Welcome

Much like your parents attic, treasured memories lay within. So, wipe the dust off my ruminations and remembrances, sit back and enjoy!

The Road I Traveled

Over the past several weeks I have had many friends and family encourage me and congratulate me on my decision to undergo weight loss surgery and in pursuing a healthier lifestyle in general. The thing is, I didn’t come to this decision lightly or quickly and I know I’ve mentioned that before, but I hadn’t provided details on any of it…not that I was keeping or hiding any of that, but my mind was fully focused on what the RIGHT decision was.
I first seriously started talking and thinking about weight loss surgery 8 years ago. I was SO tired of trying a diet having some modicum of success, start making exceptions to my regimen then abandoning the diet all together…just to gain the weight back…PLUS more. I’d gotten to the point where if my wife suggested a new diet I’d almost immediately write it off as ‘Diets do not WORK…at least for me.’ It wasn’t until just recently that I discovered that Diets CAN work…but honestly they’re not sustainable. I mean seriously, can you survive the rest of your life on the cooked cabbage diet? So 8 years ago, I talked to my doctor about his thoughts on weight loss surgery his take was that while they are effective at helping people lose a large amount of weight, there can be some psychological repercussions. He went on to explain that while they aren’t certain why, but couples who one of the two have undergone weight loss surgery, they have seen a significant increase in divorce. I tried to find out if this impact was reduced at all if both couples were deeply committed Christians and at the time really didn’t find an answer. But his answer was enough to make me shelve the idea at the time.

As the next 8 years passed, a few things happened. I continued to gain weight…and I got older. The years of neglect to my body and health started to take a toll…my joints hurt, knees, back and I found that any sort of exercise was painful and wouldn’t go away after multiple tries. A few years back we watched the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. This is a really good documentary that talks about processed foods and how awful they are for us. The documentary clicked with me, the science they showed behind their findings made sense to me and to this day I still believe they are right about food that’s manufactured in America today. They push a Juicing diet and we tried that and while I DID lose a significant amount of weight, this too was not sustainable…again gained all the weight back PLUS more. But I learned a lot about nutrition and exactly how bad processed foods are. This caused me to THINK more about the choices I made when we couldn’t cook.

It was at this point that I basically gave up…I remember thinking to myself, ‘Well…here I am, I’ve tried many diets to an ultimate negative result. There IS no magic pill…no magic path to losing weight…this is obviously who God made me to be and I will live this way until the day God has determined I will breath my last.’ I just stopped caring. That doesn’t mean that I just ate whatever and whenever, I still had my Diabetes to manage (which I wasn’t doing that great at…my A1C at one point was 10.4) and while I KNEW I had to incorporate exercise into my life to get healthy, I simply was in too much pain…walking from the parking lot into work left me winded and in pain…so I avoided exercise.

It was early last year that I started talking about weight loss surgery again with Lisa. She was concerned as this is NOT a reversible surgery and it permanently modifies your body. My concern was if I CAN’T make the changes I needed both physically and mentally on my own, what made me think I could with surgery? So I continued to pray about it and wrestle with it over the next few months. My wife and I attended an informational (and required) educational seminar on Bariatric Surgery. In that seminar the man said many things which I had thought before, like diets…even Bariatric surgery isn’t a magic-pill…they are simply TOOLS. If a carpenter picked up a hammer and tried to use it to cut a board to length, it’s NOT going to work very well…he needs to know HOW to use the tools in his toolbox. My health continued to decline…I didn’t sleep well, no stamina for even standing to cook…I finally had enough…I wanted to seriously pursue weight loss surgery. I decided it was MORE important to BE here for my wife, kids and family then it was for any sacrifice of food I would have to face. But you SO enjoy cooking! How’s surgery going to effect that? I still have my arms and desire to create GOOD food…that’s never going to change. What about the warning your earlier doctor gave you about possible psychological repercussions? God is my source of EVERYTHING, if Lisa and I keep GOD central in ALL things, I have faith this won’t be an issue. For the next 6 months, I saw the bariatric nutritionist once month, met my surgeon, had my mind examined by a Psychologist twice and had several meetings with the PA that was assigned to me. All of which I must say were VERY helpful, honest and encouraging.

