Posted by: kathryngraves | July 19, 2017

Serenity

On a shelf above my computer, I placed one of my favorite things. It is a shadow box containing seashells and a picture of a stucco beach cottage. In front of the cottage are tables sporting blue and white striped umbrellas to match an awning over a set of french doors. Colorful flowers in pots crowd the sandy patio.

Whenever I look at this shadowbox, I’m transported by memories to the beach beside the cottage where I spent several vacations with my family and some friends. A sense of peacefulness envelops me, if only for a few moments.

Mountains have the same effect on me as the beach. Each time we drive to Denver to see our son and his family, something inside me unwinds as the altitude increases. Yes, I’m excited to see my kids. But I’ve always felt drawn to mountains. I gain a sense of well-being and peace when I’m surrounded by their beauty.

My kitchen has the same effect on me. Call me crazy, especially since I don’t like to cook. When I thought about why, I realized the room is filled with light from nearby french doors and a bay window. The walls are a cheery yellow. But that’s not all. This is the room in which I meet God.

Every morning, over my cup of green tea, I read my Bible and write in my prayer journal. The memories I have of knock-your-socks-off revelation from Scripture are some of my prized possessions.

This morning my reading took me to a favorite passage. It is one that changed my life many years ago. The truth I read there, combined with prompting from the Holy Spirit, bowed my head with force. I needed to confess some sins. The release and freedom I experienced that day can only be described as serenity.

So for me, serenity is a color, it is some places, and it is also audible. The sound of waves crashing on the shore, or birds chirping in the morning, or a certain song on the radio all bring it on.

But the deepest serenity comes with the Word of God. He speaks truth and peace to my soul.

What color or sound or place speaks serenity to you? Do you spend time reading the Bible and allowing God to fill you with serenity?

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Photo: Pixabay

 

 

 

Posted by: kathryngraves | July 12, 2017

One Simple Change

Can roses throw punches? I think sometimes they can. I planted a couple of Knockout variety rose bushes in a flower bed this spring. My husband and I dug up a 30 year-old yucca plant that was overgrown and ugly. It took up one whole end of the bed and just looked straggly all the time. We put the roses in its place.

The effect wowed us. One simple change transformed the entire flower bed, and even our yard.

One simple change can transform your life, too.

  • Maybe if you rose one hour earlier in the morning, you could add in the exercise routine you keep thinking you need to start.
  • Maybe if you cut one harmful thing out of your diet, like sugar, you could lose ten pounds within a few weeks.
  • Maybe if you found a simple black shrug sweater, you could wear it with some of the sleeveless tops in your closet that you haven’t worn in a long time and expand your wardrobe.
  • Maybe if you read one chapter in the Bible every day, your relationship with and understanding of God would grow.
  • Maybe if you paint one room in your house a fresh color, it will give your emotions a lift when you enter it.

What is one simple change you want to make?

What is one simple change you have made that transformed your life?

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Photo: Pixabay

Posted by: kathryngraves | June 28, 2017

21 Day Fix Review

In case you missed it, the 21-Day Fix diet and fitness plan is sweeping Facebook. I’ve seen the before and after photos of real people I know and the results look terrific. So I thought I’d give you my take on it.

Positives of 21-Day Fix

  • There is a plan to follow. This helps most folks begin a lifestyle change.
  • The plan is simple. Colored containers in appropriate sizes are filled with designated foods that will be eaten in a day. Each person’s number of containers is determined by a mathematical calculation of caloric intake need.
  • The containers teach portion control.
  • Exercise is built into the plan.
  • By using the 21 Day designation, motivation is built in. I can do anything for only 21 days.
  • Recipes are flexible. You can eat what you like and prepare it the way you prefer. Your only limitation is your containers.
  • The containers are for real, whole foods like vegetables, fruits, “good for you” fats, protein, etc.

Negatives of 21-Day Fix

  • Containers must be purchased from the creators of the diet plan in order to get the exact size requirement.
  • What if more than one person in the house is on the diet, with differing numbers of required/limited containers? How does that affect dinner preparation?
  • 21 days isn’t long enough to change years of bad habits. It seems people go on and off of the diet in cycles. If the on/off gradually results in more “on” than “off” days, this turns into a positive, but only then.

