Sunday, December 14, 2008

Grrr... Relief Society

I had the chance to attend two of my block meetings today. It's the first Sunday I've had off in months, so I was really excited. My best friend recently informed me that she wanted to read more of what God was doing in my life as opposed to what I am always thinking about. So today was a chance for me to attend GP's first service and then go to my LDS services and sort of compare how I feel and if God was speaking to me (and what He was saying) at both places on the same day.

Grace Point's series right now is about how the Christmas story is for everyone, especially people with a past (or secrets). I didn't feel very interested in the sermon itself, but felt very grateful for the message and the reminder. Now, this isn't a negative point about Grace Point, rather a personal observation, but because Pastor Hudson is always reminding us about God's mercy, grace, and love; it's almost a message that is taken for granted (by me). (Does that make sense? I really appreciate the drastic contrast to "fire and brimstone" preaching that many think of within conservative Christianity.)

A few months ago, I was upset with Grace Point and even considered leaving because one particular sermon briefly mentioned the teachings of other religions. This is a super, perhaps even hyper sensitive area for me. I hate it with a passion when other churches discuss those who believe differently than themselves. You might even say I loose all common sense in my outrage.
So today during Relief Society when the teacher began discussing other churches (she doesn't say in so many words Protestant Christian churches, but it was implied) and another member criticised the Catholic church over their voting directions I was beyond outraged. It makes me wonder if I am blinded by a romantic view of the LDS church and perhaps today's lesson in RS was simply the real application and perhaps even teachings of the LDS church. I have noticed General Conferences become more defensive, more apologetic in nature. Yet, I don't truly believe that the LDS church would encourage it's members to teach or even behave as they did today within the walls of the RS room.

I'll try to explain a little more. Today's lesson was about seeking and gaining knowledge in eternal truths (you can read the lesson here). It was a great lesson and had so much potential to remind us to be in the world but not of it, to be immovable in our beliefs, and to constantly be seeking Heavenly Father, His will, and a more intimate relationship with Him through prayer and study. It could have been an amazing, Spirit filled discussion.

But it was not.

It was about how other churches teach anti-Mormon classes (not sure how exactly she phrased this), how other churches limit their beliefs by creeds, etc (this part is in the lesson but the delivery was far from loving or kind), and how other churches seem to forget the loving kindness and tender mercies of Heavenly Father and are always teaching on the wrath of God. This greatly disturbed me because my Gospel Doctrine class had mentioned this as well - the same line of thought within the space of 2 hours. And just today I had been marveling without any gratitude at how yet again Pastor Hudson was preaching another sermon on God's mercy, grace, and love. So he doesn't use the term, "tender mercies" but the teaching is the same. One member shared her thoughts on the rigid teachings of the Catholic church and how it impaired their members because their members were told how to vote and this could sometimes conflict with their social lives, etc. WHAT?! I remember wanting to scream at this lady, "Yeah and what about Prop. 8 in CA?"

Members discussed how because churches limited themselves to certain ideas, etc. that they were not open minded and that this was a bad thing. WHAT?! I can remember Young Women themes (it's a yearly thing) and even Relief Society themes on being IMMOVABLE. How is this ANY different? If the room had been larger, like Grace Point's main worship area, I would have stood up and left. I was livid. This was the church I was so aching to return to?! What was I thinking?

Even as angry as I was, I tried to think in terms of God speaking to me. What was He saying to me? Since I've written my last blog, I've been asked to do two different things at Grace Point, out of seemingly nowhere. Of course I've been asked to volunteer again there. Of course. Is this a God thing? Not sure. And of course the first time in over a month or two of my last exciting and great visit to the Church, it goes horribly, seethingly, wrong. I couldn't get out of the building, much less the parking lot fast enough.

I'm angry. I really really want to return to the Church. However, I absolutly do not want to return to a ward of people who don't even think non-Mormons would be in spirit PARADISE but rather spirit prision (aka hell). This boggles the mind. More thinking to do. And of course, this was the very center, the very heart, of why I left the LDS church in the first place. I guess I'll be at Grace Point longer than I had planned.

On Saturday a lady from GP said to me (something along these lines), that when we thinking indpenedntly, we are thinking indenpendt from God. Great thoughts, hard application.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I caught the Twilight bug...

I caught the Twilight bug. It was totally unintentional and I wasn't even interested in the young adult books. In fact, it took the proding of my husband to even get me to be interested in seeing the movie or reading the books. Just didn't look like my kind of reading - apologetic, non-fictional, historical, or other Christian study books. Just not me. I don't read fiction anymore, too mindless and boring. Yuh-huh... I was very wrong.

We went and saw the movie at the end of November, and I was vaguely interested in reading the book. The movie seemed to hiccup and I wondered if there was more to it. So I picked up the first book at Wal-Mart for $7. It looked like it had been cut wrong and was probably discounted because of it's weird shape and crooked pages. I didn't care. I finished it in less than two days. Reading at every stop light, on every break at work, staying up late at night. I love to read but I haven't read like this since I was in college or maybe even highschool. There just hasn't been enough time or anything that has held my interest. I finished the whole series in less than a week. Even read the partial of Midnight Sun on Meyer's official website.

After I devoured the book, as I pondered the whole hype involved with the fans, I wondered since this book was being deemed the next Harry Potter, if conservative Evangelical Christians would react the same as they had to HP. Meyer is also a devout Mormon, and I wondered how much this would play into the equation.

Both Joseph Smith, Jr. and Brigham Young taught that we (LDS) are to seek Truth, wherever it may come from. A lot of non-LDS Christians, and even some LDS, have wrongly interpreted this to mean that we (LDS) are to go gallivant with the Devil and other things ungodly, totally unhindered because we are "seeking" Truth. While I write this, I think of a particular poster on the MAD boards who practices witchcraft/magic and is a temple holding LDS. This is between him and God, although the LDS church is very clear on it's teachings that members should have nothing to do with the Devil or his tools, trappings, etc on this Earth (think Tarrot cards or palm readings). Many conservatives are discussing how if Meyer was a Biblical Christian she wouldn't be writing something like this - glorifying vampires (because you know, they're soooo real and as such we just cannot glorify those evil demons... :P ). Whatever happened to interesting fiction with parental supervision? If one has a stumbling block of demons, the occult, etc. then use your own best judgement and don't read it.

Andrew C. Skinner and Robert L. Millet, C. S. Lewis, the Man and His Message: An
LDS Perspective , p.6
At the same time, we are eager to find truth
wherever we can and excited to acknowledge it from whomever it flows. Joseph
Smith stated: "One of the grand fundamental principles of `Mormonism' is to
receive truth, let it come from whence it may." As
Latter-day Saints we are in an interesting and somewhat awkward position in the
Christian world. We claim divine apostolic authority and claim to be possessors
of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. At the same time, we fully acknowledge
that God is working His will through men and women throughout the earth, and
that "every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in
Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know
with a perfect knowledge it is of God" (Moro. 7:16). President
Ezra Taft Benson explained that our Heavenly Father uses the people of the
earth, especially good people, to accomplish His purposes. "It has been true in
the past, it is true today, it will be true in the

What I love about this is that the LDS church does acknowledge how God uses those outside of the Church. This is the correct understanding of seeking Truth, "let it come from whence it may" and other simiular teachings. I also take this, for me personally, that we are to understand that just as the Bible states that the rocks cry out in testimony to Him, so do those apart from the Church. Personally, I take no issue with that. Regardless if they are "Christian" or not, they can still have partial Truth, just not whole Truth.

In the last few weeks, I have been thinking long and hard about returning to the LDS church. There are few reasons as to why I do not, the most basic being family and time. Currently, I am filling a shift on Sunday and so it leaves me without time to attend my ward's block meeting. Second, my husband doesn't want to return to the LDS church and he doesn't want to worship seperatly. Although I am sure we could negotiate if my schedule allowed it.

As I've pondered this return, I've considered what family, friends, and those who attend Grace Point with me would think or say. My stomache churns as I think of having to wear my apologetic hat for awhile to explain to everyone why I left Grace Point and returned to the LDS church. It makes me tired, cranky, and depressed.

