Tag Archives: change

Book Review: Bittersweet, by Shauna Niequist

419sdwuncul-_sx321_bo1204203200_Niequist, Shauna. Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013. 256 pages.

Shauna Niequist continues to be one of my favorite authors. I found so many parallels in her Bittersweet story to our own story, that by chapter two, I was in tears. Thankfully, that was the “change” part of the book, and the “grace” part was still to come.

This book was raw, relatable, and beautifully crafted. The chapters are short and easy to read on the run–which is perfect as a mom to a very active toddler! I’d read a chapter or two before bed or between tasks during nap time, and it was a retreat in itself. Be ready to do some soul-searching and “self-processing” when you pick up this book–and maybe have a box of tissues nearby.

Her book Bread & Wine is still my favorite, but this was a good companion book. It didn’t get too deep or offer Scripture references for thought, but it was full of wit and insight into the practical side of dealing with emotions during seasons of change and disappointment, while leaning hard on Jesus. It very much felt like diary entries over a season of time that Shauna graciously allowed us permission to read.

My favorite quote is actually found on the back cover: “I’ve learned the hard way that change is one of God’s greatest gifts, and most useful tools. Change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us. It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways, and also in the best ways. I’ve learned that it’s not something to run away from, as though we could, and that in many cases, change is a function of God’s graciousness, not life’s cruelty.”

[Wanted to share a little followup after reading and thinking more on this…

I loved her Bread & Wine book. Bittersweet was very relatable–sobbed thru the first half!

My only question mark is that she’s really vague about what she actually believes–like is she just a justice of the peace or an ordained minister?? There seems to be hints of Judaism and Catholicism, as well as a steep pendulum swing against the hypocrisies of hyper-conservatism. I like her writing style, but I hesitate to call her a Christian author–religious, yes, but not so sure about Christian.

There’s some really good food for thought & awesome hospitality & grace & forgiveness analogies, but I wouldn’t necessarily say deep–raw, vulnerable, sure. I had to actually stop reading her Savor devotional because it was kinda wishy washy–mostly one or two verses plus an excerpt from one of her books. 😕 Gifted author, but, like any author, don’t forget to read with discernment.

Here’s an interesting article about Shauna and her husband Aaron: https://bereanresearch.org/willow-creeks-the-practice-blends-new-age-catholic-mysticism/.%5D

“The Little Habits” by Leo Babauta of zenhabits.net

This post was really encouraging, and I just couldn’t help but share it. Below is an excerpt. To read the full post, click here.

‘Powerful indeed is the empire of habit.’ ~Publilius Syrus

“It’s amazing how big a difference a little thing can make. Starting your day mindfully with some tea, for example, can change your entire day. Clearing your desk will make your work day amazing. A smile from a loved one can mean the world.

“And when these little things are repeated daily, and formed into habits, their benefits increase not just by multiples but by exponents.

“The little habits can be life-changing.

“Everyone’s world-changing little habits will be different, but I’ll share a few of mine, and then some tips for forming them.”

Here’s some of the categories and tips Leo discusses:

  1. Get-in-the-door ritual.
  2. Put clothes away.
  3. Wash my bowl.
  4. Prepare meals in advance.
  5. Just step out the door.
  6. Clear distractions.
  7. Take a walk & reflect.
  8. Breathe.

And here are some tips from Leo to get yourself started:

  • Do one habit at a time.
  • Make it easy to do.
  • Do it consciously, very consciously at first.
  • Don’t allow any exceptions.
  • Post your progress publicly.
  • Keep doing it, every single day.
  • Enjoy the habit.


“Forming a habit can be easy, if you enjoy it, take it slowly, and do it mindfully.” ~Leo Babauta, Zen Habits

A Glimpse into What God is Teaching Me

There are so many things going on in my head and heart recently, so I wanted to put a few of them out there. There may be some “stream of consciousness” style going on here, but I’m just trying to put it all on one page and see a big picture emerge. I’ve been using the NLT (New Living Translation) for my personal reading recently and it’s been a joy to read and see things in a fresh way. So, the passages quoted below are from the NLT (underlining is mine).

Proverbs 4:23-27 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech. Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.”

Proverbs 6:6 says, “Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!” And verse 8 says, “They labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.”

Proverbs 11:12 says, “…a sensible person keeps quiet” (compared to the gossip in v. 13).

Proverbs 11: 16 says, “A gracious woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth.” And verses 24-25 say, “Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything. The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”

Proverbs 31 speaks of the capable woman. She is trustworthy (v. 11), rises early, cooks, and plans ahead (v. 15), is “energetic and strong, a hard worker” (v. 17), works late into the night (v. 18), “extends a helping hand to the poor and open arms to the needy” (v. 20), and even sews (v. 21-22). “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future” (v.25). She watches her mouth (v. 26), her pocketbook (v. 27), and her children (v. 28). And most importantly, she “fears the Lord” (v. 30).