Because the creators of this plan encourage whole, unprocessed food, it falls in the clean eating camp. I would go a step further and encourage organic whenever possible for fruits and vegetables and grass-fed, free-range for meat and dairy.

There is, of course, a companion cookbook, but while this is helpful, it is not required. No points or calories or weights need to be measured.

Just from a limited bit of research, I’m inclined to think the 21-Day Fix is a great way to begin your journey to fit and healthy.

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Photo: Pixabay

Posted by: kathryngraves | June 21, 2017

Tiny Beauties

This morning I went out to water my flowers. As I bent over a bed with the water hose aimed at some coleus, a baby bunny dashed out from under the neighboring perennial geranium. My little flower bed seems to be a perfect tiny ecosystem for plant and animal life. When I dig in the dirt to plant annuals, I find long, fat worms. Their activity aerates and enriches the soil for the plants. It seems rabbits will eat those plants!

I happened to be tuned in to the small stuff because of my morning Bible reading in Ezekiel 41.  It was part of my scheduled daily reading, and not a chapter I would normally turn to or even think to read. It gave the dimensions for the temple God showed Ezekiel in a vision. It is a future building, not built even yet, but the attention to detail is astounding. Exact measurements and design elements are included so that a rendering could be drawn to scale and used as a blueprint.

Combined with a couple chapters I’ve recently read in other books of the Bible, the reminder to me was strong that God cares about the smallest details. He planned for that baby bunny to have the perfect home. Even if I do prefer he not eat my coleus.

While outside, I took notice of some other tiny items. A water droplet sat on a leaf, shimmering and trembling in the breeze before being blown to bits by a sudden gust of wind. The leaf, now fluttering and bending and waving. A piece of dirt stuck to the stalk of coleus. Deep red and lime green veining in the coleus leaves.

I came inside and noticed a seashell I keep in the kitchen. It is a small, broken spiral, but I love the shades of brown alongside the bleached white of the edges. It reminds me of a favorite trip to the ocean.

I inherited a tiny pitcher-shaped vase from my mother. A Yellow rose and purple violets are painted on the front. As a child, I brought nosegays of weeds to her and she always made a big production of putting them in that little vase to keep in the kitchen window sill.

How comforting to know that God cares about all the small things in our lives, whether tangible or intangible. The Psalmist tells us He keeps our tears in a bottle. Whether it’s a literal bottle or not, the point is that He notices and remembers when we’re sad. He noticed that baby bunny running for cover and heard its tiny, pounding heartbeat.

Are you experiencing an emotion you think God doesn’t notice? Begin a list of the things you are afraid God might not notice about your life. As you read your list, thank Him for caring about each item.

What are some tiny beauties around you? Begin a list and thank God for them.

I’ll remember to thank Him for rabbits.

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Photo: Pixabay

 

 

Posted by: kathryngraves | June 14, 2017

Trim Healthy Mama Review

Several of my friends subscribe to the Trim Healthy Mama diet plan. One of them asked me what I thought about it. Honestly, I didn’t know. At the time, I remained unaware of the plan. So, I decided to read up on it. But I couldn’t–without paying money. Oh, I could view glowing testimonials on Facebook and the official website. But until my friend sent me the link to a blog that functions as a companion to the book, I could discover no details.

Because of this road-block, I began my reading with a good bit of skepticism. However, the basics do seem nutritious. So here is my take on this current fad. (Yes, I believe it is a fad, even though it is probably a pretty good one.)

Positives of the Trim Healthy Mama Diet

  • All the essential food groups are included. Carbohydrates are not excluded, they are simply regulated. This is a point upon which some other diet fads fail, and why most people cannot stay on them for a lifetime.
  • There is a lot of community. The Facebook group members get to see testimonials, recipes, and positive support. It’s almost like a secret sorority, so one feels like she’s part of an “in” crowd. No doubt this helps someone who might be trying to eat right without many others in her life joining her.
  • There are rules to follow. For some people this is important. It helps them stay on-track. For others, rules function as a negative.
  • Artificial sweeteners are banned. It is becoming common knowledge that these are poison in disguise and that they actually cause weight gain.
  • Whole, organic foods are promoted for the most part.

