Tuesday, December 6, 2016

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: Anna's Christmas Gift Guide

Well, if Oprah can do it, why can't I?  I decided to put together a list of my favorite things that may be good stocking stuffers for your loved ones, or even just a nice gift focused on health and wellness as we head towards the New Year.  NONE of these posts are sponsored.  My opinions are my own, but these truly are a few of my favorite things!

If you recall from my blog post, "The Crazy Things You Do When you Have Cancer" I have been on a mission to find healthy products that do not make me feel like I am giving myself cancer from the every day things I do in life.  Now, there are a ton of reasons why cancer happens, and no, I don't believe my face lotion is giving me cancer, BUT, I do believe in minimizing the body's exposure to chemicals.  The less stress you put on your body with toxins and chemicals, the better job it will do in fighting diseases.  Hence, I have no regret moving to healthier versions of my every day products.

First off, don't try to sell me your face care regimen.  For two years, I've used "Say Yes to Carrots" Daily Facial Scrub and Cerve`'s Daily Moisturizer.  I still get compliments that I do not look my 41 years, so I think I will stick with it.  I do wish Cerve` was slightly more organic, but it works great and it is affordable.   They also produce a day lotion with SPF that is great in the summertime if you are outside a lot. Did I mention affordable? I _might_ spend $20 bucks on these two products and they work.  Keep it simple: Cheap and it works?  Get it.

Finally, in this picture, is Native deodorant.  This all natural, no parabens, no sulfites, no weirdness deod is awesome.  Yes, I am telling you my deodorant on social media.  No, I am not embarrassed about it.  Well, at least not too embarrassed, because seriously, it has taken me TWO YEARS to find this stuff.  I have cycled through so many natural deodorants in a quest to find something that does not make me feel like I am absorbing chemical after chemical in my armpits and this is it. It works longer than a couple of hours, smells great, it does not itch, and it's healthy.  Amazing stuff.  It isn't cheap ($12), but it's worth it.

My next favorite item is mascara.  If you recall, I might have let a bit of crazy out in that blog post indicating a worry that my mascara might kill me.  All dramatics aside, in my healthy quest, I found Pacifica Organic Mineral based mascara.  This stuff is the bomb.  On the rare occasion I wear mascara, this stuff is it. (My apologies for the upside down picture, my computer is NOT being friendly today.) I like this stuff so much, I gave it to my niece for Christmas this year (I hope she isn't reading my blog right now).

Next, get your loved one a Fit Bit or other fitness device.  There is nothing more motivating towards a life of fitness than a tracker that tells you how far you've gone in your physical efforts in one day.  The app for the phone can let you track your workouts, steps, calorie intake, sleep and mood.  I cannot think of any other technical device I like better.  Pair it with Christ Walk: A 40 Day Spiritual Fitness Program and you are giving the gift of health and wellness.

The benefits of Green Tea are so well documented, I am not even going to get into it here.  You can look up the research yourself, but some studies indicate that two cups of green tea a day can help your body fight cancer itself.  I am not quite up to two cups a day, because at heart I am a coffee drinker (you can see my coffee pot in the background), BUT, the antioxidants in Green Team are super stars.  It took me FOREVER to find a Green Tea I liked, and here is the result. Tea Republic Honey Ginseng Green Tea.  Smooth, and well... green....this tea has hints of honey and goes down without me feeling like I am drinking tea made of twigs.  My goal each day is to replace a cup of coffee with a cup of tea.  So far, so good. Take that cancer cells!

Next up for consideration is to switch all your plasticware for glassware.  This was one of the first things I did when I got sick, and I have no regrets.  I have not figure out how to replace ALL the plastic in our house, but storing your food in glass versus plastic is a GREAT start.  Believe it or not, those plastics can degrade into your food which gets added to the toxic overload on your body.  It just is not worth it.  Plus, if you microwave food in plastic containers, it degrades the plastic further.  Why take a chance?  Switch to glassware.  The tops stay on great, and it's better for the environment.  The baby whales will thank you.

