It’s mid-September. The beach towels are put away and our mid-August holiday at the beach seems but a dream as early morning seminary alarm clocks go off at 4:45 a.m. each morning. Real life presents itself in September not only with a fresh autumn breeze blowing, but with work, activities, deadlines and the almost mind-numbing, endless duties that modern life brings.

Today’s Scripture: “And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?” (Moses 1:3)

beach-handWas relaxing at the beach a mere 21 days ago? It seems like a dream …

Thank goodness for a few small, white pebbles that are my Calgon take-me-away moments whenever life gets too big. Little did I know when I collected them that these polished, smooth stones gathered in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, at the beach we visit each summer and from a dream holiday trip to Hawaii would bring such joy, or that they would actually have a name.

What?! A name for little rocks on a kitchen window sill? Yes. They’re called a “virtual vacation.” A quick google of the term “virtual vacation” brings up a mind-boggling number of sites, blogs and photo tours created by world travelers who never leave their chairs, yet come back refreshed and renewed as often as they choose.

I was introduced to this concept by a lovely local nurse, writer and wellness specialist, Camille Bartus. She has found that many of the overweight people she works with badly need a way to reduce stress and the overeating it brings. An easy way to relax, she says, is to create a “virtual vacation” spot in your home with special pictures or artifacts from favorite places you have been. Simple rocks, shells, driftwood or other items can help transport you back to a relaxing time. Even 5 or 10 minutes a day sitting in a “virtual vacation” chair viewing these objects and breathing deeply can actually lower your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate and relax muscles. Studies done by Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard University describe the positive effects of this simple relaxation response.

Ha! I had stumbled onto a scientific truth years ago and have been returning to the beach and the mountains every day since while simply doing the dishes every day. I don’t even need to sit down on a beach chair or camp stool!

My little white Hawaiian pebbles were collected on glorious Temple Beach in the early morning sunrise hour while my family slept. What the pictures of the Laie, Hawaii Temple do not reveal is that the temple is actually facing a breath-taking view of the ocean, separate only by the parking area. While the sun rose, lighting the sky with impossible shades of rosy oranges and pinks, I walked and walked. As each new day dawned for this magical Christmas week six years ago, I was there as the darkness lifted and revealed the endless waves crashing on the beach. The beach also stretched on endlessly and I thought about so many endless things in our lives. Family issues, finances, troubles in the world, grown children, grand-children, our little children … even the LIST of endless things that weigh heavily upon our hearts is endless!

For many of us reading these articles, the struggle with our weight and maintaining healthy eating habits and attitudes often feels like the most endless thing in our lives of all, stretching back into history and looming ahead of us as the day to day food challenges abound.

However, the endless concerns have their match: when our hearts are right, there are endless ideas, approaches and resources. A new angle, a new inspiration, a new recipe, a new person, fact or success story can keep our focus and our own continuing success endless. As long as we don’t leave the beautiful beach, we can continue to enjoy the beauty and the strength that they bring. And surely there is no need to with a virtual vacation spot that is easily created with a postcard or picture posted where you’ll se it often.

This week I have heard from a number of you who are finding new direction to the to old habits: Picking up a pen and writing instead of eating, bottled, chilled water instead of diet Coke, an evening walk instead of an evening treat – surely these solutions are endless too! I continue to find endless weight loss success inspiration at www.WWFamilyForum.com. Stories and photos of people who have lost 100-200-300+ pounds are here with as much beauty and power as a new day at sunrise.

Here’s a thought: If the Lord uses the word “endless” to describe himself and we are his children, then we are endless too and can choose it to be our identity for being endless in faith, endless in hope, endless in diligence, endless in effort, and endless in taking in a few deep breaths to get a fresh start on the endless need to eat right … for the endlessly right reasons!

Today’s Journal Prompt and Discussion Starters:

  1. Describe a favorite vacation holiday spot or time that brought hope and optimism about your life. What were the feelings while you were there? Spend a few minutes with your eyes closed to refresh and review.
  2. Establish a word or find a small object that represents that feeling. Use it as an anchor for making your health choices this week.

Today’s Recipe: Cheesy Potato Skins.

I have but one word for this: Yum!

4 Large potatoes
2 tablespoons butter — melted
1 medium tomato — chopped
1/2 cup cheese — colby-jack
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
5 medium green onion — sliced

Heat oven to 375. Scrub potatoes; pierce potatoes to allow steam to escape. Bake about 45 minutes or until tender. Let stand until cool enough to handle.

Cut potatoes lengthwise into fourths; carefully scoop out pulp, leaving 1/4 inch shells. Save potato pulp for another use.

Set oven control to broil. Place potato shells, skin sides down, on rack in broiler pan. Brush with butter.

Broil with tops 4 to 5 inches from heat 8 to 10 minutes or until crisp and brown.

Sprinkle tomato and cheese over potatoes. Broil about 30 seconds or until cheese is melted.

Nutrition information:
Per serving: 89 Calories (kcal); 3g Total Fat; (28% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 9mg Cholesterol; 47mg Sodium