We were so happy and blessed to be able to attend the third annual Memorial Day event at the Civil War cemetery in Vernon, Illinois. We remember fondly the event from 2015, written about here in case you missed it. We didn’t think that day could be topped but this years event was equally wonderful. This post will be mainly photos of the wonderful displays.
We have been distracted by our obsession with conquering heart disease! Let’s take a break from that series and see what is really carrying us forward. I can hardly contain my excitement about a dear friend who entered into the Valley of the Shadow of Death years ago. She came out claiming VICTORY!! Actually, she went in declaring VICTORY….
If you have followed our Adventure Travel Blog, you may remember we are now minimalists. To finally adopt our dream lifestyle, Bill sold his dearly beloved motorcycle (click the link to see a picture of it) and I had to get rid of all my books!!! Ouch, it hurt us both. I’ve been a lover of books for as long as I can remember….
A VERY dear friend called me a while ago to let me know she was FINALLY writing the book I had wanted years ago. How sad I had to temper my enthusiasm with the fact, books are practically banned from our motor home as we just don’t have the spare room (Bill knows if you give an inch, I’ll take a dozen books!). Continue reading
“What is a heart healthy diet” my doctor asked me on April 12, 2017. That shocked me, she’s a medical doctor, she should know I thought. You see, when I first went to her a year ago for my yearly check up, my only complaint was my weight. And now one year later, I am down over 20 pounds. When she asked what have I been doing, I replied, “I’m eating a heart healthy diet!”
I guess it means different things to different people. I decided to do some more research and decided we might want to share exactly what we are doing, although we mentioned it previously here. Continue reading
We are so grateful to Bill’s brother, David, and his wife, Linda. They really helped us through our first week of the shocking revelation that Bill was at risk of a massive heart attack and heart disease, written about here, in case you missed it. Thankfully, they not only are medical professionals – have attended continuing education to stay on top of their fields – but they have also focused on heart disease since David has had a heart attack.
They figured out how to live with heart disease and we have watched their lifestyle from a distance since they live states away. We don’t usually see each other more than once a year. Normally, when a sibling has a heart attack, it raises your chances. But Bill felt he and his brother had such different lifestyles, he was not at risk. Guess he was proven wrong now!
We had to wait a week before we met with a new cardiologist, Jeffrey E. Askew, MD. He happens to be one of the cardiologists intimately familiar with the Heart Calcium Scan Score. In the meantime, they told us a few things he would suggest the next step would be: possibly a heart cauterization to actually look inside his arteries to see what is going on; and/or a stress test. But more than anything, adopting a heart healthy lifestyle will be the #1 suggestion.
That is exactly what we did. We began to educate ourselves on what we were putting into our bodies. Granted, we have more or less bragged that we eat healthy, we certainly are active with walking and hiking, and we really haven’t been sick much in our lifetimes. We were deluded….
There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
We heard a sermon this winter that helped us see our own delusion. We tend to overestimate how “good” we are (in whatever way: fitness, relationship with the Lord, relationship with others, our health, our weight….) and underestimate the reality! We replay that a lot to each other. We knew we were gradually gaining weight, but we thought it was part of the aging process. We told ourselves, we were eating healthy and were exercising…we aren’t that old, we did eat a basically healthy diet – but we were ignorant about preservatives, additives and how many cookies and klondike “no sugar added” ice cream squares we were eating! That undid the nine miles we may have just hiked!!!
Our sister-in-law, Linda, was our best teacher about the additives, etc. in the foods we eat and then we began to do our own research. We were shocked at some of the ingredients we were consuming in the foods we eat. We began to look up each word we didn’t know what it was – and what a shock! We began to eliminate processed foods from our diet.
We began to research what we could about heart disease. Here are a few facts we began to realize and incorporate into our lives:
It’s important to note that one common heart health mistake is to believe that lowering cholesterol levels is the key factor in preventing cardiovascular disease. Actually, the body needs cholesterol to perform many of its functions, so the ultimate goal should be to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and to protect that cholesterol from oxidative stress.
You know it’s true for everyone: having a balance and variety of foods is key to a healthy, nutritious diet. Of course, fad diets come and go, and while some stick around longer than others because of dramatic, temporary results, they all lead to nutritional deficiencies of some type.
