Thursday, June 28, 2012

Reflection on Seasons


I have been thinking a lot about seasons lately. As much as I may complain about the sweltering heat of a Virginia summer (or spring, as it happens), and the frigid chill of an Ohio winter, there is something refreshing about the knowledge that soon, things will change. I can be thankful that I will not have to endure 95 degree days at 85% humidity all year long. I will not have to don wool socks, sweaters, a wool coat, hat, scarf and mittens just to take the dog out all year long. These experiences are fleeting; they are seasonal.

On the other hand, seasons are also cyclic. While in the midst of a muggy Virginia heat-wave, I may comfort myself with the thought that it will not last forever, but I need to be at least marginally aware that at some point in the next year, I will have to experience another peak of summer. The beauty in this is that God gives me just enough time to recover from the worst parts of each season before I go through it all again. Maybe, in that time, I’ve totally forgotten how wretched it is to have to chip your way through the ice layers on your car just to get in to warm it up, or how blowing snow feels like little needles and frozen nose hair is the weirdest feeling ever; or maybe, maybe I’m more prepared for it the next time around. Get an automatic starter installed. Buy a ski mask. Stay inside.

The idea of seasons applies to our spiritual lives as well.  In Psalm 1, the psalmist writes, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers…” (1:1-3, NASB). There’s a lot here to appreciate, but my favorite line in this description of a godly man is that he “yields fruit in [his] season” (v. 3). Just like in the dead of winter the trees are bare, so there will be a season in my spiritual life of something like barrenness. But I need not fret; it’s just a season. Eventually, the winter gives way to spring, and I’ll notice sprouts of new spiritual life.  

King Solomon was a little more specific in his description of seasons, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecc. 3:1-8, NIV). For everything there is a season, and coming to appreciate the seasonal movement in my life has brought such comfort and rest.

My husband’s return from his last deployment in February was wonderful, but it marked the beginning of a seasonally complicated journey. Between February and July, we would live in 3 different places, crossing two seasonal shifts. We started in Idaho in the winter, and met the spring in Ohio. We moved to Virginia on the cusp of summer, and then settled in Germany during what should be summer, but feels more like spring on most days. This presented a challenge. We had 6 suitcases between us, and three seasons in six months for which to pack. It was like a math problem.  Besides the physical challenge of moving between seasons, I felt the spiritual challenge that seems to accompany the transience of the military life. I like to feel settled, to have a home base, and so my tendency is to say things like, “Once we’re settled, I’ll get back into reading my Bible every day” or “once we have a place to call home,  I’ll join in a women’s Bible study and go on prayer walks again.” I feel restless and drained, distant from my Savior because I’m caught up in the difficulties of this season. 

Even as I write this, feelings of guilt creep in, along with a nasty case of the “shoulds.” I should be reading my Bible every day, regardless of the circumstances. I should be having spiritually challenging conversations with those around me, even if I don’t know them very well. Should, should, should. Blah, blah, blah. However, I need to remember that I belong to a gracious God, one who, even though He may discipline me when I’m sinful, “will not take [His] love from [me], nor will [He] ever betray [His] faithfulness…” (Psalm 89:33, NIV). He is a faithful Savior, the “true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1-5, NIV). (Warning: miniature grammar lesson ahead). The critical word here is “remain” or “abide”. This is in the aorist tense in the Greek, which means it refers to an action or even that happened at a point in time, without regard to past, present or future. It implies that at “x” point, I began abiding with God (salvation), and I continue to do so simply by the nature of salvation. So I know that I do abide with God, and He is faithfully pruning me and growing me, in the appropriate seasons, using my circumstances to prune, water and refresh me.

So I’ll call this a season of transition. It may feel a bit like winter, but it won't forever. I’m finding a new groove, I’m resting in the fact that I’m connected to the Lord, and that there will be a new season of fruitfulness coming soon.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Reflections on Health

Reflections on Health

Over the last year or so I have spent quite a bit of time considering what is healthy. I have a blossoming career as a counselor, and one of my first supervisors taught me a three-fold approach to counseling that is sound and wise: we counsel with a view to the whole person, mind, body and spirit. If you neglect any one of these areas, you begin to see disease and dysfunction creep into your life. Before my husband left for his deployment, we committed to keeping ourselves healthy, mind, body and spirit, during that year. To stay mentally healthy, we allowed for time to relax and “brain-dump” as he puts it, which means time reading for fun, watching TV or movies, or just socializing. To stay spiritually healthy, we set aside time to be with God individually and together. We read the Word, participated in group Bible studies, had a weekly devotional together, and spent much of our days in conversational prayer with the Lord. To stay physically healthy, we were dedicated to exercising regularly. He ran and did Cross Fit like a crazy person, and I danced, did yoga, biked, and went to the gym at least 4 times a week.

