Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 1 comments


I'm feeling pressured to lose weight.  

Not by the media and all their airbrushed models, nor by the "you can't be too thin (or too rich)" mentality of the society we live in. Not even because the time for making resolutions is upon us. No, the pressure is coming from my jeans.  You see, part of the perfect storm of health issues I dealt with last year was a medication that not only left me feeling exhausted but also left me with an extra 10 pounds.  Ten pounds that my slacks cannot hold. 

Ugh!

Now that I'm finally off that medication, I'm hoping to shed those pounds. I first want to clarify that my opinions are about me and not in any way based on anyone else. I had someone say to me, "If you think you need to lose weight, I wonder what you think about me?" Honestly, I'm not looking at anyone else or making any kind of judgments. I just want to be healthy, stop being uncomfortable and fit back into my pants. Evidently I want accountability too, because here I am sharing this with all of you.

I've actually been half-heartedly been trying to lose this weight since October. I say "half-heartedly" because I thought I'd try some of those easy, sounds too good to be true weight loss products.  Turns out, they are too good to be true because nothing has made a difference.

Until now.  I've discovered a very helpful (and FREE!) tool and wanted to share it with any of you who might be in the same boat. It's an app called My Fitness Pal. You can put it on your phone, tablet, or computer, so if you're reading this, you can use it.  Now I'm not big into technology, mainly because of the time and effort it takes to learn how to use it, but this app was pretty easy to figure out. Since nothing else was working as far as weight-loss was concerned, I decided it was time I started tracking what I was eating and thought this would be easier than the pencil and paper I was planning on using.  

I was so right!

I began by entering in my basic information: height, current weight, goal weight, etc. and it calculated a daily calorie goal for me.  If I don't exceed the recommended amount, I should lose a pound a week. And the first week, I did! - then I found it again over Christmas :( Still, I'm encouraged because this is the first movement in the right direction that my scale has made.

It really is like writing a list of what I eat, only easier.  It has a huge database of foods (even from restaurants), so all I have to do is type something in or scan the bar code and the nutritional information will come up. It remembers previous meals, so with just a click I can enter a food I've had before. For home-cooked meals, which is primarily what we eat, I can enter (and store) all the ingredients for a recipe and it figures out the nutritional information for me.

Photo courtesy of Google
This is how I learned that the homemade granola I'd been eating has been my undoing.  As far as calories go, I may as well have been eating macaroni and cheese!

If you're looking for an accountability partner, this app also allows you to link to friends to share your progress. 

If you're looking to lose weight, I hope you'll find this tool as helpful as I have.


Lisa

I've been known to link up with: Living Proverbs 31, Soli Deo GloriaInspire Me MondayTitus 2sdaysTell Me a StoryTeach Me TuesdaysCourtship Connection, Into the BeautifulGod Bumps & God IncidencesWord-Filled WednesdayWinsome WednesdaySimply Helping Him, Weekend Whatever, Spiritual Sundays, True Vine Challenge, Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, The Beauty in His Grip, Playdates With God, Inspire, Thrive at Home, Knick of Time, Hope in Every Season, Funky Junk Interiors, Frugal Friday, Inspire Me Please, Feathered Nest Friday, What Have You Redone, Home Sweet HomeThrifty Things Friday, DIY Sunday Showcase , Think Pink Sundays
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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 2 comments

For as long as I can remember, my home has always had a tree in the house at Christmas. I can even pinpoint the exact time when my family of origin made the transition from a real tree to an artificial one.  I was in the fifth grade (why I know that, I have no idea) and I remember a lot of falling down on the tree's part and a lot of swearing on my Dad's part. Next thing I knew, the Meijer ad was consulted, Dad picked out the nicest looking artificial tree in the flyer and sent the rest of us off to get it.  

Of course, when you know exactly what you want you can't find it, so my Mom consulted a young man working in the seasonal department who helped locate said tree.  The sale price must not have been marked on the box (this before computers and scanners - I'm dating myself, I know) because the young man escorted us to the check-out and informed the cashier of the discounted price.

To which the cashier replied, "Why? Who is she - your mother?"

To which my mother replied, (I'm sure not in the store but on the way home) "I don't look old enough to be that boy's mother!" Which I understand much better now that I'm "mature."

Ah, Christmas memories.




Have you ever wondered where our Christmas traditions came from?  How did we come to bring trees - real or artificial - into our homes in the first place? 