Then I began to read blogs that attacked Twilight based solely on Meyer being LDS and the bloggers claiming that the Twiligh saga was simply an indoctrination of Mormon doctrines. Huh? As I read their point by point outlines on why they believe this, my mind is blown away, my jaw becomes rigid, and my temper burns. I read the lines about the LDS church's "rigid teachings on abstience" and I want to punch a hole in the wall. When the hell did waiting become a bad thing? If people don't live by their beliefs, being inmoveable, then why do they have those beliefs in the first place? Live according to belief, that isn't a bad thing and certainly not warrented to be considered "rigid". It would probably do more non-LDS churches good to be more "rigid" regarding abstience. I'm not saying this works for everyone, but c'mon, have a standard and stick to it. Atleast the Church is pretty up front about their standards.

As my anger calmed down, I realized how cold I grown to apologetics. It really simply annoys me now. And I realize that that is unhealthy. For months now, I've wanted to try to line up my Mormon beliefs with Protestant ones. Finally, I realized, WHY? Why do I care if anyone from Grace Point thinks I'm out of my mind for returning to the LDS church? Why do I care if my beliefs line up with Protestant ones? I'm past the point of considering myself a Protestant anymore and wholly identify as a Latter Day Saint. So, who gives a flip if a Protestant disagrees with me? I recently read a fantastic blog on being a "Christian". It was written by a Latter Day Saint and bluntly outlined that sure, Protestants, Catholics, and others disagreed that Mormons were Christians, but really, who cares? It's not like they can take away our Christianity. Why let it get to us so? Why allow Satan to use this as a point of contention? Paul only councilled to be ready with an answer for what we believe, not that we are to go on the offense or forever be defensive about our beliefs.

This is where Satan comes into play. Yet another move into apostasy. Taking what is good, right, and Biblical, and twisting it into something divise and ungodly. Attack, attack, attack. I'm sick of it all. Sure, there are plenty of people who believe what critics of the LDS church write, otherwise, those authors wouldn't sell books and those readers would be LDS. But I don't. And in the end, I am only responsible for my own personal relationship with God. We are to work out our own "salvation with fear and trembling." (Philipians 2:12) Not everyone else's.
I think at this point, I lean more towards Calvinism and of course, take comfort in the Spirit Kingdom where people can still accept Christ and live eternity with Him.

So people don't believe the LDS church is the only True Church? That's fine. God can still work through them, with them, and walk with them. I know that now without being threatened that I'm in a false church. I am grateful for this journey through the Protestant world, and don't see myself withdrawing from it as it's been a vitual part of my growth and understanding. I am happy serving when asked in Grace Point and am at peace with knowing I don't agree with most of the teachings there, but can still take much from them through the Spirit.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Mess

This blog is just going to be a mess. Sorry ahead of time to any of you reading. I've been behind in everything - including blogging. First the biggest news....

The Other H4 - Dan (Steves twin), Jessica, Andrew, and Noah (not shown)Our original small group leader, Donny had the brilliant idea that if we all chipped in, we could fly Steve's twin brother, Dan and his family (Jessica - wife, and sons Andrew and Noah) out to Vegas for the holidays. We discussed it with Dan and Jess and we have officially purchased the plane tickets. It's official - they are coming home in December for a week.

This is a huge deal for us. For those who know us, know our history with Dan and Jess. We were really close when Steve and I were engaged and

married during that first year. Then Steve converted to Mormonism, I reactivated, and they, being conservative Evangelical Christians, were greatly opposed. It really devestated our relationship with them for almost four years.

The last year that they were living here, we finally began to get that relationship back, attending the same small group at Donny's house each Sunday night, and overall just becoming very close again. When Dan graduated from college, he couldn't find work here in Vegas that would meet his family's needs, so they moved to Iowa. This was around February 2007. It was an incredible blessing for them, because they've made outstanding friends, they've had the blessing to be a part of a church plant (even phone conferenced with our pastor at Grace Point, Devin Hudson on church planting), and Dan even gives the sermons when the Pastor is away. We are really looking forward to their visit; I know Steve is especially looking forward to worshipping side by side with Dan.

Our nephew, Andy (pictured above) has food allergies. During the time that we became closer, I became more aware of Andy's FA and tried to make sure our house was extra safe for him. Since I do have OCPD, I did tend to obsess a little about how "safe" our home was for their visits (we're talking 9 hour cleaning sessions and three Costco sized bottles of disinfecting wipes). This is no different, although I am getting to do things around the house that I've wanted to do for a very long time, years even.

First, we were blessed by some really great friends that we were able to get our floors and couches professionally cleaned at a tiny price. They are awesome. After the floors were cleaned, it was an easy next step to finally convince my husband to seal the floors. Some pictures below:BEFORE the cleaning and sealing. (And some after.)

The tile on the left is in original condition, the tile on the right is how the WHOLE floor looked."]The tile on the left is in original condition, the tile on the right is how the WHOLE floor looked.

After the first coat! We missed a few spots, but looking 100% better."]After the first coat! We missed a few spots, but looking 100% better.

Our friend Donny has agreed to come out and help us paint. We were given free paint to paint our home with and are going to our local Sherwin Williams to have it tinted a pale green (Withered Moss) and a java bean brown (Mocha Syrup). The kids will be with the granparentsso it'll be a perfect time to get this done and then hit a movie while the paint dries. I'll have to take pictures after we paint and post them.

We might even get lucky enough to redo our backyard (again). Third times a charm right? While looking for pictures of Dan and Jess, I came across what our yard used to look like. Sigh - I miss it.

So that's all the big huge news that I am ultra excited about. In other news, just as exciting for me (and humbling) I've been really awakened by God to a lot of things around me. I was literally woken up from sleep by Him. It was quite the rude and yet much needed awakening. With all the wonderful blessings in our life right now, I've really lost track of the intimate relationship I need to have with Him. For example, I have been greatly blessed to have lost 40 lbsand so far, have kept it off. Instead of looking to God and thanking Him for his abundance in this area, I have simply remained discontented and dependent upon myself. Thinking that I need to eat more protien, less carbs, do more work and stressing about everything that goes into my mouth. My goal of loosing 35 more lbs is secular and worldly, not a goal that will glorify God or respect Him by taking care of the body He has gifted me with. Weight loss, exercise, and diet have become glorified idols in my life that I think about day and night. He brought me back to the fact that my biking time and exercise time need to be focused and centered on Him. I used to listen to worship music and The Bible Experience when I biked and did my yoga. Now I listen to whatever I want. I don't look for that communion with Him. I need to return to my time with Him. I've been so focused on the house, the way I look, and school that I've been largely self centered and now God focused or focused on others. God made this point strongest by bringing my best friend to mind. She's always such a wonderful example of a woman living everyday for Jesus.

Our friendship is an extremely unlikely one that I can only attribute to God. The Mormon and the die hard fundie Evangelical who just knew all Mormons were unsaved. Two strongly opinionated women who came together as friends back in 2006 (wow going on 3 years in March!) and have shared an amazing faith walk together. She always listens to my ramble on and on about the things in my life, unimportant really things. But she listens. I realized I was doing more and more talking with this very vivid dream that God gave me and less and less listening. In the dream Barbie stated, "I've been praying to God for a while about our friendship. And through you, He has answered me really clearly." And while she was saying this I was acting like Michael from The Office - whooping and hollering and not hearing a word she said. It was devastating to me to realize what a lousy friend I had been.

Especially since this is not God's only call to grace in my life recently. He has been ever so patiently reminding me that I lack grace with others. Yes, my neighbors are being abusive to us, but so what? It doesn't matter in the long run. In eternity, we all want to be in heaven with God. So James Dobson is being a cruel bully and an idiot by encouraging unChristian behavior with retailers due to his hissy fit - so what? God will judge him, and as much as he annoys me (I'd love to put duct tape on that man's mouth) - I am not his judge. I can simply turn the radio off when he comes on and try to be more action oriented in my protests of him (ie - show kindness where he leaves cruelty). So I feel overwhelmed with school, work, motherhood, being a wife and keeper of the home, and trying to get some alone time with God on my bike? I need to give it to God, not cut His time out of my life. And I need to be more proactive and creative about getting time with Him. I need to stop being legalistic of the things I do and don't do and return to being heart driven by the things I do. That means serving - even people I don't like or don't want to serve.

As I shared portions of this with Barbie, she shared with me that God was doing a similar wakening with her. Different stuff, but the message was the same - more grace, more intimacy with God. It always amazes both of us how God moves us in similar directions, gives us similar messages at the same time in our lives. This gives us the chance to serve one another, help one another, and to stay on the path together.

