Perspectives from Uganda

December 19, 2015.  I boarded a plane for Uganda, Africa.  Uganda is a landlocked country in east Africa with a population of around 37 million people and an average life expectancy of around 53 years.  Over 7% of Uganda’s population live with HIV/AIDS.  Life in Uganda is hard, and I was going there with 4 other friends to visit a couple of orphanages and love on the kiddos.

One of our first stops was to the slums of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, where children are often left to fend for themselves.  Houses in the slums are basically rooms cut out of concrete walls–no electric, no plumbing, no furniture, no doors.  They are just holes in the wall.  We met 25 boys who all “lived” in 2 rooms that were about 10 x 10 .  Once or twice a week, rice is cooked and given to the children in the slums.  For many, this is the only meal they will have all day, or even for several days.  And it’s just rice.  Nothing else.  How many times do I complain that I don’t have anything to eat when it’s really more that I don’t want the choices that are in front of me?

360We visited both a boys’ and a girls’ home.  Many of the boys came from the slums.  Many of the girls were abandoned by their families.  I’d love to show more pictures but technical limitations won’t let me.

Perspectives change when I go on international trips, which is a good thing.  It’s easy for me to get caught up in my own little world, to develop tunnel vision, and forget that there’s a majority of the world’s population just struggling to survive every day.   Some how it makes the ants crawling over my counter tops in my comfy house where there is running water, electricity, heat and air conditioning nothing to get bent out of shape about.  Hearing these kids’ stories, seeing how they live in the slums, watching them pump water for all of life’s necessities, certainly redefines a bad day in my world.

370After all, I’m going to get up in the morning, turn on the faucet for a nice warm shower, choose from multiple options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, relax on my soft, comfy couch and when it’s time, go to a job that pays me more than enough to buy all the things I need.  I hope the next time I’m grumbling about how hard marathon training is that I remember my young Ugandan friends who pump and haul water and hoe the garden all before a breakfast of millet porridge and without a single complaint or frown.   I have no idea what hard is…

 

And Then Came Exercise

As of right now I am 1 month, 28 days, 18 hours, and 15 minutes away from running my very first marathon.  There’s a part of me that finds it really hard to believe that I’m actually serious about running a marathon and a part of me that can’t believe I’m fit enough to actually attempt a marathon…especially when I remember where I was 2 and half years ago.

Where I was was 180 pounds and unable to walk for 5 minutes without pain in my hip joints.  But when I found myself 10 pounds lighter at the end of the Daniel fast, I got this crazy idea of adding exercise to my new healthy eating habits.  Novel idea, right?

I hated the idea of exercise.  I couldn’t walk up the 3 flights of stairs to my office where I worked at the time without huffing and puffing and stopping at every flight to catch my breath.  I was embarrassed by my appearance in work out clothes, but I swallowed my pride, wedged myself into a pair of shorts and hit the gym.

I started on the elliptical.  My initial goal was just to stay on the elliptical for 30 minutes without dying.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that adults get 150 minutes of aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, every week, so my goal  was to exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week.

It sucked.  I was winded, hot, and sweaty, but when I finished my 30 minutes and saw the number of calories I had burned, I felt great.  But then I had this issue of getting home and not wanting to go to the gym again.  Somehow, I had to develop a habit of exercise.  I mean, I had the eating part down now, but we all know that physical health has to involve some type of physical activity too, right?

So these are some things I did to help develop a habit of physical activity:

