Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What will flow forth?

John 7:38..."He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" 

What you put in you is what will flow forth. What do you believe? What do you surround yourself with? What do you listen to? What do you read? Who do you fellowship with? What do you watch? 
To grow in faith and be filled with more of the Spirit you must be intentional. Every day there are countless opportunities and decisions about what to fill yourself with. What you choose to put in will inevitably have a direct affect on what will come out. It is only a matter of time. 
Our culture wants to act like their is no correlation. Listen to crude music, watch filthy television, surround yourself with course language - it doesn't make any difference. This isn't so. These things influence and ultimately shape our thoughts. If we put garbage in how can we expect a sweet aroma to emanate?
Each day we are each given options. Will we surround ourselves with things of God, furthering our knowledge and understanding of him; growing in our spiritual maturity? Or will we waste another golden opportunity to become more of the person God intends for us to be? 
We have free will. The choice is ours. We can claim to believe the things of God and claim the salvation of his Son, but our faith will remain stagnant and our growth will be stunted if we do not choose to immerse ourselves in the things of God. 
We cannot wade at the shore line or stand waist deep in the shallow end. To experience the fullness of God we must get in over our head, completely overtaken with the things of God. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Encouragement for your journey

We all need some encouragement from time to time.
Here are some quotes, scriptures and pictures to lift your spirit and give you a little push when times get tough.....

If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?  - Unknown

I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders. – Jewish Proverb

James 1:12 "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which [the Lord] has promised to those who love Him."

Romans 8:35-39 "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
“Adversity is the diamond dust heave polishes its jewels with”  ~Robert Leighton

Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” ― C.S. Lewis

Just keep swimming

I wish I could honestly announce that I have saintly patience. I wish that I could tell you that I don't get frustrated. I wish I could say that the peace I experience washes away all negativity, worries or concerns.
But I wouldn't be being entirely honest.
Yes, my patience has increased as I've aged, matured and grown in my relationship with God. My patience was paper thin. Let's just say that now it is more like a plaster wall. This isn't good enough. I need a heavily fortified, brick barricade keeping me from myself and my impatience. Psychologists love to say that the first step to overcoming a problem is admitting you have one. I suppose this is the approach I am taking when it comes to gaining patience. I am admitting that I am still very much on the road to getting to where I want to be and I'm trusting that God will do the work in me. But first I had to admit it.
Admission #2: I get frustrated. Case in point being my weight. I had started to put on weight. 7 pounds in a month and a half. Not too shabby, right? But in the past week I've lost half a pound and my energy has taken a dip due to my digestion going completely off whack. Why is this happening again? Why is my progress being stalled and even backpedalling? I'll be honest, I'm beyond frustrated! I'm down right saddened. The progress I was seeing was lifting my spirits in ways I hadn't experienced in years. Now they are crushed. My mood has been crushed with them. I am trying to pull myself up by my boot straps, continue the good fight and embrace the promises of God found in scripture. But it is an every moment struggle.
Peace has been hard to come by. It feels like I am in a constant battle to be at ease. I keep praying, I keep asking God to sustain me and be my joy. The moment I stop the prayer the peace is gone. Shouldn't it last a little longer? Am I going to have to become a monk, calling on God day and night just to keep myself emotionally whole and peaceful?
I don't have any answers for these difficulties that plague me. The cry of my heart is to simply be pleasing to God. But in the midst of my trials I don't feel pleasing to him at all. I feel like I'm floundering.
And then the silly little tune from that beloved kids movie "Finding Nemo" pops into my head: "just keep swimming, swimming, swimming...."
"What do you do when life gets you down?....just keep swimming, swimming, swimming"

When life gets frustrating, your patience runs dry and peace is hard to come by, just keep swimming. Simply forge ahead. It may not be easy and it may feel like you are trapped in a tide that won't let you go, but just keep moving. The moment that you stop is the moment that you lose the fight. If you don't keep pushing against the negative feelings and the difficulties they will overtake you. So just keep swimming. There will be smoother waters and brighter days ahead. To get to them you must simply keep swimming.

A turn toward glory

As Christians, totally devoted to our Lord and Savior, seeking to live a life that satisfies and obeys him, we are often looking for discernment in decision making. The question of what to do next, what answer to give, or what direction to take is not ours to make, but God's. We want him to direct our paths.
That all sounds so simple and straightforward: allow God to guide you. But how does one go about doing that? How do you know what God would want you to do? He rarely comes in a burning bush. Don't get me wrong, he could come in any form he'd like. He could literally send down a map with step-by-step directions, fully equipped with flashing lights and colorful road signs. But this would be a highly unusually way in which God would reveal himself. Ask most Christians and they'll tell you they haven't received such a map from God. They would also probably tell you that God has been far from absent in their decision making. He can still lead, guide and direct without having to intervene in our physical day-to-day world.
How can he do this? How can we tap into his direction and make the right choices and follow "his will"? How in the world are we supposed to know what that will is?
Christians are constantly praying for answers. Do I take this job or that job? Do I live in this house or that house? And the Christian girl's most fervent cry, is this the person I should marry?
All of these questions make our heads spin. We look for a sign in the clouds, an answer washed upon the shore and written in the sand. We are seeking his will, can't God just give us a simple answer?
Then there comes another question that throws us for another there only one "right" answer? If I pick poorly and take the job in Minnesota instead of the job in Maine will I be falling off of God's path, doomed to destruction and a life of wandering aimlessly? If I buy the house with a pool instead of the one without a pool am I putting material possessions over God, making him an after thought and not my top priority?
And what about marriage? Is there only one, single, solitude person out there that I am supposed to end up with? What if this one person isn't "that" one person? He looks good, fits the criteria, is spiritually mature, equally yoked, but what if he's not the "one"? Am I looking for a specific one, anyways? Or am I looking for a man of God who will be the spiritual leader, picture of Christ in the household and provider for the family? Maybe there are many "ones"?

All of these questions can become overwhelming. They can drag down our spirits and make us utterly confused. Confusion is not of God. It is a trick and trap of satan. He loves to use it to pull us off course, make us question our faith and, ultimately, make us question the relevance and reality of God in our lives. Is he active and truly alive today? Satan wants to raise doubts.
God is surely alive and more active then we even know. He isn't sending out flares for directional guidance but that doesn't mean he has grown silent or unconcerned.
The truth is he has already given us all the direction we need. He has given us his WORD. In it is the secret to decision making. Okay, so it really isn't a secret. It is right there in plain black and white. Our lives are to glorify and honor God. That is the direction. Glorification of God is our path.
When faced with a decision one choice may not look any worse than another. "Danger" signs might be no where to be seen. That does not mean there isn't a better path to take. We must ask ourselves, "What will bring the utmost glory to God in this situation?" With each yes or not, right or left, there is always a way to honor God more fully and purely than another. The decision won't be hard when we are truly honest with ourselves, rooting out the selfishness of our hearts and the lustful desires that we have kept hidden from the world, and look to what would be most honoring to God. What would bring the most glory to his kingdom? What would bring the biggest smile to his face?
The scriptures aren't silent about the purpose of our lives. Within their words comes the ultimate guide to making decisions. Instead of trying to answer each individual little question that will come up in the course of our lives, the Bible seeks to give us a basis for making any and all decisions. We can never be faced with something that we don't have an answer to. In the scripture, there is an answer for everything: honor God, first and foremost.

