Monday, March 6, 2017

Continuing On My Journey

It's been awhile since I last wrote on my blog. Sorry about that to those of you who enjoyed what I wrote. So much has happened since I last wrote that I couldn't possibly tell you everything, but I can tell you I am still exercising six days a week and trying my best to eat properly. I always strive to be honest so I will admit that I did gain about 20 lbs from the lowest weight I reached (140 lbs). Some of that can be attributed to the fact that I became more diligent about doing strength training twice a week. I have worked myself up to being able to use 20 lb weights for most of the moves I do, but there are a few (like overhead presses) that I use 10 lbs for. I do know I still struggle with snacking a little too much because I have a real sweet tooth, but I knew when I began losing weight in 2013 that this was going to be a lifestyle change. When I was aiming to lose 100 lbs, I got stuck around the 150 lb mark for awhile before I finally broke through that plateau and hit my goal of 145 lbs. I was thrilled to lose another 5 lbs, but I gained the first few pounds quite quickly when I began doing strength training that I just attributed it at first to building muscle. I wasn't surprised to hit 150 quickly and fluctuate in the 150-155 range because I figured "maybe my body really is most comfortable there". When my weight slowly got closer to 160, I realized I did NOT want to gain much more weight and started to be more careful. So I'm currently trying to get back to the low 150s and maybe try to get back to 145, but I really do like the way I look now so I'm not going to be upset if I stay in the 150s because my body may just be telling me this may be where it is easiest to maintain my weight and I'm ok with that!

The biggest accomplishment since I last posted was I completed my first official half marathon in Nov. 2016! I had never entered a half marathon before because they cost way too much money. The only race I ever do is one in our town and they don't hand out medals to the finishers. I started to have a desire to do ONE half marathon just to get a medal, to PROVE to others that I really could do the distance. I had done 13.1 miles on my own a few times. I had mapped out a route in town that equaled that distance and had done it a few times over the last few years, but I just couldn't see paying $75 to run the distance just to get a medal. Well, one day in 2016 I decided to share my story about my weight loss journey on a website for runners. I mentioned in it that I hadn't done an official half marathon yet because we just couldn't afford it, but that I had done the distance on my own. I was shocked a few days later when someone from the website told me they were going to print my story AND they wanted to pay for me to run in the half marathon of my choice!! I posted about it on Facebook and asked if anyone wanted to join me, and I tagged a friend of mine who has been running a lot longer than I have been. She said she had been thinking of doing a half marathon (she had never done one either!) and she said she'd be glad to do it with me! I had a goal in mind to finish in 2 hrs. 30 min., but I set my estimated time to finish at 2 hours 45 min. when I registered because I normally quit running outside in early October when it begins to get too cold here in PA. My lungs don't like breathing in that cold air! So I wasn't sure how fast I'd be able to run and wanted to give myself some extra time. My husband didn't help when he kept reminding me that there could be snow on the ground by the day of the race. I kept telling him it was NOT going to snow, and I was right! Thank the Lord!! I didn't sleep well for 2-3 days before the race. Pre-race jitters I guess. LOL! The weather the day of the race was gorgeous! It wasn't windy, although it did get breezy a few times during the race, and the weather got up to 50 degrees! That morning, I wrote names of people who had encouraged me during my weight loss journey on a piece of paper and I place that paper in my fanny pack so they would all be "with" me. I had enough names on that list that I knew I could think of 2 or 3 each mile and say a prayer of thanks for them. I wanted to run the entire half marathon, but my tired legs had other plans. There was only one hill on the entire course and it came at mile one. I was able to run up the long hill and I was proud of myself for that! I saw the 2:30 pacer go by me between mile 3 and 4 and somehow I knew I wasn't going to finish in the time I had hoped, but I didn't let that bother me or deter me. I just kept running and being thankful I was out there! As I neared the 10th mile, I knew for certain I wouldn't finish in 2 1/2 hours, but I literally said to myself "at least it doesn't have to be my worst time!" Within seconds of thinking that, my right calf muscle cramped up. I have never had it do that before, and I hope it never does because IT HURT! I had to walk for a little bit and then I tried running again. Every time I ran, my calf would cramp and it felt like it would go into a spasm too. I took a deep breath and realized satan was trying to discourage me, and I wasn't about to let that happen! I had been praying and thanking God the entire time up to this point for people who had encouraged me when I was losing weight and for the change that had taken place in me during the last few years. The thought came to my mind, "You started out your journey walking, and it's ok if you can finish it the same way!" I told satan I was NOT going to quit so he could leave me alone, and I continued to pray and be thankful and walk as fast as I could. As I started the 11th mile, my left calf decided to join my right calf in cramping up whenever I tried to run. Yes, I was still trying to run whenever the pain let up, but I was running less and less because I knew it just wasn't working and I didn't want to cause a severe injury by being stupid. In the 12th mile, satan was still trying to discourage me by telling me I was a failure because I was walking and couldn't run the whole thing. That's when I began to think of my older sister Wendy and my grandma, both of whom are in heaven. I had this thought of "I can almost hear them...'Come on, Tammy! You can do it! We are SO proud of you!'" I glanced up into the sky and there in front of me was a heart shaped cloud!! I had to fight back those tears that formed in my eyes because I didn't want to trip over something because I was crying! LOL! As I reached the homestretch and started to hear the music playing, I prayed, "God, I want to run! I want to finish this race running." I felt this gentle voice say "Go ahead." I started doing a slow and very gentle jog/run because I didn't know whether my calves would allow me to run and I sure didn't want to fall this close to the finish line! I couldn't help but smile as I was able to run the rest of the way and cross that finish line without having any pain! After I finished, my legs were killing me and they hurt for the next 2 or 3 days; but it didn't matter because I had finished a half marathon! My time? 2 hours 43 min.!! I smiled when I saw it because I realized that I had "beat" the time I estimated I'd finish the race in when I registered. No, it wasn't my best time. Yes, I think it probably was my worst time for a half marathon distance. No, it didn't bother me because I hadn't quit. I had kept going and I finished in spite of the pain!

