Wednesday, December 7, 2011

John's First Snow Day

Ok, so there's not that much snow on the ground but we're still pretty excited. Yay snow!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Street Preacher's Battle

The following sermon was delivered by the Rt. Rev. Larry Benfield of Little Rock, Arkansas at Christ Episcopal Church.
Advent I, Year B
In a world in which we talk about parallel universes and wormholes and tears in the fabric of space and time, I thought I had been sucked into one of those places two days ago in Chicago. There I was going down Michigan Avenue in one of the most cosmopolitan cities on America and smugly thinking that I had left, at least for a few days, the differently sophisticated South. But what did I encounter in this great metropolis? A man on a bullhorn, accompanied by another man handing out tracts, telling us that we had better take a look at ourselves. If we were unrepentant sinners we were going to burn in hell. Therefore, we had better decide to accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior now because twenty-four hours hence we might be dead and standing before the judgment throne. This street preacher was fighting a battle of good versus evil. I had not seen that form of evangelization on Main Street in Little Rock in my nineteen years here.

My first reaction was to roll my eyes and wonder what sort of time and world this guy came from, but then I realized that this guy was very timely, preaching an Advent sermon even if he doesn’t know a thing about the liturgical calendar. Keep awake. Be prepared. And all of it wrapped up in a package of the contest between good and evil, the struggle between life and death, salvation and estrangement, a very human struggle.

The struggle with what it is to be human, the desire for wholeness and the simultaneous reality of brokenness in our lives, is always just below the surface in most everything we do. What we as a people of faith do is go behind it and ask why it is that there is a contest between good and evil inside ourselves. What compels a person to stand on the street with a bullhorn? What compels us to be so fearful?

Today’s lesson from Isaiah is one attempt to answer the question. Isaiah has a wish, specifically the wish that God would show God’s self dramatically, as in an earthquake or volcano. “Tear open the heavens,” he says. He wants something noticeable. The theological term for what the author wants is a theophany, that is, an appearance of God. And don’t we all?

But Isaiah is also concerned with that human condition called sin, the same thing, I would guess, that we call evil. Isaiah attempts to answer the “why” question. Why is there evil? His conclusion is that we sin precisely because we do not see God, or in his own poetic words, “Because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean. You have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.”

There is a lot of language in the Old Testament about God hiding God’s self. I don’t think that Isaiah, though, is putting any blame on God. He is speaking metaphorically. He is saying that we get into trouble and we act evilly when we are numb to God’s presence around us. And people who are numb need something as dramatic as the heavens torn open and the mountains moving in order to catch their attention and wake them up.

Jesus is saying much the same thing in today’s gospel. Again, we get the image of something big happening in nature. In his case it is the image of the sun and the moon and the stars doing something totally unexpected. Jesus is trying to shake us out of our complacency; our own tendency to ignore what is going on around us. Keep awake, he says. Don’t remain numb.

It is in some ways ironic that these passages are being read on the same weekend that what we did on Thursday is still so fresh on our minds. On Thanksgiving Day most of us ate so much that we had to go take a nap afterwards, satiated to the point of numbness. Isn’t there something a bit discomforting about a nation of already overweight people having as its major cross-cultural holiday a day dedicated to eating as much as possible? We give thanks, but the food is not offered up; it is shoveled into our own stomachs. It is sort of like we are thanking ourselves for what we have been able to do. God simply gets the cursory grace, sort of like an invocation at a ball game. Then we top it all off by dozing off into a numbing sleep. It really is embarrassing. Jesus and Isaiah are telling us that in the contest between good and evil, it is when we close our eyes or go to sleep that it is time to get worried about evil winning. They are praying for something that will shake us up, stop us from being so consumed by what we are consuming.

I am going to be a bit discomforting myself and say that if someone is looking solely to feel comfortable, then Christianity might not be a good option to consider. God is always calling us to places that are not warm and safe, but is instead calling us to be a bit uncomfortable, like the guard in the gospel who knows that he has to keep awake throughout a long, cold night when what he really wants is to go home and crawl into a warm, down-comforter covered bed. As Jesus says, “Keep awake.” Keep awake to see how we are to treat other human beings. Keep awake to see how we are to treat the environment. Keep awake to see how we treat ourselves. Why? Well, for one thing, if we fail to see God and godliness in our neighbor, in the earth around us, or in our own bodies, then evil will start to take over.

Some days in Advent, as when I hear this lesson, I see God as an expectant father, pacing back and forth in the hallway and knowing that the world is about to see and experience something amazing, that is, God’s face in a child, of all things, goodness made incarnate. It is an appropriate image when the gospel lessons may be leading up to the birth of an infant in four weeks, but just as importantly these lessons are reminding us of the necessity to open our eyes and heart to see the kingdom of God in the here and now in order that good wins the contest over evil in our own age, not solely in the future, so that others will find some good news in their lives now. God did not come only once in Bethlehem; God is still coming to be among us today in some brand new ways, and our realization of that truth will move the very earth on which we stand.

You want some good news today? It is that a theophany of God just around the corner. It comes in the form of a child born in poverty who showed by his life that goodness will triumph. But it also comes in the form of a people that begins to see the hungry and the alien and the uninsured and the jobless as children of God, and then decides that goodness is going to win the battle in our own age. And it also comes in the form of people who see God in their own selves and who realize that they are the only voice that God has in the world, the body of Christ we call it. As a result of those Advent epiphanies the world will change. And one of these days someone will stand with a bullhorn on the busiest street corner imaginable and proclaim that the verdict is no longer out; in the contest between good and evil, goodness won. And the days of struggle, the days of fear will be over. That is what we are waiting for this Advent. Keep awake and watch it happen. Amen.

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Step Three: Honoring the Liturgical Cycle of the Church Year

Ten Point Program for Orthodox Life

The Church in Her Holy wisdom offers us a cycle of fasting and feasting. This cycle is based on the life of Christ. The key is to learn to follow it, to participate in it, and not to allow other activities in life to be viewed as more important. Follow the prescribed fast times. Participate in the major feast days of the Church. Plan your schedule to make this a reality.

The Church year begins in September. This initiates a period of preparation for the celebration of the Nativity and Baptism of Christ. As we approach Christmas there is a 40-day Nativity Fast. Participate in it and consciously prepare for this important spiritual event. This will counteract the commercial madness we normally experience at this time of year. Following the Nativity, there is a feasting period (the twelve days of Christmas) capped by the celebration of Theophany or the Baptism of Jesus on January 6th. Celebrate with others during this period. Make an effort to turn your life into this cycle of fasting and feasting.

