Monthly Archives: July 2013

What does 200 calories look like?

A pat of butter. 2 1/2 medium apples. It’s crazy how different 200 calories looks depending on the food. A friend recommended this linkat ArtFido. Take a second to glance through it. It’ll make you think twice about what you’re eating.

Here’s a sneak preview taken from their website. These two pictures are expected, but some of the foods may surprise you.

As you look at the pictures on Artfido, ask yourself what kind of nutrition is displayed. My friend Kathleen talks about eating foods that are nutrient dense. In other words, spending calories on what makes your mind and body stronger and healthier instead of using up calories on foods low in nutrition.

How’s your day been? If you think about 200 calorie chunks, have they fed your body or just added calories?

What does 200 calories look like?


An Idea from the Veggie Challeged

salsa peanutsYup. Been on the health journey since October 24th. Nope. Still don’t love vegetables. I have improved slightly. I now eat cucumber. I had a slice of zucchini (but I’m not sure it counts because it was baked with cheese on top.) And I eat actually like cantaloupe. (Yes, I know it isn’t a veggie, but it’s healthy, okay?)

So here’s my latest tip for getting a salad down when you don’t like veggies. It wasn’t quite as good as last week’s green grape and cashews, but it’ll do in a pinch. It’s also a tip for digging around your house when you don’t want to go to the grocery store and just trying something a little different based on what you find. (Consider that a money saving tip, too. It’s amazing what you can come up with by saving your $$ and shopping your cupboards.)

This fabulous salad is spinach, honey roasted peanuts, and raisins. (The other serving on the plate is  lasagna. And that’s a praise report ’cause I was super stressed the day we had this, and a friend “happened” to hand me a lasagna so I wouldn’t have to cook that night. I got so much done with the “what to make for dinner” issue solved with no effort!)

I’m enjoying the simple pleasures–like not cooking or a salad with honey roasted peanuts–one day at a time. How about you? What is your simple pleasure today?

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A salad idea from the veggie challenged

Another Sidewalk . . . Uh Road

Who would’ve thought a simple neighborhood walk could be a slice of heaven?

Breck neighborhood 1

Then again, when the neighborhood is in Breckenridge, CO, maybe you’d expect it. Since one of my new life pursuits is seeing the world one sidewalk at a time, I couldn’t wait to pound the pavement near the cabin where I stayed with my girl friends a few weeks ago. The trek didn’t disappoint. It was a road, not a sidewalk, but the views were incredible.

Breck neighborhood 4

After 25 years in Colorado I can honestly say there is only one other time I’ve seen wildflowers as prolific as they were that week. And these pictures are in town, not even on the mountains trails.

Breck neighborhood 2

breck neighborhood 6

breck neighborhood 3

Of course even in Breckenridge some yards are more cultivated.

breck neighborhood 7 (2)

Seeing the world on foot has many benefits. Your skin drinks in the sunshine, which includes vitamin D and helps fight depression. Your body is moving, burning calories and releasing endorphins. Your heart and lungs get a great workout–especially at elevation! And there’s plenty of time to chat with a good friend. The cars whiz by in a hurry, but you are enjoying life, breathing deeply, enjoying the little things.

You also never know when you might bump into someone else’s creativity.

breck neighborhood 10

The great thing about mountain living is a home worth several million can be right next to one where a man can park his dinosaur AND his tractor right by the front door.


My friends and I walked this route several times. Each one revealed something new. Only once did I return wet and cold. So cold, in fact, I couldn’t move my fingers.

breck neighborhood 8

I don’t know where the sidewalk might take you today, but I hope you slip away on your lunch hour or stroll your neighborhood as the sun is sinking. I hope you see something you haven’t noticed before– cool shadows from a skyscraper, a child selling lemonade, a beautiful flower, or the sunlight on leaves. As you walk, take a snapshot with your mind or with your phone. Then tell me about it. I’d love to hear what YOU discover as you burn calories one sidewalk at a time.

Burning calories one sidewalk at a time

If you’re considering walking, check out my friend Marie’s blog. She is the queen of exploring her world on foot and a real inspiration for me.

Blind-sided Again

Why does it still surprise me?

This pull to emotional eating. This crazy notion that if I just keep eating life will get easier. It’s insidious. A deep ingrained lie I know is not true. Taking another bite will not make everyone in my world happy. It will not pay the bills, solve the complex issues of life, or even make me feel better.snaCKS

I KNOW this. This truth is an integral part of my life of this journey to being new inside and out.

I don’t believe the lie. It is no longer a hidden motivator lurking beneath the action of moving food from the cupboards and into my mouth.

So what’s going on? Why last week did I feel blind-sided by the mindless impulse to find one more thing to eat?

