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Roller Coaster Rides

Can you remember your favorite ride at the amusement park or carnival? Mine was the roller coaster. I can remember bubbling with excitement as I’d get into the car and finding it difficult to contain my anticipation as I waited for the other cars to fill so the ride could begin. I could hardly sit still, yet I had to wait until the ride operator made his rounds checking to see everyone had fastened their seat belts. In the meantime, I pictured myself flying at break-neck speeds with the wind blasting in my face. I focused on the fun I’d experience and certainly gave no thought to the seatbelt. Surely I wouldn’t need it.  Seatbelts? They were merely a proactive measure to avoid liability, something you were supposed to do, a necessary evil.

roller coaster maverick_airtime1Finally our cavalcade began to move, slowly at first and then increasing to gain momentum to climb. By the time I reached the top of the steep incline, I had no time to do anything but hold on tight and scream with emotions racing between fear and delight. It was so much fun. Even after experiencing several episodes of these peaks and valleys eventually leading back to the starting point, I lacked appreciation for the protection my seatbelt provided. It never crossed my mind. I took it for granted, yet had it not been securely in place, I’d have been flying through the air, all right, but not with the greatest of ease.

Don’t you sometimes feel like life is like a roller coaster ride? You start out at the bottom, learn a few things, gain momentum then all of a sudden you’re going in a different direction, and it feels like that path is headed down. Change is like that. It hits you smack in the face – sometimes without warning and the cycle is often repeated many times before the ride is over. The ups and downs aren’t much fun, and you begin to ask yourself, “What measures have I put into place to keep me secure as I hang on for dear life?”

If you have made wise choices along the way, especially placing your faith in the Lord, you will have the security and perspective you need to focus on the voyage and not the ups and downs. Reflecting on your selections and making adjustments to compensate for the change will help you to have joy in the journey like I did on the roller coaster ride.

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Is it cold enough for you?

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Baby, it really is cold outside. If you’re like me, you’ve had enough of this recent cold snap that’s hitting Pennsylvania and other parts of the country – where is global warming when you need it? Even though Florida is experiencing cooler days than usual, a trip there sounds inviting. Yet if you’re like me and unable to travel to escape the frigid temperatures, you might benefit from some of these tips.

Dress for it

The other day, I saw a store customer wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Just looking at him made my teeth chatter. Most people, however, have common sense sufficient to know you need to dress appropriately in cold weather. Layers are better than bulky outer wear. A hat offers more protection than you might think, so if you’re going to be outdoors for even a short length of time – you can get frostbite in 30 minutes – make sure you have one. Here’s something I learned that will explain Mama Cat’s consternation at her naughty kitten. Mittens provide more warmth than gloves. This makes sense as your fingers are aligned close to one another and keep each other warm with body heat rather than being separated by a layer of cloth.

Drink lots

Hydration is particularly important when it is cold. Those layers of clothes you just added will cause you to perspire, and that fluid needs to be replaced. While warm liquids like coffee, tea and hot chocolate may tempt you, they’re really not the best choices as their caffeine acts as a diuretic prompting more loss of fluid.  Good, old fashioned water is best, and if you’ve just pulled it from the fridge, they say it will force your body to generate more heat. If you really are interested in a warm beverage, try heating up some apple cider, sugar water or an energy drink.

Define activities

Common sense says, “Stay indoors if you can,” and this is wise. Why go out if you don’t have to? But you live in a real world where you may have to walk to a bus, work or store from your car or a train. You may even have to work outside during bitter cold weather. If so, take precautions with frequent breaks to get warm and dry and time your activities to the warmest parts of the day. Keep this in mind for the kids playing outdoors as well.

If you’re staying indoors, add some moisture to the air. Hot air and heating systems can dry out your skin, hair, sinuses, nails, furniture, walls, floors and more. And as I have discovered, lack of humidity can even cause headaches. Placing open containers of water on a wood stove, heat registers or on the range will add a measure of moisture to your home. If you don’t mind seeing clothes hanging around the house, using a clothes rack instead of your dryer will also increase the indoor humidity without the additional purchase of a humidifier.

If Aruba or some other tropical paradise is not in your immediate plans, try some of the above tips and stay warm.

Can you develop claustrophobia from reading a book?

jam_up_caveDid you know that 5 to 7% of the world’s population are severely affected by an anxiety disorder that stems from a fear of being in closed or small spaces with no way of escape? Many others may suffer from occasional bouts of claustrophobia and are surprised when they experience a fear of restriction or suffocation. Their palms and body sweat, their hearts begin to race and their lungs feel as though they need air … now! Why am I even talking about this? And where’s the connection to reading a book? Glad you asked because I’m about to share a weird experience.

