Thursday, September 29, 2016

Furlough Fitness Part 5 (Update, Buffets, and Roadblocks)

Updates from the Battlefield


I am halfway through the battle. Our furlough time is moving right along. So how am I doing in my battle against the Furlough Twenty?

Let's just say...

I have LOST twenty-two pounds total since we arrived in the States!

Other victories? My family is also doing well. My husband has lost twenty-five pounds and my children are eating better, making better choices, and learning to get a healthy amount of activity each day.

Last week, I ran a full 5K for the first time ever and without stopping to walk. I did it again a few days later and cut three full minutes off my time.

What does this mean? It means that when we return to the field early next year, we will be in great physical shape. Our field can be very physically demanding. Ministry in general can be physically demanding! This next term, we will be better equipped to do what God has called us to do.

And what does this mean for other missionaries?

It means that the Furlough Twenty is not a given. It can be conquered.


My progress in September has been slow. I have lost a couple of pounds, but feel they were earned the hard way through a lot of abstinence and careful choices despite my circumstances. We had several long driving days with little activity, a missions conference, and many meals in homes where I had to make the best of it. I also had back trouble for over a week which slowed down my exercise efforts. So I guess I should be rejoicing in the weight loss, no matter how small.

Understanding Roadblocks and Recoveries


Almost two months ago, we took our son to Carowinds (roller coaster theme park) to enjoy our last week with him before we dropped him off at college. Typically we would pack a lunch and eat at the car, but since we had just arrived home late the night before from a three week road trip, packing lunch was not possible. There was no food in the house to pack for lunch!

Spending time with my 6'6" college kid

So what was our plan? We would search the park for the healthiest option we could. It was a great plan. We had a healthy breakfast before we left the house. We ate a healthy snack just before we entered the park. We drank water every chance we had. And we kept our eyes peeled for healthy lunch options from the moment we entered the park. The plan was going perfectly.

Lunch time finally rolled around. We were determined! Then we finally spotted it. Chick-Fil-A! Yes, Chick-Fil-A has salads and grilled options, right? I was thrilled!

So we got inside in a long line. A little late and past the point of no return, I noticed the very limited menu. Fried and breaded only. Waffle fries. No salads. No wraps. (Ugh!) We were too far embedded into the line to escape.

That, my furlough friends, is called a "roadblock."

Sometimes roadblocks happen. Sometimes we are invited to eat with people, and the meal isn't exactly on the health plan. Sometimes we plan, and the plans fall through. What do we do?

We work with what we have and give thanks. We use restraint instead of giving in to gluttony. We are not victims. We are victorious. We don't throw in the towel and use the roadblock as an open door for poor choices. Eat the fried chicken sandwich, but skip the fries. Drink water, not soda. Then immediately plan for "recovery."

One meal doesn't blow a whole week, but a series of bad choices does. Could you imagine driving on the road, coming to a roadblock or traffic jam, making your way through the roadblock, and then saying, "Well, that roadblock threw our travel schedule out of whack. Let's just keep driving slow since we are already running late."

Yeah... I didn't think so.

Once your get through the roadblock, figure out ways to recover and get right back on track. For our family, we stopped to eat at a buffet with lots of healthy options for dinner. (Yay for gift cards!) Salads, lots of vegetables, lean meat, and water, water, water! Sorry, no croutons on the salad. No splurging. It's recovery time!

So don't panic if you give it your best, and it falls apart. Navigate the roadblock to the best of your ability, and then immediately purpose in your heart to enter recovery mode.

 "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again:
but the wicked shall fall into mischief." Proverbs 24:16


When there is a roadblock day where I have little control over my eating choices, I have a few strategies. First, I take small portions and try to leave out the carbs if possible. I am always courteous to my host and eat whatever she prepares in the form it is meant to be eaten over my "diet," but sometimes I can leave out carbs or decline dessert and still be polite. My weight loss may be slower for it, but I think the relationship is more important. The important thing is that I do not let it derail me afterwards.

The next day after an experience like that, I will try to eat less, exercise more, and drink lots of water. I just get back on track. I have never gained weight because of one cheat meal. I have gained weight when I let it become an excuse to eat that way for an entire day or the days following.

Navigating the Buffet

Speaking of buffets...

I must tell you, buffets were my worst nightmare on deputation. It wasn't because I didn't like them. I loved them! They were filled with every choice imaginable, and I didn't have to even choose. I could have a little (or a lot) of everything! Those things unfortunately all showed up on the scale and on my body. It was rough!

Here are the facts:

1) It is very likely we will eat at a buffet while on furlough. Churches love to give gift cards or to take their missionaries to places that they know everyone can find something they like. It's a great idea, actually!

2) Buffets have tons of very unhealthy food choices... and an entire section of desserts. Yummy, sugary, fatty desserts.

3) Buffets also have healthier options from which we can choose. That's why I love buffets now more than ever!

4) No one is forcing us to make unhealthy choices at buffets.

5) We don't have to be gluttonous at a buffet in the name of "getting our money's worth." Our "money's worth" is getting a meal that feeds and nourishes us, not a mound of food that could feed three people.

Here are a few rules I set up before I go into a buffet restaurant.

1) I try to eat a quick, small snack in the car on the way to the restaurant just to give me a little more control. It might be a few mini peeled carrots or a few slices of cucumber, but it is just enough to knock the edge off my hunger. (I carry a healthy "go bag" cooler everywhere with snacks, water, and a few other items.)

2) I let my family know my plan so that they can hold me accountable when we get in the restaurant.

3) I may only go to the buffet one time.

4) I may only drink water with my meal.

