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In the Eye of the Storm

Hurricane Hermine made landfall early today in Florida with a furious mix of rain, winds and surging waves. In the beach town of Jacksonville where I live, we saw quite a bit of the effects of the storm which continue even now as I write.
Unable to sleep well, I got up early this morning and began tracking the storm to see exactly what we could expect for today. When I saw this image I was overwhelmed by the truth it spoke to my spirit.

Birds
This is a still shot from Doppler radar during hurricane Hermine. That yellow arrow is pointing to a bunch of red dots. And those red dots are birds caught in the eye of the storm.

How amazing is that?

A storm that is approximately 400 miles wide raging all around them and yet, they are safe right in the midst of it. God’s word (Matthew 6:26) reminds us of our importance, by referring to how God cares for the birds, even though they do nothing to prepare.

Wow, wow, wow!!!

I hope that today, some of you will feel that truth the way I did this morning. Even in the midst of whatever is raging around you, you can be safeprotected by the very one who created the winds and waves and can also calm them.

 

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A Letter to My Future Self

A few days ago during a particularly trying day (towards the end of a long summer) I posted a little letter to my husband and myself on my personal Facebook page. Humor always lightens the load and I wanted to capture my thoughts and feelings at that moment. In my exasperation I thought, “It’s hard to believe there will ever be a day when we finally send our baby off to college and I will actually experience a moment of silence, an hour of time to myself and a house that stays clean for more than a Nano-second.”

Those thoughts resulted in the following entry, to the “Future Mike and Julie Hadden” as we have sent our last child off to college and are finally experiencing an empty nest. This is written in the voice of the current Mike and Julie who are living this exhausting life right now. Don’t get me wrong. I adore my children. They are among my most precious gifts from God. And I love being a mom! But if you are a parent of little ones (and/or a teenager) you may just be able to find a little truth of your own in the words of this letter.

TO THE FUTURE MIKE AND JULIE HADDEN:

Dear Mike and Julie,

While we appreciate the fact that your baby is going off to college and you are sad, please for the love of all that is holy, do not look back and romanticize how wonderful ‘the good old days’ were. Yes those days were fleeting in retrospect but living them seemed like an eternity (trust us). Try to put in perspective that during that time you were exhausted, ended up with at least one if not two kids in your bed almost every single night. That you never slept past 6:30 am, even the weekends. That it took 3 hours to watch a 30 minute TV show because you were constantly interrupted by bickering, bug bites, starvation, broken toys, or boo-boos that it took a magnifying glass to see. Remember that it took 30 minutes to get out the door to run a 5-minute errand and that errand would result in 29 minutes of toddler tunes, 7 minutes of fighting because someone touched someone, two stops on the side of the road to threaten to move car seats, and 10 minutes of crying because we apparently are ‘mean.’ That everyday day was spent cleaning up crumbs, folding the four loads of laundry done daily, and picking up the same “boring” toys you picked up 5 times already that same day.

Remember dear Mike and Julie, that while it is overwhelming how quiet the house is now – that you once locked yourself in the bathroom for just a moment of quiet while someone stuck their fingers under the door and asked when you would be finished “going potty.” And lastly, while you two drown your sorrows in a leisurely dinner out and talk about how you wish you could go back in time, remember us…the ones who ate half our meals crouched over the table cutting someone else’s meat, or under the table cleaning up a spill and think…maybe—just maybe—our baby heading off to college isn’t the hardest thing we’ve ever been through.

Gratefully,
The Past Mike and Julie

PS. We’ve attach a picture of the toys we collected from all over11888006_10207284782022991_4949038643896102702_n the house (for the third time today), so when you two crybabies pull the box of the same toys out of the attic tonight to reminisce, you will keep your emotions in check.


Meet Drew, and learn a thing or two…

I want to introduce you all to a very inspiring little boy.  His name is Drew, he’s 9 years old and…well, he’s kind of a big deal.

Drew is the son of a friend of our family.  My husband and his mom, Karen, go way back to college days.

Three years ago Karen took him for his 6-year old “well visit” and found out that—on paper—Drew had gained too much weight and he was headed in a bad direction as it related to his health, according to growth charts.  She very pointedly asked the doctor if her son needed to see a nutritionist.

As a first course of action, the doctor told her that he believed that by being deliberate about portion control, watching WHAT he eats (not just how much of it), encouraging regular physical activity and being mindful of his weight through regular weigh-ins (every three months over the course of the next year)—that he hoped to be able to get Drew on the right track.

Their family had to draw a line in the sand that day and decide what they would do.  They knew it wouldn’t be an easy road many days.  Let’s face it, “moderation” isn’t a concept many kids (or adults) embrace.  And no matter how much a parent loves their child they cannot make this decision for them.  Because when it’s time to do the hard work of eating healthy and being physically active, no one can do it for you.

By listening to the advice of the doctor and making a commitment to healthier living, himself, slowly Drew began to see a change.

