Thursday, July 28, 2016

Ecuador Mission Trip

Darling and I went on a mission trip with a team from Sagemont Church. The trip left Houston on July 7, 2016 and we (finally) arrived home on July 16, 2016.

My entire trip log is in my Notes section. This is the summary I sent to our team leader, Gerry.

General comments
Gerry warned us to be flexible, then gave us ample opportunity to exercise that skill during the trip. I'm pretty flexible by nature, but it was still good exercise.
Gerry also told us we wouldn't go hungry. We didn't. I gained weight. I blame that on eating near midnight for most nights.
Gerry mentioned this was an easy mission trip, and the team agreed. It seemed hard to me.

The hotel in Manta was comfortable and the A/C a welcomed relief at the end of each day. The Pacific Ocean view astounded me every day we were there. Breakfasts filled me, and that's about it. (Thanks for the extra toast, Gerry.)

The mild weather helped me, but the temperatures still had me sweating by the end of the day. That's okay; just an observation. I'm glad we went on the mission trip during Ecuador's winter. (I noticed some people even had Christmas trees up in their homes. Do they have Christmas during their winter?)

Gerry's leadership skills kept the team on track.

Dr. Mark Redd amazed me and edified me with his sermons. His skill with people makes him a special preacher and his experiences as a pastor and a missionary drew many Ecuadorian people to a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Randy Reed has amazing skills as a street preacher. I learned a lot from watching him. If Heaven has a bulldog, he looks like Randy. Many of the people he met on the street began listening politely, but responded enthusiastically when he finished.

Raul stood as a tower of strength during most of the presentations, and I noticed the young men were drawn to him. His clear explanation of the gospel brought many of them to an understanding of God's plan for salvation.

The sound of the bagpipes echoes far and wide across Manta when Stanley played during the revivals. Those bagpipes drew a lot of people that might not have heard the gospel. Jokingly, I added that the bagpipes also scared away the local cats. Stanley has a wonderful heart for the Lord.

Miguel, with his huge heart, drew people to Jesus by his powerful words and the love he showed for all the people in Manta and in Pastor Angel's church.

Noe and Celia listened to the people and spread the gospel, not just with words but with their attitude of love and caring. I have seen few people with the love of others that Celia and Noe showed during the mission trip.

Though Darling did not speak the language when we started the trip, she learned some Spanish during the week in Manta. Even without knowing the native tongue, Darling did what she does best: she loved all the people she met. To be fair, the people we met in Ecuador hugged her and treated her warmly all the time. My heart melted when they gave her such lovely gifts the night before we left. I think the people in the church saw her shining heart as I see it.

I'm honestly not sure why I was there. I know I was told to go, but I didn't see a purpose in my presence. I prayed about that, and I'm still pondering the response. In Acts 13:2 the Bible says: While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
We hear a lot about Saul (Paul) after that, but we don't hear much about Barnabas. Still, he was told to go.

I loved meeting the people of Pastor Angel's church. I seldom see such devotion to God in people in the US, including our own church. Meeting Monica and David was a highlight for me. May God bless all those people we met in Ecuador, and may His Spirit descend upon the country and make it a shining beacon for His Glory.

My heart grew cold when Pastor Angel's people spoke of their desired “dream” building. That's a certain sign to me that God doesn't have his Hand in those plans as they are. I am afraid it is one of those things where we remold a dream into an emulation of God's design and then look for His approval of it. That will be a painful path for them if they follow it right now. I'm almost certain they also see Sagemont as a source of financial assistance for that dream. I can't blame them. To their eyes we are amazingly wealthy people.

I'm sad the birds pooped on my clean clothes that last day. God has a sense of humor.

And He always has a purpose.

Nutrisystem Wednesday - Day 3

After Tuesday night's pizza, Wednesday morning seemed easy. Oh, look! NS has a chocolate covered doughnut for breakfast!



I took a bite and it was terrible. Absolutely, the worst doughnut I ever ate. Maybe that is why they call it a "donut," but I think I'll rename it as a "DO NOT" because that is the last time I'll eat it. Ever. It was so bad, I took Darling's bowl of almond milk and put the donut into it to finish it, hoping to make it edible. On my third bite I bit into this little charm.
To give you some idea how my mind works, I thought it was a toy prize inside. Darling laughed at that. I didn't bite through it, but I sure did feel it on my teeth.

So how old is this "DONOT" if they have to include this in the packaging?


I had some coffee with breakfast and then went on a small spree of drinking water while I did some video editing in my study. Around noon Darling came and asked what we were going to do for lunch. She looked so sad I said

"Let's go out!"

So much for discipline.

Off we went to Jason's deli. They have an awesome salad bar.


