Sunday, July 21, 2019

How to find friends when you have no family in town

moving to a new town moving boxes

When I moved to the U.S., I came by myself. Some of my family joined me as we attended the same college. When those years were over, we all spread out. Some moved back home, some stayed. When Zeke and I got married, we lived in N.C. Now we’re in Texas. Both times, we were the first ones from our families to move to those places. 

We learned the value of making and maintaining friends since we were newly weds. Here are a few ways we learned how to find friends when you have no family in town 

Be intentional about finding friends. Rejection is part of the process. Persist anyway and be intentional in finding friends. 

Be friendly. This sounds obvious but I have met a lot of cranky people who are looking for friends. Being friendly will increase your possibility to find friends. 

Find a common bond. We found some of our friends at church because our faith binds us together. I found my first Texas friend in the public library. We both had preschoolers. I have found friends at running group. Running was our common bond. Discover what it is that you do and you will likely find friends in the process. 

Pray about it. God wants to be involved in every area of our lives. Remember that if you pray, He hears and answers. I know for a fact God has sent me great friends after I prayed about it. 

Sign up for a group. I met some good friends through groups. Some examples are leadership group, mommy group and running group. I have heard of groups that get together to make freezer meals for a month. Whatever you are interested in, find a group. You will likely find friends there. 

I have to tell you that sometimes, bad people want to be your friend. Run away from bad influences and stay away from bad influences. If those friends are leading to develop bad habits, get away from them. If they are toxic, run away as fast as you can. If they want to take advantage of you, block them from your phone and stay away. Although every person we need require a little help and encouragement, there are those who are looking for a victim. Don’t be a victim of those who are trying to take advantage of you. 

If you can’t easily tell the difference or if you always attract the wrong kind of friends, you may benefit from counseling. I believe that counseling can help us get and stay healthy. Counseling can also get us back on track if we acquired some friendship hurt along the way. 

Last but not least, if like me, you are a minister’s wife, please don’t use that as an excuse not to make friends. I’ve heard people say that you can’t really have friends because you don’t want church members to know “everything.” 
Here’s my take. While you shouldn’t volunteer people’s private information to others (that’s called ethics), that’s not the goal of friendships. If all you want is someone to hear about your church issues, you don’t need a friend. Friends love at all times. Friends love all of you, not just the “minister’s wife” you. There are more aspects of your life outside of ministry. Don’t limit who you are as a person because of an unpaid position. Minister’s wives can pray to God for guidance and they can make friends inside and outside of the church. Don’t believe the lie that you’re not supposed to have any friends. You can and should have friends. Abundance of life and joy are part of God’s gift for us as we serve Him in ministry. 

I want to encourage you to put yourself out there and make friends. You are friendly. You are also a good friend. It is just a matter of time before your life is filled with good people. Don’t give up. 

How to find time to train for a marathon

houston marathon training how to find time

I am training for my 6th marathon. I am also coaching a great group of runners who are part of USA Fit’s Fort Bend Fit. I find that while running can be challenging, finding time to train for a marathon can be even more challenging. Here is what worked for me.

 Plug your training schedule in your calendar. Introduce your marathon training schedule to your personal calendar. Whether digital or paper, add all your weekday and weekend training runs there. Once you have all your appointments, it will be easier to set boundaries when it comes to other appointments. For example, if you know you have to wake up at 4 a.m. to cover a long run, you will most likely skip that late night hangout the night before. 

• Plan your week before it happens. Look at your calendar and make a firm decision on when your runs will happen. Will you run in the morning, at lunch time or after work? Plan and make a firm commitment with yourself. If you want to do even better, find accountability. 

• Find a real person. The Internet is the worst type of accountability. Don’t even think about posting about your training so the World Wide Web can ‘help’ you. Find a real person who will get dressed and meet you somewhere to complete the training. Some people are really good a self-regulating. They will complete the week day training with no problem. Others do better when there’s a real person waiting for them. I find that having a real person as accountability also makes those training sessions way more fun. 

• Remind yourself of your deadline. Some people dread all the appointments you are with yourself to trading for a marathon. You have to remember that you are not a professional athlete and that you have a goal race in mind. Once that race is over, you can go back to sleeping in on weekends. You pay the price for a little while and then you go back to your normal. 