Romans 14:17-19 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (NIV)

Isaiah 43:7
“Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” (KJV)

1 Corinthians 6:20 
“For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (KJV)

Colossians 3:23
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (NIV)

Psalms 35:27 “Let them shout for joy and be glad, Who favor my righteous cause; And let them say continually, “Let the LORD be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.” (NKJV)

Psalm 115:1 "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!"

Friday, July 26, 2013

Waiting for my plane to take off

Have you ever been in the airport, prepared to start your journey to an island or long anticipated vacation, only to find out that your flight has been delayed? Even worse, has it been canceled? Maybe you've experienced the sinking feeling of having the airline crew come over the intercom of the waiting area informing you that, "This flight has been cancelled. We will find you all alternate flights or accommodations." Uh, huh...sure you will.
Until that blessed moment where a new plane arrives or an alternate flight is booked, you are stuck.
Sometimes life can feel a lot like that airport terminal. Things come to a screeching halt. You think you know where you're going, when the next step is supposed to take place and then everything is put on hold. You are suddenly stuck in the terminal of life and the plane is no where in sight.
In these moments life looks hopeless. You have no agenda for the future. There is no time table for things to change. You wake up each morning stuck on repeat. Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? Will this waiting end and the task of living begin?
It can be overwhelmingly lonely to be in this transit period. Inside you are busting to make something out of your life, be something to somebody and accomplish great things. But the reality is that you are stuck in the terminal, just waiting for a grounded flight to take off.
When will the pilot and crew arrive?
When will they start the boarding process?
The screen tells the story. Delayed until further notice. Stay tuned.
In transition it is frustrating to have to be glued to that screen, just wondering when the words will suddenly change, giving you a time, something to count down to. But there is no guarantee. There isn't even an estimated time-table. It could take a year, it could take a month, it could all change tomorrow with the simple act of someone walking through the door at the coffee shop. You just don't know.
Inside you are dying for a different environment, some sense of purpose and normalcy that seems to be lightyears away. Your family isn't there. Your friends are off on their own paths, journeys of their own. Your daily agenda doesn't look remotely like it used.
The cold, hard chair in the terminal waiting area is nothing like home.
Everything is changed and now you must change, too. Your expectations of what will make you content and fulfilled must change.
When you discover that you are in this stage of life, figuring things out for the first time truly alone, everything around you will look like one big question mark. You will feel directionless and lost. There won't be a map and the departure screen won't give you any reassurance.
But this too shall pass. I can't promise you when or how. I don't know if it will be a person that will change things or simply the passing of time. I don't know if it will be a steady process or if it will all happen in the blink of an eye. One thing I can assure you of: this time in life, difficult as it may be, is a passing season. Fall always gives way to winter. Spring always gives way to summer. Sometimes it takes longer then we'd like, but the course of creation and its seasons never fail.
So, too, in your life, you are not stalled out without any hope of a different future. There are brighter days ahead. The darkness that you now feel will give way to clear, blue skies. Your plane will come. That trip may be bumpy, possibly turbulent. But you won't be grounded. You won't be stuck looking out at all the planes taking off wondering when it will be your turn.
Until that day comes, enjoy the view from those big glass windows. There is so much to see while waiting. There is people watching. There are planes taking off with a thunderous roar. Don't miss all the excitement because you are too impatient to appreciate the life surrounding you while you wait.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Single's town

Chagrin Falls is the dog town. Everywhere you walk, any time of day, any day of the week, you are sure to meet at least a handful of dogs - and that isn't even counting all the dogs you will see but not be formally introduced to. The dog to human ratio here is stunning. There are at least as many dogs as people, if not more. Some people walk with a special leash designed to control their two or three dogs at a time. Others have mastered the art of walking with a leash in each hand. Either way, they manage to include all of their furry friend in their strolls about town.
Chagrin Falls is also middle-aged singles town. This may seem to have nothing to do with the previously described dog town, but stick with me on this, it is all related.
When I moved into my house I realized that my singleness was far from a rarity on my street, in fact I joined the majority. Both of my neighbors, middle aged women, are single. The woman two doors down to my right and three doors down to my left are also single. The man three doors down to my right and the man with two kids across the street are, you guessed it, single. Are you sensing a trend?
The foot-loose and fancy-free crowd isn't just on May Court. They are all over Chagrin Falls. I can't even count how many single men and women I have met in Starbucks. It seems with almost every visit I come across another middle aged person without a ring on their left hand and no spouse waiting at home - maybe a dog, but no hubby.
And this is where the two worlds, the dog world and the single world, collide. It comes down to companionship. We are all born with the desire to share our lives with someone. I assume this is why God created Eve, to give Adam someone to go through life with. He thought it was better that they experience things together rather than as a solo, lone reed.
Even those of us who are single understand this principle. That's why dogs are so popular. Not everyone finds the man or woman of their dreams, or even someone close enough to make "I do" appealing enough to say in front of a crowd of witnesses. So, for those who don't find a person to settle in with, some of us bring a dog home instead.
There is still a third element to my theory of singles with dogs making up an overwhelmingly large segment of the population in Chagrin Falls. That is community. Not only does the single population want a dog to curl up with on the couch and take walks with in the evenings, but they want the community interaction that comes from living within a few feet of your neighbor, walking to the same shops in town and attending the same town events on the weekends.
There is a sense of community and closeness that comes from living in a small town where walking is more convenient than driving and the Popcorn Shop is a local hang out. A town any larger would make this kind of interaction hard to come by. But the small town of Chagrin Falls gives its residents constant opportunity to interact and be a part of something without the commitment of a relationship.
It fills the void of loneliness without having to recite vows.
I haven't seen any statistics regarding the percentage of the population in Chagrin Falls that is married versus single. Maybe the statistics would look the same as almost any other town in America, big or small. Maybe this is all just a miscalculation on my part. But it is undeniable, the singles in this town aren't on their own. They are part of something bigger: a community with which they are invited to share life.
Man wasn't meant to live alone. But that doesn't mean that every man was meant to marry. Paul reassured us of that. In 1 Corinthians 7:36-38 he says, "If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better."
Paul doesn't claim that everyone should marry or that everyone shouldn't marry. Some people actually should be married. And some people shouldn't. There is no one size fits all solution to the single vs. married quaundry. It is a case by case situation, as individual as each unique person.
For Paul, it was better that he remain single. But Paul was certainly not alone. He had God, yes. But he also was constantly surrounding himself with community. His mission in this world was to travel about, sharing the Word of God. This put him in contact with all sorts of people. He wasn't alone. He had brothers in Christ who were messengers with him and he had countless lives that he touched along the way as he was used as God's hands and feet.
But he didn't need a wife. Marriage wasn't in the cards for Paul's life.
It may not be in my cards either, it is far too early to tell. I am learning, and slowly accepting, that if marriage never happens for me I can be fulfilled and content. I don't have to be lonely. I can stay in this little town and frequent the places where community is thriving. I can engage in the world around me and with the people around me. I can be used as God's hands and feet as a messenger for the Gospel and salvation found only in Jesus Christ. I can take my dog on walks and meet new friends each time.
Being single doesn't have to equal being alone, Chagrin Falls is teaching me that.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Good isn't as great as HE

