Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fasting is Not Easy

The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world.
~John Piper, A Hunger for God

I started officially prepping for the fast one week ago today, although I actually started a few days before by simply eating less at meals. When I officially started I began eating more live and raw foods and with a couple of evening meals of turkey soup, mostly broth. On Monday I officially (and reluctantly) started the fast.

This fast is not water only, but more of a play it by how goes kind of thing. For instance, yesterday was my errand day. I was kind of weak in the morning and about halfway through my shower, I felt like I might pass out; this even though I drink about two ounces of raw milk watered down to a 1:1 ratio before bedtime. After spending about five minutes with my head down, I finally was able to finish up quickly and drink some diluted raw milk. Then I had to lie down for about 20 minutes for my body to assimilate the nutrients and level out.

Afterwards I was better, but I was concerned about being out all day so I made a thin smoothie to take with me as well as warm tea—I so love my new thermal mug that keeps it warm all the day! I sipped on both and still had over half of my smoothie left when we returned home and I had no issues with fatigue beyond the usual.

Last night I kept feeling like I had not slept. I think I woke up about every hour thinking I had been lying awake the entire time. I did not want to leave my bed but once up, I had so much more energy than I have has this week! Stepping on the scales pleasingly revealed that I still loss weight. So far, I have lost seven pounds. My goal is to lose eighteen, which is a bit under the weight I consider a good balance for me. I go a bit under because I tend to gain a two to four pounds after the fast ends, depending on how carefully I come off the fast.

Fasting is not easy, especially when going grocery shopping for the family. Everything smells absolutely delicious. I can actually smell apples as I pass them, and I probably always do, but their aroma never gets my attention as much as when I fast. Oh, and all those signs with food on them! Yes, I notice them always, but when fasting, they appeared to have been magnified. I do not watch regular TV but I know from past experience that the food commercials are far more enticing as well and there seems to be so many more of them. I am not even going to mention the food that is just sitting in my house readily available to my reach and the fighting the familiar habit of reaching for a snack—a habit I should not even have!

No matter the reason for fasting or what type of food fast or how experienced I have become with fasting for the last 25 years, it is always the same. It is just a matter of will, but when I write "just," it is not to suggest fasting is easy. It is hard. There is the struggle against the physical and the spiritual with the emotional ping-ponging between them. I did not have a specific spiritual agenda for this fast although for me there is always a spiritual benefit, even if unexpected and not even conceived. Mostly, I needed to restore myself and my health.

I already have less hip pain regardless how I sit, but it still has a ways to go. The base of the neck has only slight tightness after I wake up and it disappears in an hour or two. My face looks younger with all puffiness eliminated. Before this fast, I was having a bit of sinus pressure with headaches and draining, but that disappeared while I was still in the fast prep stage. Of course, my clothes are fitting better, with those extra layers in trying to keep warm.

All in all, the fast is going well. I am hoping that I will meet my target weight in the first week of February....hoping. I will say that I have kept my weight within certain limits, as I vowed to do when I was a teenager. Not too bad for a girl who used to be called "thunder thighs."

Thank you, my Lord, for the healing during a fast. Even though it is challenging, it has rewards.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Safe

When a strong man, fully armed, guards his house, his possessions are safe. -Luke 11:21

When we refinanced the mortgage, we needed to take out a bit more than we owed to pay off the balance for the siding and windows as well as the forced-upon-us buying of a newer vehicle. My husband is also convinced we need another shed to store some of the things that are in the garage and cluttering up the yard, mostly scrap wood, building materials for rabbit cages, and the larger lawn/shop equipment. This should allow us to keep our workout area clear all the time and make a couple of cozy places for our outside mitten kittens that come in during bad weather. So, by taking out a larger loan than needed for the outstanding mortgages and these expenses, we had little extra money just before Christmas to buy the new dishwasher when our old new broke...again, and the new stove my husband could not pass up because it was such a deal—I will get back to that in the future with a post all on its own, and the large gun safe that we have wanted for many years.

