Monday, October 28, 2013

The case of the missing keys

Months ago, maybe almost a year now, my Mom's car keys went missing. I mean completely missing. It was as if they vanished into thin air. Here is a Reader's Digest version of what unfolded.
I was at home in Erie sitting on the couch when my Mom called explaining that she had locked her keys in the car at my brother's house while she was making a quick stop to drop off a few of his kids after they had gone out on a special "date" with Grandma. She had intended to just see them into the house and then head home but when she went back out to her car it was locked -  a rather unusual occurrence for a woman who never locks anything. She couldn't see the keys inside so she looked in the house. She couldn't find the keys in the house so she assumed they must be somewhere in the car out of eye sight. She asked me to run her spare set over so she could unlock the car and drive home. There was just a little problem: the spare set was no where to be found either. I looked around the house but couldn't find them.
Plan B was put in place and a locksmith was called. He came, opened the door and, voila! No keys! Now the situation was truly perplexing. Everyone went into a full-on hunt for the lost keys. Everyone, young and old, joined in on the effort. We searched through garbage cans, bushes, buckets of toys, under and in furniture and even up and down the street because who knows, maybe her keys grew legs. Suffice it to say, we were desperate.
My Mom had only been in their house for a matter of mere minutes yet in that short time the keys had managed to disappear.
Finally, we decided another route would have to be taken. To make a long story short it dawned on me that the spare set of keys might be at my house in Ohio, two hours away. So Mom and I took a quick run to Chagrin Falls and lo and behold, we found the spare set. The car was able to be moved out of the driveway and the spare set of keys were surgically attached to my Mom. Okay, so they weren't really attached but we all made such a big deal out of never letting them out of her sight that they might as well have been sewn to her hand!
The mystery of where that original set of keys went continued on for quite some time - months and months actually. Kim, my sister-in-law, kept searching days and weeks after they went missing. She was as perplexed by their disappearance as anyone. She tore apart whole rooms worth of toys and clothing in an attempt to track them down with no success. Finally we all accepted the fact that this would remain an unsolved mystery. The keys were lost, we assumed, for good.  I, for one, resolved to believe they somehow ended up in the trash. It was the only explanation that made any sense at all.
It wasn't until months later that we all got the answer to the puzzling question of where those keys went. One day when most of the kids were at school, little Eliot, not even two years old, came walking up to Kim holding a set of big bulky keys - yes, that set of keys. On that set contained the Mazda CX-7 key that we had all spent hours searching for. It was a massive set of keys. How did we all miss it? Where had it been?
We will never know how we all searched high and low and somehow missed seeing the keys that were indeed in my brother's house. But when none of us were looking they were somehow found. Eliot didn't know what he was looking for when he reached into that box of toys and pulled out Grandma's keys. He had long forgotten or never even really knew that they were missing. Still, when the search had been called off and the whole situation was fading into a distant memory, the keys reappeared.

I believe that there is a lesson to be learned from the case of the missing keys.
In our loneliness as singles there are times that we want to go on the hunt for a companion to fill our aching void. We search high and low for that special someone. Sometimes, we go actively seeking them by creating accounts or attending singles events. At other times, our search is less transparent and more like a continual prowl. We go to parties, weddings and other social events with one eye on the left hand ring finger, constantly scanning the room for potential mates.
Is this really the best way to find a boyfriend or girlfriend? Or are we destined to a fate like the lost keys? Spending hours of time and energy searching for something that is hidden and not yet ready to be revealed?
Right now you may be in the time of singleness and plagued with loneliness. You may be tempted to go on the hunt for someone to take away that aching hole in your heart. You may be tempted to try to find a date or a husband or a wife to fulfill you. You may want to employ your own personal search party to find Mr. or Mrs. Right.
Fellow singles, I encourage you to rid yourself of this temptation and call off the search team. Tuck away your flashlights and don't go pulling all the cushions off your couch just yet. Instead of being on a perpetual hunt, sit back and allow God to do the delivering. Rest in your time of singleness knowing that God has the perfectly ordained time for you to finally be united with your special someone. Now might not be the right time for reasons that you don't understand. You may think you are ready for "the one", or at least someone! But God knows the best and perfect timing.
Just like Eliot showed up with Mom's keys when no one was expecting them to be found, God can bring you that special someone even when you aren't looking. In fact, it is most often when we aren't searching that God does the delivering. We can hunt till we are weary and exhausted, plagued by failed relationships and Saturday nights spent dateless. And then, out of the blue, when we least expect it and when we have stopped looking entirely, God can bring that person into clear view, surprising us and astounding us with the gift of companionship.
Finding your Mr. or Mrs. Right wasn't meant to be a scavenger hunt. God has the right person and the right time for that person to be revealed to you. Right now He may have that future mate hidden from view, giving you the opportunity to enjoy a time of singleness. Companionship is a gift from God but so is singleness. So don't miss out on all of its benefits by spending your days longing after a change in relationship status. That time will come. Your special delivery just hasn't arrived yet.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Running Solo

