The Journey Of Ascent

My Path, His Call, Our Adventure

Low Carb Update — February 20, 2018

Low Carb Update

This post was supposed to go out yesterday, but upon arriving home from work, my MacBook disappeared into the abyss that is known as my two daughters’ hands.  Consequently this is a day late, but I wanted to give you guys an update.

Sunday was the official end of the 2 week low carb portion of my diet.  We have officially entered the carb cycle phase of this and have decided to go 3 days low carb and 1 day normal (not high) carb.  On those days our goal is to keep the carbs that we do ingest as close to the healthy side of the carb spectrum that we can.  There won’t be any running out for candy bars, potato chips, or anything like that.  I’m excited to see how this phase goes.

I’m sure you’re wondering how the 2 weeks of low carb went for me.  I have to admit that it wasn’t easy (what lifestyle change is?), but it also wasn’t the torture I expected.  I discovered that breakfast and lunch are pretty easy for me to keep it in check, but dinner is where I find myself really wanting that baked potato, rice, pasta, or bread.  I am happy to say that I made it and the results were pretty astounding to me.

For the sake of comparison, I am actually going to post my weight from December 23, 2017 (my heaviest since gaining the weight back), followed by my weight on February 5 (the first day of low carb), and finally my weight from February 19.  It should be noted that between 12/23-2/4 I was being judicious about my food intake, but wasn’t following any type of plan.

December 23, 2017 – 280 lbs.

February 5, 2018 (start of low carb) – 272 lbs.  Lost 8 pounds in a roughly six week period.

February 19, 2018 (start of carb cycling) – 260.6 lbs. Lost 11.4 pounds in 2 weeks and a total of 19.4 pounds since 12/23.

I can’t argue with results.  This seems to be working for me and for my wife right now.  I will not post her results without permission, but she is doing incredibly well with this as well.

I’ll update again after a few carb cycles.  It should be noted that on February 12, I re-introduced running into my routine.

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Changing It Up — February 10, 2018

Changing It Up

It’s no secret that one of my biggest physical frustrations over the past 12 months (aside from the personal stuff that just won’t seem to stop) is the fact that even when I was running 30-35 miles per week (I miss those days), I was steadily packing on the weight.  I actually gained 75% of the weight I had lost 2 years ago back.  It has been so frustrating.

Having said that, I knew that something had to change drastically.  I am still running when I can, but that has not been nearly as much as I would like it to be at this point.  The diet must change.  I hate divulging my weight, but it helps me with accountability.  On January 1, 2018, I weighed in at a whopping 274.2 pounds.  At my heaviest a couple of years ago, I was 298.2. At my lowest, I reached 199.8. I began being ‘cautious’ with my eating habits at the start of the year and saw minimal success.  I was able to get to where I fluctuated between 269-272.  That wasn’t getting it done.

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My wife started talking to me about joining her in a carb cycle diet.  She has done it before and had a pretty good amount of success with it.  My dilemma is twofold.  I LOVE my potatoes, rice, and pasta.  The thought of drastically reducing those things scared me. Also, there are not many vegetables that I like.  Seriously.  Here’s my veggie list: broccoli, green beans, peas, lima beans, and corn.

I reluctantly have agreed to give it a shot.  The biggest challenge is that before you start carb cycling, it is recommended to do a 2 week stretch of very low carb eating.  The idea is for your macros to be 70% fats, 25% protein, and 5% carb.  You want to begin to train your body to burn fat because when you are taking in too much sugar (carbs), your body burns that first and the fat doesn’t always get burned.

I’m six days in as of today and wow is this hard.  That said, I’ve seen some early results.  As of this morning, I am down to 264.2 so at the very least this has jump started my stalled weight loss.  I won’t lie and say that I’m excited about this change of food intake, but I am hopeful that it will get me back on track with regards to getting healthy (after all, the Richmond Marathon on 11/10 isn’t getting any farther away and there is no way that I could contemplate running 26.2 in my current condition).

Has anyone else out there had something that worked well for them?  Have you tried this particular approach?  If so, what kind of results did you have?  Leave your comments below.  I look forward to hearing your stories as well.

Not Ashamed — January 25, 2018

Not Ashamed

I posted the following brief devotional to our church’s Facebook page and thought I would share it with my blog followers as well.

