31 July 2014

Why travel is good for the soul

In my almost 29 years on God's green earth, I have done some pretty amazing things.  From the Kangaroo petting zoo in Sydney and climbing a mountain in Ireland to sleeping on Copacabana beach with almost 4 million people, some of my greatest memories and adventures come from traveling.

I have been to 3 continents and 7 different countries.  Every trip I have went on, has in some way enhanced my life.  A love of travel and adventure has taught me to be more spontaneous and easy going, how to properly pack a suitcase, and opened up my eyes to the world beyond the city I live in.

Oh sure its expensive and has taken me a lot of practice to not over pack, but I believe that travel is good for the soul in lots of different ways...here's why.

1.  Travel can help you appreciate the little things in life
My adventures abroad have taught me (in some crazy, unique ways) to appreciate the little things in life; the things at home we normally take for granted, like a clean toilet or shower.  When I went to Australia we stayed in a school and slept in the classrooms.  Sure there were bathrooms, but no showers.  Thankfully our gracious hosts concocted a lovely shower system (aka a wooden shack) for us to bath in.  A wooden shack.with a hose that only sprayed ice cold water.in the middle of an Australian winter.  I don't which wins the prize-the winter shower system or having to use an overflowing porta potty for emergency urination in Rio de Janeiro.  Its all about perspective...and those situations have made me so more grateful for my lovely toilet and shower at home.

2.  Travel opens your eyes to the world
Traveling outside the good US of A has broadened my horizons.  It is so easy to think "my world" consists of just me and my life.  There is so much more out in the world beyond our own city!  Its one thing to see and hear about places on world news, but a completely different experience to have been there yourself.  International travel has reminded me that there is so much more than just me/my problems/issues....there's millions of others who live on this Earth that have so much less than I.  Traveling has opened my eyes to different issues that impact the lives of those in that particular region/country.  I have never experienced a ruthless dictator government, communism, or being persecuted because I am a Christian; but now I have met people who have experienced all three.

3.  Travel is an education...in culture, people, and even yourself!
I had an English teacher in high school once tell me "The world is your classroom, so go and learn all you can!"  Traveling is like a hands-on learning experience.  I have learned more about different cultures and meeting all kinds of people way more than any text book could teach me.  And international travel has even taught me a few things about myself: like what exactly do I "need" to get by for a few weeks in Europe or realizing even though I lost my travel size of Frebreze I will somehow survive...I'm a tougher cookie than I thought and can handle the unexpected better than I give myself credit for.

4.  Traveling is fun...its good to have fun!
May sound a little to simplistic, but I like having fun (well duh.).  Some of the greatest memories are from the fun, crazy, and sometimes stupid things that happen while traveling.  When my friends and I first arrived in Ireland we had to pick up our rental car; a red mini bus named Big Red.  Well lets just say when we merged on the freeway the driver suddenly freaked out and completely forgot how to drive a stick shift.  Okayyy maybe not the most fun thing I have ever done; terrifying-beyond-belief?  That seems to fit better.
But you know what is fun?! Feeding Irish sheep scones and cheese or holding a real life Koala bear  or putting a pair of Aviator shades on Kangaroo's. Ohh and signing karaoke at an Irish pub=wayy fun.

St. Augustine really was right when he said the world is like a book; each page is unique and different from all the rest.  People who don't travel only read one page of that book, so they see only one perspective and worldview.

I know its expensive to jet off around the world, but once you start its hard to stop.  I am grateful for all the awesome opportunities I have had and really believe each adventure abroad has made me a better person and really enriched my life.

23 July 2014

An Ode to Philly...

...well to the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich that is.  Honestly I have never been to the city of brotherly love, and until a few years ago had never eaten the sandwich.  Well I missing out.  Cheese, meat, and carbs all together? Get me a bib, fork and knife cause those are some of my faves to eat.

Since I am getting serious about exercise and mindful eating, I figured its probably a good idea to reflect that in meal planning.  So when I recently stumbled across a Philly Cheese Steak Sloppy Joe recipe from Pinterest, I knew it was a preview of coming dinner attraction. 
If you like the cheesy, messy, sloppiness; no worries!  You don't have to sacrifice the taste of yummy comfort food to enjoy it.

1 lb. ground turkey
1 large white onion, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
1/4 cup of steak sauce
1 Tbsp. of Worcestershire sauce
1 cup of reduced-sodium beef broth
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
8 grain slim buns
8 slices of reduced-ft provolone cheese

1//  Brown the turkey meat in large skillet and drain the grease.  Add the onion and green pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender

2//  Stir in the steak sauce, beef broth, and Worcestershire.  Add salt and pepper.
{I added extra steak sauce (1 cup) because why wouldn't you want too!?}

3//  Cook on high until most of the liquid evaporates

4//  The original recipe called broiling the sandwiches once you assemble them, but I didn't have the self control to endure more waiting for dinner...sometimes patience is not a virtue.

I have already made this a few more times for dinner, and it was quickly added to my list of must-have comfort foods.  Be sure to add a little steak sauce to your sandwich after melting the cheese; you'll thank me later:)
Sloppy Joes meets Philly Cheese Steak=yum overload
Happy eating!

09 July 2014

God's plans always > than mine

Sometimes its really easy to second myself and doubt my abilities.  That is how I felt a few weeks ago leading up to our youth leadership camp.  I had a lot of thing on my mind; was worried I spent too much on food and nervous things wouldn't go they way I planned.  Good thing, it didn't go the way I planned.  Instead it went how God wanted it and that turned out a million times better than I could have imagined.  Love it when the Spirit rocks my socks off like that.

