Category Archives: Life Lessons

More on Gathering Around a Table with Help from Shauna Niequist’s book: BREAD AND WINE

Friends!  The past few weeks we’ve been looking around with mission-minded eyes from our back yards to our front yards, perhaps plopping down turquoise picnic tables in them.

This week we’re going to mosey on inside, and try a few recipes in the kitchen, making some unsuspecting guests at our table very, very happy.

Even if you’re challenged in the cooking department like me, you’ll be so inspired to try what author Shauna Niequist suggests in her super fun book, Bread and Wine—A Love Letter to Life Around the Table (with recipes).

Shauna’s honest, no-nonsense style and wit make this book a page-turner.  Divided into three parts, most chapters, which are lovely vignettes, include a recipe.

All her chocolate recipes call for my favorite ingredient:  dark chocolate. The one I most desperately wish to try ASAP is her three-ingredient “Simplest Dark Chocolate Mousse”.  I know…  She dubs it “cheater mousse”.  LOL.

Sensing some of her readers may be cooking impaired, Shauna offers entertaining tips, a list for what to stock your pantry with, and menu ideas.  It’s the best!  Plus, for those of you who need to eat gluten free, she either shows you how to make the dish GF, or it already is GF.

You’ll become acquainted with Shauna and her husband, Aaron, their two boys, Henry and Mac and many of their unique friends. Her Supper Club sounds like a blast.

Her extended family makes cameos as well and you’ll get a feel for how real they are. In reality, I’m sure it’s tough to escape from under the microscope of her Dad’s mega church, Willow Creek.  (www.willowcreek.org )

Also an accomplished author, Shauna’s Dad, Bill Hybels, clearly loves his family.  Getting a peek into their family is so sweet.  Their devotion to one another is beautiful.

I love how Shauna calls her Mother, Lynne, “a global soul: a poet, an activist, a woman of creativity and conviction and vision, a woman I aspire to be like in a million ways.” Lynne is also a fantastic author.

Just as author Kristin Schell showed us easy ways to be hospitable via a turquoise table, Shauna does the very same at her dining room table.  She proclaims, “Fuss not!”, blissfully chucking perfectionism out the window.

This is how she puts her foot down:  “You can decide that every time you open your door, it’s an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, your goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving…” I need to make that quote into a sign and hang it in our kitchen!

Here, Shauna’s readying to prepare a meal…

My Mother was a long-suffering perfectionist.  When John and I would go home to Lexington for dinner, she’d spend the entire afternoon in the kitchen.  We’d serve our plates and she insisted we “go on and eat.”  We complied, but by the time she fixed her plate and came in to eat, we were all nearly done. There we sat.

One petite example:  Jelly was never served in a jelly jar, it was presented in a crystal bowl, silver spoon at the ready.  To this day, I still laugh when I whip out the ketchup and barbecue sauce bottles, salad dressing bottles, etc. and set them on the counter for everyone to self-serve.  (Mother would be horrified. Shauna would say, “Yes!  You can do this!”)

Above and beyond striving for simplicity, Shauna and I could be buddies on many levels. In addition to being a mom of boys, I adore her love for bread.  I’d go one step further and confess my love for bread and butter. (Any of you Whole 30 advocates out there are cringing.)

Shauna explains her title beautifully:  “…I am a bread-and-wine person. By that I mean I’m a Christian, a person of the body and blood, a person of the bread and wine…The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and earth, the divine and the daily.” To me, that makes communion that much more special.

Another of many favorite quotes in the book is: “Many of the most sacred moments in my life, the ones in which I feel God’s presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, take place around the table.

Something extraordinary happens when we…

Slow down,

Open our homes,

Look into one another’s faces, and

Listen to one another’s stories around the table.”

We also learn early on Shauna bravely put herself in a culinary boot camp.  I applaud her effort. Her experience filters throughout the book in an encouraging if-I-can-do-this-you-can-do-this way.

One statement from the Intro’ seems to be a goal of the book. We readers get to see it in action in each of the meals Shauna serves.  I see it in three parts:

What makes me feel alive and connected to God’s voice and spirit in this world is creating opportunities for the people I love to

(1) Rest and

(2) Connect and

(3) Be fed at my table.” (I added the numbers.)

Dash  to your local bookstore.  Find this book and flip thru’ it.  My guess is you’ll see enough recipes you’ll want to try, especially when you learn the stories behind them…even better!  Bread and Wine would make a great gift as well.

‘Til next time!

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Now We’re Movin’ to the Front Yard with help from Kristin Schell and THE TURQUOISE TABLE…

Friends!  I pray today finds you well…I’m livin’ in the Land of Denial re:  “Summer’s Half Over”…Somehow the 4th of July left us rather rudely in the dust…

Here’s a book for your summer reading whether this finds you poolside, or perched by a picture window…

A recent discovery of this book has snowballed to near avalanche proportions.  Thanks to a favorite, informative resource, www.styleblueprint.com , the gals offered a fascinating interview with author Kristin Schell as a “Face of the South”.

