The Jay Beach Diet

Toward the end of 2013, I was doing terribly. I spent the night in the emergency room due to an extreme experience with then-undiagnosed PVCs (which ended up being entirely benign). I started using a CPAP, and though I slept better than I had in my entire adult life, I dealt with a range of odd side effects caused by the fact that I was no longer thrashing around as I struggled to breath while asleep. Lots of joint pain, trouble training my body to a new sleep position, etc.

Then my left leg swelled up and I was off to the emergency room again with concerns of a clot. I was tested in every way, and they found nothing. It reminded me of that scene in The Meaning of Life (“Get the EEG, the BP monitor, and the AVV.” “And get the machine that goes ‘ping!’.” “And get the most expensive machine – in case the Administrator comes.”). My leg kept swelling daily, and I started having severe pain in my left ankle.

Have I mentioned weight gain? I packed on almost 15 to 20 pounds in a three month period while all the rest was going on, in spite of having a relatively stable weight the previous 12 years after all my reconstructive foot surgeries. What about arthritis? I was suddenly having trouble, and significant pain, with the fingers in my right hand, and my left hand was gradually becoming more tender.

In mid-March I finally started to figure things out, though none of the many doctors I had seen offered more than another test and another prescription (or, in one case, a walking boot for 6 weeks). I don’t mean to diss any specific doctor. This was a complex situation. As far as I could tell, I was having a severe reaction to omeprazole, which I had started taking in September of 2013 based on the recommendation of my gastroenterologist. The timing fit, and if it was causing inflammation, it could connect the dots to many of my problems.

If I was swelling in my gut, and I was now lying perfectly still at night on my left side due to the CPAP, perhaps that was why my left leg kept swelling. I had watched that leg for a couple months, and become convinced the swelling was starting at the top and working its way down to the ankle. When I had finally shifted my sleep position to my back, I was sometimes experiencing swelling in both ankles.

The weight gain, the feeling like I was TIGHT in my abdomen, the sense that I couldn’t take a deep breath due to pressure on my diaphragm, the inflammation leading to arthritic symptoms… perhaps it was all connected.

I took action. I dropped the medication, significantly simplified my diet, and started exercising as best I could, given I can’t run or jump due to my many foot surgeries.

First, the diet. Tricia and I had a sort of running joke. She’d say something like, “But you can eat such-and-such. It is allowed on the South beach diet.” And I’d say, “But not on Jay’s beach.” I did adopt for a time a diet that resembles south beach, or paleo, or whatever, but I kept it super simple, and ultimately fairly satisfying to me. I limited my consumption to 5 categories:

1) Water (and lots of it)

2) Dairy (full fat, no reduced fat anything)

3) Meat (I love healthy meats, but that wasn’t the point… meat of most any type was allowed)

4) Non-starchy vegetables

5) Liquor (and occasional red wine)

I tried to totally avoid ANY added sweetener of ANY kind to ANYTHING. I avoided foods with super-complex ingredients as much as possible. I generally avoided substitute pretend food items (no pancakes made out of bacon, no kale made to taste like a cinnamon bun)… I wanted to take the food on its own terms. I ate no fruit, no sweet potato, not carrot, no corn, no bread, no pasta, no chips (can I tell you how hard that was here in Texas?), no desserts, no soda, no smoothies… you get the idea.

The exceptions. I drank coffee (lots of cream, no sweetener), ate the super-dark chocolate on occasion (the entire bar had to have 12 grams of sugar or less… think 88% cacao and up), and ate whatever I was served in small portions if I was a guest and served the food. I am truly opposed to being an ungracious guest except out of dire medical necessity.

I held this diet for two months, and then began softening it a bit. I’ve softened it by simply taking an occasional break from it, not by modifying it. By “taking a break”, I mean for a single meal (like the fried oysters I ate this weekend), or a single dessert. In a sense, doing something like this cold-turkey is easier than allowing exceptions, so I’m trying to toughen up my will power to allow for those exceptions.