I often find God reminding me of some of His basic principles and truths in unusual ways. This morning it came in the form of a line from the Broadway musical “Hamilton.” At one point in the show, Alexander Hamilton makes this statement to Aaron Burr: ‘If you stand for nothing, Burr, what will you fall for.’

We live in a society where it seems that many Christians would live silent lives to avoid offending those who don’t believe as we do. While I am certainly not advocating going out there looking to pick a fight with unbelievers, I do believe that it’s important that people know where we stand. Sure this will sometimes cause us to be in an uncomfortable situation, but I really don’t believe that is too much of God to ask of us. After all, Jesus found Himself in much worse than an uncomfortable situation in His mission to rescue humanity from sin.

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I worry that if we, the body of Christ, continue to remain silent and are never in a situation where we are challenged to defend our faith, we will find ourselves forgetting what we believe and in turn open ourselves up to fall for the lies of the enemy. It’s kind of like all that math you had to learn in high school. If you don’t use it, you will forget it.

We must be bold in our faith. After all, didn’t Jesus tell the disciples that if we deny Him before men that He would deny us before the Father? I certainly don’t want Jesus to deny me when I stand before God.

Let’s make a stand. Let’s remember the words of Romans 1:16 and live the life of someone who is unashamed of Jesus Christ. The world wants to see real Christians; not just those who claim Christianity but don’t show any of the subsequent fruit.

Here’s an old Newsboys song that this verse in Romans always reminds me of. It’s from the early 90’s so the video is definitely dated. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er306rvbdfo

Not Today — January 19, 2018

Not Today

Before reading, check out this song from Travis Cottrell.  You Fight For Us

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We are going to be introducing this song very soon at Kempsville Church, but that’s not why it’s on my heart today.

As I sit here in my mom’s Critical Care room in the hospital, I can’t help but think back to last Sunday at church.  I shared with our church how I believed that 2018 was going to be a year to refresh and recover.  I believe that for my life personally as well as for our church in Virginia Beach.

Just four days after publicly declaring that to our church, my mom was found unresponsive in her home and rushed to the ER where she would be admitted to CCU. I immediately got in my car and made the 5 hour drive to see what was going on and to be with her.  The entirety of the drive was spent running every possible scenario through my head about what I would find when I got here.  Without going into details, the reality was somewhere in the middle of worst case/best case scenario. Mom is showing improvement today, but there’s still a long way to go for her.

Maybe you’re asking me how can I still believe that refresh and recover are for me when not 3 weeks into 2018 I find myself in a hospital room with my mother lying there on a ventilator.  The answer is simple.  I don’t expect everyone to understand my attitude regarding this and that’s ok too.  I know who fights my battle.  It’s my job to be here for my mom, but I can’t fight this battle.  She can’t fight this battle.  It’s in His hands and there’s no safer place for it to be.

I don’t know what the coming days are going to hold, but I do know that the resolve that I have for 2018 to be a better year for me and my household has not diminished in the least.  God’s got this, and my victory will not be stolen away from me.

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I will leave you with one more song.  This time from Hillsong United. Not Today

Reading 2018 — January 4, 2018

Reading 2018

I’ll admit it, when I finished up my Master’s Degree way back in 2002, I took a long break from reading much of anything outside of the Bible.  While, I always enjoyed reading, I had done so much of it during my 6 years of college (Bachelors and Masters degrees), that I was simply burned out on reading.  My wife also loves to read and after we were married in 2003, I saw her constantly reading.  It eventually rubbed off on me and I started doing some casual reading.

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Fast forward to present day and reading is one of my favorite things to do in my down time.  Admittedly, being in ministry, having two very active kids, and wanting to be a good husband to Beth doesn’t always leave me a lot of down time, but I try to read at least 30 minutes a day.  Currently, I like to keep three books going at once.  Categorically it’s usually one fiction, one Christian biography or discipleship type of book, and one completely random just because I want to kind of book.  On this snow day here in Virginia Beach, I thought I would share what I am currently reading and give my readers the opportunity to chime in with what they’re reading currently or what they have read recently that they would recommend.