I was so mesmerized by the article, I promptly forwarded it to my friend, Judy, who’s creating her own book with similar offerings.  Judy up and ordered two copies, one for her and one for me.  We’ve simultaneously become enraptured by the book.

The book?  The Turquoise Table—Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard by Kristen Schell.

Note the beauty of the cover.  I’d have bought it solely from the cover.  Its’ spine is a lovely, sheeny gold and it includes a rich, brown, satin book marker.  Such things tickle me. (You go, Thomas Nelson.)

Each page is thick, easy to turn. Each chapter has beautiful photographs, ideas, recipes (all of which look easy and delicious), and testimonies of others acquiring a turquoise table.  Why the turquoise table you ask?

One weekend, Kristin and her family were going to be entertaining in their back yard and she realized they needed furniture.  A picnic table fit their budget.

Delivery guys plunked the table in her front yard.  This gave Kristin an idea:  What if she left it there, inviting friends and neighbors to visit on a whim?

Oh, but it couldn’t stay in its’ plain ole’ natural wood color.  Flipping thru’ many paint samples, with the help of Kristin’s Mom, Mia, they landed on “Nifty Turquoise”.

Check this out from Bourn Creative:  “The color turquoise is associated with meanings of refreshing, calming, sophisticated, energy, wisdom, serenity, wholeness, creativity, emotional balance, spiritual grounding, friendship, love, joy, tranquility, patience, etc.”

Kristin’s writing style is expressive, funny, and honest.  You’ll relate with her from the first page.  This comes as great relief to the reader as we learn the simplicity of offering hospitality to others.

One of many appealing aspects of the turquoise table is its’ location:  it’s outside.  Thus, no one knows if the inside of your house is a wreck or not.  (Just pray they don’t have to use the bathroom, right?)

Kristen says, “If you’re busy and overwhelmed, the last thing you need is one more project, one more thing to do. Well, you’ll see the Turquoise Table offers simplicity. It’s more than a table; it’s a symbol of reaching out and making room without all the fuss and frenzy.”

In my last post, we talked about our mission fields being in our own back yards. Here we see Kristen showing us:  “We are called to love others in our everyday, ordinary lives…right where we live: in our own front yards.”

Kristen shares how this whole idea of the table evolved.  Many days she begins by sitting at the table alone and soon, others show up. Sometimes she plans get-togethers. Sometimes she’s there with her children.  She adds, “If people come, great, but if not, then you have time to stay unconnected and have room to breathe.”

One on-purpose gathering simply came from a text she sent out saying, “9:00 tomorrow. Yoga pants.”  Love that! (You can hear more from Kristen in a fun interview she did with Eric Metaxas on his radio show.  It aired 6/13/17.  Visit www.metaxastalk.com)

Kristen’s kids began setting out a bowl of water for dogs who walk by, and a bowl of candy to treat their neighbors, just for starters.  She includes other numerous ideas.  To see how this whole idea has evolved and literally spread across the country is astonishing.

After having her fourth child, Kristen began dubbing herself the “Queen of Crazy”.  She prayed a fabulous prayer:  “Lord, edit my life!”  (Note to self…)

Romans 12:13 became her mantra:

You’ll love what you’ll learn about hospitality. It has many different faces according to Kristen.  If she can do this with four young children, surely we can too…

Equally fascinating is a pattern she discovers.  Don’t miss this!  (I’m not about to spoil the discovery for you, you must read the book!)

Countless people have written to Kristen sharing their stories, including some challenges their HOA has presented and their very clever solutions. One of many favorite ideas from Kristen’s time at the table is she’s begun setting out an “iBasket”…which you can guess collects cell phones.  Kristen said in the Style Blueprint interview, “There’s no ‘i’ device that will ever replace ‘eye’ contact.”  Whoa.

Combine quiet, unplugged time with the  “Ministry of Presence”, thanks to inspiration from an eighty-four-year-old widow in Prague…

Her name is Ludmilla.  She has a plaque on the outside of her apartment that says, “Embassy of the Kingdom of Heaven.” She opens her door and her heart to friends and strangers. Kristen said Ludmilla encouraged her to “want to have a simple table spread with abundant love. To offer an atmosphere of joy and peace.” 

Any argument you could have about beginning this endeavor, Kristen answers.  It almost becomes comical because you feel as if she’s reading your mind.

One of many favorite activities in the book is to “Start a Front Yard People Journal.”  This helps you remember neighbors’ names, their family, prayer requests, etc.—Almost a guest book of sorts.

I’ll go so far as to recommend you start your own version of a guest book whether you’re considering a turquoise table or not.  My same friend Judy who gave me Kristen’s book says her one major regret over the years from having hosted countless missionaries, pastors, authors, friends, and family is not recording who all has gathered and placed their feet under her table.  That would make for a fascinating book!  (We’re anxiously awaiting yours, Judy!!! You can do it!)

Friend, run don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and grab The Turquoise Table.  You’ll love it.  It’s also an excellent gift idea.  My daughters-in-love are getting a copy ASAP.  It would also be a beautiful coffee table book, guaranteeing lively conversation.

