Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mangia! Death by Pasta

I'm Italian. I'm 100% Italian. I'm second generation American. So, between the title of this article and the fact that I am Italian should clue you in on the fact that I will be sharing about the one thing all Italians LOVE and that is food.

Growing up hearing my grandmother say, "Mangia, MANGIA!!," (That's Italian for, "Eat, EAT!!"), my mother saying, "Let me put up the espresso and get out the pastries," and my father saying, "There's only a little bit left- don't make me throw it away." I've learned a thing or two about what food means to Italians. Bottom line: food is their way of blessing those around them. Italians are a very hospitable people. They love opening their homes to friends and family and serving food-and they do it well. Getting together and food are synonymous. If an Italian asks you over, be assured that there will be food served. You'll come for lunch, dessert or dinner or of course a cuppa cawffee. They will think about what you'd love to eat, from an Italian cuisine of course, prepare the food list, purchase it all, and love cooking and serving you. When Italians serve food it is a way to honor you and bless you and there is more than plenty-no one goes hungry-believe me.

Okay, my title, Death by Pasta. You ask, "If they're serving out of love, to bless and honor you, why is the title Death by Pasta?" Well, food can become an idol for many us. You see food represents a time to celebrate. A time to gather together. A time to reward ourselves. It is also there to lift you up and make you  feel better when you're down. In other words, food becomes the answer to everything, good or bad.

I remember once there was an argument in the house that lasted all day. It took until 11 pm for the parties involved to finally make up. At 11 pm my father went out to get fresh, hot bagels and whipped cream cheese to celebrate the reconciliation. Did you hear that? Eleven o'clock at night they broke bread!

This lifestyle was a hard one to fight, but I did for most of my life, until about five years ago when a dear friend wounded me to the heart. I crumbled and found comfort in food. I remember one day I felt like I heard the still, small voice of the Lord gently say, "Stop." But to Him I replied, "I'm sorry Lord, I just can't." That day, I gave up on God in this area of my life. I chose food over God to comfort me. Since that time every time I have been deeply hurt I have found myself running to food. It really doesn't matter what it is, I just eat and eat hoping that it'll make me happy, but of course it doesn't. With every pound I have gained I actually have become more sad and in response to that I eat more. It has become a viscous cycle.

I have recently begun working out and eating right, (I wrote an article about it: "Fit by Forty-___!) Along with working out I have also added an element of repentance. With every step I take or jog I run I pray for the Lord to forgive me and release me from this grip with food. I pray while I am perspiring. As my pores are opening and releasing the sweat, I pray that in the same way my heart will release hurt, pain and shame right out of my body. I pray to be free from this bondage and I know that only through Jesus will I be healed.  I need God to set me free from all the lies of how food can satisfy or heal my sad heart or how food can make a celebration even better.

It is hard for me to believe that I have spent the last five years over-eating whenever I have been sad. I now have so much regret. I think, "Why didn't I run to God more?" "Why didn't I heed the Lord's voice?" It is so hard looking at the rebellious decision I made in over-eating and it's consequences. In my regret I also wish I had gotten counsel for a few of the harder times I went through. I tell you, the last two years have felt like I was in the boxing ring with Life. In short, I was being pummelled by Life. Life was so hard and it knocked me off my feet that, well, I gave up again on caring about me.

So, as I walk or run each day I pray for a new beginning. I pray for God to teach me to run to Him. I pray for Him to heal my brokenness (because food never did do the trick).  Every day when I shower I pray for a cleansing not only of my body, but of my heart, and mind. I pray that He will pour over me a gladness and renew my life with joy. I pray not only for a new body, but a new heart. I pray that my weight loss will be testimony to the Lord's goodness to me. A testimony of a healed heart. For me the weight loss will be a sign of His forgiveness. A sign of the covenant I make to the Lord to never allow food to take the place of Him again. This weight loss is all for the glory of my King who never left me, even when I shut Him out of an area of my life. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Fit by Forty-_____!