Negatives of the Trim Healthy Mama Diet

  • There are rules to follow. The plan is so complicated, the companion blog is necessary to help de-mystify it.
  • Carbohydrates and fats are never eaten together. The book apparently tells why, but if I followed this plan, I could never eat butter on my baked sweet potatoes, or sliced avocado on toasted Ezekiel Bread, or even put carrots in my salad with olive oil for a dressing. While I have heard of eating bread after a meal instead of before it, or separating protein from carbs, this is a different take on the order.
  • Participants are encouraged to eat every 3-4 hours. The companion blog says if you’re not hungry by then, you’re eating too much fat. This seems counter-intuitive to me. I want to go longer periods between meals, so I increase my “good” fat intake. Our bodies also benefit from periodic fasting from food.
  • Protein is mandated at every meal. This would mean 4 or even up to 6 times per day. Most people don’t need anywhere near that much protein. Also, protein is found in sometimes unexpected foods, like nuts, so some people might consume more protein than they realize.
  • This one is just a personal thing for me. Recipes are offered that substitute stevia sweetener for sugar or coconut or almond flour for wheat flour, etc. I don’t want to turn a real, wonderful food into something it was never intended to be. If I’m going to eat a dessert, I’m going to eat the real thing and enjoy it. Depending on where my weight is, I may not do this very often at all, but I’ll look forward to it and use it as a reward. In the meantime, I’ll eat berries with real cream on top as dessert, or one ounce of at least 80% dark chocolate.
  • Not enough attention is paid to the preparation of food. Whole grains are only healthy if soaked (including oats) and prepared without added vitamins (enriched). Beans need to be soaked long and cooked long to remove anti-nutrients. Some vegetables become more bio-available when they are steamed than when they are raw. Tree nuts should always be soaked overnight in salt water and low-slow baked.

The Bottom Line

Any plan that you will follow and stay on for the rest of your life is a good one if it focuses on whole, healthy foods, low- or no-sugar, and healthy preparation methods. The real key is lifestyle change that lasts.

Many fad diets work, but are impossible to build a life around. I know one woman who lost over a hundred pounds with Weight Watchers 40 years ago and has still kept it off. Another friend loses weight with Weight Watchers and as soon as she reaches her goal weight, goes right back to her old eating patterns. I know a woman who lost with TOPS and is keeping hers off. I have friends who follow the Shepherd’s Diet right now and are rapidly losing weight.

My favorite plan is God’s plan. It never changes. It is always corroborated by “new” scientific research. You can find it in The Great Physician’s Rx for Good Health by Jordan Rubin. A more thorough treatment of the biblical basis for this way of eating is found in an older, but wonderful book, What the Bible Says About Healthy Living by Rex Russell, M.D. The current phrase “clean eating” describes the plan, too. Whatever it may be called, the principles remain timeless.

When our diet provides a solid foundation for good health, weight will normalize, certain diseases will be held at bay, and the severity of others can be minimized. It’s not a quick-fix. It is a paradigm shift to a new lifestyle.

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Photo: Pixabay

Posted by: kathryngraves | June 7, 2017

Do You Want a Little Sparkle?

I lifted my creaky old wood ladder onto my shoulder and grabbed my window cleaning supplies. The morning was perfect–warm enough, but not hot, a light breeze keeping humidity at bay, and a clear blue sky with white puffy clouds overhead. Pulling the ladder open, I dug the back legs into ground still muddy from recent rains.

“That should keep it steady,” I told myself. This rickety ladder has seen a lot of projects over its years with me, and I still prefer it over the new metal one my husband drags around. Placing my foot on the bottom step, I tested for a tilt. So far, so good, so I climbed up high enough to reach the top of the window.

A sudden lurch bumped my nose into the glass. I grabbed the top of the ladder with one hand and the window frame with the other and froze, anticipating further movement. But nothing happened. Looking down, I realized the ladder rested against the house. Whew! Maybe Bo was right, and I should use the new ladder. Or maybe it was just the soft ground.

I washed that window and moved on to the others, with no more ladder mishaps. As the day progressed from warm to hot, I moved indoors to wash the insides of the windows. When I finished, I was amazed at how well I could see out through the sparkling glass. Were my windows really that dirty before? I wondered.