‘Til next time!

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Clearing Clutter Clears Your Mind…and then some… (With help from author Ruth Soukup)

Friends!  I pray this finds you well and rested, having had fun family time over Memorial Day Weekend.

Wait ’til you hear what nearly happened:  My sweet husband, John, and I recently came within hours of buying another house.  As in Sunday night, before we were to answer the contract Monday morning, we were leaving the potential purchase and I said, “Ya know, I’m just not 100%.”  To which he replied, “Me neither.”

KUNG…..Are you kidding me?  I’d already mentally placed furniture in each room thanks to sleepless nights among other distractions. We’d be gaining a neat, “lock and leave” concept-of-a-home with a four foot by eight foot patch of grass verses our current two acres, a first floor master, etc.

John stopped the car mid-hill and we said in unison, “Let’s not do it.”  That was that.

While some of our friends considered us in dire need of a psychological evaluation (!!!), others “got it”.  Several of our friends are downsizing, simplifying, and purging their homes of stuff so their poor children don’t have to years later. Having gone thru’ that with my own parents, that experience was no picnic.  At  all. At  all.

One huge “aha” moment occurred during this lapse of sanity.  I declared while in a major panic mode:  “Wow, if we have to show this house for sale, the first and second floors are good.  But  the closets?  And  the basements?  Major deal-breakers. Buyers would run for the hills.”

You may have noticed “basements” is plural.  Yes, we have two basements.  Both small, but both very full of stuff.  Largely thanks to my parents’ home we emptied.

Thus we’ve begun the purging process.  We’ve made good dents in all the closets.  But, we’ve not ventured down to the basements yet.  Soon tho’, very soon.  It’s a very good feeling to finally begin this long, overdue process.

There are a gazillion books available to aid those of us in the pack rat category.  One which many of us have read and continually quote is Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:  The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

One of Marie’s suggestions is to hold up the item in question (whether to keep or toss), and ask yourself, “Does this bring me joy?” My friends and I’ve had a boatload of fun discussing this.

The other good news is there are numerous organizations more than happy to take your stuff, friends in need, maybe even consignment opportunities. Our “trash” is morphing into someone else’s “treasure”.  Hallelujah!!!

Another book I read years ago is by a guy whose fame largely came from Oprah. His name is Peter Walsh. He’s written many more books since the one I read.  I confess I totally bought this book on a whim because the title made me howl right there in the bookstore: Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat?  For  real?  Yet it seems there is a correlation to people with stuff also carrying around extra pounds…Hmmm…

Even better news, I’ve discovered a lovely Christian author named Ruth Soukup.  She’s authored several books on decluttering and comes highly recommended.  Her most recent book is called Unstuffed:  Decluttering Your Home, Mind and Soul.

Check out her amazing blog, too:  www.lvingwellspendingless.com

On Ruth’s blog, she says her mission is to “eliminate overwhelm and make your life just a little bit easier.”  Amen. She even offers many amazing recipes!

Lysa TerKeurst says, “As women, we have the tendency to overstuff our lives, our schedules, and our homes with things that really aren’t beneficial.  And our souls suffer because of our unwillingness to let go.  Ruth Soukup tackles this issue head-on and gives practical steps to be purposeful with the stuff we let into our sacred spaces.”

Ruth’s book is divided into three parts:  Home, Mind, and Soul.  It’s not just about decluttering stuff, she helps you seriously look at your schedule, your paperwork, and other people’s stuff…as in letting go of guilt.  i.e. “My Mother would never forgive me if I got rid of _______________.”

She also talks about when you’re “drowning in magazines” as an example of the paperwork part.  (Please, no one venture onto our porch right now as there’s a pile of magazines and catalogs awaiting my review.  Hello? Busted.)

Regarding your soul, Ruth addresses friends, wellness and your spirit, “Letting go of the need to do it yourself.”  She tells us, “Each chapter will offer sidebars of concrete ideas you can implement right away to clear the chaos and create calm, clutter-free zones within your home…”

While we may have missed the spring cleaning season (it’s not quite summer yet, is it?), it’s never too late to begin purging.  Your home and your family will thank you, trust me.

Before we close, let’s look at some other books by Ruth:

31 Days to a Clutter Free Life:  One Month to Clear Your Home, Mind and Schedule

Living Well Spending Less:  12 Secrets of the Good Life

31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero:  Freeze Your Spending. Change Your Life.

Before I return to editing my book, I’m tackling two horrendous looking piles surrounding me on my desk.  Got a place in mind you need to tackle?  Go for it! Just start, little by little.

Clear the clutter, clear your mind.  You’ll be honoring the Lord with your efforts and He will be well pleased.

Proverbs 16:3 reminds us to include God in our efforts: 

‘Til next time!

 

 

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Lace Up Those Shoes…Let’s Go Walkin’… Part 4 of 4 of our Fitness Focus (With Help from Author Lisa Preuett)

Friends!  We’re having unusually warm weather here in Kentucky for February and now March…I pray you are, too,  wherever you are.  We need to take advantage of this and get out and breathe in some fresh air!