My Notes:

I’m in school to become a personal trainer, so no surprise that a future career change is in my future. And though it’s exciting, every transition comes with a risk. I’ve been working at the same company for five years, have pretty decent benefits and enjoy what I do. I also love the people I work with! Change is scary, but it’s inevitable (though I’m not exactly sure when yet). So the verse about keeping my eyes focused and not getting sidetracked is something I need to keep before me.

Long term goal? I want to be able to work part time from my home as a personal trainer or life coach (may even write for a Nutrition or Fitness magazine or website), publish my own cookbook, and be a stay-at-home wife and mom. All in good time. I know, I know, I’m not getting any younger, but you’re only as young as you feel. And I feel about … 23 (even though I’m almost 6 years older than that). I’m taking care of myself and I believe God is in complete control. So, don’t worry, we want kids. But we want them in God’s timing. So, if it happens, it happens, and if it doesn’t,…I would love to adopt! All I’m saying is I don’t know exactly what God has in store, but we have some desires, and we believe those to be God-given, so we’re taking steps to get to the goals we think He has for us.

Another long term goal is to help with a church plant somewhere. There’s a church in Colorado that’s just starting up and we have several friends that either are already out there helping it or are moving soon. We’d love to be a part of this, but we know that 1. we need to find jobs, 2. we need to sell our house, and 3. we need to be content until God says go.

For now, I’m in school. After this semester, we’ve decided that I’m going to try to do the self-study method to get my personal trainer certification. Eyes on the prize: certification! As another step in the process, I’d love to work part-time for a gym and learn the ropes of running a fitness studio under a certified trainer. So, is Colorado a possibility? Sure, but not for another year or so, most likely. If I can find a job in a gym and get one year under my belt while getting certified, that will help me find a fitness job if we get to move. And if we don’t move, then I still want to work for a personal trainer while becoming one myself. God knows. He’s had it all mapped out long before we were ever born.

Meanwhile, my personal goals are to 1. be a godly woman (which means focusing on God first and foremost, watching my mouth, watching our money, planning ahead, and being as generous as we can be), 2. be a fit wife (physically fit and one that nurtures my husband), and 3. become a certified trainer. If I focus on a heart that pleases God, I honestly believe the rest will fall into place. So, I choose not to fear the future, but instead to “laugh” and fear God instead of fearing the future, like the woman in Proverbs 31. I choose to be joyful, gracious, and generous. And though my steps may falter along the way, God has prepared my steps and will continue to guide us each and every day.

Boost Your Brain: Boost Your Body, by Daniel G. Amen, M.D. (Mar. 15, 2010)

So, I’m sick, and stuck in front of the TV between favorite shows, and the only channel that’s coming in clearly is an educational program called “Change Your Brain, Change Your Body” by Dr. Daniel G. Amen of The Amen Clinic. This one caught my interest though. Primarily, he talks about taking fish oil supplements and exercising daily. Here are his top 10 subjects from his book (and his seminar):

1. Boost Your Brain to Lose Your Belly. When it comes to the brain, size matters.

2. Know Your Motivation: have a burning desire to be healthy — family, friends, etc. No amount of cheeseburgers, double fudge brownies, etc., is worth losing time with my family. Sugar and fat act on the brain’s addiction center.

3. Know Your Brain Type:

  • The Compulsive Overeater (stuck on thought of food, feel no control, worry, trouble sleeping, night time feedings, lower levels of serotonin), Help: exercise and 5HTP or St. John’s Wort, Nix NIght Time Eating after dinner to boost serotonin.
  • Impulsive (Poor Impulse Control, Easily Distracted, Common in ADD, Low Dopamine levels, short attention span, disorganization, inconsistent), Help: Boost Dopamine levels, Strengthen Prefrontal, High Protein, Low Carb, Green Tea, calming meds make this type worse.
  • The Impulsive-Compulsive Overeater (too much activity in attention region, stuck on negative thought, too little prefrontal cortex activity, trouble with sleep behavior), Help: increase dopamine and serotonin, exercise, combo of 5-HTP AND Green Tea.
  • The Sad Overeater (to medicate feelings of sadness, depression, low energy, low self esteem, tend to gain weight in winter, pain symptoms, high limbic activity, low vitamin D level), Help: boost vit D, exercise, fish oil, SAMe supplement.
  • The Anxious Overeater (medicate anxiety with food, headaches, stomach problems, high basal ganglia activity, low GABA chemical), Help: sooth brain with meditation and hypnosis, B6, Magnesium and GABA.