It goes back to habits, I think. Not so much habits of the body, but of the mind. In this season of re-training myself to recognize emotional eating for what it is I must constantly step up to the plate with my illuminated understanding, reject the lie that eating will help me feel better, and choose to believe my new truth. Being healthy makes me feel better; eating more than I should or things that hurt my body ends up hurting me. Emotional holes can’t be filled with food; It’s connecting with God I need, not more calories.

Looking back there are a few practical things that would have made the temptation less or helped me avoid it all together.

  • I should have eaten on schedule. I let other priorities push my meal back which made me physically vulnerable.
  • It was difficult to get to my meal on time, so I could have chosen a simple, healthy snack instead of running on empty. When you eat less you have to eat more often. And being hungry affects everything.
  • I needed to guard my emotions. Someone in my world was down that day. Instead of recognizing the pull to wallow with this person, I mindlessly slipped into someone else’s unhealthy pattern. A better choice would have been to place this person into God’s hands and choose hope and courage.
  • I needed to deal with my emotions, not stuff them down until they screamed out for food.

I did okay that day. I had a few extra bites, but recognized the emotional impulse before I lost control. Then I spent a little time facing my negative emotions and telling God how I felt. I asked Him for help and for the strength to persevere.

I suppose what I’m learning is how long-term the process of changing thought pattern can be. Even when I cognitively KNOW the best response, my natural default is to respond out of old behavior patterns. And the road to victory is just what we’ve been talking about all along. Making one right choice, then another. Being mindful of what I’m doing and why. Giving myself grace when I stumble and never giving up.

What About You? Any practical tips you can share to help us all stay on this victorious road?


Breaking old thought patterns brings victory

Spirit Seeker Sunday

Spirit 19 stephen

Drink deeply of grace. Let His spirit bubble over and through you. Refresh you. Make you new. Photo of Stephen Moldenhauer, taken by Caleb Linville

“God did not run out of grace at the dawn of mankind. And He will not run out of grace for you or for me . . . Receive grace and let it wash away all shame and guilt form every unhealthy choice you’ve regretted and fretted over.” Lysa TerKeurst*

May was an incredible month for us, the season of the marriage our of beautiful Sarah to our new son-in-law, David. But challenges often come at the same time as incredible blessing, and soon after the wedding I faced a difficulty and I whined pretty loudly at God. Let’s be honest. I threw a fit.

dancing in the dark - David

David and Sarah dance. Photo by Creative Pixel Photography.

Throwing a fit mad me really mad at myself. The Lord had done amazing, miraculous, tender, sweet things for me and my family around Sarah’s wedding. I’m not sure I’ve ever known a time of such pure joy! He was SO good to them, to us, to me. And there I was a week later yelling at Him.


As I drove down the road I thought, “I wonder how God feels about how I treated Him after He was SO good to me.”

Then I knew.

He simply accepted me where I was. His grace covers me. His love pours over me. There are no walls. No condemnation. No pouting. As Lysa wrote, “This grace and the unfathomable depth of God’s love settle me. Breathes hope into my dread and trust into my doubts.”

Whether I’m stumbling on the general journey of life or the specific journey of losing physical and emotional weight, His grace covers my imperfections, my pettiness, my faults and failings. I don’t have to give into shame.

I don’t have to wallow in disappointment.

I don’t have to punish myself.

I can simply be.

Lean hard into His grace.

And start again.

And so that night I slipped off to bed telling God how much I love Him. Thanking Him for the many gifts. Asking for self-control in the area of my mind so that negative thoughts don’t boil up and sabotage the myriad of good gifts I can embrace. I ask Him to help me not give into temptation to further sin.

Every moment I can start fresh. Walking forward as whole, beautiful, clean, and forgiven. Step into victory and away from defeat.

How about you?

What does shame do to your forward movement?
How does grace impact it?
Can you believe (fully, deeply, truly) that you are accepted and loved right now and always, just as you are? Why or why not?

*The Made to Crave Devotional

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Step into grace at any moment

Another Hydration Tip

How are you doing with drinking that water? Even after all these months I find it difficult to keep up my water intake.

Just a minute.

(“Much better,” she says, sipping the cool, clear, slightly flavored water she’s about to discuss.)

Today’s tip comes from my friend Monique. She snipped a few stems of lemon balm from her backyard, lemon grass waterwhich is one of my very favorites. Though not especially large, it boasts little paths through trees, flowers, herbs, and veggies, somehow looking beautiful and organic, cared about and free, all at the same time.

Monique suggested I put the lemon balm in a pitcher of water and enjoy.

I discovered two things about this treat.

1) It needs to sit longer than lavender or mint to infuse the water with its properties. I recommend overnight.

2) It doesn’t last as long as lavender or mint and fresh stems/leaves need to be added more often to enjoy optimal flavor.

My next goal is to get a cutting from my friend and grow my own lemon balm plant to harvest.