I knew that Christmas trees were pagan in origin, and it appears this tradition traces back to the Vikings. Evergreens were thought to be magical since they thrived despite harsh winter conditions.  The Vikings would chop a tree down and place it in their home in hopes some of the tree's magical strength and endurance would rub off on them.  Later Christians adopted the practice, recognizing the power lay not in the tree itself but in the One who created it.  

In the middle ages, strings of fruit were placed on the trees and they were used in religious plays to represent the tree of knowledge. Eventually, the practice waned and the plays were all but forgotten, but the tradition of bringing a tree into the home lived on, especially in areas with harsh winters such as Germany.   

Enter Martin Luther, who used the evergreen tree as a symbol of God's everlasting love which, like the color of the trees, did not fade.  Candles were added to the trees to signify the light and hope Christ brought into the world. The trees became a symbol not only of the first Christmas, but of all elements of the Christian faith.  

When Prince Albert of Germany married Queen Victoria in the mid 1800's, he brought the German tradition of the Christmas tree with him to England.  From there the tree became a world-wide symbol of Christmas, spreading as far as the Americas.

Don't you love how God can redeem everything, even pagan traditions, and use them to point people to Him.  May you have a blessed Christmas, focusing on the real reason for the season!

Lisa
I've been reading, "More Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas" by Ace Collins, which is where I found this interesting information.



I've been known to link up with: Living Proverbs 31, Soli Deo GloriaInspire Me MondayTitus 2sdaysTell Me a StoryTeach Me TuesdaysCourtship Connection, Into the BeautifulGod Bumps & God IncidencesWord-Filled WednesdayWinsome WednesdaySimply Helping Him, Weekend Whatever, Spiritual Sundays, True Vine Challenge, Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, The Beauty in His Grip, Playdates With God, Inspire, Thrive at Home, Knick of Time, Hope in Every Season, Funky Junk Interiors, Frugal Friday, Friendship Friday, Inspire Me Please, Feathered Nest Friday, What Have You Redone, Home Sweet HomeThrifty Things Friday, DIY Sunday Showcase , Think Pink Sundays
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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 2 comments

I don't know about you but I find it hard to keep my focus on Jesus this time of year, which is crazy because this time of year is SUPPOSED to be about Jesus! Yet somehow the card-sending and gift-buying and gift-wrapping and gift-giving and baking and planning and cleaning and AND AND creep in and take over.

The Women of Christmas: Experience the Season Afresh with Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna  -     By: Liz Curtis Higgs

Despite trying to fit a year's worth of to-do's into two months, I've actually done much better at keeping Jesus in focus this year, and "The Women of Christmas" by Liz Curtis Higgs has had a lot to do with that.


If you've ever been blessed to hear Liz speak, as I was earlier this year, you'll know she has a verse-by-verse teaching style.  This is exactly how the book is set up, going through the birth narratives in Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1-2 verse by verse. I find this method helps to slow me down and really ponder what Scripture is teaching.

The book starts by focusing first on Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, then Mary, mother of Jesus, and finally the prophetess Anna.  The details Liz provides give new insight to what for many is a familiar story.  For instance, Elizabeth's husband was unable to hear or speak throughout the duration of her pregnancy, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months (Luke 1:24). Imagine how happy she was to receive Mary into her home and have someone to talk to! And think of what a blessing for Mary to hear Elizabeth declare she was carrying the Messiah (Luke 1:43) when she may not have been sure herself if she was pregnant yet. I can imagine Mary traveling to Elizabeth and going over and over in her mind what she could possibly say to Elizabeth to explain what God was doing in her life. What a gift for Mary to hear Elizabeth's declaration? And who could understand Mary better than Elizabeth, and vice versa?

"The Women of Christmas" consists of 8 easy to read chapters (the first chapter took me 12 minutes to read) and has a study guide with discussion questions at the back of the book, making this great for groups as well as individuals.   This book is well worth the read regardless of the season.

Lisa


I've been known to link up with: Living Proverbs 31, Soli Deo GloriaInspire Me MondayTitus 2sdaysTell Me a StoryTeach Me TuesdaysCourtship Connection, Into the BeautifulGod Bumps & God IncidencesWord-Filled WednesdayWinsome WednesdaySimply Helping Him, Weekend Whatever, Spiritual Sundays, True Vine Challenge, Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, The Beauty in His Grip, Playdates With God, Inspire, Thrive at Home, Knick of Time, Hope in Every Season, Funky Junk Interiors, Frugal Friday, Friendship Friday, Inspire Me Please, Feathered Nest Friday, What Have You Redone, Home Sweet HomeThrifty Things Friday, DIY Sunday Showcase , Think Pink Sundays
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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 3 comments


Tips for Tuesday


WARNING: This recipe is fabulous, addictive and not remotely healthy.


