I have six months to reshape my life. I can do this.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

McKinley Beth

June 21st I will get to meet the strongest little girl.  Her name is McKinley Beth.  And she is my daughter.  I have not yet blogged about her because A) I have not blogged that often and B) I was a little selfish and in a bitter little blue funk about McKinley.  God decided that she should start her life off with some mysterious issues.  So we have this omphalocele quandary to deal with.  Danielle has been so strong and so level and centered the entire pregnancy.  She has been the very center for our family.  I have been the furthest flung planet in the Smith galaxy.  But the past month I have been bringing my focus back around to what is truly  important.  Jackson and I have logged a boatload of daddy/son time. We wrestle.  We talk.  We sing.  And we talk about how he has to be a good big brother for Baby McKinley, since she is "not feeling good."  That is what I say to Jackson.

And I have enjoyed seeing McKinley's room fall into place.  A nice chandelier, a new crib, a great comfy chair, new paint...it is a relaxing place.  You can feel a sense of peace, like just after a fresh rain. A lot of positive ions coursing through there.  Now we are collecting all things cute and many things pink.  Danielle is quickly becoming an omphalocele expert, finding multiple online support groups filled to the rim with mommies who have been through the same waters we are wading right now.  She even made me look at pictures of babies who have omphaloceles, since Baby McKinley's doctor suggested we do it.  So we did.  It was gross.  But I assume when it is my baby girl and her issues, I will be fine with it.  I just want to meet her.  I want to meet my daughter.  I want to see what Jackson is like as a big brother.  Although I would like to get through our "head butting" stage first.  I want to see what Danielle is like as a mom to a baby girl.  I wonder what the differences are being a dad to a little boy and one to a little girl.

I hope that we are not away from our home for too long after McKinley comes.  But if we are, we will be just fine.  I am not as anxious or even as angry as I once was.  Having a sick baby really modifies the way you think about God and Heaven.  Once I worked through my anger, then I worked through a stage where I assumed that this sickness was either mean or arbitrary, either way it sort of tipped me back and forth a bit on where I stood with God.  Now I am at a place of acceptance and of hope.  And peace. 

I just wanna meet her. June 21 we will. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Lenten Green Light

So after sort of plateauing at around 30 lbs, I am getting back on track with some deeply liturgical inspiration.  As Lent begins tomorrow, I will be getting back on the weight loss wagon.  Life sort of speeds up in points and I sort of had a lot of retreating and traveling and celebrating that took place across many dinner tables.  But now I am getting back on track.

Just in time for Lent too.  Growing up Lent sort of mattered to me and my family, even though I don't remember much about specific celebrations in my strange mix of Southern Baptist and Disciples of Christ foundational stew.  I do remember paying much more attention to the repetition and reverence for the history of the church.  The DOC seemed to practice things that stretched back over a longer span of church history than did my grandparents' SBC counterpart.  FBC Enid felt like the 1930's, with its bleating of the organ and stomping the pulpit against everything from dancing, boozing, Disney and Bart Simpson.  But there was something refreshing about the celebration of the varied Holy Days found in the Advent season and Lent.  I like that idea of getting back to the basics of prayer, penitence, giving of alms and self-denial.  It really feels very Acts 2.  I like how we have to really work hard to do about six weeks a year of what the early church did every day.

So my prayers will go up more consistently throughout the day.  I will be finding private ways to remind myself how humbled I truly am in the presence of a Holy God.  I will be giving a ton of clothes and other things away.  I will also be denying myself the usual amount of food and distractions.  Not to lose weight.  But to actually bring more discipline into my life, to be able to live, speak and teach with authority.  No more do as I say, not as I do. 

Maybe this Lent finds you in a funk, spiritually speaking.  Find ways to incorporate those four markers into who you are for the next six weeks.  Pray for me, my spouse, my son and our warrior daughter.  We thank you for all your thoughts.  Keep them coming.

Monday, February 07, 2011

127 Texts

Tonight I counted the texts I received from church family, actual family, cherished friends and brothers in ministry.  There were 127 of them.  127 people letting me know that they are praying for us.  If you are not up to speed on our precious baby 2, check my wife's latest post about it.  Click on the link to the right.