As a Catholic, she feels so intimate with God during the Eucharist and yet feels that the worship time of the Catholic church pales compared to the Protestant way of worship. I thought on this with her and realized how strongly the Spirit is within Protestant churches during worship. The swell of the music to the quiet of acoustics, the lyrics, the united front to worship God - it's all very well amazing. Compared to the quiet reverence of hymns, I can certainly see how this would pale. Yet, she made the point that Worship is to Protestants what the Eucharist (should be) is for Catholics. I thought back to the LDS church and felt that within the LDS church, that the temple is the ultimate place for such intimacy and moving. For me, the most powerful moment I've ever had with God was during my endowment ceremony. I could literally FEEL Him there with me and it's a moment I'll never forget.

So, where is God then? Is He within the Protestant worship or the Catholic Eucharist or the LDS temples? Where is He? Since God is God, why is He not within them all? Within usall? If The Holy Spirit indwells us, which all three groups would agree, then why can we not be connected and intimate with God in any of these settings? As usual, God reminds me of unity and grace. Some are called within the Catholic church - a beautiful, reverent place dating back to the earliest Christians and their traditions. Others are called to the Protestant churches - passionate people who focus everyday living on God. And then there are some, like me, who are called to the LDS church. A quiet church that focuses on missional living (a Protestant term yes, but it perfectly describes the LDS church) and living Christ centered lives. All people in these groups love the Lord, love the Redeemer and their Creator. It seems to me, that Jesus stated that we are to believe who He is - the Savior and Redeemer of the world, and that we are to give all we have in following Him. At the end of the day, I'll be worshipping side by side with my husband at Grace Point, but my heart is turned towards the Mormon church. I strive for unity within my family, rather than division over beliefs. I have to believe that God will honor that. More importantly, instead of longing for my home within the LDS church, I have to make the best of where I am now. I cannot deny that God moved us to Grace Point. I don't think the return to the LDS church will come until my life has reached the end of it's transformation within the ministry that GP offers (this is not to imply that my transformation will be complete, just complete within GP's ministry). Instead of looking back to what was and forward to what I want to be, I need to look to now and make the best of where I am.

There are amazing people on the journey at GP, people I could learn from and grow with. In the end, our heart is to be towards God and grow on this journey we call faith.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Tangled Mess

So much to blog about! I've been super busy with school. I had four papers due last week - and it was the first week! I'm taking a slight break from school tomorrow - to hopefully pack and shop for our camping trip, try to surprise Steve with a date night (crossing fingers that the sitter is available), and maybe get some biking and knitting in. Then I'll drudge back to cleaning and school work. Don't let me fool you though, I love being back in school.

We lowered our gas again! Don't let the sign fool you, this picture was taken while we were changing the prices. Our regular unleaded (87) is now only $2.29 a gallon and our E-85 is $2.18 a gallon. Keep checking in with my blog, because there is going to be an AMAZING community outreach at the end of November. Unlike anything we've ever had at our store that I am just super super excited about. Also, Papau's prediction is - that by the end of the month, we just might be at or maybe even under $2 a gallon. Just a few short months ago, we were in the low to mid four dollars a gallon. It's amazing how quickly it's dropping.

I voted! i tried a couple of times to go to Early Voting here in Vegas, but each time the line was INSANELY long. Of course, 50% of the votes came from Early Voting - so that explains the lines. Which left me to vote on Election Day. There was something corny and exciting about doing so. I was terrified of long lines, but was able to walk right in and vote. It was excellent. However, I was surprised by my sudden moral issues that came with voting. I've never been a "pro-life" advocate in the sense that I wish to make abortion illegal. Obviously, I am for all life and disagree with both abortion and the death penalty due to my reading of the Bible, but never wish to impose my religious beliefs on other who do not share them. However, upon understanding the Mr. Obama did not only support a woman's choice to choose but also advocated partial birth/late term abortions and actually voted to legislate that babies who survive abortions to be killed made me physically ill.

But Obama's record on abortion is extreme. He opposed the ban on partial-birth abortion -- a practice a fellow Democrat, the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, once called "too close to infanticide." Obama strongly criticized the Supreme Court decision upholding the partial-birth ban. In the Illinois state Senate, he opposed a bill similar to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which prevents the killing of infants mistakenly left alive by abortion. And now Obama has oddly claimed that he would not want his daughters to be "punished with a baby" because of a crisis pregnancy -- hardly a welcoming attitude toward new life.

I am a registered Democrat who believes in the values of the party, I really like President Elect Obama - but as I stood in that poll, I realized I could not vote for someone who murdered babies. Not just babies that I believe are babies because of my religion, but full blown BORN - late term babies. However, I could not vote for McCain or Alaska Barbie either. McCain was an amazing candidate, but I just didn't want to risk another four years of the last 8 years. So I voted for someone we discussed at our Potluck and Politics gathering at a former ward member's house. A Libertarian of all things. I am a little nervous about Democrats (regardless that I AM one of course) having so much power in the House, Senate, and now White House. There are supposed to be a thing called checks and balances. As much as I like Obama, I also worry about the "catch". Nothing is this good, you know? Something is wrong here, and I'm not quite sure what. I am extremly happy Republicans no longer have control of this country. Thank you God.

On Rav, we did a swap and I got my package today. I was so super excited. It felt like Christmas and I cannot wait for the next one. I am already planning it out.

School has been flying by this past week. I have got to work on getting a schedule and doing some time management. I've been literally exhausted since school began - writing papers, posting to threaded discussions and doing my reading assignments. I cannot wait for a break tomorrow. I'm hoping to go see Fireproof. Not a movie I originally wanted to see as it has Kirk Cameron in it and faith based movies tend to be more corny than good. However, after viewing the trailer for it, I am hooked.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Steve hasn't exactly understood why I have totally and completly overwhelmed this week. School started this week - I have two classes right now. Contemporary Business Communication (COM 140) and Skills for learning in info age (GEN 105). In these classes, I have to post my participation three times a week and have three writing assignments (two small and one big one) due every week. Yikes! I've been doing my best to keep caught up with the reading assignments, the posts, and writing my papers. I thought I was doing really well since in my COM 140 class I had completed both reading assignments and posted in the DQ (Discussion Question) threads. I've already started my "big" assignment that's not due until Sunday and was feeling pretty capable. In my GEN 105 class - I have a small paper due tonight, another small one due Friday, and a large one due Sunday (I think...) and have written both the small ones and am working on the big one.

Then I logged on and checked my inbox, etc to find that I had posted my first GEN 105 paper to my COM 140 class. Talk about embarrassed! At least the professor was really nice and low key about my mistake.

Steve had a good laugh at my expense.

It made me really understand how important it is to get and stay organized with my classes. I have felt so exhausted this week - mentally and physically. Staying up late to get my work done, working at the store (this week I've had two physically challenging major projects to work on), being a Mom and a wife - my head is spinning.

In other news - my weight loss has once again come to a stand still. In fact, I've gained a few pounds. But, my size 12 jeans continue to get baggy. During my craziness this week, I've misplaced my one and only belt that actually fits me so my pants seem to slipping again. I hope the weight gain is muscle and not fat. I've been working really hard to maintain and gain muscle.

Now I'm going to drag myself to bed. Any prayers for our van would be much appreciated. I've got to take it to a few shops in town and have our rear shoes looked at. I'm officially jaded.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Another Brain Dump

This weekend is BUSY! We went out for a nuclear/professional/engineer social last night. Two different professional organizations came together - the ANS (American Nuclear Society) chapter from UNLV (surrounded by those who hold Master's Degrees and currently in school for their PhDs was tiny bit intimidating!) and Steve's organization of NAYGN (North American Young Generation Nuclear). Plus, earlier that same day - we took Steve's Mom and Dad out to eat for their birthdays. Plus we had major cleaning to do since we were having a babysitter over that night for the social.

