The Journey Of Ascent

My Path, His Call, Our Adventure

8:28 on April 6, 2018 — April 6, 2018

8:28 on April 6, 2018

Today is my 39th birthday. Every year for as long as I can remember, I would hear from my mom and dad precisely at 8:28am (the time I was born). They would sing Happy Birthday to me.

Well, I knew that this year would be devastatingly different.  The last 12 months saw both of my parents pass away. I’ve been dreading today.

My training schedule today called for a 10 mile run.  I was actually glad it was a long one.  It would give me some time alone with my thoughts and, I could time it right so that I would be running when that ominous time on the clock would come and go.

I hit the road at roughly 6:30 this morning.  Knowing what my planned pace was, I was assured that I wouldn’t be finished in less than 2 hours. The run felt great.  Weather was perfect for a long run (upper 40’s – low 50’s) and my legs surprisingly felt really good throughout.  This was my longest run and it was going great.

Then it happened.  I approached mile 9 and checked my watch.  I couldn’t believe it. My watch said 8:28.  Then the phone rang.  Not literally.  This song from the new Vertical Worship Album came on at precisely 8:28.  Give it a listen.

Yes I Will

God was reminding me that in the midst of all the heartache and sadness from recent weeks and months, that He was still working everything out.

So, to wrap up, I have absolutely no doubt that God was working and speaking to me at precisely the time today I needed it most.  I may not have heard from Mom and Dad directly as I so wanted to, but I heard from the One whose presence they are basking in and waiting for my arrival one day.  You will never convince me that God doesn’t still speak.  He called me this morning.

Here’s a few shots from the run.

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Getting Started
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Sunrise
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About 4 miles in. Feeling strong.
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Two Month Progress Report —

Two Month Progress Report

This is going to be just a quick update for those who are following my journey to get healthy again.  Here’s a quick recap.

February 5, 2018 – 272 pounds. This is the day that my diet changed to low carb.

March 5, 2018 – 254.4 pounds. One month in and 17.6 pounds lost.

April 5, 2018 – 247 pounds.  Two months in and 25 pounds lost.

It is true that the weight loss slowed dramatically, but March was a crazy month and in all honesty, after the emotional devastation of losing my mom, I’m just happy to not have gained any weight.

I am hoping that April will be a better month for weight loss.  I have my first double digit mile run planned since October as well as the Tar Heel Double Down Challenge on 4/21. This is a 4 miler immediately followed by a 10 miler through Chapel Hill, NC.  I would love to be closer to 240 by race day, so we will have to see what happens.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Praise God Despite the Circumstance: Lessons Learned from Mom — March 19, 2018

Praise God Despite the Circumstance: Lessons Learned from Mom

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This is a lesson that mom demonstrated in an incredibly powerful way when I was 19 years old.  Mom had been diagnosed with colon cancer in the summer of 1998.  We were devastated to the point that I almost didn’t return to Lee University for my junior year.  Mom, on the other hand, wouldn’t hear about it.  She wanted me to complete my degree and she was worried that any break in my studies would only serve to increase the chance that I wouldn’t go back to school and finish. Reluctantly, I returned.

I got through the fall semester (barely). Music History and first year NT Greek are not courses I advise taking when dealing with any kind of family crisis.  Christmas break was low-key, but very enjoyable with family around for the duration.  I could tell that the cancer and treatment was taking a toll on mom, but she was determined to beat it, so I returned to Lee for the spring semester.

During my time at Lee, I was a member of the Lee University Campus Choir.  Spring semester was the time of year when we would participate in several Winterfests across the country.  Winterfest is a large youth conference that is sponsored by the Church of God.  This particular year, I think we participated in Texas, Maryland, Cincinnati, Knoxville, and Orlando.

The Maryland event was held in Ocean City which was a three hour drive for mom and dad.  They planned to attend.

Mom got very sick right before the trip and about an hour before they were supposed to leave, they decided to not come.  Then about 30 minutes later, they changed their minds and decided to go, but just stay in the hotel and spend time with me when services weren’t going on.

The first night of the conference, that’s exactly what happened, but on Saturday night, Mom decided to try to go to the service.  She figured she could slip out if need be during the service.

Well, some teenagers from my youth group in Westminster found mom and grabbed her by the arm and brought her down to the front of the stage near my percussion rig during the worship time.  The choir had experienced a very powerful time of prayer before the service where a prophetic word had been given that God was going to do something unbelievable that night.  We had no idea what that was going to be.

The entire choir knew about my mom’s cancer.  We had been praying since I returned to school in August for God to miraculously heal her.  That night, God impressed upon the members of our horn section to go to the edge of the stage near where my mom was and play over her.