Shortly after the Theophany, there begins the period to prepare us for the most important event, Pascha or Easter. It begins with a preparatory three week period prior to the Great Fast of Pascha, called the Triodion. Use this period and the teachings designated for the four Sundays during this period to help you get into the right attitude for the Great Fast of Lent. When Lent begins, fast to the best of your ability, keeping in mind the fasting guidelines of the Church for this period. The fast leads up to Holy Week, which is the most intense period in the Church Liturgical cycle. Holy Week takes us through the Passion of Christ and His Crucifixion and leads us to His glorious Resurrection and victory over death. Take time off from normal activities this week to participate in these beautiful services. You will find new meaning in the Resurrection as you break the fast with the joyous announcement of the Resurrection at midnight on the first dawning of the feast day of Pascha. Following Pascha, plan for another period of feasting and celebration with family and friends. Next we await the Ascension of Jesus, which comes 40 days after Pascha. Ten days later, this is followed by the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, celebrating the time when the apostles were empowered to carry forward the teachings of Jesus to all parts of the world. We can think of this as the birth of the Church here on earth.

In addition to these large cycles, there is a weekly cycle and even a daily cycle. During the week we should fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. Make a commitment to remember to control your eating habits by restraining them on these two days in remembrance of our God. 

In addition to the normal morning and the evening daily prayers, the Church prays additionally on what are called the Hours: midmorning, noon, mid-afternoon, and at the setting of the sun. As you mature in your prayer life you can make time for such prayers throughout the day.

The liturgical cycle provides for periods where you can more intensely focus on your spiritual needs. The time of Great Lent is most important for this. It provides a time to withdraw from your busy life, to limit your normal activities, to increase your time in prayer and reading of Scriptures, and to concentrate on your inner self, seeking what is most important for your soul to become united with God.

Here are the 12 major Feasts of the [Greek Orthodox] Church:
September 8 Nativity of the Theotokos
September 14 Elevation of the Holy Cross
November 21 Presentation of the Theotokos
December 25 Nativity of Jesus
January 6 Epiphany (The Baptism of Christ)
February 2 Presentation of the Lord
March 25 Annunciation
Sunday before Easter Palm Sunday
Easter - Pascha
Forty Days after Easter Ascension of the Lord
Fifty Days after Easter Pentecost
August 6 Transfiguration of our Lord
August 15 Dormition of the Theotokos

Arrange your schedule so you can participate in the Divine Liturgies held on these days. Of course, don’t forget to make each and every Sunday a time for participating in the Liturgy as well.

It will provide a challenge for you to give priority to the schedule of the Church and not to allow it to become secondary to all other activities. Always keep in mind that union with God is your aim in life and that through your full participation in the Liturgical cycle of the Church you will be helped to continually grow closer to Him. This commitment is difficult in a society which does not pay any attention to the liturgical cycle of the Church. But if you plan ahead, even if you have a very busy schedule, just like you can fit in your physical fitness activities, time with your children and other non-work related activities, you can find ways to build your schedule around the key events in the Church’s liturgical cycle. Think about how you plan to fit other activities into your schedule, like a vacation, school, or sports, and make the same effort for these spiritual events.

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Nurse's Prayer

Almighty God, Divine Healer of all,
     grant me, your handmaiden, strength and courage in my calling.
Give to my heart compassion and understanding.
Give to my hands skill and tenderness.
Give to my mind knowledge and wisdom.
Especially, Dear Lord, help me always to remember the true purpose of my vocation,
     that of selfless service and dedication to the weak and despairing in body and spirit.


And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Step Two: Worship and the Sacraments

Ten Point Program for Orthodox Life

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.
Jesus Christ (Matt 9:12-13)

Along with our personal prayer we need to participate in corporate prayer, or prayer that is offered during a worship service. Worship in the Church is an essential part of a life in Christ. The Church is the body of Christ on earth. When we all gather together for worship, we are united with the angels and saints in our prayer to worship and glorify God.

We enter the place of worship humbly, knowing that we are not worthy to be in union with God, but, we enter with a strong yearning, with zeal, to come closer to Him. We enter with the understanding that through the sacraments, teachings, and practices of the Church we will grow spiritually. While we may find social benefits of joining the Church, this social activity is not the purpose of the Church. It is better described as a spiritual hospital where we come as individuals in need of spiritual healing. By joining the assembly of believers in Jesus Christ, we find this healing and are shown a step by step process whereby we can receive God’s helps to come closer in union with Him.

The Holy Spirit works in the Church and provides spiritual nourishment through the sacraments of the Church. It is important to participate in them because they have been given to us by Jesus Christ Himself for our spiritual health.

Major Sacraments of the Church
Holy Communion
The Divine Liturgy is the most important service and it provides us with a kind of spiritual medicine: Holy Communion. This is why you should come to church each Sunday to be renewed and strengthened through participation in Holy Communion. Here the Body and Blood of Christ are offered to the members for the forgiveness of their sins and eternal life. You need to regularly partake of this gift that God offers to us all for our spiritual benefit. This is why one of God’s commandments is to participate in worship each Sunday. As you develop your personal prayer life you will no longer see this as an obligation, but as something you want and need to do for your spiritual benefit. Make regular attendance at the Divine Liturgy a part of your prayer rule and learn how to properly prepare and participate regularly in the sacrament of Holy Communion.

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. Jesus Christ (John 6:53-56)

Holy Confession
Confession is also an important sacrament for your spiritual growth. By your participation in this sacrament you renew your Baptism and are freed from all your sinfulness in the eyes of God. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you do not sin. None of us lives without sinning. This sacrament involves standing before the icon of Christ with a contrite heart, asking God for forgiveness for all the times you have not lived up to what He has made you capable, with the priest by your side as your witness. You should do this at least two times a year.

Holy Unction
In this sacrament, you are anointed with oil that has been blessed to give you strength in healing physical and spiritual sickness. It is offered to all during Holy Week and on request at other times.

In the sacrament of marriage, a couple stands in front of God, commits themselves to a union and are united as one in the eyes of God. This is path set forth for the benefit of their spiritual growth and union with God.

In this sacrament, the priesthood is given to an individual, and he is endowed with with the spiritual powers to carry out his work.

Baptism and Chrismation
He who believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16:16).
Baptism is the beginning of the Orthodox Christian life, where one is cleansed from all past sins and sealed with the Holy Spirit. It is how one joins the Church and becomes part of the body of Christ and becomes able to participate in all the Sacraments for spiritual benefit. Chrismation is the anointing of the Holy Chrism, which is the seal of the Holy Spirit. It is a sacrament normally done right after Baptism.

Note: Holy Communion, Confession and Holy Unction are interrelated because they serve for the healing of the body and soul. Make participation in worship and the sacraments of the Church a regular and integral part of your life.