The only possible answer to my question was “yes.” The dirt must have accumulated over time. It had been several years since I’d washed the outsides–more than I’d like to admit. We live in an area where dirt comes down with the rain. The day I washed windows, I noticed dirt spots on my car left by a recent shower. Sometimes we even call a short snow shower in the winter a “snirt” shower because it’s half dirt, half snow.

While I’d like to blame it all on my climate, I know the real problem was that I had neglected the maintenance required to keep my windows sparkly-clean.

The Lord whispered a thought into my head as I stood contemplating my newly clean windows. “Your life is like your windows. Without regular maintenance, it will become dull and nobody will see Me.”

Okay, so how can I “wash” my spiritual life? The Bible compares itself to wash water. Ephesians 5:26 tells us “that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.” This verse refers to Jesus and his relationship with the church. He uses the word, His word, to cleanse us. His word is the Bible.

Daily Bible reading helps us stay sparkly. When we read a section, ask three questions:

  1. What does it say?
  2. What does it mean?
  3. What does it mean for me?

I usually write down the answers in a journal so I don’t forget them.

This is really all we need to do. Whatever God tells us in our reading will help us live sparkling lives. It’s a lot easier than washing windows!

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Photo: Pixabay

 

We’ve all heard the praises of the Mediterranean Diet. It seems to prevent whatever ailments might possibly befall us. While we are bombarded by hyperbole on the subject, details are sometimes scarce. One might think, given the hype, that we’d all understand exactly what it involves and the particulars of health issues it can address. But even I, nutrition geek that I am, did not fully understand them. So I conducted a bit of research and will lay out the basics here.

Why Eat the Mediterranean Diet?

It does seem this way of eating has a positive effect on many health issues. One of the most compelling is that it is a good weight loss plan without making you feel like you’re starving or being deprived. But it also helps regulate blood sugar. The caveat is to lower consumption of grains. (I’ll speak more to this point later.)

The Mediterranean Diet also works to prevent several scary health problems. It reduces the risk of depression, heart attack, stroke, and Alzheimer’s. That’s enough to cause almost anyone to make a lifestyle change and adopt the diet.

Basic Elements of the Mediterranean Diet

The diet is based on several foods:

  • Fish and seafood
  • Olive Oil and Olives
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Moderate amounts of Tree Nuts
  • Properly soaked Beans (soaked at least 7 hours and then cooked at least 7 hours or else pressure cooked)
  • Roasted and Skinned Tomatoes and Peppers
  • Tuberous Veggies
  • Greens and Herbs
  • Some Seasonal Fresh Fruit
  • Whole fat Yogurt and Cheese

Did you notice a conspicuous absence? Pasta is not a basic staple. Whole grains in moderation are part of the diet, but not a basic foundation. This is why it helps control blood sugar. Fetuccine Alfredo and breadsticks are not daily treats in the real Mediterranean world.

Common Myths Busted

Pasta and grains are not key. Olive oil is the key.

Fruits and Vegetables are not staples. Vegetables are staples, but fruits are not. Only a small amount of seasonal, fresh fruit is eaten. This is another reason the diet is good for blood sugar control.

Whole tomatoes are not beneficial. The skins are difficult to digest and should be removed. Roasting is a good way to accomplish this. Place tomatoes on a baking sheet and roast in the oven. The skins will slip right off. Peppers also benefit from roasting and peeling as their skins and seeds contain the same anti-nutrients.

How to Eat the Mediterranean Diet

  1. Use olive oil instead of other oils or butter or margarine. Remember, olive oil is the key to the whole diet. Liberal amounts of olive oil will not cause weight gain.
  2. Reduce red meat consumption and aim for fish twice a week, more chicken, and some days when beans and nuts are the stars.
  3. Eat vegetables all day long. Add them to breakfast omelets, make salads a daily item, and serve a couple as sides or even the main dish at supper.
  4. Consume only small amounts of bread and grains, and make sure these are whole grain.
  5. Choose whole fat, plain Greek yogurt and add fresh fruit and a bit of honey. The protein content is much higher in Greek yogurt and the sugar content of whole fat dairy is much lower than in reduced- or no-fat dairy. Also choose hard cheeses. Parmesan and Romano are much higher in protein than other cheeses.
  6. Snack on nuts or seeds and olives and cheese.
  7. Make fruit your dessert.
  8. Take time to savor every bite.