…and that brings us to a week before surgery…nervous? Somewhat, who wouldn’t be? Concerns? Only one…one that I had been wrestling with for a while now…if God is my source for EVERYTHING, why do I need surgery? Should I even be considering this surgery? So, as I do whenever I need answers to life, I turn back to the source…His word. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20  Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. Ok…conviction! Ugh…yes, I KNOW Lord that I have utterly failed at honoring you with my body…but wait…then I thought, what’s the next step AFTER conviction? …Repentance. Repentance is more than simply acknowledging your wrongdoings. It’s a change of mind and heart. It’s a turning away from, setting aside, removing yourself from. Repentance requires change. I began to understand that God could accomplish His will through this surgery. Then in the midst of my seeking God’s will in this, I came across a fellow Christian’s opinion on the internet. When asked; Do you think surgery as a weight loss option is “against God”? I have struggled a long time…and am beginning to consider this option. Can it not be a blessing from God, having this technology and knowledge to even be able to have this done? I know God can move mountains…including my weight. Does my interest in this mean a lack of faith?’ While I myself never felt that my decision displays any lack of faith, I HAVE consider the possibility of WHO AM I to alter that which God created…’ The person’s response was this; ‘You asked if I thought weight loss surgery was “against God.” As you said, the bible doesn’t specifically say anything about that so each believer needs to seek the Lord for themselves. But I can tell you the evaluation I’ve personally made. Surgeries are generally used as a tool to fix something that is broken. Do you believe that something is wrong with the way your stomach or digestive system functions? Or is the problem with your heart and mind and the obesity merely a side effect of your health habits?’ That response set me back on my heels a bit and I got a little angry at first…then God pointed out to me that this person’s response was based on the assumption that the person considering weight loss surgery hadn’t addressed the real and deep seeded hurts that were the root cause of the weight gain to begin with and that under His blood, I have none of those root causes.
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Duet 5:33 - Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.

 

Heb 12:1 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

 


Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us to Him be Glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and EVER! Amen!

Two and a Half Weeks

Well…I’m 2.5 weeks into this…torture?...Mad Scientist experiment?...I jest, but seriously, some of those thoughts have floated through my already warped mind. Some of this has been tough…my Bariatric team told me that most people no longer feel hungry and have to remind themselves to eat…LIES! I’m hungry 2 hours after I eat and by the time I reach the next meal time, I’m more than ready to eat. I’m sure most of this is because I’m on a liquid only diet (for the first 3 weeks), so the instruction of a more solid diet with protein should help with this. I smelled Texas Roadhouse the other day as I drove past it and had the urge for a steak SO badly…my body is craving MEAT! Also figuring out what upsets my stomach and eating SLOWLY and learning when enough is enough! Oh...BTW, enough is about 6 oz. 

No, this definitely is the path to a new food lifestyle and healthy living for me. Have I had some struggles? Of course! But what path to success doesn’t include struggles? During my pre-Op meetings, the nutritionist explained that I may find that some foods I enjoyed before, I no longer will and some that I hadn’t before, I may. Example, naturally sweet things might seem sickeningly sweet, certain flavors may no longer appeal to me. I had Beer-Cheese soup the other night…NEVER EVER AGAIN…I’m not sure why, but it sent my stomach into such convulsions that I wanted to die. Maybe it was a higher fat content…maybe it was the beer flavor…or perhaps the cheese, all I know is I NEVER want to experience that feeling again. All in all, I’m getting along well. For the first time in a LONG while my diabetes is well controlled (ave BGL has been 103 since surgery) and because of this AND the initial weight loss, I no longer have the pain in my knees or in my back that I previously had. I am also able to walk longer distances without huffing and puffing.

I’ve lost almost 30 lbs since the surgery and just under 50 lbs since November. The clothes that I saved from years ago because “I will need them when I lose weight” are the clothes I am wearing because the newer pants I have literally fall off my hips. They look like ridiculous ‘clown pants’.