• Change your perspective. When training for a marathon, you need to have the right perspective. Training for a marathon will improve the quality of your life. While it is understandable that you may not have time to train, people who are busier than you train for a marathon and successfully complete it. People who have more kids than you, younger kids than yours do it. Cancer survivors do it. I know people who are going through cancer treatment (and who have consulted their doctors by the way) who do it. Whatever excuse you can come up with, there is someone who has beat it. 

I have to remind you that before starting marathon training, you need to consult your doctor. If you are injured or sick, talk to your doctor about it. The information I give is for inspiration and entertainment only. I do hope that if you are on the fence about training that you will consider this life enhancing process. 

How to find and maintain an organization system for your home

I've been researching organization methods for the past 6 years or so. Here are three ways to find and maintain an organization system for your home.

Define what organization means to you. The author or expert does not live at your house but you do. You need to start the process deciding what organization means to you. You can answer the question: what do I want to accomplish? It might be stepping in the floor in your closet instead of laundry. Your accomplishment might be opening your home for guests. Be specific.

Find a system that works for you. There are many systems out there. There is only one that works for you. Think about your currently life as you choose that system. If you can’t pause everything in your schedule to empty your entire home of your belongings, that system might not work for you. You might have to try several approaches before you find something that works. Remember, the system needs to work for your not the other day around. 

Work the system. Once I found a system that worked for me, I decided to follow the system. Whether I only had 45 minutes or 3 hours, I used the system consistently and I got good results. When everything is out of whack, I follow the system from beginning to end and things get in order.

In my opinion, the goal of organization is for sanity, not for vanity. Sanity because you need to find your things quickly. You also need to be in a home you enjoy. I find it easier to enjoy an organized home, free of necessary clutter. I also understand that things get messy on a regular basis. We live here after all. The goal of the system is to get things in order so that living is pleasant.  

Friday, July 19, 2019

Marathon Training: Weeks 1-3

Marathon season is upon us! After a 2-year sabbatical, I am back training for a marathon. This will my 6th marathon. My goal is to get as close to my PR as possible (5:14), injury-free.

I've been preparing myself for 2 years. I cut down the mileage and I got leaner. My goal is run efficiently and smarter than before.

Another new thing is that I am one of the head coaches for our local running group. I also lead a week day run group. I really enjoy coaching because I get to see people reach their goals and improve the quality of their lives.

This is Week 3 of training. Our plan calls for a good 29-30 weeks of training. We start with 2 miles and we will complete 26.2 miles come marathon day.

I am challenging myself, my assistant coaches and our runners not to be the same runner from last year. If we want different results, our approach to training needs to be different.

The key is to "Commit to the Plan." What plan? The training plan. The plan is the map that will guide us to our desired location: the finish line of the Chevron Houston Marathon. When we commit to the plan, we put it the training necessary. When we commit to the plan, we make sure that our schedules reflect the lifestyle of a marathon runner.

We train in the Houston, Texas area and it is super hot and humid. I am drinking plenty water as well as electrolytes in order to have what it takes to complete our training runs.

I hope you can join me in this journey! Instead of blogging weekly as I've done in the past, I'll blog every 3 to 4 weeks. I also hope to include some helpful tips on marathon training. 

8 years of Houston: Lessons Learned

God blessed us by bringing us to Houston 8 years ago. Each year, I pause and reflect on the lessons learned. Each year, I realize how incredibly good God is to us. 

Tough seasons teach us resilience - I had difficult jobs in these past 8 years. I learned resilience. I learned not to allow those who want to harm me to have control over my life. I remember being in a difficult assignment. It was shortly after I found out it was going to be difficult. I decided to take care of my health, so I started losing weight. I decided to take care of my inner life. I chose a Bible verse to think about when the going got tough. God surprised me with an open door at the end of that season. I learned once again that I can be resilient if I know that God sees and He takes care of me. I also learned that if I don’t take care of my health, no one else will. 