I am, in some ways, blissfully behind the times.
Twitter is a foreign land I have yet to discover. The whole concept of #(insert every possible thought here) alludes me. And I don't have a thing to say about Instagram.
I do, on the other hand, understand that MySpace is the place where predators stalk their prey and trashy girls go for hookups. I also am aware that Craigslist can contain killers, so beware.
But my internet, social media, friend-following knowledge is quite limited in scope. It starts at email and ends at Facebook with no pit stops in between. I am an avid Pinterest follower but I don't follow anyone I actually know and no one that I know is even aware that I have a Pinterest. It is for my own personal enjoyment, not for people in my past to see what kind of home decor I like or what recipes I'm adding to my "must try" list. I just don't see the point in needing to share every detail of my life with the people who used to be a big part of it. They aren't now, so why do some feel the need to keep sharing?
I've determined that it is a case of showing off. I don't mean to sound judgmental. I'm actually not judging at all - I'm simply calling it as I see it.
How often do you see people posting their boring night at home? The night where they sat around and watched 5 reruns of Boy Meets World while eating a bowl of Raisin Bran and hitting the sheets by 9:30 - where are the pictures to capture the thrill of that evening? Yet, log onto Facebook at any given moment and you'll see countless posts about exciting beach vacations, date nights out on the town, countdowns to big events, or "shout-outs" filled with inside jokes.
People post the good stuff.
This phenomenon has given a microphone to a trait most of us can claim, whether or not we have a Facebook account. Most of us want to stay quiet about the bad, negative, not so glamorous aspects of our lives. But we are more than happy to shout from a mountaintop all that is good and right in life. When things are going our way - when we get a job promotion, hit the perfect jean size, become an aunt or an uncle, start dating Mr. Dreamy, get a new car, realize the perfect level of tan without that embarrassing hint of lobster red burn - when our lives are filled with what we categorize as desirable we start bursting at the seems to make sure everybody knows it.
But when life isn't so hunky-dory our news feed grows cold. The play-by-play updates go silent. Why would we want to share about the gory details of our breakup? Who really wants to tell the social media world that they just got fired for bad behavior and poor performance? Is it enjoyable to detail the symptoms of your latest illness? Failure, defeat, disappointment...they just aren't fun to share, plain and simple.
What good does all this posting do us anyways? Is it healthy and beneficial to give the world constant updates on our life happenings, achievements and exciting plans? Who does this truly benefit?
The self.
The poster.
The one with the hot date on Friday night.
The one who is posing as if they were on a cover of a fitness magazine.
The one with a group of friends out on the town in NYC.
The one on a plane to an exotic location.
The one with a pay raise.
The one with a new Lexus in the driveway.

....But not the ONE who bestows the blessing.
Facebook, social media, Twitter, name it....has given a microphone to every man, woman and child's self-obsessed tendency. We all have that side to us but we don't have to indulge it. But with the rise of every man being a his own celebrity the voices of obsession have only grown in volume.
There are countless dangers to embracing the "look at me" culture of social media. There is the danger of overexposing yourself, having your account and personal information hacked or, even worse, having a predator stalk you.
But there is a danger that every poster faces whether they know it or not: letting their good fortune become their life's focus.
Blessings are just that, blessings. We would be silly not to enjoy them. But is that where our focus should be?
God does bless his children, this is undeniable. He gives good gifts. But he also allows heartache and suffering. Just look at Job. He was lavishly blessed with children, land, and possessions. And then it all went away. God allowed everything he had in this world, including his health, to be stripped from him.
If Job was only focused on the blessings that he had accumulated in this world then he would have been up a creek without a paddle - I'm sure that would have been taken from him, too. He didn't have blessings to rely on or revel in. All he had was the hope that God was still the God of the universe, all knowing and all seeing.
If and when our blessings seem to disappear will we take the road of Job?
Don't let the Facebook culture distract your attention away from what is truly important. Blessings are great but they are not meant to be where we cast our glance. Our eyes are to be set on God, constantly seeking more of his face. Our hearts are to soak in HIS goodness, not simply the goodness of a blessing he bestows. When we are constantly seeking more of him we find that our obsession to point out more of our own blessings diminishes, it becomes less important.
A heart truly after God's own heart won't be after the things of this world and won't be searching for the next blessing. It will be wholly devoted to doing God's will, obeying his Word and getting to know him more. That is God's desire for us....that our focus not be on our own good fortune, but on his ultimate greatness.

Monday, July 22, 2013

True happiness

I find that it is easy to be happy when life is going my way. Please tell me this is true of you, too?
I'm upbeat, smiley and positive. I want to hug those I love and be optimistic about most everything. Rain becomes exciting and thunder even the more so. I become one of those overly happy, bubbly types - borderline obnoxious, especially to those who aren't having such a stellar day.
Today just happens to be such a day for me. I'm riding high with the excitement of positive progress in my life. There are circumstances that are looking up, pains that are rapidly diminishing (if not disappearing) and more and more restoration of my health with each passing day. My mood has followed in lock step. I feel like I could conquer the world. Worries about the future are nonexistent. I'm just thrilled to soak in the sweet sunshine that is my life.
Although all of this is wonderful and enjoyable and I certainly don't have any complaints, I do have a deep question rising within me that I can't seem to shake: am I this happy when I don't get my way?
Uh oh.
If I answer honestly I know I have to admit that I can tend to be a depressed sad sack when life is tough and the deck is stacked against me. Even in the last few weeks I've experienced just such a mood or two.
My health was on the fritz. My body was aching. People were looking at me with eyes of judgment and criticism. I let all of the negativity get the best of my mood. I played the role of "poor me" victim with Tony Award winning flare. I cried, pouted...the whole nine yards. And what for? Did it accomplish anything?
So the truth must be told. When life isn't all butterflies and roses I tend toward being a downer - a joyless, lackluster, sad-sack, despondent downer...
From where I sit today there is no such gloom and doom on the radar screen - well, other than the weather forecast but I'm even enjoying the overcast sky and drizzling rain! Talk about being on Cloud 9, right? But if my life circumstances were different would I be singing a different tune?
I don't want my happiness to hinge on things going my way. I want to be a smile even in the bleakest of days and toughest of hours. Even when everything around me goes dark I want to show the world that there is hope even before there is any light to speak of.
I can't be that message to the world if I'm living off of emotion, dependent on good things coming my way before any good can come out of me.
No matter what life hands me, my life has already been filled with the ultimate goodness. God has come into my life, filling me with his Holy Spirit, giving me true peace and joy. His hope doesn't deal in emotion. It contingent on a particular turn of events. His hope transcends all that our limited vision can see in this world.
Tomorrow may bring about difficulty and trouble, maybe the destruction of all I reveled in today. But will my cause for celebration be lost? Will my happiness and joy disappear?
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells me, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."
Whatever tomorrow morning may bring I will hold onto the hope of Jesus Christ and marvel in the joy of his Holy Spirit, living in me and through me. This is God's will for me: not that I depend on his blessings for my happiness but that I am continually filled with the boundless and limitless joy of God's love and saving grace.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Glorious run