We stayed at the gorgeous retreat center in the middle of nowhere and had the whole lodge to ourselves.  It was the perfect homey and comfy atmosphere to build community and friendships with each other.  This was the first year we have created our own leadership camp and we focused more on helping the teens grow personally and as a community in their faith, rather than being skills focused.  We were blessed to have several youth ministry alumni join us for the week too; they each took turns sharing their own testimony, leading sessions, and kept us on our toes with some insane icebreakers.  My favorite sessions we did were on evangelization and how to pray with another person.

When talking about evangelization we looked to the Gospels for specific, concrete examples of how Jesus evangelized the people He encountered; what made His style different and impactful?  We brainstormed together all the different pieces of the Good News we believe in or have experienced in our own lives.  I don't know about you, but I sure was impressed what we came up with!  Then every person had 3-5 minutes to share their testimony and how they have experienced the Good News in their own life.  Holy.Moses.  I was blown.away. at the depth and raw honesty of these teens.  They were so real and authentic; some were so passionate in talking they began to cry...nothing is more amazing than seeing and hearing how Jesus works in people's lives. #bestthingever

Our last night at camp we talked about Scripture verses of the early Christians praying together and laying on of hands; what its important and why we disciples shouldn't be scared outta our socks to pray with another person.  After discussion and sharing, we headed to the chapel on site for an evening of Eucharistic Adoration with worship music.
All of us got opportunities to pray with two other people, and then have them pray over you.  One of the girls told me afterwards it felt like the Holy Spirit was weaving us all together as a community in all of us being open/vulnerable to pray with each other.

Our final session of camp was a giant affirmation circle where we took time to affirm and love one every teen and adult that was present.  Can't think of a better way to end 4 days together.

And as we finished our affirmation circle and did another round of hugs, God reminded me gently that His plans always always are better than mine; even if that means I have to let go of plans/dreams I had to accept a new one.  Which go figure, happens more than I would like.

Sure I was quite frustrated when the burgers for dinner turned out kinda nasty or when the half can of lighter fluid couldn't do jack to light wet firewood...but somehow it all worked out.  God was crazy present...great things happened...we laughed, cried, and prayed together.

Sometimes when we let go and let God, amazing things happen....
love these crazy, beautiful souls :)

07 July 2014

Nobody got fat from too many banana's

One of the leaders at a recent Weight Watcher meeting told this to our Monday night crew:  "Nobody ends up at Weight Watchers from eating too many banana's or over-doing it on the low-fat salad dressing.  We're all here because somewhere along the way, our relationship with food got out of hand."

My relationship with food has been an interesting one.  For one, I like food.  I am fan of eating; especially sweets.  I can remember the first time I thought I was fat.  I have done a fair share of diets and work-out gimmicks in my almost 29 years.  Towards the end of high school, I did the Atkins Diet and got down to my lowest weight ever at 145-140 pounds.  I thrived on no carbs all the time.  I used babysitting money to go to the health food store to buy low carb bars and treats. 

My parents started getting worried, and I can still remember the night they sat me down and said I needed to start eating a more balanced diet.  I was devastated.  I did not have a healthy relationship with food, and it didn't help I just got a job at Panera working in the bakery; the pounds quickly piled on.  I didn't know how to interact with food in a healthy way.  When at my highest weight in college at 195 lbs I knew my relationship with food was off.way.off. 

So I decided to start the new year right by heading to Weight Watchers.  After loosing 35 pounds, I felt I was turning a corner.  I was starting to learn about what a healthy relationship with food looked like.  My clothes fit better, I felt more confidant, and how I viewed food was changing.

Fast forward to the present-July 2014.  Since loosing (and still maintaining!) the weight lost almost 8 years ago, I have been getting lazy in staying committed to being healthy.  I quit going to weekly WW meetings and would honestly rather eat dirt than exercise.  I wasn't tracking my points and my weight loss had really fizzled out.

About a month ago, I read a great book by Jennifer Hudson (American Idol turned WW spokesperson) and it was a kick-in-the-butt I needed to wake up and realize why I wasn't where I wanted to be with my health; because I stopped caring and wasn't making it a priority.

I decided to start going to weekly WW meetings again.  I need that accountability.  AND I added the dreaded e word into my life; exercise.

I detested exercise something FIERCE.  Sure, I would have occasional stints of "gyming it up" but nothing seriously committed to staying fit.  So this time I decided to go big or go home; which for me meant take up running.  

Since May, I have been training with Couch to 5K and surprise, surprise am actually really loving it?!  Folks.  I have NEVER stuck with any type o' exercise this long in my life.  I just finished week 5 and after week 8 I graduate to being able to run 3.1 miles.  Saturday I just ran 20 minutes straight. for the first time.since high school.   I probably looked like a complete fool dancing around and fist pumping it up afterwards, but it didn't phase me one bit.  I felt so proud of myself for doing something I never thought I could do.  I have pushed and stretched myself a little more each week; and its paying off in more ways than one.

Running three times a week along with tracking my WW points and staying accountable for what I eat is helping me get back on track.  I have never liked the word 'diet'.  For me it screams deprivation, non-tasty food,  and is very limiting.  I'm thinking Teresa would agree with me.

For me it wasn't all them banana's that made me gain weight.  I stopped caring.  I emotionally ate.  I wasn't thinking about what I was putting in my mouth or if I was even hungry.  This is no longer about finding the right diet.  I am so done with that crazy making.  Exercise and WW are becoming a lifestyle plan for me.

As I have gotten older, I am slowly learning to be more gentle and patient with myself...learning how important it is to care for my physical body as much I would my spiritual health. 

And amid all the ice cream, cake, banana's and low-fat salad dressing that bit of truth is so.so. good for my soul.

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