Kids have the right perspective - Our kids hear stories about our family's walk with God and they have a different perspective than we do. They love, trust, laugh, play  and live for today with incredible hope for tomorrow. When we go through hard times, I watch our kids closely. A few years ago, they could care less that we were in transition. Other than not giving them details, because we don’t believe in encouraging them to be anxious, we did share that we were praying about our next assignment. Once they said “amen,” the joy and the games continued. I had a visual of what “life is a continual feast” looked life. The kids taught me that my attitude about my Heavenly Father needed to be the same. I trust Him and I want to trust Him as our children joyfully trust us. 

Something new - God opened incredible doors of opportunity these past years. Even our enemies were surprised. “They must really want you there,” they said. I honestly didn’t know what to say other than “God is sending me there.” I was told many years ago that God would do something new in my life. He would use me in an area that was completely new. Well, here I am. I learned to trust God’s ability to move and arrange things without me. He who sees the end from the beginning is the master connector. He brought us here and He decides how we can best serve Him. 

A different type of Preaching - I learned that as I close my Bible, I open up my life to others. I’m not sure if God will call me to work at a church. For years I thought I would end up at a church but now I am really happy working in academia. There is no Bible quoting outside of church and home. People are really looking for “results.” People outside of church study character and they know a phony when they see one. If you say Jesus is your Savior, they basically wait and see how you act daily. I learned that some of us, working in the secular world, can’t hide behind our Bibles. Our lives are wide open for others to see it. That’s actually good. I learned that God often uses people who rely on Him to be present in the absence of religious paraphernalia. What we really have is the life we choose to live. This type of lifestyle requires sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. It requires being open and honest with all people, no matter how they choose to live their lives. It requires good listening skills. It requires the assurance that God has an assignment for me in my workplace. Living and working in the secular world has taught me to take a deep breath and ask God, “what do you want me to express in this situation?” He might want to encourage the other person with hope. The fact is that some of us are called to serve in secular places like Daniel and Joseph once were. God needs His best people working excellently in the secular world. There’s no hiding behind our Bibles. There is quite a bit of walking out what we believe as we rely on God’s Spirit. 

Some Friendships are hard to keep - I wrote extensively about this the other day. I experienced waves of people in and out of my life. There are a lot of friends who are seasonal: when the small group (or church job) is over, we no longer see each other. There are friends who come to me out of convenience: once their life crisis is over, they go silent. I also understand that our family serves in a ministry where you are there for people in times of need. I remember grieving a few years ago with the loss of two major people in my life. Because we are in ministry, one of the sheep had priority. All the prayers and attention went to the sheep. Good thing God didn’t forget about me. A group of friends noticed me and did something so beautiful to celebrate the lives Heaven gained. I’m forever grateful. 

Invest in connections outside of church - I learned that the church can’t be my everything. I tried to find friends in church when we first moved to Texas but they were either busy or I wasn’t their kind of person (I didn’t have the same hobbies for example). I learned to reach outside of the church for connections. I think that was one of the best things I’ve done outside of caring for my family. When I reached outside of church for friendships and connections, I no longer had to depend on one group of people to be part of my social circle. I also had a wealth of groups and friends who truly enhanced my life. These friends don’t see me as the pastor’s wife. They have a different view of who I am which helps make our friendship easier. I say that because when people see you as a pastor’s wife only, their mind brings up good or bad stereotypes which they project on you. When people see you as a person who is friendly, they give you a chance to be yourself without all the baggage some titles naturally carry. Investing in connections outside of the church is an easy thing to do. You just have to persist until you find your people. 

More in this Series:
7 years of Houston: Discovery

• 6 years of Houston: adapting to a new community
• 5 years of Houston: stuff I can say

• Isolation

Mid-year Goal Check Up

We are 165 days away from the end of the year. I know. It can be either good or bad. It depends on your outlook. 

I am choosing to look at the possibilities ahead of me. A lot of those possibilities are cleverly hidden behind my goals for the year. 

I set two goals in each of the following categories: Faith, Family, Fitness, Business and Other.

My faith goals are going well but I need to be more intentional about spiritual discipline. 
My family goals allow me to spend more quality time with my family. So far, so good. I also like the fact that I don’t get to cross it off my list. My eagerness to give my family my best continues. 

I reached one of my fitness goals, the other one, I am on track to complete it. Every day, I remind myself of how everything I do can take me closer or further away from my goal. 

