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2016 Reflections

As I sit here on NYE awaiting the arrival of the new year, I realize that much like this year’s presidential election, I may not be exactly “for” 2017 so much as I’m “anti” 2016.  My word, it’s been a rough one in just about every way, shape and form.  The media has focused upon the numerous deaths of celebrities; I admit, it’s been easy as a child of the 80’s to get caught up in the “what the heck?!” feeling that for some reason, 2016 set out to attack my teenage memories.

Celebrities weren’t the only ones who met tragedy over the past year.  2016 was bathed in conflict, controversy, and sadness: racial tension, police officers and criminals, natural disasters, religious doctrines, sex-trafficking, ISIS, battles over human rights.  I couldn’t listen to the radio or check out social media without discovering another tug-of-war within humanity.  Often times, it was too much to stomach.  (We won’t even go into the hatred spewed during this year’s election.)  What was happening to this world?!  Is this how God created people to be?!

Toss into mix my own family trials that knocked the wind right out of us in 2016.  My mother suffered a stroke in late August and is still in rehabilitation.  This prompted an unexpected trip to visit her in September, during which my husband underwent an emergency appendectomy while my daughter and I were traveling back to GA from PA.  (He arrived home with the help from a friend about the time I walked through our kitchen door.)  My husband had other bouts in the ER throughout the year.  My sister-in-law had a cancer scare and thyroid surgery.  And me?  Well, I received the gift of the beginnings of menopause in January and was recently diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.  In March, I had a traumatic flashback from childhood that caused my depression to spiral.  (I am not ready to journey down that blogger’s road by sharing the deep darkness of my past, although I am sure that day is coming.)  As my depression worsened, my physician decided medication was the best route.  It would be easy to bitterly, with tongue in cheek, exclaim a sarcastic, “Thank YOU, 2016!” and insert a few Fred Flintstone grumbles in place of cussing out the whole year.

Yet it will do me no good to yell and scream obscenities as Auld Lang Syne plays somewhere in the distance.  The more I struggled personally, the louder God’s voice became as He guided me to one particular verse: “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand upon the earth at last” (Job 19:25, New Living Translation).  I had to hold on to His promise in the midst of this tumultuous year.  I’ve learned in my counseling courses that although a complete dichotomy stands between the evil in this world and the goodness that is God, making it impossible at times to believe that there can be one AND the other … both do indeed exist.  God is good, He has always been good, He will always be good.  Satan may have his sway on this earth now, but eternity sees him bound in hell while my God reigns forevermore.  I am reminded that while suffering takes place, it – and all of this life for that matter – is temporary.  My husband and I were discussing getting older and losing loved ones, and he brought up a good point.  When we were very young, we thought that 40 was old.  Now we are in our 40s, and we realize a lifetime has passed in the blink of an eye.  Soon, Lord willing, we will be in our 60s and eventually 80s, and it, too, will fly by just as quickly as this half of our lives.  Thank GOD for eternity, or what would be the point of this short little life?

So goodbye to 2016, a year of painful lessons – some visible, others, not so much.  I have to hold on to my faith in God and His promise that no tears are wasted.  He has a purpose for each and every one, and I praise Him for the day when “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4, NLT).

Welcome, 2017.  And come, Lord Jesus, come.

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Sister

Childhood best friends

Sweet little sister

I will protect you

From the monster

I will save you

From the deep waters

We giggle, we play

We grow, we love

We change

Different paths

Different choices

Don’t go down that path

But I still love you

We are still friends

Mistakes made

Separately, together

No, no, don’t go further down

Don’t throw it all away

But to whom am I speaking?

To you?

To me?

So easy to judge

When my sin is hidden

I thought you left me

Left us all

But maybe

I left you

And now dark secrets

And a thousand miles

And many years

Separate us

You seek forgiveness

Can I trust you?

I need forgiveness

For failing you

As your big sister

As God’s child

As your friend

Fear

Struggle

I look back at the old me:

The thinner me,

The filthy-on-the-inside me,

And I don’t want to be her (do I want to be her?).

I don’t miss the way she was (oh, how I miss the way she looked!).

So I keep running away from her,

Protecting myself from her with food and fat.

I see my picture and ugh, I look like that?!

I can’t bear to see what I’ve become!

Different now?  Yes.

Better now? Yes.

All on the inside, all on the inside.

Yet I am unhealthy, inside and out.

Eating my emotions. Sabotaging my health.

Not afraid to die, except for the pain.