However, I noticed that just working out didn’t seem to be enough for me. I have a long history of dieting (read: cutting calories) to lose weight, and this year I’d set a goal to be down one size by the time my husband came home. But even though I was working out regularly, I wasn’t dropping weight or feeling much better, a reality which caused me to look more closely at my diet (read: food and drink on my daily menu).  Looking honestly at my diet was both unsettling and rewarding. First, I realized I was taking in far too much sugar, in the form of alcohol and sweets. Easy enough to modify; I swore off chocolate for the year and cut back to two alcoholic drinks per week. This alone made a significant difference in my waistline. But this wasn’t just about cutting things out of my diet; I also needed to add to it. I knew I wasn’t getting the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables (5-13 servings per day) or fiber (28g for females 19-30). This has been a constant battle for me; no matter how well-intentioned I am, I cannot seem to eat a giant spinach salad every day. So, in the name of health, I turned to an old favorite: the smoothie.

I have always loved smoothies. When I was in high school, I worked at Zuka Juice, which then became Jamba Juice, and loved all of the smoothies, both advertised and those created by employees during slow times (apple-carrot-strawberry-ginger-NFFY anyone?) The only problem I saw was that my smoothies were almost entirely fruit, which, while healthy, is high in sugar and short on some vitamins and minerals I still needed. Summoning all of my culinary creativity, I began experimenting with ingredients, aiming to create a smoothie or two that had at least as many vegetables as fruits, if not more, but still tasted sweet and fruity (because that’s what I like!). In the process, I made some truly awful smoothies. I’ve used celery, green pepper, kale, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, pecans and more… My poor family was very supportive, though, as I subjected them to each combination. The following recipes are the ones that passed the test and are worth sharing, along with a few notes to help you in your own smoothie adventures!

A few thoughts…

·         These measurements are not exact, as I’m a “just eye-ball it” kind of gal. I just aimed for 1 serving of each ingredient, give or take.

·         I generally tried to use organic and frozen fruits and veggies when I could. Frozen organic is far more affordable than fresh organic, and carries the same nutritional value as in-season fresh organic produce.

·         Citrus covers a multitude of sins! Cover the “green” taste with a few squirts of lemon or lime juice.

·         Each smoothie has fewer than 300 calories. Add a cheese stick or a few crackers with peanut butter or sunflower seed spread to make a nice little lunch.

·         Each smoothie has an estimate of at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies, and the Beginner Smoothie is the only one that has more fruits than vegetables.

·         Add 1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal for extra fiber and about 45 extra calories.


Beginner Smoothie

½ cup Simply Orange Orange Juice (I use this brand because it’s 100% juice, and has no preservatives)
1 medium banana
4 oz Light ‘n Fit Strawberry Yogurt (or flavor of choice)
½ cup baby carrots (about 9)
1.5 cups fresh spinach (or about ½ cup frozen)

6 strawberries (medium/large)


Add lemon or lime juice to taste

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
11 serving (553.4 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories
277277
Calories from Fat
88
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
0.9g0.9
1%1
Saturated Fat
0.2g0.2
1%1
Trans Fat
0.0g0.0
Cholesterol
4mg4
1%1
Sodium
174mg174
7%7
Total Carbohydrates
62.2g62.2
21%21
Dietary Fiber
8.0g8.0
32%32
Sugars
37.8g37.8
Protein
8.6g8.6
Vitamin A 326%326
Vitamin C 188%188
Calcium 23%23
Iron 16%16
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet



The Beginner Smoothie is also: Very low in saturated fat, Very low in cholesterol, High in dietary fiber, High in manganese, High in potassium, Very high in vitamin A, High in vitamin B6, Very high in vitamin C

Berry Green Smoothie

½ cup Simply Orange Orange Juice
1 medium banana
5-6 strawberries (medium to large)
1 cup frozen broccoli

½ cup frozen spinach
1 cup yellow squash (frozen or fresh)


Add squirts of lemon or lime juice to taste



Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
11 serving (544.0 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories
240240
Calories from Fat
1212
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
1.3g1.3
2%2
Saturated Fat
0.2g0.2
1%1
Cholesterol
0mg0
0%0
Sodium
54mg54
2%2
Total Carbohydrates
57.0g57.0
19%19
Dietary Fiber
8.7g8.7
35%35
Sugars
33.3g33.3
Protein
7.2g7.2
Vitamin A 45%45
Vitamin C 345%345
Calcium 10%10
Iron 12%12
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet



The Berry Green Smoothie is also:  Very low in saturated fat, No cholesterol, Low in sodium, High in dietary fiber, High in manganese, High in magnesium, High in potassium, High in vitamin A, High in vitamin B6, Very high in vitamin C

Favorite Green Smoothie

 ½ cup (4 oz) Simply Orange Orange Juice
1 medium banana
2/3 cup frozen spinach
2/3 cup frozen broccoli
¾ cup frozen zucchini


Add a squirt of lemon or lime juice to taste


Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
11 serving (586.9 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories
243243
Calories from Fat
1515
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
1.7g1.7
3%3
Saturated Fat
0.4g0.4
2%2
Sodium
540mg540
22%22
Total Carbohydrates
53.7g53.7
18%18
Dietary Fiber
12.0g12.0
48%48
Sugars
30.3g30.3
Protein
10.7g10.7
Vitamin A 320%320
Vitamin C 136%136
Calcium 24%24
Iron 21%21
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet


The Favorite Green Smoothie is also: Low in saturated fat, High in dietary fiber, Very high in manganese, High in magnesium, High in potassium, Very high in vitamin A, High in vitamin B6, Very high in vitamin C

Favorite Green Smoothie Plus
½ cup Simply Orange Orange Juice
1 medium banana
½ cup frozen spinach
½ cup frozen broccoli
1 cup frozen zucchini
½ cucumber
½ lime (or squirts of lime juice to taste)


Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
11 serving (663.9 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories
229229
Calories from Fat
1010
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
1.1g1.1
2%2
Saturated Fat
0.3g0.3
2%2
Cholesterol
0mg0
0%0
Sodium
561mg561
23%23
Total Carbohydrates
54.8g54.8
18%18
Dietary Fiber
8.2g8.2
33%33
Sugars
31.9g31.9
Protein
7.4g7.4
Vitamin A 46%46
Vitamin C 177%177
Calcium 11%11
Iron 14%14
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet


The Favorite Green Smoothie Plus is also: Very low in saturated fat, No cholesterol, High in dietary fiber, High in manganese, High in magnesium, High in potassium, High in vitamin A, High in vitamin B6, Very high in vitamin C

Tastes Better than it Looks Smoothie
½ cup Simply Orange Orange Juice
1 cup baby carrots (or shredded carrots)
1 serving cherry tomatoes (maybe 6-7)
1 cup romaine lettuce (Beware! This is a strong flavor!)
2/3 cup frozen spinach
1 cup pineapple pieces (fresh or frozen)


Add squirt of lemon or lime juice to taste

 

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
11 serving (634.3 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories
244244
Calories from Fat
1515
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
1.7g1.7
3%3
Saturated Fat
0.2g0.2
1%1
Sodium
159mg159
7%7
Total Carbohydrates
54.3g54.3
18%18
Dietary Fiber
12.4g12.4
50%50
Sugars
35.7g35.7
Protein
8.8g8.8
Vitamin A 857%857
Vitamin C 161%161
Calcium 25%25
Iron 23%23


The Tastes Better than it Looks Smoothie is also: Very low in saturated fat, No cholesterol, Very high in dietary fiber, Very high in manganese, High in magnesium, High in thiamin, Very high in vitamin A, and Very high in vitamin C


 
Garden Smoothie
½ cup Simply Orange Orange Juice
1 to 1.5 cup frozen mixed berries
1 cup carrots (baby or shredded)

¼ cup frozen spinach
¼ cup mushrooms

1/2 red pepper


Add squirt of lemon or lime juice to taste



Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
11 serving (540.3 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories
232232
Calories from Fat
1414
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
1.6g1.6
2%2
Saturated Fat
0.1g0.1
1%1
Trans Fat
0.0g0.0
Cholesterol
0mg0
0%0
Sodium
86mg86
4%4
Total Carbohydrates
54.7g54.7
18%18
Dietary Fiber
12.6g12.6
50%50
Sugars
33.3g33.3
Protein
4.7g4.7
Vitamin A 427%427
Vitamin C 333%333
Calcium 9%9
Iron 12%12
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet



The Garden Smoothie is also:  Very low in saturated fat, No cholesterol, Low in sodium, Very high in dietary fiber, High in potassium, Very high in vitamin A, Very high in vitamin C

So, in an effort to become more healthy, I hope you enjoy these, and maybe start creating your own! Happy Blending!