This morning was the local National Pit Bull Awareness Day held by Monsiour Pit Bull Rescue (10 am - 2pm) and tonight we have Halloween plans with Steve's co-workers from ISSI and BSC to go to the Spring's Preserve for their Halloween special. Whew! We were supposed to go camping - but um, didn't have the time. :(

I've been weighing in at 171.2 - SO close to that 40 lb mark now! I am so excited. For one, Cosmo put out an article (actually a few good ones for a change in their magazine) this month about healthy eating and exercise. After reading this, I've added The Runner's Diet to my Amazon Christmas Wishlist. Sounds like a fantastic book. And I am seriously considering buying into the Nutrisystem program for these next few months. I'll have to read up more on it - because lots and lots of protein is VERY important to me due to my biking routine. I'm just growing weary of trying to plan our entire family's meals around my protein diet when the kids are less than thrilled about it. No way do I want to make two meals each seating - one for me and one for the rest of the family. Grrr...

I've also picked up some Muscle Milk. I was reading the ingredients this morning - and I'm just a tiny bit skeptical on how good this is for me. It's something crazy like 230 or 250 calories per serving (WOW) and it says 25g of protein. I am trying very hard to get as much protein in my system as possible to really make sure I do not burn any muscle mass on my rides. I also picked up some (I believe) Garlic and Cayenne supplements (I read that these spices help boost metabolism) - I forget what exactly it was, but it was spicy spice. :) I want to really crunch down on the last leg of this weight loss before Christmas arrives.

School starts Monday. I am very nervous. I've already started my first reading assignment - about a great topic. Blogs and the affect they have on business. So far, it's proven to be an excellent and interesting article. It really reminds me how far behind some people can be in technology. The stories it provides are very interesting as well - from a young man fired from Google for blogging about his experiences as a new hire, to someone who blogged about Netflix in a negative manner and then became their informant due to the high response he got. Wow. All this from blogging. Who knew?

I am not thrilled to be a Psychology major, but it's the stepping stone to my Ethology Masters.

T-Mobile launched their G1 phone and Steve and I are both smitten. The price tag is outrageous BUT being the nerds that we are, we are seriously considering investing in atleast one of these phones if not two. We are such geeks I swear. This phone is amazing.

Well, that's enough blogging for now - I must get off my rear and go workout and get ready for our Halloween outing. Have a great weekend everyone!

(Pics below - I believe they look utterly horrible. Wish I had had the a300 with me to take better quality pics.)

^ Steve and Norman playing head to head pool. Just like the old days in college.

^ Mr. Plato himself. ;)

^ Ashley from the ANS UNLV chapter. She had a ton of fun whooping on the boys during pool.

^ The ANS chapter.

^ The Freemont St. Experience.

Friday, October 24, 2008

God = Trouble?

So we've been going through a conflict for over a week now with our neighbors - BB and husband. This week I've been listening to Chuck Swindoll's sermons about how to come through unfair treatment. And I wonder as I listen to this series based on the book of Daniel 6 how he would have reacted?

The short lowdown: BB was our childcare provider when I returned to work full time starting in August this year. I tried to overlook the fact that every day the kids were screaming when they had to go to her house, when I'd pick them up they mysteriously had "accidents" or one of her younger sons had bitten or scratched our kids. I mean, Paul and Anya went through phases like that where they bite and scratched other kids (although it was never a daily thing). When I realized they were walking 8 miles everyday with her to take her kindergarten daughter K to school - I began leaving them our van. I never asked for gas money or anything - although I assumed she would use the car seats that I left in the van for our kids since they were Paul and Anya's car seats. We've gone through a lot to be kind and show these people God's love - including loaning them money, lending them our car and never asking for gas money, watching their newborn baby for free, sending over food to them, and more. So I assumed, perhaps like other Christians do, that she would repay my kindness with kindness.

But Daniel learned - sometimes trouble comes because we did the right thing. The Thursday directly before our camping trip, we learned that BB had been acting illegally with our kids. The van has three rows of seats - and she would place her smallest and youngest children in our kids' car seats and then place our kids - without ANY restraints into the third row. Of course, we would later learn - this was the better of the things she was doing while "caring" for them. When confronted about the issue, we caught her in several lies to try to get herself out of it. We were shocked for sure and took the kids to different areas of the house and began asking further questions. Come to find out - that this woman whom we had trusted to care for our kids, was leaving them alone and unsupervised in her house while she took her daughter to school. Now, it's unclear if she was doing this while she was borrowing the van (which puts our kids alone in her house for 20 minutes) or if she was doing this before she had the van (putting our kids alone for atleast 2 hours).

She of course denies all of it and I don't believe her. In this neighborhood, Steve and I have often struggled with people who believe their kids over adults. We try our best to bring situations to parents' attention because they should be aware of when their kids behave badly in the neighborhood. When Kenzie kicked her younger brother Andrew in the face several times I told Becca, when kids were stoning a little girl in the park - I talked to their parents, when a little girl spit on me and I saw her mom - I told her mom. I think it's important that those in a community keep parents in the loop. Of course, these parents are more concerned about their kids' reputation and the fact that police were called (the stoning incident) than about whether or not their kids really did it OR if they had any responsibility to stop the incident. In situations like this, it's easy to see why the kids lie to their parents, "I didn't do that. No not me." I lied to my parents about tons of things I didn't want to get caught in (none of them as bad as stoning other kids or spitting on adults) simply because I didn't want to be caught. When our kids told us about what was going on with the car seats and being alone in the house - they had no reason to lie. They were super excited and wanted to sit in that third row again when we went out for pizza. It was only when we were like, "No you must always sit in your car seats." That they realized that it wasn't something good. I think taking in account the circumstances, it's pretty easy to know who to believe. Who has something at risk (in this case BB because her actions were illegal and got her fired) and who doesn't (the kids who just wanted another back seat adventure).

Daniel spent the evening in the lion's den without complaint and without petition for revenge or retribution. And yet, knowing that this woman repaid my kindness and doing the right thing with such evil, is really hard. I know God is speaking to me about this since Chuck Swindoll began this series right around the time this all came to a head - but it's still hard to think about. My friend Barbie reminded me that it is my Christian duty to forgive them.

And yet - with their continued harassment of our family (for example - flooding our backyard) it's hard. When I asked for our things that we had lent them to be returned - she screamed at me for 20 minutes through a door, the kids she babysat spit on me, and then she finally returned my ruined book that reeks of cigarette smoke with a note trying to tell ME how to be Godlike (directly following screaming at me in front of atleast 7 kids or more and then screaming at those same kids so loud I could plainly hear it outside because they came out and talked to me). I mean - we HIGHLY suspect the woman was stealing from us when she borrowed the van because several things went missing during this time period. Yet we continued to employee her because we felt that she earnestly needed the money and that we would simply go to a few thrift stores to replace what was stolen. We simply took away her access to our house and felt that her theft was probably the worst of it. When I've come home from errands or what not - I've heard her screaming to her kids, "I'm tired of your fucking bullshit. Go away!!!" - to her own kids, it makes me wonder what else she was doing to and with our kids while they were in her care. And I can only be grateful that they are okay and safe now.

This is of course not to imply that I am perfect - if I was I wouldn't need Jesus in the first place. But the first thought that crossed my now jaded mind was, "Of course - criminals always seem to find Jesus. Just look to our prisons - they are filled with 'Christians'." Which is such a jaded thought - but really. We're not the first family they've taken advantage of and since I wanted to believe her so badly, I ignored that they lived with another family in our neighborhood for two weeks, ate all their food, trashed their house, and when they moved out - refused to pay for anything OR at the very least buy that family groceries since they ate all their food. (We were friends with that family, so instead we fed them for a week until they were able to go purchase groceries.)

Daniel saw a lot of good repaid with evil in his lifetime, but was never jaded by it. It really makes one marvel at the relationship and trust he had with and in God. It never ceases to amaze me that there are people out there laying in wait to suck dry some sap (us) because they simply want to do right. So what now?

I suppose the right thing to do is to turn to God and allow Him to refine me. While Steve is angry - he already pities them and wants to continue trying to be kind to them by sending them food, etc since they "need" it so badly (which jaded me seriously doubts - they'll always find a sucker to believe their lies).

Not wanting to became jaded, I guess I'll have to take it one day at a time and atleast attempt to lift it up to God. As usual, the atheist road would always be easier - no responsibility to God there. :P

Thursday, October 23, 2008

24 going on 12...