 I'm at that place in my life again where weight-loss is very much needed, but instead of setting some unrealistic goal like, 'fit in four weeks" for some big event, I've decided to put not the least bit of pressure on myself and just loose the weight by learning how to live right. This diet is for the long-term-a new life style for me.

Most people say, "Fit by Forty," but I'm past forty and so I have set a different goal: fit by forty-___ blank.  Forty-what? I'm not sure. It doesn't matter so much to me as to the when, as it does the fact that I need to just get started.

It all started back in January when I noticed my neighbor out walking one morning. Then I saw her walking the next day and the next and the next. It didn't seem to matter to her if it was a terribly cold day or even rainy. She was out walking. Then a few weeks ago she announced on Facebook that she had lost twenty pounds! I was so proud of her. She did it and she did it through walking. I had always thought that you might start out walking for exercise, but eventually you would get into jogging or running. I'm not a runner and never have been so the thought of jogging for weight loss has always been very intimidating.

Well, I invited her over last week to ask her how she did it. How did you change your life style? How do you stay committed to being healthy? How do you stay committed to exercising every day? She answered all my questions and I learned a lot.

1- First thing she told me was that she bought a fit bit -a pedometer. She clips it on in the morning and she doesn't have to think about it the rest of the day. Her daily goal is to walk 10 miles a day! And she does it! So, I went out to Wal-Mart and got myself not a fit-bit, but a pedometer just the same. I've clipped it on and  I am walking! I have made my goal at walking 5 miles a day. I walk 2 in the morning, 2 in the evening and with all the walking I do with six kids it's easy to get in the last mile!

2- I asked her 'Where do you walk?" Being a New Yorker I am nervous about walking alone around the block at any time of day. She told me that she is nervous about it too, but she sticks to the major roads. I was encouraged. I now know where to walk. For whatever reason I thought I had to walk around the block. I am so glad that I made myself vulnerable, asked stupid questions and got some really solid advice.

3-I asked her, "Doesn't it get boring?" She said no because she walks when her favorite radio shows are on. She walks in the morning and catches the news and feels set for the day. Call me crazy, but I hadn't ever thought of listening to the radio. I keep adding songs to my playlist, but in a few days am bored with them and then bored with my workout.

4- I asked her, "How do you stay with walking when let's say you get down?" I find for myself whenever I get bad news, I get disappointed with myself, I'm missing my best friend, or simply someone hurts my feelings, I actually feel physically weak. I'll tell myself, "You're feeling down- give yourself grace and take the day off from working out." Well, with that comes all the emotionally eating! I'll binge for the day, get more down and disappointed in myself and before I know it I've not worked out for not just one day, but for the week! Well, she said, "My fit-bit keeps me going. I don't want to let it down." WOW! I totally got what she was saying. The pedometer has become like a coach egging her to work out and keep going! That helped me a lot. She also said that she has now been in this routine lifestyle for 5 months and it really has become part of her life. Working out seven days a week is not a struggle. (I can't wait until I can say that!!!)

5- The next thing she told me was that she wrote everything down. Every day she weighs herself, keeps count of her calories and her mileage and writes it down. She not only has a record of success, but she said that in writing down all she ate, when she would want some junk food she found herself not wanting to write that on her chart. Keeping the record of all she walked and ate helped keep her to be accountable to the weight loss goal she had created. I was very encouraged. Okay, so for me I find I don't have the time to do all the calorie counting and typing into my computer all that info, but I did create a calendar center where I can write my daily weight and miles walked. As far as calorie counting I have decided to drink an Atkins drink for breakfast, a huge green salad for lunch, a 90 calorie snack and then a portion sized dinner. That's the best  I can do right now and I'm good with that. To be totally honest with you, I am not a detailed oriented person. I get frustrated with trying to find the calories of each little thing I eat, adding it up and all of that. I've tried it, got so frustrated that I stopped dieting! For me, I just need to be conscious of what I eat - no more bingeing! (I am working on an article about my emotional eating. I hope to have that out soon!)

