{ God’s Gym }

muscles

Can I look at life trials like an athlete looks at barbells? She can’t weight to lift those heavy chunks of metal…because she knows they build muscle.

Here are 3 bodybuilding terms, tweaked for daily Christian living:

Gains

Gains = progress made. As an athlete builds endurance through hard work in the gym, a Christian builds endurance and patience by being exposed to difficult circumstances and responding in a spiritual way.  It’s not just being exposed to difficult times and people that achieves growth. Gains are made by exercising faith and obedience muscles –especially when it’s tough.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Weekend Warrior

There are people that hit the gym all week long, and there are people that only come a few hours on a weekend. Likewise, there are people sporadically go to church or read their Bibles and perhaps feel stirred…but never really change.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1: 22-25

Spotter

If you lift heavy weights in a gym, you may need a spotter. The spotter is there to prevent the weights from falling down and crushing you. Spotters may also boost the lifter’s morale by shouting encouraging phrases.

We need spiritual spotters — encouragers in life — to stand beside us as we lift emotional and spiritual weights. Spotters don’t do it for us, and they don’t encourage us to escape the gym. They are friends who stand alongside and encourage us to succeed. Their presence is comforting, helps us follow through, and prevents us from feeling crushed.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1Thessalonians 5:11

Finishing Well

Lord, by your grace and power, may I make consistent gains as I press on in the Christian life.
May I actively look for ways to encourage others.
“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

 

Trials need not deplete me, they are used by God to complete me.

 

 

 

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{ The Wizard of Oz Made Me Cry }

I asked my husband out on a date.

I told him, “We’re going somewhere special. I’m treating.”

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So, I brought him where he could eat his kind of food (keto)

at my kind of price (Chik Fil A).

Next, we drove to a high school production of The Wizard of Oz. 

Tickets were free (also within my budget)…

…but the performance was priceless.

~~~

Theater For All was started at a local high school by a theater arts teacher and a special education teacher.

They teamed up to offer theater classes and performance experience to

students with special needs.

Each actor or actress in The Wizard of Oz was paired up with a non-disabled counterpart. They did their parts together, with the assistant dressed in black “shadowing” the actor who was disabled.

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The Wicked Witch of the West in her wheelchair, paired with her counterpart.

Dorothy, carrying Toto in a basket, was dressed in a blue gingham dress.

The counterpart Dorothy was dressed in black, shadowing the other Dorothy with a face full of encouragement and a posture that gave her partner center stage.

What made me cry?

  • Hearing Dorothy belt out “Over the Rainbow” from her heart, gripping her partner’s hand, and glowing when the audience whooped and cheered. (The audience clapped and cheered throughout the play — for each song, group number and solo.)

 

  • Watching the earnest Tin Man in his wheelchair beg for a heart. He was clear, sincere and charming.

 

  • Seeing Glinda (the good witch) ad-lib with her counterpart. While Glinda only mouthed her lines, she watched her partner speak them loudly. Suddenly Glinda, with her braids and pink chiffon dress spilling over the wheelchair, leaned over and gently touched her partner with her star wand, insisting:

I love you!

I love you!

I love you!

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The standing ovation was well deserved. We applauded the courage and enthusiasm of each actor with special needs.

We were deeply moved by the servant-like support of each non-disabled actor.  It was clear they were up on stage simply to make the other actor successful.

The event was an visual of loving others without seeking personal glory.

~~~

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves…Philippians 2:3

Thank you, Theater For All & Edina High School Thespians

 

 

Wicked Witch photo by S. Magnuson

Glinda image from Pinterest

 

{ Graduation Open House }

jello

Rain delayed.

Volleyball played.

Pasta prolific.

Helpers terrific.

Talkers lingered.

Cake samplers fingered.

Colorful jello.

Balloons golden yellow.