As they began to do that, the next thing I knew, mom was on the floor with a group of people around her.  I panicked. I hopped off the stage to get to my mom and when I got there she was holding her side as if she was in pain. I bent down to try to talk to her and I was a little bit surprised to hear that she was speaking in tongues.  (If you aren’t Pentecostal and you’re skeptical at this point, I get it.  I can only report what I saw with my own eyes and everything that is about to follow can be verified by multiple eyewitnesses as well as medical reports).

Eventually, mom sat up and the only words that she could get out were, ‘It’s gone!’  The next thing I knew, my frail mother who needed help walking into the convention center was running around the perimeter of the auditorium waving her hat on her finger (she wore the hat because she was very self-conscious about her bald head from chemo). At that moment in time, she had no medical documentation to back up her claim, but she was convinced that God had healed her and she was worshipping God with all she had.

To make a long story short, within two weeks, the medical documentation was there.  Where 7 tumors had been inside of mom’s colon, there was now no trace of even a single tumor and no evidence that any had ever been there.  God had completely healed my mom and I believe her willingness to worship before she had her healing was a catalyst in God showing His miraculous power.

Be Grateful: Lessons Learned From My Mom — March 17, 2018

Be Grateful: Lessons Learned From My Mom

I want to use several blog posts here as a way to honor my mom.  For those who don’t follow me on social media, she passed away on March 15.  My aunt and I were by her side and it was incredibly peaceful.  I didn’t want to lose her, but I wanted her passing to be peaceful and pain free.

One of the lessons that I learned very early in life from my mom was that we should be grateful for things that we had and things that were given to us by others.

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This was not a lesson that I learned in an enjoyable manner at all.  It was a Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s and I was about 6 or 7 years old.  These Christmas Eve’s were an experience unlike any other.  At it’s largest number, these family celebrations would reach around 23 people crammed into a modest size farmhouse for dinner and one of the biggest gift exchanges that I’ve ever seen.  Gifts were stacked 2 feet high across the width of the room and the pile was typically 3-4 feet deep.

It was normal for a large percentage of these gifts to be for all of us grandkids.  At the time I was the youngest grandchild so the lion’s share seemed to come my way.  It was every kid’s dream.

This particular year, I had opened several packages and they were almost all packages of clothes.  Not a young boy’s dream.  Well, after the third or fourth straight gift containing clothes (and dress clothes at that), I blurted out the words, ‘I’m sick of clothes.’

I was quickly escorted out of the room and made painfully aware that such an outburst was rude, ungrateful, and unacceptable. I remember returning to the fray and my grandmother mercifully giving me a package containing a Transformer for me to play with.

The real lesson was learned on Christmas morning.  I would always sneak out of my room early in the morning to get a glimpse of the presents under the tree before waking mom and dad up.  Well, this year when I snuck out, what I saw shocked me.  There was a single small package underneath the tree.  That was it.  There was a note inside my stocking from ‘Santa’ explaining that my selfish outburst the previous night had caused my gift supply for that year to be reduced to a single package and that he hoped I would learn to appreciate the things that I had.

I was devastated at first, but by mid day, I found myself happily playing with that single gift as if nothing else had happened.  The lesson was learned.

*As a side note, I should add that 3 or 4 days later, my parents surprised me with the rest of my Christmas presents.  That didn’t diminish however the lesson that I learned about being grateful.

One Month Report — March 7, 2018

One Month Report

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One month ago yesterday marked the beginning of my experiment with low carb diet and carb cycling.  If you remember from my previous posts, the first two weeks were strictly low carb and then we went into a carb cycle of 3 days low carb and one day ‘normal’ carb.

The carb cycling has been interesting.  I found myself unwilling to really have a lot of carbs on the days where some carbs would have been acceptable.  Admittedly on our first normal carb day, I did indulge in a baked potato and it was fantastic!

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On my other normal carb days, I really have stayed on the low side simply because I haven’t really found any of my old carb vices (pasta, rice, chips, etc) to even be that appealing.  Not sure if that is because of the progress or if it truly represents a change in my body.  I’m actually starting to think it may be a change.  This afternoon (a normal carb day) I was in the mall and I decided to have a container of Auntie Anne’s pretzel nuggets.  I ate about 3/4 of the container and within 15 minutes I just felt bleh.  Guess I won’t be doing that again for a while.

Now for the part that you’re probably most interested in: the results of month one.

February 5, 2018 – 272 pounds

March 5, 2018 – 254.4

That’s a difference of 17.6 pounds in one month.  I’m incredibly happy with that and look forward to the continued improvements.  54 pounds to go!  Thanks for sharing this journey with me.

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.

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.