Now you have the information necessary for making a lifestyle change. That’s really what this is. It is not a diet. It is a way of life. There is no going back to the way things were. The old ways were unhealthy and unproductive. Embrace the beautiful change.

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Photo: Pixabay

Posted by: kathryngraves | May 24, 2017

The Wild Side

I call myself a color girl. I love color. My clothes include many brights and intense deeps, my house does not conform to the currently popular neutral palette, and when I paint, it is for the sheer joy of playing with colors. I find it interesting that now, when neutrals and grays are all the rage, coloring books for adults are flying off the store shelves. Supposedly, the act of coloring is relaxing. But I wonder if it might be the colors themselves.

Color psychology tells us that each color evokes a different emotion. Some colors are more calming than others. Bright colors are invigorating and energizing. Muted shades are the snoozers. So, according to logic, we should paint and accessorize our bedrooms with soft hues and our living spaces with more punch.

But what if your personality longs for a walk on the wild side of color? I say, “Go for it!” My favorite flower gardens are a riot of colors all clashing and dancing together. Reds, purples, yellows, pinks, oranges, pops of lime green and splashes of white liven up cottage-style gardens. Why not bring that riot into your house?

Florals are making a come-back in fabrics, so drape your windows with your favorite and take color cues from the pattern to sprinkle around the room. Or toss bright patterned pillows on your bed or sofa. Oops, did I say bright colors on your bed? Yes. Spots of bright color won’t keep you awake at night.

I went shopping for a bedspread for a guest bedroom last week. I wanted a green, blue, and red pattern. What I found were mostly turquoise, taupe, and gray. I thought if I chose one of those, I’d be like a lemming, just following the crowd. I like turquoise, and I have some of it in my living room. But I don’t want it all over my house. I’ll keep looking.

My kitchen walls are unconventional, too. The sunny yellow-patterned wallpaper greets me every morning with its cheery hue. I’m happiest when surrounded by color.

I know people who prefer neutrals. They say those colors lend a sense of calm and order to otherwise chaotic lives. That’s fine. But I think they scream, “Boring!” Please don’t think I’m calling you a boring person if you prefer neutrals. I’m just saying I can’t live a happy life swathed in gray or beige.

When I look outside in the spring, summer, or fall, the world is clothed in vivid colors. God must love color, too. However, He did create the softer, neutral tones of winter whites and grays for balance. Many people who live in climates without four seasons say they long for winters.

Maybe I need to recognize the value of balance. I can deal with three-fourths bright color and one fourth neutrals as my guiding ratio.

On a more serious note, color does have strong effects on our emotional state. Take a critical look at the colors in your home decor and in your closet. What can you change to lift your spirits? What can you change to bring more balance? Does your environment currently bring you down or make you feel good? Don’t let what is popular determine your choices. Let your preferences lead you. In my case, that’s a walk on the wild side.

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My Kitchen Wallpaper”

Photo: Kathryn Graves

Posted by: kathryngraves | May 17, 2017

Are You Stressed?

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We hear a lot about stress, and we feel the effects of it on our bodies and our minds. But what is stress? Where does it come? Are there effects of stress we might not be aware of? How can we manage stress? All these questions bombarded me as I thought about writing on the subject. A brief effort to research stress almost stressed me out trying to sort through the large number of articles written about it. You might wonder why I should add one more.

My goal in this post is to do the research work for you and offer a condensed version of the information. When I’m faced with information overload on a subject, I usually end up ignoring it all and moving on to something else. I want to prevent that for you about stress.

Stress is one of those buzzwords that become meaningless from overuse. One physician concluded in a 1951 issue of the British Medical Journal that, “Stress in addition to being itself, was also the cause of itself, and the result of itself.” (1) Talk about confusing!

Good Stress and Bad Stress

But what was the original meaning? There are actually two kinds of stress: good stress and bad stress. The bad kind is what we usually think of. It is defined in the Merriam Dictionary as, “A state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.: something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety.” We’re all pretty familiar with that one. The good stress is “when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize and motivates people to accomplish more. This stress results in increased productivity–up to a point. After which, things go downhill. (2)

The bottom line is that the sense of having little or no control is always distressful–and that’s what stress is all about. (3)

Effects

Negative stress takes an emotional, physical, and spiritual toll on us. We’re all familiar with the feeling produced when somebody steps on our “last nerve.” We react, and it’s usually not pleasant. But did you know how closely entwined the emotional and physical are? Your brain and other functions of your body work together to control your emotions. It is easy for us to identify the effect of stress on our emotions, but it also wears down our bodies and our exhaustion contributes to spiritual neglect. Maybe that old scientist was right! It is all connected. So, if our lives produce negative stress because we can’t control the pressures placed on us, then the question becomes, “How can I manage stress?