We recently had our Christmas baking day at the Koster household.  I'm cutting back this year, but one of our staples is homemade caramels.  The recipe is one my mom came across when I was in high school and I've been making them ever since.  They're my sons favorite so they, along with peanut butter balls, are must-have's for the holiday season.

1 cup butter (must be REAL butter)
1 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup (light or dark)
1 can sweetened condensed milk (low or no fat work well too)
1 teaspoon real vanilla

In heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, sugar and syrup. 



Stir to a rolling boil and allow 3-5 minutes at a rolling boil.

Remove from heat and add milk.



Return to heat and continue to stir until candy reaches boiling point. Boil and stir until candy reaches firm-ball stage. (This takes 10-15 minutes, but don't rely on time!) 



You'll notice the candy darkens as you cook it.

Remove from heat, add vanilla and pour into a buttered 8-inch square pan (The wrappers from your sticks of butter work great for greasing the pan!) 



Cool, preferably overnight.  Cut into squares and wrap each piece in waxed paper. (I wrap them like I do a sandwich.)  


Store in a cool place - NOT in the refrigerator or they'll become much too hard to eat - in a covered container.


Lisa

I've been known to link up with: Living Proverbs 31, Soli Deo GloriaInspire Me MondayTitus 2sdaysTell Me a StoryTeach Me TuesdaysCourtship Connection, Into the BeautifulGod Bumps & God IncidencesWord-Filled WednesdayWinsome WednesdaySimply Helping Him, Weekend Whatever, Spiritual Sundays, True Vine Challenge, Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, The Beauty in His Grip, Playdates With God, Inspire, Thrive at Home, Knick of Time, Hope in Every Season, Funky Junk Interiors, Frugal Friday, Inspire Me Please, Feathered Nest Friday, What Have You Redone, Home Sweet HomeThrifty Things Friday, DIY Sunday Showcase , Think Pink Sundays
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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 5 comments


If I'm honest I'd have to admit that this has been a rough year; the great majority of it has been spent battling health issues. It's been a "perfect storm" of sorts, with so many problems cropping up at once that it's taken 11 months to get things sorted out.  Most days I was just dragging, so exhausted that even after a 3-4 hour nap I was done in by 6:30 p.m. and fighting to stay awake until a decent bed time.  I had to stop exercising because on top of being exhausted, for some reason I just couldn't get enough air.  Most days these issues were accompanied by blinding headaches and tremendous pain in my neck and shoulder.  

Not fun.

Slowly the mystery began to unravel.  In March I learned I'm allergic to dust and pets - both of which resided in my house - which led to the breathing difficulties. This diagnosis prompted us to replace our 20-30-year-old carpet with hardwood floors (like I needed a D-I-Y project on top of everything else). 



It took until October to confirm that the exhaustion came from a new medication I'd started last December.  Once I stopped taking that, suddenly I had four hours back in my day - with the exception of the time devoured by those blinding headaches.  It wasn't until early November that I discovered the headaches, neck and shoulder pain and all the other issues I was battling were all caused by a problem with my jaw.  And the problem with my jaw came about because of the negligence of one person.

So basically, because a dentist here took a shortcut I've spent the better part of the year in pain.  Because he didn't take the time to check my bite as he was trained to do, the retainer he made actually knocked my jaw out of place when it was supposed to do just the opposite.  I'm currently in physical therapy twice a week to undo the damage to my neck and shoulder and have to travel to the other side of the state to see a specialist about my jaw.  He's already told me the damage is irreparable, though treatment is available to relieve the pain and expand the motion in my jaw. (Right now, I can barely open wide enough to eat a banana.) 

I understand now why some people sue others.  All the pain I've suffered, all the expense of testing and treatment and all the treatment that lies ahead of me all because of the negligence of one person.

Except that I can't stop there.  I have a choice.  I can choose to look at this from a human perspective of what someone did or I can look at this situation from the perspective of what God is doing, knowing that ultimately He is in control of all things.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:18-19

The retainer in question was not the first one this local dentist gave me but the second. The first came two months earlier when my permanent retainer broke and I went in to have it replaced. I remember thinking then that maybe I should have a removable retainer instead of a permanent one, but they'd already started the process of the permanent one so I told myself that it didn't really matter anyway.

WRONG!

