Stretching Time

I am a Ted Talk junkie. To give you a glimpse into my world, I have a book exchange in my office at work that is right next to an ever-changing inspirational quote on my white board. When people ask for resources, I can barely contain myself from Googling and spewing out articles, podcasts, video clips, and book titles.

In case I didn’t put enough emphasis on the nerd factor, I caught myself being way too excited that a board game involved scoring points for shelving books in alphabetical order. It had something in it called a “ghost of learning,” and I literally said, “ooohhh” when I saw it.

Yep. I know.

At any rate, I say this to give context to the video I’m sharing about time management. Laura Vanderkam’s point is that time has a way of stretching to fit what’s truly important to us. There are enough hours in a week to fit our priorities, even if we are very busy.

I may have plenty of time to watch videos about time management and all other types of learning, but I can’t seem to “find the time” to do things like exercise and do food prep. Why? Because, even if I don’t want to admit it, it isn’t important enough to me.

Exercise and other health related habits are only a means to an end for me. They’re things that allow me to function better. That’s great and all, but it also makes them slip far down the list of priorities. It’s on the list right next to switching the laundry before I have to rewash it.

So, I suppose I’m at a bit of an crossroads. I need to be more honest about my priorities and about what I’m willing to fit into my life.

Other things are more important to me than weight loss and fitness, and I think that’s okay. I just want to find out what it takes for my health efforts to be enough to accomplish what I want out of them.


Label Maker to the Rescue


I know I’ve been eating healthy for a while when I am convinced that 1/4 cup of ice cream and a 1/4 cup of cottage cheese with berries and a little Cool Whip tastes as good as a giant hot fudge sundae. Seriously, this happened tonight.

A lot has happened since I last posted, including eating a lot of food from the hospital cafeteria (everyone’s fine, but my hubby is now recovering from an infection) and a weight loss of about 5 pounds in a month. I’m at around 261.

The main changes I’ve made include eating a lot more produce and counting my carbs per meal/snack. We’ve also been meeting with a nutritionist who is spectacular. She even helped me organize my fridge so that it no longer looks like a poorly played game of Tetris.



My newly organized refrigerator…please ignore the book being used to keep it level. ūüôā

She showed me how to make the healthiest options most visible and easy to eat. In the aftermath, I brought out the big guns: my label maker. After a few months of dormancy, this label maker has been put to work: my spice rack, my file folders, and now my refrigerator.


I’m learning that if I want something to last, all I have to do is put a label on it. I’ll have to check a month down the road to see if the label system sticks (pun intended). The hardest ¬†part will be cutting veggies as soon as I bring them home.


Strides in self care

My scale read 267.8 pounds yesterday. Granted, I went out with a friend the night before, so that added a little weight that will drop off quickly. On the other hand, I’m also facing a reality of having regained almost all of the weight I’ve lost. I started at 275, lost 40 pounds, and then gained over 30. I was convinced this wouldn’t happen this time. I thought I’d figured this thing out, but here I am.

The good news is that me at 267.8 pounds today is much better off than the me of 3 years ago at 275. I am slowly learning to take care of myself and find healthy ways to cope with stress. I’m more active now than I was. I’ve been through much more difficult situations and, by the grace of God, I’m still standing (If you just had singing gorilla pop into your mind, you’re welcome…and now you probably have every song from Moana cycling through…but enough about quality sound tracks from animated films).

Now the struggle is taking care of myself better physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually when life is crazy. Some of it comes easy, like getting enough sleep. Some of it, not so much. Taking a shower, eating a vegetable, going for a walk, drinking water, reading my Bible…these are all things I need to be intentional about when I’m out of the usual routine. I need to use coping skills other than food in times like this, and there are plenty to choose from (reading, listening to music, journaling, etc.).

Before I know it, my “usual routine” will no longer exist. We are on the road to being licensed to adopt up to four kids from foster care.¬†Unless something pops up between now and getting a placement that derails the process, I am about to enter a new stage in life. I know I’ll never truly figure this out all the way, but I’m hoping and praying to be in a better place when it happens.





Up-Anchor, Anchors Aweigh, etc.

A few weeks ago, I almost threw away $150. I tried to use my Garmin Vivosmart. Unfortunately, the display was just a tiny, illegible line down the middle. I contacted Garmin, and they sent me this for free! (It’s a $150 value.)