With each stride I feel the breath of God seeping into every facet of my being - sustaining my muscles, strengthening my bones and giving energy to my soul. I am small. I look like I might be weak. But God has made me strong. He has given me capabilities that far exceed the realm of reason. How can someone with so little weight and such limited resources gather the strength to run, jump and lift heavy weights? By the power of God alone.
I feel closest to God when I am challenging what reason would stand to deem as dangerous or impossible. Doctors have told me not to exert myself. Don't lift anything heavy. Don't run. Don't do exercises that twist and bend. Don't walk up hills or too many stairs. The medical world wants to put restrictions on what is possible for me. They want to tell me I can't. They don't have answers, all they have are limitations.
God is not a god of "can'ts." He is the God of "can." His power is manifested in those who embrace his call to rise above what man thinks is possible to live in the light of what is only possible with God. He is able to do exceedingly more than our frail human bodies can manage. He is limitless in power and strength. What he can do is not limited by weight or physical factors. Those things are all so trivial in the light of his power. He overcomes them all.
When I run I feel his power. I call on his name to give me each next step and stride. I rely on him to carry me when it feels like my legs might not be up for the task. He always provides. He gives me the energy that my little body can't manage on its own. The life sustaining power he bestows on me is far greater than anything I could attain at any weight. It is mighty and powerful, filled with his spirit of mercy and grace.
I feel who God is when he sustains my body. There is no other situation or circumstance that has drawn me closer to the heart of God than to need him to carry my physical being. He can carry me emotionally and he has. I have seen his power in forgiving my sins and putting my spirit at rest. He has reached into my soul and changed my heart. Despite feeling so close to him through those journeys, I feel most connected to him when he is my physical sustainer.
Today, he carried my body along the paths on the Peninsula, showing his goodness once again in the form of a run that just months ago was not even on my mind as a consideration. The movements were not always easy but they still felt effortless. The energy wasn't coming from me. The effort wasn't found in my bones, it was given to me from above. God ran through me. He kept my legs moving and my soul yearning for the next stride forward.
There is nothing in this world that compares to being carried by God. When he lifts me up I am able to do greater and more wonderful things then I could ever imagine. He shows his power in my weakness. This body is his vehicle for displaying what he is able to do. When I reach my limits he gives me a glimpse into his limitlessness.
Today it was a run, tomorrow it may be simply waking up. But each day he proves that he is strong and mighty to save and keep me. Every breath I take is not because of anything I have done or can do. Anything I ever accomplish will not be because I have been wise, strong or smart enough. No, all I am and any good that becomes of me in the future is by the grace and power of God. He is living in and through me to make me to run at new speeds and reach unimaginable new heights all for his glory, all in his name.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Your story

Trust me when I tell you that all hope is not lost. It may feel like it, but don't despair. If you are alive and breathing then continue to fight the good fight. The obstacles that present themselves may seem overwhelming. You are probably looking at them right now wondering how you will ever overcome them. But don't let your mind be filled with doubts and questions. Instead, anticipate the great marvel you are about to witness when God overcomes in your life the seemingly impossible.
There is a great road ahead for you. It is going to amaze you, surpassing all your expectations or wildest imaginations. What you are about to experience is far greater than anything you could think up.
Right now you are probably skeptical, wondering whether or not this will all come to pass. The world has shown itself to be unrelenting in its negativity and bad news. It throws up road blocks when you try to reach a goal and knocks you down right when you're about to hit your high. I know that you are struggling to rise up against all the past hurts and frustrations, failures and defeats. You ask aloud, "is it worth trying again?"...."Will the future look any different for me?"...."How will I ever break out of these circumstances, this rut?"....
Each day will present a new opportunity - big or small. It may be simply to run an errand for a friend or maybe to speak in front of an audience full of listeners. The scale and scope of the opportunity isn't important, the getting it done is what is desired of you. Just complete it. Take the next step laid out before you; make the next move. You may not see where all of these baby steps are leading - you aren't meant to see that far ahead. To you it may look like you could never possibly get anywhere moving at such a slow pace, doing such inconsequential tasks. Yet that is the amazing miracle of your journey. The small and seemingly trivial is really moving you leaps and bounds. It is of a great importance in the Kingdom of God. What this world might say is meaningless, or at least easily forgotten, is not overlooked in God's eyes if done in his name, for his glory.
Do not worry that your life is stuck on repeat. When you wake up tomorrow you are not trapped like Bill Murray, replaying Ground Hog day over, and over, and over again. Tomorrow is a new day with new opportunity. It is a fresh page in your book, just waiting for you to fill it with the words of love and humility. Take the pen that God is placing in your palm and write the story he will fill you with. You won't have to come up with the words. The chapters won't be self-imagined. You won't be able to take the credit. But in the end the story will be far more exciting then anything you could have penned yourself. With each page will come a new twist to the story that you didn't see coming. Every chapter will renew your spirit with the truth that there is hope with the rising of each new morning.
God is faithful and he will write you a brilliant story. He is there, waiting to dictate to you the wonders he has in store. Do not despair with worries of the future, concerning yourself with what will come next in your book. Simply trust your author, knowing that he has the plot already planned and it will be a best seller.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What are you looking at?