<-- That's me in the pink top May 2007. While heavy, I simply avoided the camera. So there's not a lot of "before" pictures from my heavy days (not to say that I skinny now or anything). At my heaviest, I hate to admit I wore a size 24W and I think there were times I pushed that limit. Very embaressing. However, since none of either my jeans or Steve's fit me, I've had to venture out and pick out a few select items to add to my wardrobe. Which means - SHOPPING! :)

While flipping through the clothes, I had no idea what sizes to try on. A 16, a 15 - maybe even a 14? My parents bought me the fashionable Seven7 Jeans promoted by American Idol contestant Kimberly Locke in a size 14, so I dared to think - could I be down to a size 14? Trying on one frustrating pair after another, I finally found two pairs that fit like a dream and were size 12. I never thought I'd be so happy to be a size 12. Only 4 more sizes to go and I'll be back to a size 6. SO CLOSE!

So here I am below, a few more recent shots of me in the middle of my weight loss. I seem a little stuck at having lost 37 lbs - so I'm kicking up my workout routine with my Yoga Booty Ballet (here's hoping) and an Ab Rocket that my best friend recommended. Obviously, it's very important that I stick with my high protein, low carb diet but gosh it's so hard. I was super good at keeping to it until we went camping. If any of you have any yummy high protein recipes PLEASE share, I'm getting a little bored with roasted chicken, chilli, oatmeal, and omelets.

Not the greatest look on my face and I think my face still looks too fat - but me in size 12 jeans!

I'm wearing my favorite orange biking top here - I normally don't walk around in my work out clothes, but Steve and I were trying to capture a good picture of me right now in something that stuck to me a little better than what I had been wearing that day.

This top used to be snug on me, now it's very loose. I kind of like it - but it doesn't reveal my weight loss that great. These jeans are too loose on me now. Oh and the "x" in the back on the floor - it's for training with Maya and Tye. We use the command "mark" or "place" to put them in a hold position while we practice recall and stay.

Before my (I think) fabalous haircut. Maya and me after a run. You can see my collar bone in these pictures! Not sure if you can tell in the very top picture at the beginning of this blog - but my collar bone disappeared for a few years.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Holy God and Mud

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Two weeks ago, we were discussing the cross - and how it is a popular symbol today, but - is the horror and magintude of importance of the cross often forgotten in the mix of culture? During this conversation, one of the discussion points/questions were:

There are some key biblical concepts that define why the cross is so important. Talk about each of these truths and what they mean specifically:

God is holy and without sin

We were asked to share any example of how we had heard God's holiness explained. So I shared my example:

My example uses lots of imagery. Imagine God is dressed in all white - and that heaven is all white. When we sin, it is like rolling around in the mud and becoming dirty. Our own parents would not let us enter their all white home, with an all white carpet, covered in mud would they? In comes Jesus - through His atoning sacrifice, He has cleaned the mud from us and made us able to enter into the prescence of God. Because, "no unclean thing can dwell with God". We need to be bathed in Jesus in order to be justified to enter God's prescence.

Quite a few people liked my example - and so I simply added, "This is how my parents taught me about God's Holiness when I was a child." I'm not sure if anyone made the connection - that I was raised Mormon. I feel like many Evangelicals and other Christians critical of the LDS faith - believe that Mormons ignore such simple, and basic foundational teachings like God's Holiness and justification through Jesus alone. Neither my family or my Primary teachers ever taught me that I was the one bathing myself to become clean before God - but Jesus alone.

I thought about this all week and on Sunday - attended my first block meeting in over a year. This decision was very last minute so I didn't have anything ready when Paul chimed in that he wanted to go with me. He was very well behaved considering we hadn't been to a service with him in over 18 months. He seemed to really enjoy Primary - he's now a Sunbeam and out of Nursery there. For Sunday School - I had to choose between attending Gospel Principals and Gospel Doctrine. I decided to go with GP - and sat down. The teacher was brand spanking new and this was her first Sunday teaching the class. At one point during the lesson, while explaining that in the Pre-Existence we were all spirit brothers and sisters (one Holy Father who created us) - she seemed to have a realization, "I think that's why we call each other Brother Jones and Sister Smith..."

I pondered over how some people seem to never delve into deeper understanding of their faith. To be clear, this isn't always bad. Personally, I think some people have the gift of faith like children - as Jesus explained in the Gospels. They simply accept these things on faith and perhaps have no further desire to study deeper but rather just live out what they have accepted. I've posted before - we're all different on our faith walks, some of us simply accept things and others are students - always learning more. It returned me to the cross - how many of us wear a cross everyday without thinking of the gruesome scenes that led up to the cross and on the cross itself?

During the small group discussion, the leader (who was subbing for our normal small group leader) discussed how some groups have crucifixes, some have empty crosses, and made a joke about how Mormons don't have crosses at all. Stubborn me chimed in.

- A crucifix is the atonement of Christ outside of time. It is a forever sacrifice that is given freely to all.

- An empty cross for a Protestant is to remember the sacrifice there but that Jesus lives and is not on the cross anymore. I don't believe Protestants agree with or believe the same as Catholics as the atonement being outside of time.

- Mormons don't have crosses for similar reasons that Protestants don't have crucifixes. If you look at a LDS building they have a spire that points heavenward. This is because LDS don't believe that Jesus is on a cross or in an empty tomb - He LIVES and as such is in heaven with Heavenly Father. It is to keep our focus on the eternal - to center our lives around Christ. If you look at a LDS temple, you'll see the the Angel Moroni with a trumpet - heralding the Good News of Christ and His Church on this Earth.

It is easy to look to the cross and merely think of salvation. But I think it is harder to look to the cross and think of the Garden where Jesus sweat great drops of blood from every pore of His body, the whipping, the crown of thorns - being forsaken as He became sin for us, and the great wrath of God pouring out upon His Son. I think, regardless of our differences - those of us who are His - be it Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, etc - that our lives center around His. My best friend recently learned something that I wish all Christians could remember - my perspective of black and white, and shades of gray - are not the same for all Christians. We are all unique on this walk of faith and as such, simply have to let God be God. A Catholic with a crucifix, a Mormon without a cross, and a Protestant with an empty cross - can all equally and passionatly love God.

At the end of the day, His arms are for those who call out for Him. Not, for only those with the currently accepted theology.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What a weekend!

Well my oh so strict high protein/low carb diet went out the window - mildly, this weekend. I tried very hard to be good - but on Thursday had pizza (only 2 slices!), Friday had McDonald's "Chicken Selects" (I highly doubt they are healthy with as much yummy junk that is deep fried on them), and on Saturday Del Taco with my second helping of popcorn.

Why did I go off my diet? We finally got to go camping! And it was AWESOME! Steve's birthday is Wednesday and we wanted to use his birthday gift before it gets too cold - so even knowing that there were expected "wind gusts" Friday afternoon, we packed up the minivan (<-- lesson 1) and headed out by lunch time for Lake Mead. We had two dogs, two kids, and two adults. Before I list out our adventure, below are some lessons I learned for next time:

1. Do not take the minivan for off road driving and camping. Thank GOD we did not have any problems - and I mean 200% literally. It is only through His divine Sovereignty and protection that we did not have issues. We had our reasons for wanting to take the minivan over the SUV - looking back now, none of them great. It had been years since either of us had been to the lake, so we didn't think about needing a higher vehicle that was meant more for off road driving than say our minivan.

2. One gallon of water and 8 water bottles are STILL not enough water for 2 adults, 2 kids, and 2 dogs. I don't know why I didn't think of a jug of water for the dogs alone, a jug of water for sanitary reasons, and a jug of water for drinking and cooking with. So atleast 3 jugs minimum next time. I was able to succesfully ration out the water and am proud to say that everything was covered - not excellent, but okay. The kids had something like 14 drink packs and Gatorade to boot, and they barely made a dent in those. So we were okay.

3. Pack two sets of clothes. We were expecting freezing cold weather so I pulled out all our jeans and sweatshirts and everything I could find to help keep us warm throughout the day and night with layers. And when we got there, it was SO hot! I had my pants rolled up and stripped down to my tank top and still was hot.

4. Bring two air mattresses. I got Steve a 7 man tent - so we had room to spare. And I need to exchange our camping air pump - because the VPC pump just is not going to work since we've got a slow leak in our air mattress. We need something that can be in the tent with us and top the mattress off right before we go to sleep.

5. The tarp I bought was like 4 times the size of our tent! So we should have doubled or tripled it up under us and made a entrance so we could have kept more sand out of the tent.

6. REMEMBER THE CAMERA! Our first camping trip, there were so many priceless picture moments - and not a one was captured to share with anyone.