So, the next day I got on my walking/exercise clothes, tied my laces and set out...with my son. I had not expected a partner. Running/walking on the treadmill all these years I've been alone, but now with the open outdoors my son asked if he could come with me. I was honestly a little resistant at first. I wanted to walk out the door, independent, radio in hand, ready to smack my fears down alone, but what could I say? Well, I said, "sure," and boy did he talk a stream. We sped walked for 2 miles, (in a little less than a half-hour), he never was at a loss for words. It was wonderful! I never get a full thirty minutes uninterrupted with my child ever! I got to ask him questions and my son and I just talked. It was amazing. He walked with me for two days. When my next oldest child saw that my son stopped walking with me, she decided she wanted to walk with me. I must have smiled the entire time. She talked faster than my son and she certainly got in a lot more in than he did! She and I talked about so many things it was truly wonderful.

Yes, there have been days I have walked alone and they have been special too. I am determined to walk alone or with a child of mine. Through this new adventure of walking and loosing weight I can also use the time as a little date time with my children. God is blessing this and I am very grateful for this new season in my life. I hope someone out there learned something or is encouraged to get started.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"If She Never Changes..."

If she never changes...kept repeating over and over, again and again in my mind. What if my mother never changes?

It was 1991. I was on the phone with a dear, girl friend when my mother came into the room screaming and lunged for the phone. She grabbed it from my hand and slammed it down on the receiver. In shock I stared at her and thought, "What if she never changes?"

She didn't like it when I would talk with anyone except her. She felt threatened by anyone I was close to. She wanted me all to herself. She had recently lost three daughters to a cult and was now living in complete fear of loosing me. I wanted to shake her. I wanted to tell her how crazy she was being. I wanted her to snap out of it. All I could do was try and reason with her, but it didn't work.

I called my church in desperation and asked if I could speak to a counselor. They scheduled me to see a trained, Christian psychologist and I met with her once a week for months. I shared my woes about my mother. I went on and on with one story after another of how living in my parents home was unlivable. How my mother couldn't be reasoned with and how she continued to do things that invaded my privacy.

She looked at me and said, "Ellen, if your mother never changes are YOU going to keep living like this? Are you going to keep talking about it and thinking about it every day? Are you going to try to keep fixing her? Or are you going to realize, "She's not your responsibility and move on with your life?"

Wow. I had never expected to hear those words. I thought she'd feel sorry for me and give me advice on how to fix my mother. Nope. I didn't get any sympathy. She told me that I was to live my life and place boundaries for my mother. To be strong and consistent in my approach towards her, and not to worry about meeting her needs, being there for her, or settling her fears. She said, "The truth is...she just may never change." I had never ever thought that, that was a possibility. I thought if you were there for someone, talked with them, gave them advice and in my mother's situation eased her fears she would change. So, as  hard as that was for me to believe, I knew she was right. I had to stop looking at my mother's life and feeling sorry for her and start focusing on my life and the responsibilities God had for me. I had to let my mother and her issues go.

My counselor helped me create a game plan. Changes needed to be made. The first thing I did was go out and buy a cordless phone. That way, when I needed to make a call I could go into my room, shut and lock the door and make a phone call in privacy. I also made plans, but didn't allow her to know the details of them. She no longer knew if I was going shopping or meeting a friend or studying at the library. I gave her my work days, but not my work hours. I had been saving my money and bought myself a used car so I could go and come as I pleased without having to ask for the keys and give a full report of where I was going and when I was going to be home. I worked very hard at getting a good enough job so I could pay the rent for an apartment. (Oye-oi-oye! When I told her that I found an apartment and was moving out at the end of that month-let me just say-I saw fireworks!). Bottom line I was taught how to set boundaries and how to be consistent with them. I wouldn't allow her to be co-dependent anymore. I realized that I could either sit around and stew over my hurts and demand change, demand an apology or get up and get going with my life. It all came down to choices. I loved her, prayed for her lots, but released her to God. He could handle her much better than I could.