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Step One: Daily Prayer

Ten Point Program for Orthodox Life

Prayer is the foundation of the Orthodox way of life. What is Prayer? It is a dialogue between you and God. It unites your soul with God. It is through prayer that you unite with God and receive the gift of His grace to aid you in overcoming your passions and living life based on love. Through prayer you also learn to control the distractions of your mind, allowing you to become more watchful and focused in your daily activities. Prayer is the key to entering a life based on the virtues.

How do you pray? First, establish a regular time and a private place. You should have a specific rule for both morning and evening. Don’t try to “wing it.” This is not a relaxation exercise, but a path of communion with your God. You will benefit from having a specific set of guidelines that you follow each time with no excuses for short-cutting them. In your rule, incorporate standing, prostrations, kneeling, making the sign of the cross, reading, and at times singing. Use prayer books and written prayers. The Orthodox prayer books are filled with prayers that have been well-tested and used for hundreds of years. Prayer does not need to be a creative activity. Above all, you need to be sincere. Keep your awareness in your heart and concentrate on the words of the prayer. Once you establish a rule, always keep it. Work with your spiritual Father on this.

You begin praying by focusing your consciousness in your heart and forcibly gathering there all the powers of your soul and body. Before you start your prayers, take time to quiet yourself and to concentrate your energies in your heart. Christ says, “Enter into thy closet and ... shut thy door” (Mt 6:6). Remove all activities that could disrupt your inner descent. Set aside, to the best of your ability, all of your problems of the day and your worries for tomorrow. This is not a time for thinking or worrying. When you are preparing to pray, stand, sit or walk a few minutes and steady your mind to concentrate on God. Reflect on who it is that you will be addressing. Remember, it is God Himself, the Creator of All, with whom you are about to talk. Try to hold in your heart a feeling of humility and reverent awe. If you are able, make some prostrations before you begin.

As you begin to pray, enter into every word of the prayer. Bring the meaning of the words down into your heart. Do not rush through the prayers like you are in a hurry to finish them. Let the words of the prayer slowly drop into the depths of your heart with humility and awe of God. You need to slow your mind down so you can concentrate solely on your prayer. It’s somewhat like driving a car. When you are going 90 miles per hour down the highway, you may feel exhilarated, powerful and in control. But, at high speeds things can go wrong quickly. But, when you slow down and drive at a speed of twenty-five miles per hour, the car handles easily and if someone makes a dangerous maneuver you can easily avoid it. The mind works the same way. You want to train it to slow down so it will not cause you an unneeded accident and you can open your heart to God’s presence. So, in prayer say the words slowly so you can gain the full meaning of them and allow them to penetrate your consciousness and to bring to your heart feelings of love and reverence for God. Beware of the tendency to rush to complete them hurriedly. When this happens you have turned your prayer into an obligation, another task to complete, and it is no longer true prayer. Don’t worry if you catch yourself doing this. It is normal at first. Just stop, slow down, and then continue after asking God’s forgiveness and help. You will eventually find the right pace for yourself. Also, study the prayers before you use them so you know the meaning of each word. Eventually you will want to memorize them.

After you begin to recite your prayers, you will find that your mind will want to wander. This means you are still driving at a high speed. Don’t be concerned about this; it is natural due to our overactive minds. Work constantly to improve your ability to concentrate your attention on God and your prayer. When your mind does wander, be gentle with yourself. Think of God and how He loves you and go back to recite again what you said while your mind was elsewhere. Bring yourself back to concentrate on God and the words of the prayer. Sometimes it helps to say your prayers out loud for a while to help you concentrate. The mind is quite skilled at trying to do more than one thing at a time. But in reality, you only concentrate on one thing at a time. You can easily be deceived by the mind as it leaves prayer to focus on other matters. These wanderings of the mind show you the dimensions of your busy life and where you need to find ways to make it quieter so you can be always mindful of God. Prayer is NOT the time to focus on these worldly activities, because this will only further distract you from prayer. Work to concentrate your attention more and more each time you pray. Each day you will gain in your attentiveness during prayer.

When you finish your prayers, stand for a few moments. Consider to what your prayer life commits you. Try to hold in your heart what has been given to you. Treasure it for a few moments.

It is important to make your prayer life one that is a firm rule, a desired habit, and not something that is done occasionally, sporadically or casually. Pray each and every morning and evening for fifteen minutes at a minimum. Your prayer rule should include specific prayers (See the back of this booklet for an example of a beginning prayer rule). Commit to doing your rule each and every day, just like you are committed to daily personal hygiene tasks such as brushing your teeth. You don’t forget to do them each day. You need to make prayer a similar habit, one that you never forget. Just like brushing our teeth is essential for the health of our gums and teeth, prayer is essential for the health of our soul. Persistence and patience in prayer will prepare you for God’s grace to work within you.

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Ten Point Program for Orthodox Life

I ran across this website a few months ago and have been wanting to write on it for a while. I wrote to Father Tom Pistolis from the Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Greenville, SC to ask for his permission to republish the information. He responded with a very kind message and said that they had received permission from other sources to republish the information themselves, and wanted to pass on the favor. 

In essence, the program includes ten elements of sacramental life that should be incorporated into our everyday living as a guide for deepening our relationship with God. The ten points include:

1. Daily prayer
2. Regular worship and participation in the Sacraments
3. Honoring the liturgical cycle of the Church
4. Using the Jesus Prayer (or praying the rosary)
5. Slowing down and ordering your life
6. Being watchful
7. Taming passions
8. Putting other first
9. Spiritual fellowship
10. Reading the Scriptures and Holy Fathers

Obviously, the primary focus of the material is geared toward Greek Orthodox Christians, but it can be put into practice by anyone. Some of these points are already a part of my life, but certainly not all. I would like to start working on the missing elements, one at a time. So I'm going to share the details of each point as well as my experience with each over the coming weeks and months.  Below is the introduction to the program as found on the Saint George's Greek Orthodox Cathedral. If any of you decide to take this on as well, I would love to hear your story about how it has changed your perspective and helped grow your life in Christ.

“The final goal of man is communion with God. The path to this communion has been precisely defined: faith, and walking in the Commandments with the help of God’s grace.
Saint Theophan the Recluse

While it is true that the Orthodox way of life is not the normal way of life for most people in our society, it is a most practical life for married people with families faced with the challenges of careers. In fact, it is the way of living that will make your life less stressful and more meaningful.

The Orthodox Way of Life is NOT a monastic way of life. Even though monasticism was part of the early church, we are not required to live this most honored lifestyle. Only a few are called to this style of life. We do, however, have the same goals. Like the monks we seek holiness and union with God, but we are called to live in the world with our families. The principles of our spiritual growth are the same no matter which path we chose.