Lace up those walkin’ shoes and let’s hit the pavement…Walking has a gazillion benefits for us.  We’ll highlight a few and become acquainted with a new friend of mine who recently published her first book.

This  week’s featured book rounds out the finale for our fitness focus.  It’s called Embracing the Race—40 Devotions for the Runner’s Soul by Lisa Preuett and would be great for men or women.  Before you say, “Oh no, I’m not a runner, this doesn’t apply to me…”, let me reassure you that all forty out of forty devotionals are for everyone out there and I’ll show you why.

I discovered Lisa’s book thanks to my friend Sherry.  I contacted Lisa and we met for tea at Heine Brothers so I could learn more about her and how her book came to be.  She also writes an excellent blog via her website:  www.reststopforthesoul.com

Lisa says about her book, “Even if you’ve never run a day in your life, you’ll still gain wisdom and insight.”  She reminds us, “In the New Testament, the apostle Paul writes about our walk of faith being just like a race. So no matter where you are in your race, I pray you’ll embrace it and be encouraged…”

Before we dive into the book, you need to know part of the proceeds from this book go to benefit Water Step International (www.waterstep.org ) Key in your zip code and several locations near you will pop up where you can donate your old shoes.  This is under the “Shoes for Water” section.  Water Step helps provide clean water in developing countries. What a great endeavor.

The format of Lisa’s devotional is time management at its’ finest:  short and sweet, loaded with equipping Scripture and life application questions. 

One of my favorite chapters asks, “Are you thoroughly equipped?”  Lisa begins  with “Shoes are to a runner what tires are to a car. Attempting to use the wrong type is damaging and utterly reckless…”

DANGER WILL ROBINSON…

I confess I did not heed this little warning. I made a very stupid, prideful mistake.  One recent escape to Naples, Florida found me sporting a pair of very cute tennis shoes.  They’d been a gift. My fifty-something self decided these kicks, while quite flat and less cushiony than I was used to, surely made me appear “cool and younger”.  I know. I know. I know

For nine days straight, I walked and jogged in these cute shoes, logging many, many miles. By the time we boarded dear ole’ Delta to fly home, I could barely walk.  My heels protested.  The next morning, I could hardly get out of bed.  I had a screaming case of plantar fasciitis. 

Folks, nine days of “cuteness” cost me a solid year’s worth of healing.  Healing your heels ain’t so easy, nor is it any fun at all.  At all.

Desperate, I headed over for help from my sweet friends at Footworks.  They promptly scolded me, shaking their heads in dismay. Rightly so.  Tough, painful lesson learned.  Good news is they promptly fitted me in wonderfully comfortable fit-like-a-glove  pair of running shoes. (www.footworkslouisville.com) They weren’t as wild as the below pair, but they do have a lovely shade of caribbean blue and mint green running along the sides. Footworks’ selections are plentiful.

After addressing essential equipment for running, Lisa says, “God also calls us to be thoroughly equipped…What does He call us to equip ourselves with?”

Let’s look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17 to find the answer…

Lisa shows us from this verse:

We must equip ourselves with the powerful words from Scripture.  They must enter through our mind and then penetrate like deep roots to the depth of our soul.”

“We have to intentionally

EMBRACE them,
MEDITATE ON them,
PONDER them continually, and
DIGEST them through every fiber of our heart.

In doing so we will be prepared for every situation we face.”

Finding a good pair of shoes that fits you well is a financial investment.  Lisa reminds us that “Christ followers must also make an investment.  Not with money—but with our time and effort.  We must be intentional with prioritizing our lives around God’s Word…”

DON’T MISS THIS WARNING: Lisa continues,

“Neglecting time in God’s Word is an invitation for damage, disaster, and ruin.”

“Dear friend, I urge you to make the most crucial investment for your faith journey:  embrace the Word of God as the fuel that fires your very soul!”

Lisa closes each chapter with three small paragraph sections:

“READY?” – which offers excellent application questions,

“GET SET.”  – which is a Scripture to equip you to do just what the chapter suggests, AND

“GO!” – which is a beautiful prayer to keep us moving in the right direction.

Finally, let’s consider a list of benefits of walking from the folks at Tesco in the United Kingdom.  You can find dozens of similar lists from the Mayo Clinic here in the States, to just about anywhere.  I chose this list because I’m especially attached to reason #5.  Hey, we all need an incentive, coupled with a good laugh!

You can get Lisa’s book from her website. (See top of this post.) There are five options for where to get it plus you can preview ten of the devotions  for FREE before you decide if you’d like it by clicking on the Amazon link in her website.

My guess is you’re already thinking of some of your walking buddies who would like to have this devotional.  Read it together so you can be inspired together.

Let’s get out there and do some walking!

‘Til next time!

P.S.  Next week we’ll prepare our hearts for Easter with help from Liz Curtis Higgs since we’re in the Lenten season.