There are a variety of ways to engage in the activity of running. You can join a running club. You can find a running buddy at your gym or pair up with someone from work. But there is something to be gained by going at it alone.
I will warn you, if you venture to tackle the world of running on your own there will be challenges. When you grow weary there is no one beside you to lift your spirits and cheer you on. If you fall down there is no one to stop and help you up. If you stumble there is no one there to catch you before you hit the ground. When you reach the finish line, or the end of your designated run time or distance, there is no one to give you a high-five or congratulations. On the days that you don't feel like lacing up your sneakers you won't have an accountability partner, no one keeping track of your progress to remind you of your plan and goals. If you are going to complete your run, stick to your training plan and see progress than the burden falls to you.
This practice of going at it alone on a run is really just a training ground for the rest of life. Will you be able to travel through the ups and downs of life even when there is no one there to support you, encourage you and just simply keep you company on the journey?
Will you choose to stay in bed instead of going for the run because there is no one around to see you break the promise you made to yourself to complete a five mile run?
Are you relying on other people to get you through this journey called life?
It is a common saying that, "You come into this world alone and you leave this world alone." To some it may seem like a heartless thing to say. What about friends? What about having a spouse and children and a family? Aren't those relationships important and beneficial?
Certainly relationship can be a blessing but it isn't THE blessing and it isn't a necessity for happiness. In fact, sometimes relationships can get in the way of our primary relationship - our first relationship.
When we become dependent on other people we stop becoming dependent on God. Instead of looking to Him to satisfy our needs, emotionally and physically, we begin to look to the people around us. When we are down we look for our friends and family to pick us up instead of turning to God. When we need motivation we ask a friend for words of encouragement instead of opening our Bibles.
That first place in our life becomes filled with the people around us because they seem easily accessible and visible. We can touch and feel them. We can easily hear their voice by picking up our phones or meeting up for coffee. We get a sounding board and immediate feedback.
The people in our lives can easily become place-holders, taking over the first chair position that God should hold. We stop turning to God and scripture. Instead we turn to the easily accessible and readily available.
But when you run this journey of life alone you don't have those people to turn to. You are alone with no friend to phone. There is no one to complain to when your calves get sore half way through your run. When you don't feel like even beginning that 5K there is no one to say, "Come on! You can do it! Just think of how great you'll feel when you've accomplished your goal!"
No. You only have one place to turn.
And that's up.
You have only one place to look...up.
You can only phone God. He is the only one who will answer. He is the only one who is taking your calls. Because there is no social network. There is no other support system. You don't have the luxury (or the curse) of having other people to fill His place. He is your sustainer and your portion. God and God alone.
This is the beautiful blessing of running alone. You get the opportunity to learn this principle with every stride forward, every mile covered. You are in this journey alone. You and God. When you are in pain or grow weary He is the one you are to call on to sustain you. When you want to give up He is the only one to motivate you to continue on. He is your cheerleader and your encourager. He is the only one there to remind you that you are capable of running further and faster. He is the only one to call on when the hill seems too steep and the road seems too treacherous.
He is your lifeline, your one phone call. God and God alone will carry you through the toughest of runs and the most challenging of life's trials. Because when you run solo there is simply no one else to turn to.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Joy that doesn't fade away