The other evening I was reading a book by John Ortberg called “the me I want to be.” In it, Ortberg was describing his friend Danny who had embarked on a spelunking adventure. Although thrill-seeking exploits that border on dangerous were not foreign to him, he did not enter the cave alone. He had employed the expertise of an experienced guide. Ortberg described Danny’s journey explicitly.

“The man guiding took him deep underground, then said he would lead Danny through a passageway into a spectacular chamber. The passageway was small enough that Danny had to stoop at first. Then as it grew still smaller, he had to get on his hands and knees. Eventually the only way to go forward was to lay on his back and push his body forward with this feet. Then the ceiling was so low that when he inhaled he could not move at all! He had to stop, inhale, and exhale, and only then was his chest low enough to allow him to move. By this point it was physically impossible to back out. If the passageway had gotten any smaller they would have lain there and died in that cave. … He was terrified. He tried fighting his fear, but he kept picturing his dead body moldering in the cave.”

Without realizing it, I was with Danny in the cave. In fact as I was reading, I began struggling for air. In my mind, I was in that cave and everything was closing in. It was a weird experience, but good writing and so was Ortberg’s main point. As Danny finally told the guide he felt he couldn’t make it, the guide told him to stop listening to the lies in his head. He told him to close his eyes, listen to his voice and follow his instructions. “Focus on my voice.”

When Danny did so, it freed him from panic and fear. Instead of listening to what appeared to be true, i.e. he was going to die, there was no way out, etc., Danny heard the voice of one who knew the truth and would lead him out. It worked, and Danny finally enjoyed seeing the spectacular chamber and a safe return home.

Do you have lies running through your head? I often do. “Who am I to do this? How can I accomplish that? I’ve wasted my time and now it’s too late …” Can you add some of your own? When these (and others) start shouting in my head, I find that spending time in the Bible can free me from the panic mode and set me back on track. As I hear God leading me through His word and apply it to my life, it is the same as focusing on His voice. He is the way, the truth and the life. I can’t go wrong with that.

What wasn’t I thinking?

What wasn’t I thinking? No, this title question does not contain a typo, though I will admit the sentence structure is a bit awkward. I could have just as easily asked what was I thinking, but unfortunately I was not thinking at all. And the fact of the matter is I missed out on something that is really good for me because I never really took the time to “get it.” I’m not talking about a pot of gold under the rainbow or a get-rich-quick formula, so don’t run the other way. Let me explain about what I neglected. It’s so simple that it is embarrassing, but perhaps it could help you as well.

bottled-water1Of course I know about the value of drinking water, and I agree wholeheartedly. I see the health benefits. I understand the science. So why am I not drinking more of this healthy liquid? Am I just too lazy? Perhaps that’s a factor, but the bottom line to my discovery is that I’m just too cheap. Here’s what I found.

I buy bottled water to pack in my husband’s lunch. I did not purchase it for my consumption because why should I pay extra when I have water running from my tap? But the convenience of the bottled water appealed to me when I was recovering from a bad cold and truly felt dehydrated. I grabbed one of the bottles from the fridge and in no time at all had emptied it. No effort involved, and I was truly refreshed. Yet this is not the part where I “get it.”

While getting ready for the day, my thoughts turned to water – who knows why I’m thinking about bottled water? I really do have blonde roots, but I digress … again. Anyway, as I was thinking about drinking more water, I thought about how much I enjoyed being able to grab a bottle rather than getting a glass and filling it from the fridge. I considered that I would do it more if it weren’t for the cost. – Drum roll, please. This is where the light bulb went on. I could buy a whole case of water for the price of a package of cookies.

This led me to the web to see if this were really true, and guess what I found. You can buy 35, 16.9 ounce bottles of water this week at Giant for $3.99. This breaks down to a total of 591.5 ounces for $3.99.  Also this week, Giant is offering a sale on Chips Ahoy cookies. For $5.00, you can get 2 packages weighing 15.25 ounces each or a total of 30.5 ounces for your $5 bill. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discover which purchase makes a better financial investment – I already knew the water was better for me than the cookies.

I can’t be the only one who makes obvious discoveries so late in life, but you have to admit, the awkward title of this blog is right on target.

Shopping for gifts in the cold?

In the northern areas of the US, winter is here. Maybe in some areas it’s here with a vengeance, but not yet where I live. Here it’s just cold with a dusting of snow – just enough to remind you that the season has now crossed over regardless of the date on the calendar. For some like my grandson, visions of snowboards, snowmobiles and hot chocolate dance through their heads, but for me, it’s layering just to keep warm. Then there’s the sense of overwhelming that comes with so many things to be done for the holidays. If I let it, it could really get me down.