 

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Does Sitting on the Back of a Harley Count as Exercise? Author Sarah Huxford Helps Us Figure This Out (Part 3 of 4 on Fitness)

Friends!  Well, we’re back on our fitness series, however you’ll be relieved to know this portion is more of a workout for your marriage or relationship with a loved one. 

We had such a rough workout from CycleBar week before last, we’ll warm up slowly this week to prepare for a more rigorous workout and grand finale next week.

Allow me to introduce you to a uniquely titled book:  The Harley Chronicles—Everything I Learned About My Marriage on the Back of a Harley by Sarah Huxford.

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My dear friend Judy Russell gave me this book.  Bob and Judy are good friends with Sarah and her husband, Cam.  Cam is the Senior Pastor at Compassion Christian Church in Savannah, Georgia.  Sarah is the Women’s Community Pastor. www.compassionchristian.com

Cam invites Bob to speak at their church often, so over the years, Judy’s gotten to know Sarah.  Surely they bonded immediately, both being pastor’s wives.

The common thread ends there, however, as Sarah’s husband took up a new hobby.  Oh yeah, a two-wheeled one, only this one comes with a motor.  While I don’t know Cam, somehow I envision him saying to Sarah, “Honey, I bought a hog.” (Sarah, I can commiserate…my husband rode Harleys and BMW’s for over fifteen years. However, you entered into this world later than we did, which seems to be a great thing for you guys!)

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Sarah and Cam had just entered into a new season of their lives.  They had an empty nest.  Not only had their children flown the coop, but sadly their beloved dog, Bucky, went to Doggy Heaven.  Their newfound freedom wasn’t as exciting as they’d hoped…yet…

More-than-they-asked-for-advice was offered and the new solution to their freedom appeared in the driveway.  Meet Big Red. (See his photograph on the cover of her book.)

Sarah confesses she wasn’t too thrilled over the new member of their family, however once Cam said, “Jump on, let’s go for a ride…” The rest, as they say, was history.

I’m proud of Sarah for being so brave.  Not just for jumping on the back of the bike, but also because one should also wear proper attire,  leather being a must.  Her friends from church asked, “Who are you and what have you done with our preacher’s wife?”

The format of the book is excellent.  It offers four parts in each chapter:

1 –  Sarah candidly shares lessons she has learned from being on the back of their Harley.  You’ll crack up over some of her new discoveries.  Her learning curve is highly amusing. Her lessons are for all of us in any relationship.

2 – The lessons are followed by her “Bible Back-up”:  She does a beautiful job with this as these sections are like mini-Bible studies.  Sarah guides us thru’ verses from Genesis, Song of Solomon, Ephesians, Proverbs, 1 Corinthians, and many more.

One eye-opening exercise Sarah takes us thru’ in 1 Corinthians 13 becomes very personal when we’re told to insert our names  where the word “love” is.

Watch this little humbling exercise:

“Elizabeth is patient, Elizabeth is kind, Elizabeth does not envy, Elizabeth is not proud, Elizabeth does not dishonor others, Elizabeth is not easily angered, etc.”

Now YOU try this with YOUR name.  How do you fare??? Makes you think, huh?

Another one of many topics Sarah covers is on commitment.  She says,

commitment

 

She continues, “There is nothing like good old-fashioned commitment. It is undervalued in a culture like ours, in which we want things fixed fast…Cam and I are often asked what made our marriage last and endure the hard times. Our answer is usually simple. We committed to this marriage until one of us dies.”  AMEN, Sarah!

3 – Several discussion questions are included after the Bible study parts which are great for small groups or Bible study groups.

At the end of the discussion questions, Sarah recommends a  book on marriage in each chapter, so you can learn about eight additional books you may be interested in.

4 – The last part of each chapter is another favorite of mine.  Sarah includes “Biker’s Trip Stats and Passenger’s Log”.  This is like a wonderful, fascinating travelogue.  She includes the miles she and Cam rode, the highways they took, “great places to eat”, and their favorite “don’t miss this” sight seeing spots.

Map Reading

This would be wonderful not only for bikers, but for those of us who love road trips.  Sarah and Cam’s trips range from a short 25 mile trip, to longer ones, ranging from 109 miles to over 800 miles.

Let’s look at their trips:

Departure:  Savannah, GA to Tybee Island, GA

Departure:  Baneberry, TN to Fontana, NC

Don’t miss Sarah’s story about The Tail of the Dragon at Deal’s Gap–offering a mere 318 curves in eleven miles in Chapter 3.  She has about as much affinity for it as I do, altho’ I have slayed that dragon,  yet differently than she did.  Checkout our experience from a few years ago.

Departure: Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Key West, FL

Departure: Steamboat Springs, CO to Boulder, CO

Departure:  Somers, MT to Sequim, WA

Departure:  Seattle, WA to Whistler, BC, Canada

Departure:  Lake Louise, AB, Canada to Somers, MT

This week, your exercise in our fitness series is to evaluate your marriage or your relationship with your loved one.  If you were to ride on the back of a Harley, as in being up close and personal, how would you rank your relationship?  Close?  Middle-of-the-road? Distant?  What step can you take this week to make it one notch better than it is now?