That’s the diet… I call it the Jay Beach diet. When I give the list to someone, they often raise their eyebrows at #5 (liquor), and I joke that liquor may not be on the south beach, but it is on Jay’s beach. I don’t drink beer, and I rarely drink wine, but I’ve found liquor (served neat, e.g. straight from the bottle to a glass with nothing added) is both enjoyable, and helps suppress any cravings for sweets I might have. In the end, I don’t consume much liquor, and the amount I consume is far less caloric than the food items I’m craving. Honestly, if I let myself go I can eat half a carton of ice cream, which, if we are talking Blue Bell (and we are), is 136 grams of sugar, and 1440 calories in total. Suddenly that 96 calories in a serving of whiskey seems pretty modest.

About those cravings. The first two weeks were TOUGH. My body used hunger pangs to try to force me to eat sweetened food. Continuously. I could eat four pounds of meat and vegetables, and my body would signal that I was about to starve. It still happens occasionally, but has largely stopped. My pallet changed during this time, too. Green beans steamed with butter taste sweet to me now. Very sweet.

One last point on the diet. Contrary to my Blue Bell example above, I don’t pay attention to calories. I don’t even track how much food I’m consuming, let alone the calories in the food. I just stick to my list.

Now exercise. This one is really easy. I started swimming. For a couple months I would swim as many laps as possible in a 30 minute period, three times a week, then I shifted to swimming a mile as fast as possible. My first swim was 34 25m laps in 30 minutes. This past Monday I swam 64 laps (a mile) in 36 minutes, so there has been a ton of improvement. I also do a lot of pushups, mainly from my knees since it hurts my post-surgery toes to do a full pushup. I use one of the ab roller wheels several times a week. I do an exercise I call “doing pull-up.”  Maybe one day I’ll do pull-ups… okay, I actually broke in to the multiples a few weeks ago. And I walk up the 122 steps to my office when at work.

I listen to music while swimming, which is a huge help, and I have a gadget to count the laps. I also have a daughter who swims with me and pushes the pace, which is a huge blessing.

That’s about it for the exercise.

I dropped the over-the-counter medicine omeprazole, changed my diet, and started exercising. The results? In a word, it was transformative.

First, though, here’s what it wasn’t. It didn’t turn my body into some ridiculous 20-something lean, mean fighting machine. I’m 43. That ship has sailed, and I have no regrets, and am not looking for eternal youth. It also didn’t heal my every hurt, increase my IQ by 20 points, or cause me to love my children better.

The first surprise, though, was how much muscle mass I put on in a very short time. Again, I’m not a 23 year old body builder. I didn’t put on 30 pounds of muscle. But with relatively little exercise, I did see significant gains in muscle mass across my entire upper body. It turns out when you consume a ton of protein as a major component of your diet, start swimming, and sleep well (thank you, CPAP), your body responds. Pretty cool.

The swelling in my legs went away. Just gone, after months of struggling with it and seeing several doctors. My aches and pains of sleeping with the CPAP gradually lessened and went away as well. The tightness in my abdomen faded away. And the arthritis was greatly reduced. I regained full motion in all but one finger.

My energy level started to increase, and my waist dropped 2 inches in under 3 months, almost down to where it was coming out of college. And I shed all the weight I had gained, in spite of gaining muscle mass. My acid reflux (the reason I had started taking omeprazole) didn’t go away, but it was so reduced I can now manage it with Tums and an occasional ranitidine.

In short, I’m experiencing less pain and discomfort than any other time in recent years, and have more vitality. I’m a fan of the transformation. Your mileage may vary.

One Righteous Man

Genesis 18:22-33

So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.

It struck me yesterday that there may be an implied continuation of this conversation that points to Jesus. You can almost hear the natural progression.

Abraham: “Let me ask but one more time. Suppose five are found there.”

The Lord: “For the sake of five I will not destroy it.”

Abraham: “And if only One is found?”

The Lord: “For the sake of One righteous man I will not destroy it.”