We went back and forth with trying to decide on a safe, what we wanted as to size, fire protection rating, and price range. Tractor Supply in general had the best sales prices on safes and the Canon wide model was ideal as to size and price and fire rating, but there were two things we had against it: the interior was really cheap with the felt ready to come off and the inside hinges does not allow the door to be taken off. We read many a review and message boards about what people did and did not like about the gun safes they had and one of the main things was the hinges being on the inside.

Now I would have thought that inside hinges are more secure because outside ones can be cut off, but actually when the door has several bolts in all four directions, the hinges only serve to swing the door open when it is unlocked. Being able to remove the door makes it easier to move by dividing the weight between two pieces rather than all the weight in one piece and those who had to move their safes commented quite a bit on how this would be an important factor with their next safe, should they ever get one. The other benefit of outside hinges is how wide the door swing when opened. Interior hinges can only go 90° and exterior can go up to 180°, which may not be a big deal for some but it can feel rather crowded if two people are grabbing guns and ammo in a hurry.

So, we spent a few hundred dollars more on a safe that had a very good fire rating with outside hinges that was also heavier. The only downside to the one we got is that it is taller and narrower than we were wanting, especially for placing it in the basement room with a low ceiling. We have mere inches and that means it cannot be tilted much as they move it from the garage it has been in since before Christmas. My husband is looking forward to organizing all our firearms, which will clean up a great deal of clutter in the basement rooms.

The "they" mentioned are about three or four of my husband's friends that are coming tomorrow. It is nice to have friends like these. So nice that while they are here, I am going to be asking they to get sliders under the feet of my very heavy china cabinet. Then I can begin to get the rest of the wallpaper off from behind so that I can work on finishing the dining room and kitchen...finally! I mean, we have been living in this house for 18 years and I have yet to anything with these rooms.

Just one more necessary step in working on the renovations.

My Lord, please bless these men coming to help us. I ask that no one is injured and all goes well.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Need to Fast

He who eats until he is sick must fast until he is well.
~English Proverb

The stress from the last few months that resulted from my daughter with the school, the play, and all that the issues that took place within a few short months took its toll on my health, emotionally and physically. The emotional atmosphere in my home is back to being normal with a daughter, who again laughs easily but can also be a bit moody, which is to say each day has its swings of ups and downs within ranges that I can tolerate well...for the most part. Physically? Well, that is another story.

My husband is still having some issues with his back that he is diligently treating; I mention this now because being empathic, sometimes I do not know what is my own pain and what is coming from someone else, particularly someone I think of and/or am near often. Basically, what is theirs becomes mine own eventually.

However, I have two issues that are definitely my own. One is that I gained quite a bit of weight even though we did not make cookies and eat as many sweets as we usually do around the holidays. In part that was probably because I knew—without daring to step on the scale—that I already was at my holiday weight well before the holiday feasting. Then I gained a bit more!

The other is that I have had a pain in my right hip when I sit certain ways that my chiropractor identified as an irritation of the bursa. I have had it probably for nearly six months and it will heal if I can keep from sitting in positions that irritate it, which are my favorite sitting positions, of course. I had an issue with a knee that I injured in a fall when skating that got much better after a year, except for now and then. What cured it once and for all was the 40-day fast I did just over five years ago.

I also have been having nagging upper back and base of the neck tightness and aching, especially on my right side. This usually is common when I have emotional issues that are even more nagging and difficult to remedy. The low back issue started before my husband's and seemed to be related to the hip problem, but now it is worse probably compounded with what I am getting from him.

I am looking old, more like my age actually. Not a big thing but even with my aging hair, my skin usually looks far younger. Fasting raises the human growth hormone levels, our own built in fountain of youth, so to speak. I would like to turn back the excellerated aging I did the past few months.

It is just time to do a fast.