  1.  Schedule exercise.  That’s right.  Put your gym time, walking time, Zumba classes, biking, or whatever exercise you choose on your calendar.  For me, having an event on my calendar gives me some accountability.  I’ve made room for it in my schedule, so I’d better do it.  And having it on the calendar prepares me mentally for that time.  I can review my agenda for the day, see that I’m going to the gym at 6 p.m., so all day I’m preparing myself for this next event.  I know me, and if I left exercising up to “I’ll go if I feel like it”, I’d never go!
  2. Choose an activity  you like.  If you hate running, don’t run!  You’ll never exercise if you equate exercise with torture.  I stayed with the elliptical for a while until I wasn’t gasping for air the entire time and started feeling kind of bored.  Then, I branched out to try different things.  I tried Zumba and found that I loved it.  I was no good at it, but I loved it!  I kind of felt like this lady in blue, but at least I was moving!
  3. Sleep in your workout clothes.  Yep, I just said sleep in  your workout clothes.  An early morning gym date was always the hardest for me.  Slapping snooze on the alarm was much easier than getting up, changing clothes, and heading out for some exercise.  But I discovered that getting dressed was half the battle.  By sleeping in my workout clothes, I eliminated that battle, so I could just pop out of bed, jump into my shoes and go.
  4. Pack a gym bag.  When I would schedule my exercise time at the end of my work day, I made it a habit to pack my work out clothes so I could go directly to the gym after work.  It’s much harder to go out again after I go home.  Being tired from a long day of work, the couch would call to me, and 5 minutes rest on said couch had all the power in the world to kill my good exercise intentions.
  5. Track your progress.  I became more motivated to continue exercising when I could see my progress.  Last time I did 30 minutes on the elliptical at level 2; this time I did 30 minutes at level 3, and I still walked out of the gym under my own power!  Progress!  It felt great!  Paying attention to my level of exertion was another way I monitored my progress.  When I first started Zumba, I could hardly make it through the warm up without keeling over.  The first time I made it through the class without feeling like I was going to puke was a happy dance day!
  6. Give yourself time.  It takes a minimum of 21 days to form a habit and new research shows that forming a new habit can take anywhere from 2-8 months! You can read more about that here.  Remember that change doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s something that takes time.

So what’s your activity of choice?  Remember that no matter what you do, even if you think it’s too little or too slow to count, you’re passing that person on the couch!

 

How It Began, Part II

So I’d been through the Made to Crave study.  Those ideas of identifying my triggers for eating, being empowered and determined about what I would eat were floating around in my head.  They were good things to think about, but I couldn’t seem to get any of the thoughts to translate into action.

For almost 8 months these ideas rattled around in my head.  I read about goal setting.  I researched the fad diets.  I wanted to lose weight.  But I kept on with the same habits that I had before, thinking that losing weight was just too hard.  I can’t do it.

And then came September…

Every so often the church that I attend participates in a Daniel fast together.  Fasting is a spiritual discipline that strips away something that consumes you to allow you to focus on God.  A Daniel fast, in particular, is modeled after Daniel in the Bible.  You know, Daniel in the lions’ den?  He tells the king he doesn’t want the rich foods that royalty eat; he just wants vegetables and water.  So a Daniel fast strips away all animal products, all sweeteners and leavening, and basically leaves you with fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes to eat.

I’d tried to participate in Daniel fasts before, but I’d never been successful.  My desire for foods I couldn’t have always won out.  But when the Daniel fast was announced to begin in September 2013, I felt strongly that I should participate.  I went into it with an attitude of not wanting to spend a lot of energy on what I could and couldn’t eat (like times in the past) but wanting to understand, really understand, what it meant to depend on God.

The first couple of days were horrible.  I was a Mountain Dew addict.  Yep, I probably drank 20 oz. of Mountain Dew every day!  But I quit cold turkey when the fast started.  Talk about a caffeine headache.  No fun.  I was hungry, but I was bound and determined to keep my vow to God that I would not eat certain foods.

It was during that fast that the Made to Crave concepts began to take root and cause change.  I would find myself thinking about food, desperately wanting something chocolate or salty and crunchy.  Mmmm, potato chips.  But I thought about the triggers Lysa talks about in Made to Crave.  Why was I craving that food?  What was going on at the moment?  Am I stressed?  Tired?  Bored?  Or am I really hungry?  Through the process of constantly evaluating why I wanted food, I began to identify what I felt like when I was stressed or bored.   And I began to identify what true hunger was.  It’s sad that I had fed myself so much that I didn’t even know when I was hungry, but there it was.

For 21 days, I lived on nuts, fresh veggies and hummus, and fruit.  No sugar.  No pop (as we in Oklahoma say).  No meat.  No dairy.  No junk food.  I didn’t cheat at all, and I began to feel empowered that yes, I can make healthy choices!  At the end of those 21 days without consciously trying to, I found that I had lost 10 pounds.  Joy!  I was doing a happy dance all over my house!

When the fast was over, I added back in meat and dairy, but interestingly, my palate (or was it my attitude toward food?) had changed, and I found myself craving the things I’d been living on for the past 3 weeks.  I went to our state fair shortly after the fast ended and decided to have my favorite fair treat–a corn dog.  Holy cow, it tasted amazing!  But it made me feel sick, honestly.  That was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I knew I was done with those foods.  Change had finally begun.

