Monthly Archives: October 2014

Weighin’ In at 49

In this place I’m better at 49 than I was at 39.


Desert heat. High altitude. Steep terrain.

This post was birthed in my mind a couple of months ago, but I’m glad I didn’t get around to writing it until now. It seems the perfect birthday post as I enter my last year of this decade.


One of my best friends and I went on an adventure the first week of September. It was an amazing unfolding of unplanned wandering into uncharted terrain.


Pictures don’t do justice to the challenge we faced with steep trails and long, windy stone staircases in these hot, dusty places. But thanks to stronger bodies, we didn’t cower.

We sweated. We ached. And we conquered.

Day after day, trail after trail, we found new heights to climb. There’s no way my body could have handled the heat or the repeated assault on lungs and burning muscles before.



The journey to health and weight loss gave me a new lease on life.



In 365 days I’ll enter my 50’s. Who could have dreamed I’d have more stamina and thirst for adventure than I did when I entered my 40’s?

My weight loss journey continues to have its shares of triumphs and frustrations. The fight to drop the weight took plain ole hard work. Maintenance isn’t a cake walk. (Yes, I chose that old saying on purpose.) But here is the victory: Hiking. Climbing. Rafting. Even strolls through the park with my honey.

Reclaiming my love of movement, my love of adventure.

Reclaiming a piece of me, long lost.

If you’re struggling along the journey to better health, may I encourage you with this thought?

It’s worth it.

Stick to it, and find your own adventurous self!

Until Next Time,

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Destruction or Progress?

IMAG0591Could it be that life is like home projects–that the tearing down is necessary before the building up? And that the demolition of the old takes much longer than ever anticipated?

We are on week 5 of the fence project.

The old fence had to go before the new one could go up. Knocking it down wasn’t that hard. In fact, I think the knock-it-down crew found the process rewarding–all that flexing of the muscles and cheering as a section fell.

But then . . . oh the agony of digging into the hard earth to pull out huge cylinders of hardened cement, still there, still stubborn, despite the fact the the poles above the cement were weak.

Too often i’m like that cement, tenaciously holding onto the past, onto the old me, when the winds of change have weathered the old foundations into something no longer usable.

Sometimes I even get it. I know the way I’m thinking or acting isn’t working for me. I know something needs to change. And I try to tear down the old. The surface stuff falls away. For awhile I think I’ve made the necessary transitions only to find a nubbin of the old pole stuck in a big ole slab of concrete.

Getting that sucker out is grueling. It means letting go of the fear that I can’t change as well as the fear of the change. It can mean deep grief. Digging far enough to get that long buried hurt, that hardened place out of me. Not only is it tough work, it often means anger and tears and sadness, and emotions I don’t want around. But that rough old rock isn’t going to budge without coaxing.

There are all kinds of digging tools. Shovels and hoes and pick axes. Believe it or not one of the best for digging around the slabs and reshaping the hard ground of our fence was an old tuna can.

Isn’t that life, too? Little questions work the soil of our heart as we are faced with change. Then maybe unwanted adjustments, like loss of relationships, income, or other places of security, loosen it further. When life gets crazy enough we loosen our iron-clad grips on status quo.

The first few cement blocks of our old fence were slow to release from their long held home. Lots of digging by different tools. Back-breaking labor, but eventual success.

But it got a little easier. A friend loaned us a tool that made those cement chunks come out in half the time.

Maybe that’s what allowing real emotion does. Maybe anger, or tears, or plain honest grief loosens up the soil of my heart so the hard stuff is released.

Getting those cement casings out was by far the hardest part of our fence-building process. I think the tearing down of the old foundations of our schemata of life is the hardest part, too.

Much of the thinking that holds us back from the life we long for is based on foundations begun in childhood. Our little souls began building them when we had too little experience to do the work justice. We built how we saw God, ourselves, others, and the journey of life on limited information. Some of it was even faulty–like the words that told us we were inadequate or unlovable. The times there wasn’t enough justice or money or hope or relationship to go around. Or how about this one–the angry finger of religion that said we had to shape up and how but that we’d never be good enough no matter how hard we tried.