My new Garmin Vivosmart HR

I’ve been using it for a little over two weeks, and I’m impressed. I like the bigger display, and it’s nice to have the option of checking my heart rate. The heart rate monitor seems to be more effective when I track an activity, so I’m not sure if my resting heart rate is actually 71 or if it’s trying to make me feel better about myself.

We’ve had a some very serious challenges in the last couple of months, so I’m hanging on to every glimmer of hope and joy I can (even something as trivial as a Garmin). Any time I feel like I’m getting a handle on my weight, life hits me with something that sends me spiraling.

This gives me the perfect chance to put into practice that anchor habit. For me, it’s putting boundaries on sugar. Let’s just say that my anchor has not been in the water for a while. As of this moment, I am resetting myself and starting to limit sugar to times that I’m spending time with people. I’m hoping that with more repetition, I’ll cut back on the time it takes me to get back to it when things get crazy. Time to toss that anchor back in.


The Quiet Changes

It’s been two months since my last post. My two-year anniversary of the beginning of my weight loss journey has come and gone, and it’s a new year. During that time, I’ve gone from tracking my food like crazy without losing weight to my current state of stillness.

I thought about letting my blog fall to the wayside and add to the giant pile of abandoned weight loss blogs and be on my way of weight gain and denial. Instead, I’m going to try keeping it simple. No more waiting to have a good picture of topic for my post. No more waiting for the best moment to write. Those quiet moments are rare and probably best used on other things.

So, here I go, 2017. I start the year without any fanfare or big declarations. My only health resolution is to make my health somewhere on my list of priorities. I’m a bit tired of striving for a goal and never reaching it. I know losing weight will help me, but I can’t handle making it such a huge part of my life.

For now, I’m hoping to minimize pain and be more functional. Now, I just need to work on how to make that happen. It won’t be exciting. Instead, I’m hoping for quiet changes that make up a tiny piece of the puzzle that is my life.

A Healthy Vacation


Shiprock, New Mexico

I’m writing this quickly because we are beginning a trek to the Tolman homeland today (also known as New Mexico). My mom grew up there, and, even though her family dispersed for a while, many of them have migrated back. New Mexico is also the land of green chiles, ruins, dirt, and cool rock formations. I’ve been there multiple times, but I’m excited to share a little piece of my family tree with my husband. The kiddo will be very happy to see family that he usually can only see via Skype.

It was in New Mexico that I began regaining the 70 pounds I lost in high school. Vacation is always a precarious situation for me when it comes to health. It’s a tough¬†balance between experiencing the local cuisine and leaping into overindulgence.

My goals for this trip are to stay moving and to enjoy myself. I don’t want to stress about my food, because that leads me down a weird path. I’ll post my next weigh-in when I get back. Happy October, everyone!

It’s Not About the Flowers


My beautiful flowers from my husband on my desk at work.

One of wonderful things I inherited from my mom is the ability to pick a great gift. She has always been a master at this. For my brother’s birthday one year, my parents bought him a Sega Genesis. My mom put Sonic 2 inside a box for Reader Rabbit 2, wrapped it up, and gave it to my brother. Imagine the look on his face when he unwrapped it…and then when he opened it! Epic.

With all of the effort that goes into picking out a gift when someone’s really¬†invested in the process, I love how it symbolizes so much more than that. The best gift exchange says, “I care¬†about you,” “I see you,” “I’m thinking about you.” It’s about the connection to¬†the giver.

For instance, my husband brought me flowers at work today for my birthday. They are gorgeous and smelled amazing. But, I didn’t start sobbing because of the flowers (I know…I’m an emotional mess). It was because of how grateful I am to have a husband who loves me so much.


Not only that, but gifts like these point me to my Heavenly Father who is the reason I have a wonderful husband and so much more.¬†Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and the like are so good for me. I so easily take things for granted when I’m caught up in the day to day routine. I need to be reminded of the joy I have and the good gifts that surround me.

When I’m grateful, my heart is focused on my Creator instead of being distracted by His creation. Also, when I’m grateful for the body God has given me, I’m more likely to take care of it. Often, I think that healthy eating means doing my best to take all joy out of food. However, I’m free to enjoy things like my free Biggby coffee I have coming when I do so as I honor the Giver above¬†the the gift. In the end, it’s not about the flowers or the coffee. It’s about a God who loves¬†me more than I can imagine.

My Own Little White World – A Final Letter


Dear White American Christian friends,

Now that you know my story, I need to be honest with you. We have major work to do. Some of us are entering the conversation way too late in the game. Sure, we might have lived through the police brutality against Rodney King and the racial tension associated with the OJ trial. But, maybe we didn’t feel the weight of it. Maybe we didn’t understand the whole story or see the big picture. As a detail-focused gal, I get it.