My family has been great! The kids have helped pick up the slack at home and have really helped Lisa and I out with very little resistance. I love our kids! Lisa…I could write a whole entry on her alone! I am convinced I am the most blessed man on the face of the Earth! She has taken on all the responsibilities, running and workload on and I will never be able to properly express how thankful and appreciative I am. She’s been thoughtful and caring, concerned and supportive, loving and a nurse when I’ve needed it. When I think of Proverbs 31:10-31, with full humility and honesty, she IS a wife of noble character, whose worth FAR exceeds ANY precious stone and I love her with all of my heart.

I ask for your continued prayers as I continue to strive for health and I walk out my faith through this. What is God’s will in this? What is God’s will for me in the future? I pray that I am open to His leading, His will and His purposes.


~ Vince

What if...

What if they start the surgery and discover something that prevents them from proceeding? Like some unknown defect...or cancer?

What if they do the surgery and I fall into the 1/2 of the 1% who experience chronic pain and have constant issues for the rest of their lives?

What if I lose a bunch of weight just to gain it all back...and then some?

What if I lose a bunch of weight...and it changes who I am?

What if I go into surgery and something goes terribly wrong?

What if...

For the first time during this whole process, yesterday my mind was filled with fear...fear of the unknown. This is strange for me because I KNOW and have practically always known that the number of breaths I draw is a finite thing.  God Himself knew the moment of my birth as well as the moment I will breathe my last, since the dawn of time itself.  If God troubles Himself with knowing the number of the very hairs on our heads (Matt 10:30), trust me, He knows. So, quite honestly, I really haven’t wasted much time on the subject of dying. BUT…I KNOW and TRUST Him who demonstrates His love and grace for me, every single day because while none of us are guaranteed even one more day, He does promise to NEVER leave or FORSAKE us...in all things, He is with us. God tells us 365 separate times in His Word to ‘Fear Not’. He knows the human condition...He KNOWS we live in a fallen World and the dangers, troubles and fears we all face and He tells us over and over again in His Word that HE is our refuge...that HE is our strength...HE is our source of wisdom, life and knowledge.

After thinking through this…praying through this and reading God’s Word concerning this, I’ve come to the conclusion that Satan is up to his old ways again…trying to instill fear and doubt. But with God’s help, I WILL not allow it…Romans 12:2 comes to mind as a pivotal verse not just in dealing with misplaced fears…but in this whole process to better health… ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.’

What if I lose all this weight and achieve the healthy lifestyle I’ve always desired?

What if I lose all this weight and God uses me to inspire others for His Glory?

What if I lose all this weight and I’m graced with seeing my children, grandchildren & great-grandchildren grow into faith filled, honorable men & women?

What if I lose all this weight and Lisa & I grow old together, laughing and praising God together for a very, very long time?

2 Timothy 1:12(b) - … for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.

I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.

I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word
Wrought peace within my heart.

I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.

I know not what of good or ill
May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days,
Before His face I see.

I know not when my Lord may come,
At night or noonday fair,
Nor if I walk the vale with Him,
Or meet Him in the air.

But “I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”

What if we spent less time in worry and fear? And more time in resting in His Word and promises?

For God…for His Glory…for His honor…for His praise.

WHAT has happened to me!

If you know me at all, you know that I am NOT a lover of Country Music. With that said there have always been a few exceptions take Patsy Kline for example, while I don’t like all of her music there are many songs that I actually enjoy. I KNOW this is because I remember my mother singing them when I was a young child. Another exception is The Zac Brown Band. His music is generally fun and in my opinion, not strictly country. My wife on the other hand is a fully immersed lover of the genre. If you took one look at her iPod, you would quickly surmise that it’s basically split into three genres: Praise Music, Elton John & Country music.  I LOVE Praise Music! In fact, I sang on various Praise Teams for about 17 years and I even enjoy Elton John every now and then, but I’m here to tell you…when Saturday rolls around, Lisa usually gets the hankerin’ to get her country on…I’m pretty good and generally put up with it for a time (HEY! I even took her to a Garth Brooks concert a few years back!), Lisa can usually tell when I’ve had enough…might be the loud sighing and eye-rolling, but you’ll need to ask her to be sure.