This list is unending. And it’s built on a limited perspective of the chaos of the world instead of the hope we find in God and the good He offers.

But we don’t have to hang onto the hardened places in our hearts.

You may not recognize God’s construction crew when He come to build something new and good. At first, it may look more like a wrecking ball.

IMAG0574My friend, if you feel crushed today, like what you thought was supposed to be yours has been shattered or torn away, or like there’s a creaking in your heart and something long buried is being exposed, take comfort!

Ask the Creator what’s up. Maybe something new and good is coming. Something so beautiful it could never be built with the old places of your heart hardened like concrete and stuffed down deep.

Once that old chunk of cement is removed, He’ll begin reshaping the hole, then, with your permission, He’ll refill it with the new. And something strong and beautiful will be under construction.

May His peace strengthen and heal you in the tearing down season and the joy of a new morning blow you away when construction begins.

My fence is nearing completion. After several long weekend work days all the old cement is out and new concrete formed around sturdy, new posts.

Today a friend and I finished framing out the last two sides. All that is left to frame is a new gate.


About half the fence is new and beautiful, the fresh fragrance of wood tantalizing in the crisp autumn air. The process has felt excruciatingly slow, but the there is great pleasure in the strength of beauty of the new.


Until next time,

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*As I wrote this blog  a couple of thoughts from Scripture came to mind. One of them is a treasured favorite of mine: “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” Ezekiel 36:26

I was also reminded of Matthew 9:16-17



Weighin’ In


Yes. A great favorite of mine. Hard to resist

You gotta know when God gives you a cool new understanding of a big concept like I talked about last week, that it will be tested.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve caught the words, “I am overwhelmed” coming out of my mouth. When I did I tried to rephrase quickly. “I mean, I feel a bit overwhelmed, but I know God is never overwhelmed, and He’ll help me.”

It’s been a while since I’ve kept my commitment to you to post about weight loss on Wednesdays. I am determined to do so this week mostly because it is after midnight on Tuesday night, and i just made a bunch of bad choices. I figure confession is good for the soul.

After an incredibly full day I determined to keep my word to get a round of edits to a free-lance editing client. Throughout the day I’d attempted to finish this work, but it needed more germinating time than I anticipated, meaning I’d open the document, play with the structure, and feel confused about why it wasn’t working. Then I’d get frustrated and paint something (we’re doing remodeling at our house, pictures soon!) or visit Facebook.

This happened repeatedly.

It was about bedtime when the thoughts simmered enough to become cohesive, and I tackled the project, determined to finish.

It is now 12:17 a.m.


This is good, too

I started out pretty well. When the weariness hit and I reached for energy I first chose an apple and water, such a healthy snack as my fingers flew across the laptop on my keyboard.

Unfortunately, that morphed into dark chocolate and almond milk before midnight hit. The good news is I didn’t eat an entire bar.

The good news is also that if I was going to indulge I’m glad it was my favorite brand.

The bad news is that it was two different flavors of my favorite brand and more little pieces than I care to count. (I did resist the third flavor in my cabinet, raspberries in dark chocolate, but I digress.)

And so here I am, clicking away on this blog, thinking that too many choices like this, and the weight I lost will find me again. Thinking that I want to be a writer but that sitting at my computer burns roughly 100 calories an hour, and I don’t even want to consider how many calories I just consumed, especially since I inhaled a calorie-rich supper and half a hot-fudge Sunday before beginning my midnight vigil.

I like to think there are some positive, take-away tidbits when I write about this stuff, even in my bad choices. I suppose the most profound thought I have at this moment is how very easy it is to return to old habits, even after two years of making better choices.

I comfort myself with the reminder that each day is a new beginning. One choice doesn’t undo all the good accomplished. And maybe, just maybe, admitting my step backwards in this public way will help me choose those steps forward.