Don't you just love that new car smell? It is so refreshing! It is such a treat! Even when you are enjoying the aroma of a car fresh off the assembly line you know that the aroma will soon be gone. The new car smell will be ushered right out the window as life takes over in the confines of your vehicle: eating lunch on the go, busing kids to and from school, making long trips to visit family. The routine of life takes its toll on your car and certainly on the new car smell. But it is fun while it lasts, even if it only lasts a few days. Maybe a week if you're lucky.
Will you like what you purchased when the inticing new car scent wears off? Or will you be eyeing up the newest model in the first row of the dealer's lot when reality sets in that your new car isn't so new anymore?
In life, we have to be content with the "dull" parts of life. If we are always looking for the next excitement then we are missing out on the life God has set before us. Your daily life may seem monotonous and lackluster - nothing to see here. Is that okay with you? Can you be content in that?
Or are you always on the hunt for the next flash of exhilaration? Are you living for the next emotional high that comes from a a new romance, new job, financial blessing or material possession?
Are you living for the new car smell, only to grow uninterested and bored when it wears off?
The majority of our life will be spent with a car that doesn't have that clean and fresh aroma. Our life  will be spent in much the same way. I hope that your life doesn't actually stink, just like I hope your car doesn't actually stink, but there will be many days, weeks and months that feel like you are simply set on repeat. You have your routine. Nothing new on the horizon. This is when life runs the risk of getting stale and our attitude may become sour. The temptation exists for us to lose our zest and passion for life. We can become complainers. If we don't actively complain then maybe we just lack an attitude of thanks. We don't see anything thrilling happening so we get stuck in a rut, losing our joy in the process.
The true test of where our joy is found is not in the moments of abundant blessing and exciting life adventure. No, real joy is shown in the the moments when nothing seems to be happening. We get the opportunity to show the world the true definition and source of joy when, by the world's standards, we don't have anything to be joyful about.
This is when God can shine through us. When we are getting what we want where is the testimony? Of course it is easy to be joyful in those circumstances. It is easy to be excited about our car when it smells new and looks shiny.
Where does your joy come from? Are you looking for the momentary, fleeting excitements the world has to offer to satisfy your craving for elation and joy? Or are you filled to the overflowing simply because you are a saved, redeemed, justified, loved, cherished and special child of God? Is that enough to keep you content and satisfied?
God doesn't want your joy to come and go. The new car smell was meant to fade. Your joy was not. Your joy can be forever, unwavering and unchanging. To have that true joy it must be built on the firm foundation found only in the blood of Jesus Christ. Nothing on this earth will ever be able to satisfy the longing of our hearts. He alone can give us abundant joy that will never end.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Glorious persecution

There is one thing in this life we can be certain of when we follow Christ: persecution. We are bound to endure judgment, ridicule, mockery, and bullying because we are not of this world. We will face opposition from all sides. Sometimes from the people we expect to love us the most. Other times from complete strangers. Our adversaries will be plentiful. We will feel like outcasts, shunned from the crowd. We will feel like modern day lepers!
The pain of this persecution can cause deep wounds if we allow allow these daggers to penetrate. But there is no reason to allow the slings and arrows of this world to scare us. We do not owe the world an apology. At the end of our road we will not stand in judgment before our peers and society. God alone can judge us. Therefore, plot your actions according to Him, not according to the world.
When this world comes to a close it will not matter what your neighbors thought of you or what society deemed as tolerant, political correct or even "normal." All that will matter is where you stood with God. Did He control your actions while you made your journey through life? Were you playing according to His rule book, looking for His approval? Or were you going along to get along in a world that wants to dismiss Godly living as religious idiocy?
Don't conform to this world. Stand in contrast to this world. Stand for the things of God. He wants you to look different than the rest of the world. When you don't fit in, you can rest assured that you are doing something right.
John 15:19-21 says, "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me."
Jesus was certainly not of this world and the world certainly didn't understand Him. They crucified Him - the ultimate persecution. If we are going to be followers of Christ we must expect this same treatment. We must be willing to endure the hardships and cruelty that Christ endured if we are to be sold-out for Him. Don't fall into the trap of being silent for fear that others might judge you. Don't change your positions and beliefs to get along with the rest of the crowd. Align your beliefs and actions solely with the Lord and His scriptures. 
The world is going to judge you. Expect that. Don't be surprised by their rude comments. Don't be surprised by their crooked looks and critical attitudes. This is all to be expected. Just keep your eyes on the heavens and continue to live in a way that is pleasing to God. For you know that you are not living for the world's approval. You are living to bring glory to God.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Running against the wind