7. Set up the tarp thing that goes on top of the tent BEFORE it gets windy and dark. And, read the instructions - they will come in handy and it will matter later.

Here's our adventure. It took us almost an hour to choose a campsite - it was a little ways from the water's edge, but that made exploring a ton of fun. We actually ended up back at where we went a lot when we were in college. Where all the frat parties were. We made sure to camp away from the major party locations and (or atleast where they were when we were in college) found a place that already had a great looking fire pit in place. Yippie! We let Maya and Sally roam around off leash. They were so well behaved with a few exceptions from Maya who got to go duck hunting at one point and no amount of recall training was working on her. No way. She was fixated on those birds and at another point when we came upon a pack of dogs (like 4) and their owner. Lucky for me, they were all friendly and no problems. I leashed her up and brought her back to camp and made sure to keep her closer to camp (we were hiking when we saw the owner and his dogs) and the water.

The kids loved the lake - they couldn't go swimming - no swim suits since I thought it'd be freezing. But they stripped off their pants and squished their little feet over and over again in the mud and waded a little in ankle deep water playing with grass and whatnot. Sally, the dog of a couple from church, had a BLAST when she discovered the lake. She dove right in, went straight into zoomies when she came back out, and then super rolled in the sand over and over again. Maya could not get enough of the water, swimming further and further out. I was a bit worried so I made sure to pull out the high value treats and she came promptly back (exception being when she saw the ducks). On our way back from the water, the girls raced the boys - Anya and I were leading the way with the boys hot on our tails - so I scooped her up and ran with her in my arms... only to end up with my pants around my knees. That's the downside to loosing weight - none of my pants really fit me right right now. But Paul thought it was the best. He was laughing so hard. Anya went ahead while I struggled to get my pants back up and won the race for the girls. Go GIRLS! :)

We got a fire going around dusk which was surprisingly easy since the wind had finally started to pick up. The day had been warm with a light, barely there breeze all day. We didn't know what the weather reporters meant by "strong wind gusts" in the afternoon. The tent went from warm to chilly, so we finally decided to put the overhead tarp on, but did so in the setting sun with the breeze kicking in. So, of course - it wasn't on correctly. We would regret this later.

On our way out - we picked up last minute things for our cooler, one of which was supposed to be hot dogs and hot dog buns. Well, I remembered the buns - but forgot the hot dogs. So, luckily - I had packed lunchables for the kids - that was their dinner combined with the Chex Mix I had packed and juice. Not a great dinner. We had a can of chilli (I was trying to stay to my diet) with some extra red kidney beans. It came out funny - not sure why. :( So I didn't eat much of it and chowed down on a protein bar instead. The kids got to roast marshmallows for their first time. It was PRICELESS! I wish I had had my camera to catch their reactions to the crusty outside and sticky inside.

The wind kicked up so we let the fire die out and took the kids inside. They were so excited to play with their flashlights and then we played a game of Candyland. Finally, it was bedtime. Once the kids were asleep - Steve and I snuck out of the tent and got the fire going again. We popped some popcorn (I've always wanted to do that over an open campfire) and had some snuggle time as we looked up at the night sky. It was beautiful. The moon looked huge, and the lights of Las Vegas illuminated the horizon in beautiful - bold yet blended and subtle colors. The stars were clear and since the wind was only breezy at the time, the weather was perfect. All very romantic.

As I was drifting off to sleep, I look at the shadows on the tent and was utterly convinced there was a snake climbing up the tent wall. So I freaked out and made Steve go outside and investigate.

About an hour later - if even that long, the wind gusts picked up. Looking online at weather reports for yesterday - I found that the maximum wind gusts were up to 36 MPH! When I woke up and couldn't back to sleep, I wiggled out of the bed as Paul was snuggled against me on one side, Maya on the other, and Anya asleep at my feet on the other end, and stole a peak out the tent window. I unzipped it slowly so as not to wake anyone up - it was freezing in the tent. I was suddenly glad that I had packed and dressed the kids in warm layers for the PJs. I thought I could see the sun's light from sunrise on the horizon and tried to snuggle deep under the covers and go back to sleep. But I couldn't. The tarp was flapping so hard against the tent and the tent itself was shaking and moving around. I got nervous and finally woke Steve up and suggested we break camp and head home. I figured, with the sunrise happening - by time we broke camp and everything, it would be daylight and it'd be easy to get out of the valley we were in. I cleaned up the car and organized everything, then packed it all away as best I could. The kids woke up and played another round of Candyland with Daddy while I was doing this. We got them all bundled up and then put them in the car while we broke down the tent. After everything was said and done and we were in the car ready to go, I was really confused as to why it wasn't light out yet. Then I looked at the clock - 2:20 AM. No freakin' way. Yep - I had dragged us out at 2 in the morning. AH! Looking at the play by play hour by hour weather report, the wind calmed down by us around 3 am until almost 7 am. We could have totally waited until light.

When we drove into the valley for our campsite by the lake, we had to drive down a super steep and kind of scary road to get there. So I was beyond not thrilled that we were doing this again - in the dark. Steve got out and would scout ahead on foot to make sure we stayed on the road and didn't get lost, at one point hearing the rattle of possibly a rattle snake. He made his way back to the car FAST. :P When we came out of the valley area, we realized we had come out a totally different way than we had come in - it was super steep, more so than when we came in on, and I felt very blessed by God for His protection and our safety.

We got home around 3:30 I believe, we dragged in what we needed to - perishables, the kids' blankets, and such. And then Steve and the kids' finished the camp out in the living room. I've no clue how long they stayed up, but I went up to bed.

Today we got a lot of errands done and then relaxed with a movie and some popcorn (2nd helping this weekend for me). We got some new clothes and shoes for the kids for the cold weather. Paul's cold weather clothes have mysteriously vanished from our house. Tomorrow will be about getting things done.

Watched The Happening on Thursday night with Steve - great movie. Very disturbing, but my kind of horror movie. Light on the gore (but not too lite). I totally recommend it for anyone. :)

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Almost There!

At 2:50 am this morning, I sleepily stepped on the scale and as I looked down at the numbers, it dawned on - I am 12.5 lbs away from officially having lost 50 lbs. I could not believe it. Today was my first day that I rode my 25 mile commute back to back days (usually I space them out every other day so as to rest my muscles).

And I survived. :)

I cannot believe 50 lbs is so close. I've passed 20 lbs, I've passed 30 lbs, and I'm about to pass 40 lbs - and about to be in the home stretch for 50 lbs. After that landmark, I'll only have about 30 lbs more to go and I'll be at my goal weight.

Also - for anyone in Vegas - Huey's Mart:

2.99/Gallon for Regular unleaded.

Need I say more? :)

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Total Ramble - Protein, Ballon-A-Palloza Pics, and Religion!

Yay it's Friday! I've got two days off - which I really need. My house is a wreck, I need to get a ton of errands and shopping done, and would love some family time. Which this week - has been really lacking.

So this week, I've been majorly increasing my protein intake and taking out my carbs as much as possible, doing my best not to have any carbs in my meals (next to impossible for me since I love carbs so much!). I've managed to jump start my weight loss again and have taken off 5 more lbs. I'm so excited. I'm eating a ton of almonds, beans, eggs, and chicken in almost every meal. For breakfast I've started having either a bowl of oatmeal with almonds in it or a Chilli Cheese Omelet with Shredded Chicken. I am full for HOURS whereas before I was starving all day long and hopefully after being on a high protein diet feeding my muscles, my next bike commute will be easier. I noticed my last commute, prior to starting this diet, that the commute itself was much easier - in fact, I hardly felt a burn or anything at all, and was less tired than I was even last week when I initially started doing this. However, when I get to that 1.5 at the end of the day, I feel suddenly feel exhausted, overheated, and tired. And it happens in a matter of minutes. Fine when I get to 2 miles out from my house, but another 1/2 mile away and suddenly I am dying. The people I talked to about this all said that it was my diet - even though I had cut all soda out, even though I was drinking a ton of water, even though I was eating 5 small meals, baking and grilling, etc etc - I was on a high carb low protein and all the wrong proteins and meats diet. IE - red meat which is high in the wrong fats. I can still have my red meats, I just eat fresh pineapple afterwards. ;)

So hopefully, this will feed my muscles what they need to make all 25 miles of the commute and not give out that last 1/2 mile.