Most of us never take the time to reflect on the purpose of our lives. Often we don’t do this until someone we love departs from this life unexpectedly. During this moment of grief, our soul has our attention and we begin to think about what life is all about. In one way, life is about death. We all know this is where we are headed, but we too often refuse to think about this seriously because of the unknown and the fear it presents.

The purpose of life taught by the Apostles and the Church Fathers is one of finding union with God. Jesus came to save us and to open the gates of heaven for us. He showed us how to live through His teaching and example. He showed us that we have nothing to fear in death.

To begin, you must have faith in God and accept His love for you. With a little faith, you can begin to live the Orthodox way of life outlined in this booklet. This way of life is given to us by Christ Himself through His Church. It is a proven way of life that WILL bring you closer to God. As you come closer to God, you increase your capability to deal with any difficulty you may face. You increase your ability to live according to the virtues.

These ten points presented here are only an outline on how to find union with God. However, if you follow them you will be led to everything you need to know.

Study each one of them and examine your current life. Then seek ways to make the necessary changes in your life to incorporate them. Always pray for God’s help in this.”

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


The following sermon was written by the Reverend Scott Walters of Christ Episcopal Church and is published here with his permission.
Surely there’s no goal more virtuous for a Christian than to read the Bible from front to back. Even some Episcopalians (clergy included) have been known to stammer and blush when asked if they’ve ever read the whole thing.
But reading the whole Bible is nothing like reading, say, all of War and Peace. It’s more like reading The Odyssey, Aesop’s Fables, long lists of other people’s relatives on, The Naked and the Dead, all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a year’s worth of Dear Abby columns, four different books on the assassination of J.F.K., a shoebox of letters (some happy, some angry, none of them written to anyone you know), and, finally, the narration of one of Timothy Leary’s acid trips.
There’s a decent chance that some of that list sounds interesting to you, but a slim chance that all of it does. You see, almost no one wants to read the whole Bible. What people want is to have read the whole Bible. Like they want to have hiked the whole Appalachian Trail or to have gotten in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest handstand. For some of us, reading the Bible is a nearly impossible feat to be accomplished.
Another approach is to extract the Bible’s essential truths and life lessons. This sounds a little more wholesome. We’d like to know how to live better. We believe this is a holy book. So what does it mean? What does it recommend or require? What am I supposed to do if my ox gores my neighbor? Or if said neighbor walks over and strikes me on the right cheek and takes my coat, what should I do then?
In this approach, sermons are basically religious Cliff’s Notes. Preachers pull out and present the relevant stuff for our lives, leaving out the inessentials. There might be a little less of the visible agitation that begins when a sermon in an Episcopal church drags on into its eleventh minute if congregants considered how many pages of the Bible get distilled, culled down, and concentrated into these wonderful, engaging, life changing little talks we call sermons.
But Flannery O’Connor was onto something when she said that the best stories resist paraphrase. It’s not enough to read book reviews or plot summaries. It’s not enough to be told the moral of the story. We want to be told the story. I think even Phillip Martin would agree that it would be a real bummer to show up at Market Street Cinema expecting to see “Airplane”—which they are really showing on Tuesday, by the way—only to see Phillip Martin reading his 300 word review of the film instead.
So maybe it’s not enough to just get through the Bible. And maybe it’s not enough to get a synopsis of the Bible’s lessons for our lives either.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

For Reflection: Acts 7:60

"We must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves -- to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good. That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not."

from Mere Christianity
C. S. Lewis

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

No Compromise

"There is no question of a compromise between the claims of God and the claims of culture, or politics, or anything else. God's claim is infinite and inexorable. You can refuse it, or you can begin to try to grant it. There is no middle way. Yet in spite of this it is clear that Christianity does not exclude any of the ordinary human activities. St. Paul tells people to get on with their jobs. He even assumes that Christians may go to dinner parties, and, what is more, dinner parties given by pagans. Our Lord attends a wedding and provides miraculous wine. Under the aegis of His Church, and in the most Christian ages, learning and the arts flourish. The solution of this paradox is, of course, well known to you. 'Whether ye eat or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.'

All our merely natural activities will be accepted, if they are offered to God, even the humblest, and all of them, even the noblest, will be sinful if they are not. Christianity does not simply replace our natural life and substitute a new one; it is rather a new organisation which exploits, to its own supernatural ends, these natural materials."

From "Learning in War-Time," The Weight of Glory
C.S. Lewis

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I miss you!

No, I haven't forgotten about my loyal friends and readers. I'm up to my eyebrows in nursing school at the moment, but my schedule will be opening up just a smidge in July. I hope to start blogging again and updating everyone on our little man cub. Until then stay hydrated, make sure to wear SPF 30 or higher, and have a great summer!

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Friday, June 3, 2011

My Life

I started nursing school this week and I'm already up to my eye balls in reading. John just went to bed and it's just too nice out to stay inside. So I grabbed the baby monitor and my text book and I'm out on the porch watching the sun set behind the pond, the trees, and the pasture. Thank you, God, for my wonderful and crazy life.

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sleep Training: Day ??

Just a quick update because I'm SO freaking excited about this. So we've been keeping John on a 3-hour feeding schedule. We feed him at 7 AM, 10 AM, 1 PM, 4 PM, and 7 PM. After the last feeding, we put him to bed and he goes right to sleep. Then we just wait for him to wake up before we offer him another bottle. Well somehow he got himself weaned to just two bottles a night, then to just one... without me doing anything. I had this whole elaborate plan about how I was going to step him off the night bottles by a half ounce at a time, giving him three days at each new volume before stepping down another half ounce... blah blah blah. Then suddenly, two nights ago, he miraculously slept through the whole night all by himself! That's 11 hours of sleep (from roughly 8 PM when his bedtime routine is finished to 7 AM when we get him up for the day).

The dogs woke us up around 6 AM to go outside and be fed. I turned to James and asked him if he had gotten up with the baby during the night and he said no. I knew that I hadn't gotten up with the baby during the night, so we both immediately raced up the stairs to check on him because the first thought that crossed my mind was, "OMG my baby just died of SIDS!!!!" But when we peeked into the crib, he was fast asleep and just as happy as can be. We let him sleep until 7 and then took him out of his crib for his first bottle. There was no fussing, no crying, just sweetness and snuggles.

I. Was. Floored.

The best part? He did it AGAIN last night! I couldn't believe it. I thought it was a fluke, but he slept all night long. We've been doubling the inserts in his cloth diaper and putting a little preventative diaper rash cream on him after his bath each night, so I think that helps.

(FYI: That means we now use cloth even overnight and STILL don't have any problems with leaking. Woo hoo!)

Best. Baby. Ever!