But Jesus wasn’t there during that original dialog, nor were ten other righteous men found, and the valley burned. Yet in the fullness of time, he came (Galatians 4:4). Reading the gospels, you can envision the whole earth going up in smoke with the piled up sins of God’s people (not to mention the Gentile nations) displayed before God.

But this time one righteous man was found. And this time it wasn’t about a city, but the whole cosmos.

AdoptionTee buttons!

Would you please consider adding an AdoptionTee button to your website? It is a handsome addition to most any site, with pleasantly rounded corners, soothing green borders, and legible text. Those corners use a transparency, so they should work on any background.

Pretty please? Here’s how you do it.

There are two options. If you don’t understand the difference between the two options, you probably want to go with option 2. They both basically have you point the image to http://www.adoptiontee.com.

Option 1: Copy the image to your own server (we’d prefer you use this one if you know how to do it)

  • Right click on the button image above and save it to your computer
  • Upload the image to your site
  • Add the image and link to your site using the following code (you’ll need to update the URL text for the image source
  • <a href="http://www.adoptiontee.com"><img title="AdoptionTee - Adoption T-shirts and more!" src="http://www.YOUR_URL_HERE.com" alt="www.adoptiontee.com" width="150" height="150" /></a>

Option 2: Use the image hosted on hornes.org

  • Add the image and link to your site using the following code. It points to the image on hornes.org, so you don’t need to change the code or copy the image.
  • <a href="http://www.adoptiontee.com"><img title="AdoptionTee - Adoption T-shirts and more!" src="http://www.hornes.org/adoptiontee/adoptiontee_button.png" alt="www.adoptiontee.com" width="150" height="150" /></a>

Thanks for your support! And please help spread the news by point others to this post.

Expecting

Tricia and I are expecting. We are expecting a child to be part of our family soon, a little girl who is already born, whom we don’t know yet and is living a world away. We are expecting God to provide us the means to wrap our crazy family life around this little girl and surround her with love. We are expecting God to provide us with the finances necessary to make it all happen. We’re expecting a whole lot.

I don’t think we are presuming, in the pejorative sense of making demands of God, that he would align his will with ours. More on that in a moment.

In the fall of 2009, as I soaked up portions of Isaiah over and over, I came to an overwhelming conviction that I was to become a father to someone fatherless. This built up over months, and I did what any normal guy would do who has four children and a hectic life: I kept my mouth shut and hoped the building pressure of conviction would go away. It didn’t.

It turns out Tricia was experiencing her own version of this same conviction. For her, the sense of calling began building several months before I experienced it, but she too kept quiet, rightfully believing I would think she was crazy if she brought it up with me. A few days after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, as we contemplated the carnage and our family prayed nightly for the Haitians, we finally broke our silence.

It was a bizarre conversation. “I feel like I should tell you something.” “Well, I need to tell you something as well.” “Oh, you go first.” “No, you.” “I have this crazy idea that…” “Wait, for real?!? That’s what I was going to say!” “You’re kidding!” (Long, quiet pause.) “Huh. Does that mean we actually have to do it?”

Jesus commands us to seek first his kingdom and leave the minor stuff like food, clothing, and shelter to him. As we came face to face with a call to adopt, we discovered we don’t have a clue what its like to actually trust Jesus and obey him in this way. There is so much wisdom that says we should count the cost, be a good steward, etc. Yet we realized that in the face of a clear calling, all of that stuff was simply applied to how we obeyed, not if we obeyed.

We wanted to make the cost (financial and emotional) the criteria by which we decided if we would adopt. But how can one claim to seek first the kingdom, if concerns about food, clothing, and shelter (and college, and retirement, and comfort, and vacations, and…) are the reason you don’t obey the call of God? We’ve had offers of advice regarding the pros versus the cons of adoption, but we honestly don’t need help in that regard. We can easily make a spreadsheet that has a far larger “cons” column. But none of the items in that overwhelming list are the kingdom of God. It gets hidden behind the noise of our concerns and comfort.