So how do you achieve a proper balance while maintaining a healthy weight? What’s important is to manage your ratio of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. For adults, proteins should be between 10 and 35 percent of the diet, fats between 20 and 35 percent and carbohydrates between 45 and 65 percent. And in addition to helping you achieve your weight-loss goals, eating the correct ratio of foods may help you permanently change your eating habits, which can improve your long-term health.
Make sure your diet includes a wide variety of micronutrients as well. You’ll find a great deal of these in fresh, colorful vegetables and fruits. Make sure the majority of the food you eat is nutrient dense, as opposed to empty calories from processed food.
From USANA Health Sciences
We never thought about the ratios of the fats, proteins and carbs. That was the key point Linda made when she suggested we start tracking everything we eat in the Lose it! app. Since Bill doesn’t use a smart phone, I downloaded it and became his food coach, monitoring his every bite he ate! Then I downloaded the FoodEducate app to do the same for me, after all, I want him to succeed. To be honest, I needed to lose some weight and take care of my heart as well. So while his app showed us those percentages, my app also showed the “value” of the nutrition. So while we’ve basically had a high carb diet (I avoid bread and potatoes – but he ate regularly), we learned fast we needed to change! Within a few days of food tracking, we could see many carbs we now are eating are “good” carbs (mainly fresh fruit)….there is a lot to this nutrition thing! Here is a sampling of the Lose It! app:
Bill began to see food as the “enemy” as we transitioned from a processed food diet, to one of more “whole” foods. In just one week, he lost four pounds! And that was really eliminating the junk food we didn’t really acknowledge we had in our lives. In time, he has balanced out his view of food and now knows food was created for our good! It’s just best in its more natural state!
“Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) (Mark 7:18).
It is now Thursday, December 22, 2016. Yes, right before Christmas and we are ready to learn more about Bill’s condition. When Dr. Askew came in, he had a look, “Where is the patient?” He was not expecting a rather tall, relatively slim and healthy looking guy! We joked about it, but the reality of the facts, numbers and our concern were all he needed to start explaining where we were.
The first thing he told us was that Bill had metabolic syndrome! This was actually the good news! It explained why Bill had been unable to lose any weight this past year. We had both tried to no avail. Let’s simplify it by copying from WebMD, with my notes in italics:
Dr. Askew was a great teacher. Since it was almost 4 months ago, I don’t recall exactly what he said. But Bill got it! What was so strange, is that Bill has had high triglycerides nearly ever since he has had his blood work monitored. In fact, the only concern any doctor had about Bill was his cholesterol. And Bill pushed back because it runs in the family as well as longevity.
Metabolic syndrome is a health condition that everyone’s talking about. (Really? We never heard of it until Bill was diagnosed with it!)
Although it was only identified less than 20 years ago, metabolic syndrome is as widespread as pimples and the common cold. According to the American Heart Association, 47 million Americans have it. That’s almost a staggering one out of every six people. The syndrome runs in families and is more common among African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans. (Bill is none of these, he’s of Irish descent.) The risks of developing metabolic syndrome increases as you age.
Indeed, metabolic syndrome seems to be a condition that many people have, but no one knows very much about. It’s also debated by the experts — not all doctors agree that metabolic syndrome should be viewed as a distinct condition….
Metabolic syndrome is not a disease in itself. Instead, it’s a group of risk factors — high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat. (Later, the article says to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, you would have at least three of these risk factors – which is all Bill has.)
Obviously, having any one of these risk factors isn’t good. But when they’re combined, they set the stage for serious problems. These risk factors double your risk of blood vessel and heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. They increase your risk of diabetes by five times.
What about triglycerides?
They are important to life and are the main form of fat – they are sometimes called “lipids” — in the body. When you think of fat developing and being stored in your hips or belly, you’re thinking of triglycerides.
They are the end product of digesting and breaking down fats in food. Some are made in the body from other energy sources, such as carbohydrates. When you’re between meals and need more energy, your body’s hormones release them so you tap those unused calories.
Bottom line is that Bill experienced the perfect storm, and there was no denying he has this syndrome. And now for the great news about it, and this was the doctor’s focus: “A good diet and exercise plan can lower triglyceride levels, improve cholesterol, and decrease the chance of heart disease.”