So am I advocating fasting as a weight loss method?  Not necessarily.  In fact, people who think they will lose weight if they just quit eating are doing themselves more harm than good.  When calories are cut too quickly, the body goes into “starvation mode.”  It doesn’t know when it will get more fuel, so it hangs on to what it has.  And if you have diabetes or other medical conditions, you need to eat regularly.  What the Daniel fast did for me was shift my focus from the food to why I wanted the food.  Taking away what I shouldn’t have helped me to do the hard work of figuring out the power that food had over me.  Then, I was forced to learn more constructive ways to deal with stress and boredom.  Food, my go to fix, was not an option during the fast.  The key to getting my chubby caboose on the weight loss wagon was putting myself in a position where I couldn’t deal with stress, fatigue and boredom as I had in the past, and where hunger couldn’t be satisfied with fat and sugar.

If you’d like more information on the Daniel fast, check out this link.

How do you usually deal with stress and boredom?

Are you a stress eater?

What would you do if you couldn’t eat whenever you are bored or stressed?

 

 

 

 

 

Being Determined

OK, back to more lessons from Made to Crave.

Besides the idea of being empowered, the other big take away I took away from Made to Crave was to be determined.  Be determined about what to eat.

For most of my life, I just ate whatever sounded good, whatever was convenient.  What I learned, though, was that I need to be intentional about choosing what I eat.  If I leave choosing what to eat when I’m hungry to a whim, good choices won’t happen very often, if at all.

The concept of being determined is actually quite simple.  Decide in advance what you will eat for a meal, and eat only that.  The struggle for me came at meal time, though.  I had bad habits to break and craved those not-so-good-for-me foods.  I would decide ahead of time that I would have a spinach salad and an apple for lunch, but when it came time for lunch, I would find myself not wanting a salad and fruit.  My palate was still set on unhealthy.

But I had my goals to think about.  Wanting to reach my goal gave me the strength I needed to stick with my plan and have the salad.  And every time I made a good choice, I felt my resolve to choose healthy become stronger.  Eventually, over time, making healthy choices has become easier, and the tug towards the not so good foods has decreased.

Made to Crave suggests advanced meal preparation.  Ideally, all the food you would need for a week would be prepared and portioned out into serving sized containers.  Then, at meal time, a serving of whatever is on the menu is pulled from the refrigerator.  And, voila, lunch, without having to fight with yourself over what to eat!

I could never quite get to that point, though, of getting all my meals prepared in advance.  I do think about a weekly menu, however, and plan my grocery list around that menu.  Then, I usually prepare base items, like baking chicken, making a pot of soup, or roasting some vegetables.  I also keep frozen veggies and fresh fruit on hand.  The actual meal may not be put together, but knowing what my meals will be makes for quick meal assembly and no fuss about what’s for lunch.

I’m also a snacker, so I have to be determined about what I snack on as well.  I never leave the house without a healthy snack in my bag.  I know me, and if I get too hungry, anything in front of me is fair game.  I bring easy to carry snacks, like Lara bars, almonds, or raisins.

017There’s a lot more I had to learn about making healthy food choices, but being determined, deciding in advance what I would eat, was a good first step in consistently making healthy choices.

What do you think about advanced meal preparation?  What will you determine to eat today?

 

 

 

 

Sweetheart Run 2016

My marathon training schedule included a 10K time trial for this weekend.  It just so happened that the Sweetheart Run was scheduled for the same day, so I signed up for the 10K distance–alone, in a sweetheart run.  Single people do things like that.  My sweetheart has four legs and fur, but he wasn’t allowed on the race course.

IMG_0453I was a little concerned about how the race would go.  I’ve been having trouble with my psoas muscle.  It’s a muscle that runs from the spine to the femur (the thigh bone) and enables runners to run.  It causes pain in the groin area when I lift my leg, bend over, things like that.  It’s been bothering me off and on for almost a year but not really bad enough to think about until I started marathon training.  My long runs are increasing in distance and weekly mileage has almost doubled now, so I’m feeling that psoas pain on pretty much a daily basis.  I was concerned that I might be running with pain during the race.

And for some reason, I just wasn’t feeling this race.  Usually I’m super excited, but on race day, I was tired and just kind of wanted to get it over with.