I had a migraine from the time that retainer was put in until 6 weeks later when I had him remove it because I just couldn't take it anymore.  We discovered I had a reaction to the material it was made of, giving me the migraine.  I realized, too little, too late, that it was the Holy Spirit prompting me to avoid that first retainer.  If I would have recognized his voice and followed His direction, I could have saved myself all that pain and suffering.

Looking back, I see I could say the same thing now. Sure, I could blame the dentist and waste valuable time and energy stewing about something that's already happened and can't be undone, or I can look to God and recognize that none of this would have happened if I would have asked Him for direction in the first place.  

Truth be told, I also took a shortcut.  I didn't want to drive to the other side of the state for a new retainer and thought it wouldn't make any difference if I had it made by the dentist here who had been trained by the specialist there. I didn't know said dentist was no longer applying what he'd been taught, but I do know that if I'd asked God for direction, He surely would have given it to me. 

So once again I find myself working to keep my focus fixed on God and the good He is doing rather than on myself and my circumstances.

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." ~ Philippians 4:8-9

And good things have come of this:

I've had an 11 month lesson on the importance of seeking God's direction in EVERYTHING, a lesson that will not be easily forgotten.

I have answers, which is actually quite unusual for me as far as health problems are concerned.  

I kicked the habit of watching TV in bed.  I've been doing this for years and couldn't manage to quit until my neck hurt so bad that I just wasn't able. With therapy my neck is now improving but I've managed to keep the TV out of the picture.

I've been able to get a realistic picture of what is truly necessary and pare down activities that fill up my time. Having 4 less hours in a day will do that. Now the trick is to keep those things from slipping back in.  

I get to spend time with my friend every week.  Since I needed physical therapy anyway I arranged to by treated by my friend and now visit twice a week.

"Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back." ~ Isaiah 38:17

How about you?  Do you play "The Blame Game" looking for someone to pin responsibility on? Or do you look beyond, acknowledging that God is sovereign over all things and can benefit you even amidst the most difficult of circumstances?

Father I thank you that no experience is ever wasted, especially those difficult ones. Thank you for giving me a heavenly perspective and help me to keep my focus on You and retain the benefits reaped from these difficult circumstances.


Lisa



I've been known to link up with: Living Proverbs 31, Soli Deo GloriaInspire Me MondayTitus 2sdaysTell Me a StoryTeach Me TuesdaysCourtship Connection, Into the BeautifulGod Bumps & God IncidencesWord-Filled WednesdayWinsome WednesdaySimply Helping Him, Weekend Whatever, Spiritual Sundays, True Vine Challenge, Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, The Beauty in His Grip, Playdates With God, Inspire, Thrive at Home, Knick of Time, Hope in Every Season, Funky Junk Interiors, Frugal Friday, Friendship Friday, Inspire Me Please, Feathered Nest Friday, What Have You Redone, Home Sweet HomeThrifty Things Friday, DIY Sunday Showcase , Think Pink Sundays
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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 47 comments

Tips for Tuesday

My mother-in-law introduced me to these potholders to use on bowls in the microwave, and they're so handy I thought I'd share the instructions for those of you who sew.  These make great gifts!


You will need:
  • Sewing machine
  • 2 - 10" pieces coordinating cotton fabric
  • 2 - 10" pieces cotton batting (such as Warm n' Natural)
  • Coordinating cotton thread
  • Scissors
*Polyester in the microwave is not a good thing, so be sure to use 100% cotton fabric and batting.

1. Cut a 10" square piece of two different fabrics and 2 - 10" pieces of batting. Thin batting is preferable since the finished product will have two layers.



2. Layer each piece of the fabric with a piece of the batting and quilt the two layers together.

I used a stippling stitch, but you can also do a zig-zag stitch from corner to corner as seen below.  There just needs to be some quilting to stabilize the batting and keep it from bunching later.


3. Mark a line down the center of the square in each direction, dividing the square into quarters.



Next, mark a circle in the center for the bottom of the bowl.  I used a wide-mouth ring as a pattern, but you could also trace around the bottom of one of your bowls.


Then mark the darts by placing a dot 1" on either side of each of the center lines; make a line connecting the dot to the edge of the center circle. These angled lines will be your sewing lines.


SHORTCUT: Rather than marking each square (though you can), since I was making a number of potholders I used my first square as a pattern for the others.  I cut out the dart, leaving 1/4 inch seam allowance.


I then laid my "pattern" on top of the next square and marked the darts.


Since I traced the opening, this time I cut out the darts on the lines.