Another idea for gently flavored water comes from my friend Kristin, who slices a few strawberries into a pitcher and leaves it overnight. And I added cucumber slices to my water glass at dinner recently.

Do you have a hydration tip to share?

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Gently flavored water makes hydration more fun

A Walking Tour of Montrose

Putting on tennies in the dark isn’t easy. Neither is slipping out the hotel door without waking your comrades. I wasn’t totally successful. In fact my friend and fellow speaker Kathleen E Kovach told me later she rolled over, emitted a soft moan, and asked God to keep me safe before she slipped back into slumber.

(This post relates to point #2 from my Little Bit Wiser blog a few days ago.)

It was the day after we’d taught Fiction FUNdamentals at the Montrose library. Soon we’d load five women into a truck crammed full of luggage and begin the 12 hour trip home. (Okay, Montrose is roughly 6 hours from Denver, but not when you travel with five women who like to shop and need lots of potty breaks.)

I needed some movement before the drive–and wanted to experience a little of the town instead of whipping through, speaking, and packing up. I’d walked a bit the morning before the library gig, but it was mostly a clear my head and pray kind of trek. I didn’t have time to go far and my wanders led to a very dry, ugly spot full of cracked earth, desolation, and old furniture dumped haphazardly. It was great inspiration to pray for opportunities to replace barrenness in a place where there seemed to be little community or support for Christian writers. It was not, however, especially attractive.

So this morning I headed the opposite direction, initially following a small river.

walk 01

Soon that path ended. Disappointed I headed down the primary road, unimpressed with the end of town that sported mostly old signage. (I later discovered a quaint main street awaited me farther down, but alas I saw it only from a moving car.)


I turned down a side street and the adventure began. What I noticed most were the trees. Beautiful, diverse, and full of character. If you know Colorado you know that on either side of the mountains, or in long valleys, trees are not plentiful. This made the trees of Montrose even more treasured, and I wondered who planted, watered, and cared for them. How old were they?

walk 1 tree

I got really excited when I found a bike path, just sure it would lead to a nature walk or beautiful park.

walk 4

After lots of concrete I found myself at the city hospital.  At least I found roses hanging over a privacy fence.

walk 3

I gave up on the bike path and returned to the shaded streets of a modest neighborhood. I’m always grateful to those who take time to bring beauty into our world by planting flowers.

walk 2

Eventually I found my favorite site of the day, the beautiful Townsend House built in 1887.

walk 7 (2)

I was especially intrigued by the two sidewalks in front of the old place–a decaying brick path and a new concrete one. One of these days I’ll find the metaphor here, and we’ll have another blog post.

 walk 9

walk 8

I’d walked almost an hour when I met a lady who urged me to go past the swimming pool and the big red silos to the park on the edge of town. She said the path there would soothe my soul. I didn’t want to be late for breakfast, but I couldn’t resist. I set off for the park jogging a little and wondering if I’d have to run a good deal of the way back to be on time. That was not a pleasant thought, but it didn’t deter me.

walk 10

As I headed down the trail to the park I saw a sweet-looking woman walking alone. I asked the Lord if I should talk with her. Soon we were in conversation. She and her husband daily feed the cats and ducks at the park. When she discovered how far I was from the hotel she offered me a ride back. Her husband initially turned the wrong direction assuming my hotel was on that side of town. They were a surprised I’d walked the entire length of their community. (And I’ll admit it. I felt a bit of pride at the thought.)

When I returned Kathy rolled her eyes at my story of the provision of a return ride. I told her they were nice people who fed the wildlife. She said I needed to start watching Criminal Minds. I told her I prayed first and knew they were safe. That seemed to calm her.

(And don’t YOU start worrying. I don’t typically take rides from strangers.)

It’s a good thing I took a walking tour of Montrose before the road trip home. Five women pack a lot of snacks.

So there you have it–how to fight the battle of the bulge and see the world, one sidewalk at a time.

Hope you protect some time this week to find the little things a nice walk reveals. If you do, I’d love to hear YOUR story.

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Discovering the world on foot

A Bit Wiser (Part II)

Things I learned since I last blogged (continued):

6) Dandelions are meant to grow in the wild-huge, yellow, and free or cotton-ball, fly-away fluffy. They are NOT a nuisance there. They are pure beauty. Sometimes life needs to be viewed from a new perspective.

hike dandelions - Copy

7) Cold mountain streams can make your feet bright red but there are moments life must be experienced fully, not from the sidelines. Sometimes you must wade on in instead of wondering about it from the sidelines.

hike cold

8) There is such a thing as purple pine cones whether or not your friends believe you saw one. You have to stick to your convictions no matter what others say or how much you are teased.

hike purple pine cone

9) Green grapes cut in half, romaine lettuce, and cashews make an amazing salad. If veggies make you a little nervous, there are still really healthy, low cal alternatives that make you leaner and stronger. Healthy doesn’t have to be boring and there’s always a new way to get there.

salad cashew

10) You can “make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.” Wait. I learned that one in Brownies . . . How about “friends are friend forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them. And a friend will not say never ’cause the welcome will not end.” That’s one Kathleen, Caryl, Kristin and I clung to in the 80s. They actually thanked me for not making them sing it as we departed this week. Learning #10 is nothing new no matter which way I think about it, but it is forever true. Friends are a gift to be treasured.