I’m praying for all of us in this endeavor.  Thanks again to Sarah, for writing such a fun, resourceful, poignant read.

Lace up your tennis shoes, for we’re hitting the pavement next week!

‘Til next time!

 

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New Gig in Town: CYCLE BAR, Will Transform You in 5+ Ways…(Part 2 of 4 on Fitness)

Friends! Happy Valentine’s Week!

Hope you’re parked by a chunk of chocolate…

Chocolate candies heart

Wait ‘til you hear about a new exercise option we Louisvillians have. Before you say, “Not interested”, please allow me to present my case…  Because trust me, if I can do this anybody can do this.

As if last December could be any busier with all the Christmas shoppers wreaking havoc on the road, our kids excitedly discovered a new cycling/spinning class that just opened.  It’s name? CycleBar. (It’s near Trader Joe’s in the Shelbyville Road Plaza.)

The plot thickened when these same kiddos told us for the first two weeks CycleBar was open, classes were free. They jumped at the opportunity.  One by one, they began telling us how much they liked the classes…

Didn’t take long for Hubster (my better half) to try a class. He’s an avid cyclist while I practically still need training wheels. Honestly, the more he told me about it, how you get  to have your name up on the board and see how you compare with the rest of the class (gulp), I quickly blurted out, “This is not for me.”

Half a second later, he said, “Well, you may want to retract that statement as I believe some certain Santa may have purchased a package of classes for you for Christmas.” Alrighty then.

Off we went. (By the way, you do not have to have your name up on the board if you don’t want to.  Hallelujah. You’ll receive an email immediately after class with your stats.)

Upon arrival, CycleBar’s gracious staff greeted us. One gal made sure I could find my shoes (They provide them for you if you don’t have any as everyone must clip in), helped us sign in, etc.  There are lockers for your belongings, huge water bottles you can fill, and lovely, clean, fluffy towels awaiting you on your bike.

Riders of all ages, shapes, and sizes attend. Check your pride and insecurity at the door: Judgment is non-existent. A huge plus!

Welcome

If you need help adjusting your bike or clipping in, the staff and/or the class’ teacher is happy to help. Being pampered is just another benefit.

I’m generally not a fan of group exercise, but, our kids, and now John, reassured me the classroom, a/k/a CycleTheater containing fifty bikes, is nice and cool and dark. Only YOU can see your bike’s screen with your time, your speed, your gear, and “IT IS YOUR OWN RIDE” as the teachers reiterate.

What’s so awesome about this little fact is I can happily tool along next to John while his bike is practically smokin’. He usually doubles my miles, but who cares? We’re both getting a workout and it’s something we can do together. Had we been out on the street on bikes, he’d have long left me in the dust.

Before I share a few more benefits of this experience with you, I want to introduce you to my new friend, Katie Kanapell Ryser. Katie’s the Owner of CycleBar St. Matthews.

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We grabbed a Starbucks last week as I was interested in learning how someone so young (she’s only 37 years old!) could pull off bringing such a huge endeavor to town. You’ll see it was no simple journey getting here either…

Clip in, ‘cuz we’re going for a ride….

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Katie and her husband, Fred, lived in New York City for several years. They had their two children while living there who are now almost five (Freddie) and three (Carolina). Katie’s parents live here and are beyond thrilled they’ve moved to Louisville!

Before we got into how CycleBar came about, Katie candidly shared her past with me because she believes if it can help anyone else out there who’s struggling, all the better. She’s a beautiful vision of making her former misery her ministry.

Early into their marriage, Katie realized she was drinking too much. She needed help, and good news is, she got it.  Greater news is she’ll celebrate her seventh anniversary of sobriety in May. We praise you, Lord.

While in New York, Katie tried several spinning classes via Soul Cycle and Fly Wheel. Something led her to research spinning classes in Louisville should they move here. Nothing turned up like what she was looking for… She firmly believed we needed a high-end fitness class offering a strong cardio’ workout.

Further research helped her discover CycleBar, headquartered in Cincinnati. How Katie was able to get the rights to open one here, is nothing short of a miracle.  Katie is one determined young lady.

Happy to report she’ll be opening two more CycleBars in Louisville: Springhurst, opening after Labor Day this year, and one in the Highlands, opening next year. Here’s her St. Matthews’ boutique:

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If you don’t live in Louisville and want to see if CycleBar is in your town or closeby, go to the main website, www.cyclebar.com and click on “studios”.  Last I checked there are over one hundred and eleven locations.

Prior to opening in St. Matthews, thanks to friends and a boatload of networking, Katie interviewed over one hundred peopleShe was able to staff her store as well as hire eleven teachers.

She brought in a professional spin trainer for the teachers. These eleven brave souls were baptized by fire in a one-week boot camp for….nine hours a day. Gutsy!

