Tidbits

1. The final season of LOST starts in three days. I’ve been enthralled by some seasons and wearied by others, but I’m looking forward to seeing how all the mysteries of The Island resolve themselves. I would love for Charlie to come back for this season.

2. We had a real, honest-to-goodness snow in Searcy. I spent most of yesterday peeking outside to watch it come down throughout the day. It isn’t often that we get enough to justify the ritual grocery runs and school closings, but this time we did. I love snow. I don’t like the mushy mess of its melting, but I do love the beauty of snow on the ground and on rooftops.

After I took these pictures, it continued to snow for several more hours. Big chunks of snow that would explode on impact with the van and then slide down to the ground. This morning, it’s the oddest thing: the ground is covered but the limbs and branches of trees are still bare.

Funny snow. Beautiful snow.

3. We filed our income tax return yesterday. Before you start thinking that we are uber-patriotic and eager to give the government its share of our income, please realize that we get money back every year. Filing is our friend. It allows us to do things like clothes shopping and replacing worn out computers. This creates a rather odd dynamic of hearing my children say, “I love tax time,” when the rest of the country dreads its existence.

4. I’m almost afraid to say this one out loud. (Does writing in a blog count as saying things out loud?) Anyway, I think I’m on the tail end of the funk I’ve been in lately. It started with Caleb’s Type 1 diagnosis in August and simmered for a while. Over the Christmas break it really came to a head. Thanks to some wonderful listening friends, I think I’m ready to move forward. See, the problem is that when I feel overwhelmed, I reach for food like others might reach for credit cards, lottery tickets, or alcohol. Food is my drug. Maybe I don’t become a violent drunk or spend my family’s income on unneeded purchases, but I do gain weight every time I go through a season of stress.

The good news is that I can still wear all of my clothes. The bad news is that I can’t wear them well and if I don’t change my current patterns, I won’t be able to wear them for long. So, my friends, please pray for me over the next weeks. Pray that I will be wise in seeking God’s peace as I move past cluttering my brain with worry. The NPR broadcast I shared a few days ago made complete sense to me. My brain has been full. It’s time to let God have some of that.

I chose this picture for two reasons. First, it’s beautiful. I love connecting with God through nature, though being outside is not a big part of my life these days. I’d like to change that. Second, I love that the two paths have clearly different destinations. The shorter one leads to the woods where it is dense and complex. The longer road leads to an open area with a much longer journey. Both are beautiful.

Life is like that. I love my life. Even with its problems, it is full of wonderful people and breathtaking opportunities. If my path doesn’t change, there will still be beauty, although it will be more complex because of self-added complications and my journey might be shorter if I don’t take better care of my health. The new road I’d like to find will hopefully be clearer, equally beautiful, but with a longer journey that’s not quite as difficult.

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Another repost

From Sparkpeople.com. Check ’em out if you haven’t already.

5 Yoga Poses to Help You Rest Better

By: Stepfanie Romine : 11/24/2009

In addition to the physical benefits of yoga, it has plenty of mental benefits as well. Certain poses can help energize you and others can help relax you.

While I wouldn’t recommend a full yoga practice just before bed, doing a few of these gentle, restorative poses before going to sleep can help you rest easier.

You can do most of these poses in your bedroom while wearing your pajamas. You might want to have a mat under you for comfort.

To facilitate your voyage to dream land, turn off the TV and dim the lights. Before beginning, come to a comfortable seated position on your mat and close your eyes. Start breathing in and out through your nose, in long, even breaths. After 10 breaths, open your eyes and begin these poses. You can hold each one for as long as you’d like, at least five breaths.

Child’s pose (Balasana):
Benefits:
Stretches hips, thighs and ankles gently; can help alleviate back pain.
How to:

  • Starting in a kneeling position.
    You have two options to start:
  • Keep your knees together but separate the feet and allow your bottom to rest on the floor. Roll your calves away from your thighs (use your hands) to help you get comfortable.
    For a deeper stretch:
  • Sit back on your heels, shins together. (Place a rolled-up towel between your heels and hips to ease this stretch.)
  • From here, start to lower to the floor. Your belly will rest on or between your thighs, and your forehead will reach towards the mat. (Place a towel or a yoga block under your forehead if it won’t reach the floor.
  • Stretch the arms out in front of you to feel a stretch up the length of the back.
  • Stretch the arms alongside the body, with the fingertips facing the toes, to stretch between the shoulder blades.
    TIP: Roll your forehead back and forth across the mat with your arms along your sides to help alleviate sinus congestion.

    Downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha svanasana):
    Benefits:
    Calms and energizes the body; stretches the shoulders, arches, hamstrings, calves, and hands; strengthens arms and legs; helps insomnia and stress. How to:

  • Come on to your hands and knees. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders, your knees under your hips.
  • Tuck your toes under and push your hips up, your body forming a triangle with your bottom as the peak.
  • If your legs are tight, keep your heels lifted and legs bent if needed.

  • Pull your bellybutton in and let your head hang, moving the shoulderblades away from the ears.
  • Spread your fingers and toes wide and try to keep the weight evenly distributed.
  • To take the weight off your arms and make this more of a restful pose, engage your quadriceps (by lifting your kneecaps).
    TIP: If your arms need some help in this pose, try placing your hands on the seat of a chair set against a wall.

    Head to knee stretch (Janu sirsasana A):
    Benefits:
    Stretches the hamstrings.
    How to:

  • From a straight-legged seated position, slide your right foot inside your left thigh, the right knee coming out at least a 90-degree angle.
  • Center your torso over the extended left leg and exhale as you begin to lower to that thigh.
  • Flex your extended foot and reach for your toes (or use a towel as a strap).
  • With every inhale, feel your spine growing longer (imagine the crown of your head reaching out in front of you to the wall); with every exhale, allow the body to sink lower (the chest is getting closer to the floor).
  • Inhale as you roll slowly up and repeat on the other side.
    TIP: If your knee can’t rest comfortably on the floor, roll up a towel to support the bent knee.

    Seated forward fold (Paschimottanasana):
    Benefits:
    Stretches the spine and the hamstrings.
    How to:

  • Sit on your mat, with your legs extended in front of you, heels slightly flexed and bellybutton pulled to the spine for support.
  • Inhale, sit tall and raise your arms in the air.
  • Exhale, lean forward and reach for your toes. Allow your arms to rest on your thighs, shins or at your ankles.
  • Allow your head to drop and gaze past the end of your nose. Allow your upper body to relax.
  • If you can straighten the legs, flex the feet, and engage the quadriceps (by lifting your knee cap) to keep your knees from locking.
  • With every inhale, feel your spine growing longer (imagine the crown of your head reaching out in front of you to the wall); with every exhale, allow the body to sink lower (the chest is getting closer to the floor).
    TIP: Can’t reach your toes? Wrap a towel around your feet and grab either end with your hands to improvise a yoga strap. If your hamstrings are tight, you can bend your legs.

    Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani):
    Benefits:
    Stretches the hamstrings gently, allows blood that has accumulated in the feet and legs to re-circulate in the body. Offers a gentle release for the low back.
    How to:

  • Sit next to a wall and lie onto your back, bringing your knees into your chest. (You can also lie in bed and do this pose!)
  • Straighten your legs and place them on the wall while wiggling your bottom closer to the wall.
  • Allow your heels to rest gently on the wall.
  • Extend the arms overhead for an added stretch.
    TIP: This pose is great for anyone who works on their feet. Spend a few minutes in this pose (you can even do this in bed) each night to give your legs a break. Remember this one–it’s also great after a long day of holiday shopping!

    Have you tried any of these poses? Will you? Which one is your favorite?

  • Fatigue

    Once upon a time, I thought that word was pronounced “fat-ee-gue.”

    True story.

    Anyway, for many reasons, I have been tired lately. Physically, emotionally, spiritually . . . just tired. Tired enough I don’t want to have to think of new things to say here. Worn out enough that I can’t find a way to be creative or thoughtful about what I post, so I’m just passing on a few things that I have found.

    One thing I want to do is c-a-l-m-d-o-w-n and s-l-o-w-d-o-w-n. In my search for ways to do this, I checked out www.zenhabits.net. (thank you, Stephanie) and wanted to pass it on. Feel free to check out the whole site, but please do read this little part. Most of my female friends have confessed to struggling in this area. Hopefully, this will help.

    5 Great Ways to Conquer Self Doubt

    This is a guest post by Alexandra Levit, career advice columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

    Self doubt has been something I’ve struggled with all my life, from debating whether I could get into a top tier university to believing I could succeed as a writer. It’s a very human emotion, and it’s made worse for some people because of life experiences or temperament. Self doubt also makes you feel alone. Sometimes you think you’re the only person in the universe who suffers from a crisis of confidence, and you wish that you could be more like your successful, self-assured neighbor. Well, I guarantee that your neighbor doubts himself every now and then too.

    You won’t ever be able to rid yourself of doubt entirely – believe me, I’ve tried. But I hope that these suggestions will lessen your pain when dark thoughts are all around you.