5) No breads. No desserts.

6) I must get a plate of salad. It must have the healthiest dressing option available, and only 2 tablespoons of dressing.

7) The other plate must have a lean meat (I look for roasted or grilled meats, not fried, breaded, or in gravy) and vegetables that have been steamed or grilled, not fried or breaded... or in cheese sauce.

8) If in doubt, I can usually look up the nutrition information through the MyFitnessPal app that I use. I simply search for the restaurant.

9) I get proper portion sizes in all things. (If I want more vegetable choices, then I have to half the portion size of both items.)

Recently, we went to Golden Corral on a gift card someone had given us. Here is what I ate:

I chose the roasted chicken breast. I removed the skin, too.

I chose a small portion of turnip greens.

I got a salad with 1 1/2 tbsp fat free ranch dressing and 1/2 tbsp regular ranch.
(The fat free ranch has no flavor so I began mixing the two to make a low fat ranch. Still only 2 tbsp of dressing allowed.)

It's very easy to ruin a healthy salad by putting the wrong things on it. I stick with mixed lettuce greens, baby spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, onions, a few jalapenos, and a tiny amount of cheese. Watch out for those croutons and nuts. They add fat and carbs very quickly. I usually just skip them.

A half portion of steamed broccoli and a half portion of grilled zucchini to finish off my plate.
Sorry, no cheese sauce allowed for me.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Guest Post- By Alisa Ballou, Thailand

Are We Shortchanging Our Kids?

When we first moved to our house that we use as a ministry center and church here in Lamphun, Thailand I was worried: in front of our house is one of the busiest roads that goes through the middle of Lamphun. There’s constant city traffic just outside our front door. I love being really accessible to people, but especially at first was worried if our kids would be ok here. And then in the back, we have an alley for parking. Sometimes, thanks to the internet, it’s easy to compare with some stunning backdrops you see other kids growing up with, and worry about the life you’re giving your kids.

And then it’s easy to get discontent and worry we’re really shortchanging them. Have you ever felt that way?

How would these kids develop better if they were growing up being able to test the limits of their bodies physically? If they could have the freedom of spending free hours outside playing, building, imagining instead of mostly being inside? If they had friends who were Christian or who spoke their first language? If instead of their bare feet on concrete, they could run outside on dirt (preferably with no huge tropical insects) play in the streams (no parasites, please) and have a part of the vast world of God’s nature at their disposal?

What if?

It’s actually pretty ridiculous when I remember that after all, only a very few kids in this world get to live in the ideal world that lives in my mind! Anyway, God’s been great at reminding me of a few things.

1. Surroundings aren’t even close to being the biggest shapers of small hearts. Just recently, I was reading Oswald Chamber’s biography (Abandoned to God - favorite biography hands down). As a boy, he grew up in the glens of Scotland. Basically his life couldn’t get more idyllic as far as surroundings went. But it was when his family moved (after his father getting fired as a pastor) to dirty, claustrophobic London that his spiritual growth took off. Removed from all he’d known, (even the nation of his birth) he thrived.

2. Remember: online families have real lives too. Pictures from other people’s families are snapshots of moms / ladies capturing moments that will remind them, too, that there can be glory found in the middle of the mostly mundane. When I took our kids on a little adventure, it was great until we found out most places we walked, our feet would get swarmed by massive ants, the lovely little canal we walked along is full of little black wormy parasites, and we finally gave in to the bug bites (and Brody’s tired legs) and went home. Yes - really fun, but not what I’d imagine if I only saw the pictures online. Comparing with other’s lives is harmful. But sharing their joy with perspective brings healthy inspiration and life.

3. They get to share in an eternal perspective being lived out practically. Luke 6:20-26 shows very clearly that living eternally means not seeking out all the comfort I can find here:

“And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe uno you that laugh now! for ye shall mourns and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.”

We can show them a life not lived grasping for the satisfaction we can suck out of life on this earth. Instead of daydreaming about what I can’t ever give them practically, I can point them to the Maker of the mountains for their joy, then rejoice in His handiwork whether we’re playing in it, or loving and rejoicing in people, His greatest masterpiecesand His greatest loves. We get to remember and feel often that this earth isn’t meant to be our home. And everywhere Christ abounds, life is breathtakingly beautiful.

4. Create appetites for the riches that matter. For them to know they are astonishingly rich - simply because they have Christ(!!), His truth(!!), and His love(!!). I would love for them to grow up really understanding that they aren’t better or more deserving of practical luxuries than other people in the world, just because they’ve been given a spot at the wealthy table (#Merica). I’d love for their hearts not to be numbed by excess, or for their happiness to depend on entertainment. These things I can labor to give them.

The other morning, I’d just finished taking the boys on a little exploring adventure (the one in which we got devoured by insects). We were riding our motorbike with Justin behind me and Brody in front of me, enjoying the cool wind on our faces after being hot from exercise. We rode between two green rice fields stretching on either side. Justin shouts into the wind, “Mom, when you were 5, did you go to school with Thai language or with English language?” I laughed and told him I never even knew Thai people when I was five, and that I went to a school where they spoke English. He said, “I want to go there too.”

So a gentle nudge of his heart, helping him see the glory around him keeps me from chasing endlessly (even just in my heart) any idealized lifestyle I can dream up that will make me think that will bring the perfect happiness.

I can remember that God’s actually far, far more interested in their welfare than I am, and it is His presence within, not what surrounds us without, that brings deep and abundant joy.

I want them to know HIM. It’s living with carefree joy as His child that brings life from within that no dingy city block can squelch.

By Alisa Ballou