In other news, Steve's birthday is less than two weeks away. Now that I'm in shape, I cannot wait to use his birthday present (camping gear). We went hiking when we initially adopted Maya - I was in horrible shape then, and now I am eager to tackle it again. Although, even though I can bike 25 miles a day, I wonder, does that equal good hiking shape? Not the same beast by far, so am I still going to be wheezing, dying, and wishing I'd never suggested it?

This past week on Focus on the Family, they spoke about adoption agencies not adopting out to homosexual couples and that Christians who support same sex marriage try to support it from the Bible. Last night, on another program I heard four total reasons given for Christians not speaking out against same sex marriage - none of them were kind to those who support it. Like me. But none of their options were where I would classify myself. I know that homosexuality is a sin. But there are a ton of things that the Bible says is a sin. I know that. We are all sinners (or beggars) in need of a Savior. As I recall, in Protestant teachings, all sin is equal. All sin is covered by the blood of Christ. Homosexuality, stealing a pen, telling a white lie - all the same. But I also believe that there is separation of Church and State - freedom FROM and OF religion. If other's do not share this belief, Christian or not - they should not be forced to share my belief, especially not legislated to share my belief. So, therefor, I will not vote to "protect the sanctity of marriage" (<--- that's a prime example of attracting criticism and might I add - MORMONS tote that one too) because I will not force my belief on others. I don't see Jesus forcing others to follow Him and adhere to the Law so I'll follow suit.
Now, of course, I am on a ramble. This is what I get for blogging before my morning Amp. Which of course has become more of a mental addiction than any real need. Off to get costumes, face paint, and more! I'll leave you with some pictures! I recently volunteered with GP for their Balloon-A-Palloza booth and was stuck face painting. Shockingly, I had a fantastic time (even if I felt horrible every time the kids' faces fell when I did a horrible job). To bypass having that happen again - I've pulled out my year old face paint from last year's Halloween party and been practicing on my kids. You can also see pictures from GP's booth here.
Anya and Maya playing in Pahrump two weekends ago.

Playing with "poof dirt".

GP's booth. Face Painting.

(That's only a few of the pics from BP, so check out the link for all of them.)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Weekend

So - I started off my weekend on Thursday by finally successfully commuting both ways to work without any rides, etc. I biked 25 miles in one day. WOW. I also learned a few other lessons.

1. No matter how peeved I am when I set out biking, it usually melts away with the burning in my legs as I pedal 12 miles.

2. That people can be amazing. About 7 miles into my commute home, my bike chain came off (I stupidly shifted gears while going a high speed) and tangled around my right pedal and the area the chain goes on. I still had almost 5 miles to go and there was no way I would be able to walk it in a decent amount of time. I pulled off to the side, and felt compelled to turn around, and ask these two men coming out of a Burger King if they knew anything about bikes - sure enough, they knew how to repair my chain. God amazes me sometimes - it's the little things that touch the heart.

3. That people can be absolutly crazy. We had some local police officers at the store the other day, so I took a short break and picked their brains on biking and the laws. Could I ride the sidewalk? What are the laws when I ride the street? Etc. As a biker on the street, I am under the same rules that all the other drivers in cars are. I also find out that it is perfectly legal to bike on the sidewalk (I need in 50% of my commute) so long as I yield to pedestrians and I have some sort of device that alerts them to my prescence (horn, bell, etc). Of course, a lot of this I did remember from my written DMV test (yes I'm a nerd) but wanted to be sure of. So, at the last leg of my commute, I came to a four way stop where I needed to turn left. I waited my turn, made my hand signal, and proceeded through the intersection. While, a huge SUV blew the stop sign (more accurately did a CA rolling stop) and then almost ran me over. When I confronted them about it, they told me to stay on the sidewalk and the "fuck" out of their way.

4. That when I bike that much - resisting yummy food, but high in fat or empty calories like soda, becomes very easy. I just think back to trudging up those hills, and think, "I did not work my bum off for this!"

I have started doing some push ups each day. So far, I can 10 per set. I try to do three sets - but space them out throughout the day. I do not need more sore muscles than I already have. At this point, I think I'm starting to put on muscle and so my pound loss is not nearly as exciting. Although, Steve's clothes on me are getting loose. Even though I cannot see the pounds dropping off as I wish they were, the fact that I feel more lean and that clothes are fitting me nicer, is enough - for now.

After I got home, and took an ice cold shower to cool off, we set about packing and last minute cleaning before heading out of town. I've got so much I want to share. Of course, my camera DIED the first day out there. So mostly, I got pictures for me. I took pics of the gauntlet and the dogs that I used to be terrified of so I could bring them back home and observe their body language as they barked at Maya and me. During this walk, I think I saw a Mountain Lion! I couldn't believe it, but when I described it to Steve and his mom they were like, "Actually, those are pretty common here because we are in the middle of nowhere and people are pretty careless with their food (trash). There's been mountain lion attacks before. Good thing it didn't come around to you." Wish I had caught it on camera.

We went to the town's Fall Festival (formerly the Harvest Festival) which was a ton of fun. On Friday, we visited booths - I was on the lookout for something special for my Ravelry DAR Swap Partner. But alas, no homemade licorice or sweet coffee or even yarn and sewing supplies were being sold. I was very disappointed. Paul got to ride down a giant slide with a pool at the bottom - which he loved. When he realized there was water involved, he started stripping down to nada until Steve and I caught him and told him to keep his cloths on. :P

Did a lot of swimming with Maya and the kids. She's getting a lot better with her pool manners. And we even accomplished "sit" at a great distance. Me at one end of the pool, and her at the complete opposite waiting for the toy to be tossed in. It was awesome. I took the time to alter my approach to teaching her, "bring it" and "give". I also noticed, that as soon as something even small changed about the training, she had to really think about it to grasp what was being asked - even though she had done this several times over, one small thing being different totally threw her. At one point, she was so confused, she simply sat and waited.

On Saturday, we used our POP Carnival tickets. We spent hours there with the kids letting them go on all the rides they wanted. We felt so badly later when we returned for Mommy and Daddy rides to find more kiddie rides on the other end mixed in with the adult rides (you know like the Zipper or the Sea Ray). There's always next year. They had a blast. And of course got to spend plenty of time with Grandma and Grandpa.

We returned Saturday night to go on adult rides and had a ton of fun. I loved the weightless feeling so many of these rides offer. It's incredible and the thrill is awesome. I'm also really glad that I took off so much weight before going - because I might not have fit into some of these rides otherwise. How embarrassing. :(

One of the highlights was that I rode the mechanical bull - twice! The second time I stayed on for over 20 seconds. Steve says they cranked it up to knock me off because I stayed on too long, I told him his flattery was appreciated. It was very addicting and I cannot wait to go next year and do it again. I'll be in better shape and I'll make sure to take some pain killers and wrap my wrists beforehand. That's the main reason I let go, my wrist hurt so badly from the odd position I was in.

Steve and I have a new deal. If I can get down to college size (or look like college size) by a date yet to be set, then he will allow me to go repelling. We found out that one of his dad's buddy's takes groups out for rock climbing and repelling. I am terrified of heights - but I cannot put into words how amazing it is to overcome a fear. Walking that gauntlet and not being afraid of those dogs was incredibly amazing. I even walked past a gate that was open with a Rottie inside, barking away. But by standing sideways and watching his language (what little I know that is) I felt incredibly safe that he wasn't HA.

Now, I've got a mountain of laundry, have to find my camera charger, and now it appears Steve's wallet. Whew! Off to get stuff done! Have a great Sunday everyone. I'll share pictures later.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I (almost) DID IT!

So, I am never known for testing the waters. But simply diving right in. I find testing the waters way too boring and once I make up my mind on something - cannot wait to do it. I drive myself nuts, "preparing" to do it.