Physical Management

You might be surprised how much can be gained by paying attention to our bodies in this area. When we provide them the nutrients needed and make some lifestyle adjustments, the emotions will calm.

As far as eating habits go, eliminate or greatly reduce caffeine, sugars, and refined carbohydrates. Eat more healthy fats (like avocados, tree nuts, and olive oil), vegetables and some fruits (berries are best). Did you know that one Starbucks coffee drink contains more caffeine than an energy drink like Red Bull? (4) Not to mention all the sugar.

If you’re used to drinking a lot of coffee or other high-caffeine drinks, missing a cup can make you edgy, tired and irritable. It is a vicious cycle because caffeine causes fatigue and jitteriness. However, caffeine withdrawal only lasts a few days. After that, your body will calm down.

Sugary foods and carbohydrate-dense foods also increase the heart rate, mess with blood sugar levels, produce tiredness, and increase mental fuzziness.

However, good proteins like lean poultry, fish and eggs and non-starchy vegetables help stabilize blood sugar levels while providing energy. A higher-fat (as in healthy fats mentioned above) diet can even reduce anxiety levels. (5)

Some supplements that can calm us include the B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, Magnesium, L-theanine and GLA. Take a high-potency B-complex vitamin with 25 to 50 mg of B1, B2, B3 and B6. Did you know that the first symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency are irritability and fatigue? (6)

Magnesium is a muscle relaxer and L-theanine relaxes alpha brain waves. This is the active ingredient in green tea and what makes it a calming drink, in spite of the small amount of caffeine it contains.

Lifestyle Management

Try not to multi-task. It is far more efficient to focus on a single task at a time. Switching between activities helps give the mind a break and can be refreshing. Try alternating thought-intensive jobs with mindless activities like chopping vegetables.

Schedule time for meal preparation and eating so you don’t feel rushed. This can be one of the most difficult things for working moms to do, but it is important for the whole family. Priorities will need to be examined and changes made. Everyone will benefit from the interaction and opportunity to converse that dinner time affords.

Get adequate exercise. Exercise produces endorphins, the feel-good hormone. It also gets the lymph system moving and improves mental clarity. Thirty minutes a day, five days a week is optimal. I like the stretching and balance involved in yoga, but find what you like to do and do it.

Go outdoors. Walking or running in a park, playing frisbee with your dog, gardening, anything you enjoy doing outside is good for stress-reduction. Even in the winter, get out there whenever possible. Find activities you can do in your location.

Spiritual Magangement

Spend a few minutes every day (preferably at least 30) by yourself in prayer and Bible reading. Much new research is pointing to meditation as helpful in managing stress and chronic illness. This word can have many connotations, but for the Christian, it means focusing on Scripture. Choose a verse or passage to read and think upon. Ask God what He wants you to learn from it. Journal about it.

A daily quiet time with God helps us discipline our minds. Rather than allow our crazy lives to control us, we can counter with mental discipline. Romans 12:2 says to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” and 1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us “we have the mind of Christ.” Mark 12:30 says, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” We need to make a conscious effort to think about the right things. What are those? Philippians 4:8 tells us. “Whatsoever things are true…noble…just…pure…lovely…of good report…any virtue…anything praiseworthy–think on these things.”

Does that sound like a lot? Like it might just be too hard? Remember, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.” (Lamentations 3:22) Jesus wants us to succeed in minimizing our stress level so we can experience the abundant life He came to give us. He helps us in ways we don’t even understand because He prays for us and the Holy Spirit comforts us. “Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27) Who are the saints? Born-again believers.

Attend church every week. This will set a pattern for your week, but also helps you draw closer to God. For a couple of hours, we can stop thinking about all the pressures on us and simply worship. Church attendance is a weekly re-set button for me. It helps me focus on what is really important. It also places me in a social group of like-minded people. These are the ones who become my closest friends and my support network. Somehow everything seems easier to manage when we are in community with others.

