Posts Tagged Life
It is May 22, a day some did not believe they would see, and in reality, some didn’t. Yesterday was the last day in this world for someone, somewhere. There were a number of people preparing for yesterday to be their last, and because it wasn’t they now have time to make some adjustments, or so they assume. Like Harold Camping, we think we know, but instead our confidence is more likely it will not be today. We all assume, but we do not know the number of our days.
A few years ago when my world nearly ended in an instant, in a single moment, my assumptions were confronted. Not that I would want to relive it, that confrontation did have a benefit. I am no longer arrogant to assume that I have anything more than today. No, I don’t take unnecessary risks for the adrenaline rush, daily rewrite my bucket list, or live for myself out of some egocentric idea that this is all there is anyway. However, it made me settle a few things, even those things I thought I already had. Everything was on the table for evaluation—it was not the time for wishful thinking or cliché living, which makes you feel better without addressing the real questions. As for me, most were again answered in Christ and those still unanswered rest in eternal hope.
If you have spent even a millisecond in the abyss of Why? What then? What if? then you are familiar with the deeper things simmering in the soul. If left unsettled or unasked, we begin to think the important stuff is material, experiential, unlinked to the cavernous void we try to fill, or that we mock. Sure, we can scoff at Camping and his followers, which feeds our sense of superiority for just a minute, but a passing smirk or sarcastic chuckle doesn’t abate the questions. I am not excusing Mr. Camping and his responsibility in all the hype; I believe the individual is responsible for their own choices. Some are too easily led astray, some are too arrogant to ponder the questions, and some are not paying attention at all.
If there is anything positive we can take away from the May 21, 2011 End of the World stuff this week, it is the reminder to prepare. Don’t wait for a near death experience, a sudden loss, or the next end of the world prophecy to seek the answers to lingering questions—that creates too much pressure to come up with quick answers. Take the time to prepare your soul for the day your time here ends (which is more likely to come before the Second Coming) and prepare your heart to receive each day as a gift until that time arrives.
Our quest for nutritional health began a little over ten years ago. Eliminating refined sugar, oils, white flour, and processed foods were the focal point of our dietary makeover. We made significant changes, benefiting with less seasonal illness, sustained level of energy, and shedding excess body weight. It proved true; it worked.
So what am I confessing?
Now, four months post-heart attack, there is a long list of things we have learned and unlearned. In my previous post Feel Healthy: Have a Heart Attack Anyway, is important information about heart attack risks and crucial tests. This post is about answering the question,
How did this happen?
Knowing is not doing; over the years, we got busy, a little lazy, and a bit arrogant. We compromised more than we thought. Even though our clothes fit a little tighter, we blamed it on our age and assumed we were fine; besides, we ate right most of the time and took supplements occasionally. The reality of the choices you’ve made is never clearer than when you face a serious, yet avoidable, health risk.
The statement that woke us up was from the cardiologist: “We know that what he was doing wasn’t working.” That was hard to hear because we thought otherwise. We have heard from more than a few people whose perception was that we followed a good diet and were relatively healthy. Well, we perceived that too. However, as we took a hard look at what we were really eating rather than relying on our knowledge of a healthy diet, denial was exposed.
Compromising adds-up in the form of convenience, justification, and rationalization. Compromise is exactly what got us (him) here—special occasions, dinner out with friends, mood enhancement, been good for a week, worked out harder this week, too tired, too busy, were all part of the excuse regimen. Whatever bargaining was necessary, we found a way to eat what we wanted, put off regular exercise, and still feel okay about it. These momentary “just this once” decisions appear harmless, even manageable. Seemingly small concessions, accumulate into health-robbing patterns.
Activity is not exercise. Having the ability to exercise, thinking about exercising, planning to exercise, buying exercise equipment, is not the same thing as actually committing to a lifestyle of regular exercise. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away from stores, weekend hikes, walking the dog is all good, but it is not a substitute for real heart-pumping exertion 3-4 days a week. Technology encourages passivity. We sit in our cars, at our desks, at the table, when entertained, while we wait, you get the idea. Sedentary habits catch up with us and the medical bills tell the real story.
Diligence in diet and exercise prove true once again; it still works. In just a few months, cholesterol numbers dropped dramatically and so have the numbers on the scale (he shed 20 lbs and I shed 13 lbs). The funny thing is, I had been “trying” for over two years to lose those 5-7 lbs with no sustained progress. Denial had set in as I flipped through fitness magazines for new exercises and complained to friends that I just could not figure out why the scale kept inching up. I wondered if my metabolism had simply changed after turning 40 and this is just the way things would be—it happens to everybody at some point, right. No, I was in denial and unwilling to get serious about it.