Today, I (almost) commuted to work. I say almost because I (unknowingly) left the house too late this morning, and after 6 miles into my ride, had to call Steve to come get me and drive me the rest of the way to work. In my morning ride (because I did bike home to meet him as close to home as possible) I biked 11.8 miles - just a little shy of my 12.05 miles to work. What I failed to consider in planning for the commute what the 90% of the ride there is uphill. Which greatly slowed me down. Had I had another hour, I would have had it no problem. But I didn't - so I needed Steve to pick me up. I biked home in 1 hour 6 minutes, not bad for my first time. I kept a relatively steady pace. Which was awesome considering I was riding on the road (something I had not planned on) and tend to (stupidly) want to keep pace with those alongside me. IE - the cars. Which obviously, I cannot keep pace with. I learned a few lessons - lesson one: I need to repair my brakes. Anyone out there in my readers know how to repair bike brakes? My helmet was not as bad as I thought it would be, and that the sense of accomplishment after biking a total of 23.85 MILES today, was and IS amazing. This could be addicting. Steve says, he wants me to limit this to two days a week - I dunno. Feels pretty great to know I biked home from work all on my own.

When I passed by the place where I "gave up", called Steve, and turned back towards home this morning - I started cheering and screaming - it was so rewarding to see that spot again coming home. People looked at me funny, so I stopped screaming on the outside and started screaming on the inside. I'm SO incredibly excited about this. :)

So, there it is. Debating on whether or not I'll try it again tomorrow - simply because of the brakes issue. Outside of that, I'm hooked. Now I need some audio books.... Who wants to share? ;)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Big News!

Drum Roll Please.....

I am officially an undergrad again. Talk about feeling intimidated. I am working, a mom, fostering a dog.

Hello Tye baby!

School starts October 6th. I'll be taking two classes at a time every nine weeks. The class load is supposed to gradually increase and I should graduate in three years with a Psychology degree. (I did finish my Freshman year at UNLV, so I do have atleast those credits under my belt thankfully.) I'm currently going for a Psychology degree and then I'll have to evaluate if I still want to consider seminary - which I'm still utterly fascinated by or something I am passionate about and have more realistic career options with - ethology. Animal behavior, which can range from zoos, rescue groups, lab studies, and so on. Now, how much it pays and where I would have the career options is another story. But the same would be said of ministry. And of course, there are my personal feelings of women in the ministry anyways. I could always return to seminary later as a personal hobby of interest in theology - this is all three years down the road. Whereas actual undergrad classes are merely days down the road.

Meanwhile, I've had my Halloween decorations up for over a week now. Cannot put any of the outside ones out until October 1st - due to HOA restrictions. It's literally, KILLING me. But it is also restricting me from shopping any of the Halloween aisles at any of the stores. Which is probably good since now that the weather is cooling, I am noticing how behind I am on my knitting and have been knitting up a storm again. I am also going to be a test knitter for the October dish cloth LAL. We'll see how my moderate skills do.

Have I mentioned that I have officially dropped 33 lbs? I am so excited and proud of myself. I am now biking 11 miles a day. Currently, I have to take the dogs on seperate runs because they cannot handle two runs anymore. When it was 8 miles, I think they were fine with it. Also, the runs were at 3:30 am and 8 pm - so they were separated enough that they had time to recover from the exercise. Now, even though the runs are still at morning and night - by the end of the runs, I am almost pulling them along, coasting on the bike, encouraging the heck out of them, "C'mon Maya, you can do it. You can do it girl. Good girl. That's my girl." They are so exhausted by the end of the runs that I've simply started only taking them on one run each. I am hoping that by the end of October I can bike to work - which according to Mapquest is only 12.05 miles away. (Of course that would be 24.10 miles a day.) Steve says it is probably closer to 16 miles. But we'll see. It wouldn't be hard biking there - just home (in the heat).

We'll be heading out to Pahrump's Fall Fesitival this weekend. I am so super excited. Since I've got Friday, Saturday, AND Sunday off. We'll be able to head out Thursday after work, hang with the in-laws (maybe even make a make-shift Spring Pole for Maya in their backyard with their matured trees) for the weekend and head back in time to hear GP's Ain't Your Mama's Jesus series. Or head to a block meeting. Not sure what the game plan is yet...

Either way - I am totally prepared for this weekend. I am greatly encouraged that I will get a chance to walk that gauntlet of dogs that used to terrify me and perhaps observe their behavior with a different mindset.

Have a great week everyone.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Truth is Still Truth

I have so many things I want to blog about. I took Maya out for an early morning run the other morning and for once, tuned my mp3 player into the radio instead of listening to a downloaded podcast or music. I was listening to the middle half of Chuck Swindoll's series, Practical Christian Living. I really could not tell you what the whole particular sermon was supposed to be about - but I will tell you about the message I took from it. At one point, he began talking about unity within the church. Something I have been feeling really convicted of. Really early on, I am going to paraphrase my Pastor when I say this (as I do not remember exactly how he stated it) he said to me - that Truth is Truth regardless if I still feel like it is Truth. (I do not recall correctly if he meant me in particular OR if he meant in general - but I took this teaching for personal growth, so for this blog - let's say that this was directed in general but applied personally.)

This is a great teaching which I have consistently tried to remember. Even through my current ups and downs and frustrations with the Protestant movement (I'm sure you cannot tell it from my blogs) and have even often reflected about later. Chuck Swindoll began talking about unity within the church and how when he became a pastor, he often felt compelled to correct people who did not see things the way he saw things - but later, he grew out of this. I am trying my best to recall the exact wording of Mr. Swindoll so as not to misquote him - so instead I am going to simply share with you what I took from him at this point. So simply, instead of correcting others as to where we disagree (and he did share that he would have previously viewed this are heretical and was met with laughs) - to simply think of some things as personal, individual experiences we have had with God and cherish those. And allow others to have their personal, individual experiences with God and cherish those as well (for this blog - please let me clarify that I am not making any assumptions by what Mr. Swindoll means or thinks of when he says "heretical" or who he thinks of when he says "unity of the body". I am not making inclusions or exclusions FOR Mr. Swindoll. I am only personally responsible for making for those my own daily walk). And be united as a body. I took this - as a specific encouragement on a one on one level. Which is my responsibility that I feel I have utterly failed at.

I promise to return to this. But allow me to illustrate with a living breathing example. A few days ago, a man came into the store with his little nina - wanting to purchase a gallon of milk. He was short by $2. I don't know why I did it - but I pulled out a $5 bill and paid for it for him. He stuffed the $3 into my hand. And pretty much wrote off those two dollars - never to see them again.

Today, at the end of my shift as I awaited my relief, a young man came in and paid $20 on his pump and then put $2 in my hand. I looked at him, confused. Huh? "Do you remember me? You gave me two dollars for milk for my daughter. Here it is. Thank you." Whoa, really? He came back? And brought the money? Wow. I was so touched. At the end of a pretty stressful, rotten day when I have a co-worker who just rides me all day long, this was so touching I just wanted to cry a little. Really? I couldn't take it and put it on his pump after he left the store. As I drove home - I realized I had so generalized people as scammers and bad people who were always looking to short the till and the store, that when someone brought back the money, I just didn't know what to do.

I felt (I hate using this word) that the Lord was showing me, just as I have over-generalized my customers, I had also done this with Christians in general. I felt like all Protestants hated Mormons, all Mormons were perfect innocent victims (all anyone need do is visit MAD boards or read a few select LDS apologetic books, ahem DHP, to know that isn't true...), and so on. I realized that when comments that I was overly critical of Protestants came to me - that they feel on deaf ears. Sure, I'm critical of Mormons, etc also - but not half as much as I am of other faith based religions as I am on Protestants. And I honestly wonder, why I am so harsh with Protestants. I really wonder if it is because all the (ehhh) fundie weirdos came from Protestant lines OR if it's because the bad experiences I've personally had come from Protestant Christians? I wonder if this has tainted my vision and if I have disallowed myself to allow others to have various, individual experiences with the Lord. I want to move to unity within the body - but then am critical of how others do things. It is very contradicting. I need to further pursue this in prayer and study and find where the Lord wants me and not be so emotionally driven.

Truth is still Truth regardless of feelings - however, what is Truth? That Jesus is Lord and Savior. This has always been my foundation and something I've always clung to. But the rest, it swirls around me giving me headaches. It's not really something I want to confront right now. So, I'm throwing myself into some dog behavior studies (so sue me - I'm not the first person to practice avoidance) and reading the Bible. Currently, I am in Samuel and reading about King David. Is that ever eye opening. I hope to blog about this once I have finished.

I also hope to abstain from criticism in the coming weeks. I feel very moved to this challenge and "cough it up" for the Lord.

That's all for now. I'll leave you with an amazing shot (for me anyways) of Maya that I worked very hard to get.