We have decided to try to obey, plain and simple. It has been a staggering effort, yet we are already seeing the fruit of God blessing us. For myself, I have seen my own heart change from simply desiring to have a heart like God’s that cares for orphans in their distress, to feeling like my family has a hole in it, waiting to be filled by my daughter who is not yet with us. I did not expect this… it has blown me away. I’m the guy who was content with three children, who deals with lots of chronic pain and fatigue, and who wasn’t looking for more complexity in life. Somehow the Lord is taking that weak vessel and filling it with love for a child I don’t even know yet.

Some friends from our church home group moved to Ethiopia last year to manage the in-country side of Gladney adoptions, so we have decided to follow where the Lord has provided. We have initiated the process to adopt through Gladney from Ethiopia. We are in the very early stages, so it could be a year or more before we bring home the newest Horne.

So for the time being, we are expecting.

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.”
~~ Isaiah 58:6-12

Messy lives and unknown futures are merely the backdrop

Here are some thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head of late.

I’m tired most of the time and, for now, have decided that’s okay. I’m not planning to shake my fist at the world and yell “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”, but I do find myself ever more content with a full life that leaves me wondering if I’ll have the energy to make it through tomorrow.

I love coffee, and think it is just amazing that my wife takes the time to make it for us each day. There’s a real joy in service offered day in and day out without the burden of expectation, and I do strive to feel a surprised gratefulness each and every day that lovely aroma embraces me in the morning.

For a time, I find myself working too much, driving a commute I swore I would never have, and not seeing my family as much as I’d like, yet I feel like I’m enjoying both my work and family more than ever. My guess is that after months of unemployment, there is a certainty, an emancipating clarity, of what I need to do, and that helps the doing of it not be a burden.

There is an upside to commutes, particularly with modern gadgets. I recently finished a large lecture series on the Byzantine Empire, and have now begun a much larger series on the Roman Empire, all freely available as podcasts. By the way, though the Byzantines have more or less been trod upon in our histories in the west, particularly since the publication of Edward Gibbon’s work around the time our nation was born, their influence on the course of history in the west cannot be overstated (that’s an overstatement… but you get the point). Here’s a quote from the podcast author to whet your appetite:

Still, it was Byzantium that preserved for us today the great gifts of the classical world. Of the 55,000 ancient Greek texts in existence today, some 40,000 were transmitted to us by Byzantine scribes. And it was the Byzantine Empire that shielded Western Europe from invasion until it was ready to take its own place at the center of the world stage.

Chronic pain is a real bummer, and very different than pain (minus the chronic part). After all my major reconstructive foot surgeries a decade ago, not to mention the spinal fusion of my childhood, I’m in pain most of the time. And being unable to run, jump, etc. is a real drag on my competitive spirit. I’m missing out on huge chunks of the good life, both for myself, and my kids. Most days, that hurts worse than my feet.

I seem to experience God’s grace, his kindness to me, more and more as a calmness in the face of what is hard, or embittering, or intensely frustrating. Chronic pain is… it just sort of fades to the background. I can’t play soccer with my kids… like that’s my real failing as a dad, versus the anger I put on display, or the fights I start with their mom. I don’t think I’m able to struggle for contentment, yet God in his goodness seems to give me more and more each day.

I’m not sure I want the good life anymore. There’s one pernicious flavor of the good life that is defined in terms of what you don’t have. The good life is keeping up with your neighbors. I’m not talking about that one. I still hunger for that one as much as anyone, in spite of my hatred of it. I mean a neat, orderly, successful life. I’ve always enjoyed quoting Proverbs 14:4, particularly to tired mothers of young children. I was content when we had three children, and let me tell you, our fourth does not contribute to neatness and orderliness. Yet life without Josiah… no thanks.

I’ve grown weary of spiritualizing issues of the heart that sure sound like they should involve actions. Over and over God says things like:

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Here’s something strange. For months, I felt more and more burdened by such statements, and secretly concluded a few months back I wanted to consider adopting an orphan. I say secretly because I never spoke a word of it to Tricia, hoping the burden would pass with time. It didn’t, but I kept my mouth shut. Something about the Haiti earthquake forced me to speak of it to Tricia, and wouldn’t you know it, she had been experiencing the same burden for an even longer time.