Note: It is common to have more than one brain type. Work on most bothersome area first, then move on to the next one.

4. Use Brain Specific Supplements to Boost Your Body: 91% of Americans do NOT eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Recommend Multivitamin and Omega-3 supplement daily. Low Levels of Omega-3 linked with heart disease, strokes, depression, ADD, Obesity, Suicide. Good for heart, eyes, skin, joints, hair, ad brain. Also decreases appetite and cravings. 1-2 grams of high quality fish oil daily. Low levels of Vitamin D associated with MS, Diabetes, cancer, obesity, alzheimers, depression. Typically, get boost from sun, but our levels are falling. Recommends asking doctor for a 25 Hydroxy-vitamin D test. Take Vit D3 if levels are low.

5. Get Your Cravings Under Control.

  • Keep your blood sugar balanced. Substitute fruit for simple sugars.
  • Decrease artificial sweeteners in your diet.
  • Reduce Stress
  • Manage Food Triggers: mall, advertisements, vendors, home for the holidays, etc.; know your vulnerable spots and plan ahead.
  • Hidden Food Allergies can trigger cravings. Wheat gluten and milk allergies can decrease activity in your brain.

6. Kill the ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) that Steal Your Health. Need an internal ANTeater. Lies: I can’t control it; It’s in my genes.

7. Eat Right to Think Right.

  • Think High Quality Calories In vs. High Quality Energy Out.
  • Drink Plenty of Water and Not too many of your calories.
  • Eat High Quality Lean Protein throughout the day.
  • Eat Low Glycemic, High Fiber Carbohydrates (Whole Grains, Vegetables and Fruits like Blueberries and Apples). “The whiter the bread, the faster you’re dead.” Sugar increases inflammation, and recently linked with aggression.
  • Healthy Fats, especially Omega-3 fatty acids. Fat stores toxins, so any fat you eat from an animal is giving you any toxins that the animal ate.
  • Eat from the rainbow: natural foods of many different colors to boost antioxidant levels.
  • Cook with brain healthy herbs and spices. Saffron as effective as anti-depressant, cinnamon helps with attention.

Dr. Amen’s Average Daily Diet:
Breakfast: Protein/Fruit Shake
AM: Fruit and a few Nuts
Lunch: Chicken, Avocado, Veggie Sandwich on Whole Grain
PM: Fruit and a few Nuts
Dinner: Large Salad or Soup, Lean Protein, Veggies
Dessert: Frozen Blueberries with Greek Yogurt

8. Know Your Important Numbers

  • BMI – Body Mass Index – normal between 18.5 and 25
  • Calories
  • Fruits & Veggies per day – strive for 7-10
  • Sleep Hours – at least 7, preferably 8
  • Vitamin D Level
  • Know Your Inflammatory Levels
  • Know Your Hormone Levels: Thyroid, DHEA, Cortisol, Testosterone, Progesterone, Estrogen
  • Cholesterol Levels
  • Blood Pressure
  • Blood Sugar Levels
  • 5 Things You’re Most Grateful for

9. Hypnosis and Meditation Can Boost Your Brain. Recommends at least 12 minutes daily.

10. Start Today.

  • How Can I Love Others?
  • How Can I Take Better Care of Myself So I can Love my family and do the work I love for as long as possible, despite my genes?

Note: if you’ve been bad to your brain, you should start seeing results within 2 months of following this plan.

More information can be found on his website at http://www.amenclinics.com/.

Top 50 Best Brain Foods: I like 45 of them. My husband likes 23. But that’s still almost half of them! I can deal with that. How many do you like?

  • Almonds, raw
  • Almond milk, unsweetened
  • Apples
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Beans (black, pinto, garbanzo)
  • Bell peppers (yellow, green, red, and orange)
  • Beets
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cheese, low fat
  • Cherries
  • Chicken, skinless
  • Cranberries
  • Egg whites, DHA enriched
  • Grapefruit
  • Herring
  • Honeydew
  • Kiwi
  • Lemons
  • Lentils
  • Limes
  • Oats
  • Olive oil
  • Olives
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Peas
  • Plums
  • Pomegranates
  • Raspberries
  • Red grapes
  • Soybeans
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Tea, green
  • Tofu
  • Tomatoes
  • Tuna
  • Turkey, skinless
  • Walnuts
  • Water
  • Whole wheat
  • Wild salmon
  • Yams and sweet potatoes
  • Yogurt, unsweetened

I’m not a 100% believer at this point (first off, not a big fan of the BMI because it doesn’t take enough factors into account), but this does have a lot of helpful information that can help boost our brains and lose those pesky pounds that are still hanging around. I am 100% convinced that exercise and sleep are directly correlated to energy levels and emotional health. Diet and water intake are just as important. Happy researching!