The gusts came with force along the bay. The waves were choppy and the waters stirred. I felt the push from strong winds and the slight chill in the fall morning air. My run that had started out with uncharacteristic ease on the first half was now labored and difficult as I ran against the blowing wind on my return half.
I began to breath deeper, calling on all the endurance I had left in me to keep moving forward. Every step I took felt insignificant. I didn't feel like I was going anywhere. This last mile would take forever at this rate, I thought. My mind started wandering down the trail of defeat. The word "weakness" started being repeated with more frequency and intensity.
Just give up.
Walk the rest.
Take a break, stop moving.
These winds are too much for you to take.
You aren't strong enough to handle this.
You aren't a runner, you can't run in tough conditions....
The lies were fierce. The devil was at work. He was telling me falsehoods to distract me and make me believe that failure was my destiny; that I was too weak and too frail to continue on. He wanted me to give up. He wanted the victory.
In the midst of this attack came the battle cry of my Savior. It is true that I am not enough. I am weak and frail. On my own stamina I cannot run against the winds. But the beauty is that I am not running on my own strength. I am calling on the almighty strength of Jesus Christ. He came to this earth, died on a cross and rose again so that I could run my race through Him. He came to run for me. He is running ahead of me, providing me cover from the push back of the winds.
Satan has no power in the presence of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. When we call on the strength of the Lord we paralyze the tricks of the devil. The Holy Spirit, living within us, speaks words of life and power to us, drowning out the lies of the evil one.