But, if you haven’t started looking deeper into the state of racial¬†division and injustice in our country and church, do it now. You can’t ignore it. It’s all over your Facebook feed and all over the news (if you know me personally and haven’t unfollowed me on Facebook, you’ve seen plenty about this from me).

This is not¬†a left-wing or right-wing issue. This is a kingdom issue. This is a family issue. Our brothers and sisters in Christ who are people of color are hurting because of racism, both from individuals and from our broken system. It’s time to start listening.

Here is a great place to go for resources.

Start listening to our Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American brothers and sisters. White voices are important too, but, as a whole, we have been heard. We can’t get our entire education on race from Freedom Writers and The Help.

Spend time getting to know our nation’s history from a perspective other than those of White males. Don’t worry if you slept through history class. A lot of us are on an even playing field because this history hasn’t been taught well. We need historical context to truly understand what’s happening.

While you’re at it, learn about our God under the teaching of people who look different from you. Just to start you off,¬†look into¬†Soong-Chan Rah and Thabiti Anyabwile. Please don’t make the mistake of just learning about race and culture from them. Dig deeper and listen longer, and you will see the glory of God from a new perspective.

The racial divisions in the church go deep, but there are pockets of believers who are fighting hard for awareness, for justice, and for unity. As much as we need to listen, it’s also time for us to speak. Stand up for our fellow Christians and fellow humans who were made in God’s image.

Speaking up against racism can be exhausting, and we need to do whatever we can to help bear these burdens. I’ve seen God working in some of you on this issue. As you learn and listen with compassion and empathy, I pray God will use you to start softening hearts.

Sadly, there are some white Christians who may listen to you, but not listen to our brothers and sisters of other races. Please use your voice.

Soli Deo Gloria,




My Own Little White World – Part 4


My husband and I at the bean in Chicago (a giant metallic bean-shaped structure).

A group from my church goes to a conference every summer¬†in Chicago every summer called Legacy Conference. It’s a conference that focuses on making disciples and being a disciple (follower) of Jesus in an urban setting. One reason I love this conference is that I get to sit under the teaching of church leaders who are from different backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities. While I’ll focus more on that next time, I want to show how a college class taught by someone from a different background helped me sort through my own identity.


Dr. Rhonda White

When I was in college, I took a required class called Diverse Populations taught by Dr. Rhonda White. Being the nerd I am, I used to keep every piece of paper from every class. When I put an end to the paper hoarding, I still held onto everything from this class because of the impact it had on me. My goal at the time was to teach PE in a low income neighborhood in Phoenix. Since I grew up in a lower middle class, mostly white suburb, I knew that I needed help to figure out how to teach students in that setting. What I didn’t realize is that I had to learn more about myself first.

I already loved learning about other cultures and wanted to spend my life among people who were different from me. However, sorting through my own cultural and racial identity was messy. Doing the work of the process¬†has kept me grounded as I have spent time among¬†other cultures and races (Google Rachel Dolezal and you’ll see what I mean). When I worked through journal entries, I struggled through my negative feelings about white American culture and worked through concepts¬†like white privilege and dominance (if you’re struggling through terms like this, check out this list of resources). Here are some examples from a journal entry:

  • “Whenever I think about my own ‘Whiteness,’ I want to be someone else.”
  • “I feel like my culture doesn’t really matter. The only things I’ve ever heard about middle class White culture have been negative.”
  • “[God] decided that I should be the descendant of a man who owned a slave. He decided that I should be the descendant of a couple from Prussia. He decided that I should be the descendant of a Cajun family. While my identity ultimately lies in Jesus Christ, I was placed in this particular lineage for a reason…because He is the One that placed me here, I think wishing I was someone else is like saying that God made a mistake.”

When Dr. White had us create a cultural family tree, I thankfully started to see things about my cultures of origin to celebrate. As a whole, I don’t think white people in the United States take enough time to recognize this. Often, they just think that what their family does is normal and not connected to any culture or history. It’s like when people who speak English in the United States don’t think they have an accent (if this is you, please let me know and we’ll talk more).

During the process, I realized that not everyone’s family makes fry bread or¬†sings together at Thanksgiving. I started appreciating things like my Scottish ancestry and the story of the Huguenots from France moving to the country to escape religious persecution. I started telling the story of my great uncle picking weeds called poke salat and bringing them to a family potluck with a little more fondness. On the health side of things, seeing my family’s view of food as love and how deep that goes¬†gave me a good place to start understanding my relationship with food.