I remember telling friends, “Life is too short to not have dessert“. They agreed, who wouldn’t? (We like it when friends validate our denial.) Well, I have adjusted that mantra. Life is too short not to have dessert; it will likely be shorter if we do. Don’t get me wrong, we will have a treat on our birthday and enjoy special holiday traditions, but it will be rare. This is not a fad diet or a knee-jerk response to a health issue; we have seen first hand what works, what doesn’t work, and the cost if we ignore reality. We are diligent with our diet and exercise now as though our lives depend on it—because they do.
Proverbs 28:13 (NIV) Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
Scottish proverb: Open confession is good for the soul. (In this case, it is good for the heart as well.)
Perception has a lot to do with experience. When we moved into our home on the west side of Colorado Springs 13 years ago, the mule deer so prevalent in the neighborhood fascinated us. Growing up on a farm in Missouri it was rare to see deer out in the open, especially in numbers. It did not take long to notice their familiarity with humans, pets, traffic, is quite different from their white-tailed cousins.
That close quarter relationship certainly has two sides, depending on which neighbor you talk to about it. There can be quite a difference in the perspective of a farm girl like me appreciating beautiful, serene animals, which also provide meat during hunting season, and the view of my good friend, a city girl, who marvels at them like zoo animals, unable to imagine ever eating one no matter how annoying they become.
Read the full article here.
HEART DISEASE: ARE YOU AT RISK?
Many dismiss the importance of regular check-ups because they feel fine and don’t have noticeable risk factors of heart disease like smoking or being overweight. Waiting until you feel symptoms may be too late. Each year in the U.S., over 1 million people have heart attacks, almost half result in death. Do not make the mistake we did, catch heart disease early and avoid what might be lurking in the shadows.
A few weeks ago while jogging, my husband felt fullness/pressure in his chest and tightness in his arm, as though he had been lifting weights. He stopped, the feeling subsided, but he decided to get a check-up before resuming exercise. The doctor did an EKG (which was normal), drew blood, and recommended he see a cardiologist for a stress test. Days later while on a walk, he felt the tightness again, though sitting and leaning forward seemed to relieve it. The lack of any other classic heart attack symptoms made it difficult to be certain what was really going on.
Within two hours of arriving at the ER, he was headed to the cath lab, the cardiologist explaining the probability of putting stents in his heart. We were stunned. Matt was a healthy guy, we eat right most of the time, he is not overweight, no high blood pressure, no health problems. However, he did have a blockage that required two stents. Additionally, during the procedure he went into cardiac arrest. (Blessing: if you are going to have a heart attack, he was in the perfect place.) The cardiologist later explained that had he gone down with a heart attack earlier, he would not have gotten back up again. It was staggering news, to say the least, a significant wake-up call to take heart health more seriously.
Matt is 51, 6′ tall, 178 lbs, non-smoker, normal blood pressure, no other health issues. His brother, a life-long smoker, had a heart attack in his forties. We lead an active lifestyle, hiking during the summer months and occasionally doing The Incline. Matt’s cholesterol was 224; not at an alarming number, but something we would have paid attention to had we known. The point is, this is not a high-risk profile for heart disease, yet the heart attack came anyway.
February is American Heart Month; for us, it will always be September. It is tempting to ignore what isn’t urgent, believing there will always be time to get a check-up later. Because he did not have other health issues, he had not seen a doctor in almost 7 years, which means he had not checked his cholesterol either. If you have not had a check-up in awhile, do not wait for February to be reminded—or worse yet, have it be too late—schedule an appointment now. Heart disease is a silent killer, often showing up without any prior symptoms and is the leading cause of death for both men and women.
Nearly every woman I know has worn a pink ribbon to raise awareness about breast cancer, with good reason. However, deaths from all cancers in the U.S. are half as common as deaths from cardiovascular disease. According to the Women’s Heart Foundation, deaths from cardiovascular diseases in women exceed the total number of deaths caused by the next 16 causes, but only 31% of women know that CVD is the leading cause of death.
Ladies, it’s time to Go Red. In 2004, the American Heart Association was challenged to raise awareness among women of their risk of cardiovascular disease, which claimed the lives of nearly 500,000 American women each year. In an effort to save lives, the AHA created Go Red For Women – a passionate, emotional, social initiative designed to empower women to take charge of their heart health.
