”
  3. Drink more water*
  4. Drink Shakeology*
  5. Clean out my closet
  6. Read Trim Healthy Mama
  7. 20 min morning prayer walk
  8. Clean and organize office
  9. Write in the boys’ baby books
  10. Move content from Catalyst Movement to Faith Fitness and Mommy Stuff and relaunch FFMS

*I’m hoping that after 10 days this will be easy to incorporate into my daily living routine

2I spent way too much time on Canva creating the Finish the Work images and couldn’t decide which version I liked better so I decided to use both.

becoming myself

I don’t remember when I picked up my first copy of Stasi Eldredge’s becoming myself: embracing God’s dream of you.  Funny, I remember where I bought it, but not when.  Also, I’m pretty certain that I picked it up because I misread the title as God’s dream for you.  For the past five years I’ve been torn between wanting to go into full time student ministry working full time as a teacher.  Although I have accepted that teaching middle school is boot camp for God’s next assignment for me, I would be lying if I said there weren’t times that I desperately want to speed up the timetable so I can walk into God’s dream for me.

Like so many other books I have bought over the years, becoming myself went untouched. (I have a list of books to finish in 2015) Then last month, as a Family Christian Blogger, I learned of an opportunity to receive both the book and the accompanying eight session DVD.  I didn’t even know there was a DVD that went along with the book.   I’m not saying that I would have already read the book had I known, but just maybe.  It wasn’t until I received the book and DVD did I remember I already owned the book.  The memorable book cover had me searching through my library to confirm my suspicion that I had not only seen it before but walked by it several times in my own home.

As a mother of infant twins and a seven year old, I do not have the luxury of pleasure reading like I did before I had kids.  What I do have though, is my morning time.  It isn’t as sacred as I’d like it to be, as it is often sacrificed in order to get my oldest to school on time.  And when I get to have it, reading a book is the last thing I do during that time.  I pray, read short devotionals, pray some more, and then read.  I say all that in hopes that you won’t judge me when I tell you I’m only about to start reading Chapter 4.  Seriously.  Although I thought I was cured from caring what others think about me, blogging and reading this book have made me keenly aware of my ever present desire to be accepted by others – especially women.

My friend Amia and I always talk about how you can’t help people if you haven’t walked through whatever it is they’re struggling with.  And although you can commiserate with your friend if you’re still in that place, two people in a pit are still in the pit.  One of the goals of Catalyst Movement – the dream God gave me for a girl centered ministry – is for girls to love one another as they learn to love themselves.  I know that God brought my attention back to this book so I can work through some stuff so I can better lead girls into a life of freedom and wholeness.

 

Faith and Mommy Stuff

I just put my seven year old to bed.  We were praying using the ACTS method our junior pastor taught us last year.  DJ was finishing up his adoration of God – he blew me away with the beautiful things he said about God – when he asked me a question that caused me to pause before answering.  He asked “Is nature Mother Nature, or just nature?”

As a mom who was putting her kid to bed fifteen minutes past his bedtime I was tempted to rush through a simple explanation.  But as a former worshiper of Mother Earth, I knew better than to brush off his question.  So I told him, “There’s the short explanation and the long one.  Which one would you prefer?”  In typical DJ fashion he answered my question with one of his own. “Which one will give more information?”  So the long answer it was.

I’ll spare you all the details, though, and get to the thing I said that God used as a nudging reminder for me.  “When I see a beautiful sunset, I acknowledge the beauty of the sunset but I do not worship it.  I say what an awesome artist God is and give Him all the glory.  Why would we worship the created instead of the One who created it?”

I could tell from his breathing that he was fading.  To check for understanding and also to see if he was still awake I asked him, “Tu intiendes?”  He nodded and softly said “Yes”.

I’m so grateful that I get to put my kid to bed still.  To pray with him and have him ask me questions.  I don’t know how much longer he’ll want to cuddle and pray together, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

What’s your bedtime routine like with your kids?  Do you follow a particular prayer pattern?