Should this combination cause your spirit to plummet, just bundle up and go outdoors after dark to see the first tokens of Christmas. The bright and colorful lights are cheery and inviting. If you need a broader smile or even a hearty Ho, Ho, Ho, keep looking. Some people really go all out covering every inch of their home and yard with Christmas memorabilia. Whether you think such displays are way too much or if they bring you great pleasure, either perspective will benefit from these demonstrations. Music is also a fantastic mood changer. Renowned to sooth the savage beast, music is a fantastic and easy-to-access resource to pull you back on track. If you don’t have your own iTunes, you can always fall back to the radio’s Christmas collection. Sing along to obtain the full benefit. Can’t carry a tune in a bucket? Just make a joyful noise and watch your spirit perk.

Although these suggestions may seem simplistic, outward acts in the right direction often pave the way for making a real attitude change. It’s kind of like paying it forward to you. Once your mood shifts from reverse or neutral and begins to move in a more positive direction, you’ll feel better and be better equipped to impact others. For some who may be facing more serious issues because of health, family or finances, their problems are often heightened by cold and the onset of the holidays. Sometimes they need a helping hand and sometimes just a listening ear. Either way you can’t do anything to relieve the situation if you’re down in the dumps. Even if you’re battling any of these things yourself, your positive attitude will provide hope you can share with others as you refocus on the real reason for the season and give a gift of you.

Fall Castings

The calendar reveals that the season has officially shifted to fall, and as I gazed out my window, I could not help but notice the flurry of leaves falling from some of the trees. Here in Pennsylvania the foliage is just beginning to turn. Although a few trees wear coats of red and gold, most continue to sport their green. Only a few trees are beginning to shed their foliage. As I thought about the trees casting their leaves in preparation for the winter, I wondered if the shedding related to life in general.

Actually, it caused me to reflect on a conversation I had with a former coworker now retired. Although her life has been riddled with hardship, she chooses to focus on what is good and positive rather than what is no longer possible. Her husband has traveled a rough and difficult road of health and though making progress, he’s unable to do some of the “chores” that usually would have been meaningful. Without use of his limbs, he could no longer mow the grass, tend flower beds or work on the car. It troubled him to have to pay someone to do these tasks. In years past, though bothersome, these jobs would have been a simple undertaking. My friend reminded her beloved spouse that it was OK to let some of these things go. The chores would get done but in another way. She encouraged him to let these jobs go and save his energy for those activities that were more important or pleasurable.

Sometimes in life, we are forced to let things go – a relationship, job, house or a myriad of other things which seem important to us. We can fight the loss and become depressed, OR we can let them go tumbling beneath us like the tree leaves in autumn. We can choose to focus our mind and energy in other directions and with higher priorities.  It seems fall’s castings may relate to life after all.

Just drink it

Are you interested in losing weight, having younger-looking skin, and having more energy? Who isn’t, right?

If I told you there is something that could help in all three of those areas, would you be interested? And if this commodity were easily accessible at practically no cost would I have your attention? The fact is, we – you and I – already have it in our houses, but we fail to use it to its full advantage. You may have guessed already that I’m talking about water.

It’s time for a true confession. It’s hard for me to drink it straight. When it’s hot outside and I’ve worked up a sweat, there’s nothing better than a cool glass of water to quench my thirst. Yet for some reason, I do not turn to this precious and valuable commodity at other times. It’s not my first choice. I’d rather have a cup of coffee or tea or flavor it with lemon and sugar to make lemonade. I figure you start out with water, so I should get the same benefits, right? Wrong. Instead of taking advantage of this natural appetite suppressant, I’ve been hindering my chances of losing unwanted pounds by adding extra calories. Oops! A hole just popped up in my logic.

Here’s something else I have learned. Pangs of hunger may not really be a craving for food, but in fact a symptom of dehydration and a body’s cry for water!  By not drinking enough water, my body actually goes to plan B to try to obtain some from food. Here I am with more calories and the ensuing pounds.

Water actually satisfies my body’s needs and provides a feeling of being full so that I don’t look for snacks. That’s a good benefit with little effort and no huge price tag. And there’s more. Drinking water can actually boost my metabolism by making my in-body furnace burn fat more efficiently. Just increasing my intake of water by 1.5 liters per day will burn an extra 17,400 calories which equates to a weight loss of approximately 5 pounds. 1.5 liters per day is equivalent to approximately 51 ounces or 6.34 cups. Hey, that’s doable.

There are so many more benefits we can gain from drinking water, but alas I’ll wait for another time. But here’s one you may not have thought about.  When you choose to get your spiritual nourishment from sources other than the Bible, you just get a “watered-down” version rather than the full blessing God intends. Just as I missed the health benefits of drinking pure water when I chose tea or lemonade, you may not get all that God wants to reveal if you depend totally on a godly speaker or author rather than going directly to the Scriptures. Just a thought. Now I’m off to get a glass of water.