All these actions, when taken together, will make a huge difference in your stress level. And above all, you will “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” (Ephesians 4:32)

 

Notes:

(1) The American Institute of Stress website http://www.stress.org

(2) ibid

(3) ibid

(4) Jack Challum, The Food-Mood Solution, p.187

(5) ibid

(6) Challum, p.188-189

Photo: Pixabay

 

 

Posted by: kathryngraves | May 10, 2017

The Fragrance of Friendship

Do you have a best friend? Friendship has several categories, doesn’t it? Casual friends are those we socialize with at work functions or at church. We know them. We consider them more than just an acquaintance, but they’re not in our inner circle. Others are closer to us, and we often interact with them. But only a few are what we would consider best friends.

What makes someone a best friend? It goes beyond similar interests or having grown up together. A best friend is a person who is loyal and trustworthy. You can tell her anything and be confident she won’t tell anyone else. She’s there for you no matter what, and she sticks up for you when others criticize. These are the qualities that push a casual friendship into BFF territory.

Sometimes it takes a crises to find out who our best friends are.

One of our sons got married in another state. As parents of the groom, we were responsible for the rehearsal dinner. The town was small, offering no catering establishments. We were on our own, so we decided to barbecue in a local park. Since we  didn’t have time to actually cook at the dinner, we prepared the food ahead of time, and planned to warm it in the church kitchen while the rehearsal took place.

Two couples, who are friends of ours, traveled to help us with the dinner. They warmed the food in the kitchen. But they didn’t know how to operate the ovens. They put a foil-covered pan of meat inside, set what they thought was a reasonable temperature and time, and turned their attention to other preparations. All at once, the kitchen filled with smoke. It was the meat. When they yanked it from the smoking oven, bits of foil floated in the air. To their horror, bits of foil also lay embedded in the meat.

This was the main course. The dinner started in a few minutes. There was no other source available at 8:00 p.m. in the small town for meat. So the group peered through the smoke and tackled the job of pulling out the bits of foil.

Those of us in the wedding party arrived at the park to a beautifully decorated venue just after the sun set. Candlelight glowed over the happy, excited crowd. Our friends served the guests a delicious dinner. Many compliments came our way on the food. We beamed and sighed. The event seemed a success.

The next day, in the light of day, while we prepared for the wedding, our friends took a closer look at the leftover meat. What they found horrified them. Bits of foil still clung to it. After the wedding, they used casual conversation to check with the bridal party to make sure no one had felt ill during the night. Nobody seemed to notice foil in their teeth.

After the last guests departed, and we gathered back at the home where we stayed, they finally told us what had happened. Since it all turned out okay, we were able to laugh at the antics described. Fourteen years later, we still laugh about the situation.

Only your best friends will go the extra mile (sometimes literally) to take care of you.

What does the Bible say about friendship? Proverbs has a lot to say on the subject. In 17:17 it tells us a friend loves at all times, and 12:26 says the righteous should choose his friends carefully.

We all know that wrong friends can lead to a bunch of trouble and heartache, don’t we?

Proverbs 18:24 says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Siblings can become some of our best friends, but often the rivalry of childhood never seems able to disappear completely.

My favorite verse about friendship in Proverbs is 27:9. “Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a friend gives delight by hearty counsel.” (NKJ) What do you suppose “hearty counsel” means? God’s Word translation includes a note that this might be “sincere advice.” A best friend will give us advice that is godly and thought-out and in our best interest. She will search resources to find the best answer or solution for whatever it is we need. And I love the comparison of a good friend to the fragrance of perfume.

What does Jesus have to say about friendship? In John 15:15, He says, “I have called you friends.” (NKJ) Have you ever thought of yourself as Jesus’ friend? Do you act like a friend to Him? Are you loyal, do you demonstrate your love for him at all times?

He is that for us. And guess what? He considers our friendship as perfume. Second Corinthians 2:15 says, “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God…” (NASB) The Phillips translation expands on this to say, “We are like a lovely perfume and have the unmistakeable scent of Christ.”

Maybe we should create a new perfume and name it “BFF–Best Friend Fragrance.”

“Still Life”         Pixabay

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