Not wanting to die … but is this not a slow form of suicide?

Take another bite.  (Not worth the fight.)

Feeling disgusted.  Feeling defeated.

How ridiculous this must seem, in a world of pain.

No one to blame but myself.

Why can’t I just get this right?

Why do I care so much (but you ARE beautiful … lies, lies!)?

He thinks I’m beautiful (how? why?).

God beautifully wove me, right?

So tired of the struggle.

So tired of the fight.

Not giving up … but can’t seem to find …

Victory tonight.

I Can Relate

You never know what you will see on social media.

If I’ve learned anything about Facebook, it’s that you will find the good, the bad, and the dramatic.  Some people only portray the positive, making others envious of their perfect lives.  Others air out more dirty laundry than a country clothes line.  But every once in a while, something grabs your attention and really speaks to your heart.  That happened today.

About 8 years ago, I “met” my friend Cheryl online on a weight loss support website.  Like most women who struggle with the ups and downs of that battle with the bulge, I had tried everything on God’s green earth – but that’s for later.  When I met Cheryl, she shared her continuous journey with losing weight, and over time, I watched her shrink.  She was a workout powerhouse and one disciplined, determined woman! In fact, I recall feeling pretty jealous of her weight loss – she started out weighing more than me, and she wound up weighing much, much less.  But she deserved it.  She worked hard, she ate clean, and purged sugar and flour from her diet.  Awesome.

When Facebook become all the craze, we stayed connected, and the topic of weight didn’t come up so much.  She shared her life, her good times, her bad … and occasionally, she would share fitness goals and stories.  Today, however, she posted that her “secret was out” and that she had gained back all the weight she lost all those years ago.  My heart FELT her pain, because I walked in her shoes. I felt the tears sting my eyes as I contemplated my own past.

Starting in 2001 and into 2002, at 5″1′, I went from 165 pounds to 125 pounds.  I looked lean and fit.  The problem is that I did not follow a healthy program to get there.  I took diet pills that have since been pulled from the market because they caused heart attacks and strokes in some users.  I can’t say that I counted calories because there were barely any to count.  I worked out like crazy – exercise at first was challenging, then addicting.  The pills and exercise weren’t the only things that were addictive – the attention and praise went straight to my head.  The more attention I got, the harder I worked to lose even more.  Now seriously, 125 pounds is quite healthy for a short chick like me.  Even more seriously, screw up your metabolism the way I did, and it will take a very long time to get things right again.

So yay me, I lost the weight.  Then I left the company where I worked, left the fitness center that was free for its employees, and left the constant support to keep my weight off.  I went to work in a small office full of women who liked to eat.  No fitness center.  No excuse – but I sure made those excuses my new best buds.  Within months I gained about half of the weight back; within just a few years, I gained it all back.  And then I gained even more.  Depression set in.  Rejection replaced attention.  I withdrew from old friends; in fact, if I’d been given the chance to see old coworkers, I would have run the other way.  I was embarrassed and ashamed.

That was 10 years ago.  Since then, I’ve been through a divorce, learned to be independent all over again, struggled financially, and discovered two best friends and biggest supporters in my (grown) daughters. My spirit was broken, my heart was shattered, and I was brought to my knees.  Jesus met me there.  I had long strayed in my walk with God, but He never left me.  He reached out to me in all my pain, and I thank Him every day for restoring me as His daughter.

Which brings me to now.  2014.  I’ve remarried, watched both of my daughters grow as amazingly strong women, am going to college part time, and this year, I committed my health to Jesus.  I began this year with a Daniel Fast and an online Bible study through the book “Made to Crave” by Lysa TerKeurst.  I’m not perfect; not every day is victorious.  But there are more strong days than not, and I am losing weight again.  I’m not going to give up.  My word for 2014 is “Victory” – 1 Corinthians 15:57: But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (NASB).

Evidently, I am not the only one who is back on track and doing something to become healthy once again. Remember that good Facebook moment I had today?  Check it out:

Cheryl, if you see this, I am SO STINKING PROUD OF YOU!  Don’t give up, don’t give in – you’ve got this, girl.

“Success is not measured by the position one has reached in life, rather by the obstacles one overcomes while trying to succeed.”  Booker T. Washington

 

Oh Pity, Party of One?

I just can’t do this anymore!

Why does it even matter? 

I’m just going to accept the fact that this is how things will always be.