That has all the info you need.  My wife is a strong person.  She has grown so much since the last bad report at an ultra-sound.  And in the grand scheme, we know that God has a pretty special purpose for Baby Smith 2.  How can that not be the case?  We have 127 confirmations letting us know that they are lifting this up to the Father.  I am praying Psalm 127:3-5 and Isaiah 41:10 for my family.  If you pray, pray those verses for us as well.  And thanks for the 127 texts.  People let me know their stories.  Some let me know that they were carrying this with us.  Some let me know that they were there when needed.  Some just wanted to touch base and make sure all is well.  One even offered to let me scream, yell or cuss.

127 is a lot.  It sure consumed a lot of iPhone battery.  It is a bit humbling to have that many different touches from people.  That meant that not only were they affected enough to stop whatever they were doing, they even offered up at least one prayer for us.  Some committed to pray more fervently and consistently.  And then they went so far as to actually let me know that they were praying.  127 people took at least one minute for me and my family today.  At least two hours of prayer of intercession went up on our behalf.  All I can say is thanks. 

I will wind down here.  But I will say this.  I completely stole some advice that was intended for someone else about two years ago.  I have two friends named Mike.  The older Mike told the younger Mike (both are youth pastors) that he was a minister doing ministry before his kids were born.  And now his kids are grown and out of the house and he is a minister doing ministry now too.  But when he had kids, that was his only shot to raise them right.  That was his priority.  He wasn't going to be a great minister and a mediocre father.  Now, substitute your job in the place of the words "minister doing ministry."  You and I have one shot at raising our kids.  That has to be our most noble calling.  Not to the detriment of everything and everyone else.  But be your best for your kids.  Be very present.

I hope your kids get 127 minutes of thoughts and prayers and time each day.  I am going to make that the goal for mine while they are my blessings.  127 minutes.  A nudge over two hours.  That isn't even as long as one of those fantasy movies that Christians love to claim as parables of faith, redemption and salvation.  Am I giving my children 127 minutes?  Am I trying?

I hope and pray that you continue to hope and pray with us.  Danielle and Baby J and Baby 2 and I truly covet your prayers.  Please give us another minute of your day each day for a while.  That is all we ask.  That is all we need.  If you beseech the heavenly Father for us daily, that is greater than any other gift you could ever send us.  And if you give 127 minutes to your kids?  Double bonus.  We love you and thank you.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Update 3: Shoveling Snow and Insulting Legends and Doctors

So I haven't been so consistent in updating the blog.  I apologize.  My wife keeps up with 17 and I can barely keep up with one.  So a few updates and then I am off to probably not update for another week or two.  One would think with all the snow piling up outside that I would have ample opportunity to work out a blog update.  However, that was before I had to shovel Superman's ice fortress of solitude off of my driveway.

You see, basically we live at the end of a wind tunnel.  The wind blows all of the snow in the neighborhood into one massive drift in my front yard.  It means I have a four foot drift to dig out of even when there is only about six inches of snow.  Last year I was not very prepared to deal with my own Pike's Peak in the drive.  This year I was.  I attacked the driveway for about an hour three different times.  After three plus hours of shoveling and sweating, I had cleared about one third of the drive.  At least I can get the cars out.  I went back out two days later and cleared a bit more out.  The wife was a bit "anxious" about backing out.  But now I can safely say that backing out is a "non-issue."

I want her to be comfortable driving.  We still have some tense moments on highway 76 as the best and brightest in the greater Tri-City area continue to set land-speed records on this smallish, two lane highway with the unbelievable and unexplainable speed limit of 65.  That is why I dug out more snow on the driveway and why she is already cruising the fine streets of the Metro in a brand new (to us) ride.  We got a new car.  The wife earned her mom card with a new mini van.  It is a delightful black Honda Odyssey.  She likes it.  The J Train loves it.  And it still smells new.  And we were finally able to let them cash the down payment check only about two weeks after writing it.  Even though the med claim stays open, I do feel mostly a sense of closure about my entire family being in a bad wreck.  I still don't like thinking about my pregnant wife and my two year old son being in a wreck that totaled the car they were in.  But there is one fun little anecdote I can take from this incident.

I took her to a hospital about two hours after the wreck so we could have an ultra-sound and hear the heartbeat.  We drove out to a hospital in Moore that will remain unnamed as it is a great place and not very crowded.  While she was in a room being attended by Norman doctors, my lovely bride managed to be rude and insult not one but three doctors AND Oklahoma's ONLY living inductee into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame.  The hospital we went to is associated with one in Norman.  In fact the ER docs pull shifts in both Moore and Norman.  So imagine my horror when my wife said, "I am glad to be here and not in Norman. I think they kill people at that hospital."