No more papers

No more books

Lots of teacher’s

Happy looks

My son

Got it done

By God’s grace

Now? Finish the race.

~~~

© Lisa M. Luciano 2019

 

{ Happy Mother’s Day }

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God gave Minnesota moms a beautiful day on Mother’s Day 2019. Just because it was my day, I got to bring everyone along on a double trail walk. Then we came home and ate turtle tracks ice cream. Watch my son cringe as I say, “Noice…very noice.”

Mother’s Day is kind of like the Superbowl or Academy Awards for moms. And, the week before Mother’s Day can resemble an extended pre-game show — at our house, at least.

This predictable, annual phenomenon may include:

  • Family members choosing sporadic sociability over phone use. By this I mean that when I come into a room, they look up and smile. They pause a moment and cheerfully answer my “What was the highlight of your day?” and perhaps two other questions before glancing down at their phones again. They may look up again at me and smile yet again if I loiter.
  • My older daughters peppering me with questions the Sunday before Mother’s Day:
    • Mama, what do you want to do for Mother’s Day?
    • What do you want to eat?
    • If it rains and we can’t go for a walk, then what do you want to do?
    • What’s your favorite store?
  • My youngest boys showering me with gushing, matriarchal flattery. Their compliments and gift-giving escalate in intensity throughout the week:
    • Monday: Here’s a picture I made for you — You’re the best mom ever.
    • Tuesday: I’ll open the door for you, most excellent mother!
    • Wednesday: You’re the best mom that anyone in the whole world ever had.
    • Thursday: You’re the greatest person ever. Except for God.

When asked, “What do you want for Mother’s Day?”  there’s a teeny, tiny, selfish part of me that wants to spend *my day*  alone on a remote, sunny beach inhaling an entire bag of salt and vinegar ripple chips all by myself, choosing drinks from a cooler packed with my favorite kombuchas, and soaking in the sun where no will talk to me for 24 hours.

But that would feel empty, and it would be as silly as Superbowl athletes hiding from the crowds inside the locker room, or movie stars heading to the Oscars, makeup-less in their sweats.

This is Mother’s Day — a day to shine; embrace my precious, living gifts; receive a million hugs; and absorb the fleeting moments that God has given!

 

 

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord…
 Psalm 127:3

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My sister and I with our dear mother!

 

 

 

 

 

{ Bacon, Books, & Body Fat }

It’s been over a month since I have logged in, but I haven’t been idle. This is what I have been up to:

  • My husband got home from out-of-state and he came back eating Keto. The man I married 29 years ago thought eating bacon was scandalous — but now he embraces bacon as a legitimate thing, and I don’t have to hide eating it anymore!

Life is change…and this is a good change.bacon-1238243__340

  • I read several books this winter:
  1. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  2. A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller
  3. The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
  4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
  5. Killing the SS: The Hunt for the Worst War Criminals in History by Bill O-Reilly
  6. The Persian Gamble by Joel C. Rosenberg
  7. Still Life by Louise Penny

 

This was the best ever year for field trips. We attended two homeschool ski days; joined a free program at the Paint Factory; visited the Amazon Fulfillment Center; toured the St. Cloud Hospital; saw the Sea Life Aquarium on homeschool week; jumped at a Trampoline Park and went to the fish fry after the last day of pick-up hockey at the local ice rink.

 

 

Did we finish our history or math books? Nope.

However, I consider this year fruitful in other ways, because…

  1. We got to see the underbellies of sharks, real sea turtles and God’s creativity with jellyfish — and write about it.