I am so tired of the way people view me...the looks they give...the staring...the gawking.... I can't seem to go out in public without encountering some kind of visual attack. I am seen as an alien, a foreign being rarely found in nature, or TJ Maxx in today's case.
I was walking through the aisles, minding my own shopping, when I started feeling a pair of eyes on me. Do you know the feeling? I can't explain it, you just know when you're in the presence of someone watching you. And wow, was this girl ever watching me - like a hawk. Her jaw was partly dropped and her head - actually her whole body - turned to watched me as I walked down the aisle. She was giving me a look of utter disgust. My heart started to beat faster; the tension was unbearably awkward. I wanted to run out of the store but that would have been even more awkward, plus I still wanted to shop.
I cut my time in TJ Maxx short, it was the only way to escape the following eyes. Whenever I was in the general area of this onlooker she continued to blatantly follow me with her eyes. She was thoughtless, rude and careless...but she's not the only one. Unfortunately, she's not alone in her inappropriate behavior. This is a common phenomenon.
I am either viewed as an alien or I'm simply invisible. My condition has produced both responses quite frequently. This pattern is getting old. I either receive the gawking, jaw dropped stares like the girl in TJ Maxx or I practically get run over by the people who don't even seem to notice that I exist. It is funny how some people see my condition immediately and can't seem to look away while others could walk right over me and not even know it. This is a paradox I could have never expected. And quite frankly, I'm beyond sick of it.
I'm sick and tired of being an enigma that no one can understand and no one cares to understand. No one truly cares what is causing me to look this way and no one takes the time to even start a conversation with me. To them, my inside is probably just as baffling as my outside (or just as troubled for all those who think I'm disordered). To girls I'm an anorexic. To guys I don't exist and if I do exist then I shouldn't be approached with a ten foot pole (the disordered thing again).
I've had enough of being stuck in this condition that brings about all of these feelings from the outside world. I want people to look at me and not see weight. I want a guy to look at me and find me attractive. I'm 23 years old, this is a natural desire! Who, at any age but especially in their 20's, wants to be looked at as if they were a bug under a microscope? Scientists aren't taking in-depth observations into those little insects because they are just so darn cute! No, they are looking at them because they are fascinating due to their odd and strange construction and appearance. This is not how a single girl wants to be viewed.
My inner feelings are thrashing about, begging God to let me break out of this body and out of this condition. Enough already! I've had enough of having to deal with all the baggage that comes with this weight. Haven't I endured enough? Will people please just stop staring at me!
I know I just need to hang on a little while longer. God is healing me. He is giving me weight. He is going to change the way people look at me. But not just yet. I'm still on the road. There is still learning and growing to be done.
I feel like I've grown enough but God knows that is just laughable. I'm still very much on the road to who I will become. My journey is far from over.
Today I learned that you can't run away from the condescending and judgmental eyes of the world. You can't run away from situations simply because they are uncomfortable. All you can do is keep on keeping on. You can't change how other people will react to you. And you can't control the actions and circumstances of the world around you. All you have is your reaction. That's it. How will you respond to the negativity that threatens to crush your spirit? With every pair of staring eyes I am reminded that my happiness and joy can't come from outside forces, it has to come from God.
This isn't an easy lesson to learn. God has been repeating it to me over and over again throughout the course of these past 3 years. He knew I wouldn't get it on the first time through. I wish I were a quicker learner, maybe this whole ordeal would be over. But these lessons are far too important to skim over. They take time to truly understand and implement with consistency. God is making sure that I am given that time. And when he's ready for me to learn something new he'll change the numbers of the scale, the weight on these bones and the stares from the world around me.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Don't forget to rest....
I know that resting may be equated with laziness in your mind. You think you need to always be accomplishing something. If your agenda isn't filled with meetings, errands and to-do lists you don't feel that you have had a worthwhile day. You think that you need to put an X in a box, marking your task completed, to have fulfilled something of value. What if I told you that you needed to have a box ready to check with the word "rest" printed next to it? Would you think it was important enough to fit into your schedule? Would you scratch it out and treat it as a joke?
God put that box on your list. He has designed your life to include a time of rest. Don't take my word for it, look in HIS Word. After God created the earth, animals, day and night, light and dark, man and woman, he RESTED. He took the time to still his heart and actions and enjoy all he created. When he gave Moses the Ten Commandments he included the Sabbath, a day of rest, just to clarify the point: you can work all week long, but take time to rest. Obviously, God believes his children can benefit greatly by setting apart a day of the week where the focus of life is not on what must be done next but just quietly, calmly enjoying where we are in life and what surrounds us. This is a time to relax with God, free of distractions.
Our spirit needs this rest. During the week there are a million and one entities clamoring for our attention: work, the news, kids (if you have them), cleaning the house, tending to the weeds and lawn, paying bills, and maybe even exercising at the gym. There are countless directions that our lives take during the week. Come Saturday many people head out for the "fun" that they couldn't fit in during the week. To some people that is a dinner out with friends, a trip to the mall, an afternoon at the beach, or even just the morning spent in bed (or on the couch still in pajamas).
But Sunday is meant to be set apart. Every day is supposed to be spent connected to God through prayer and scripture, but Sunday is set apart as something different. This isn't a day where we go through the motions thinking more about God then the other days of the week. This is a day where we spend our time relaxing with God. Imagine that he has come over to spend some time just chatting on the porch swing with a nice cool glass of lemonade on a hot summer afternoon where the breeze is just right and not a cloud is in the sky. God wants to have that time with you, soaking in the beauty of the day he created. He wants you to simply sit back, relax and enjoy it with him.
When you begin to put into practice this resting principle you may feel like you're being lazy. It goes against your nature to do "nothing" - that is nothing that has a visible result - but that is precisely the kind of day God has designed for you. On this day he wants you to set aside the things that distract so that he can have your full attention. This is the best way to give your soul the TLC it needs. By allowing for this time of rest God can rejuvenate your spirit and renew your soul. With this fresh excitement and vigor you will be more prepared to greet the week to come with a Christ-like attitude and obedience, not to mention peace that only he can impart.
On your day of rest don't neglect the physical rest your body is crying for, too. Your body is in desperate need of this special time. All week long the demands of life take a toll on our physical being. Our muscles are worn out and our energy becomes depleted. The Sabbath is given as a time to recharge our batteries that are running on low. While sitting on the porch swing, fellowshipping with God, he will do the work of restoring your body. He doesn't want you worrying about getting in a workout, hitting the gym or meeting a certain scale's deadline. He wants your attention so he can tend to your physical and spiritual fatigue. Both are vitally important to being a useful and productive vessel for his kingdom during the rest of the week.
Today, on this special Sunday set apart just for you, I encourage you to breath a sigh of restful relief. Don't burden your mind with lists and errands. Don't stress about the week to come. Simply enjoy the presence of a Savior who came to save your soul and breath life into your being. He created you, cares for you and longs to give you a peace each and every day of the week. Today he wants to spend some one-on-one time with you. Will you give him that pleasure? His desire is to show you more of himself, reveal more of his love to you, and he wants to do it today - right now. He isn't demanding a sacrifice that comes in the form of a burnt offering, he is asking for your time and your rest. Will you give that to him today?

Your fitness evaluation

Observe the Olympic athlete and you will see precision, determination and dedication. They have a protocol that requires them to be wholly devoted to the task at hand. They cannot be on the fence, half in, or impartial. They must be completely sold out, giving themselves entirely to their sport.
It is easy to look at those athletes and see that their level of fitness is above and beyond the norm. They are amazing specimens. Magazines marvel at their abilities, sports commentators tick through the list of their accomplishments and awards. Viewers become entranced by these ordinary men and women with extraordinary abilities such as Michael Phelps or Gabby Douglas. These people, who on so many levels look just like us, have given up so much to accomplish great things. They have risen to the top of the pack, beat out competition and overcome unbelievable odds. They go through grueling training and years of tireless work to make it to the world's stage.
Our culture takes their appreciation for these accomplishments and elevates them to heroin status. Olympians are not just exemplary physical fitness marvels, they are stars. Fans turn out in droves with signs, t-shirts and screams of "marry me, (fill in the blank)". Our society has made these individuals into rock stars. Why? Because, to the common man, their skills are the stories of super humans. They run faster then the speed of light; bend their bodies in ways that look incomprehensible; swim a lap so fast that you swear they had gills.
We put so much value on this kind of accomplishment. These are the things our world strives for. We want to be the best at something that can be calculated and measured. How fast can they swim a lap? Who is the fastest sprinter in the 100 meter dash? Whoever takes the Gold is the hero, the name on the lips of men who are glued to ESPN and women who haven't followed a sport, other then shoe hunting, in their entire life. The winner becomes the flavor of the week or the day - good luck making it to a month.
It is a shame that our culture has become so obsessed with physical accomplishments that it has neglected what is most valuable: spiritual fitness.
The Bible makes it abundantly clear that our primary focus in life is to be on our relationship with God and how we order our lives in accordance to his will and Word. Yes, physical fitness and worldly accomplishments can be a blessing and can have value but that value pales in comparison to our spiritual health and wellness.
There are a number of scriptures that clarify this point and are wonderful tools to guide Christians in setting their priorities in accordance with God's design. Here are a few...