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sleep Training: Taking a Time Out

So we had to take a little break from the sleep training. The first step is to get him on a four-hour feeding schedule, but after a couple of days I began to notice (from checking my baby log notebook) that he wasn't get as much formula as he had been before we started sleep training. As a result, we had one day last week that was a total nightmare. He was cranky. I was cranky. It just wasn't good. He isn't able to drink enough formula at each individual feeding to make up for the reduced number of total feedings. I guess he's just not quite big enough and not quite ready for the four-hour feedings.

So we took a couple of days off and started back on a three-and-a-half-hour feeding schedule, which gives him five daytime feedings instead of four. The good part is that he's drinking plenty of formula on the new schedule (actually, more than he was before we started sleep training at all) and isn't cranky anymore. The bad part is that it makes his day 14 hours long instead of 12, and his sleeping period only 10 hours long instead of 12. But he seems to be doing well anyway. After his bedtime routine (bath, bottle, book, and bed) he goes right to sleep and is out for at least four hours most nights. He still wakes up for a bottle twice during the night, but he goes right back to sleep afterward. I'm tempted to keep this schedule permanently and move on to step two, gradually eliminating the night feedings. I just don't know yet. I'm going to give him another week or so on the three-and-a-half-hour schedule and see how things go.

On a side note, we've been using the bum Genius 4.0 one-size pocket diapers exclusively for a while now and I really love them. Have I already talked about that? I've got a bad case of mommy-brain today. Anyway, we haven't had ANY problems with leaking OR diaper rash since we switched to cloth and they are SO easy to use. James even thinks so. We have a roll of Kushies flushable diaper liners so I don't have to wash any poop out of the diapers and they work really well. The only thing I would do differently would be to get a flushable liner that's a little wider, maybe just an inch more coverage to make sure no poop gets on the cloth. And I need few more diapers so I could wash every other day instead of every day and a half. I have 14 right now, so if I get 18-24 then I'll be set. I still don't know what I'm going to do once we put John in daycare in the fall because I am NOT going back to disposables.

Last thing. We had a doctor's appointment last week and John was 11 pounds 9 ounces!! He's huge! And he started trying to smile at me today. Be still my heart!

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sleep Training: Day 4

We had a bit of a break-through last night! As I said before, John has been doing really well on the four-hour feeding schedule. I was actually quite surprised by how easily he took to it. No fussing between feedings, no hysterical crying at three or three-and-a-half hours, nothing... which is quite a relief. I don't know how well I would have done trying to coax him into waiting just a few minutes more if he were really struggling to make it to the next scheduled feeding. He's still not getting a full day's worth of formula during his day feedings, so we're continuing with the 11 PM and 3 AM feedings to make sure he doesn't dehydrate or go hungry.

Where we really made progress was at bedtime. Lately, we've been having trouble getting John to go to sleep after his 7 PM feeding. Because he hasn't been sleeping well, he's been tired and cranky during the day. Because he's been cranky, he hasn't been napping. And because he hasn't been napping, he's totally exhausted by the afternoon. He passes out pretty hard around four o'clock and sleeps until just before his last feeding of the day. So of course he isn't tired and ready to go to bed at seven. He just woke up!

I went to a friend's house to study yesterday afternoon and after we were finished, we sat around and played with the babies for about an hour (she has a daughter about six weeks older than John). When John was totally worn out, I put him in his car seat and drove home. He slept all the way home, which is typical, and then for quite a while after we got back to the house. We woke him up for his 7 PM feeding, changed his diaper, and rocked him for a while. To my surprised, he went right back to sleep (must have REALLY worn him out at Rachel's house). Not only that, but he slept for almost 4 hours before waking up hungry around 11 PM. We gave him a bottle, checked his diaper, and put him back to bed. To my surprised again, he zonked right out! Same story around 3 AM. He was awake for about 20 minutes while we fed and changed him. And then he slept until about 6:30 this morning. He slept for almost 11 hours (minus two twenty-minute feedings)!!

He woke up kinda mad because his diaper was really wet. But he settled down as soon as I changed him and we  had some morning cuddles until it was time to eat at 7:00. I played with him in my lap for a while and then let him swat at the hanging toys on his Funky Farmyard activity mat. When he started yawning and getting droopy-eyed, I slipped him back into his crib and he slept for a little over an hour and a half. He took an actual nap! Now I've got him in the Baby Bjorn and we're hanging out until it's time for his 11 AM bottle. I'm hoping a little play time and some tummy time will wear him out enough to take another legitimate nap this afternoon.

We're making progress!

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Different Kind of Hero

The following sermon was written by the Reverend Scott Walters of Christ Episcopal Church and is published here with his permission.
Billy Dick was 6 years old and sitting in Sunday School at the Lakewood Methodist Church in Dallas. It was Easter, and his teacher was telling the story of the crucifixion. Billy Dick squirmed as the gruesome events of Good Friday unfolded. Finally he thrust up his hand and waived it in the air until the teacher stopped and acknowledged him. And when she did, Billy Dick stood up and declared, “If Roy Rogers had been there, those dirty S.O.B.s would not have been able to do it!”
The reason that the story of Billy Dick’s mildly profane Easter outburst made its way to us all these years later is because his cousin was a guy named Stanley Hauerwas, who grew up to become a theologian, a not always so mildly profane one at that. More specifically, his cousin Stanley became a theologian who worried about our tendency as Christians to confuse God with Roy Rogers.
That’s my oversimplified, unqualified synopsis of Stanley Hauerwas’s theology. But the God as Roy Rogers problem is not confined to the imaginations of six year old boys. Long after we’ve learned not to stand up and blurt out what we really think in Sunday School, don’t you think we still believe that God’s saving work is a lot like that of a cowboy hero? God wins the day because God is infinitely quicker on the draw, God’s aim is perfect, and the Resurrection was that satisfying moment in which evil got what it had coming. Got it right between the eyes.
But there’s a problem. The problem is that even on this side of the Resurrection, we’re still looking for someone to come riding into town, six guns blazing, to set things straight. Because things still aren’t straight. Evil is still around. Which means that apparently Jesus wasn’t Roy Rogers at all. Apparently Jesus wasn’t that kind of savior. But we, just like those two disciples on the road to Emmaus, just can’t quite believe it. Because we have a hard time believing that there’s any other kind of hero.
Billy Dick was pretty sure he knew what would have happened if Roy Rogers had been at the crucifixion. And most of us Christians are pretty sure we would have recognized the risen Christ if we had met him on the road to Emmaus. Or if we’re humble enough to give those two blinded disciples a break, we at least believe we would recognize Jesus now. He’s “our kind of people”, right? We understand who he was and what he was about. We have the creeds and the scriptures. Maybe we had a mother who made sure we were in Sunday School. And not just on Easter.
But the story of the walk to Emmaus suggests that we can miss the risen Christ even if he’s walking right beside us. In fact, one of the most curious details of this story is not just that the resurrected Jesus met two people on the road, but that he took them through the meaning of the scriptures, beginning with Moses and all the prophets. He told them what it all meant. He showed them how his life was the fulfillment of all that came before him in the life of Israel. These two people got the whole biblical scoop, right from the mouth of the second person of the Trinity.
And they still miss it. They still couldn’t see him. Maybe they couldn’t see him because they were still looking for Roy Rogers.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sleep Training: Day 1