There are more important things to worry about anyway.

woman-frustrated

Nobody said sacrifice would be easy, and let’s face it: when it comes to serving Christ, there are moments of sacrifice.  After all, Jesus Himself talked about the importance of sacrifice in the New Testament:

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me’.” Matthew 16:24, NASB.

To be fair, He also promised (and still promises!) to care for us along this journey toward Heaven:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28, NASB.

So why is it that we get so FRUSTRATED at times when it comes to sacrificial living?  For some, this may mean giving more time to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the community.  For others, this may mean redirecting our finances to include tithes, gifts and offerings.  And then there are those day in and day out situations in which we need to honor God (yes, He really does care about every single part of our lives) — how we spend our time each day, what we choose to consume with our eyes and with our mouths, what we feed our souls and our stomachs, the words that we speak, the habits to which we cling.

YES, God’s grace does cover our sins when we accept the gift of salvation through His Son, Jesus.  And YES, Jesus did say,

“It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” Matthew 15:11, NASB.

Absolutely, we must be more concerned with our souls than with what we eat!  Yet if what we eat is causing us harm, if we are choosing to seek comfort or happiness in anything other than Christ, then we must rethink our decisions!  We learn from Paul that,

“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.  All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” 1 Corinthians 10:23, NASB.

So again, when trying to live this life of obedience in ALL areas in order to be closer to God, to honor Him, and to live in the center of His will rather than my own, why is it that I can find myself in the midst of my own little pity party?  Because I am trying to do this on my own.  I’ve seen quite clearly that on those days when I spend time with God in prayer and in His word, when I reach out to Him for guidance, for comfort, for happiness, I do not struggle with obedience.  However, on days when “I’ve got this,” there are moments in the grocery store bakery section when I want to cry.  That may sound ridiculous when compared to “real” problems in this world (um, see my “excuses” above), but the journey of saying “yes” to God in all things starts within one’s own heart.  And if my heart is divided rather than completely lost in Jesus, well, I’m less likely to serve Him as He would like in other areas.

My pity party is evidenced by my defeated spirit.  By an overwhelming desire to just quit.  By my angry disposition that often shows its ugly head in short remarks to my family.  By my inability to handle stress. By the tears that come too easily over seemingly nothing.  I begin to listen to Satan’s lies instead of God’s truths.  [I love what Lysa TerKeurst says in her book Made to Crave: “Isn’t it just like Satan to make us think we have to have something to comfort us, fill us, satisfy us, only to be haunted by the consequences of this comfort later?” (TerKeurst, 2010, p. 110).]  And when I stop to wonder why I’m feeling this way, God’s Holy Spirit nudges my heart, and I am reminded of His promises again:

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7, NASB.

And again:

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13, NASB.

And yet again:

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4, NASB.

There is no need for the pity party!  Those things that seem so overwhelming in our lives are in HIS hands; we need only to cling to Him instead of to those things that bind us!  Praise God!

In closing, I am currently reading a book as part of my studies in Psychology and Christian Counseling. While writing this blog, a paragraph from the book Effective Biblical Counseling by Larry Crabb came to mind.  I would like to share it with you:

“It must be stressed that obedience does not automatically follow from correct understanding. Remember, I said that our perceptions determine the range of options we can choose.  The will is a real part of the human personality with the function of responsibly choosing to behave consistently with how the Bible teaches us to evaluate our world.  And such choices are not always easy.  It often involved teeth-gritting effort to choose to behave as we should.  It is important to choose to do what is right moment by moment.  Apart from the clear exercise of the will, there will be no consistent obedience.  As the Christian continues to choose the path of righteousness, his capacity for right choices in the face of adversity and temptation enlarges.  He becomes a stronger Christian, one whom God can trust with greater responsibilities” (Crabb, 1977, p. 102).

Determined

1-Corinthians_15-57

Dear God,

Today, I just want to thank You.  So many times I come to You with my list of requests.  I know You want me to pray to You, to ask of You, to seek You – and I praise You for always being there.  I know You hear my prayers.  I know You answer each and every one, whether it is yes, no, or wait.  Thank You for knowing what is best and giving me the faith and the strength to carry on, no matter what.

Today, though, I come to you in worship and praise.  Thank You for placing within my heart the desire to be #determined this week.

  • Determined to spend more time with You in Your word and in prayer.
  • Determined to be obedient to You by eating what is right for my life at this time.
  • Determined to seek You when Satan whispered so many lies, trying to make me fall.
  • Determined to show humility, grace, love, and support in my marriage.
  • Determined to share Your promises with others.