Check out that smile on my face as I was running toward the finish line!

The two friends from church who decided to run the half marathon with me. They actually finished in 2 hours 7 min, but they stayed at the finish line to see me finish!

My family. I was so thankful they were at the finish line. They all encouraged me all along my journey, so it was very fitting for them to be there!

Showing off my one and only medal. I wore it the entire rest of the day! LOL!

Close up of my bling. LOL!

The sticker I bought for the back of my car! LOL!

The official photograph of me crossing the finish line!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Be Noticed

     I can't believe it's been a year since I've written on my blog! I can update you that I've continued to exercise 6 days a week. Through the summer, I run and walk at least 6 miles a day. The kids do the distance with me Monday - Friday and I do it alone on Saturdays. I enjoy my new lifestyle. It feels great to be healthier! I had lost 105 lbs, but did put on 10 lbs. I think most of that is related to becoming more consistent with strength training twice a week, although that went by the wayside over the summer since I absolutely love going outside to run (which I can't do during the fall and winter since it gets too cold). I still try to do some strength training once a week, but it usually is about 15 min. instead of 45-60 min. I think a lot of that 10 lbs is lean muscle and not fat, but I also know that my body seemed to hold steady around 150 lbs for a long time last year before I finally was able to start losing and got down to 140 lbs. So, my body may just be comfortable at 150 lbs and it may not be possible for me to maintain my weight at 140 lbs or less. I'm actually ok with that and am quite content where I'm at! Now that I updated you on that, I'll get to the real reason why I decided it was time for me to write on my blog again.
     I was reading my Bible during devotions today and read Mark 7:24 which says "Jesus got up and went away from there to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know of it; yet He could not escape notice." As soon as I read that, I heard within me "You should be the same way." I'm more of a quiet person and don't like to be the center of attention. Why would I want to be noticed wherever I went? Then I thought of that fact that since I'm a Christian, Jesus lives within me. He is the one who should still be noticed! That means wherever I go and whatever I do, people should see Him within me. The hard question then to ask is "Do people see Jesus within me?" I know that even though I'm human and fail at times to act in a way that is pleasing to Him, my desire is that I will not escape notice wherever I go because others will see Jesus within me. To all Christians out there, let's make sure Jesus continues to "not escape notice" because He is always being seen in us!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Still Striving to Reach My Goal

I see it's been awhile (again) since I last posted on my blog. Someone asked me today if I had blogged about my weight loss journey, and it was then that I realized I hadn't blogged in a few months. The last time I had blogged, I had updated you on my weight loss success; but I hadn't said anything since so I figured it was time for another update!