Hebrews 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."

1 Timothy 4:7-8 "Take time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit. Bodily fitness has limited value, but spiritual fitness is of unlimited value, for it holds promise both for this present life and for the life to come."

1 Thessalonians 4:4-8 "Every one of you should learn to control his body, keeping it pure and treating it with respect, and never allowing it to fall victim to lust, as do pagans with no knowledge of God. You cannot break this rule without cheating and exploiting your fellow-man. God will punish all who do offend in this matter, as we have plainly told you and warned you. The calling of God is not to impurity but to the most thorough purity, and anyone who makes light of the matter is not making light of a man's ruling but of God's command. It is not for nothing that the Spirit God gives us is called the 'Holy' Spirit."

The Bible doesn't leave our physical fitness as a gray area, letting us determine its importance, nor does it neglect to address the abundant importance of our spiritual fitness. Both are vitally important but not to be confused. Spiritual fitness is to be our utmost priority, the primary focus of our lives. Our discipline and devotion is to our spiritual fitness. Physical fitness can only be part of our lives in a healthy, God-honoring way if we have the spiritual fitness in its rightful place first and foremost.
The question to ask yourself today is how is my spiritual fitness? Am I sold out for God above all else? Is my devotion sold out to living obediently and whole heartedly for the Lord? Don't allow the allure of physical fitness or worldly accomplishments steal your devotion or divert your primary focus away from the Lord. Fitness that is rooted in this world will last for a time, but spiritual fitness will last for eternity.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lover of my life

Embrace where you are in life. Whether you are experiencing sickness or health, joy or frustration - embrace it wholeheartedly. The tough days are there to grow you. The peaceful days are there to give your spirit rest. Love them each the same. 
Don't lament what you don't have or wish away your circumstances. Choose to be the greatest lover of your life. It is a daily decision to be content and fulfilled. You don't need perfection to make that choice and you don't need "ideal circumstances." You just need the right attitude. You can look on a lousy, rainy day and see the possibility to get floor cleaning done in the house or you can look at that same rain and be annoyed that you can't tend your garden. Which outlook is more productive? Obviously, complaining about what you can't change does you no good. Making the most of a day stuck inside is a much better use of energy. The floors will thank you. 
The same goes for our life outlook. One person may look at an illness as a set back. How can you advance in a career when you are constantly on sick-leave for chemotherapy treatments? Another person may look at such a devastating diagnosis and choose to make it a time of spiritual renewal and growth. Same set of circumstances, different outlook. Who do you think is more at rest and has more peace? Who do you think is losing their patience, crying and sinking into depression?
I've done my fair share of fighting against my circumstances. I've lost my patience, cried my eyes out and sunk into deep depression over my own health. When I look at those periods in my journey I am filled with regret. I wasted so much time focusing on things I couldn't change. I could have been taking that time to dig deeper into God's word, read more books, study about topics that interest me or learn an instrument - the possibilities for positive outlets reaches beyond my mind's imagination! Yet, I didn't do any of those things in my dark hours. I spent my time wishing I was in a different body, with a different life. That way of thinking did me no good.
Today it felt as though God was whispering in my ear a much needed reminder to not just accept my life as it is in this moment, but to embrace it and truly, honestly love it. Every morning I am given the renewed opportunity to enjoy where I am at in life. I have the choice. 
Loving my life is as simple as that. It is a yes or no decision. When I say yes I open the door to all sorts of blessings I could have easily missed. My eyes are opened to the unique beauty of my situation. I have been blessed with the opportunity to focus on my physical restoration. During this phase in my life I don't have the responsibility of children and husband to take care of. I don't have a career that is vying for my attention and energies. I am not in a school atmosphere, surrounded by drama and worldly influences. I am set apart for a season...set apart for a reason.
When I fell away from God in college I went through a spiritual renewal. I had sinned, abandoned God, ignored his commands and acted in willful disobedience. Yet, he never let go of me. In the end he broke through to the core of my being, brining to my knees and transforming my heart. I have never been the same since that day. My spiritual being was restored from a fallen, rebellious sinner, blind to truth and lost in a den of satan's design. God took that lost girl loaded with the burden of sin and made her new. 
Now he is doing the same with my physical body. It has been stripped of every last ounce of cushion, padding, support and insulation. My body has undergone such a destruction that its ability to function still amazes me. And still, God has never let me go. He has carried me when physical logic would argue that my body couldn't keep going. Somehow, God has made sure this body continues to function and, now, he is rebuilding it. He is restoring it to be a miraculous creation, better then it was before. 
During this time I am enjoying the process of watching God work out his creation before my very eyes. I am getting a front row seat while he reveals his design. If I were focused on where my body isn't at, the weight it hasn't reached and the limitation it still must succumb to, I would miss the miracle God is performing. He is putting weight on this skeleton of skin and bones. He is empowering me to lift heavier weights every week with better form and smoother precision. He is enabling me to run farther, faster and longer. He is building the muscles in my body to walk up steeper hills and winding trails. Most importantly, he is renewing my energy to enjoy life with a greater passion then I have been able to experience in years.
I don't want to miss the miracle of my life and the beauty that God has set all around me. God, the lover of my soul and creator of my being, has given me a life worth embracing. Every day he is in my life, speaking to me through my circumstances, showing me more of himself. I don't want to miss a single moment of his design - be in difficulty or ease. He has designed it specifically and specially for me. If for no other reason, that is a life worth loving. 