My business goals are pretty bold. I’m not sure I will reach them but I’m proud of the person who set them. 

I started the Other category when my goal didn’t fit the previous ones. One of them I already reached (stop orchestrating my birthday). The goal is to only use my time to advance my goals. I really needed to be reminded of that. 

I’m not sure if 2019 has been kind to you. Some seasons are tough. The reality is, you can start again. You can take the first step and you can continue to make progress towards your goals. You have what it takes.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Why is keeping friends so difficult?

Keeping friends seems difficult sometimes. 
Specially when you are doing all the work. 
You initiate all the communication.
You ask for a face-to-face - and you often get a “no” or “I’m busy.”
You start to wonder why. You quickly switch to past memories. 
Often “when” you get together happens at a convenient time for the other person. 
If the situation is inconvenient for them, keeping the friendship becomes difficult. 

Keeping friends is difficult when they are so wrapped up in themselves, they overlook your needs. 

Keeping friends is difficult in a ‘group of friends’ situation. 
Some individuals demand more attention than others. 
Others gravitate to those who are better, prettier, richer than you. 
Mob mentality often reigns and for the sake of peace, you go on. 

Keeping friends is difficult when the distance erases bonds that were near and dear. 
Not even technology can replicate the good times. 
As the years roll by, all you get is a social media like, if that. 

Lately, I decided that while keeping friends can be difficult, I’m a good friend. 

I also decided that while I believe the best, people make time for what’s most important to them. 
I believe that if you keep turning me down, you are sending me the message that I am not important. 
You are sending the message that I no longer have something you need so we are done. 
I’m okay with all of that. 
I’m also pleased with the fact that I am a good friend and I was built to be in honest relationships. 

It is true that I can’t change people. I can’t change difficult friendships. I can and I will be myself everywhere I go. 

If some friends leave, that’s okay, I will treasure those who choose to stay.

MWLISS: Is running ruining my weight loss?

What a silly thing to ask. If you are a runner, aren't you supposed to be thin?
I wish that was true for me. I lost weight after my youngest was born. I discovered marathon running shortly after I recovered from my c-section. I was in love and determined to remain in the sport. 

I had several seasons of stress. Slowly, the weight creeped up: 10, 20, 32 pounds extra. They affected my runs. I got slower and running was difficult. 

I decided to take control of my health. I took a few years and now I eliminated most of the weight I gained. I'm on my way to having a normal BMI and I'm so glad about it. 

The short answer to the original question is yes and no. A professional once told me that eating for weight loss and eating for long distance running are two different things. I agree. I also know that athletes everywhere try to get lean so they can race more efficiently. It can be done. 

The major way that running ruined my weight loss can be described in three words: sense of entitlement. I'd say things like: "I just ran 18 miles, I can eat whatever I want." 

I spoke to my doctor, who told me I was overestimating the extra amount of calories my body needs for the days I run. She told me exactly what to do. My goal is to follow her advice this running season. 

I also believed the popular saying "we run to eat." Yesterday, I realized that the best way is to live out the words "we eat to run." When I ran to eat, I incrementally gained 32 pounds. I am now eating to run and it is benefiting my health, my runs and my entire life.

When I eat to run, I eat real foods that are good for my body and my brain. When I eat to run, I make choices that will make my runs more effective. Sure I will allow myself to live in the real world. You better know there's a homemade chocolate cake with my name on it as an occasional treat. I believe in learning from my mistakes. I have learned that self-control and balance is what I want to practice.

I'm here to tell you that I won't let running ruin my weight loss. Running is a powerful tool to lead me to a healthier life. As I eat to run and I correctly fuel those runs, I will reach my goal.

WW start weight: 175 lbs
Current: 151 lbs
First Goal: 150 lbs
Second Goal: 146 lbs
Third Goal: 136 lbs

Previously in this Series:
• First week of WW
WW Speak
• Premeditated Portion Control 
• Weights and Measures
• Time
• Carbs & WW
• Proof of Weight Loss
• Why I started

Monday, July 15, 2019

Lessons at 39

No, it's not my birthday. I'm exactly thirty-nine and a half. I can look back and see how good God has been to me. In the past few years, I've learned some useful lessons I'd love to share.  