I don't walk outside during the colder fall and winter months. Yeah, I know, I'm a big sissy! LOL! I did continue to do the Walk Away the Pounds workouts though and I added some Billy Blanks' Tae Bo workouts too. I haven't done Tae Bo in a while though because I truly love the Walk Away the Pounds workouts, but Tae Bo is good for days when I just feel like switching things up a little and doing something different.

In January, I decided to increase the amount of time I was working out in order to try and hit my goal of losing 100 lbs by birthday, which happens to be in April. For about 2 months, I worked out for at least 90 min. six days a week. Some days I did closer to 2 hours. I increased my calories as needed as well and for a little while I was having success, but then I hit another dang plateau. I have not been able to break this plateau, so I decided I could go back to doing a 5 mile WATP workout which is usually just over 60 min. a day, though I do have one workout that is closer to 90 min. and I do still enjoy doing that workout. Since the weather got warmer a week ago, I haven't been doing those WATP workouts though. I've been able to start going out to take my walks....which have turned into jogs most of the time now!

There have been a few times when my workouts were under 45 min., but I have decided that I am perfectly happy with that since I can now jog for 3 miles straight (no walking!!) in less than 45 min. I believe I mentioned that I participated in my first 5K (3.1 miles) last May and finished in 43 minutes. I walked and jogged during that race. This year, my goal is to jog/run the entire thing. I set a goal of finishing in 30 min., but I'm not sure if that is going to happen. I do know that I have improved and that is all that truly matters! About a week and a half ago, I decided to do the 5K route just to see how fast I could do it in. This was the FIRST day I was able to go outside and run in over 5 months, but I gave it all I had. I finished in 34:25 and was THRILLED that I was that much faster than I was last year! I believe sometime this year, I will be able to run 3.1 miles in 30 min.; so I'm ok if I can't do it on May 10th when I participate in my second 5K. I am not giving up my goal though of running the entire 5K on May 10th in 30 min.!

I was extremely sore the day after I ran the 5K route, so I was glad it was Sunday, my rest day! On Monday, I wound up hurting my hip during my workout and needed to take it easy for a few days. The weather was warmer the next few days so I walked SLOWLY with my two kids on Tuesday and just went a little over a mile. On Wed., I walked and did over 3 miles. On Thursday, I tried slow jogging and finished 3.26 miles in just over 40 min. On Saturday, I decided to do 5 miles. Last year, I had a goal of being able to finish 5 miles in under an hour. I was never able to meet that goal. The closest I came was finishing in 61 min. I began with slow jogging and just tried to go as far as I could. I jogged for over 3 miles and thought of quitting, until I saw my time. I realized IF I could continue the pace I was on, I should be able to finish in under an hour. I honestly wasn't sure if I could continue to jog at the pace I was on, but I knew I had to try! I jogged the entire 5 miles (I avoided hills on this 5 mile route since I wasn't sure my hip could handle them) and refused to allow any walking. I was SO excited when I saw the time I finished in was 56 min. 14 sec.!! I blew away my goal! Yesterday I decided my hip was feeling well enough to try jogging up some hills. I plotted out a 3.26 mile course that had hills near the end, like the 5K route has. I jogged the entire time and finished in 37:54 min.

What an amazing feeling to realize that I can jog 3-5 miles without stopping now!! I have NEVER been a runner in my entire life! For over 10 years, I could only walk slowly and would get winded/out of breath just walking up a hill. Now, I'm able to jog up those hills! I'll be turning 45 years old next week, and I can confidently say I am in better shape now than I have ever been in my life! I LOVE the fact that I have currently lost 95 lbs without any diet aids (like pills), surgery, or crash diets. I may not have lost 100 lbs by my birthday, but I am content in knowing I have a healthier, stronger body that I can be proud of!