Posting catchup.... Free from guilt (July 8)

I am my own personal court system. I am my own personal judge, jury and executioner. And trust me, I’m tough. I don’t go easy on myself. I lay on the burden of guilt with all the skill of a seasoned lawyer. My conscious doesn’t stand a chance.
I have lived with this guilty verdict my whole life. Every small infraction and major failure weighs on my mind like a heavy bolder. The burden I carry is entirely self-inflicted. I don’t require the testimony of a witness who will unveil my faulty actions or downright bad behavior; I take the stand in my mental court. I tell the truth, sometimes exaggerating the situation’s negative attributes. Why do I do this? I convict myself at the hint of even the slightest breach in my “law.”
I am my own harshest critique. This reality is weighing on my mental state. This court of one makes it hard for me to forgive myself for the mistakes I have made and am bound to continue to make.  I am living as if I must carry out a sentence for my wrong doing by laying on the mental guilt. Is this God’s intended penalty for my sins? Does he want me to feel really lousy because I have made mistakes in the past, been rebellious, hurt those I love and been callous in my regard for others? Am I making those wrongs right by feeling bad about them for days, months and years following the occurrence?
God didn’t send his only Son to die on a cross so I could live under the dark cloud of guilt. Did he come so that I could live life with a free for all attitude, not caring about what results from my actions or how my decision impact the world around me? No, of course not. He came to fulfill the law, not to abolish it. His whole life was a sacrifice to free me from the guilty sentence I deserve, allowing me to live life forgiven and whole, not broken and burdened.
When I carry around my own guilt, refusing to allow God to remove it from my shoulders, I am selfishly holding on to a weight that Jesus died to take away. It is a slap in his face. By refusing to accept the forgiveness for my mistakes I am telling God that his Son’s life isn’t enough. Are my sins so big, so horrible that Jesus’ life isn’t enough to erase them? Isn’t his death and resurrection enough to heal my soul and make me whole, even though I am a sinner? Jesus came to take the punishment for my sins. In my court of one I am guilty, but Jesus took the sentence. He stepped into my place so I wouldn’t have to suffer years behind bars, a lifetime in hell.
My sin du jour may be one that has hurt the people I love the most, or maybe it is a simple mistake that threw off my plans for the day – either way, Jesus came to forgive them both. He came to wipe clean my slate of both my biggest failures and smallest missteps. Have I truly and fully accepted his gift of forgiveness? Am I still holding onto my own guilt, shutting him out of hidden corners in my conscious? There are no places far enough back in my mind that I can hide them from God. He knows where I hold myself in judgment even when he has already told me I am forgiven. If I have confessed my sin and asked for Jesus gift of salvation to right my wrong and make me clean then I have no reason to carry around anything but a renewed and restored heart.
I no longer stand in judgment for my sin. Jesus took my burden. He carried my cross. Each day is a new day to show the world what restoration can look like in the flesh. It looks like a fallen sinner, forgiven and free because Jesus came to earth in the form a little baby to die for me. There is no room for guilt. Jesus has set me free. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

4th of July

Happy Independence Day, America. Today is a special day of the year where we take a step back to reflect on the blessing of living in a free country. We take the time to salute a soldier, thank our military and remember the fallen. Churches make a point of thanking God for the freedom to worship and pray without the fear of imprisonment and even death. Family and friends gather together in the comfort of their homes and communities, sharing in the simple joys of a hot BBQ and the twinkling of sparklers - some even take the twinkle and make it a bang with the inclusion of backyard fireworks.
364 days a year I overlook the immense blessing it is to live in this country. How many days have gone by that I haven't even given a moment's thought to the sacrifices given by so many so I can enjoy the simple, free life I have come to take for granted?
If I were to wake up in Pakistan I would be in constant fear of imprisonment for my faith because of bogus claims of blasphemy by Muslims who seek to silence Christians. If I had been born in Africa I might not have a family due to the devastating diseases that rip families apart and take the lives of the young and the old. Being born in China could be a death sentence. Not only do they discriminate against girls but they limit the number of children that can be in any one family. In a country such as Germany the strong Christian influence that seeps into all areas of American life would be missing. The diminishing number of churches in that country and the rest of Europe is astonishing and a travesty. In North Korea the situation is even bleaker. The government actively seeks to persecute Christians. They have driven them underground but even out of the public eye practicing Christians face unspeakable danger.
Here in America I wake up in a comfortable, queen sized bed with soft, clean sheets and the sweet sound of a song bird outside my window. I make my way into my kitchen well stocked with eggs, vegetables, breads, flavorful spices and healthy supplements. I recline on my comfortable couch with one of my many copies of the Bible and favorite devotional books to start my morning. I don't have to hide the names on the covers of these books and I don't have to study in secret. On Sunday mornings I am welcomed into a body of believers singing praises in the company of hundreds who share in the same song. Throughout the week my opportunity to publicly and openly share in the gospel with brothers and sisters in Christ are far too great to number.
From morning to evening my day is characterized by comforts unknown to so many people around the world. And it is all because I was born here, in America. I was born into a country that men scarified their lives to obtain and protect. Our Founding Fathers faced great persecution and threats when they left their home land in search of a place where they could be truly free. Now men and women put on their military boots to secure that same fundamental right. They put their lives in danger every day so that I can wake up free and safe.
I am thankful for a day to reflect on what my fellow citizens have sacrificed to secure the life I have come to know and love. My only regret is that I don't take this time to be thankful more then once a year. 
So, thank you to the brave men who signed the Declaration of Independence all those years ago. The leap of faith they took paved the way for the life I enjoy today. And I thank all the men and women who leave their families, homes and safety so that they can protect me and the rest of America. Words can not describe how thankful and grateful I am for your sacrifice. You have given your lives for my freedom. There is no greater sacrifice.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A thankful heart