THE TWELFTH IMAM – Fiction

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I recently finished Rosenberg’s ‘Copper Scroll’ series and really enjoyed that, so I thought I would jump into this highly recommended series.  If you haven’t read any of Rosenberg’s stuff, he writes political thrillers from a Christian perspective.  He seems to have a pretty good feel for the nuances of the politics of the Middle East.  These are incredibly enjoyable reads and I am looking forward to this series.

TORTURED FOR CHRIST – Christian Biography

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Richard Wurmbrand spent a total of 14 years in a Communist prison in Romania for preaching the gospel.  I’m a little over a third of the way through this book and it has brought me to the point of tears several times already.  Not only is the treatment of prisoners by their captors almost impossible to believe, the love that Wurmbrand expresses towards those very men who so horrifically mistreated him is amazing.  It truly is a wonderful example of Christ-like love.

SECOND NATURE – just because

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Yes, I enjoy wrestling.  Yes, I know that it’s scripted. No, I don’t care.  Some of my fondest memories of dorm life at Lee University involve hanging out in the 2nd floor TV room in Cross Hall and watching wrestling during the infamous ‘Monday Night Wars.’  Ric Flair is probably one of if not the greatest performer in the history of the business.  This book chronicles the end of his in-ring career (the chapter on his final match at Wrestlemania XXIV with Shawn Michaels is amazing) and segues into the rise of his daughter Ashley (who wrestles under the name Charlotte) into one of the top performers in the company today.

Well, that’s what I’m currently reading.  What’s on your nightstand these days?  Leave comments below!

Refresh and Recover — January 2, 2018

Refresh and Recover

I don’t do this every year, but this year there are two words that I believe God has placed on my heart for the year.  God is using these two particular words to help me focus on what I need to focus on for 2018.  Coming out of a tumultuous 2017, these two words feel incredibly significant.

Refresh – give new strength or energy to; reinvigorate

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It hit me towards the end of 2017 (probably while lying in a hospital bed) that I was absolutely exhausted.  My body had been through so much physically and emotionally yet I hadn’t taken the time to allow myself to get any rest.  There was always something pushing me whether it was the rigors of marathon training, the trips to Maryland to help mom continue to sort out all of Dad’s affairs, being the husband and father that I needed to be (boy did I blow that one many times), or lastly, being the worship pastor that God had called me to be.

Everything on that list is a good thing.  The problem is that often times I was choosing the good thing instead of the best thing.  The best thing would have been to recognize my limits and rest.  I honestly believe that my hospital stay in late October was God reminding me that if I didn’t take care of my own body that He could put me in a situation where someone else would be taking care of it.  That’s never any fun.

I plan on paying attention to my body both physically and spiritually this year.  That means when my body is starting to feel the fatigue of the grind, it will be time for me to unplug (even if for a couple of hours) and let my body refresh itself.  If I feel my time with the Lord is suffering, it will be time to unplug and get alone with God for a bit.  I can not and will not allow 2018 and whatever stressors it may bring to wear me down the way I did in 2017.

Recover – return to a normal state of mind, health, or strength

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OK. I know the first joke that some one wants to crack is that I’ve never been in a normal state of mind.  After all, I’m a musician.  That may very well be true, but regardless, I need to allow myself to return to my baseline this year.

One area where that is critical for all of this is with my weight.  I know I blog a lot about my running experiences and a couple of years ago I chronicled my journey that led to losing 98 pounds, but this is a serious issue for me.  When my weight is bad (it currently is), my health is bad.  I’m fatigued, tired, and even pretty irritable when all of those factors kicked in.

While it was inevitable that I was going to miss some workouts and runs last year with everything that was going on, it was inexcusable to allow myself to resort to the eating habits that had me weighing in at 298 in April of 2015.  If I am going to recover to my baseline for health and then make improvements from there, I have to get things back under control in that area.

Another thing that I want to recover is my joy.  I lost so much last year and it took my joy away.  For much of 2017 I was simply floating through trying to make it to the next day.  I’m not beating myself up for that as I think much of how I coped with everything would be considered fairly normal. I’m simply acknowledging that it’s time to press through.  I’ll never be the same man that I was before Dad died.  That’s just a fact.  However, I believe that if I allow myself to recover my joy and take care of myself in every way that I can be a better man than I was before he died.  It’s what he would want, that’s for sure. When I need to be reminded about holding onto my joy, I may have to locate one of my old Campus Choir recordings and listen to ‘More Abundantly.’  We sang that song so many times, but it always made me smile.