1 John 4:1-4 says, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."
Winds will come. We will face struggles. But the One who is in us, running our race, is victorious. He is stronger than the winds we face. They are not a distraction to Him and they do not overcome Him. He runs against the winds, He keeps moving forward. 
In the face of the winds of life it may feel like our steps are getting us nowhere. That is not so. We may slow down. Our breathing may need to become deeper. Still our run will continue as long as we are running with Christ ahead of us, blocking the winds and breathing into our fatigued bodies. 
The devil will tell us we are doomed. He will tell you that your trial is too much for you to take. He will speak to you the words of defeat. But God stands at the ready, armed with the words of life and the promise of victory. He is fighting your battle for you. He is overcoming your biggest obstacles. He is sustaining you as you run your marathon. 
To tap into this abundant power all you need to do is call on the Lord. When the winds threaten to sideline you, call on the Lord. When your mountain looks to steep for you to climb, call on the Lord. He is living in and through you and He is greater than your greatest trial and most trying of circumstances. Your marathon run is simply a jog around the block for Him. To unleash the power of His Spirit that can sustain you no matter what inclement weather you face, simply ask to be filled. Invite in the Holy Spirit. God is faithful. When we ask He is ready to come into our weakness and show us His strength.
As you run your race, no matter what the trial may be or how strong the gusts of wind, don't focus on the difficulty that is pushing against you. Look toward the destination. Look to where God is taking you. He will see to it that you make it to the finish line, just keep moving along the path. Call on Him to fill you with the resources needed to continue on. He will run with you against the fiercest of winds. He will bring you through the darkest of days and most difficult trials you face. Just keep running your race.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The quiet life,,, the lonely gym attendee these sites might be tempting. You might be able to find another person who loves to run or do Boot Camp workouts and could help motivate you and provide you with some company on those long miles pounding pavement. The thought of a friend to go along with you on the journey might look appealing. I know sometimes it looks appealing to me.
I would love to have a friend who runs trails with me. A gym buddy would be great on the days that I struggle to push myself beyond my limits. I'd love to share my progress with someone and celebrate their accomplishments, too. Let's face it, some days we would all like someone to hit the gym with us. It can get to be a lonely, boring routine all by ourselves. Going to the gym, or just going through life, on our own can get stale.
But there is something to the life of solitude that we fail to miss if we are always trying to share our experiences with another person. In attempting to fill our days and routines with a person we run the risk of skipping right over the direction given to us in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. The scripture says, "...make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: you should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."
Maybe you are facing another workout alone or another wedding without a date or another evening alone with your dog. Maybe you have been single for years or divorced for months. Maybe you don't have a loved one to share your feelings with or a friend to go to the movies with. The bottom line is you feel alone. You have things, thoughts, experiences and ideas that you want to share but you have no one to share them with.
What should you do next? Is your best bet to find love? How about a workout class to find like-minded fitness lovers? Should you turn to a Bible study to find other Christians in your age group?
The question shouldn't be, "how do I fill the void I feel" but "when am I going to surrender this void to God"? Quite frankly God doesn't want you to be looking to fill the loneliness void. If you are experiencing the pangs of longing associated with being alone then God has you right where He wants you. It is in this state that you can become completely and entirely dependent on Him, making your life one of work for the Lord.
And isn't that the true cause of our existence anyhow? We aren't here, saved by the blood of Jesus, so that we can have friends. A social life wasn't why Christ was nailed to the cross. If anything, our social life will become smaller once we surrender our lives to Christ. It isn't guaranteed to grow or flourish.
Why, you might be asking, would God want us to live in solitude? I want to be out there tramping for the Lord so I must be talking it up, engaging with people, being social! I have to be at parties and events so that I can talk about God all of the time.
1 Thessalonians tells us differently. It doesn't instruct us to attend studies, conferences and workshops so that we can meet other Christians or be useful to God. It tells us to get quiet and get to work with our hands. Nothing glamorous about it. Just get to work. Don't concern yourself with having other people to share your work with. Don't worry about talking and being the life of the party. God is asking you to be quiet.
When you stop and think about it, being quiet makes perfect sense. When you are talking are you listening? When you are out with friends are you hearing from God? A vibrant social life is appealing but it can be a distraction. God wants our attention and He is well aware of the noise that threatens to catch our wandering eyes and hearts.
While reflecting on this scripture and the lesson God had for me in it I was reminded of my Great Grandmother. I never knew her but I've heard many stories from my Mom. All of the stories are the same: my Mom's recollection of her Grandmother reading her Bible. She never saw her Grandmother in a soup kitchen or at a Bible study. She never saw her Grandmother at a job or out with friends. Her Grandmother led a quiet life of solitude. Her days were filled with prayer and scripture.
Although my Mom never witnessed her Grandmother doing anything fantastical or exemplary her actions still stuck out to my Mom, so much so that they are vivid to this day. What she saw was a woman of faith who didn't need anything other than her God. That is an amazing testimony, one that is often undervalued.
Like the scripture says, live a quiet life, one that will win the respect of others. My Great Grandmother never won an election and wouldn't have been described as gregarious, but she left an impression on her Granddaughter. She didn't need a social circle or a fancy house. She didn't need a best friend, a weeknight Bridge game or the activities center at The Villages retirement community. She just needed her Bible. She just needed to be in the presence of her Savior.
There is a lesson in her life for all of us. Maybe our lives will lead in a direction that puts us up on center stage, preaching to a crowd or singing to an audience. Maybe we will pen a best-seller or lead a woman's Bible study. Or maybe we will be on the front lines as a prayer warrior in the quiet of our closet. There is no telling where God will use us. But don't assume that He can't use you in your solitude. That may be exactly where He wants to have you now and always. It may be where He wants you for this month or this year. He may have you surrounded by noise right now but could be taking you to a quiet place in the not too distant future. Don't mistake the silence for uselessness or abandonment. Do the work God has for you in the stillness. Tune in to the quiet so that you can hear God with precision and clarity.
God doesn't want you to be dependent on anybody. He wants you to be as at home alone as you are with a room full of people. He wants you to be comfortable with the quiet life, not scrambling to fill it with noise. He will be your portion and your lifelong companion. He will be your workout buddy and your shoulder to cry on. When you allow Him to be your partner in life you will never truly be alone. Just simply come to the silence and meet Him there. You will find Him waiting to take away your void of loneliness and give you the peace of a quiet life spent working for His glory.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Choose joy