She said that.  Out loud.  Not in some crazy inside voice that you never, ever make known to the listening public.  Especially listening public that you are implicating in a building-wide game of death tag.  The doctors brushed it off as they would anyone accusing them of "offing" patients.  I just stared at her.  My other favorite thing was her flippant response to them asking her if she was ever unconscious after the wreck.  She would typically answer, "I think I blacked out.  It went black.  I am not sure.  Maybe I just closed my eyes."  She wasn't sure if she was unconscious or just blinking.  This is the same person who has self-diagnosed herself being allergic to ibuprofin or some such pain killer.  But I nixed the "blacking out theory" because I could see myself talking her through two hours in an MRI machine.  Ugh. And if it wasn't enough to insult the kind doctors taking care of her, she also managed to insult a living legend in Rock and Roll that I have been angling to meet for almost two years!

Wanda Jackson is the Queen of Rockabilly and a legend in Rock'n'Roll.  She is a true pioneer who recently recorded a great album with Jack White of all people.  A week after our meeting she would perform on Letterman.  A week after Letterman, Conan.  She was also two cubicles down in the ER with her 97 year old mother.  I had called my best friend who had served at the same church Wanda attends when she is not RECORDING WITH JACK WHITE or talking about DATING ELVIS PRESLEY!  I have her greatest hits on my iPod and iPhone.  I listen to them frequently.  My buddy saw her there and asked if she would meet me, telling her I was a big fan (quite true) and that my wife was pregnant and in a wreck and we were there checking on the baby.  She had graciously agreed and he came in to get me.  This had all taken place without my knowledge.  I walked out and he said, "Craig, this is Wanda Jackson."  I was shocked.  I told her it was a great pleasure to meet her and I hated saying this in an emergency room but that I was a big fan.  I scored points simply by knowing the band that made Jack White famous (which my very sheltered and sacred friend had not known).  While she was telling me about Letterman and Conan, the wife came out and asked me for her driver's license.  I gave it to her.  Wanda Jackson addressed her too.
"I am glad you are okay, honey" said the Queen of Rock'n'Roll.
"Thank you, ma'am," grunted my loving bride.
Later when I told her who that was and that her own mother was very weak and failing, the wife was more sympathetic.  One of the wife's high school friends who has always wanted to meet Wanda was more horrified than I was.  But that is the wife.  Had it been that guy who hosts The Bachelor, you know, the guy they pay a bazillion bucks to count roses each week, she would have gone apey.  She would have introduced me as "a guy from Super Summer" instead of her husband had it been The Bachelor dude.  But it was just Wanda Jackson.  Ha.  We still laugh at that.

An update on the weight loss:  Since we last updated, I am down a total of 25 lbs so far.  I have been faithful to workout and the lovely wife has been very patient with my persnickety diet.  But it has been effective.  My goal is to be down another 15 or so by March 1st.  I have a retreat at the end of February with some other youth dudes.  I am excited to be down enough weight to actually be in 60th percentile of body mass instead of the 90th.  I also like not being the biggest guy in my church.  I may not even be top five.  I am certainly not top five in youth dudes.  Those guys can strap on a feed bag and then wear out a couch cushion.  I hope I can help them change that.  We will see.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Week 2: Let Me Roll It

"I can't tell you how I feel, my heart is like a wheel.  Let me roll it." - Macca

So, this past week was pretty much a roller coaster. My wife and son and Baby 2 (still residing in his womby apartment) were in a wreck last week that totalled the car and threw our world into a week of tears, frustration, appreciation and thankfulness.  I haven't really gotten to a place where I have a comfortable enough feel of my heart and emotions so I can write about it.  Suffice it to say God and Honda protected my wife and God and Honda and the carseat protected my son and Baby 2 was safe because God and Honda protected him/her as well and Baby 2 is the size of an avocado, according to my iPreggolite app on my iPhone.  When I am more comfortable I will write about it.  I will say two things before I tell you about the sweaty progress.  First of all there is a moment after your family gets smacked by a distracted co-ed going about 65 where you think "I could be all alone right now because of that one moment."  It is overwhelming and awful and scary and produces the palpitations.  For obvious reasons I don't like to think about it.  And secondly it produces extreme perspective.  To quote David St. Hubbins, too much perspective. 

I have really done well with the weight loss.  I have been logging every day and exercising often and I have lost another six lbs.  I am in a good zone.  The discipline of wanting to work out is slowly creeping back.  I feel better, move better and look better.  Thanks for all the encouragement.