As of today, I weigh 145 lbs and have accepted the fact that it may take a really long time to get to 140 lbs, but I will not stop trying. I don't need to get down to 120 lbs like I originally thought would be neat. I am at peace even if I can't get below 145 lbs. I am more than the number on the scale. What matters the most is that I've reached a healthy weight for someone my size and I did it the right way! I've learned how to eat so that I can keep this weight off for the rest of my life. I know the importance of exercise and I enjoy taking walks or jogs! I've also taught my kids the importance of daily exercise and eating right because they have seen the transformation that occurred in me as a result of them being applied to my life.

If you need to lose weight, set goals! Make them attainable. Don't say "I'll lose 100 lbs in a month!" Make it 5-10 lbs. Set additional goals that will help you reach that main goal. Exercise and eating right (cutting your caloric intake by just 500 calories a day will help you lose weight!) need to be a part of your life. Drinking more water and less soda will also help a lot! I now go 3 months before I allow myself one glass of soda. That is a HUGE accomplishment considering I use to drink 2-3 cans of soda A DAY! I use to drink barely any water. I now drink 80-100 oz a day. You don't need to deprive yourself in order to lose weight. I still eat candy or go to McDonald's, but I've learned "everything in moderation" is the key to success. I can choose healthier options at McDonald's: like ordering a yogurt parfait instead of fries with my meal and grilled chicken instead of crispy (fried). You can do this too! If you want/need help, feel free to ask me! I'm always willing to help in any way that I can. Strive to reach your goals and NEVER give up!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Before and After

A few days before Thanksgiving, my kids asked me if I had a picture from last Thanksgiving. As I looked back at pictures on my computer, I came across one that was taken on Thanksgiving 2012. The change from last year to this year was astounding. My kids both said "WOW!" The next day, I decided to recreate the picture from last year. I mistakenly put the kids on the wrong sides, but it didn't matter. When I put the two pictures side by side, it made me want to cry to see that all my hard work has truly paid off. Here's the picture:

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Lifestyle Transformation

Hi! It's me! No, I didn't die. I just got sidetracked by a lot of other things and forgot about my blog. I've been keeping everyone on Facebook updated to the changes that have been occurring in my life this year, but I totally forgot about posting it here. Sorry about that!

Back in September 2012, I began walking with my kids as part of their physical education class. I use a cyber school to homeschool my kids, and that was the first year they sent a curriculum for gym. Each of my kids got a pedometer and the first thing they wanted the kids to do was see how many steps they could take in 20 min. From there, it was how long does it take to walk a mile. The goal I believe was to do a mile in 20 min. At the time, I was 240 lbs and was disgusted by my weight. I wanted to lose weight, but I never stayed motivated long enough to do anything about it. I figured "I can walk!" and I began walking with the kids every day. It was exciting to try and beat the time we had had the day before, but September and October quickly passed and it became too cold to continue walking outside. We stopped walking, but I was happy that I had lost 9 lbs and I was able to maintain that weight loss through the holidays. The last Sunday in December, our pastor gave a sermon on setting goals. I came home and immediately knew what my goal was going to be. I was 231 lbs on Jan. 1, 2013, but I decided I wanted to lose 100 lbs from my starting point of 240 lbs. I didn't want to set myself up to fail and I had no idea how quickly the weight would come off, so my long range goal was to lose 100 lbs and my short term goal for 2013 was to lose 50 lbs. I also included other goals to help me reach that goal.

One goal was to increase my water intake. I was NOT a water drinker. I was a soda drinker. I would drink 2-3 cans of soda a day. I knew I was suppose to drink eight 8 oz glasses of water a day, so my initial goal was to drink 5 glasses of water a day. I used a glass that held about 10 oz, so I wasn't too far off from the 64 oz I should be drinking. I later learned that you should drink half of your body weight in ounces of water every day! I should have been drinking almost 120 oz of water a day....TWICE what I was drinking! I'm actually glad I didn't know that at the time because I know it would have been overwhelming for me. I celebrated each day that I was able to drink 5 glasses of water because I knew it was a small, but necessary victory for me in my journey to become healthier. A few months ago, in order for me to make sure I drink all my water, I decided to fill an 80 oz pitcher and a 20 oz glass with water each night. When all that water was gone, I knew I had drank all my water for the day. I always made sure to fill those up each night so I could start each day with cold water.