I really like my pickles and olives, which is horrible salt intake and I know I overdid it on the salad dressing. Funny thing is that NS doesn't seem to care much about the salt content of their packaged items, though the literature gives you cautions about salt intake. At Jason's they have a lunch special that is a half sandwich and you can add the salad bar. I had the Papa Joe.




To be fair, I did choose the regular potato chips, but I only ate a few of them. 

The Papa Joe: 580 cal Dedicated to our Founder's Dad. Roasted turkey breast, Asiago, roasted tomatoes, fresh basil pesto, mayo, toasted on herb focaccia bread.


Half a sandwich would be 290 calories. The sandwich was terrific. I had a little more salad, but that was mostly lettuce and jalapenos. By the time I finished lunch I was stuffed.

The positive take on eating out is that Darling always drinks a lot of water. The negative is the cost. I think we spent about $18 for the two lunches.

Not that I minded. I was full for the rest of the day. I did have about 16 ounces of Dr. Pepper during the afternoon, but I'm beginning to think that is a direct result of hyper salt intake.

I did the best I could entering the information, and I'm sure the calorie count is a bit low, but not by much. So here it is.




I see what NS is doing - they limit the size of the portions. I'm not sure they care about the nutritional aspects as much as the total calorie count, and that's fair since the program is designed to lose weight. I don't know if they care about the taste either.

We'll finish the box, and I'll keep you posted.

More later.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Nutrisystem Tuesday - Day 2

For the morning I ate the honey-wheat bagel shipped by NS. I liked it, but I'm not including the butter that was on it. Darling buttered it or I'd HAVE To include the butter calories!




Had coffee also. Read some of Ecclesiastes in my Catholic Bible. Ecc 3:21 (NIV) says "Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?" The implication is that animals have spirits. Matthew Henry says the spirits of animals cease when they die, whereas the spirits of men are immortal. I'm not sure how Matthew Henry knows that, but it a reasonable explanation. UPDATE: There is a footnote saying the same thing in my Catholic Bible, so maybe it is from the Early Church Fathers?

That has nothing to do with my diet, but thought I'd toss it in there.

For lunch we searched through the incredible shipped box from NS and found...

Loaded Baked Potato! Ooooh. I like mashed potatoes and it looks similar.


Okay, let's cut to the chase here. This tasted ... adequate. I don't want to be negative, but that's not really one I want to repeat. We added a cup of cooked broccoli to it (the vegetable that SAVES this meal planning!). I also added some dill pickle slices. (Don't make that face - I do it all the time with regular baked potatoes.)

I'm beginning to think it might be better to craft meals based on store-bought meals/calories. At least I'd have more control over the taste.

So lunch didn't last us long, and we rummaged for snacks. The cheese puffs seemed like a good idea. Now, I don't normally eat cheese puffs, so they tasted okay to me. Darling was less than enthusiastic. At some point after that we split a coke. It's worth the calories to me. I'm trying to figure out how to make that one of my favorites.


At dinner I couldn't take it any longer and I threw the Red Baron pizza into the oven. You know what? I could afford the calories! So based on a calorie count, I'm still doing okay for the day.



I need to increase my water intake, but this isn't such a bad experience so far.

Of course, I don't think they planned on the Red Baron pizza thing.


We had a half cup of that Dannon Greek yogurt, the black cherry flavor. I really like that stuff. I added it in.

Then we walked for 1.17 miles in 24 minutes and 12 seconds. The time doesn't count, because Darling took pictures of the sunset colors as we walked through the neighborhood.



So my summary for the day still isn't bad.



More to come.