1 • Find Community - finding your people makes everything easier. Once you find them, cultivate those friendships. Your community shouldn't be all located in one place. Spread the love. You will be glad you did.

2 • Rest is Best - I wasn't a big fan of resting until I needed to. I'm sold on the idea and I carve daily time to make sure I rest. Rest makes me more productive. I am healthier when I rest. You can't put it on a pill, you just have to do it.

3 • Read for Pleasure - I have always enjoyed reading. I went through an intense time (college and grad school) when I learned to read in a different level. I now make time to read. I get creative and I cut down on the unnecessary so that reading can happen. Even if all I have is 15 minutes, the investment is great.

4 • Teach intentionally - I'm thinking about my childhood and I realized my parents and grandparents were very intentional about what they taught me. I am doing the same for my kids. It was as if they were training me to be the adult I now am, I just didn't know it. Character doesn't happen on a vacuum. It takes intentional teachers who model what they teach daily.

5 • Have a plan - Don't underestimate the power of a plan. Planning gives me direction and margin in life. I tried to be rigid about my planning, so the next tip needs to be used with this one.

6 • Be flexible - I didn't know what being flexible was until a few year ago. Family life has a way of drilling flexibility into your being. Plans don't often happen without the need of flexibility. Being flexible grows me as a mature woman of God.

7 • You come first - I can't give what I don't have. I have learned that I come first. It is not about being selfish. It is about being the best I can be so that I can do all the things God called me to do. When I come first, I pray, I rest, I exercise, I eat well, I care for myself. Everyone benefits from all of these things.

8 • Invest in marriage - The most important relationship I have requires great investment. I'm thankful my husband invests in me, in himself and in our marriage. We're both not afraid of asking for outside help when we need it.

9 • Manage stress - It is no worth living with the side effects of stress. Learning how to manage stress is one of the wisest things I do in life.

10 • Grow in your knowledge of God - I am persuaded that I need to grow in my knowledge of God. I don't know everything about Him. Everything new (and old) I learn leads me to realize that He is better than I expect it.

What are your life lessons thus far?

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Summer Reading Mistakes

I started the summer like most people: optimistic. It didn't help that I listened to different podcasts about readings. I always encourage my children to read. I'm a reader myself. I tell them that readers are leaders and leaders are readers.

Still, I wasn't crazy about the quality of the books they picked for themselves during the school year. I tried to introduce them to different types of literature, which was successful. My plan was to crack it up during the summer and make sure they only read classic works or things I judged to be "good for their brain."

Well, they were not crazy about my suggestions. I wasn't crazy about them either. It turns out, this foreign mother did not grow up reading the American (or the Brazilian) classics. I turned out alright tough. I found some suggestions and I put them on hold. When the books arrived, the kids and I were surprised that they were 400 pages long.

To make matters worse, I wasn't sure if I wanted to make sure they read those classic pieces of literature.

Thankfully, I heard a podcaster suggest that I let my children pick and I let them read in their level or on a level bellow. It's no fun to have to read with a dictionary all the time. After my "wow" moment, I apologized to the kids. I told them about what I learned. I told them that I still wanted them to read one instead of 10 books that I chose (I know, I'm intense) and we will celebrate their reading of that book with a hamburger date for the boys to discuss the book and a tea party for the girls.

Another mistake I made, I committed twice. The first time happened when I tried to read a book that I wanted to read but I couldn't. I'd try for a week or two and then return it. Once I got the audio version, it was easier to listen. I got a book for the kids I really want them to read. It is not happening. I discovered there is an audio version. We are going to get that and enjoy it in the evenings this summer.

I'm glad I made those mistakes because I wouldn't learn the difference otherwise. My mistakes caused me to analyze why I want my children to read. They also made me think about asking the kids why do they think reading is important. Their answers also gave me a good insight into their thoughts on reading. It also opened up conversations about what reading can do.

One thing is for sure: reading is just not a habit that is going to fall out of heaven. I must be intentional about guiding my children in this wonderful journey.

I am grateful that Bible reading is something we all enjoy. We included a few Bible books in our summer reading challenge. It is good for the soul, now and for eternity.