Another goal was to decrease the amount of soda I was drinking. I aimed for drinking just one can of soda a day. I then said that maybe I could reduce that to one a week and possibly one a month. I was afraid of getting headaches, which is what usually happened whenever I cut back on soda before. The Lord blessed me and I had NO headaches at all when I cut back on the soda. Eventually, I cut so far back on soda that I can easily go a month without drinking any soda. It actually seems too sweet for me so I usually only have 1/2 a can when I do decide to drink some.

A third goal was to exercise at least 30 min. every day. A friend of mine who I reconnected with on Facebook had just lost 100 lbs and when I posted my goals for this year, she graciously offered to send me some DVDs that I could use to workout with during the winter months when it was too cold to walk outside. A few days later, I received 3 Walk Away the Pounds DVDs in the mail: 1 mile, 2 miles, and 3 miles. I decided I would do the 1 mile workout for the entire month of January, then move to the 2 miles for February, and 3 miles in March. Yes, my kids did the workouts with me during the week. They took the weekends off, but I did my workout 7 days a week. I continued to work out 7 days a week for the first 6 months. Then I decided that I probably had developed a strong enough habit of knowing that I needed to exercise and could take 1 day off a week. I chose to take Sundays off from exercising. When I first began, it took everything within me to complete that 15 min. 1 mile workout. I had to keep telling myself "I can do this! I won't quit! Keep going!". My face would get bright red and my kids constantly kept asking me if I was ok. In order to get my goal of 30 min. of exercise in a day, I had to do an additional 15 min. of exercise, so I did push ups, crunches, lunges, squats, jumping jacks, etc. Once I moved on to the 2 mile workout, that was 30 min. in length so I didn't need to do those additional exercises; although I do still do them since I need to work on tightening my abdominals! By March, I moved on to the 45 min. 3 mile workout. When the weather got warmer, I started walking outside. I slowly increased the distance I walked and I also worked on increasing my speed. As people took notice to the changes in my body and asked what I was doing, they couldn't believe that it was due to walking.....and eating differently.

I never wanted to be one of those people who counted calories, but I realized I needed to change my eating habits and not just start exercising if I truly wanted to lose weight and be able to maintain it. I needed a lifestyle change, not a diet. I joined because it made it so easy to keep track of the calories I was eating. I initially cut my caloric intake to 1200 plus whatever I burned off doing exercise. It is important to eat the calories you turn because you can easily put your body into starvation mode if you don't. Since 1200 is the fewest number of calories you should be taking in on a daily basis, it was very important for me to eat whatever I burned off doing exercise in order to ensure that I lost weight. Recently, I have increased my daily calorie intake to 1600 plus whatever I burn doing exercise. I did this after realizing that my metabolism was probably faster now and my body wanted more food and could handle having more. It was actually an accident that I realized this. I had been on a plateau for about 2 months. I was frustrated and was wondering why I wasn't losing when I was eating right and exercising. I remember the day was a Sunday, my day off from exercising. We went over to my parents' house for dinner like we usually do. We had pizza and I felt guilty because I ate more than I usually do, and then I ate ice cream for dessert. The next day, the scale went down for the first time in 2 months! That night, we went out to eat and I chose what I thought was a healthy choice...a salad. I just about fell over when I came home and looked it up and discovered my salad was 1300 calories!!! ACK! I had again went over my 1200 calorie/day goal in just one meal! The next morning, the scale went down again! That's when I realized my body was telling me to feed it more because it could handle it! LOL!