John just turned 7 weeks old yesterday. So far, he's been a relatively easy-to-care-for baby. During the night, he usually wakes up twice for a bottle between midnight and 6:00 AM. Luckily, he goes right back to sleep after a diaper change and a bottle and we've gotten the whole process down to about 20-30 minutes each time. But it still means one of us has to get up around 1:00 AM and again around 4:00 AM. And even though James and I generally take turns getting up, it's still completely exhausting. Once I start nursing school in June, there is NO way I will be able to sustain that schedule without school and my sanity suffering. So we've decided to try some sleep training with John. Since he's going to have many different care-givers over the next few months, I think it would be good for him to have a daily routine. That way he always has the same schedule, regardless of who is taking care of him on a given day.

I had bought Suzy Giordino's "Twelve Hours Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old" back in 2009. I would include references and page numbers now except that someone (I suspect Hamish, but possible Piper.. or both) totally shredded my copy of the book about a week or so ago. In any case, the premise is that you can teach your baby to sleep or rest quietly in the crib for 12 hours a night by the night he/she is 12 weeks old. Now I'm not 100% convinced that this will work, but we're going to give it a try. If we can at least eliminate one of the night feedings and get just eight hours of sleep, I'll be tickled pink!

Before we can start sleep training John, certainly developmental milestones needed to be met to make sure he was ready. Firstly he had to be at least six weeks old, he had to weight at least 9 pounds, and he had to be drinking at least 24 ounces of formula a day. Well John is seven weeks old, weighs 11 pounds 9 ounces (OMG!), and usually drinks about 30 ounces a day so I think we're ready now.

The first phase of sleep training is to get him on a four-hour feeding schedule. Today we started our day at 7:00 AM and did feedings at 7:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 3:00 PM, 7:00 PM, and 11:00 PM. I was worried that he wouldn't tolerate waiting four hours between each feeding. He'd done it before, but not for every feeding in the course of a day. Since we still did night feedings, I wasn't too worried about making sure he got enough formula. But we'll need to start gradually increasing the amount he drinks at each feeding so we can eliminate the 3:00 AM feeding.

But anyway... so far so good!

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday

The following sermon was given by Bishop Larry Benfield at Christ Episcopal Church.

When was the last time that you got the opportunity to name a church? In my entire life I had never given it a thought until this past week. Churches simply exist; you find one by driving by it or hearing about it or looking it up on the Internet, and then you go to it. But this past week I found myself working with Episcopalians in Maumelle as we begin formally turning that group of people who gather each Sunday into a congregation. That group now needs a name, and names are important. Whom do we honor in a name? What are we trying to say about who we are? What are we trying to say about who we want to be in the community in which we find ourselves?

I will not burden you with the discussions that we are having in Maumelle, but in reading today’s gospel about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, it struck me that St. Matthew’s might be a great name for a church that is able to admit that sometimes we get it wrong in our absolute reliance on fact and thus miss something larger that we cannot understand. Matthew wants every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed. In other words, he is one of us; he can miss the larger good news because he so desperately wants to get it “just right.” In so doing, Matthew on occasion can make Jesus look, well, ridiculous. Before you get mad at me for saying that, remember that all of us sinful Christians have that tendency as well. The health is in acknowledging it.

You may have missed what I am talking about when you heard the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry. After all, we tend to hear what we want to hear. When Matthew writes his gospel, he is sitting at his desk trying to make sense of the Jewish prophets and how their writings relate to this Jesus of Nazareth. He turns to Zechariah, who talks poetically of a the king coming in “on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” But Matthew cannot deal with poetry; he cannot deal with what he cannot understand. He gets stuck in the trap of literalism, in this case stuck with two animals that he needs to use. So what does he do? He says that Jesus rides both of them into Jerusalem. Those words change the image of Jesus, so long envisioned in art as humbly riding on a donkey, into a Jesus who is perhaps more like a circus act, the guy who straddles two horses as he comes into the center ring. It is no wonder that people were excited. Matthew, as dedicated as he is, momentarily turns Jesus into an entertainer, good news eclipsed by spectacle. Matthew is like one of us, for we all love religious entertainment.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Adventures in Mommyland

I have to keep this short because we are about 30 minutes away from John's next feeding, but I wanted to give everyone an update on my crazy new life. So let's see, where to begin...

First of all, John is doing really well. His jaundice has completely cleared up and he's finally starting to gain weight. We took him back to the doctor about a week ago to have him weighed, just to make sure he wasn't continuing to shrink. He was seven pounds, three ounces at birth and dropped down to about six pounds right after we got home. But after another week, he had gained an entire pound back. Although I haven't weighed him this week, I can tell by looking at him that he's starting to chunk up nicely. His appetite has nearly doubled and he isn't having any digestive problems anymore. He sleeps through most of the night without too much trouble. I put him in the nursery between 9:00 and 10:00 and we get up with him between midnight and 1:00, between 3:00 and 4:00, and then between 5:00 and 6:00... all depending on how much formula he drinks each time. Luckily, once his tummy is full and his little bottom is clean/dry, he goes right back to sleep without having to be rocked endlessly. The whole process only takes 30-45 minutes most nights.

We're currently transitioning him from Enfamil, which is what the hospital started him on at birth, to Nature's One Baby's Only, a brand of organic dairy formula. Although there are many brands of organic formula out there, I decided that this one would be the best because of the types of ingredients the formula includes. Of primary concern was the use of corn syrup and hexane processed DHA in other brands of organic and regular formula. The only downside is that I haven't found it in any local stores yet. Supposedly the Whole Foods store downtown carries this brand, but I haven't been there to check it out for myself yet. I got free shipping on my last order from, so I took that opportunity to order several cans of formula at the same time. Right now we're giving him a 50/50 mix of the Enfamil and Baby's Only. When we get closer to the bottom of the Enfamil can, we'll switch to 25/75 and then exclusively Baby's Only. I wanted to transition gradually to avoid making his tummy too upset.

About a week after we came home, we switched from using regular paper diapers to using gDiapers. I've been wanting to use cloth diapers for a long time now, not only because it reduces the incidence of diaper rash but also because of all the chemicals found in paper diapers and how bad they are for the environment. I want to say I read somewhere that paper/plastic diapers take 500 years to biodegrade. Think about how many diapers one baby uses, and then how many babies are born each year. That's a LOT of diapers just sitting in landfills not going anywhere. With the gDiapers, you can either use 100% biodegradable inserts that break down in about 30 days, or you can use cloth inserts that you wash and reuse over and over again. I'm planning to do a combination of the two: disposable inserts when we're out of the house and cloth inserts when we're at home.