Dr. Askew then went into great detail about the heart function, arteries and how the calcium score revealed his risk factors. Here is what we learned in a nutshell, to better understand what Bill is facing, from Medicinenet:
Heart (cardiovascular) disease definition and facts
- Heart disease refers to various types of conditions that can affect heart function. These types include:
- Coronary artery (atherosclerotic) heart disease that affects the arteries to the heart
- Valvular heart disease that affects how the valves function to regulate blood flow in and out of the heart
- Cardiomyopathy that affects how the heart muscle squeezes
- Heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias) that affect the electrical conduction
- Heart infections where the heart has structural problems that develop before birth
- Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease in the US.
- Coronary arteries supply blood to the heart muscle and coronary artery disease occurs when there is a buildup of cholesterol plaque inside the artery walls. Over time, this buildup of plaque may partially block the artery and decrease blood flow through it.
- A heart attack occurs when a plaque ruptures and forms a clot in the artery causing a complete blockage. That part of the heart muscle that is denied blood supply starts to die.
- Classic signs and symptoms of coronary heart disease may include:
- Chest pain (angina) – This pain may radiate or move to the arm, neck or back.
- Shortness of breath
Now for more good news! Bill is probably in the early stages of coronary artery disease, but since he has none of the classic signs and symptoms, he is a great candidate to turn his prognosis around. While the doctor said Bill’s calcium score will never change, he can make positive changes to his health by a radical adjustment in his diet and exercise.
Dr. Askew recommended a Mediterranean type diet and suggested we look up the diet recommended by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD. He added, it is a radical diet but this is Bill’s best hope for a long healthy life. David did go on this diet and lost 50 pounds. He was transformed into a mean, lean, fighting machine! But there was a downside…so we’ll learn about it next post.
Dr. Askew did not feel he needed to do a heart cauterization (hallelujah!) but only needs a nuclear stress test at this time. Phew, we haven’t mentioned planned to leave Virginia for three months, to go to warmer climates for the winter. It looks like we can still leave in early January.
Dr. Askew was also very optimistic about Bill’s future. He didn’t think he needs to be on any heart medicine at this time, Not even a statin – although if Bill wanted to go forward with the one the other cardiologist prescribed, it was up to him.
We left feeling somewhat optimistic, but we learned an awful lot of new information. It was going to take time for it to make sense and for us to absorb it. We just need for Bill to take that one more test, which he felt we could get scheduled within the week. And we had to get a grip on the diet.
Next up, the radical dietary changes begin.
While going through our divorce (which resulted in a miraculous reconciliation and remarriage), Bill tried to tell me, “Love is a choice.” I didn’t get it then, but have since learned this important lesson! God actually gives us freewill to accept or reject what life hands us. Read here for our last post on heart disease.
While Bill was shutting down mentally after the news about his heart disease, he struggled….and had to reach deep down inside himself. He can reflect back now and says, he had a choice! He decided to accept his prognosis and paid close attention to medical professionals as to what he was facing and how he could “turn the sinking ship around.” Hallelujah! We are so grateful the first two medical professionals we went to, his brother, David and his wife, Linda! Continue reading
We are amazed as we visit a different church most Sundays. The themes and sermons build on each other. What is great is when we keep talking about a sermon or remember points about it weeks afterwards. And the sermon we heard on February 25, 2017 was one such message. We discovered a church close to us when we were staying in Davis Bayou Gulf Seashore National Park in Ocean Springs, Mississippi (link goes to our Travel Blog about our time there).
Sometimes, I can just sense the sermon is one where I want to take detailed notes. And that I did! So here are my notes and feeble attempt to recreate this wonderful sermon that speaks clearly to us! I will have a post soon about our new physical health journey that plays into this sermon – which might be why it speaks so loudly to us.
All In (sermon series)
(Sermon theme) ”We overestimate how good things are between us and God”
The Pastor started by sharing how he overestimated his ability to participate in an exercise class last winter. He and his wife decided to join the Y and “get into shape.” He read about a spinning class, you know, you “just ride” a stationary bicycle. That can’t be too hard, can it, he asked? If you know what he was talking about, you know he was in for a rude awakening. He and his wife signed up for the classes – but they were told they needed to take the beginners class first to learn how it goes. He joked with his wife, “really? Learn how to ride a stationary bike?” But they complied.