My Uncle Royce (of poke salat fame), my grandma (who fed us even if we were stuffed), and my Aunt Linda (who brought the family together for reunions and potlucks)


My mom as a kid on the right. Her interest in genealogy has given me a window to my past and present.


Another thing that I took from the class was how white American culture as a whole compares with other cultures, especially something called value orientations. Ironically, one of the key value orientations of white American culture as a whole is an emphasis on the individual. People who value the individual over a focus on a group perspective may not realize how much their culture affects them.

Understanding the¬†different cultural influences in my family has given me a framework for understanding other cultures without trying to toss out my cultural and racial identity all together. I’m grateful that I had people like Dr. White in my life to guide me through the process.

My Own Little White World – Part 3


My dear friends Lindsey and Kay-K.

Even though people are divided on a lot these days, I think most will agree that there is something very wrong with our world. I went to a teach-in recently at Calvin College, and one of the speakers put it well by saying that sin is a great equalizer. To be honest, I need a break from it all. Today, I want to talk about what’s right in our world.

To start, let’s go back to around 2006/2007 (I’m so bad at timelines). Around this time,¬†I started volunteering for the new youth group at church. A family needed a ride to youth group and the kid’s program on Wednesday nights, and I volunteered. As I got to know the kids, I found out that their family was originally from Sierra Leone and that they came to the United States as refugees. Spending time in their home – mostly because they were never ready to go when I got there ūüôā – gave me a glimpse into their family. I learned that their mom, my friend Watta, spoke Mende as her first language. I learned that a lot of their family was Muslim or had a Muslim influence on their beliefs. I learned I could often¬†expect to find the rice cooker going and greens cooking on the stove. I learned about the tragic conflict in Sierra Leone that started in 1991. And, it was in this home that God taught me to listen carefully and love deeply.

Gradually, the Kellahs welcomed me into their family. I started hanging out at their house outside of youth group, taking the kids to the school playground to play basketball and volleyball, and helping them with their homework.


The Kellah family at the college graduation for me and my friends Don and Melissa…not sure why I was looking away from the camera. Lol!

I have so many stories to tell. Like when Watta brought me to a bridal shower for someone I’d never met and had me navigate and wrap the gift in the car on the way (I’m terrible at both directions and gift wrapping). Or, Salia’s graduation party where I first saw a Sierra Leonean dance, ate fish heads, was called an African queen, and danced the night away. Keep in mind that I’m not the most coordinated person, so dancing the night away¬†mostly meant tripping over my feet. ūüôā¬†Kadiatu (Kay-K) and her cousin Mamie trying to teach me how to double dutch and the boys trying to no avail to teach me Soulja Boy. Weima taking the scarf off her neck and putting it around mine when I told her it was pretty.


Essa and I at a youth group camping trip.

Along with the laughs, there were some serious moments¬†mixed in. There were¬†conversations¬†about our eternal hope when a man was shot just down the road. There was deep mourning when a friend of Essa’s passed away. There were complications and long waits when family members were trying to move to the area from Sierra Leone. There were the texts from Kay-K about her faith when she was at college. Then, there were the baptisms. I sobbed tears of joy for each one.


It was right, good, and beautiful for the Kellahs and their extended family to welcome me so fully. They have been there for me ever since. I’m sure I messed up sometimes, but I praise God for this family and their love and patience.

This is just one example of something that’s right in the world. God is at work and has been at work. Here are some other things I’ve seen that¬†are right:

  • White Christians searching all over town and the internet to get Bibles in their friends’ first language.
  • A Filipino bishop inspiring Filipino youth (and me) to share Jesus in other cultural contexts.
  • A white grandpa holding his black grandson without claiming he doesn’t see his skin color, but instead seeing God’s beauty¬†in it.
  • Ate Honey and my dear friends from Dagupan sending me words of encouragement from the other side of the world years after we’ve seen each other.
  • A Christian sister from Malaysia buying me a real dinner at a conference because she’d only seen me eat snacks in the volunteer lounge all week.

Me, Ate Honey (we stayed with her family when we visited churches in the Philippines), and Beth


The youth group from Hope Dagupan in the Philippines.


A class picture from ESL at our church.

I could go on, and I praise God for that. While unity might be rare, it exists by the power of the Holy Spirit and the precious blood of Jesus. To Him alone be the glory.