Originally I wanted to use a different type of cloth diaper, the Bum Genius 4.0 diaper. But I already know that the child care center on base won't use the cloth diapers. We don't have anything set in stone yet, but I'm hoping we'll be able to find a family child care provider to watch John starting in August. And I'm hoping that they will either be completely on board with cloth diapering, or they'll at least be willing to use the gDiapers with the disposable inserts. Until we nail down a solid plan for his care in the fall, we won't really know for sure.

We've been using the gDiapers for a little over a week now and so far I would say they are "okay." I'm pretty sure that some degree of operator error is to blame for our lukewarm success with these diapers. I bought some Kushies flushable diaper liners to act as a barrier between the cloth insert and his soft splatter poops, and those work very well. But we've been having problems with the diapers leaking and I don't know if that's because of the fit or because of the cloth inserts (which have to be prewashed up to six times before they're ready to use). I don't know... I'm going to continue experimenting with them and hopefully I can get all the kinks worked out. In the mean time, I've added some of the Bum Genius diapers back to my baby registry in the hopes that someone will buy them for my baby shower (HINT HINT) and we can give those a try as well. I just really don't want to go back to using paper diapers again.

Before John was born, one of my girlfriends bought me a Moby wrap so I could "wear" John around the house. I was really excited about it and gave it a try when we were hanging around the hotel waiting on our ICPC clearance. Figuring out how to wrap it isn't actually that hard. But figuring out how tight or loose to wrap it so that the baby will actually fit properly is another story! Like cloth diapering, there is definitely a learning curve when it comes to baby-wearing. But during the day, John really prefers for me to hold him rather than put him down in the bassinet. He'll happily snooze away in the bassinet or bouncer seat about half of the time, but all the rest of the time he really just wants to be held. Plus he LOVES being swaddled, so putting him in the Moby wrap kills two birds with one stone by keeping him wrapped up nice and snug next to his mommy.

I think that's enough for now. Time to feed and change my little man cub so I can get some lunch myself and start working on my outline notes for school... or washing bottles... or washing diapers... or doing laundry... or something else equally important that I've already forgotten about...

Lilypie First Birthday tickers

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

March Madness!!

Ok so it's been a while since I've written any blog posts, but it's all been with good reason. I know it's April now, but March was CRAZY for us... crazy in a good way.

As most of you know, we were matched with an expectant mom, K, several weeks ago. We went out to visit with K and her family at the beginning of the month and it went really well. I got to go with K when she had her ultrasound to check on the baby's developing anatomy and to find out the sex of the baby. I was really honored for her to pick me to go with her because the ultrasound technician said only one person was allowed. I expected K's mom to be the one, but K picked me. It was really special. AND we found out that the baby is a boy. The due date was originally April 13th, but after the ultrasound the due date was moved up to March 30th. K had a doctor's appointment a few days later and the due date was moved up again to March 24th. So we made plans to go back out a few days before the 24th so that, hopefully, we would be there for the birth.

On March 20th, K's dad called me in the middle of the night to say that K's water had broken and that they were heading to the hospital. I kinda panicked. I hadn't packed anything yet. It was two days before my flight out and I hadn't done laundry. I hadn't organized what I wanted to pack. I hadn't even cleaned the house! I got online and saw that there was a flight leaving our airport in two hours. So I frantically grabbed a couple items to cram in a carry-on bag (I think I had two shirts, a toothbrush, two blankets, two onesies, and the 4 oz. bottles) and was in the car going to the airport in less than 45 minutes.

K's dad called me back while I was in the car to tell me that she'd had the baby. Apparently it was a mad photo-finish to get K to the hospital in time. She was ten centimeters dilated when they arrived at the hospital, fighting the urge to push while still in the car, and she delivered in less than an hour after they arrived. It all happened incredibly quickly. John weighed seven pounds, three ounces and was 19.5 inches long. I got to the airport and managed to get a seat on a flight leaving in an hour. I arrived at the hospital around lunch time. James left in the car, started driving out with all our stuff, and got there the next night.

We only had to stay for a week before we were cleared by ICPC to go home, which really surprised me. I expected to be there at least two weeks. We got together with K's family twice while we waited for all the paperwork to be filed, which was really nice. K is such an amazing girl and we really love her and her family. Sometimes I really wish we lived closer together so we could have an even closer relationship with them. But we're just going to see how things develop. We're starting with a semi-open adoption, sharing lots of pictures and updates as we go. I don't know if we'll ever move to phone calls and visits, but we're not opposed to it either. We're just going to see how things go and take it one step at a time. But K will always always be part of our family and have a very special place in my heart.

So while we were waiting for the ICPC clearance to come home, my dad was puppy-sitting and house-sitting for us. While we were sitting at the pediatric clinic waiting to have John's bilirubin rechecked, I got a phone call from a girlfriend of mine. She'd just gotten her acceptance letter to the nursing program and wanted to let me know that the deadline to turn in confirmation paperwork was only a week away. So I asked my dad to sort through our mail to see if I had gotten a letter too. And as it turned out, I had! It was a little stressful trying to get all my paperwork returned on time, but it was totally worth it! I start nursing school June 1st. Woo hoo!

After we came home, I started going through all the rest of our mail and discovered that our tax refund check had arrived while we were away! Dropping dollar amounts is kind of tacky, so all I'll say is that this tax refund is HUGE! We were able to claim our adoption expenses from 2009 and we're getting about a third of them back this year. We'll get the rest back next year and the year after that. As soon as the deposit clears the bank, we'll be able to pay off both of our credit cards (which we had to use for plane tickets, hotel rooms, and lots of other travel expenses) and the personal loan we took out to finance the adoption. Phew, what a relief.

March was a crazy month for us and I couldn't be happier. I'm exhausted from adjusting to a new lifestyle and a new routine, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. Check back soon as I start a new series of first-time-mommy blogs!

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Quick Update on K

K had a doctor's appointment earlier this week. The doctor said she may be due even sooner than the 30th, and that she could go into labor as early as March 24th!! I'm flying back out to be with her on the 22nd and James is joining me (via driving the 1600 miles out) on the 26th. Please pray for K that she has a safe and easy delivery, pray for the baby that he is healthy, and pray for us that everything goes smoothly.

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Our New Match

Lilypie Pregnancy tickers

By now most of you have heard our exciting adoption news. We've been matched with an expectant mom, K, who is due with a baby boy on March 30th. Originally the doctor said she would be due April 13th, but she had an ultrasound done last Friday and the baby is measuring for the 30th. Time will tell I suppose.