You may have seen me tweet or Instagram the next gift idea:  A subscription to FaithBox. FaithBox is a monthly subscription that includes a month worth of devotionals and several gifts from organizations that use their profits to support those in need.  For the last six months, FaithBox has sent items that support Haiti, Food Banks, Employment support, Human Trafficking, Child Abuse, Sexual Assault, African ministries and others.  The donations go to feed the poor, clothe the homeless, provide healthcare and shelter to those in need.  I cannot think of a better way to enjoy a little splurge each month than with something that not only builds me spiritually, but also helps others in the process.

Finally, no gift giving guide of mine would be complete without an appeal to give the gift of my own books!  We've got "Sally the Comet" for your youngsters seeking to explore space; "Christ Walk Kids" for those tweens and teens seeking spirituality in the every day; and "Christ Walk: A 40 Day Spiritual Fitness Program" for those seeking to combine spiritual and physical practice.  Give the gift of Health, and give one of my books to your loved ones as a gift!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Vote in Love

I loathe discussing politics.  The current climate of the election process has me wanting to bury my head in the sand and not come up until its over.  I know I am not alone out there in this feeling.  The current situation in America makes me hugely uncomfortable.  I am uncomfortable as a Christian, a mother, a female, a writer, an individual, and as a spouse of a military member.  I’m uncomfortable in my skin, and in my head, and in my heart.  I wish deeply that God would simply send me an email telling me to whom I should cast my vote.  Alas, God has once again put the onus of action on my shoulders, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me.

I also don’t generally talk politics in social media.  I believe greatly that the ability to discourse rationally is lost when you cannot have these discussions face to face where you can see facial expressions, body language and nuance.  Despite these notions, I found myself on a podcast with my buds over at Priest Pulse discussing politics in a round table.  I prayed fervently that I wasn’t offensive on either side of the line and to say I felt sick to my stomach the whole time doesn’t begin to cover it.

I really don’t like talking politics.

However, because I did go on the round table, and because you can only express so much in a half hour show, I am following up with a blog post to really lay out my thoughts on this election season.  

We are conflicted.  On the right and on the left, there are conflicted people.  We are a conflicted nation.

You see, I am a deeply committed Christian.  I deeply want to vote as a committed Christian for the right candidate that represents my beliefs and feelings about our great nation.  There are deeply committed Christians on both sides of the Democrat/Republican fence.  There are deeply conflicted Christians on both sides of the Democrat/Republican fence.

Read this again:  There are deeply conflicted Christians on both sides of the fence.  This doesn’t make any of us less committed Christians. Or less committed Americans.  It just means that by nature of how we were raised, what we were exposed to, what preacher led us on Sunday mornings (and his or her personal platforms), and many other factors contributes to how we are shaped as deeply committed Christians.  On both sides of the fence.

You see, I’ve heard pigeon-holing slanders thrown about the last several months:  Commie-liberal, Christian Conservative, Redneck, Country Bumpkin, City Girl, Gun-toting NRA lover, Pro-lifer, Pro-choicer, Nazi-Democrat, Narrow-minded Republican,  just to name a few.  The problem with any of these labels is 1) I can identify personally with aspects of all these labels in some way, and 2) all they do is paint a picture of one or the other; black or white, good or bad; and doesn’t contribute to the shades of grey that individuals bring to the table.  It’s horrible.  And the major problem with these divisive labels is that it creates a divide where it is very difficult to come to consensus where we can lovingly agree to disagree.  A friend challenged me to find the place to heal, and I think we need to heal this great divide between these labels that have been cast with abandon.  You see, whether you vote Democrat or Republican, or something else, I’d rather that vote be cast in love as a deeply committed Christian towards a basis of reconciliation and togetherness. America will never be great again unless we make America great TOGETHER.