Hunting August Moon - Chapter 15

Chapter 15
"It's getting dark." Ted looked around nervously as he paced the parking lot near the car. "Where's our ride?"
Claire sat on the tattered car seat of the Chevy with her eyes closed. Earlier she pried the doors open to let the slight breeze blow through the car. "I don't know," she replied, her eyes still closed, "but it doesn't bode well."
Ted stopped pacing and sat in the front seat. "You think they're in trouble?"
Claire opened her eyes a slit and glanced at Ted's face, then closed them again. "If Maddie says she'll be back in a few hours, she'll be back in a few hours. If not, something happened to her or one of the others."
"What about Sam?" Ted slumped down on the seat of the car, his shoulders hunched as he kept his head from hitting the roof.
Claire remained in a relaxed posture and her voice suggested a mental shrug. "Honestly, I don't know Sam that well. Maybe he decided to steal the truck and head somewhere else."
Ted paused. "I don't think Sam would do that. Maybe he and August are having a hard time finding a running cycle. They're hard to find nowadays, what with most survivors snatching at the ones they could find," he said.
"Maybe," Claire said. This time she opened her eyes and looked at the sun dropping toward the horizon. "Pretty soon we'll have to decide what to do, though."
Ted jerked, his head hitting the edge of the car. "What do you mean?"
"Well, we can't leave here unless we can figure out how to leave them a message so they know where to find us. And if we're here when it's dark, we have to decide what to do about the rats," said Claire.
"Surely you can't mean we have to go in and kill them," shuddered Ted.
Claire shrugged. "We might have to kill as many of these rats as we can or figure out how to make them stay away from us."
Ted leaned against the Chevy and looked at the building for a few moments. "It's concrete and we don't have explosives." He looked over his shoulder at Claire. "We don't have explosives, do we?"
She answered him with a shake of her head. "We could try to go in there and set the interior on fire, but that's pretty hazardous," Ted said.
Claire looked around her. "Any better ideas?"
Ted stood straight and turned in a circle, examining everything in sight. "Maybe," he said, "and I like it better than going in there like Hercules and Xena."
Claire laughed. "Hercules would re-route a river through it and call it finished. He never did a decent job..."
Ted looked at her with a strange look on his face. Claire reddened. "Oh. You mean, like the television show." She coughed. "So what's your plan?"
"We could push a car into the store and shoot the gas tank. The explosion will give the rats something to care about besides us."
Claire craned her neck and looked at Ted. "I get it, but cars don't explode like in the old television shows."
"How do you know that?" asked Ted.
"Mythbusters." Claire smiled. "I liked that show." She looked at the sun again. "I forget how quickly the sun sets here." She climbed out of the car and looked at the storefront.
"So what's the plan?" Ted asked.
"I have some tubing in my pack. We can siphon gas out of the tanks onto the ground. If it gets dark and we're still here, we'll set it on fire. Look around for some cans and bottles too. We can make Molotov cocktails. Those do work."
Ted eyed the setting sun as he walked toward the edge of the parking lot, scrounging for containers. "Perhaps Sam will show up before it gets dark."
Claire headed toward the other edge of the lot. "Hopefully. If not we'll see what happens."
~oo~

Next chapter, next Wednesday.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Nutrisystem Monday - Day 1

I'm trying Nutrisystem. They had a pretty good offer, a week introductory package for $49, so I thought, well, why not? I sure need to lose weight and my trip to Ecuador didn't drop any pounds.

So I'll track the days here, and my comments.

Started yesterday. My weight when starting? 245 lbs. That's a lot, and it took a bit to type that into the public record. Fortunately, I don't think anyone reads my blog any more! So I guess this is just for me. For the Nutrisystem web site I have a starting weight of 250, which is what I weighed when I got back from Ecuador. An entire year of dieting on my own wiped out in mere weeks! I was down to 235 at one point, so that was really discouraging.

Anyway the Nutrisystem (I'm just going to abbreviate that as NS from now on) package arrived. Sadly, the box was MUCH smaller than I hoped. I guess that explains a lot.

Yesterday was Day One. I made some stiff coffee and used one of the gift cups from Ramon and his lovely wife in Ecuador.

Here's breakfast:
I didn't eat both of them. Darling had one for herself. There is a lot of almond milk in the cereal, but it needed it. I have to say, it tasted okay, but I'm guessing that was the brown sugar. Otherwise it was ... adequate.

And small.

I had more coffee and some water.



I didn't eat lunch from the NS box. We made cabbage soup over the weekend. That means I put a head of cabbage, four yellow summer squash, a cucumber, some mushrooms and an onion into a pot and boiled them. At the time we had no chicken broth, so the resulting soup was bland, but I added a bit of Texas Pete to mine. Hot sauce is free.

Darling added some broth to it on Sunday, but it still has very few calories. I didn't think to take a picture of the cabbage soup. No great loss there.

In the middle of the day I split a can of coke with Darling. Yeah, it's calories. I included it in my eating list. Listen, I wouldn't be the first person to drink my meals, so back off.

Okay, I had some potato chips, too. I'd rather eat them than throw them away. Yes, I included them in my food list, and the calories jumped a lot.

For dinner we split a salad, but if there was dressing on it I didn't taste it.



We then heated up the NS Meat Lasagna, garnished with some steamed broccoli (no butter!). Ignoring the beans (BEANS! In Lasagna!), it tasted okay. Again, I think the portion is a bit small, but I see a trend here. I did, in fact, lick the little bowl clean. Call me a dog. I don't care.


Later in the evening I had a SMALL root beer float. We didn't have much vanilla ice cream left, so we had to use it up, didn't we? I included that in my totals, also.

Nutrisystem has another website where you track all you eat, called NuMi (sound it out - funny!). So here's Monday's summary.




So now it's Tuesday morning. I had coffee and a NS bagel (you'll see it tomorrow), and yeah, I'm a little hungry. I'll just drink a little more water and go write something where my character is eating an entire deer roasted over an open fire.

With mushrooms and gravy...

More to come.