People ask me what I am doing.  I am counting calories and working out.  I am eating less and eating better and exercising more.  That is the trick.  FYI, don't believe Suzanne Somers.  If you are overweight and cannot lose it, it actually IS your fault.  I am not allowed to blame faulty genes or the fact that Burger King sells original chicken sandwiches at a 2 for 5 dollar clip.  I am only allowed to blame the owner of the hands shoveling food into my mouth.  If you want to lose weight, eat less and exercise more.  Eat less sugar and less carbs and less fatty foods. It really is that simple.  Plan to lose weight and make appropriate plans.  Set a start date that leaves you about a month to prepare.  Figure out your workout plan.  Clean out the pantry and fridge and freezer.  Shop accordingly.  Have a farewell tour of your favorite places to eat unhealthy.  Then hit the diet and workout hard for about three weeks.  After that it really will become a habit.  After three weeks, allow yourself a cheat meal where you are allowed a taste of what you miss.  Don't go crazy and have a 3000 calorie meal.  And add one extra workout in your week. 

That is where I am at.  Next week I will have my cheat meal. Maybe.  Right now I am not craving anything other than losing 20 pounds in January.  I am making good progress.  I will check in later.  Just know that right now I am going to hit my goal weight by February 6th.  Thanks for your prayers and encouragement.  Keep them coming.

Also, there were some funny and awesome moments in that awful week that are related to the wreck.  Maybe in a week or two I will write about that.

So far, down 13 lbs.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Week One: Welcome Back, you Sweat-hog

 "Welcome back, your dreams were your ticket out.  Welcome back to that same old place that you laughed about." - John Sebastian

I joined the Body Shop here in Newcastle.  Unfortunate name, as it reminds me of watching pro wrestling as a kid in Enid.  Jesse Ventura used to host a talk show on WWF TV called "The Body Shop."  The gym is nothing like the memory I had as a kid.  The gym is quiet.  The gym has friendly people.  And nobody is busting Superfly Snuka over the head with a coconut.  The gym is not crowded with muscleheads.  The lone elliptical is always empty.  Most folks use the stationary elliptical or the treadmill.  I use the machine that has arms or handles that you grab and they move in rhythm with the legs.  I use this because I had a trainer in Hot Springs named Allen who said always use this machine (I feel sort of like a Norse warrior as I simulate the cross country skiing) because the one you rest your hands on, that doesn't move, does not replicate real walking unless "you walk with a walker."  I trust Allen Black because he lost a ton of weight, keeps it off, trains and participates in iron man competitions and has enough tattoos to really intimidate me into doing whatever he commandeth in the weight room. 

But the Body Shop has everything I need.  I use the free weights and the exercise ball and do some core strengthening and I use a few other machines.  I have had a successful week of eating.  People in my life have been very supportive and my wife has been very patient.  I have dramatically cut calories and been faithful to log all I eat and all my exercise into my LoseIt app on my iPhone.  The guys who share the app and are my friends on LoseIt have been very good to check on my progress.  Thanks Chris, Zac, Dave and Jeremy.

I have dropped seven lbs so far, which puts me ahead of my weight loss goal for this week.  I have not been hungry and I have not been weak.  I drink an extra cup of coffee a day to jump start the metabolism.  I stopped snacking.  I have shunned almost all things sugar except the 100 calorie ice cream bars I sneak occasionally.  I exchanged microwave popcorn (popcorn is my true snacking vice, along with Popsicles in the summer) for a hot air poppper and can enjoy a whole bowl for about 100 calories as well.

I even eat lunch once a month with a group of fellow student pastors and they were all gracious enough to eat at Genghis Grill so I could have a bowl of Mongolian BBQ for under 400 calories.  It was awesome and I hope to be back soon.  Thanks to my brothers in arms for being so faithful.  I appreciate each one of them more than they know.  Today I had some great encouragement from Micah, Nick, Sonny, Josha (sic according to his church's web page), Zac, Tribs and Kent.  About 20 guys braved the snow and came for some fellowship.  These guys can really be such a lifeline for me.  And the encouragement and the high fives and the prayers mean a lot.  Not every state has this sweet fellowship among youth ministers.

And my church hasn't really had a chance to celebrate with me but one guy has been on me about keeping up with the workouts and I am thankful for Jeff for that.