We’ve been led to believe that we have to choose between the lesser of two evils and I think most people I know are tired of choosing between evils and they really want to choose something good.  “Make America Great Again” appeals to some people because at heart, that’s what most Americans want whether or not it is a mis-placed sentiment.  We want a Great America.  America isn’t going to be great in the middle of a great divide.  We need to work together to make America great.

I’ve been told if I don’t vote for Hillary, I am a traitor to my sex.  I’ve been told if I don’t vote for Hillary, I support rape.  I’ve been told if I don’t vote for Trump, I am contributing to the downfall of America.  I’ve been told if I don’t vote for Trump, I am allowing the killing of babies. I’ve been told if I vote third party, I am throwing away my vote.  I’m told if I vote third party, I’m simply indecisive. I've been told so many things about my vote. None of what has been said provides me with much resolution as a deeply committed Christian trying to do the right thing.

These negative voices about what is right and what is wrong are on both sides of the fence.  Both sides tell me I am doing the wrong thing, no matter which way my vote is cast.  Which one is more right?  Who gets to decide who is more "right" than someone else? And which one is more right when we are left with two candidates that leave us deeply conflicted on a moral level as deeply committed Christians?  If you fit into this category like me, I think you have to pray deeply on your choice;  you have to read the Bible; read history; read theologians; dive deeply into the issues and find something that resonates with your beliefs.  And NEVER be suckered into believing you only have two choices.  We have lots of choices as Americans, we just have to take action on them.  We were instructed by God to Walk in Love.  In order to do this, we can cast a vote that works with our Christian conscious. Only you know what that is.

God might not have sent an email, but God did send us a message.  No matter the outcome of the election, God consistently, says “Trust me.”  As Christians, we don’t believe this is the end of the story.  There is always more to come and the number one way we can demonstrate our commitment as Christians is to Walk in Love with our brothers and sisters on both sides of the political fence. Let's hang up nastiness, name calling, and labeling.  I think as deeply committed Christians, we are held to a higher standard.

If you are still feeling conflicted, The Reverend John Wesley provided us this guidance in 1774:
"I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them
1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy
2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and
3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Christ Walk Kids Endorsements!

I am blessed beyond measure by the folks that support my writing.  I am over the moon that Christ Walk Kids will be coming out soon and I hope you are too!  Here are some endorsements for the new book!  Pre-orders are available now!  Just go to Church Publishing Inc to place your order.

“In a world that regularly bombards children with distorted body images, Anna Fitch Courie encourages children to explore healthy relationships––with their bodies, with one another, and with God. In its accessible style, Christ Walk Kids will motivate even the most reluctant teenager to get up and go!”
––The Rev. Tim Schenck, author of Father Tim’s Church Survival Guide and creator of Lent Madness

“Anna Courie has an infectious desire to live out the Christian life and to show how the good news of Jesus really does incarnate with us. Christ Walk Kids should be a useful resource for discipleship and growth in grace, in mind, body, and spirit.”
­­––Jason A. Greer, deacon, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Greenville, SC

Christ Walk Kids is a powerful way to teach tweens and teens about how in God ‘we live, move, and have our being (Acts 17:28).’ Anna Fitch Courie, wise and direct, addresses the many questions that tweens and teens might have about living a life of faith in today's world. Christ Walk Kids provides kids, parents, and church leaders with a clear path to healthy choices for all ages.” 
­­––Cathy Boyd, Director of Christian Formation, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Greenwood, VA

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

ANOTHER SNEAK PEAK! Christ Walk Kids is Coming Soon!

It is getting closer and closer to the moment where Christ Walk Kids will be released.  I am so stinking excited for my next project.  :)

Here is another excerpt from from Day 22 of the book to share with you and your kids!