He had to truly buy into the mindset that occasionally a slice of pizza or a piece of cake is OK.  (And it is.)  But it couldn’t be a way of life; he couldn’t consume these things every day.  And life isn’t always fair.  Not everyone’s metabolism is the same, and that stinks.  When other kids could shovel in multiple cookies or donuts, Drew had to make the decision to limit his intake to one cookie or ½ a donut even while his friends over-indulged.

Drew has a love of sports that runs deep, so he decided that instead of sitting in front of the television with a bag of chips in his lap after school, he would become active with participation in flag football, basketball, baseball and wrestling.  He and his mom tracked his progress and they began to read the labels on their food and talk about smart choices.

This kid is 9!!  What wisdom!!

He recently went back to the same doctor for his annual wellness visit—now three years later.  And get this, he has grown 6 inches…and only gained two pounds!!

I’m not even his mother and still my heart bursts with pride for Drew.

He is proof positive that little changes—over time—make big differences.  I am so proud of him, on so many levels.  We should all take note of the example he sets and remember these things:

  • Be deliberate about portion control
  • It’s not just about how much you eat, but WHAT you eat
  • Look at labels and make smart choices about what you put in your body
  • Choose to be active instead of a couch potato—and find activities that are fun for you
  • Not everyone’s metabolism is the same, so learn to work with yours
  • Stick with it and don’t give up and you can see amazing results

Here is Drew at the beginning of his journey just three years ago—mid-journey—and now today.  What a special young man he is.

Drew

What is so remarkable to me is that because Drew “gets it” at his early age, he won’t have the same struggles many people when they get older in the areas of their health and weight.  I think his success is amazing and he is such an encouragement.  We could all learn a thing or two from Drew.


“Make-Over Memories”

Last night’s episode of “The Biggest Loser – Glory Days” was the popular Make-Over Episode.  I always watch with curiosity to see the mid-way transformations and to observe the contestants’ reactions to themselves.  And I always wonder how they really feel.

I viewed myself for the first time during the "Make-Over Episode" of The Biggest Loser, Season 4 - not convinced that I was satisfied with what I saw.

My first look at myself mid-way through the transformation process.

To be honest, when we did our make-overs in Season 4, I knew there was an expectation that I be elated with my appearance. I mean, they staged a big dramatic lead up to seeing ourselves for the first time in a full length mirror…then the great unveiling.  I tried to be exuberant…but truthfully I knew I wasn’t finished and wasn’t satisfied with what I saw.  I wasn’t even where I wanted to be for that point in my journey.

I recently read something a friend of mine (Misti Bryson) posted on Facebook that really sums it up with crystal clear clarity.  She wrote:  ” A person’s future is not based upon where they are.  It’s based upon whether they decide to stay there.”

Future Quote

I love that statement because it’s so true!  And it’s a philosophy I continue to embrace even all these years after my Biggest Loser experience.   When we experience anything in life [success or failure], whether it be in weight loss, or relationships, or career, or family…whatever it is – we can’t let that “moment in time” or those circumstances forever determine our future.  We have to constantly be striving for improvement.  New challenges.  New goals.  New dreams.

I guess the point of what I am trying to say is that our futures really are limitless!  And it’s exciting to think about what lies ahead.  If there’s something in your life that you aren’t happy about, it’s not a life sentence.  You can make a change.  Remember, your future is not based upon where you are!  It’s based upon whether you decide to stay there.

If you don’t like it, don’t be content to stay there.

 


What’s Holding You Back?

We had quite an exciting day yesterday at our house!  Emma Kate, my precious baby girl, started walking!!

Both of her brothers walked early.  So when she got to be fifteen months old and was still not the least bit interested in doing anything other than crawl,  I will admit we were starting to wonder what was up.

I would try to get her to walk everyday.  I’d hold out my arms to her and plead with her to take just a few steps towards me.  Nope.  Not interested.  She’d plopped her sweet self right on the floor, and then scoot off on her hands and knees.

She had just started what the pediatrician called “cruising” around the furniture; which was suppose to be a good sign.  But she had to be holding on to something to have the confidence to take a step.  Last night she grabbed hold of a pillow on the couch and took a couple of steps away.  Then another one.  Then another.  Before we knew it she was walking all around.  Holding on for dear life to the pillow.  She obviously thought it was holding her up.  And with that pillow in hand, she had all the confidence in the world.  We’d take it from her and she would sit right down and revert back to a crawl.

Before long we noticed she had picked up a toy of her brother Jaxon’s.  It was an Indian-type flute I had gotten him from my recent trip to South Dakota.  It was a relatively small object with beads and feathers dangling off of it.  But we noticed as long as she had that in her hand, that she had the confidence to continue walking.  She seemed to believe it was holding her up too.  We called it her “magic walking stick.”

Finally, as the night came to an end she tossed the stick to the ground and took off walking by herself!  And not a timid stumble here and there.  She was walking confidently and strongly – taking big strides and making impressive turns without falling.  We clapped and praised her accomplishment and she clapped for herself – grinning from ear to ear.