And honestly? Chocolove rocks. My editing goals were accomplished. I have a soft, warm bed waiting for me. Tomorrow’s rain forecast was cancelled, and I have the opportunity to take a nice, long walk.

His mercies are new EVERY morning.

Until next time,

paula cropped


He Is . . . I Am

IMAG0626Identity. We have no clue how it drives our lives. How it shapes our daily, minute-to-minute choices.

Today’s post is an invitation into my journal, my musings. I’m just audacious enough to believe God meets me there, when I’m quiet in my recliner, snuggled beneath my fuzzy blanket, journal and pen in hand. (He meets me other places, too. Increasingly I believe there is no divided secular and sacred space. There is only space. And where there is space HE is. But I digress.)

On that day, pen in hand, I talked with Him about hopes. Fears. Dreams. About feeling unqualified, unworthy, and other “un” words.

He said, “I Am your qualifier. I Am your worthiness. I Am has brought you through the experience you need to do what I Am has planned.”

I told Him I knew the journey was about His ability, not mine, and I surrendered to His plan. Then I added, “I am afraid.”

“No,” His tone was gentle. “Do not use ‘I Am’ for identity statements. I Am is ME in you.”

Often I say things like, “I am overwhelmed. I am tired. I am afraid. I am inadequate.” Since this conversation with Him I’m trying to break that habit.

Am is a linking verb. In English class they taught me that whatever is on the other side of “am” renames “I.”

God reminds me not to give myself names that are outside of who HE is within me. HE is never inadequate or afraid or overwhelmed. In the book of John Jesus told His followers, “I am in you and you are in Me.” If God indwells me (and isn’t this the crux of Christian thought?) then His resources and character are also inside of me. Besides, God promises in Romans 8:29 that He is remaking me to be like Jesus. That makes me think that using identity statements about myself that differ from who Jesus is contradicts the work God is doing. I want to lean into the process to be MORE like Jesus, not to push against it!

That said, I don’t think God wants me to pretend I don’t have real emotions. However, I do think He wants me to see them as just that. The other day I caught myself saying I was overwhelmed. Just saying it made me act even more as if it were true.

My new goal is to change my verbiage from “am” to “feel” when dealing with negative crap that isn’t part of who God is. So . . . I feel overwhelmed, but I know the God who lives inside of me can handle anything. Sometimes situations seem hopeless, but God is a God of hope, and with Him nothing is impossible. Hard tasks can make me feel inadequate, but God is always up for any challenge. And HE lives in and through me.

But God . . . what a difference those two little words make. In Him I am a whole bunch of stuff that is glorious.

How about you, my friend? Been saying or thinking “I am” statements that whisper identities you really don’t want to take on? What thought patterns can you change by a twist of verbiage and the addition of “but God?”

Until Next Time,

paula cropped

*If you’ve not been around much Jewish or Christian theology, there’s a whole new depth brought to those words, “I Am” based on an experience with God and Moses. Moses, the guy who led the Israelite slaves out of captivity in Egypt, was one of those guys who felt unqualified with a glaring “UN.” When He asked God His name, God called Himself, “I AM.” Jesus also made a bunch of identity statements using those two little words, “I Am.”

Writing this post reminded me of another time I pondered those two little words. At that time I wrote 10 devotionals based on those musing, and because of this post added them to my website in hopes they might encourage you. Maybe you’d like to bookmark the devotional page and spend the next ten days thinking about what God means when He calls Himself, “I Am.”

Tromping on All or Nothing (Again)

Peace in the midst of chaos. Balance. You’d think I’d be better at it. I’ve had ample opportunity to learn.

I think (hope) I’ve made progress in cultivating joy in times of emotional struggle and sorrow. But old habits creep up in new places.

During early marriage there were a few phrases I heard often from my husband. One was, “it’s not all or nothing, honey.”

Here on A Benew Journey we’ve talked often about taking back our lives. I shared my story of how being benched help me learn to care about my own needs and find a healthier lifestyle, prioritizing my emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Enter the new test of balance: Overwhelming Good!