Now here is where the mental fight breaks out, because as much as I love all the wonderful benefits from fasting, I also hate some aspects of fasting. I hate to fast in the winter, because I have a very difficult time staying warm enough to be comfortable: layers of clothing are required even inside my house. Since I went through that little thing they call the change of life, I tend to get feet and leg cramps at night particularly in the winter, but even more so when fasting, so I have to remember to take a calcium, magnesium, and potassium supplement.

I hate how it kills my social life, even though just a temporary thing, because most fun social events involve food and while I have the discipline to not be tempted to eat, it seems to make other people uncomfortable to eat around me when I am not.

Reduced energy levels are a big concern for me when I have need keep up on my responsibilities with the addition of renovations I need to do in the house. When I do a long fast as I am hoping to this time, I usually cannot take on much extra than just getting through the typical day. However, I will need to try to do more.

I am not certain what kind of fast I will be doing. It may not be water only. However, when I started preparing or eating down to a fast, I usually get to a point around two weeks where I do not want to eat at all. I am planning to have at least two ounces of raw milk before bedtime so that I can sleep through the night, because insomnia is another issue I have with fasting. The raw milk also kicks up my metabolism so that I continue to burn off the fat stores and release more toxins past the two week plateau period when the weight usually comes off more slowly. I am not going for a time period but more for a certain weight so I do not know how long I will be fasting, but I am looking forward to the morning when I wake up to realize I am no longer in pain. Actually, it feels like my own body is telling me it wants to fast of late.

My Lord, please bless this fast with Your healing and Your strength.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Returning of Longer Days

You can only come to the morning through the shadows.
~J.R.R. Tolkien

I love autumn, except for one thing: shorter days. That is, less daylight in the 24 hours that we call a day. I probably did not mind the shorter days as a child so much but since becoming an adult, I have notice I dislike the short days more with each year. I want to go to bed a 8:00 at night, but should I do that I most likely will be awake at 3:00 in the morning. When I was in high school I remember how much I loved waking up in the dark of the morning, before everyone else, and quietly preparing for my day, planning and praying.

Life seemed so complicated then, but it is far more complicated now.

My daughter wildly swings from being the early morning girl to being the late morning girl. The duration of each can be weeks to just a few days. She sets her alarm early and wakes up her father (when he is home) and me before she turns it off and goes back to sleep until I get her up. On her early mornings, she would get up to exercise, but when she is not so inclined as she has not been for a few weeks now, we still are waken for no real reason. However, after struggling with her inability to fall asleep or stay asleep for over a year, I am thankful that she has a healthier sleep pattern now. We tried several supplements, homeopathic remedies, and a no-screens policy one hour before bedtime to help her get back to the habit of falling asleep and staying asleep more easily. She is well versed on how the body produces melatonin when it is dark to use that to her advantage.

One thing I do like that seems to be in concert with longer nights, besides higher production of melatonin, are the winter sunsets. This was taken with my new camera from my back deck. 

Still, as the winter solstice approaches, I begin to dread it more each year. Even though I know that mere seconds are taken away each day the closer it gets, I feel as if I will never get over its daunting hill because going back down it is just as painstakingly slow. Because of this, January is my least favorite month although I have tried not to label it for years because it was not always so.

When I lived in Ohio, January was the month it snowed the most and I love snow. Countless upon countless of tiny crystals can be so dazzling in the moonlight! When the trees are bare naked and covered in snow, I think of how God grace beautifies us as we stand exposed before Him.

When I lived in Florida, January was the month it was cooler without much blooming but mostly still green. Only a few trees lost their leaves and some only for about two weeks. To the northerners, it was warm enough to get a tan on the beach, but those of us used to warmer climates year around, it was just a short span of time to wear a few sweaters we kept on hand. I cannot say that I liked January there that much but, because it was warmer, I guess I did not mind it so much other than missing the Ohio winters with which I had grown up.

January in Georgia, however, is a different story. It is a wild weather month. It can be cool like Florida one day due to southern breezes and overpowered by a northeastern and covered with snow and/or ice the next. It is unpredictable, and weather always is, but there is something a bit different about this area when it comes to winter. That of itself is not why I dislike January here. It is the combination, lack of snow but still too cold to do much in very short daylight hours.