I'm not going to share a lot of K's story here on my blog because I want to respect her privacy. She's a fantastic girl. I flew out to see her last Friday (James drove) and we spent the entire weekend hanging out with K and her family. It was great. We have a lot in common and we get along with their family really well. I feel so incredibly blessed to be able to add them to our family.

To everyone who has been praying for us these past two years and eight months, thank you. Your love and support means the world to me. I will keep you updated as things progress and hopefully we will soon be bringing home a healthy baby boy!

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Let's Go Krogering!

James and I just went to Kroger and bought the following items: Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Tropicana OJ, Ragu, Oscar Mayer hot dogs, Oscar Mayer deli meat, two cans of Pillsbury Grands biscuits, and two boxes of Banquet turkey sausage. And we only paid $5.29 for a total savings of 83%.

What's our secret? Well, there's a few. The first is that we are avid shoppers of the Kroger circular. You can pick up a paper circular from the front of the store, get one in the mail, or check it out online. This week they're running a special that give you $3 off your entire purchase if you buy ten participating items (like General Mills cereal, Ragu, and Tropicana OJ). We had a few printable manufacturer's coupons that we got from and, we have a few Kroger eCoupons loaded on to our Kroger Plus Card, and we got a $3 off your next purchase coupon and $2 off your next purchase coupon at the register last time we went to Kroger. But here's the two best secrets: you can combine eCoupons and manufacturer's coupons; Pillsbury is offering $5 off your next purchase when you submit a recipe to their website. For details on the Pillsbury offer, click here.

For the past few weeks, I've been using as my guide to couponing. The author lays everything out for you, depending on which store you prefer to use. She also has great couponing tutorials and links to tons of printable coupons. If you're interested in saving a lot of money, I highly encourage you to check out her site. It only takes a few minutes of careful planning to save a lot of money on your weekly grocery bill. Since we've started using coupons, our overall savings has been 34%. We're working toward an average of at least 45%.

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Consequences of Over-Training

As I've blogged before, I've been having some pain in my left foot ever since the 15K at the beginning of the month. As a precaution, I went to see my doctor yesterday afternoon. He took a few X-rays to rule out any stress fractures in my fourth or fifth metatarsals. Those came back clean. After a physical exam of my foot, his best guess is that I may be suffering from plantar fasciitis. He prescribed me some strong anti-inflammatories and told me to look into some stretches I could do to help ease the tension in my plantar fascia, the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot.

I'm pretty sure I know how this happened and it's my own stupid fault. One of the primary causes of plantar fasciitis is a drastic increase in mileage (oops), particularly when running downhill (double oops!). The 15K was on paved running trails. The sixth, seventh, and eighth miles were all downhill. That explains how I got it in the first place. Put on top of that the fact that I've raced three consecutive weekends to include a half-marathon and it's no surprise that I'm hurting! I have two weekends off, then a two mile race, one weekend off, a 5K, a 10K, then three weekends off. In order to keep this from becoming a chronic injury, I may skip the two miler so I can have a full month to heal before jumping back into the Grand Prix with the 5K and two 10Ks. I hate to do it, but I have to take care of my body. So I'm going to spin and possibly try swimming to keep up my cardiovascular fitness during my time off. Hopefully I'll be able to jump back into the Grand Prix and race healthily for the rest of the year.

Below is an article I found on plantar fasciitis from the Runner's World magazine website. The original article can be found here.

The Grand Prix: Half Marathon and Injury Report

Ok boys and girls, let's talk about the consequences of over-training! Well I guess we should talk about the half-marathon first. It was a rough day. James and I opted to drive on the day of the race (which was about three hours away from where we live) instead of stay in a hotel the night before. We didn't get much sleep. For some unknown reason, Hamish decided to whimper and whine constantly for about four hours during the night. He didn't need to go out, he wasn't hungry, he wasn't thirsty, and we eventually even put him on the bed with us. When he finally did go to sleep, I think it was only because he had exhausted himself from crying. Ugh! Then the alarm clock started wailing around 3:30 AM and we both felt like zombies.

I had rested my foot all week with the hope that it would alleviate the pain I've been having. I was concerned that I wouldn't make it through the race at all, particularly when the pain started talking to me at the starting line. My plan was to just take it easy. I would only run for as long as it didn't feel significantly painful. Once the pain started to increase, I would slow my pace or slow to a walk to keep it from getting increasing. Worst case scenario? I would stop at an aid station and ask them to send the trail vehicle to pick me up, essentially quitting the race. I have NEVER done that and I REALLY didn't like the idea that I might have to do so.

The race started. There were only about 400 other runners so I didn't have to fight the beginning-of-a-race-crowding that usually drives me so nuts at bigger half-marathons and marathons. My foot felt okay and I felt strong and well-rested (weird!). I missed the first mile marker because I wasn't paying attention, so I didn't split my watch. As a result, I had no idea what my pace might be. But I decided that it didn't really matter today. I wasn't going for any pace goal. I just wanted to make it to the end without hurting myself.

I felt pretty good for most of the race. My foot started to bother me between miles eight and nine, so I dialed back my pace a little bit. I had taken a gel just before the start and then again at the six mile mark, but around mile 10 I was really feeling fatigued. I slowed my pace a little more. What I really wanted to do was walk, but I knew that I wouldn't be able to start running again if I did. So I just kept on going.

I had forgotten how serenely peaceful it is to be alone in my own head on long runs like this. When I was training for my first marathon in 2006, I used my long training runs as a sort of meditative time. The rhythmic timing of my feet on the pavement and my coordinated breathing put me in a very relaxed mental state where I can think clearly without the distraction of the constant chatter in my head. It's one of the reasons I love long-distance running alone. Don't get me wrong, I love going on runs with James. But it's a very different experience when I can do it all by myself.

James finished ahead of me and walked up the course to meet me and run me in around mile 12 (I think - I was actually feeling quite delirious by then). I'm not going to lie, the last 3/4 mile or so was really tough on me. I was getting tired, my foot was hurting, and I was running into a head wind. But I made it. Officially, my finish time was 2:21:57 (10:50 pace). Not a PR (which would have to be faster than 2:14:58) but I was quite proud of myself for it. I ran the entire race and didn't walk, which is a big deal for me. My goal at the marathon in November is to do the same thing... which I've never done before.

I finished 89th out of 140 women, no break down for age divisions. I earned 12 more Grand Prix points, pushing me up to 5th place in my division. The woman leading my division has enough points that she's competing for the overall prize, which means that if the Grand Prix ended today I would actually be in 4th place out of 12. 

As for the injury report, I'm going to write a separate blog about that because there's just too much to talk about to include here. Check back soon!

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.