Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Stewing to Beat Sixty

My pale and pasty Canadian self is flying to Florida this week. When I return, tanned or not, I’ll have entered a new decade of my life.

Each year, an event called the Deep Thinkers Retreat takes place in Destin, Florida. The organizers accept the first twenty writers who register to come learn from authors Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck. Between them, these two have written nearly a hundred novels, won awards, and made the New York Times Best Sellers list. I’ve frequently thought about how inspiring it might be to attend one of their workshop/retreats. (Besides, it’s Florida in February!)

But I tend to hum and haw, especially when something proves financially challenging. So every year while I hummed, twenty other writers would sign up before I even started hawing and I’d miss out.

Last July when I received the email about the 2019 retreat, I thought, “maybe this is the year I should go. I’ll be turning sixty. It could be my birthday present.” Without overthinking it, I registered. Within days, I had both my flights and time off work booked.

Now it’s here and I’m not deep-thinking. I’m stewing. What have I done? How can I possibly function after arriving at the airport by 4:30 a.m. and traveling all day? What was I thinking, choosing the cheapest lodging which means sharing a dorm room with five strangers? What if I cough? What if I snore? What if they cough or snore? What if I can’t stay awake for the sessions? What if I get sick? What if the novel I’m working on stinks? What if I don’t grasp what they’re teaching? What if it rains the whole time? What if it’s all a waste of money? 

Why do I second-guess myself, and is asking that question third-guessing? And am I now fourth-guessing?

Unless you’re one of those super self-certain people, you probably relate to what I’m saying. Too much second-guessing (also known as fear) sucks the joy out of positive experiences and turns into self-fulfilling prophecy.

Pat Pearson, author of Stop Self-Sabotage, says, “The first step is to notice your negative thoughts and intentionally intervene with a better thought. When you tell yourself, ‘I will be fine,’ your mind doesn’t believe it, so instead, start a sentence with ‘I choose’ and say something you can believe. For example, ‘I choose to do everything in my power to create a positive outcome.’”

Psychology expert and author of Authentic Grit, Caroline Miller, offers these words to stewers like me. “When we seek out the uncertain and unknown, we push into territory that could lead to our biggest wins. Playing it safe leads to mediocrity.”

Reminds me of a story Jesus told in Matthew 25 about the man who entrusted his servants with varying amounts of money. The servant who played it safe by burying his portion was severely chastised, while those who took a risk and doubled their money were entrusted with more. I often wish Jesus had included a fourth servant—one who invested but lost the money. Would he have been punished for losing, or rewarded for risking?

Do you think it’s possible Jesus deliberately left out that fourth character because we really can’t lose when God is with us?

Now that sounds like something worth deep-thinking about on one’s sixtieth birthday. With one’s toes in the Florida sand. In February.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Lesson from Winter on Love, Sex, & Marriage

One benefit of these frigid Manitoba mornings is, you don’t waste time staring into your closet deciding what to wear. You simply wear it all.

As I bundle up for my morning walks to work, I’ve been contemplating the importance of doing things in the proper sequence. Long johns before pants, pants before ski pants. Then boots, parka, hood, scarf. Backpack. Gloves. Big leather mittens over the gloves. It all works together quite nicely to help me survive the brutality known as our weather.

But what if I decided to mix it up one morning because I’m bored with the routine or feeling a bit rebellious? Maybe I want to put my long johns on last, or my boots first. What if I put on my backpack and then tried putting my parka on over that? Or maybe I could put on my big leather mitts first. It could be done—maybe. But by the time I managed to zip my coat and tie my scarf while wearing those bulky mitts, I’d be frustrated to tears. I’d be sweating like a boxer. And my work day would be almost over.

Doing things in the right order applies to so much of life, doesn’t it? No matter how much we might like to skip some steps, especially if they’re hard, life works better in a certain order. We need the education before the good job, and the experience before the better job. We must practice before proficiency comes. We’re required to raise children before we can spoil grandchildren. Buckle up before driving off.