I was recently introduced to Spotify. If you aren’t familiar with Spotify, it’s a music streaming service similar to Pandora. The sound quality is supposedly better on Spotify, I don’t really know. Anyway, So it wasn’t long before I started putting together playlists: Kansas, ELO, Casting Crowns, Crowder…you can even put playlists from different albums like I have a Broadway playlist that contains my favorite songs from many various shows. Oh, and a Bluegrass Gospel…wait, WHAT? How’d THAT get in there…and moreover, WHY? When I revealed this to Lisa, she laughed at me and was very surprised! After all, here I am, a very outspoken anti-country music person…and yet, Bluegrass.

Wicked Path of Sin
In this awful world of sorrow
On this wicked path of sin
Never thinking of tomorrow
Or what I'd lose in the end
Oh I can hear (oh I can hear) the joy bells ringing
Where my friends (where my friends) and loved ones wait
Oh I can hear the angels singing (sweet singing)
Just inside (just inside) those pearly gates
I can hear my savior calling
Saying come unto me
Wash away your sins forever
And you shall rest eternally
Now I'm safe with my Jesus
He will guide me on my way
I will sing His praise forever
We'll meet in heaven some sweet day


…I had to really think about why I had this attraction to this genre of music. I seriously contemplated this for about 3 days…the obvious element is the harmonies. I’ve sang in enough choirs and men’s quartets that harmonies come very naturally to me and when I hear them, I quite naturally want to add my own. However, it was more than the harmonies. When you listen to the song above, you can’t say these guys have well trained voices…none of them do…there’s something about early music…raw, not over-produced that I find interesting and am drawn to it. Some of this has to do with the simplicity of it…the music, the words even. Simple, but true. But even with these realizations…there was something deeper. There was something that connected Bluegrass deep within me. A few days later, I called my sister Donna and during our conversation I brought this Bluegrass thing up and she reminded me that when we were quite young (4 or 5 for me, 6 or 7 for her), my parents were friends with another family. These were great people, if my dad ever needed help with something, the Mr of the house would be there to help him. That aside, this family was or was the closest thing to real hillbillies I had even seen. What Donna reminded me was that on Friday nights, people (maybe relatives, I don’t know) would gather at their house with guitars, mandolins and yes, washboards and play Bluegrass music. Us kids would be playing in another room, but we plainly heard the music, people laughing, singing and Joe always had his pipe.


So Bluegrass connects me back to my childhood, memories of Friday night’s spent at Joe & Eunice’s and of simpler times…vintage times. Excuse me while I sit back and listen to Rank Strangers.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

I still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange)
Turn and face the strain
Ch-ch-Changes...
Hope, Lisa and I were watching Grown-Ups 2 tonight and near the end of the movie they're having a costume party where everyone dressed like their favorite 80's rock icons. Lisa and I were having fun telling Hope who was who and asked if she knew any of the artists songs. So, we had to sing some Hall & Oats and a little Meatloaf. We got to David Bowie and Hope says, 'He's weird!' to which I said, 'Oh Hon! I LOVED his music' and then proceeded to play A Space Oddity, followed by Changes. It was a fun moment!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, 2017 will indeed be full of changes and a major change for me is scheduled for January 16th. That's when I'll be having Gastric Sleeve surgery. You can read all about it here, if you'd like: 

http://www.obesitycoverage.com/gastric-sleeve-reference-manual/

Like many, I've struggled with weight much of my adult life. I've tried countless diets to various successes, but always gained any weight loss back...and then some. The yo-yo cycle of loss and gain truly left me discouraged and cynical about diets and I eventually became resigned to the idea that this is WHO I am and why try anymore...

About 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes...a few years after that, high blood pressure followed by high cholesterol. My doctor told me at the time, the ONLY thing I was missing was heart disease and unchecked that very well might be in my future...It was about 8 years ago when I started contemplating weight loss surgery, but there was a part of me that felt this was an extreme method and IF I could just mentally discipline myself, I SHOULD be able to lose this weight...again, I lost weight...I gained more back, the cycle continued.