2017 is history and as of today, I have 364 opportunities in 2018 to refresh and recover.  There is certainly more that I need to deal with over the course of this year, but this is where God has shown me that I need to start.

Happy New Year!

Do any of you do something like this at the start of a new year?  If so, what is your word for the coming year?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

2017 – What a Year — December 31, 2017

2017 – What a Year

I don’t want to say a whole lot about 2017, because in all honesty I don’t have much good to say about this year.  Several life changing events occurred over the past 365 days and many of them were things that I would rather not have dealt with.

To begin with, Beth had to undergo two separate and unrelated surgeries during the year.  Praise the Lord that she came through both with no unexpected effects. Regardless, sitting in a waiting room while your wife is being operated on is not the place you want to be, especially as it brought back memories of 2015 when Beth had her brain surgery.

In late March, we were given the earth shattering news that my dad had lung cancer that had spread into his brain.  His doctors however gave him a good prognosis that within about a year, he should have the cancer in his rear view mirror.  In June, he developed pneumonia that his body simply couldn’t fight off.  I was able to spend two weeks with him in June and then on July 11 we got the call that they were taking Dad to hospice care and it was only a matter of time.  We set out for Maryland on the morning of July 12 and 30 minutes after we left, I got the phone call that rocked my world.  Dad had passed away.  This man was my hero.  I talked to him every day and now, without a chance to say goodbye, he was gone.  I am glad that he’s not suffering anymore.  I am glad that he is  with His Savior. That said, my heart is broken.  I miss him everyday and even now find myself grabbing for the phone to call him.  Dad, I love you forever and I can’t wait to be reunited.

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If you follow this blog, you know that 2017 was supposed to be the year I ran my first marathon.  Well, the end cycle of my training was going really badly. My long runs were getting cut short because my body was just shutting down on me.  I was blaming it on stress and fatigue.  It all came to a head the weekend of the Baltimore Running Festival.  I was running the Balti-moron-othon Challenge (5k and Half Marathon the same morning). I had to pull out of the half marathon at mile 9.  I was defeated and devastated.  I drove home that night.  The next morning at church, I came off the stage after the music segment of our worship service and Beth drove me straight to the ER.  Come to find out, I had a severe flare up of diverticulitis that doctors told me had probably been festering for a while.  I avoided surgery, but spent 4 days in the hospital.  This was also the end of my 2017 marathon quest.

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When Beth and I got married, I gave her a unique wedding present: a dog.  She had told me many times how she always wanted a Boston Terrier and for our wedding, that’s what she got.  Prancer was the greatest dog.  She was a part of our family from the very beginning.  Then, in one final gut punch for 2017, on December 2, we had to say goodbye.  She gave us 14 wonderful years and we will never forget her.

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As hard as 2017 was, it had it’s good moments as well.  I finally got to run a half marathon with the guy who is responsible for my running.  I met up with David and his pastor Tommy and Tommy’s friend Brian to run the Downhill at Dawn Half Marathon in Ridgecrest, NC.  We had a blast.

The real highlight of my year came when I had the honor of baptizing both of my daughters.  Carrie had been baptized at our previous church, but I wasn’t able to do it.  The morning I baptized Hannah, Carrie surprised me by asking if I would baptize her as well.  Definitely a proud dad moment.

It was a big year for Carrie as well.  She started middle school and realized one of her dreams by making the middle school cheer team.  She has had a blast cheering for football and basketball this year.

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Beth and I also celebrated our 14th anniversary in November.  Since our anniversary fell on a Wednesday, we spread out the celebration.  We had lunch at Waterman’s on our anniversary and then the Friday after that, we went out for an amazing dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House and followed it up with a trip to Chrysler Hall to see the stage show for ‘Dirty Dancing.’  It was an awesome celebration!

I learned a lot about myself this year.  I am still growing and learning.  I was able to overcome a lot of obstacles and end the year on a great note by running a 5k on New Year’s Eve with Carrie (her first). I hope to take what I’ve learned through the adversity of 2017 and turn it into an amazing 2018.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!