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Simple things that make life better

A Little Bit Wiser

Things I learned since I last blogged:

1) Kind bars exist. My best friend from way back in elementary school, Caryl, has to eat gluten-free. While we hung out in Breckenridge together last week she introduced all of us to the wonder of dark chocolate cherry cashew Kind bars. 180 calories. Full of antioxidants and vitamins. Taste fabulous with a glass of almond milk (30 calories). Just sayin’ . . .

kind bar

2) Traveling has a whole new dimension when you get out of the car and WALK. More on that in future posts, but the trees and people of Montrose, the wildflowers of Breckenridge, and the passes of the Rocky Mountains are experienced in a whole new way when on foot.

breck flowers 2

3) Powerpoint is a fabulous speaking aid. You can do all kinds of cute graphics that make you look more clever than you really are.

light bulb

4) BENew‘s BEfull shakes are even better when you follow the advice of your friend Kristin and occasionally mix one scoop of vanilla and one scoop of chocolate into your almond milk instead of thinking it has to be an either/or decision. (And it’s really fun to be on the same team, cheering each other on, when you’re with your girlfriends.)


5) Sometimes (often?) we’re harder on ourselves than God is. We can think we get it that His grace is abundant and overflowing, then we realize while sitting on the side of a mountain that He actually wants more joy for us than we allow ourselves. On the side of the mountain with the world before us and beauty overwhelming every sense we realize we can still be blind-sided by the whole trying to be good enough and do enough syndrome even when we think we’ve overcome it.


How About You? Would love to hear your tidbits of wisdom!

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Tidbits of learning

Plugging In Again

First off, can I simply say I’ve missed you?

The last few weeks have been crazy busy. I’ve taught on writing or being a writer or encouraging writers four times–and had a blast talking about MY writing at a local book club.

Besides all that speaking stuff, I’ve been to Montrose, Breckenridge, and Estes Park; spent several glorious days with my best buddies from college days; hosted company; attended part of a Life Force leadership conference with hubby; and welcomed a wonderful young man from Spain into our home.

It’s very satisfying except for the fact I had some minor withdrawal issues when I was unplugged from almost all media for most of a week and didn’t write this blog!

That said, I did NOT give up on my journey to health. Here’s a picture to prove it:

salad at restaurant 2

Last Monday night my girlfriends indulged me by leaving our internet free zone at a cabin in Breckenridge so I could teach at the historic Milheim Mansion in Denver.


Before the speaking engagment, my friends and I ate out together. Eating out usually means I get what I WANT, and that is NOT usually a salad. But that night I truly wanted the salad. (Will wonders never cease?) It sounded exotic with cranberries and nuts and some fancy grain and a fancy cheese I’d never heard of. (Maybe that’s part of my growing up as an eater, trying unfamiliar things. I’m still pretty tenuous, but there was a little stretching going on that night.) I’ve often joked that I still eat like a two year-old, but this time I didn’t.

salad at restaurant

Well, mostly I didn’t. I did separate out all the chunks of chicken and cheese because they just didn’t seem to combine well. So I still had little piles on my plate where I played with my food.

salad at restaurant 3

Still, the healthy meal was just right for the tummy as it started to feel a bit nervous before my teaching gig. As it turned out I LOVED teaching on characterization and got great feedback from the attendees. It was a round robin approach so I taught three times in a row. And of course I over-prepared, so I was talking super fast to cover the most important part of my notes.

Afterwards I was hyper and hungry. It was late, and we had a long drive back up the mountain. Since I keep it real here on A Benew Journey, I feel compelled to tell you that I ate a snack purchased at . . . oh, ouch, I hate to admit it . . . McDonalds. That’s what was open right off I-70 at 11 p.m. The good news is I had a fruit smoothie instead of a oreo shake. The bad news (especially after bragging that I hadn’t done this since last October) is that I had McDonalds fries.

I tell you that kind of stuff to help us both guard against all or nothing thinking. Yes, I caved to something unhealthy late on a Monday night. But that didn’t mean my whole journey to health was sabotaged. In fact, after eating mostly healthy and doing a lot of walking and hiking Breckenridge I actually came home a pound or two lighter as well as a bit wiser. More on that next time . . .

What About You? Would love to hear about YOUR summer escapades.