Watching my little one reinforced something significant to me.  It reminded me that Emma Kate could walk long before she knew she could.  She had the physical ability to do it.  She had the strength and the stamina.  The only thing holding her back was the fact that she didn’t believe she could.  Once she gained a little confidence – first with the pillow and then with the stick – she realized her own strength and ability and was able to take off with a vengeance.

Needless to say, she hasn’t sit still all day today!  It’s like she’s discovered a new talent; an exciting new “power” she possesses that she’s proud of and anxious to use.

I think this is an important question to ask ourselves.  What’s holding you back?  What are you capable of that you haven’t even let your heart and mind realize?  Put down your pillow and “magic walking stick” and take off for whatever it is you want to achieve or be!  It’s been within you all along.  You just need to put action to your steps.

Just for fun, here’s a little clip of last night…


A “Fat Warning Letter” to kids instead of candy on Halloween? I don’t think so.

My mind is still spinning from the story I heard this morning about a woman in Fargo, North Dakota, who told a local radio station that she plans to “trick” obese children in her hometown by giving them “warning letters” about their weight, instead of “treats” of the normal candy variety tomorrow night.halloween-letter

The text of the letter is directed at parents and says, “Your child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sweets and treats to the extent of other children this Halloween season.”

This woman further states, “I just want to send a message to the parents of kids that are really overweight. … I think it’s just really irresponsible of parents to send them out looking for free candy just ’cause all the other kids are doing it.”

The thought sends me immediately back to my own chubby childhood when I was the brunt of a lot of jokes and ridicule because of my weight.  A stunt like this would not have motivated me as a child.  It would have mortified me!  It would have forced me further into the secret world of snacking behind closed doors and urged me towards a lower self-esteem and self-worth.

I want to ask this woman who does she think she is?  And what gives her the right to impose this kind of indictment on children that aren’t even hers’?  And does she realize that she can’t accurately assess the “health” of a child based solely upon a cursory glance at the door?  There are “skinny fat people” walking around all over the place!  Skinny does not necessarily equate to healthy!

Don’t get me wrong — I totally agree that the obesity epidemic in America has hit all new heights; especially in our kids. And I don’t believe that Halloween or other candy-center holidays do anything to help refocus our minds and our habits on healthy choices.  But I don’t believe that cruelty to children is going to do anything to cure childhood obesity!

Rather than taking it upon herself to be the judge and jury for children in her North Dakota neighborhood, I would much prefer to see her hand out healthy nutritious snacks.  Or here’s a novel idea —just don’t answer the door.

As parents (and adults in general) let’s be diligent about teaching the kids in our lives about nutrition and healthy choices.  But as one who lived the roll of the fat kid, please do it constructively.  Words have the power to bring life or death.  Take that power seriously and use it responsively to affect a positive change in the lives of the children you have influence over.


Abercrombie & Fitch thinks you have to be skinny to be cool? Think again.

The headline “Abercrombie & Fitch targets skinny shoppers, won’t sell larger sizes for plus-sized women” caught my eye this week. In fact, the subject has been all over the Internet, so I decided to finally weigh in on the topic (pun intended).

I have been a size 2 and I have been a size 22, and to be honest A& F has never been on my list of frequently visited stores. They are just not my style, regardless of my size. But I have a 12 year-old son (going on 21 in his own mind) who does like their clothing.

Basically, if you are bigger than a size large, don’t bother shopping at A& F. They don’t want you to and you won’t find anything there to fit. They have XS on the racks, but not XL (for women). And that’s ok. In America we are free to conduct business in whatever way we chose. And likewise, we are free – as consumers – to shop anywhere we choose.

Although I haven’t heard a direct quote from CEO Michael Jeffries this week, I did read an article in which he was quoted back from 2006. Here’s what he had to say:

“Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny.”

I don’t take issue with A&F’s right to engage any marketing strategy they choose; nor do I critique Jeffries’ right to take any stance he wants. What I do find unfortunate, is that in this image-conscious, media-driven society we live in, that all the buzz about A&F not selling clothes to “normal sized” healthy people (over a size 10), means they are alienating a group of very impressionable kids who are developing body image issues every day. And these issues go far beyond just being frustrated because they can’t fit into a cool pair of trendy jeans. These issues penetrate into the deepest core of their beings and affect the way they see themselves and value themselves. And as superficial as something like this may sound, it affects (in some people) the course they choose for their future.

The most important thing I learned from my “Biggest Loser” experience is that I am WORTH the effort to live the life I’ve always dreamed of. We all are! And that worth is NOT linked to a number on a scale, or the brand name on my shirt or jeans. And although controversy with the A&F brand is nothing new [I mean seriously, some of their ads feature so many naked bodies, you’d wonder if they are selling clothes or something else] I do hope that we as parents and adults-of-influence in the lives of kids will use all our influence to positively affect their lives and their developing self images.

And as a mom of three kids…cool or not (the verdict is still out), I’ll probably spend my money at Target.