The right thing isn't always the easy thing. The right thing isn't always the natural thing. The right thing isn't always our first instinct, our go-to response or the burning desire of our heart. Sometimes, many times, the right thing is the hard thing. Often times, taking the "high" road means climbing a steep mountain. Let's face it, we'd rather have the ease of a flat surface in which to tread. The uphill climb looks like work. 
It is at these plentiful moments in life that we come to an intersection requiring us to make a distinct decision. We have a choice: will we do the difficult, right thing? Or will we go with our human, natural instinct - the wrong thing, the easy way out? Will we take the road with the steep elevation or will we keep our incline at a comfortable zero?
In life we are faced with this choice over and over again. We come to these T-intersections with great frequency. Take, for example, following a workout routine. Some mornings we might wake up and have little to no motivation to hit the gym. On our schedule for the day's workout is a list of exercises and targeted muscle groups but we aren't "in the mood." Now we have a choose. Do we stay home, giving into the lazy part of our flesh that wants to stay on the couch, wrapped in a warm blanket? Or do we buck up and do that which we promised ourselves we would, the thing that will benefit our body and keep us faithful to our plan? 
The choose may seem small and insignificant. What's one workout? You can skip one day, right? After all it's Saturday and I worked out during the week and now I should have the weekend off to relax - I deserve it. And plus, I'm just not feeling like it. I don't want to have to drive to the gym and I'd really rather not get all sweaty. I just showered last night. The list could go on and on. There is never a shortage of excuses when we humans are looking for a way out. 
Little does the gym-skipper know, but that one decision can have a domino effect. How much easier is it to justify a missed workout during the week if you've had practice justifying the same inaction on the weekend? Before you know it the routine that was once a staple of your weekly agenda becomes an inconsistent occurrence that takes place when the time "feels right."
Life, if it is to be lived with any consistency and purpose at all cannot be lived by feeling alone. It is inevitable that there are going to be days that we don't "feel" like doing anything. Some days we won't feel like being joyful. Some days we won't feel like going to work. Some days we won't feel like cooking healthy meals. Some days we won't feel like listening to our friends burdens. Some days we won't feel like going to church. Some days we won't feel like doing our workout. And on and on and on. 
If we rely on our feelings to dictate our actions we will be on a perpetual roller coaster. Our actions and emotions will be as unpredictable as the wind, as changing as the tide. Letting our emotions run the show is a sure-fire way to have a bumpy ride through life, complete with the sudden turns, whip-blash inducing twists and more jerking about then you might think your body can take. 
This is no way to go through life. God created us for something greater. He is offering us a way to avoid this up and down, twisting and turning emotional roller coaster. The question is, will we take Him up on the offer - will we tap into the abundant joy only found in Him?
This way of living is a choice, not a feeling. In other words, it is intentional. Instead of allowing our emotions to choose our attitude and actions for us we must be the one to decide. We must choose obedience and Godly living. We must choose the joy and peace God has made available to us. These things won't just happen to us with any regularity. If we wait for joy to come to us it will be temporary and inconsistent at best. To have real joy that is a hallmark of our lives we must decide that we will be joyful. We must choose to fill ourselves with God's joy.

With this truth weighing heavily on my mind I came up with a mantra of sorts to put into practice for myself when I am beginning to let my mood run off with my emotions. "Choose your attitude, don't let it choose you." There are days that I slip into a depressed state because I start looking at the things I don't have or the struggles I am facing. I see the steep mountain and I immediately start seeing the pain associated with the climb. But that is all emotional and feeling dependent. When I put on my emotional lenses I first had to take off God's lens of joy and peace. 
It is quite simply really, God wants to fill you and I with His joy. He doesn't want our inconsistent emotions to have free reign. He wants to replace our fleshly feelings for His holy joy. He has given us every reason to rejoice and He wants us to claim that and live it out to the fullest. 
Psalm 32:11 tells us to, "Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart."
This attitude of thanksgiving, praise and joy is always available for all of us. We must simply take hold of it. When we come to that T in the road we must make the turn toward joy, not toward our unstable emotions. We can step off the roller coaster and onto stable ground if we choose to be rooted in the promises and truths of God instead of the wavering and ever-changing emotions and circumstances of our lives. 
Beloved, upright in heart, today and everyday, choose joy. Choose the hard thing. Climb the steep mountain. Get off the emotional roller coaster. Take hold of that which God is offering to you. Take hold of His joy. One thing is certain, you will never second guess a life lived with a joyful heart. 