4. Sew the darts using 1/4 inch seam allowance by folding each "V" in half. (The "pattern" will have the sewing lines marked on it to give you an idea of where to sew.)


After all four darts are sewn on each piece you will have two bowl-shaped pieces.


Place the two bowl pieces right sides together and pin, matching darts and corners.


Using 1/4 inch seam, sew around the edge of the bowl, starting and stopping about 1" from the first and last corners.



This will give you an opening in the center of one side so you can turn the bowl right-side out...


...after clipping the corners, being careful not to clip the stitching.


Stitch around the edge of the potholder, folding in the raw edges of the opening and sewing that side first.


And there you have the finished product - and it's reversible!


Lisa

I've been known to link up with: Living Proverbs 31, Soli Deo GloriaInspire Me MondayTitus 2sdaysTell Me a StoryTeach Me TuesdaysCourtship Connection, Into the BeautifulGod Bumps & God IncidencesWord-Filled WednesdayWinsome WednesdaySimply Helping Him, Weekend Whatever, Spiritual Sundays, True Vine Challenge, Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, The Beauty in His Grip, Playdates With God, Inspire, Thrive at Home, Knick of Time, Hope in Every Season, Funky Junk Interiors, Frugal Friday, Inspire Me Please, Feathered Nest Friday, What Have You Redone, Home Sweet HomeThrifty Things Friday, DIY Sunday Showcase , Think Pink Sundays
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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 7 comments

"You have a great attitude for someone who must be in so much pain," the massage therapist said after unsuccessfully trying to mobilize my shoulder.  

"That would be Jesus," I quickly replied, thankful that giving Jesus the credit for my attitude is becoming second nature.  And it's true; there's not one good thing in me apart from Jesus. Without Him I'd just be a cranky, selfish mess.

The moment of victory was short-lived however and before I knew it I found myself in the quagmire of self-pity as these thoughts began lingering in my mind:

"It must be really bad for the therapist to say it's the worst she's ever seen."

"I really AM having a lot of pain from this, not to mention the splitting headaches."

"I am sick of having this pain all the time!"

"Why does this always happen to me?"

"This is really lousy."

In just a few days time, I went from being "joyful in hope and patient in affliction" (Romans 12:12) to wallowing in self-pity. How did my attitude fall so far, so fast?

Obviously, this is the work of the enemy.

Isn't it just like satan to take a spiritual victory and try to turn it into defeat? This reminds me of the story in 1 Kings 18 when Elijah took a stand for God against the prophets of Baal and was given great victory. The next thing we know, Elijah is heading for the hills  because Jezebel made a threat against him (1 Kings 19:3).  

Satan doesn't want us experiencing spiritual victory; he wants to knock us off the mountain top into the pit of despair. That's why he planted that little seed of discouragement precisely at the time when I was glorifying God. He wants me wallowing in self-pity because God is not glorified in that. 

Once I recognized what was happening, it was up to me to choose to uproot that seed before discouragement really took hold.



"Be sure that...no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many." ~ Hebrews 12:15

As with any root, the longer you wait, the more difficult it is to remove. So how does one remove seeds planted by the enemy?  By adjusting your focus and fixing your eyes on God, because what we focus on gets bigger.  That's why God calls us to "set your mind on things, not on earthly things." ~ Colossians 3:2 

Thankfully, I struggled only a few days before I realized what was happening and got back on track. My situation hasn't changed but my disposition has because my eyes are back on Jesus and off of myself. 

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." ~ Romans 8:37

Father, it amazes me how much better my life is when I keep my focus on You and off my problems.  I'm so thankful you allowed me to recognize I was headed in the wrong direction before I got too far off track. Thank you for continuing to use the hard things in life to make me a little more like you so that none of this suffering is for nothing.


Lisa


I've been known to link up with: Living Proverbs 31, Soli Deo GloriaInspire Me MondayTitus 2sdaysTell Me a StoryTeach Me TuesdaysCourtship Connection, Into the BeautifulGod Bumps & God IncidencesWord-Filled WednesdayWinsome WednesdaySimply Helping Him, Weekend Whatever, Spiritual Sundays, True Vine Challenge, Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, The Beauty in His Grip, Playdates With God, Inspire, Thrive at Home, Knick of Time, Hope in Every Season, Funky Junk Interiors, Frugal Friday, Friendship Friday, Inspire Me Please, Feathered Nest Friday, What Have You Redone, Home Sweet HomeThrifty Things Friday, DIY Sunday Showcase , Think Pink Sundays
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