Understanding and Reducing Risks:
Anyone who has even glanced at risk factors knows that smoking, excess body weight and high blood pressure increase the risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, the absence of these well-known risks can leave us believing we have no need for concern. The following is a list of additional risk factors we have become acutely aware of through our experience. It is my hope that this information would serve as forewarning for someone otherwise ignoring potentially dangerous risks in their own life.
1. Schedule a physical and ask for the following tests: These tests provide a more accurate picture of cholesterol, as well as the degree of inflammation as a factor in overall risk. It is best to begin checking cholesterol after age 20, at least once every five years. Men over 45 and women over 55 should have cholesterol checked more frequently.
VAP Cholesterol Test: Most people know to get their cholesterol checked as part of evaluating their risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The focus used to be on total cholesterol to assess risk. Further research has brought to light the benefits of more precise testing which differentiates between HDL, LDL, Triglycerides, VLDL‘s, as well as Lp(a). Lp(a) is a strong indicator of increased risk of heart disease.
hs-CRP Test (High-sensitivity C-reactive protein): C-reactive protein (CRP) is a marker of inflammation in the arteries. C-reactive protein (CRP) is one of the proteins that increase during systemic inflammation. Laboratory evidence and findings from clinical and population studies suggest that inflammation is the underlying cause of the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
Homocysteine Test: An elevated homocysteine level is considered an independent risk factor for heart disease. This test is still relatively expensive, is not widely available, and rarely covered by insurance. Although the American Heart Association has not established a direct relationship between homocysteine levels and heart attacks, they do suggest screening may be appropriate for those with a family history of heart disease, but none of the risk factors themselves.
2. Exercise regularly. Exercise at least 30 minutes 4 to 6 times a week. An active life-style of hiking or recreational activity does wonders for overall health and well-being, but lack of regular exercise is a risk factor for heart disease. If it has been awhile since you’ve tied up the laces on a pair of gym shoes, seek medical advice before starting any exercise program.
3. Reduce stress. “While people know stress plays a role in how they feel physically, they’re often unaware that it is a risk factor for heart disease,” says Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, an attending cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Stress increases inflammation in the body triggering a higher production of cholesterol in the liver. Managing stress is a crucial component in reducing risk.
4. Eat for life. Food can be a source of life-giving nutrients or a catalyst for disease. Frequent travel, dining out, or relying on comfort food for stress management will sidetrack the very best of intentions. As I mentioned before, we ate right most of the time, or so we thought. When we take an honest look at the compromises we had made, it is easy to see how convenience foods lured us back into old habits and poor choices. Convenience foods, which are loaded with refined oils, flour, and sugar, are only convenient until they cost you your health. There is no shortage of heart healthy diets promoted in the marketplace. Discerning all the information requires great scrutiny and research. For us, we have returned to The Maker’s Diet with renewed diligence in our diet.
5. Know the warning signs. Timing is crucial to surviving a heart attack and avoiding permanent damage to the heart. Of the people who die from heart attacks, about half die within an hour of the first symptoms and before they reach the hospital. If you suspect one of the symptoms, do not hesitate to seek medical help, the life you save might be your own.
- Discomfort, pressure, heaviness, or pain in the chest, arm, or below the breastbone
- Discomfort radiating to the back, jaw, throat, or arm
- Fullness, indigestion, or choking feeling (may feel like heartburn)
- Sweating, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness
- Extreme weakness, anxiety, or shortness of breath
- Rapid or irregular heartbeats
Check out the latest CVD facts for both men and women here: http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
Additional Reading and Resources:
On August 28, a multitude gathered around the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. for Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally, which raised more than $5 million dollars for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. The speakers included representatives from SOWF, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Dr. Alveda King and Marcus Luttrell. Pastor Paul Jehle and Dan Roever delivered the opening and closing prayers.
Since there is no shortage of opinion circulating about the Restoring Honor Rally, I wanted to offer a view straight from those who participated. L.T. and Tina Bowens traveled from Oklahoma to attend the rally. Tina is a Captain in the U.S. Army and L.T. attends Oral Roberts University while caring for their daughter at home. This is their experience.
1. What motivated you to attend the rally?
Tina: I have been listening to Glenn Beck for a while and the message of the event was appealing. I wanted to participate—to take a stand for the realization that a spiritual awakening will be necessary for America to regain honor.
L.T.: I was really motivated by Tina.
2. What was most significant about the experience for you?
Tina: The closing speech by Glenn when he said, “God is not done with you yet, he is not done with man’s freedom yet.” This was significant because although our country hasn’t been perfect, we have done many things well. We have a firm foundation to draw from as we look to the future. We have the freedom to choose. Individually we must get our own lives in order, turn to God.
L.T.: Several people said, “I’m glad you’re here.” One older man said, “I wish more of you could be here.” I believe he was expressing that he really wished people knew they are not racist and they want to be united. (L.T. is African-American.) Anyone can have an impact and make a difference if we make the decision to do so. God is not done with you; he is not done with man’s freedom. The presentation was genuine. I appreciated the lengths they went to and the effort they made to be inclusive. I especially liked the definition of honor that I heard: Honor is keeping your promises.
3. What was most disappointing about the experience for you?
Tina: I lament the pervasive deception that prevented more people of different ethnicities from attending the event in greater numbers. So many have been told outright lies about Glenn Beck and the people who were to attend the rally. Actually, it just saddens me that we’re not able to penetrate the deception and reach more people with the truth, yet. One other aspect that was disappointing was the looks of disdain from protest groups. That made me uncomfortable.
L.T.: As a believer in Christ, while I appreciate the idea of being unified, I do have a concern that people could miss being unified in Christ.
4. What types of comments did you hear from people who attended the rally?
Tina: The sharing of ideas, encouraging one another toward civic involvement, people getting to know each other in conversation.
L.T.: Concern for their country, concern over people being oblivious to what is going on in the country, “we’re not going away—it doesn’t end at this event,” the agenda of the Obama administration, loss of freedoms.
5. How would you describe the composite of people in attendance?
Tina: A great mix of ages, vocations, families, retired folks, veterans, and community groups.
L.T.: Most of the people seemed to be middle to upper income, business owners, but there were young families too. Mostly Caucasian, maybe 8-10 percent people of color, various ages, but a lot of 50+ in the crowd.
6. The theme of the rally was restoring honor in America. Did you walk away with a clear understanding as to how to do that (the solution), or was the focus more about the lack of honor in America (the problem)?
Tina: The problem of the decline of honor in America was acknowledged, but there was more of a focus on the responsibility of the individual to put themselves on God’s side. The military was an example of honorable behavior. People were encouraged to emulate the courage and honor displayed by our military personnel in our own lives. We were encouraged by the awards for Faith, Hope, and Charity, and hearing their stories. Dr. Alveda King talked about focusing on character rather than skin color. There was a 40-day challenge issued for each person to turn back to God (prayer); sacrifice for one another, our children, and our future; being honorable in your own life by getting the lies out of your life—stop lying to others or yourself.
L.T.: For me, it is to keep my promises. During the song Amazing Grace, I thought of the verse, I was blind, but now I see. Even though saved, I can still be blind to certain things or issues. When we depend on ourselves, we can be blinded, when we depend on God, we see more clearly. We must be oriented toward God.
7. Was there a particular speech that was especially stirring?
Tina: Alveda King’s speech and Native American pastor, Dr. Negiel Bigpond, who introduced C.L. Jackson. He spoke about the need for all people to hear the gospel of Christ, for Native Americans to come off the reservations to impact their community and no longer be isolated.
L.T.: Glenn Beck’s concluding speech when he talked about the “giants” of history (Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Dr. Martin Luther King). Alveda King’s speech: She thanked Glenn for putting together a rally that focuses on the content of a person’s character rather than the color of their skin. To be united as the human race. She ended her speech encouraging people to repent from racism. I feel like people also need to repent for unforgiveness toward those who have been racist toward them.
[Beaufort County Now, Dr. Alveda King ended with these words: “I too have a dream. I have a dream that one day that the God of love will transcend color and economic status and cause us to turn from moral turpitude. I have a dream that Americans will repent from the sin of racism and return to Honor. I have a dream that America will pray and God will forgive us our sins and revive us in our land.”]
8. How would you describe the atmosphere at the event?
Tina: Hopeful. Peaceful. A feeling of community and willingness to help one another. A sense of camaraderie, we are not isolated or alone.
L.T.: They [the people at the event] were some of the nicest people you would ever meet. People proud of the freedom they have because others sacrificed, yet humble, motivated by gratefulness for what they have.
9. L.T., what are your feelings about this rally being held on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech?
L.T.: I felt some would misunderstand and misrepresent the intention of holding the rally on that day. Personally, I believe it was honoring to Martin Luther King, but it went beyond that. Some people think that day [MLK’s speech in 1963] is just for people of color, but it is for freedom for all people—all mankind. People who think it is just for one group of people missed the point.
10. What impact, if any, do you believe this rally will have politically?
Tina: People are less apathetic, becoming more involved in their communities. The religious leaders of the Black Robe Regiment committed to take the principles of honor back to their church community, estimated to reach over 1 million people. They will encourage their congregations to be informed in their voting/political choices and more involved in their own communities.
L.T.: People left with a sense that they were not alone. They realized that hundreds of thousands of people believe and stand for the same things that they do. This has the possibility of encouraging people to get involved and solidify their resolve to stand firm on what they believe—to not give up. If people had a question as to whether they should get involved, this event helped them make that decision. I have a new resolve to sacrifice to preserve freedom in this country.
Note: Doug Schoen, political analyst and Democratic pollster, mentions meeting this couple in the Dallas airport in this article: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/09/03/doug-schoen-tea-party-mainstream-media-bias-glenn-beck-martin-luther-king/#content
All across Colorado Springs families are preparing for the start of the new school year. For many, that means organizing carpools, box lunches, new locker combinations, and orientation meetings. For those who choose to educate their children at home, it means digging through old materials, ordering curriculum, and setting up the school room (or dining room).
When we started homeschooling our oldest daughter 12 years ago, we had no idea the life-changing impact it would really have on our family. Of course, our first priority was her education so she would be able to compete in the world one day. She was in 9th grade struggling with learning disabilities and time seemed short. In my frantic search for resources, I discovered a group at New Life Church offering support for homeschooling families. That was exactly what I needed.
High Country Enrichment Classes (HCEC) graciously linked arms with us and our adventure began. Since then, we have homeschooled all three of our children at different times and seasons of life. If field trips, curriculum advice, classes, and the moms group support were the extent of what we received, we would still credit High Country as our homeschooling lifeline. But it is so much more. I’m not suggesting we couldn’t have done it without enrichment classes, but oh, the difference it made. We all go through seasons of needing hope and help. It didn’t take long for us to recognize that friendship was just as important as practical help, for moms and children alike.
Today, High Country Enrichment Classes started their thirteenth year of ministering to homeschool families. Over 300 families with more than 600 students will meet together every Tuesday and Wednesday for the next 12 weeks as they attend over 160 classes. It’s true that you can homeschool without any outside help or support, but why would you? Classes that round-out lesson plans or sharing our latest challenge or victory with someone who really understands can be welcomed refreshment. Being part of a network of good friends with common values provides the strength, confidence, and encouragement we all need along life’s journey. Our community is so fortunate to have such caring support for homeschool families all across the Pikes Peak Region.
This morning, Matt and I headed downtown to check out the Tea Party rally in Acacia Park. Though we’ve never been shy about discussing politics, up to this point, the extent of our public political involvement has been at polling venues casting our votes, and in recent years even avoided that in lieu of mail-in ballots. So for us, we wanted to see first-hand what this rally was all about rather than try to gain understanding through the prism of radio, print, and TV media.
The first thing we noticed was the signs, lots of signs. Most of them pithy, some poignant, all trying to convey the concern, anger, or hope of those holding them. My personal favorite was “Silence is Consent,” as it spoke to my own resolve to get involved in the political process. Some made me chuckle, like “Grandpa’s Against Taxing Grandkids” (the acronym doesn’t really work for organizational purposes). The most prominent motto was “Don’t Tread on Me,” which seemed to most accurately represent the overall angst.
Overall there were folks from all walks of life—a mix of ages, ethnicities, unemployed, retirees, business men and women, folks with their name on their shirt stopping by on their lunch hour, business owners, students, and families—each one representing a slice of the American pie in one way or another. I appreciated the civility in general, but especially so when a group of teenagers, led by an older adult, marched through the park chanting, “We love Obama.” The crowd just chanted back, “U-S-A.” It was the only real scuttlebutt of the event that we witnessed, thankfully.
The speeches were well scripted for the crowd, focusing on liberty, the Constitution, lower taxes, less government, reduced spending, honoring Veterans, and the like. And for the most part I can align with these ideals, though my least favorite part was when someone called-out “true” Americas, that’s when I start to tune out. Anytime labels or names are tossed about, the debate or conversation is lessened. We are all better for exchanging ideas and engaging in conversation that challenges each of us. It is for this reason, I was pleased by the way attendees were encouraged to engage with one another, to talk to their neighbors, and not just listen to people on the podium—how fitting to value the voices of those coming together to be heard.
Admittedly, turning-up at a political rally was not on our bucket list, but as I mentioned in my earlier post, there is a refreshing and inspiring civic interest being rekindled in our country right now. Agree with its premise or not, it is good for any country, state, city, or neighborhood when its citizenry participate in that which governs them.