No such thing as Santa

For some kids this upcoming Christmas will be the first that they awaken to find that the tree is surrounded by presents supplied by dear Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt or Uncle...but not Santa. For those little children, the wonder of a fat man with a white beard and red suit shimming down the chimney (or sneaking in the back door for those without a fireplace) will be replaced with the reality that there is no mystical deliverer of gifts. Somehow, someway, the gifts appear there by another source. The gifts are purchased with real money, not made by elf hands. The wrapping paper is creased and tapped with the usual frustration that comes from flimsy manufacturing and dull scissors. The magical sparkle that once blanketed the holiday is gone. In its place is the reality of human effort.
For some kids, they see that the reality is actually work.
I remember when I found out that Santa was just a myth. My mind immediately began to replay Christmas' gone by. I rattled off in my mind all of the big gifts, stockings stuffed to the brim, perfectly picked outfits and my very favorite as a young girl - the American Girl dolls set up under the tree with their historically inspired desks and accessories. I asked my parents, "you did all of that?" Of course the answer was yes. They had taken the time to find just the right gifts, wrap them just so, hide them diligently, and work throughout the Christmas Eve night to make the coming morning a magical experience.
Beyond the holiday season, I began to see that the long days my Dad spent at work maintaining and growing his own business were all in an effort to make a life for me that could rival the gifts of Santa Clause. My Dad has always worked long hours. When I was young it was not uncommon for him to leave by eight in the morning and not return until eight at night. He always went out for the morning with a dollar amount in mind that he would make before he returned home. His business working on cars gave (and continues to give) him the opportunity to work harder to make more. If he hadn't reached his goal by five o'clock he went to another car dealership and tried to find another car to fix. If he needed to work on Saturday to hit his week's income goal or to meet the needs of a customer than Saturday was another work day. The only day he took off was Sunday and even that rule has been broken a time or two.
My Dad has given all of himself to work so that my Mom and I can live in comfort. He has generously given to us that which he has worked so hard for. He hasn't been stingy and he hasn't held back. He doesn't complain that we spend too much or don't contribute enough. He simply keeps doing the work that is in front of him.
Upon hearing that my Christmas gifts weren't supplied by the magical Santa, I gained a new respect for the very real parents I knew so well. They aren't magical, they are something better than magic. They are real and tangible. They know me and still love me. They give of themselves to me all year long, working hours that exhaust me to think about and sacrificing their time for my benefit. This realization, this love, is better than Santa.
The trouble with our world today is that it values Santa more than true, unconditional, sacrificial love. Instead of seeing the value of working hard and the dedication to family and faith that can be shown in the process, our society values the lottery and a government program. But they are missing a beautiful reality: work can be a act of love.
If Santa were real then Moms and Dads would lose a critical opportunity to show their unconditional love for their children. They don't need a huge bank account to make a magical morning. They just need love and a desire to make a special day for their kids.
Santa can't rival the passion of a Mom and Dad. He can't wrap gifts with the same patience or set them under the tree with the same intentional placement. Only the love of a real flesh and bone Mom and Dad or God-given loved one can do that job. Their love that is displayed with such brilliance on Christmas morning doesn't end there. It gets to be shown all year long.
Thank God there is no Santa Clause. If there were I might not know how very much my parents love me.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Not forgotten

It never fails. Or should I say, God never fails.
Just when I need it, another reminder of His steadfast presence and unfailing love was sent to me in the form of, you guessed it, a deer.
This morning as I drove to work I descended down a long, steep hill that is lined with beautiful estates and stately trees. At the bottom of the hill is one of the many Cleveland Metro Parks so the area is well preserved in its natural state. I have, on occasion, seen deer in the woods along this road but today was the first time I ever had one run right in front of my car. As I came to the bottom of the hill, one lone, female deer came bolting across the road close enough to startle but not scare me. I hit the brakes and watched as she cleared my car with plenty of room to spare. I looked around to see if she had companions along, since usually when one deer is spotted another is close by. But not this time. This deer was alone, just like all the other deer God has put in my path since I've moved to Chagrin Falls.
God knew that my spirits have been waning these past few days. I wish I could say that this one encounter with the deer did the trick, removing all my sorrow and bringing me unspeakable peace. But, alas, the deep pit of my loneliness continued on throughout the day. For the first time in months my body was feeling horrible. My leg has been on the fritz again and the rest of my body has suffered along with it. A cloud settled over my head today and even the deer couldn't seem to move it away.
I spent the day at work feeling miserable and sorry for myself. Three years of battling my health and still, problems persist. Still days come where my psoas muscle is clenched and my digestion is unstable. