Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Little Things

It’s strange to find myself at a loss for words. I lost my own father in 2014, and I have the familiar denial again, that my father-in-law isn’t really gone. Surely he’ll be back. But he is gone, and I have an uncomfortable feeling that I took him for granted.

He wasn’t the kind of person to push himself on anyone. In fact, I can remember giving him a hard time about him not wanting attention or gifts. He was frugal, he saved rather than spent, he didn’t buy extras for himself. And yet the same man would show himself immensely generous if someone was in need. I see it now – he preferred to store up his money so he could use it on others. It made him happy.

Isn’t it always the little things that become magnified when a person leaves this life? The chair he liked to sit in by his condo is still there, the ground around it covered in bird seed. The little homemade snow globe my son made a few years ago still sits on the top of his dresser. His calendar is marked to help him remember to take care of his granddaughter when she gets home from school. He had a bag of dog treats ready for the next time he would have taken care of his granddog.

I’m not saying my father-in-law was perfect. He had flaws just as we all do, though age had refined him and created something peaceful and kind in his spirit that made him easy to be around. I guess I’m saying I wish I could have seen the wonderful part more clearly before it was time to say goodbye. I wish I’d hugged him a little longer or spent a little more time sitting across from him on the couch and talking about nothing important.

I struggle to take time to appreciate the little things. I’m not one to sit on a chair in the yard and feed the birds. I hate small talk. I always want life to be big, epic and profound. But how much closer could I have been to my father-in-law if I’d tried things his way? If I hadn’t been so impatient and busy, and I’d just taken the fleeting moments he had left and sat by him?

There was a week several years ago that he came and spent with our family. I enjoyed having him there, but there was one day when I was trying to get everything accomplished and I was finally on the elliptical, getting exercise out of the way. He followed me into the room with his coffee and just sat there as I exercised. At the time I wished he would find something else to do. It felt awkward. Now I see it completely differently. He was trying to be part of my world. He was trying to be present even though I was overly busy. How I would change my attitude if I could relive that moment again!

As I was after my own father died, I’m regretful. But I’m hopeful that my wrong perspective could help someone else make changes in relationships before it’s too late. If you have a person in your life who thinks opposite of you, embrace the differences. Learn to appreciate them. Imagine that person gone from your world and truly consider what would suddenly be missing from your life.

Howard … Dad … I do love you. I wish I’d told you more. I wish it hadn’t taken seeing you on your deathbed to realize how special you are. I’m sorry I took you for granted. I’ll remember you, and your simple, wonderful ways, and make sure my children remember the precious treasure you really were.

So, as my children keep saying, I wish I had one more time to sit and talk to you. Even saying that, I know it wouldn't be enough. It would never be enough. It goes back to that inevitable truth - we weren't made for death. It's not a natural state. I'm so thankful that someday death will be defeated and banished forever. May we all be ready for that day.

Goodbye, my second father. I will miss you.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Results of Blackout 2017

The Shisler family Blackout 2017 is drawing to a close. It was an interesting month. We did well in some areas and others were a challenge. We've definitely learned some things.

We stuck to the no electronics the whole month. There was one or two who shall remain nameless that sneaked some phone time or did some unnecessary "work" on the computer, but overall it was a pretty quiet month. At first the kids didn't know what to do with themselves, but they started playing more games and undertaking creative endeavors. 

Drying laundry on the line didn't go well. I tried it once but realized quickly I didn't have enough space on my line for the amount of laundry I do in  a day. We did some towels and sheets on the line, but I admit we gave that up pretty quickly.

We are still washing dishes by hand. I have definitely learned to appreciate my Bosch dishwasher. I had no idea how much time it saves me. I'm not going to take it for granted anymore!

We ate more simply as well and tried some new dishes. We did more of a "Mediterranean" diet, which worked pretty well for everyone. 

I noticed that we did better the first half of the month than the second. Especially as our vacation approached, I started buying things on Amazon again, using it as my excuse. I think I need some more work on the "no spending" in the future. I did successfully avoid buying my son a fidget spinner. He asked approximately forty thousand times a day.

I made it well over a week without air conditioning, but it probably wasn't fair because the weather has been unseasonably cool and pleasant. I got uncomfortable fast for the few days that were hot, and the air went right back on. I believe if we had to live in survival mode that would be the the thing that I would have the hardest time with. I don't like being too hot. 

We did composting most of the month and didn't use paper or plastic. I noticed the garbage can wasn't as full as usual, and I was happy about that. 

If I were going to grade us, we'd probably get a C- for our effort and attitudes this time. But I'm told I'm a tough teacher. I think this was a good introduction to a simpler lifestyle, but it wasn't perfect. I'm thinking we are going to need to revisit this idea again.

We played a lot of board games, spent a lot of time outside, went to VBS, slept more, talked more and took more walks. And those were probably the best reasons to pull the plug. I spent more time studying the Bible and praying, and I managed to write about 50,000 words during the month of June, which is unheard of for me. I guess I really do get distracted by the internet. I may have to give myself some permanent rules about work time.

Here are some pics from the past month. Thanks for tuning in!

built from scratch by my 13-year-old daughter

playing "co-op"

Washing dishes and shenanigans

Monday, May 29, 2017

Blackout 2017

Today is Memorial Day. We tend to think about this as a day off where we get all the chores done we've been putting off. Or a day where we visit family or take a trip. Or we think of it as the kickoff to summer.

But we know that first, this is a day to remember. Remember sacrifices made on our behalf. We remember that countless lives were laid down so that we could be so free we can work on the lawn or go on a trip or cook out or do whatever we want. They died so we could have these freedoms.

Living in a world and even in a country that doesn't seem to have as much appreciation for the sacrifices given for us, I have to wonder how much longer it will last. Our nation no longer acts like grateful upholders of freedom, rather, entitled, easily offended, distracted holders of freedom.

Because of what I see happening in the world, and even with the attitudes and entitlement of my own children and my own heart, our family is adopting a plan for June that I hope will bring our motivations and goals somewhat back into check. It's a scary plan. It doesn't sound especially fun. I'm sure we're going to have challenges in the next month as we try to make it work. But deep down within me, I feel like my children need the opportunity to realize how much we take for granted. And I want them to know what to do if freedom, comfort and ease becomes a thing of the past.

So this month, the Shisler family will be conducting a Blackout. Not a literal blackout, with no electricity or running water or grocery stores, etc, but a first-time practice Blackout.

Here's our plan:

Shisler Family Blackout
June, 2017

For the month of June, we will be unplugging and reducing our use of conveniences and electricity. The reasons for this:

1.       To honor God by admitting our comfort and entertainment may be distracting us from hearing his voice, and to pray and ask him to speak in the stillness.

2.       To learn to be more conservative in our use of power, food, conveniences and entertainment. These things may not always be around, and we need to know how to live without them.

3.       To remember that sacrifice reminds us of how much Jesus gave up for us. He left HEAVEN to live here in a very rough time and died a very rough death on our behalf. While we have been blessed to have so many comforts, it’s not what this life is about and Jesus was the one who showed us what is more important.

4.       To learn how to get along. We will use this time to focus on relationships and finding common ground without the distractions. We will focus on learning to be quiet without electronics.

5.       To learn how to work hard to survive. This may come in useful one day.

What we will be doing differently:

1.       No electronics. No computer (except for specific work and school tasks), no tv, no phones (except for calls and texts with friends and family.) Exceptions: listening to music or Adventures in Odyssey, listening to the Bible read aloud or an audio classic book, reading on the kindle. (limit to one hour a day.)

2.       We will be drying laundry on the clothesline when the weather is good. Everyone will help.

3.       We will be hand washing dishes, and reducing our use of paper and plastic. Everyone will help.

4.       We will not be making any purchases besides food and any emergency necessities that come up. No purchases for fun or convenience.

5.       We will try to live without air conditioning for at least a week, or as long as the weather does not get extremely hot. If it does, we will keep it set to 78 or above to conserve energy.

6.       We will not drive more than necessary or for convenience.

7.       We will make compost of food waste rather than throw it away. We will reduce our waste.

8.       We will conserve our use of water and electricity.

9.       We will eat less red meat, more vegetables. We will try to make our own bread and conserve our use of the stove and fridge. (maybe cook mostly on grill?)

1.      We will spend our extra time organizing and decluttering, getting rid of things that could be helpful to others.

1.      We will do at least one activity that is for the good of others less fortunate.

I     If you are interesting in joining us for the Blackout in June (or another time) feel free to use any or all of these ideas.  I'll be posting again in July about how it went and what we learned. Let me know about your experiences and ideas in the comments, and thank you to all who serve our country so sacrificially!


Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday?

On this morning, only a couple thousand of years ago, a man waited below the house of the high priest in Jerusalem.

A prisoner. Surely many prisoners had been housed in that dungeon, dreading the moment they were handed over to Rome for execution. Some may have deserved their fate, some may have been victims of a corrupt system governed more by rule-following and prestige than by their law they claimed to love so dearly.

But this prisoner was different. He was truly innocent, not only in matters of the law, but in all matters. He was the perfect Creator of the universe, captive only to his love for his people and to his promises made from the beginning of time.

But why do we call this day Good Friday? The day our Lord was betrayed by friendship’s kiss cannot be good. The morning after a night of slandering, the morning dawn brought cruelty in the form of beatings, mocking, and a sentence of death can't be good. Those who had followed him and praised his teaching and even watched him raise the dead to life … now scorned him. Disowned him. Left him alone without a single soul willing to stand up for him and risk the same fate. How can it be good that he suffered, and that he suffered alone?

His disciples couldn’t even stay awake to pray with him the night before such an evil, terrible day. 

So why in the world would we call this day “good”? What could be good in such tragedy and betrayal? How could we celebrate a day that found humanity at its worst, violently attacking and killing the very being that gave them the breath of life and formed their bodies within their mothers’ wombs?

We call it good because it is our only hope. We call it good because there is no other way, not by sacrifice or self-discipline or scientific exploration or by the pursuit of world peace … THERE IS NO OTHER WAY we could be saved from our sinful souls.

It is a good Friday when I know that cross, meant for shame and torture and death, is a glorious trophy to exchange one day for a crown I don’t deserve. I can call his suffering and death good because he endured every single moment until it was finished … for me. Because he loved me. In my sin and ugliness and weakness and failure, he loved me.

And we can call it good because it wasn’t just one person he loved, but every one of us. His sacrifice was accomplished ONCE FOR ALL. Anyone who will turn from their sin and look to his cross for forgiveness and new life may come and receive freely the abundant gift of eternal life. No questions asked. No qualifications or conditions. The price has been paid. Cursed humanity has been ransomed.

Only come. Receive. Have faith.

And Friday is good only because of one enduring, eternal truth. Friday is good because Sunday is coming. Death didn’t keep him. The grave was forced to give him up. Friday is good because it was the only way we would know that our Savior is strong enough to take on the enemy we could never, ever conquer on our own.

Jesus is alive.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Product Shout Out

Alternative to artifical dyes

I'm not one to advertise. I'm not even good at advertising my own books. But I am so excited about this product! I've been waiting for someone to come up with a good alternative to artificial dyes in food coloring.

I tried my own. I've tried steeping red onion leaves and beets and I've only succeeded in making a mess and some very questionable beige and brownish green colors. Cringing all the while, I've had to resort to the artificial dyes come Christmas or Easter. But this Christmas, a happy little surprise was sitting on the shelf at Meijer.

This was the final result. I was a little worried as I started mixing my colors together that they were going to be that weird and faded brownish tint, but for some reason these colors get brighter the longer they sit. The green turned out perfectly and the red ended up a hot pink, which I'll take! The package contains the three primary colors, red, blue and yellow, and you mix them together to get other colors (instructions are included.)You can find this product on Amazon here. Please note this is an affiliate link and also that Amazon is a little steep in price (though I probably would have paid that much!) I believe I paid around $7 at Meijer for the same product. Also note I was not asked to use or review this product, I am only posting about it because I found it and loved it!

Let's reward McCormick for coming up with this product and giving us an alternative to dyes, which are suspected of causing health issues for many people. (Read this article from Eating Well for more info.)I'm thankful that they have allowed me to better stick to my "only God-made food" policy!

What do you think? Have you tried these? What was your result? How do you feel about having an alternative to food dyes? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Loving like Jesus means doing the unexpected.

I guess this is one of those "open letters." This one goes out to my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. You know who you are.

I'm glad we're in this together. I'm a believer in our Christian community. I see the way we're letting go of things that were holding us back. I hear the way we're talking to one another and having each other's back in hard times. I see how loyalty, courage and worship are becoming more of a way of life for us. We're being honest with one another. We're opening up. We're growing. I just have one caution. Just one word of advice.

We don't have to argue about everything.

I've been watching the body, both in social media and in the press as well as in person. I see a trend that I'd love to speak up and say something about. I want to remind you all who we're trying to be like.


Jesus didn't argue with people. Jesus didn't give the standard, expected response. When his enemies tried to trap him with questions, he didn't respond either way they expected, which meant he always won his arguments.

It's a difficult time to be a Christian. I get that as much as anyone. The Bible is growing in unpopularity with societies and nominal Christians who care more about tolerance and political agendas than the Word of God. The darkness is strong. Sometimes it's hard to reflect the light. Sometimes we get put on the spot and we panic. But I'd love for us all to have a plan for when this happens.

These thoughts occurred to me today when I saw in my Facebook feed that everyone was talking about the Gaines. Chip and Joanna, who love fixing up houses and showing families how to see the gems in the most questionable places, who have never made it a secret that they are devoted followers of Christ, have come under fire simply for the teachings of their preacher, which happen to be the very teachings of our Creator and the author of our existence. Without saying a word, without veering for a moment from their quiet, simple testimony of faith, Satan is trying his best to upend their example in our culture.

It's a trend. Whenever believers are put on a pedestal and become a hot topic, Satan will inevitably send someone in to discredit them, and if there is nothing to discredit, he will put them on the spot and make them choose between the accepted ways of our society or the truths of God's Word. This isn't a new strategy for the king of this world. In the Roman Empire, Christians could be put on the spot to worship the Roman gods and deny Christ or lose their lives. It's really no different, except that believers haven't had to choose between their lives and their faith in this country.

I don't know how or if the Gaines will respond. But my hope is that they won't choose the expected. I hope they don't panic and go back on their faith as some have, and have weakened the illumination their spotlight could have accomplished in a dark world. I hope they won't become argumentative and divisive, standing up for their rights and calling all Christians to be militant in the face of persecution. I hope they'll follow fast after Christ and love.

Love fellow sinners. Meet them where they are in the saddest, hardest, loneliest places and be the friend that doesn't quit just because everyone's watching or society disapproves or the church turns up their nose.

In fact, I pray we'll all learn to love like Jesus. I pray we'll take to heart the warnings about not letting sinful attitudes, philosophies and actions invade our thinking and cause us to turn away from the truth, but I pray just as hard that we'll stay out of arguments that don't accomplish anything except to make us look just like everyone else who wants their own way. Let's be the lovers Christ was. Let's be the kind of Christians that walk to the cross in humility just because it's best for that soul who doesn't even know he or she is lost. Let's give a cup of cold water to an enemy who has fallen and doesn't have the strength to get back up. Let's be the friend to the one who is trying so hard to have it all together and make their beliefs work, and let's not trample on those who are already so lost.

We can believe what God said about sin. We can believe it with all our heart and still go out into this crazy world and find sinners to love into eternity. We don't have to show up on their doorstep, present a spiel and go on our way as the doors slam in our face. It doesn't have to be that way.

Does your neighbor know you are safe? Does your friend at work know they can trust you? Do your family members believe they can count on you when they are in need, even if their own decisions cause their heartaches? Can you sit by the bedside of a dying friend and hold their hand and give them grace even if they have sinned in ways that make you uncomfortable? Will you be willing to go out into the streets and give food and water to people who have lost their homes and who have no idea where to turn for the most basic needs of life?

Jesus did it for you. Jesus met you where you were. Jesus came to every one of us laying in our own filth and pulled us out at his own painful, terrible expense. It's our job to love like that. It's not our job to be indignant because unbelievers sin. We did the same things as unbelievers. SUCH WERE SOME OF US, as Paul reminded us in 1 Corinthians 6:11. None of us have any ability to resist what God has called sin without his intervention in our lives. Jesus is the answer. And we're the ones that know it. We're the ones who have experienced the tidal wave of his love and have been changed completely from the people we used to be.

I recently heard a quote that went something like this: Don't judge people for the point you jump into their story. Believe the best. Hope for their future. Show them by your example and the love of Christ working through you that there is a light at the end of their tunnel.

Spread peace. Be a refuge. Do the unexpected, and watch God use it for his kingdom. After all, isn't that why we're here?

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
James 3

Monday, November 7, 2016

40 is the New 20!

Forty. I'm about to turn forty.

I have been living in this world for forty years. Until now, I've always had the impression that forty was old. As in elderly. I was sure that if I didn't do something before I turned forty, I would never do it. I'd be too old and tired and achy. I'd have to start camping out in a rocker, knitting. I'd have to give up hopes and dreams and prepare for death.

Okay, my anticipation of this age may have been a little on the dramatic side. But I have come to a strange but relieving conclusion about turning forty. I'm okay with it. Not only am I okay with it, I can honestly say things are better now than when I was thirty. Or twenty. Or even ten!

How about an explanation?

I have a standard answer I save for the conversations that inevitably lead to the question "Why in the world do you have such a restrictive diet? Why are you so careful about stress, food and exercise?"

Well, the best way to put it is: my body hates me.