Yet, there is this certainty with January: the days are lengthening. The days are no longer getting  shorter (pun intended); they are getting longer. From the the first of January, it goes from just less than 10 hours from sunrise to sunset to 10½ and it continues to increase at a faster pace up to the spring equinox. At that point the days still lengthens but the pace slows.

Funny thing is that I disliked spring when I was younger. I liked seeing the blooms but the mud would get to me. The combination of melting snow and hard rains would just get me down. Having lived near farming communities with livestock and fields to be planted most of my childhood and with my aunt and her small horse ranch as a teenager, I can honestly say that I never liked muddy springs and almost all of them were. However, in Georgia, we see bright yellow daffodils often in the first weeks of February and somehow that heralds in spring for me. I just cannot wait to work in the gardens this year, now that our house has been resided and there will be no more workers trampling my plants. I lost so many last year, but this year I will work on them without that concern looming over me.

I cannot wait for those longer days!

My Lord, thank you for the seasons, the ones I love and the ones that I do not. Thank you for Your Light that shines on us all the time. Help me to see it more when I in the long periods of darkness.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Homeschooling Mom Still Learning the Hard Way

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. ~C. S. Lewis

I am trying to work out what has been frustrating me the most about homeschooling. I thought mostly it is the time that it takes my daughter to do it, it that or something else?

On Tuesday, she worked through just one of her make-up algebra assignments and it took two hours, with a significant number of the graphs done wrong, so another 20 minutes to correct them.

The Princess finished an incomplete grammar lesson on sentence diagramming with adjective clauses that I estimated would take her 20 to 30 minutes but it took twice that with good reason though, as she was looking things up to remember how to do them. I have yet to check over the work, but I am hopeful as in sentence sparsing and diagramming she tends to do very well. I remember how much she used to hate doing it and now she actually likes it, I think because it has become easy for her. It has done what was so important for it to do, which was to fine tune her grammar skills in her writings.

The Princess also worked on vocabulary which also took twice as long as I thought it should.

So, if everything takes twice as long as I think it should how will I ever fit in science? There is history, Latin, Greek, civics, and probably some others I am not recalling at the moment. Oh, and with two practice times at the piano each day totaling 75 minutes.

I seriously need a new schedule plan! Actually, I do not really have one yet because I had to see and be realistic about how long it takes my daughter to complete her lessons. It just seems impossible to me at this point. Do I stick to times allotted as is done in classrooms or do we complete an entire lesson each day and rotate subjects accordingly? We have done it both ways at different times and I can only say that I still have not found what works best. I used to have my daughter break up math into two sessions, one after piano practice in the morning and the other after piano in the afternoon. it seemed to help her get her math assignment for the day done faster, but now she is determined to do in all in one sitting.

My daughter thinks she should be completely done with her lessons by 4:00 and we take an hour for lunch, which can change. She is supposed to be practicing piano at 8:00 in the morning, but that does not always happen.

Much, much prayer needed. I mean, there is the world's standards for education of the masses, and there is God's desires for this one, His daughter, my child. I feel like sometimes I am trying to do what the world expects, having all the right subjects and such, and tossing God's plan aside if it does not fit, instead of the other way around. Not only does this cause anxiety for me, but obviously it is for my daughter as well, as I have seen since the beginning of this school year.

This picture of the classical model is on point for illustrating my problem, I think. If I have all the right stuff without God's truth shining on it, the tree of education will not thrive. Though I may have His truth in our education, I am clouding His radiance on that tree, filtering it to the point that it has become sickly, because I did not stay open to hearing His Spirit and following His desires in the education process itself.