At first, the instructor seemed so kind and sweet….then she turned into a drill sergeant! After a time of being run ragged, he glanced at his wife, who was also also sweating profusely, then he looked at his watch. He was going to say, “let’s sneak out.” What a shock to see only 5 minutes had passed and the class was 45 minutes long! Needless to say, they had to finish it because they would have had to pull their bikes out in front of the class, then EVERYONE would know they were quitters. He just had to endure the pain! His point was how we all tend to overestimate our abilities. Not just physical, but spiritual as well. That usually means we then have to go though a period of testing, just like he did. And there will more than likely be pain! Was he “all in” for the exercise class? He thought he was – but once in it, he realized he wasn’t ready for it.
Much like what the disciples went through, in particular, Peter. Peter was always ready to jump into whatever task was at hand. But was he “all in” as a disciple? He thought he was. Peter experienced a defining moment, like we all do – we either experience a spiritual break through or a break down. We either move forward or backwards.
Our text was Luke 22:31-34, 54-62, and is noted below.
First, note that Jesus is NOW calling him Simon, whereas when HE first called him, he renamed him Peter and said “Upon this rock, I will build my church.” So this tells us that Simon Peter had “regressed” or is about to fail his first test. Jesus tried to warn Peter he wasn’t ready, or wasn’t really “all in” as Peter thought.
Luke 22:31-34 ”Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
Does Peter sound a bit optimistic about his stand for the Lord? Previously, the disciples had been arguing who was going to be the greatest (back up to Luke 22:24). We don’t really know who was the instigator, but some scholars think it was Peter because of being named the Rock and how he always speaking without thinking – and then says, “LORD I AM READY TO GO WITH YOU BOTH TO PRISON AND TO DEATH.” We know how this turns out, but, first let’s notice the Lord reminded him of times past, how he did take care of them:
Luke 22:35-37 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
Then the TEST, Peter now tested:
Luke 22:54-62 Then they seized him (the Lord) and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Now let’s look back at Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.” The pastor then demonstrated how this was done back in the day, when you go back to the original Greek word for sift – It is actually to “beat” the wheat!
I decided to look up this process as it is so important to understand what is actually happening. This is actually a common theme in a number of Bible Studies and other sermons, but this was the first time we had it so clearly, and maybe painfully, taught us! Anyway, I loved the visual he created for us. He actually had a fistful of wheat and began to “beat” it on the ground. Here is a picture and some further explanation. According to an article, sifting wheat back in the day is a two step process: The first is manual threshing, and the second is winnowing (which he also demonstrated).
Threshing: The first step in the process of sifting wheat is to loosen the chaff from the edible grain, which is called threshing. The old fashioned way to do this is to spread the wheat onto a floor made from stone, concrete, or tamped earth.
Winnowing: The next step is called winnowing, where the loosened chaff is removed from the grain. The old fashioned way of doing this was to throw the grain in the air, the lighter chaff would be blown off by even a decent breeze. The heavier grains would fall back to the ground below where they were thrown. The wheat gets sifted, so the hard outer shell can be broken through and removed. You want the actual wheat to remain and nothing extra. As you can imagine, that’s the same process a person has to go through. God breaks down the outer shell of a person, so the real seed of life can remain.
WOW, no wonder our trials hurt so much….
Back to the sermon
Before Peter can be the leader, the Lord still needs to do a work in him before he can fulfill his destiny. The Lord had to see Peter humbled before he was ready to be built up as the leader of the new church. So when you build a house, you have to ask, how deep do you want your footers? If you live in a trailer or manufactured home, they are put on cinderblocks. And we know they can blow away in a severe storm….but skyscrapers have deep, deep, deep footers. We were asked, “how deep are the footers in your life? Are they big enough for the floor plans God has for your life?”
Back to V 31. Satan is a tool for Jesus. To sift wheat, remember it is shaken and beaten violently. Then the grain is thrown into the air, the lighter chaff (or those on cinderblock footers) are blown away with a breeze! Satan asked permission to shake us, and to beat us until our grain falls off the stalk. That’s what Satan wants. Ouch, and Jesus said go for it! Much like Job. God knew Job was faithful and would survive, but Job didn’t know it! So in our painful moments, we want to give up!
Two results of shifting: detaches grain of wheat from the stalk. Then it prepares the grain of wheat into something “useful.” (IMPORTANT teaching point)
Strong winds blow chaff away but heavy grain falls straight to the ground!