We have no idea where this is going, but find ourselves preparing for a possible adoption. Messy lives and unknown futures are merely the backdrop to God’s story, and his story is all goodness and grace.

Another Way Home on Lulu

I  should have posted this ages ago…

John Horne (otherwise known as Dad), wrote a book. You can read it online. You probably knew that, but you may not have known that we’ve put together an actual book, the kind you can sit in a comfy chair and read. It came out great, and it is entirely homegrown. Even the cover photos were taken by John.

Christmas is coming… go buy a few copies!

Clean Springs

I was listening to Leviticus on the drive into work today, and made a connection of sorts. In Leviticus 11, we learn that when something unclean falls into a container, everything in the container is made unclean. Leviticus 11:36, however, makes an exception for springs and cisterns, which remain clean in spite of contact with uncleanliness.

This reminded me of John 7:38, where Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” We often summarize the New Testament as setting aside the ceremonial aspects of the law, including the Levitical clean/unclean laws. Interestingly, it seems that very law provides the mechanism for its obsolescence. If we are springs of living water, abounding with life, death cannot stick to us. We cannot be made unclean by something unclean contacting us.

Peace vs Understanding

How many times have I read Philippians 4:6-7? Hundreds? Certainly. Thousands? Maybe. Yet a few weeks ago in our Sunday liturgy, we said those verses as a congregation, and I heard something entirely new.

Wind back to November of last year. It had been a terrific few months at Viewzi. However, we hit the wall on our fundraising with the downturn in October, and by November payroll was, well, not. We all kept working at it, and the company has continued to have some success by shifting focus to more immediate, revenue-driving projects. However, the new approach really wasn’t a fit for my contribution. I’ve continued to office with the guys and collaborate on some opportunities, but by the time I heard the Philippians passage that Sunday in late March, I had been over 4 months without a paycheck.

February was the low point for me. Interestingly, our church’s service also played a key role then as well. We sang that wonderful rendition of Psalm 130, and I sang it quietly to myself each day for weeks as I learned to patiently wait on the Lord. Now in March I was doing pretty well in terms of my outlook. I’d even started a couple ventures that were starting to generate revenue. And we said Philippians 4:6-7 in the liturgy, and it was like I heard it for the first time.

What had I always heard before? That God’s peace goes beyond anything we can make sense of. We experience his peace in circumstances that should not lead to peace. And I think this is exactly what the verses state, yet I’m now convinced there is even more.

What causes worry? When do we wallow in worry instead of experiencing peace? I’d suggest the Bible’s admonitions exactly match our experience. In Matthew 6, Jesus asks us if we can add one moment to our life by worrying. We are told not to worry for food, clothing, or shelter, that God knows our needs. That we should think about today, and not fret about tomorrow.

There it is. We worry about the future. And Tricia and I, as we went months without income, worried. Tricia summed it up so well one evening when she told me, “If you told me we’d be in this situation for another 6 months, and then it would end, I’d be okay.” The situation wasn’t the only stress, it was our fears for the unknown future that were killing us. Not knowing was at the heart of the worry.

We worry because we do not know the future. We may mourn for what we do know or experience, we may experience real hardship, but we worry because of what we do not know. As we read Philippians 4:6-7 in church, I suddenly heard it this way, “and the peace of God, which is of more value than knowing”. We don’t know the future. But God does. And his peace, which he brings us, is of far more value than us knowing, even knowing the future.

What is the antidote to our worries? From this point of view, Philippians 4:6-7 and Matthew 6 offer similar answers. We need to know that God knows our needs, and then we need to seek first his kingdom. And we need to believe that God’s care, God’s knowing, is far better than our knowing.

Separated at birth?

Tricia posted a sweet entry about home schooling Jonathan recently. Here’s the picture she used of Jonathan.

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Is it just me, or is there a striking resemblance to a slightly better known character from Christmas past?

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