    Go back in time: The first step to overcoming self doubt is to recognize that it’s there in the first place. Think about the circumstances that are leading you to feel insecure, and see if you notice any patterns. Are there particular situations (for example, dealing with a new boss, speaking in public) that prompt you to feel this way? Make a note of times in the past when you doubted yourself but ended up coming through with flying colors. Knowledge and recognition of your past successes will bolster your courage regarding what you can achieve in the future.

    Defeat the doubtful thoughts: In one column, write a doubtful thought, and in the opposite column, write facts that dispute that doubtful thought. For instance, suppose you are afraid to invite a new colleague to lunch because you’re afraid you won’t have anything to talk about and she won’t like me. Statements that refute that thought might be: “We can spend at least an hour talking about the office culture here and what she did before this” and “She will like me because I’ve made a sincere overture to get to know her better.”

    Keep an event journal: If you are a person who experiences a lot of self doubt, then it’s time for a test. In the course of a single day, write down all of the things – simple and complex – that you accomplished without a hitch. These can be things like “ran productive staff meeting” or “had great talk with Brandon over coffee.” Then, write down the things that didn’t go so well. You will inevitably notice that the list of things that went well far outweighs the list of things that didn’t, and this will hopefully allow you to see your doubt in a different light.

    Call on your cheerleaders: Often, our loved ones can see our lives much more objectively than we can. Being a natural introvert, I sometimes doubt my interpersonal skills, and when someone doesn’t respond to me in the way that I expect, I occasionally get paranoid. It always helps to call one of my best friends so that she can assure me that I do in fact have a lot of wonderful relationships in my life.

    Celebrate your successes: When a situation in which you doubted yourself turns out better than you expected, don’t just nod and smile and move immediately on to the next thing. Take a moment and reward yourself for a positive outcome. Do something you enjoy like going to your favorite restaurant or eating a delectable dessert. Taking the time to cement positive emotions in your mind will hopefully make the doubt disappear more quickly next time.

    Alexandra Levit is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and the author of the new book “New Job, New You: A Guide to Reinventing Yourself in a Bright New Career.” If you’re struggling with what to do with your career in the New Year, visit www.newjobnewyou.com for free tools and guidance.

    Some things that have caught my eye lately

    Thing 1:

    A Broader View of “The Sacred”
    by Rubel Shelly

    For too long now, we have lived with the idea that life is divided into spheres of sacred and secular, religious and worldly, holy and profane.

    Partitioning things that way in our heads has led to ideas like “my personal spiritual life” and “my public business life.” Thus we have debated whether politicians or athletes should ever have their fitness measured by some moral shortcoming or terrible relationship failure in their “private” lives. The consensus seems to be that there is no necessary connection between the two.

    We talk about the “sacred space” we encounter in a cathedral or church sanctuary, at a retreat center or particularly breathtaking spot in nature. The store, office, or den is — one must presume — “secular space” for us.

    So we have created a religious environment in much of Christiandom that allows people to participate in church as pious, reverent members on Sunday morning — while being racist, lecherous, greedy, and materialistic the other six and a half days of the week! Church is sacred. The other settings are secular. Where did we get such absurd notions of the nature of reality?

    Life is continuous from church pew to classroom to golf course. There is a single narrative from Bible class to workplace to football stadium. Each of us is weaving a holistic tapestry with innermost thought to words from the tongue to behavior in unguarded moments. How naive to argue otherwise.

    The late Abraham Heschel used to raise this question: Is it an artist’s inner vision or her grappling with stone that creates a brilliant piece of sculpture? The point of his question was to say that upright living is like a work of art. It is the outcome of both an inner vision and a struggle with very concrete situations.

    “No religious act is properly fulfilled unless it is done with a willing heart and a craving soul,” Heschel said. “You cannot worship God with your body if you do not know how to worship him with your soul.” And vice versa, one might add.

    A spiritual exercise such as prayer or Bible reading or fasting is not meant to be an end in itself. We obey God not for the sake of achieving or earning but to keep our hearts open to him and responsive to his voice.

    All space — cathedral, sickroom, factory, mountain lake, office cubicle, car, sidewalk, jail cell — is sacred to God. It is a place from which he may be sought and found. It is dedicated to his glory by the use we make of it.

    If God is with us and in us, how could any space be other than sacred?

    Thing 2:

    Brit Hume: The “Intolerance” of It All
    by Rubel Shelly

    To hear most people tell it these days, the ultimate virtue is tolerance. So we are instructed to criticize nothing, to affirm all points of view as equally legitimate, to teach our children there is no absolute moral truth, and to realize that all religious paths lead to the same God. No matter how you dress this animal in politics, education, or religion, it is still a monster!