My only real goal is to be thinner and healthier by the time our second child is born in late June or early July.  My friend Chris (another youth guy who refuses to eat with us but does send his regards most months) cared enough to speak some good truth in love into my life about being there to see my son graduate and get married.  I don't ever want Jackson to know or have memories of me being so big.  I don't like not really fitting into thrill rides or asking for lap extensions on planes (those days are thankfully behind me) and I hate forcing skinny, disciplined people to sit at a table instead of a more comfortable booth because I simply don't fit into a booth (another fifteen pounds and those days are gone too).  I have since fleshed this out into actual weekly weight loss goals with six big goals to be rewarded along the way. 

My wife has been so good and so understanding for me and with me.  She doesn't say anything when I prepare something different for myself then what she and my son eat.  And she indulges me as I buy weird low cal foods in hopes to stumble across something to add to an ever-growing menu.  By the way, low cal turkey tacos and Craig McMuffins are my favorite.  I had the tacos three times this week and have one serving left.  Three tacos for about 335 calories.  So good too.  Full of flavor.

I am also diving into one focus in my devotional times.  I read one chapter a day.  I invite one person to church a week.  I memorize one verse a week.  And I focus my prayer life on 5 requests a day.  When I get my eating and exercising in order, everything else falls into place.  I hope to be able to meet with three or four guys at Super Summer Week 3 this year and give them some workout tips and actually work out with them, hoping to help them out.  But I cannot do this if I am THIS big then.  So I charted my plan into an excel spreader.  I log my cals and workouts on LoseIt

I am blessed.  Soon enough I will have my Eeyore spell and be a gloomy Gus.  Until then, I will reward workouts where I burn over 1000 cals lifting and sliding with a Coke Zero with a lime chunk at the Sonic located uncomfortably close to the Body Shop.

So that is my update.  Oh yeah.  Surprisingly, I don't miss Facebook.  Apparently I didn't care as much about everyone as I thought I did.  And I am also spared a significant amount of the negative posts, immature status updates, finding out students "Like" things that make the devil blush and pics of teenagers with plastic Solo cups (ah, Solo, sponsoring underage drinking parties since 1983 - if you see a Solo, you know it's booze!).

If I can do ANYTHING to help you out, please let me know.  And if you think about, pray for me this week.  Weeks 2 and 3 are the toughest to stay connected and disciplined.  After that it becomes more of a habit.  My hope is to be under 3 large by February 1st.  Pray me to that end, please.  I will try to post more. 

Epstein's Mother (totally brings it back to Kotter...)

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Too Fat to Facebook! Part 1

"When it's time to change, then it's time to change." - The Brady Bunch

Real change happens when you make preparations in your life, adjustments for what is about to come.  You simply cannot make wholesale change if you don't prepare for it at all.

So that is what I am doing.  I made a seven point decision, all changes I must make if I am to be a healthy, happy husband, father, friend and youth pastor.  These aren't resolutions because most of them have been swimming around in my head for a few months.  However I am resolved.  Some have been real wrestling matches. But I have settled on the following seven changes:

1. Going to lose well over 50 lbs by the birth of our second child.
2. Going to memorize one verse a week. Trying to memorize two chapters of scripture this year.
3. Going to pray for five requests a day.
4. Going to walk with Jackson and Danielle more.
5. Going to be a better youth minister by being on campus more, preparing more and preparing better.
6. Going to build more significant relationships with parents in our student ministry.
7. Going to try to develop a new model of doing Wednesday night programming to help the next generation lead out in the kingdom

Most of this can be accomplished by better utilizing existing allotted time for each area.  The hitch is the losing weight.  I need to find time again for that.  To make room for it, I am dumping facebook.  I spend about an hour throughout the day that I should be using for working out in the gym.  When I lose 100 I will rejoin whatever is left of the Facebook world.  Understand this is not an overtly spiritual decision.  I am not leaving history's largest social networking site because God told me to or I am convicted because of all the negative posts or I am disappointed by all the cuss words on teenager's pages.  I am simply too fat to Facebook.  I wish it was more holy or spiritual.  But long ago I gave up blaming God for all of the decisions I had to make to get back on track and outta my selfishness.  If God was REALLY telling me not to do something, I wouldn't have started it in the first place.

No I am too fat to Facebook.  Too nectarine-shaped to network.  I have too much status to update.

Pray for me if you think about it.  Or think happy, slimming, commitment-based thoughts.  Or tell the little purple people eaters you sacrifice your raw spaghetti noodles to to throw me a bone.  Even though Jesus has my back totally on this, I like it if you think you are involved too.  So lob your crazy, wackadoo religiosities my way.  Hopefully by the end of the summer, I won't be too fat to Facebook any more.