Day 22: Take Care of Your Friends

Biblical Big Idea: He denounces his friends for gain, and his children’s eyes fail. ––Job 17:5

We are supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our friends are our neighbors. Our friends, especially ones we click with for a lifetime, will be those that hold us up through the storms of life. My friends are my “posse.” They are the people I talk to when I am not sure what my problems are and to see how they have handled similar situations. My friends have my back. We jokingly call this, “We are Groot.” Groot, from Guardians of the Galaxy, takes care of his friends. Groot wraps his friends in his deep roots to protect them from danger. Groot also comes back to life because his roots are strong and his relationships with his friends go deep. Groot has his friends’ backs. Together, the Guardians are far stronger than if they were acting apart. 
To have good friends, you first need to be a good friend. Good friends build you up. They do not tear you down. Similarly, you should build your friends up. Help them make good decisions, just as you are learning to make good decisions. Be each others Groot. Groot is strong because his roots grow deep. Your friendship will grow strong as your roots grow deep with each other. Friends can last a lifetime if they are the right friends. They are the sorts of people that you can pick up a conversation with after ten years, and it is as though the initial conversation never ended. Lifetime friends are those whose love continues to grow no matter how far apart they may be.  Lifetime friends are God's gift to us. Your friends should not lead you down a path of self-destruction. If your “friends” are urging you to do things that do not show love to yourself, the people around you, or your parents, they are not real friends. Friends love one another.
Taking care of our friends shows the covenant of God’s love for us with one another. It shows love to ourselves, to one another, and to the world around us. Having good friends and being a good friend teaches us the discipline of how we should treat other people. Good friends show forgiveness, kindness, support, love, and caring. These are all things we should be cultivating not only for our friends and family but also for everyone around us.

Things to think about:
1.      How am I a good friend?
2.      Do I have a good friend?
3.      What do I think makes my friendships special?
4.      Do I talk with my friends about God? Would I like to?

Monday, May 23, 2016

When Church Doesn't Cut It For Me

I confess.  Church wasn't doing it for me yesterday.  The music wasn't doing it.  The sermon wasn't doing it.  The weather wasn't doing it.  I was irritable and edgy and unable to focus.  I really didn't want to be in church.

It happens.

Even to those of us who more or less like church.  Some days, the church isn't a building.  Some days, the church is a piece of paper and a thought.

So, I let my mind began to wander down paths of why church is important, thoughts about Christianity, why Saints matter (read www.lentmadness.org), and I started to write all over my bulletin.

It looks like this:

And this is what came out:

Christianity is a collective experience.  There is no one person that tells the story of God.  The story of God is told by tax collectors, prostitutes, the poor, kings, queens, doctors, soldiers, those that are ill and disabled.  Teachers tell the story and children tell the story.  All sorts of people tell the story of God.  We all have  a part in telling the story of God in our lives and the life of the world.  The Saints that have gone before us tell this story and lived out their faith through words and deeds.  They are so touched by grace that every step of their lives is a story about God.

Each step, is a word in their story about God. Each step you take is a word in your own story about God.

We study the Saints to connect on a deep level with those that have gone before us.  They teach us about how God was a part of their lived experience of the gospel.   This lived experience brings the gospel to life in all times and places. This gospel is live and real today.  There are saints all around us living the story of God in real time.

When we study the saints that have gone before us, it connects us with the community of the company of heaven that sings of God's glory throughout all ages.  I believe in some sort of heaven.  I think there is more than this life. I deeply believe there is more to our story with God.  My voice aches to sing with the angels and arch-angels and all the company of heaven.  There is a hope for something more.

Enter the resurrection.

Studying the saints shows us the hope of the resurrection, the grace of God, the power of hope, and the mercy of love throughout the individual and collective trauma, tragedy, degradation, fear, and pain.  The disciples firmly believed that Jesus rose again on the third day.  They believed in the risen Christ.  There was a man that was raised from the lowest grave and from the most degrading death. Those that went before us tell us of the power of the resurrected Christ.

The gospel tells us how God's grace flowers in the lowliest of situations.  Maybe Jesus wasn't born in a physical manger, but perhaps this is a reference to grace in the lowliest of places.  Perhaps there wasn't a star, but rather it refers to the light of Jesus in the darkest hours, or the darkest of times.  Perhaps the miracles bore from a point of grace.  Perhaps with love and grace, there is more.  That all is possible.