  2. My youngest boys got to ski for the first time.
  3. My three teenagers got to experience the joy of group painting, and brought home their masterpieces. (The one who most reluctantly attended was the same one who proudly set his finished canvas next to his desk at home.)
  4. We saw how robotics works in a hospital operating room AND how robotics works in an Amazon warehouse.

 

  • On the creative side, I’m dabbling in tote bags again, thanks to a request from a friend’s daughter.  The tote bags I create make use of old wool sweaters, discarded men’s dress shirts, and empty burlap bags. After years of sewing with zipper avoidance, I’m officially not afraid of zippers anymore. 

 

 

 

  • Lastly, my husband and I took a preventative health test from Life Line. It’s a mobile set-up that moves you through simple tests like blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol and then uses ultrasound to check for artery blockage.

But, here’s the interesting scenario: My husband, who:

  • works out almost every day
  • carries minimal spare body fat
  • can let a chocolate bar sit unopened in his closet for 5 months

…got only fair blood test scores. It was surprising.

I tried to feel bad for him.

But, all the while I was pleasantly surprised at my own excellent scores, since I:

  • have been virtually sedentary all winter long (except for the field trips I mentioned)
  • have oodles of spare body fat
  • can’t let a chocolate bar sit unopened for 5 minutes

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I tried to console him. I did some online research on his behalf and it might have something to do with sleep…

Speaking of sleep, I just found the word for my kind of nap: Nappuccino. A nappuccino is when you want to take a 20-minute power nap but not go longer than that. So, you drink a cup of coffee right before your nap and then the caffeine wakes you up just when you should wake up.

I didn’t know it was a *thing*…but turns out it is 🙂

  1. https://www.myrecipes.com/extracrispy/the-nappuccino-is-a-wellness-trend-i-can-get-behind
  2. http://dreamstudies.org/2012/06/08/4-steps-to-reaganing-all-day-long-the-power-of-the-nappuccino/
  3. https://1079ishot.com/nappucino-coffee-nap/

 

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{ S’no More? & Sweeping Reforms }

There comes a point of acceptance.

I have been griping about the snow in my spirit –and aloud– and I have been groaning about how –or if –we can maneuver through our long and perilous driveway.

Today, I just looked at the snow falling gently down from the sky and thought:

“Well, then. Let it come.”

I’m strangely content today. I told everyone it’s a day to stay in our pajamas.  I baked up those cookie dough balls from the freezer that have survived the nibblers. And right now I’m making a double batch of brownies.

Has my body entered a state of hibernation — one where I’m subconsciously adding layers of fat to sustain me until the snow melts?

Is my mind slightly sedated, which would explain my docile–or perhaps numb–outlook on life?

Yesterday, however, was a day of sweeping reforms.

Do you find that your best ideas come to you early in the morning

Or late at night?

Or, perhaps in the middle of the night?

That happened to me yesterday as my clock rang early and I sat in a dark room.

Inspiration drifted down to me like a gentle, welcome snowfall, telling me:

We are too distracted by devices. We need to corral our dependence on phones and tablets. We need to organize our use of technology and vary our interests. Everyone seems to default to devices when they don’t have anything to do.  This is not how we started out. This will not help us.

So yesterday was a day to roll out the new rules.  Phone and tablets will stay in a basket in the middle of the table. We will use them from 3:00 to 4:00. There will be exceptions, of course, but this will be our goal. Surprisingly, it seemed as if everyone was relieved instead of being upset.

I told everyone we will have a contest to name our hour of device-using-time.

“How about Happy Hour?” I heard someone say.