This morning in the first few moments of waking when my mind is quiet, before I have begun planning my day or even making one simple decision based on my own thoughts like getting out of the bed, God slipped in this thought: two Analytical Grammar assignments a week. Still without a full functioning mind, I thought: Yeah, that would work so well. Do you know what I did then? I began to awake up and I began to think of how I wanted to finish that course this year and how two assignments a week would not meet that goal...and then I began thinking in reality, on the best of weeks she has done four, which is ideal and what I would prefer, but our average is probably between two and three...and then I started thinking of squeezing in at least half more of a lesson per week...and then I thought, if God is telling me two a week, then that is what is going to work the best and who am I to argue with my Lord.

After the disaster of the first few months, I am so unsure of homeschooling this year. Why have I not been not taking those cues from my Lord on her entire education? Why let Him shine only where I have allowed it? He is right here wanting to guide me in this, obviously! Had I sought His guidance about the Home Learning Center for this year in the spring, my daughter would not have been enrolled and all that happened from September to November would not have been. Yet, I still have not learned; I want to plan it all out and then as an afterthought I will pray for God to bless it, because I am doing it the way I think it best—of course, I know how wrong that is, but still that is what I want to do. It is so wrong to think I know better about educating my child than God does!

So, now I am going to have a little sit and talk with my Lord. We are going to talk about every subject, whether or not to use a prepared curriculum and how to use each, how long to spend on each for the day or the week or the month. That will be for the general plan, but I need to get back to working with Him at the beginning of each day. My expectations have to change to be reliant and willing to serve my Lord, Whom I love, as He educates His child, my daughter.

My Lord, forgive my arrogant disobedience. I has cost my family, my daughter mostly. It has made me fearful and unsure, which is good because it makes me want to rely on You more, as I always should be.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy New Homeschooling Year?

We can get too easily bogged down in the academic part of homeschooling, a relatively minor part of the whole, which is to raise competent, caring, literate, happy people. ~Diane Flynn Keith

The long break is over and now the work must begin again...and when I write work, in this case, I mean homeschooling. I have been dreading it so severely for the last few weeks that I could not even bring myself to pick up any of the books just to move them!

What I have learned is that I prefer organization, but teaching my 14yo is messy, particularly so this year, having we pulled her out of the Home Study Center. I really have not reconciled with her algebra. Do I stick with the textbook the school picked or do I revert back to the one I had picked? What do we need: to review, do the make up assignments, or just start clean in the middle? We discussed it and she wants to make up the work she was originally assigned and, perhaps, this is the best way because it will give her a sense of accomplishment in correcting something where she went wrong. She will learn the math eventually, but this life lesson may more important.

I also have to consider changing my record keeping for homeschooling. I have used Homeschool Tracker Plus for years. It has been the best for me and their customer support has always been wonderful. Although at times I would much rather just jot things down on paper, there is the convenience aspect of it compiling records that make it so much easier in the long run. However, Homeschool Tracker Plus is no longer being updated and although it works except for the ISBN feature, I am getting a bit nervous about not being able to access my records with each Windows I will be going to their online version, HSTOnline. My husband is not keen about that either, because he is concerned the records could be lost, but for each subject, we have a logs in the binders of each subject of what was done on each day, from which I type in the info so I have that much on hand. Using the HSTOnline will be easier for me to access with other devices, but it also lacks a few features I like with the Plus version. I probably should buy the license this week and just get it done.

Science is the one thing that I have not even begun to consider other than getting a membership at a science museum about an hour away. I have the full set of books with lab and teacher's edition of the textbook the Home Study Center required, but I have not had to do anything much with science for the last two years, so.... Well, I just have not even looked at that book yet to make any decision, but I was thinking that it would be good to do more experiments, most simple ones. I have a number of homeschool books with simple science experiments with common items that we could do and then next year she could take a science class. There is another school for homeschoolers not far from the one we have been going to that will be half the cost, because there is no science retreats, and we can choose any classes as long as they do not conflict in time. This one has lots of electives from which to choose and only has classes on Tuesdays, so that is what we are looking into for next year...maybe.

Four years more to homeschool. Well, less than that as we are in one of those four now. It seems such a very short time to prepare my daughter and it seems such a long time to get through.

My Lord, remind me daily what if most important about educating my daughter.