But I did all my pre-race routines.  I got up about 3 hours before the race, showered (I’m not a coffee drinker, so a shower is my “caffeine” to get the day going), had at least a bottle of water, and ate a banana and a rice cake with peanut butter and honey.

I drove to the race site early to run a couple of miles to warm up.  I’ve discovered that as my runs have become longer, it takes 3-4 miles just to get warmed up, to find my rhythm, and to settle into the run.  I didn’t want to waste half of my 6 mile race just to get warmed up.  Despite feeling tired and a wind chill of around 19, when I started running, I felt great and my excitement for the race surfaced.

My goal for the race was to set a PR (personal record).  I ran my last 10K in 58 minutes, so I just wanted to beat 58 minutes.  I knew if I could keep my pace at around 9:15-9:20, I could PR.  The gun went off, and away we went!  I’m running along, feeling great, feeling no pain, and I looked down at my watch to check my pace to find I’m running at 8:45 (8 minutes, 45 seconds/mile).

So now the dilemma and a bit of fear kick in.  There is a strategy to racing and pacing plays a HUGE role in a successful race.  Go out too fast and you run the risk of tiring too early and not being able to run the entire race.  This faster pace felt good–for now.  Do I keep it up or do I slow it down to my planned pace?  This race was meant to be a time trial so I wanted to push myself a bit, and it was only 6 miles.  But on the other hand, it was 6 miles!  What if I decide to keep this pace and then struggle to finish the race?  I don’t like failing, and I was afraid if I pushed myself, I wouldn’t be able to finish the race.

I decided to go for it and crossed the finish line 55 minutes and 1 second later, feeling strong, and loving the fact that I set a PR by 3 minutes!

Sweethear Run 2016And I wound up in third place in my age division.  This was my prize.  I’m not sure if it’s a shot glass or a candle holder?  Thoughts?

016Not that every story has to have a moral, but if there’s a moral to this story, it’s to not be afraid to try!  I’m so glad I pushed myself to keep that faster pace.  And really, would it have actually been failure if I would’ve had to walk part of the race as long as I crossed the finish line?

The only downside to setting a PR is–

Next time I have to beat 55:01 minutes!

So whatever’s on your agenda today, go for it!  Is it walking for an extra quarter mile, trying out Zumba or Kickboxing, putting an extra 10 pounds on your bar, going for a bike ride?  You might just discover you can do more than you think you can!  And then, leave a comment to let me know what you did today!

 

 

Choosing This Instead of That

When people find out I’ve lost over 60 pounds, I get asked what I eat–like all the time.  I could be snarky and just say, “Food,” but I know the question is sincere so I keep the snark in check.  Most people probably think that to have lost 60 plus pounds and kept it off, I live on rabbit food.  But my answer to the question of what I eat is, “Anything I want.”

Yep.  I eat anything I want.  Nothing is off limits to me.  The key is that I just don’t eat what I want, and as much as I want, every time I want it.

Reading the book Made to Crave was what really got me on the road to weight loss success.  There are a couple of concepts author Lysa TerKeurst talks about, though, that I still think about, and practice, on a daily basis.  One of them is the idea of being empowered.

I don’t know about you, but when I tried to lose weight in the past, I immediately went to “I can’t eat that…or that…or that.”  Losing weight was just a long list of things I couldn’t have, and they were all the things that I couldn’t stop thinking about…and craving.  I’d hold off until that moment when something would set me off, and then I’d dig into that list of forbidden foods like I’d been starving.  So much for that weight loss attempt…again.

But it was always about deprivation.  Not letting myself have something.  Being empowered turns deprivation on its head and says, “Sure.  I can have that, but I CHOOSE not to.”  Paradigm shift again!  It sounds so simplistic, but understanding I had a choice over what foods I ate was so freeing to me.  Food does NOT control me; I control what I put in my mouth.

I used to think that I had no self-control.  That was why I couldn’t lose weight.  I didn’t have the will power to make healthy choices.    I mean, think about it.  What’s the one thing you want to do if the sign says “Don’t Touch”?  If you’re like me, you want to touch it!  Putting certain foods on a can-never-eat-this-again list, just made me want them all the more.  Understanding that I was empowered to make healthy choices showed me that I did, in fact, have self-control.

So every day, as I set out to reach my daily meal goals, I make choices.  I could have pizza if I wanted, but I choose not to.  I choose to have a salad for lunch today.  Those chocolate chip cookies in the cafeteria look really yummy, but I choose to have an apple instead.  I know I could have the pizza or cookies if I wanted, but I’m choosing not to have them.  It works for me.  And the longer I make those healthy choices, the more natural, and easier, it is for me to choose healthy options.

And sometimes I do choose to have a slice of pizza or a chocolate chip cookie or some other “forbidden food”.  SOMETIMES.  I don’t have those bad for me things every day or even every week.  They are treats for times when I’m with friends or at a birthday party, and then, they are small portions.  I’m understanding now that what I eat affects how I feel, and to feel my best, pizza and cookies won’t cut it.  So I choose not to have them on most days, and I choose fruits and veggies instead.

I’ll be writing more later about what I typically eat during a day, but not depriving myself of anything has been huge for me.  In saying that, though, I also try to avoid temptation.  I love chocolate, and sometimes a girl just needs some chocolate, but instead of buying a big bag of chocolates, I pick up one single serving packet.  It calms the craving, but there’s nothing left in the house to continually call to me.

So be empowered today!  You have a decision to make about what you eat.  What will it be?  For me, I’m going with the baked chicken breast and butternut squash soup for dinner.

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How It Began, Part I

I know I’ve said it so many times, but getting my head in the right place had to happen before physical change and weight loss could happen.  But getting my head in the right place wasn’t that easy.  I wish it would have been as easy as a snap of the fingers, but…no.  It was a process.  A long process.

I’m a reader.  I love to read–medical thrillers, conspiracy novels, historical fiction, Christian nonfiction, but of all the books I’ve read, not one has had any true impact on my life.  Well, aside from the Bible.   Sure, some books I’ve read have made booksme think about things differently, but none had any life changing impact on me.  Until…Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst.

 

 

At a petite 5’2″, I had eaten my way to 180 pounds, and I felt powerless to change that number.  I found myself hiding in baggy T-shirts and sweatshirts, hoping that no one would pick up on the fact that I was fat.  I made excuses to avoid social situations, sat at home miserable with myself, and had a snack because I didn’t know what else to do.  I read about all the fad diets, looked at all the commercials for exercise equipment, but nothing could motivate me to make any changes, despite my deep desire to change.

Then a women’s Bible study at church caught my attention.  The group would be studying the book Made to Crave.  A little blurb about the study said something about craving God, not food.  I was intrigued.  A little flame of hope started to flicker inside me.  Was this the key to getting me to skinny?

I signed up for the study, opened the book and began reading, completely unprepared for my reaction of loud, heart-wrenching sobs.  Lysa equates food issues to spiritual issues, and I suddenly saw that I was letting a brownie take the place of God.  God is more than willing and able to handle all my stress and boredom, but instead of letting Him deal with those issues, I tried to handle it on my own…by eating.  I mean, even if I took out the spiritual equation, and just thought about it logically, how was food going to fix any of my problems?  It’s not like food has the ability to pay off that debt, heal Mom’s sickness, take away the conflict in that relationship.  Those things are beyond what food can handle; yet, for some reason, I thought eating would ease the stress of those situations.

So, the question I’m sure you all have is:  how much weight did you lose during the class?  Well, none.  That’s right.  I finished the class as fat as when I’d started.  BUT (and this is a big but), seeds of new thinking had been planted.  Over the next 8 months, concepts I learned through the Made to Crave study rumbled around in my mind, and then came September…

I’ll be writing a lot more about what I learned through Made to Crave, but reading Lysa’s book was really what put the wheels of change in motion, what opened my eyes to my stinkin’ thinkin’, and what began a mental and spiritual transformation that eventually gave way to a physical transformation.

For more information on Made to Crave, check out the website at madetocrave.org

 

 

Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

I know I promised that I’d get to the story of how I actually put the wheels of change in motion that led me to successful weight loss.  And we’re almost there.  There’s so much in that piece of the big story, though, that I’m struggling with how to fit it into blog sized pieces.  My plan is to begin telling that story next week.  In the meantime, though, I’m going to catch you up on what’s occupying my thoughts and time right now.

Marathon training.  That’s right.  I’m training for a marathon,  my first!  A marathon is 26.2 miles, in case you weren’t sure, and signing up for it was one of those staring down fear moments.  I’m 43 years old, have never run a marathon, and just started running a little over 2 years ago (that’s a story for another day, too).  My sister tells me (affectionately!) that I’m a little bit crazy, and sometimes, when I think about running 26.2 miles, I think she might be right.