~~~

There’s something truly beautiful about this snow.

It’s a clean, firm covering over everything that has finally surrendered to winter.

It’s a white quilt on an already fattened landscape.

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We have received an average of one inch plus per day of snow this last month — February, 2019. [40 inches total in February and we are getting more today, March 1st.]

{ Long Winter, Short Ballad }

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Lo, the sweet home lights are burning

They are burning clear and bright,

They twinkle and they beckon:

“Come home this cold, dark night!”

~~~

I see their beams not far away

Across the snowy sea

But alas, my car is anchored here

At driveway’s end, unfree —

~~~

The shovel, it doth twist and scrape

At waves of ice and snow

How long the van will sit here

I confess, I do not know.

~~~

The month of February 2019 has gifted Minnesotans with 31.5 inches of snow! 

(So far)

~~~

I sat in a heated car, thinking up this poem, while my dear son shoveled us out.

~~~
(There was only one shovel.)

{ Rhetorical Question, Anyone? }

My daughter and I were sitting in the kitchen, when I casually threw out the phrase: “rhetorical question” in conversation.

Suddenly, she reacted as if someone had scratched their fingernails down a chalkboard.

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With a smile, she admitted that misuse / overuse of the phrase is a current pet peeve of hers! Then, we enjoyed some friendly banter alternated with Google searches for the proper defining of “rhetorical question.”

Can you imagine having that as a pet peeve?*

[ Was that a rhetorical question*? see definition below. ]

I feel that my grievances are slightly more normal, but you may disagree:

  • Drips of dirty wet boot slush that stretch across a kitchen floor
  • Used dental floss and dental floss picks in places other than the garbage
  • Dryer lint left on top of the dryer
  • When people say “Aldi’s” instead of “Aldi” (Picky, I know)
  • Any song by Neil Diamond
  • An unnecessary apostrophe used in a word that happens to have an “S”. (Are you with me on that one, Sara?)

Speaking of literary terms, I experienced something rather ironic last night.

I was writing a health supplement article — late into the night. The article centered around melatonin, the hormone involved with the human sleep cycle. It’s fascinating how melatonin:

  • is produced when light decreases in one’s surroundings
  • is released by an amazing, intricate system in the body which includes the optic nerve sensing a lack of light and sending proper signals to the brain
  • is intertwined with our circadian rhythm of sleep and wakefulness

 

I will get to the irony, but I must interject here that reading and writing about melatonin and the intricate workings of the human body reminded me that:

My Creator is an unparalleled engineer, masterpiecing to the rhythms and designs He’s planted everywhere in His creation!

Now back to the irony:

I wrote far too late into the early morning hours — disrupting pools of melatonin, I’m sure.

And, after completing the article on sleep, I proceeded to have the worst night of sleep I’ve had in years. Cold toes, unsatisfying pillow placement, hearing mysterious noises — the whole works.

How ironic, eh?*

What’s your pet peeve? Perhaps your list includes: blog posts where people whine about a poor night’s sleep, don’t get to the point, or make lists of unsolicited facts about body chemicals? Or people who scatter dashes and ellipses like grass seed? Care to share?

*rhetorical question: a question asked in order to create a dramatic effect or to make a point rather than to get an answer.

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{ Polar Vortex, Wind Chill & Lots of Real Good Sauce}

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“Deadly polar vortex blasts Midwest with record-breaking cold, forecasters warn to ‘minimize talking’ outdoors… This is way colder than your typical cold front. The polar vortex has shifted, sending an incredible combo of very low temps and wind chills to the Upper Midwest…” — quote from news headlines today

Last night our washing machine didn’t work — the water had frozen inside the pipes.

We thawed them, but to keep the water flowing well, I planned to:

  • Get up at midnight and do some laundry.
  • Get up once more during the night and do more laundry.

The second nocturnal laundry phase found the water frozen-in-the-pipes again. But I was already wide awake at 3:30 a.m. So I took a hot, cozy shower, made a cup of coffee, and enjoyed the backdrop of a quiet house in which to complete a project.

During the frigid, early morning hours, I snapped this photo of the thermometer outside our window.

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Like a true Minnesotan, I will quantify the minus 20 degrees and add: “It was really twice as cold when you add the wind chill factor.”

Out of our four working young adults, none went to work today. This was due to cancellations and cars not starting. It was great to have them home.

Out of necessity (always, it seems, out of necessity) I concocted a hurry-up-and-make-dinner recipe. After tasting, my son said:

“See? This is how I like chicken! Not dry and with lots of real good sauce.

(I will take that as a compliment, and not read into it.)

Today, it was e x t r e m e l y. cold outside.

But I am thankful that it’s warm and happy indoors.

Quick Tandoori Chicken with Lots of Real Good Sauce

4 -6 chicken breasts, cut the way you like them or leave them whole

2 cups full fat plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

olive oil

  1. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a 13 x 9 glass pan.
  2. Place chicken pieces in the pan.
  3. Mix spices with the yogurt in a separate bowl.
  4. Spread yogurt evenly over chicken pieces.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for approximately 35 minutes, or until chicken is done.
  6. Serve with Basmati rice.

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Weather map: https://www.foxnews.com/us/deadly-polar-vortex-blasts-midwest-with-record-breaking-cold-forecasters-warn-to-minimize-talking-outdoors

{ Even Up Above Yourself }

Philippians is joyful letter, written by an incarcerated man of God, who loved his spiritual “children.” They were fellow believers, living miles away, who were struggling to live out their faith in a tempting and dark world.

I especially like chapter 2, though it’s easier to talk and write about it than it is to DO IT.

Anytime it happens, I know it’s only God working it out somehow through me.

Here is my paraphrase of this chapter, and unlike the true inspired words of scripture, it’s peppered with all my favorite punctuation marks — dashes, parentheses, ellipses, etc…

Anyway, it’s from the heart and I hope writing my version of Philippians 2:1-11 reminds me to do what it says:

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~~~~~~

Following Christ brings encouragement, love, comfort, affection and a godly sympathy —

So, encourage me by living and walking together with unity.

Don’t be selfish or proud in your attitudes or actions.

Be humble — and lift people up — even up above yourself.

Don’t wallow in self-absorption; break out and joyfully meet a need…or two…or three!

Because (and only because) of Christ-in-you, you have His mind.

So…do things in the same way He did.

He came as a poor and lowly man…but in reality,

He was — and still is — G O D.

He willingly took on human form, with all of its earthly limitations.  He was a meek and loving servant — empty, humble and obedient.

His obedience took Him to the cross.

(But He didn’t stay there.)

After the unimaginable suffering came the unlimited triumph.

Now and forever, God has lifted Jesus up and given Him a name so powerful

it will make every knee bow

and every tongue admit

that yes —

Jesus Christ

really and eternally–

is  L O R D.

[And He — and we — will forever give God the glory He deserves!]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Philippians 2: 1-11  ESV

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Photo Credit:michael schaffler