When my husband and I returned  from helping go through my mother-in-law‘s home we were emotionally and physically fatigued. God and loved ones met us with a wonderful surprise. A friend told me she’d prayed for years for an opportunity to bless our family. This came when she was able to gift us not only materials for a face-lift to parts of our home, but also her expertise. Having just remodeled her own house, she knew how to do things we didn’t.


While we were gone she and our children dug in, pulling down old, out-dated wallpaper, emptying shelf after shelf of books, and reshaping the walls so they would look beautiful when painted.


Notice the gratitude wall in the hallway . . .

Then my friend ordered the materials to rebuild our ancient privacy fence. These answers to years of prayer overwhelmed me with gratitude. After taking a day to unpack and assimilate, I dug in thinking I’d have a brand-new family room in a week, and that if the boys helped on a week-end we’d have the post holes dug. My friend and I could leisurely add the other boards while my husband was at work.


It’s not quite what happened. We are on day 19 or 20 of the family room project, and only about half the holes are dug and filled with cement and a new pole. (And that much only happened with several friends pitching in.)

This morning I felt the call to be still. To talk these wonderful (though somewhat challenging) situations over with the Lord. I have other work to do, commitments to keep. I’ve been skipping my walks (isn’t painting enough exercise?) and giving into less healthy food choices out of exhaustion. I want to bury myself in this project. To GET IT DONE.

This morning I realized it isn’t just the bad that gets me out of balance. It’s the good. The exciting projects. The work I love. I felt His whisper, His reminder to be on guard against all or nothing living. (I guess He and Jerry are on the same page.) That what is accomplished in this day is sufficient. That healthy choices are important and pushing too long and hard, even in the good things, is a step backward not only in my physical health journey, but my joy. In my life.

There will always be overwhelming tasks. It is my goal to be a wildly productive woman. But if I forget the moments–If I don’t embrace life on the overwhelmingly busy days, then I’m back to square one, rushing, but not living. Meeting goals without enjoying the beauty of moments well lived.

I painted over my gratitude wall, my 1000 little breathless moments recorded in multi-colored magic marker. (We won’t talk about how many coats of paint it took to cover the marks of the orange sharpies!) As we painted I felt those thanksgivings were the foundations of the new, beautiful space. The color I chose is called “refreshed.” And that’s what noticing life’s good moments did for me, it refreshed my heart, helped it live more fully alive.


Beneath these beautiful, refreshed walls is a foundation of 1,000 moments of beauty, things noticed by choice, by slowing down and savoring. Gifts from the hand of Creator God who gives all good things.

My BeNew journey continues. When the good (or difficult) things in life bring unexpected responsibilities, when something wonderful happens that requires more hours than I dreamed, I can’t live all or nothing, throwing myself into conquering the project. I’m learning to prioritize life. The moments. The beauty. The healthy choices that keep me strong for the next project.

Two days ago I completed bookshelf #1. Non-fiction neatly alphabetized and housed in cases of misty surf and calming celadon. (blue-gray and green)


Do not be deceived. This bookcase is now full!

Tomorrow I’ll paint and hang a homemade bookcase for my fiction collection. Or maybe that will wait until next week. But it will get done. And I will chose to sleep. To be responsible with other commitments and not just bury in this project. I will take time to make Sam homemade biscuits. I will pray. Enjoy the outdoors. Breath the fragrance of fall and actually notice it.

How about you, my friend? Are you resisting tunnel vision? Are you living life, breathing in the breathless moments, or just conquering time?

As you work, embrace joy. See the faces of those you love. Hear their words. Taste your food. Have a little fun . . .

IMAG0586Until Next Time,

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I Am the Artist

A friend of mine wrote this and posted it to Facebook. Such a valuable concept that I’ve been thinking about it over and over. Too often I’ve given the very design of my life over to others. To their opinions or expectations. But when the metal hits the road, I am the responsible for my own canvas. I choose to look to the Creator with a capital C to help me discover all He intended for this canvas. I often seek wisdom from the world around me, trustworthy people, good books. But in the end I choose. Thanks, David, for giving me permission to share this!