John and I’ve met several of the teachers. They are all wonderful. One fun connection we have is with Jady Koch.  He not only teaches classes at CycleBar, he just so happens to be the lead pastor/rector at St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church, preaching powerful sermons.   (Sweet Sidebar:  Jady performed the marriage of our youngest son, Woody to his wife, LT.)

I’m convinced Jady must’ve loved the game King of the Hill growing up, because he takes us on forty-seven hills during our fifty-minute class. (Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration.)

Jady says he has a newfound appreciation for all the coaches and fitness teachers he’s had in the past, never realizing how much advance work goes into coordinating a class.  He said “Teaching has been a great way to meet a cross section of the community and a wonderful way to encourage people in their (our) daily quest for a healthy and fun lifestyle.”

 

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Here’s a pic of my Valentine with Jady before class…as in no sweat yet!

Another teacher we’ve enjoyed getting to know is Paige. We’ve taken her early class a couple of times.  Last time her husband was in there with us, as her student.  He’s from Germany and they met at Southern Seminary where they’re students.  They’ve been married for a year.  Don’t you love a love story?  Hey, it’s Valentine’s Week!

One addition to the cycling part of class is each bike has a weighted bar across the top. A little over halfway thru’ the class, the teacher will show you how to lift it, working all the muscles in your arms as well as your core.  While the bars are only four or six pounds (I hear there are eight pounders coming soon), with enough reps, they feel more like four hundred pounds!

Finally, here are just a few more benefits to encourage you to give this a try:

5+ Benefits of Spinning/Cycling:

1 – The Bible tells us we’re to take care of our bodies. Exercise is an excellent way to do that.

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2- Believe it or not, sweating is a benefit, because it’s so cleansing for your body to get rid of all those impurities, detoxifying you during your workout.

When you try a class (and I know you will!), you may wish to tote along an extra shirt because the one you ride in becomes a bit damp. We take the euphemism, “Horses Sweat, Men Perspire, But Women Merely Glow” to a whole new level. (Showers are also available if you’re going to work or to another function from there.)

3 –A cardio’ workout of this caliber will kick your metabolism into gear. (Translation:  potential weight loss!) It also strengthens your heart, your lungs, and increases your bone density, hugely beneficial for all ages.

Katie tells me there’s a guy who’s been coming to CycleBar who’s lost forty pounds and is determined to lose sixty more for a total of 100 pounds! He keeps her updated weekly. Amazing!

4 – Fellow cyclists report having more energy, and less stress, improving their mental disposition. 

Recently two co-workers whose department was undergoing an inordinate amount of stress randomly showed up in the same noon-time CycleBar class.   When they saw each other, they burst out laughing, knowing they were both there for the exact same reason…to de-stress.

Another gal who’s been attending CycleBar classes has a condition that leaves her exhausted and often depressed. After taking several classes, she’s lost fifteen pounds, feels amazingly better, and her depression is gone.  Wonderful!

5 – Spinning inside is SAFE.  It keeps you off the road.

John and I have several friends who’ve had terrible bicycle accidents. Some, more than once.  We live near River Road and my worry-meter rises significantly when John takes off from our house on his bike. Like I said earlier, the fact that we can ride together, inside at Cycle Bar is yet another benefit.

The music the teachers select is another fun facet to CycleBar, offering a wide variety of songs and styles.  Occasionally the teacher will ask you to bend down or press down on the handlebars to the beat of the music, while riding.  (Here’s where I could be Steve Martin’s understudy in The Jerk.)  Oh, but it’s FUN!

Beyond enduring technical issues, and an occasional maintenance issue with the bikes, Katie said they’re coming up for air on the learning curve. Her attention to detail and passion for the product is what makes it function so well.

CycleBar further spoils its’ customers by always having fresh bananas and oranges for you after class, gum to grab on the go before or after class, and lip balm…come on now!

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CycleBar is always offering specials.  They now allow couples to share packages which John and I are doing as are our oldest son, John Jr. with his wife, Diana. (They were the two elves who gave us the packages for Christmas.)

Here’s what’s available right now:

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Why don’t you and your Valentine or friend or co-worker try a class? CycleBar offers several classes per day with Intro’ classes for beginners.  Checkout their website: https://stmatthews.cyclebar.com

Y’all keep Katie, and her sweet family, and this new business-for-fitness in your prayers.

You’ll be thrilled to know next week we have a break from fitness to talk about Book Club, followed by part 3 of our 4 fitness landing us on the back of… a Harley. Huh?

‘Til next time!

FYI: Don’t miss Ken Davis’ must-read, Fully Alive. It’s for anyone considering a fitness/lifestyle change.  He takes you along his highly intense journey and amazing transformation.  You will laugh and cry ‘til you’ve bruised a rib. Here’s the link for more information.

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Filed under Friends, Holidays, Life Lessons

The Single Most Effective Exercise You Can Do… (With Help from New Author, Carol Bonura and her book, “Our God is a Big God—Personal Stories of Those Touched by the Bigness of God”) Part 1 of 4 on Fitness

Friends!  Let’s play Good News/Bad News….