V32-Jesus in essence said, “I have prayed for you, when you turn back, you will strengthen your brothers!” After the threshing and winnowing, the grain becomes energy for us, just as Peter now has the energy to be an encourager! Just like the wheat is a source of energy.
From John 21:15, after the Lord is resurrected, “…Peter do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord, you know I love you!” “Jesus said, ‘feed my sheep.’” Three times he asked him. Because he has been sifted, He can now feed His sheep. God can’t use you fully until God has broken you and turned you into something “useful!”
Was satan’s purpose accomplished or was Jesus’s purpose when you went through a similar defining moment?
Are we just detached or can we now see how God can use us after our trials?
Do you need to be restored? Or redeemed? (time for the alter call.)
There is a purpose in the pain.
Are we living in a way we can encourage the brothers and sisters in our faith?
Sometimes we question whether we are really living for the Lord. If we are following Him or asking Him to join us. Many times in our doubting, the Lord clearly shows us how He is using us. And one way is to be encouragers as we travel about. Our first sermon when we arrived in Florida for our winter travels was just that perfect sermon to help us prepare for what was lying ahead in our travels. (Oh where are my notes? It was so powerful and needs to be memorialized like this one.) We know we fall short, but we do hope and pray, we are ALL IN for the duration of what the Lord has for us!
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
We started a series about Change in October 2015. Still working on it. Then heard the theme in the powerful sermon last week. Mulled it over all week. Bill and I are reading through Galatians and we’re reminded about the Fruit of the Spirit (“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”Galatians 5:22-23). How am I going to finally master this? I know only the Lord can perform this miracle, so here’s my Fresh Start, from my morning devotional (link below it):
I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God – it changes me. – CS Lewis
All relationships require communication. As any friend, parent, spouse, son or daughter knows, communication does not always come easily. It takes intentionality. Vulnerability. Understanding. It takes practice.
Communicating with our heavenly Father through prayer is a blessing, a privilege, and a gift. But it also takes practice. Over the next 3 weeks, we will examine the power and practice of prayer together as a body of believers. We will identify five types of prayer – praise, confession, petition, intercession and kingdom advancement – and look closely at instruction and examples of each in Scripture. Then, we will discuss the Who/Where/When of prayer and challenge ourselves to put what we have learned into action.
Will you join us as we search God’s Word for His truth about prayer?
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, ESV)
Day 1: Prayers of Praise
Text: Psalm 8
Do you wake up praying? Giving thanks and praising Him for who He is and what He’s done?
I admit, it’s not my first conscious action. Generally, I wake with a grumble at the sounding alarm, not a prayer (except maybe for it to stop). I drag myself from the warm covers, make a promise to myself that tonight I’ll take my makeup off before bed and stumble to the kitchen to start the coffee and pull open the blinds.
And at that moment, most mornings, I gasp.
The sky is perfectly painted in layers of icy blue, pale yellow and fiery pink leading to a burst of orange. The sunrise.
He’s gifted this intentional reminder of “glory in the heavens.” This evident, majestic work of His hands.
And despite my weariness, my to-do list, my need for coffee and obvious need for grooming, I forget myself completely. It all becomes about Him. In an instant, my gasp becomes a prayer—a prayer praising His greatness.
Psalm 8 is David’s gasp at God’s majesty, though it’s far more eloquent than my smeary mascara-eyed admiring.
Yet, this is what I long for my first prayer of every day to be – a prayer of praise:
For His perfect creation (Psalm 8:3, NIV), seen in a sunrise that a million painters could never come close to replicating.
For His unfathomable love for each and every one of us (v.4, NIV), despite our grumbles and sinful ways.
For the dominion over all His creation, given to us in the garden and restored in Christ (v. 5-8, NIV), the undeserved redemption we find in His son.
Nothing could be more praiseworthy.
These prayers are not expectant, not tinged with our own self-interest, or a laundry list of problems we want rectified. These are prayers of pure praise, thanksgiving and adoration that our Father receives so gratefully, like the crayon-scrawled thank you note we get from a child. He’ll take our gift and cherish it anytime, anywhere.
Let your first prayer today be one of praise. Forget yourself completely. Share with Him your gasp at His greatness, singing a prayerful song of praise:
“Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the Earth!” (v. 9)
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