Have you ever had one of those days where everything seems to drag you down, pulling your mood into the shadowy corners of despair? These are the days where the seemingly insignificant comments from an outsider can send you into an emotional breakdown. On these days vulnerability reigns supreme and stability is at a minimum.
I have been known to suffer from these kinds of days - yesterday being the latest installment. For practically no reason at all my mood was sour, my emotions were on edge and my positive outlook on life was non-existant. Everything was making me just plain sad. I can pinpoint exactly when the cloud settled in over head. I was sitting on the steps to the living room watching my brother and his wife play with their two kids on the floor. Lucas (the two year old who loves any sports game that includes a ball)  was doing his parroting of some funny sentences his Dad has taught him. My favorite being, "go to the Fingerlakes." Lucas doesn't have a clue what the Fingerlakes are and probably wouldn't enjoy them much if he went at this young age but, because my brother loves the Fingerlakes and has talked about them at great length, Lucas apparently wants to go, too. They were egging him on to say more funny phrases in his classic two year old voice. As I watched the snap shot of an adorable little family unit play out in front of my eyes I began to feel the pangs of longing for that kind of happiness. I should have been smiling along with them, sharing in their happiness and contentment in life. Instead, I let a sadness settle in and put up shop. Within no time at all the feelings of loneliness that have plagued me in the past returned with vengeance... and it was only 10 AM. The rest of the day wasn't looking promising.
By the time the evening rolled around I had spent my entire day with a big, black, ominous cloud looming over my head, covering up any peace I might hope to have. Everything I encountered throughout the day seemed to only add another layer to the cloud's dark exterior. Nothing earth shattering or particularly upsetting occurred or was said that could keep me so down in the dumps. I just couldn't seem to break free from the shadows. Although on one level I wanted to step back into the light, on another level I was a willing victim of my own negative thoughts.
That evening, after dinner, my Mom started feeling out my mood, attempting to see if it was one of those funks that could be easily shaken. Within a few minutes she realized this was a larger cloud, one that couldn't be blown away like the flame on a weak little birthday candle. This was going to take some real talking and, ultimately, some serious tears.
My resolve to hold back the flood waters didn't last but a moment. I gave into the emotional breakdown that I knew had been building all day. It was as if I was due for a clean out of the tear ducts. They poured. I cried out of loneliness and the burning desire to be wanted and loved. For three years the male attention has clocked in at a zero. Most days I am perfectly content with that reality. But not every day. And yesterday, seeing the happiness and love shared between a couple and a family, made me want what they have. By the end of the day I was ready to release that lump in my throat that had been building all day with the holding back of the flood gates.
Mom, always my stable and strong support and greatest advocate, let me lay my emotions out on the table without interruption. She didn't jump right in, telling me to get over it or that I was being irrational. She told me how she understood how hard it must be to be alone for this long with absolutely no attention from any guy at all. She assured me that it is natural to desire that attention. She let me cry and rubbed my back - her go-to way to comfort me (and my personal favorite).
After a few minutes of letting me be an emotional wreck and letting me know that my feelings were normal, she then moved to the advice part of the breakdown - the part where she helps me pick myself back up. She told me to look at what I have to be thankful for. She reminded me that it is one of satan's favorite tricks to make us see the allure of what someone else has at the detriment of forgetting all we have in our own life. He loves to use jealousy and envy to drag our peace into the gutter. He was definitely succeeding in doing so with me. I had completely stopped being thankful. In my entire day not one thought had been of thanksgiving. Every thought had been about what I don't have, how I want what I don't have and how maybe I am going to be stuck in this situation, this loneliness, forever. My thoughts were irrational and satan was loving them.
But thank God for a Mom who knows how to listen and knows how to point me in the right direction. She started listing the things I do have to be thankful for. She must have known I needed a helping hand in this task. She pointed out Pippy, the relaxed muscles in my legs, the pounds that have been steadily creeping in on the scale, an adorable house in Chagrin Falls...
She forgot to mention a family that all gets along, an amazing Mom as a best friend, a Dad who provides for my financial while still caring about my health and happiness.
My list could go on and on but it didn't need to for me to see how foolish I had been.
I spent my entire yesterday in a terrible funk because I started looking at everything but what God has given me. I looked at the blessings of every other person around me and completely neglected my own. How could I possibly have been in a good frame of mind with that kind of outlook on life? It is a given that when you are bemoaning what you don't have you are going to be depressed. On the other hand, when you are praising God for what you do have you can't be lamenting the things you don't have. Thanksgiving and complaining cannot co-exist.
Yesterday, I needed that gentle reminder to stop looking around at other people's blessings. My Mom provided a nudge in the right direction. She pointed me to the right road and encouraged me to take that step back onto the path of thanksgiving and praise. When I took that step it meant leaving the cover of the dark cloud that had settled overhead.
It didn't take me long to see the error of my ways. I had wandered down a rabbit trail of satan's design. Once I recognized the cause of my irrational thought and the solution to correct it, I was immediately relieved of the depressed, negative outlook that had burdened my heart and ruined my day. But just because the first 3/4 of my day was spent under a cloud didn't mean the last 1/4 had to be afflicted in the same way.
I spent the rest of my evening in peace. My mood was switched from vulnerable to calm, like the smooth, still waters of an ocean after a turbulent storm. Thank God for the restoration of peace. He is faithful to grant it to us without hesitation when we ask. He doesn't require a waiting period to reinstate it and you never have to take a number. When we're ready to be bathed in his peace he will lavish it on us immediately.
Today I am resting in thanksgiving, praise and peace. I am not looking at the things God hasn't brought into my life just yet. Instead I am singing praises to him for the lavish blessings he has bestowed on me. How could I possibly be a grouch when there is a song of praise on my lips? A thankful heart has no room for the snares of satan. It is too busy thanking God and resting in his peace.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

You want what for less?

Our American culture has become slave to the "something for nothing" mentality. We shop for the best deals. Clip coupons till our hands lock in a claw position around the scissors. Dollar Stores, Dollar Trees and Family Dollars abound. Commercials tell us to never pay "full price for fabulous," so shop TJ Maxx and Marshals (Okay, if I must). Mall kiosk's are home to knock off designer brands because we want the style without the price tag. Tires for Less is as good as the big Michelin Man, right? Men are always searching for the next deal on the best cable package, switching as often as the latest promotion.
We want what we want, when we want it at a price that is less then THEY want us to pay. Sound like the typical American consumer? Actually it sounds like the typical American when it comes to more then just consumption habits. This trend expands far beyond the cash register and into the hearts of home, relationships, work, child name it and chances are the something for nothing culture has infiltrated.
The trouble with this line of thinking is that it yields lousy results when it comes to the emotional and spiritual health of the individual. Try putting in nothing and having a successful marriage. Or how about putting in nothing and being a valued employee at work? What about raising kids? Putting in nothing? Good luck with that! And, in my opinion the greatest potential for disaster, the relationship with God that lies stagnant. The danger of sitting back and expecting God to pile on blessings and opportunities without having to put in any tender love and care into the relationship is risky business. It has dire consequences that far exceed the mistake of buying Dollar Store batteries that die in a day. Both give birth to frustration, one is eternal, the other can be remedied with a stop at CVS.
Having a relationship with God shouldn't be about what we get in return. It isn't a "I give you and hour and you give me a pony" sort of transaction. We don't put in our time in exchange for the fulfillment of our latest and greatest request. If that is all we are considering when we are spending time in daily devotional or attending Sunday school then we are making a fatal error. God is not Santa. He is not there to give us what we are asking for simply because we ask nicely. And he isn't counting the amount of time we put into our relationship with him to calculate what we get in return. If we approach God with that attitude then we are simply taking our smallest effort, greatest return principle into our spiritual life. Instead, we should be approaching God with a heart burning to know him more, not to receive our latest human desire. We must throw aside our culture that screams "what's in it for me?"
If our most precious relationship becomes a hand out machine, we start looking for the best deal - isn't that only natural? We take what we know about bargain shopping and transfer it to the blessing machine we have substituted for God. So instead of attending Sunday school maybe we skip it and just show up for the service and hour later. Instead of waking up a half an hour early for a devotional time the snooze button gets hit more and more frequently. What can we get from God with this amount of effort?... and a little less?.... and a little less?... and the downward spiral continues.
Our culture wants us to put in nothing. They want us to view the world through the lens of "what's in it for me?" But God doesn't use that lens. He wants to give you an entirely new pair of glasses. These glasses don't concern themselves with self indulgence and self interest. They are entirely fixed on God: his character, his love and his will. Selflessness blots out self preservation. Obedience reigns supreme.
To put on these glasses means taking off the old pair that see the world through a bargain hunter lens. Put down those old pair of shades that want the latest and greatest without having to lay down the sticker price. Ditch the popular mentality of getting everything without putting in anything.
Instead, put on God's glasses. Don't worry about what you will get. Just give of yourself. Just seek to bathe yourself in the attributes and Word of God. Chances are you won't see a return in a form that carries a price tag. Your reward will be something much greater - greater then anything offered on the store shelves of even the priciest boutique. Your reward is in heaven.
Even TJ Maxx prices can't compete with that.