What separates our belief in God as Christians, is the resurrection of Christ.  This belief is the promise that all things are made right in God.  This is a belief in grace, and hope, and love, and the power to transform.  The degradation, the pain, the suffering, the ills, the abuse, the anger...these things are all made right in God.  God made this right through Jesus.  God made is right through the lives of the saints.  God will make it right for you too.  You are part of this story of hope and grace.  Our study of the saints, and those that have gone before us as Christian witnesses, shows us how God made things right for people through the hope of the resurrection.  This is a story that has been told for ages.  This is your story.

Through God, all things are possible.  Through our collective experience of the Grace of God in our lives, we become a part of the community of saints that speaks a voice that witnesses to God's work in the world. Your voice belongs in this story.

Come, be a part of the story.  What would your voice say?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

SNEAK PEAK: Christ Walk Kids!

It is the season of Lent and I wanted to share with you all a chapter from the "Christ Walk Kids" book coming out from Church Publishing, Inc in Fall of 2016.

In this chapter, we discuss with tweens and teens the meaning of Lent and the implications of the season as a child of God.


Day 14: What is Lent, Anyway?

Biblical Big Idea: He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him. ––Mark 1:13

Lent is a season during the church year that comes before Easter. Lent reminds us of the time in which Jesus went away from his disciples to go into the wilderness to fast (not eat or drink) for forty days and forty nights while focusing on prayer with God. Many people much smarter than me have debated exactly how Jesus survived for forty days and forty nights without food or drink. I do not need that level of specific understanding of what happened back then. I am comfortable with simply having faith.
When I read this passage, my understanding is that Jesus separated himself from the world for a long time, denying his human needs in order to focus on his spiritual needs and his relationship with God. During Lent, Christians (that includes me and you) are called to be more like Jesus during this time. This is one reason that Christ Walk makes a good Lenten discipline.
Different people have focused on becoming more like Jesus in many different ways. Some people give things up during Lent (sweets, bread, soda, arguing, whining, fighting) and other people take on new habits that they feel draw them closer to God (studying the Bible, working in a homeless shelter, doing a good deed each day, praying, walking, running, meditating). All of these habits make ourselves more like Jesus and thus closer to God. All of these are Christ Walk “miles” and activities.
In the Christ Walk program, we choose to walk steps and take on different activities that represent our relationship with God as a part of our journey. You may do this during Lent or during some other time of the year. Anytime is a good time to be more like Jesus. It does not only need to happen during Lent. What does need to happen is that you need to choose habits to focus on and improve that will instill discipline in your life that bring you closer to God.

Things to Think About:
1.      What’s a discipline?
2.      What are some disciplines I can take on that bring me closer to God?
3.      What are some habits that I need to give up in order to get closer to God?
4.      How does it make me feel to give something up for a long period of time?
5.      What do I think was on Jesus’ mind when he was in the wilderness?

A Note to Parents:

Christ Walk Kids  covers many topics related to health and spirituality: physical exercise, nutrition, sex, drinking, drugs, praying, lying, stealing, bullying, and many others.  I did not write the book for kids to read in a vacuum.  I wrote the book as though I were talking to my own children with the hope that it would open up honest dialogue between my child and me.  I hope you will also read the book with your children) and go on a journey with them that helps to build a foundation of healthy choices: mind, body, and spirit.  I think having an open dialogue about any subject with our children is the key to understanding what is going on in their brains and their lives.  This book is how I would talk to my kids.  It may not be how you would talk to yours, so again, include yourself on their journey and share your own thoughts and feelings on the topic.  You may be surprised at the discussion the topics generate.  Be open; listen actively; and no matter what you hear, love your child anyway.

You may not agree with everything I wrote.  That's fine, just talk about those thoughts and feelings with your child and you will be building a spiritually fit relationship with your son or daughter that doesn't shy away for their spiritual and physical and mental development.  It takes a tribe to raise children.  We are all in it together.  #christwalk.

~~Love, Anna