Bad news first:  Yes, we’ll be doing a four-part series on fitness over the next few weeks which does involve exercise. But, here on the blog, you only have to read about it.  If you want to try it, well, that’s up to you!

Good news:  We’ll be starting out slowly (!!!), and some of the exercise is metaphorical vs. physical.  We’ll break halfway thru’ to talk about Book Club (Mark your calendars for February 27th when Branches Book Club will be discussing Beth Moore’s debut novel, The Undoing of Saint Sylvanus and will receive a personal video message from Beth.)

**Even BETTER news**:  There’s a brand new book out by my sweet friend, Carol Bonura.  It would be great for any age, male or female.  Checkout the title:  Our God is a Big God—Personal Stories of Those Touched by the Bigness of God.

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The format is fantastic as is each, unique story by over forty different individuals.  As the title indicates, these friends of Carol’s share a story where God has revealed Himself.  Many of the stories are an only-God-could-pull-this-off kind, leaving no other possible explanation.

Prior to the contributor’s story, Carol shares how she knows this person.  Their story rolls, followed by that person’s favorite Scripture verse.  Carol then blesses each contributor with a verse which is not only fitting to the story, I believe it inspires that person to carry on. To see the Word of God “work together” so beautifully is another one of my favorite parts of Carol’s book.

I can’t begin to choose a favorite story.  I’ve loved them all.  (I happen to have a story in Carol’s book and while it’s my story, it’s still a cool God-incident, also irrefutable.)

Bob Russell wrote the Foreword and he has written a story.  Liz Curtis Higgs, Pat Day, Elizabeth Jeffries, Amos Martin, Dave Stone, and Joe Donaldson are just a few of the many contributors.

Bob said, “When we allow the Spirit of God to work through us, we have a positive story to tell to the nations, a story that can change lives and inspire others to be more than they can be alone.”

Carol’s book came about from a recent vacation she and her husband, Joe,  took with friends.  Carol tells us while on vacation, they all participated in Bible study every morning.

She was so moved by Ecclesiastes 3:11, she decided to ask these six friends to share “how they’d been impacted by the immensity of God.” After hearing their amazing stories, it was Joe who suggested she enlist more friends and family to share their stories on the Bigness of God, putting them together in a book.

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Once you dive into the book, you’ll immediately say to yourself, “Oh my goodness, so-and-so would enjoy this!”  Take my advice and have a notepad nearby as one friend will lead to five.  What a beautiful gift this makes.

So, I’ve dodged exercise long enough…What’s fun about this week’s post is you can read Carol’s book and try this most effective exercise at the same time.

A fascinating book came out in 2010 entitled The Blue Zones—Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner (The 2nd edition is in paperback.)

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Dan used to write for National Geographic magazine.  His article on “The Secrets of Long Life” and its’ popularity, caused him to research the ends of the earth to find more concentrated areas of living centenarians. He studied the lifestyle of these people. They dubbed these parts of the world “Blue Zones”.

Dan also includes lessons enabling you to create your own personal Blue Zone. Happy to report one of the common denominators you’ll discover is these folks consume dark chocolate.

Every day. 

(Just on the off chance you need one more reason to consume chocolate.)

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Other common denominators include participating in a community.  Another one, across the board, is these folks walk everywhere.  Many times, logging miles and miles a day.  (One of our four exercise posts will discuss walking and jogging in detail…)

One of a handful of helpful take-home resources is where Dan reveals the single most effective exercise you can do for yourself :  Simply sit in a chair.  Followed by standing to get yourself up out of the chair. (These women in the picture are practicing!)

Senior Women Standing And Sitting For ExerciseWorking your three sets of thigh muscles faithfully will keep you out of a wheelchair. I know this to be true as this happened to my own Mother.  She quit trying, and kept sitting, causing her to be unable to get up out of that chair, sadly landing her in a wheelchair, immobile.

My proposition to you dear friends, today, is to suggest you grab a good book.  Preferably Carol’s new one, Our God is a Big God, and read one of the stories each day. 

Take it with you to your favorite chair.  Sit down, read one of the stories.  Then get up!  This simple act will help you stay mobile. Read another story, repeating this action the next day.  And the next…

Now see?  That wasn’t too painful!  This is a mere warm-up for next week’s post.  Much  more vigorous exercise lies ahead…

One more fun fact before we close:  I was blessed to meet Carol many years ago thru’ mutual friends plus we attended Book Club together.  One New Year’s Eve, John and I were with Carol and Joe and Liz and Bill Higgs over at Elizabeth Jeffries’ home.  Elizabeth and Stephen had asked us over for dinner to ring in the New Year.

We each shared something fun we’d done in the previous year.  I about fell out of my chair when Carol reported she’d read sixty-five books that year.  How wonderful for her she now has her very own book for us to read!  Congratulations, Carol!

‘Til next time!

P.S.  FYI, here are other interesting books by the Blue Zone guy,  Dan Buettner:

The Blue Zone Solution:   Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People

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Thrive:  Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way

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Filed under Book Clubs, Book Reviews, Life Lessons