Over the intervening years, I've discovered that age and weight don't mix well...knee pain, back issues and getting short of breath just walking up our stairs had taken its toll. I started dreading shopping trips and even the thought of walking for exercise caused much anxiety because of the anticipated pain and shortness of breath...it finally dawned on me, my quality of life had and continued to diminish...If I wanted to be around for my wife and my family, I needed to make a change. If I wanted a better quality of life, a life where I could walk without pain, enjoy golf again...walk the sandy beaches of Maui with my wife, I NEEDED to make a radical change.

About 8 months ago, I started the process that would end in Bariatric surgery. Regular monthly meetings with a Bariatric Nutritionist, several meetings with a Psychiatrist (and they allowed me to walk out!!) and a meeting early on with the surgeon. I've learned alot about myself through this process, while I'm NOT a stress eater (a person who relies on food to calm them down or make them FEEL happy), I do have trouble with portion control...if something tastes REALLY good, it's very difficult for me to live the 'One and Done' rule. I've also learned that while it can be difficult to find something to eat in this Fast Food world we live in, it's not impossible (order a grilled chicken sandwich and eat it without the bun, choose the green beans instead of the fries). One HUGE realization came after I went through a 3 week pre-op diet the nutritionist put me on...processed foods aren't only horrible for you, but once you get away from them for a period of time and eat only real food, they taste like garbage.

Over the past several months, my wife and other family members have asked me MANY questions and have voiced many real and thought out concerns. I have loved and enjoyed cooking, how will this surgery affect this aspect of my life? I know through the many discussions I've had with my Bariatric team that post-surgery, many people find they can not longer eat certain foods, some no longer care for the taste of certain spices or flavors. After the initial post-surgical restrictions are past, the only things they tell me to steer clear of are: Soda and processed white breads. Both of these tend to cause expansion within the stomach and they tell me that I will not like the result...I believe them! But, back to the point, while I will need to figure out my individual tastes, I will take it as a personal challenge to still cook and cook well! I've already discovered the MANY benefits to cutting as much sugar out of my diet as possible, so I honestly don't feel that will be an issue for me. But will I be tempted to eat or drink something I shouldn't? I don't know...probably at some point, but I've also learned that turning away from one item also means turning to another choice. 

Just to be clear, I know fully that this surgery isn't a 'FIX', but rather a tool to help me lose enough weight so I wont be in the pain I have in my knees and back, so I can walk and play again. A tool to help me regulate my portions. A tool that will greatly reduce if not completely eliminate most of the medications I currently take. A tool to set me on the right track to health.

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything to the glory of God.

Romans 12:1 Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice–alive, holy, and pleasing to God–which is your reasonable service.

1 Corinthians 6:19–20 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

Psalm 34:17 The godly cry out and the LORD hears; he saves them from all their troubles.

Psalm 10:17 You, LORD, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.


Psalm 32:8 The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.


To Boldly Go Where I've Always Avoided...

Hello, my name is Vince Howard and I'm a Star Trek geek...


There! I said it! WHEW...That wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be! You see, I've struggled with that designation for some time now. In fact, I distinctly remember one Christmas a few years back when Lisa bought me a few TOS (The Original Series) props and I was upset about it. The more I thought about it, the more I realised I was actually embarrassed about receiving them...after all, here I am a GROWN man getting 'toys' for Christmas.



Over the years,  I've collected every Star Trek movie, I have ALL seasons of TOS on disk, I've collected over 50 Star Trek Hallmark ornaments, I have books on Star Trek, ranging from the science behind Star Trek and Technical Operational Manuals to Star Trek stories as well as a many other items.


2016 was Star Treks 50th anniversary...it was a combination of that event AND the realization that I actually owned quite a bit of Star Trek memorabilia, that put me over the hump in accepting that I'm a full blown Star Trek nut! This year, because of the anniversary, I've purchased several collectibles that will NEVER see the light of day. Much like Stinky Pete from Toy Story, these are and will remain MINT IN BOX. Lisa thinks I'm absolutely bonkers, but I simply tell her, you just don't understand, I'm preserving history!



My small collection makes me happy and I find that searching for dated items that I remember from my own childhood both fun and challenging! So there! I've embraced my geekdom fully and with pride can now say...there's Klingons off the starboard bow Jim!