Oh sure, we can try doing things cart-before-the-horse. It might even work, with effort. Instead of washing dishes right after we’ve eaten off them, we could wash them just before we eat. Either way, we’re eating off a clean dish, so what’s the big deal? But seriously, who wants to be scraping off yesterday’s stuck-on spaghetti before you can enjoy tonight’s chicken?

You might succeed at driving to the gas station on a flat tire and then putting air in it. You could try washing a dirty floor before you sweep up the loose dirt. It’s possible to dress first and then take a shower. It’s also really, really dumb.

How about marriage, sex, and having babies? These days, people laugh at the idea of saving sex for marriage. Like it’s downright dumb.

But is it? Have you ever met anyone who waited and regretted it? I haven’t. Present company included. Most things work a whole lot better when done in the right order. Your Creator knows you and put some rules in place that He knows will, if followed, work best for you and the order of your life. Sure, you can change the order and “get along fine.” Lots of people appear to do exactly that.

And lots of people don’t. They carry around emotional scars from past relationships which deeply and negatively affect their present one—wounds they could have avoided by doing things in the order intended by the One who knows them best, loves them most, and understands their heart.

Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love and romance and sex. It’s a cold world, friend. Why make your life harder than necessary? Bundle up in the right order.

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Not-So-Common Cold

Hi, I’m Terrie. It’s been thirteen months since my last cold.

Yes, I still cough a lot and sleep a lot because of a lung condition. But I’m doing far better than others with the same malady and have taken fewer sick days than I used to. For the past seven years, I have averaged one cold per year or less, where I used to think three or four each year were normal. As I write this post, it’s been thirteen months since my last one. (Now just watch, as soon as I hit “publish,” I’ll be flattened by a nasty cold or flu to keep me humble. I’ll risk it.)

What made the change? I can think of a couple of things.

Seven years ago, I began seeing local naturopath, Dr. Lisa Graham. She taught me a lot of tricks for building one’s immune system. Although I have not frequented her clinic for a long time, a few of the lessons she taught me stuck. 

I learned to look at food differently. I began to realize every bite I take is either fighting disease or feeding it. Seriously. Every bite. Although I gave up the vegan diet for the sake of marital harmony, I do eat a lot more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans than I used to—and a lot less sugar, gluten, and dairy.

Now that Canada’s Food Guide is finally catching up to what naturopaths have been saying all along, the next generation of Canadians should see a turn-around in obesity, allergies, diabetes, and cancer. This sounds like bad news for beef ranchers and dairy farmers if people stick to more plant-based proteins. But our economy can only benefit if people stay healthy. Maybe now’s the time to diversify into legumes or lettuce. 

What I think has really boosted my immune system, however, is the last thirty seconds of my daily shower. I do enjoy a hot shower, but just before I’m done, I turn the water to straight cold. Brrr, right? Am I insane? I don’t think so. The Finnish are on to something with their hot saunas followed by a plunge into icy water. 

Here’s how Dr. Lisa explained it. Well, sort of.

Think of your immune system as your body’s military, your antibodies the tiny soldiers waiting to be called up for duty. The warmth of the shower lulls those little soldiers into complacency. It tells them, “All is well. Relax. Save your strength.” 

Make a habit of that and your entire army will be fast asleep when needed. Unless…

BAM! Whoa! What’s that? Alert, alert! Send help! 

A message is sent to your command center, the brain. Something big is happening in your body’s core, the part requiring the most protection because that’s where the enemy bugs grow. Of course, you know you’re not truly in trouble—it’s only cold water. But your tiny soldiers don’t know that, so they jump into action. They muster all the troops to fall in, strengthen themselves, and prepare for battle. The first threatening bug to come along gets it. POW! Next day you do it again. And again. Soon your army is so well-equipped it can tackle the toughest bugs.

That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. Of course, none of that will work without the support of healthy food, adequate sleep, and exercise. But still. I’ve discovered that when I skip this thirty-second cold blast, I step out of the shower with all the vigor of a used tea bag. I miss it because it leaves me feeling awake, alert, and all a-tingle.  

I dare you to try it for a month. Then a year. Count your colds. Let me know what happens.