I will be honest with you, life didn't really get any easier. It was a rough road. She didn't take kindly to my distancing her. She nearly cut me out of her life completely. Eventually, when my sisters came out of the cult, and saw the boundaries between my mother and myself and of course when my mother told them the the stories of my "hard-heart" I was ridiculed and rejected by them. Funny, I never thought I was better than my mother, never held a superior attitude, but that is what I was labeled. "Oh, she thinks shes better than us. She thinks she can forgive without an apology, but she's deluding herself into more bitterness."  I was labeled self-righteous.

Life may not have gotten any easier, but I had a direction and a purpose. I had new goals and my mind was free from worrying about her. I never got an apology for all the years she hurt me and said hurtful words, but releasing her gave me the distance I needed to see how very lost or broken she was. I was able to forgive her. She never did change much and I  never got an apology.

I have no regrets. I believe my counselor gave me the best advice and I believe too in many ways she saved my life. I went on and got my Master's Degree in Education, joined Campus Crusade for Christ, met my husband, and have grown deeper, and deeper in my love for the Lord Jesus Christ. I stayed the course God had/has for me, not the one my family wanted for me. It has been difficult, but I am free from unforgiveness. I am free from an unhealthy co-dependent relationship, I am free from lies.

 Forgiving someone without an apology is possible, hard work yes, but possible and I will say too, that it is only possible with the Lord Jesus Christ. Knowing Him and the power of His forgiveness towards me empowers me to do the same for others.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Godly Girls Summer Camp 2013!

Godly Girls Summer Camp 2013!!!!
Meeting God at the Beach

It has been my desire to speak into our girls’ lives about the love of Jesus, to show them that Jesus has a plan for their lives as young ladies and how God also has a plan for them as future women, wives and mothers. This is my fifth year of Godly Girls where I have been given the opportunity to do what God has called me to do!

Each day is broken down into five different parts: a spiritual time, 'high tea,' craft, lunch, journal and a time to reflect. Our opening and closing time together is a spiritual one. We will spend time reading specific scriptures that go along with our theme, allow for discussion, and learn how to journal and to pray. This summer we will spend time each day focusing on stories where Jesus is near 'water' or sand: I’m calling it, "Meeting Jesus at the Beach." I am passionate about teaching the children the Word of God and talking to them about the different parables Jesus shared or stories of Jesus touching lives. 

For instance: Day three is entitled, "Jesus plays with the sand too!"  I'll be sharing from the book of John chapter 8. In this chapter we find a woman who has sinned and ready to be stoned. Jesus is fingering the sand. He tells her,“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” I will share with the girls that no matter what we have done, once we have confessed our sins to the Lord, we are forgiven and He does not condemn us. The craft for the day will include a chance for the girls to play with sand too! We will be making sand art! 

Our craft time will take in the practical side of who we are as ladies. Each craft is to help prepare them for the future role God has for them one day. I’ll be teaching them how decorate a wooden picture frame with shells, how to make 'balloon" flip flops, sand art, jewelry making and baking! Each year I spend the last day speaking to them about outreach or ministry to the lost and teaching them to make a craft to give away.

And finally, our tea time and lunch time will be a time of learning how to sit, eat and talk like ladies at the table.

Date: July 8 – 12th                               Time: 
Attire: a dress/comfortable clothing      Please pack a lunch
Fee: $50/week + registration                 Please bring a Bible & journal

I do hope you are able to take part in this very special and fun week. If you are interested, please copy the registration form, fill it out and send it to me along with the registration check of $15.00. (The registration fee is so I can hold your spot and begin buying craft items).

Joy in Jesus,                                       
Ellen Gill ~

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Godly Girls Registration

Child’s Name:_________________________________________________
Child’s age:___________________________________________________
Parents name:_________________________________________________
Phone number:________________ cell phone:_______________________

Does your child know how to bake? Own an apron?

Anything you feel I need or should know about your child?

***Registration fee: $15.00  
(Two or more daughters in the class registration is $10/child)
***Please respond no later than Friday, June 14, 2013.

Feel free to contact me:

So looking forward to spending time with all the girls.
 God is sooooo good and I can’t wait to share His love
with each one of them!!!
Blessings, and Joy,
Ellen Gill