I AM THE ARTIST by David G. Colister

I am the artist and I am the artwork on the canvas of my life.

This canvas is and always will be mine. If it bears unwanted graffiti then I did not guard well enough my canvas. If my painting lacks the color, perspective, style, composition, or mastery I desire to represent my life then only I, the artist, am responsible.

If I lack the talent, tools, resources, and vision necessary to paint my life’s picture as I desire it, then I must devote the time, effort, study, ingenuity, and discipline necessary to realize the beauty I want for my life. And I will remind myself, demand of myself, and force myself, with all vigilance, to own up to the quality of my artwork at all times and in all stages of its development. My life is my design.

I must deny the incessant interruptions that would distract or delay my work. I must persevere in refusing access to the endless line of uninspired critics who insist on invading, without invitation, the studio of my mind.

I find nothing more heinous than the thought of someone forcing me to paint upon my canvas according to their vision. I will not let this happen no matter how much I admire, need, or fear a person — be it a relative, lover, friend, boss, co-worker, financier, celebrity, or ruler. This is my life, not another’s. I hope others love what they see on my canvas, but I will not sacrifice my authenticity for their approval, regardless of the cost to me or our relationship.

Likewise, I will refuse any selfish temptation to force my vision upon or touch my brush to the canvas of another at any cost to myself. Each one must take responsibility for the results of one’s own life’s canvas. I must give others the freedom to paint their life their way. Not only would it be wrong to take credit for the art someone else creates, but it would be artistically criminal for me to force my vision upon another’s canvas.

Therefore, I will make no excuses for the quality of my painting and I will pass no blame. I am responsible for the final version that will ultimately define my life. My painting will hang for eternity in the Museum of Humanity. I am ever mindful that I am only allowed one painting in those hallowed halls, so I will make my contribution count. I will add to the collective beauty of human history, not stain it.

With God as my witness and by His grace, I pledge to maintain my resolve to paint my life on my own terms and with my own hand and according to my own vision.

My mind is set, my hand is steady, my heart is full. I am determined to paint a masterpiece of which I am proud, that represents my truest self, that satisfies my soul, and inspires other artists both now and for generations to come. Therefore, I will paint well. I will paint true.

One day I will place my signature upon my masterpiece when my life is finished. On that day I will kneel before my God, the Creator of creators, to reflect upon the art that is my life and will do so with deep gratitude, humility, and awe for the opportunity to paint a human life…

I am the artist and I am the artwork on the canvas of my life.

You can read more of David’s stirring thoughts by connecting with him on Facebook.

Immortalizing a Moment

Ever had an experience you knew must be immortalized? Like the hearing the violinist who played amidst the destruction of a bomb. Or glimpsing a flower stretching to the sunlight in a garbage dump.

Maybe my moment wasn’t quite as dramatic as a concert in the aftermath of war, but its beauty haunts me six weeks later. I still hear the sweet lilt of her ninety-five-year-old voice. See the tenderness in her eyes.

For a few months Jerry’s mom was in a nursing home. It was a difficult but necessary choice, and the whole family was relieved to remove her back to her home and to hospice at the end.

We visited Fencine there last August. I’m sure the care-givers did their best in that place. But the needs in those situations are often greater than the finances for staffing. I’m also convinced there are other bright spots in what felt like a gloomy situation. But this one blossom of love brightening the corridors of the care center is what I find worthy of remembrance.

Fencine’s beloved sister Catherine lives at the other end.


Auntie Kay at Fencine’s graveside

At ninety-five Catherine’s mind is still clear and quick. She continues to carry herself with the gentle grace that earned her respect as the wife of the small town’s doctor. Uncle Doc long ago entered his rest, but in his days of earthly productivity he helped establish small apartments for the elderly to enjoy a measure of independence when the time came for help with meals or daily maintenance, but not full nursing home care. It is here we visited with Auntie Kay.