I know a lot of people will cut things like flour, sugar, carbs, etc. when they are trying to lose weight. I knew that if I told myself I couldn't have any chocolate, I would not want to stick to the program. I also saw a problem with cutting things out of my diet other than running the risk of overindulging if you do allow yourself to eat it once. If my body wasn't use to eating something for months, it might not be able to digest it properly once I add it back in and I could gain weight quickly. I decided what was most important for me to learn was portion control. I didn't cut out anything from my diet. I cut back on sodas and the amount of chocolate and other sweets I was eating, but I still allowed myself to have correct portions! "Everything in moderation" was a motto I tried to follow. When people ask what I am doing to lose weight, they are shocked when I tell them "walking, and eating proper portions". I love when someone says "You lost weight walking??! I can do that!" Yes! You can!! If I can do it, then anyone can do it!

There's no magic pill to lose weight. Dedication and hard work is what it takes! Yes, exercise can be hard work, but you can also make it fun! I love trying to beat my time each time I go out for a walk. Back in June, I decided to see if I could jog one block. I was THRILLED when I reached the end of that block! I started jogging one block every mile. Later, I increased it to jogging every other block. Finally, I started jogging as much as I could before walking and I try to only walk a block at the most before jogging more. I have been able to jog over a mile straight before walking, and it feels AWESOME to know I am probably more fit now at 44 than I have ever been. I say that because even though I weigh more than I did many years ago, I am exercising 6 days a week most of the time and that is something I have never done!

So, you may be wondering how I have done with my goals and how much I have lost so far. I now exercise at least an hour a day. My kids didn't walk with me during the summer, so I had to cut back to walking 3 miles when they started to walk with me again in September. I tried to get them to jog every so often, but they can't keep up with me when I jog. They have a hard time keeping up with me when I am walking! I easily have left them in the dust when I went full out, but I decided it was more important to instill in them the importance of daily exercise than wearing them out trying to force them to go faster than they were ready for. I slowly increased the distance they were walking to 4 miles. Eventually I hope they will be willing to do 5 miles. I usually walk 5 miles a day, but about 2 weeks ago I decided to see if I could do 10 miles. It took me 2 hours 9 min., but I finished 10 miles of jogging and walking! AMAZING!! I increased my daily water intake to 1/2 of my body weight. The amount I have to drink each day has decreased as the weight came off, but I almost always have all my water finished by the end of the day. Yes, there are still times I don't get it all in, but I do my best to make sure I am drinking even when I don't feel thirsty. As of this morning, I am 160 lbs. That means I have lost a total of 80 lbs (71 of which have been lost since Jan. 1, 2013). I am 20 lbs away from my initial long term goal of losing 100 lbs! I will NOT give up until I reach this goal! I have since decided that I will probably try to lose an additional 10 - 20 lbs. I would love to be able to reach 120 lbs and be able to say I am officially half the person I use to be. Here are some pictures to show you my progress: The first is from Sept. 2012, when I was at my heaviest. I am on the left and my cousin is on the right. The next two pictures are of me on Jan. 1, 2013, the first official day of my lifestyle transformation. The last two pictures were taken last month on October 20, 2013.

I haven't had any surgery. I haven't taken any pills. In June, I was taken off all my blood pressure medication that I was on for 2 years because I no longer have high blood pressure. My ankles use to swell every day, but I don't deal with that at all anymore. The changes you see are from me walking (and now jogging) every day and eating proper portion sizes. When I was writing down my goals back on Jan. 1, I also said that if I could inspire just ONE person, this would all be worth it. God has blessed me ABUNDANTLY because I can not count the number of people who have said to me "You are an inspiration!" or "You've inspired me!" Since it is now November and the weather has gotten colder, I have again begun doing the Walk Away the Pounds workouts by Leslie Sansone. I put on a 5 mile workout and do the whole thing, but my kids stop after mile 4. You can find these workouts at Wal-Mart as well as on youtube. I find it easiest to workout first thing in the morning. I get up, put on my workout clothes, do my workout, then take my shower and get ready for the day. If you are tired of being overweight and want to make a lifestyle change, write down your goals. Be determined that NOTHING will stop you from doing this! You can do this! Never give up! Keep pressing on! You may have a bad day here and there, but don't let it stop you! Every day is a new day, a new beginning, and a fresh start. Don't think about yesterday. Focus on today. The change in the way you look and feel is worth it! If I can do this, anyone can do this!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Balaam and His Donkey

In Numbers 22, we read about Balaam. Moabite princes came to him with a message from Balak, the king of Moab. He wanted Balaam to put a curse on a group of people that came from out of Egypt. Balaam asked God what he should do, and God told him not to go with the messengers and not to put a curse on the people because they were blessed. Balaam told the princes "Go back to you own country, for the Lord has refused to let me go with you." (verse 13). Balak didn't take no for an answer. He sent more princes to Balaam. This time the message from Balak included these words: "I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say." (verse 17). Balaam's response to the princes in verse 18 sounded commendable. Balaam said "Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my God." He then told the princes to stay the night so that he could find out what else the Lord would tell him. That night, God told Balaam to go with them, but only do what He tells him.

The next morning, Balaam left to go with the princes, and God was very angry when he went. Why was God angry with Balaam? God had told Balaam to go, and now He was angry with him? It doesn't make sense, does it? Yes, it does. Balaam had been told once that he was not to go and put a curse on these people because they were blessed. When more money and prestige was offered to him the second time, Balaam got greedy. He decided to ask God again what he should do because he was hoping God had changed His mind. God knew what was in Balaam's heart: greed. That is what made Him angry! When God gives you an answer, don't keep asking the same question trying to see if He'll change His mind. Do what God tells you to do the first time.

The angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose Balaam. Balaam could not see him, but his donkey could! When Balaam's donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn, he turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back onto the road. Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with walls on both sides. Balaam's donkey again saw the angel and pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam's foot against it. Again, Balaam beat his donkey. Finally, the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn. When Balaam's donkey saw the angel, she laid down. Balaam was angry and beat her with his staff. Why was Balaam so angry with his donkey? She was hindering his progress! He was blinded by his greed and wanted to get where he was going as soon as possible. He couldn't see what was blocking his way and he didn't realize he would have died if his donkey had kept going. All he cared about was his donkey wasn't doing what he wanted her to do. Are we ever so blinded by what we want that we don't see that there are warning signs letting us know we are headed down a wrong road? Make sure your eyes are always focused on following God so that you can see where you are going and what is ahead.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Stop Being Idle

Paul had some strong words in 2 Thessalonians 3 about idleness. In verse 6, he told people to stay away from every brother who is idle. In verse 10, he reminded them of his rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." In verse 11, he urged those who were idle to settle down and earn the bread they eat. In verse 14, Paul said "If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed." To those who were not idle, Paul told them to "never tire of doing what is right" (verse 13).

I wonder what Paul would think of all the people in America who have chosen to live off the system. There are many people who are on Welfare and do nothing to try to get a job. They continue to have kids in order to get more money. I know there are people who deserve to be on Welfare or need the assistance they get from WIC. I'm not talking about people who work but don't bring home enough money so they seek some assistance in buying food their family needs. I'm not slamming people who are on Welfare because they lost their job and need help until they can find another one, or those who have some sort of medical condition that prevents them from working. I'm talking about the ones who are perfectly capable of working, but choose to not work because they are lazy and know the government will give them money to live off of. There are many people who work hard and yet are struggling to make ends meet, but they can't get assistance because they have a job and "earn too much". People need to take responsibility and get a job! I'm aware that jobs are scarce, but there are jobs out there. If you don't have a job, you shouldn't be concerned about earning minimum wage. It's still a job and money coming in to help pay the bills! If someone has a minimum wage job and still needs to be on Welfare, I don't have a problem with that. I think most people wouldn't look down on anyone who needs the extra help. I don't want to be judging all those who are on Welfare because I don't know everyone's story. It's hard though when you do know the story and can see that people are milking the system to not feel like something needs to be said and done to revamp the system. We need to stop helping those who are just being idle. We need to get them off the free ride they've been on for so long and make them get out there and earn the bread they eat. If you are one of the millions of hardworking people in our world, good for you! Never tire of doing good! You will be rewarded one day for all your work, and it will be well worth it!