I’ve been told that the hardest thing about running a marathon is training for it.  I’m finally at the point in my training where I’m starting to see the truth in that.  Last November I ran my first half-marathon, and until race day, I’d never run 13 miles.  Now, my training runs are 13 miles and getting longer.  Total weekly mileage is increasing too, so running is taking more and more time.

Here I am after finishing the half-marathon, feeling exhilarated at my accomplishment.

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It’s hard coming home from a 12 hour night shift and going for a run.  Really hard.  But I want to be a marathon finisher; I really, REALLY want to be a marathon finisher.  So I lace up my running shoes, choose a favorite playlist, and hit the pavement.

IMG_0214Last fall, training for a 15K and then a half-marathon, we ran a lot of hills.  In the Oklahoma heat, running hills just stinks.  Our coach would hear us whining and say, “Don’t think about how hard it is; think about the fact that there’s air conditioning waiting for you when you finish.  Think about how beautiful the trees are, what a gorgeous day it is.”  In other words, don’t focus on the pain.  Focus on the end result.

So if I want to be a marathoner, I’m just going to have to run the miles.  I’ll just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  There’s no two ways about it.  It’s hard and sometimes not much fun, but I try to imagine what it will be like to cross the finish line at mile 26.2.  I can’t wait to find out!

What goals do you have?  What’s something you had to work hard at to accomplish or something you’re working on hard now to accomplish?

Single Does Not Equal Broken

So I’m single.  I’m over the hill and have never tied the knot.  I don’t have kids, unless my four footed fur baby counts.  My cat, Sunny, is the sweetest thing ever.  Sometimes I think about getting another cat, but being single, I don’t want to become the crazy cat lady all the kids on the block talk about.

IMG_0455

035Look at all that cuteness!

I struggled with being single for a long time.  My mom was the greatest mom ever, hands down.  She died 6 years ago, and I miss her terribly.  This is one of the last pictures I have of her.

Mom 001When I was younger, I never pictured myself as a career gal.  I just thought I would be a mom and a homemaker like my mom.  But then I turned 25, and I was no where near close to getting married.  It was because there was something wrong with me; I was sure of that.

I would pray half heartedly that God would let me be content in my singleness, but deep down, I desperately wanted to get married.  I was really afraid that God’s plan for me would be singleness, so I prayed for God’s will to be done, hoping that His plan would be what I wanted–marriage.  Then, birthday 29 rolled around, and I was no where closer to getting married, but my nursing career was in full swing.  Funny how life works out.

Birthday 30 came and went.  I was still hopelessly single, but as least I had a healthier self-esteem.  I found myself sincerely wanting what God wanted for me, and to that end, I began praying sincerely for contentment in whatever marital status I found myself.  One day, I realized that I was totally and completely happy, single and all.  Funny how life works out.  (Did I already say that?)

Well meaning people tell me, sometimes, to hang in there; the right one will come along.  I used to cling to those words of encouragement, hoping upon hope that they were right.  But now, those words just make me cringe.  I mean, it’s like people think I’m not complete, or can’t be happy, without a Mr. by my side.  I get introduced sometimes as “Juanita, one of the singles” as if my marital status, or lack thereof, is the most important thing about me.  Some people joke about single people being single for a reason or single for a season.  It makes me feel like singleness is a disease to be cured.

Don’t get me wrong.  Singleness is an important part of my life.  It affects how I make decisions.  It affects where I go and when I go there.  I have a feeling, though, that marriage affects my married friends the same way.  In my quest for health, I struggle with how to live a contented single life in a culture that elevates romantic relationships.  Sometimes I think maybe there IS something wrong with me now because I’m satisfied being single, especially being single on the other side of 40.  But I know that’s not true; contentment, in any circumstance, is a gift to be treasured, and being single does not mean I’m broken.

So I smile at being introduced as a single and try to let the comments of eventually finding the right one roll off my back.  If it happens, great; if not, that’s great too.  I know who I am.  I’m Juanita, child of God, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, nurse, runner, Sunday school teacher who just happens to be single.

So here’s to being content in whatever phase of life you find yourself!  May you find joy and purpose in your here and now, married or single.