Most people don't struggle with this conflict to the degree I do. But then again, you don't hear most 40-year-olds saying that they feel better than they did at 30, 20 or even 10. But I absolutely do. I guess sometimes we get things backward.

 This is a picture of me with my sisters (I'm the oldest sitting on the far right) when I was almost ten. (Please disregard the hair. It was 1985 and my mother expected sons.)Most people don't remember feeling too poorly when they were ten. But to be honest, I'm not sure this nearly ten-year-old knew any better. I'd already been fighting asthma and allergies for as long as I could remember.  When I was ten, I was hospitalized for a week with an asthma attack. I took it in stride. It was the first time I'd had a T.V. all to myself, after all. And you don't spend too much time contemplating your mortality when you're ten. But it was the start of a long series of autoimmune issues. In those days, you took daily medicine and steroids for asthma. I'm not saying they didn't help keep me alive, but there are reasons why we no longer treat this condition this way.

Fast forward ten years. Ten long years of trying to keep my weight under control though I wasn't eating any more or exercising any less than anyone else in my family or circle of friends. I got into the habit of blaming myself between extreme diets. Obviously, there was something wrong with me. Obviously, I had no self-control and I must be doing something to cause my problems.So at twenty, I added emotional problems to my growing list of issues. By now, it was asthma, allergies, IBD and migraine headaches. I was hospitalized twice when I was nearing the age of twenty because I had caught a stomach bug and my body completely overreacted. And for every condition I was diagnosed with, a long list of prescriptions was the only answer I was given. No matter that my body overreacted to the medicine as much as it overreacted to a stomach bug. I went off the meds after dealing with every side effect known to man.This was the first time I asked God if I was going to die. I felt like I would both times.

Midway on my way from 20 to 30 I faced a new hurdle. I knew I was meant to be a mother. I was convinced there were four little ones - two boys, two girls - who needed me to be their mom. Problem was, my body didn't agree. I added PCOS to the list of body malfunctions and got fed up enough to do more than starve myself and exercise obsessively. 

My research in order to get pregnant was the first major step I took toward becoming healthy. My trail led to a simple little unassuming book called "Fertility Foods" by Dr. Jeremy Groll. It changed my life. I lost weight as I learned to eat less carbs and more protein. To my joy, my prayers were answered with a baby girl at the age of 26. 

Followed by a boy. And another girl. And another boy.

Pregnancy and childbirth took a toll on me. Through my early thirties, I probably felt the worst I have in my life. The hormonal issues I had with PCOS spun out of control. I couldn't control my weight. I felt old and tired and desperate.

I don't regret a single one of my children, by the way. Worth it.

But as our family reached completion, I reached the end of my ability to deal with my stubborn, uncooperative body. I needed ANSWERS. So I went back to researching. Slowly over the next few years, God brought answers in the form of people who taught me how to think differently. How to go outside the box of the normal and do things that would heal my body and bring a measure of peace.

I stopped eating wheat, sugar, anything with chemicals or preservatives, and inflammation drastically reduced in my body. I learned to deal better with stress, and with the help of the Holy Spirit I addressed my wrong thinking and let him begin to change me from the heart. I had the blessing of meeting a caring integrative doctor who treated my then undiagnosed thyroid problem with a natural form of gentle thyroid medicine that made me feel like a completely different person. And finally, not even a year ago, I met a wonderful doctor I only spent 15 minutes with who told me to consider the PCOS factor again. And a lot of new research, the loss of forty pounds and six months later, I cannot imagine a time in my life I have ever felt better.

And I'm forty. It took me forty years to figure out how to live at peace with this body. But it was possible. Persistence paid off. 

So maybe I'm living life backward. Or maybe God intends for all of us to grow into our bodies and our minds and feel like 40 is way better than 30 or 20 or 10. Either way, I feel responsible to share this story and help others find their way. I know better than anyone that you don't have to live in survival mode with a body that hates you. There are answers. They just take a little hard work, persistence and faith to accomplish. And the truth is, I couldn't complete the jobs God wants me to do when I was in that survival mode. So this healing is giving him glory. That's what it's all about, after all.

So all that being said, I'm glad to be forty. I wouldn't go back even if I could. I know there will be new challenges ahead, but I'm ready. 

Thank you Lord, for forty years of life you gave me to serve you. I give you the rest of my days and ask you to use my story to inspire others to pursue peace in their bodies.

The Little Things

It’s strange to find myself at a loss for words. I lost my own father in 2014, and I have the familiar denial again, that my father-in-law ...