    Tolerance, diversity, pluralism, multiculturalism — all are perfectly good words for very good ideas. But we have allowed them to be taken over in the modern vocabulary to mask not so much a lack of conviction but the very strong conviction that nothing distinctly Christian is tolerable in the public square.

    Case in point: Brit Hume’s recent comment about Tiger Woods. On “Fox News Sunday” for January 3, Chris Wallace asked his panelists to predict the biggest sports story for the coming year.

    “Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer,” said Hume. “Whether he can recover as a person I think is a very open question, and it’s a tragic situation for him. I think he’s lost his family; it’s not clear to me if he’ll be able to have a relationship with his children. But the Tiger Woods that emerges once the news value dies out of this scandal — the extent to which he can recover — seems to me to depend on his faith. He’s said to be a Buddhist; I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be, ‘Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.’ “

    Well, yes, that would be a dramatic story. Given the spotlight on the man considered the greatest golfer in the world, it is hard to image a story that would be bigger in 2010. And everybody from Dr. Phil to Joe Blow has been offering his or her take on Tiger’s issues, prospects, and options. But Brit Hume dared to do the unthinkable. He nodded toward Jesus and recommended Christian faith.

    Tom Shales, media critic for the _Washington Post_, called Hume a “sanctimonious busybody” who dared to be “telling people what religious beliefs they ought to have.” MSNBC’s David Shuster called Hume’s comment “truly embarrassing.” Hume has been savaged by talking heads and bloggers.

    Would anyone have dared be so scathing toward a psychologist urging therapy? A recovering sex addict suggesting Tiger be evaluated for an addiction program? A Muslim panelist recommending the Pillars of Islam? But, as Hume pointed out later in responding to the firestorm around him, any comment that suggests Jesus will generate an avalanche of criticism and invective.

    So who’s really being “intolerant” here? A man who found comfort and life transformation through Jesus after his son’s death who now offers the option he discovered to another beleaguered soul? Or those who would silence him?
    You’d think tolerance and diversity allow all viewpoints to be heard.

    Thing 3:

    2009: the year in review

    I am often inspired by my friend Suzanne, although she probably doesn’t know it. I wish you could all know her, but I suppose that’s what Heaven will be for: meeting each other’s wonderful friends. With props to Suzanne, here’s my own link to favorite posts from the past.

    In January, I was rather contemplative about the amount of control we have in our own lives. I seem to get rather introspective during the winter. I suppose it has to do with having more down time. By the way, I have pretty much the same goals this year. How about you?

    In February, I caved in and did the 25 things you may not know about me thing that went around blogs and Facebook. So . . . here are 25 things you may not know about me. Well, unless you read them the first time . . . and then you should know them. 🙂

    March means Spring Break! Here’s what I did on mine last year.

    April is spring and things coming back to life which makes me want to get up and dance! Seems like these people wanted a little celebration too.

    May of 2009 was exceptionally busy this year. You can read about it here and see a few pictures here. I just noticed that April and May both have Sound of Music influences. Hmmm . . . .

    In May, I also wondered about coloring my hair. THAT was fun!

    June was Daniel’s birthday, but it’s on the 14th, not the 13th. I also attended the Christian Scholars’ Conference, an event which had a profound impact on me. I had a hard time putting it into words, but I tried.

    In July, I was still pondering thoughts from CSC. Seeking truth is very important to me. I want to be able to say that truth-seeking is the focus of my life. However, sometimes reality hits and it’s hard to be all ivory tower philosophical, even for a thinks-too-much person like me.

    August.

    August changed our lives. Every day has new challenges. In time, we started to find some good news and fight for a new cause.

    September was mostly a series of reposts from Scot McKnight’s blog. I took advantage of the theological discussion to include some of my favorite words from Bono.

    In October, I took my boys to a pumpkin patch and was able to get some beautiful pictures of sunflowers. I love sunflowers for many reasons. They add some light to the time of year when things begin to darken. They were a favorite of my grandmother too. I love my Grandmother and still miss her.

    In November, I paid tribute to my dad in the midst of trying to post every single day. That was challenging since I didn’t have functional internet connection at home. I also took time to remember my Grandmother’s favorite Thanksgiving hymn.

    December already? I mostly posted Christmas songs and I hope you enjoyed them, but my favorite post is the one just before this one. I love the prayers and the idea of new beginnings.

    So that was 2009. Wow. No wonder I’m tired.