I know I am not perfect – but You are.  I know there are times when I am weak – and that is when Your strength is made perfect.  I know I am nothing without You – and that in You, and You alone, there is victory.  Thank you, my Father, my Lord, my God, for being You.

I love You!

In Jesus name, Amen.

A Raging Battle

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good.  So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  I want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.  But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.  I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am!  Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? — Romans 7:15-24, NLT

I love food.  Period.  For as long as I can remember, food was not only a part of my physical sustenance, but a part of my emotional existence.  Can you relate?  Did you also grow up in a home where cookies made the hurt feel better, or where ice cream melted away a broken heart?  I ate to celebrate special occasions; I ate because I was bored.

Being an active cheerleader in high school, these unhealthy choices didn’t seem to make a difference in my physical appearance.  I stayed slender no matter what I ate, although in the back of my mind, I worried about being overweight.  No … let me change that … I worried about getting fat.  The dreaded “F” word, with all of the ugly degrading connotation behind it.  My best friend at the time struggled with bulimia and anorexia, and she was thinner than I.  Put two and two together – if she thinks SHE’S fat, well gee, I must be too!  Diets and extreme measures were never my style, though, and I simply silenced those thoughts with another mouthful of deliciousness.

The results of those poor choices never caught up with me until after I got married.  I went to college for one year out of high school, and instead of gaining the “freshman fifteen,” I actually got into the best shape of my life due to the required PE class.  After one year, though, I left college to marry my high school sweetheart.  My physical activity went to zero, and my food intake went to “two very young adults eating pizza most of the time,” as my (now ex) husband worked for Domino’s.  On a young couple’s budget, free pizza worked our perfectly for our finances, if not for our health.  Three months after marrying, I became pregnant with our older daughter, and the excuse to eat was justified!  In fact, my doctor warned me a few months into my pregnancy that I was gaining too much weight.  After the appointment, with tears in my eyes, I bought a Snickers bar and said, “He’s a man. He doesn’t know what this is like.”  I gained 60 pounds with that pregnancy.

I lost the weight from my first pregnancy just in time to get pregnant with our younger daughter.  I was much more careful this time, incorporating daily walks into my routine and not gaining as much weight as I did previously.  After her birth, I didn’t worry about my weight at all until one day in the bathtub.  I caught my reflection in the overflow drain and started to cry.  Never mind that I’m quite sure those things are like fun-house mirrors, distorting the curves terribly; I was fat.

Thus began the ups and downs of my entire adult life and the battle with the scale.  Throughout my twenties and thirties, I took every pill and potion, went on every diet, bought every workout video and destroyed my metabolism.  Looking back now, not only do I regret the money I wasted, but the emotional damage I did to myself – and I am quite certain to my daughters.  You can only hear your mother degrade herself so many times before it becomes ingrained into your mind too.

So let’s fast forward before I tell my entire life story.  Condensed version: food was my best friend and my worst enemy, and my priorities for losing weight over the years were totally out of whack.  For that matter, my LIFE priorities were out of whack.  If I want to be truly honest with myself, my body issues combined with food addiction played a part in the ending of my first and second marriages.  Not the only part, but definitely buried deep in there somewhere.

Years later, God is still on His throne, and once I surrendered my heart so that He could be King of my life, things changed.  My struggle with food as lord over my life is still a raging battle.  This is where I can totally relate to Paul in his letter to the Romans.  Why do I do what I know is not good?  I love God, and I love being obedient to Him!  Can there be victory?  Will a day come when I desire to honor Him in EVERY part of my existence, not just in the parts that are easy?  I get so excited when I read verse 25 of Romans 7!  Remember, verse 24 asks that pertinent question, “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” Who provides victory?  “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25, NLT).

When my focus is on Jesus, things fall into place.  Jesus is to be my Comfort.  Jesus is to be the Focus of my celebrations.  He is the One I should turn to when temptations arise, when boredom strikes, when frustrations prevail.  Being healthy is an admirable reason for getting that vicious cycle of food and guilt under control.   Wanting to live longer so I can enjoy my grandchildren is not wrong.  Even the desire to feel confident isn’t such a bad thing.  However – all of those things pale when compared to honoring God.  He created us.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.  You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.  You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  –Psalm 139:13-16a, NLT

I realize the battle to put God first in all areas of my life is a lifelong one.  I also know without a doubt Who holds the victory. God’s mercy, grace, strength, and peace give me hope through it all.