She sat upright on her chair to ease the pain in her back. Her elegant sofa made a good landing place for Jerry and me, and a small smile tugged a my lips as I surveyed the elegance Auntie Kay had brought to her living space. We’d stepped from the hallway of a care facility into the proper environment of a genteel woman. The pearls about her neck were a fitting match for the beauty of her rooms.

Auntie Kay wanted to talk about her sister. She shared observations worthy of a long-term, small town doctor’s wife, things she’d noted in her daily journey through the locked doors that separated her world from Fencine’s, down the long hall to the other end of the facility where her beloved sister resided.

Later Auntie Kay accompanied us to Fencine. Showed us how to navigate the locks, journeyed the stretching space to her sister. And that’s where the moment happened. The memory forever etched in my mind.

Seated in the dining room, Fencine’s eyes held the distant look of one plagued by dementia. While we believe she knew all of us and understood much of what happened around her, communication had become difficult for her. The vibrant, active woman we love sat frail and largely unreachable before us. Jerry spoke gently to her. Her gaze shifted his direction.

Catherine stopped behind Fencine, their snowy hair almost touching, forming halos around the precious faces. Big sister, now 95. Little sister, 89. “This brings her comfort,” Auntie Kay’s voice, laced with love and tenderness, drifted to us through the fog of our pain. Then that ninety-five-year-old woman began massaging her sister’s back and arms, her touch feather-light. Gentle motions, rubbing the length of those long arms that had held four children, those biceps that had known hard work. Those shoulders that had carried much, both literally and figuratively.

And I knew I would never forget this moment. That I would be forever impacted by the love shared between these siblings, these strong women now frail who’d outlived spouses and brothers and sisters and whose age I will likely never reach.

I’ll always remember.

Because the years had not diminished big sister’s need to comfort her baby sister. Because little sister still relaxed under the gentle care offered. The same big sister hands that held little Fencine safe as they ran through the fields of their childhood now ministered strength as they navigated the corridors of age.

I am weeping now.

And loving my own baby brother so much it aches.


Ebb and Flow

1969169_10204236623770825_8216786949685125869_nGrief comes in waves.

It’s life as usual, then the tears start. Or the energy is completely sapped away.

My precious sister-in-law shared a teacup with me that she’d given her mom. I’ve taken to having a few quiet moments each day drinking tea (or sometimes coffee. Yes, I know that is sacrilege!) from the pretty cup.

Ray and Fencine’s wedding picture now hangs on our wall. Other little treasures grace our home, next to reminders of Bernice. I didn’t know it, but this method of home decor is actually recommended by hospice as a healing way to process grief. Nobody told me this until later; it just happened naturally.

Grief makes me clean. Reorganize. Decorate.

When my two oldest sons both left for college on the same day a few weeks ago I spent the weekend cleaning. Bringing their spaces to order. Dusting off the shelves that held their treasures–a baseball or hockey puck. A picture. A hunting knife.

I’m not sure what the next few weeks will hold for this blog. August began with a trip to Missouri where we saw Jerry’s mom for the last time. While we were there God whispered to our hearts that we would not see her again this side of eternity. Then we came home to letting go again, another step into empty nest. Lots of work went into launching those boys. Grief, too.

I just couldn’t write where it would be read. Not yet.

But in the midst of all of that I had some amazing adventures with a best friend from college. Some deep musing about launching children. Hours of journaling and seeking God for insight. Brief moments that seem so powerful they have to be shared.IMAG0563

I know me. This will all need to come out in my public writing. I don’t know when it will happen, but I’ve no doubt you’ll see bits of it as it does.

Until then I’ll keep drinking tea. I’ll work hard when I have the energy, and when I don’t I’ll stop again.

I’ll try to avoid grief by chocolate. At least in quantity.

Instead I’ll drink more tea. Call a friend. Read. Journal. Walk.

Let the little things once belonging to my loved ones speak comfort.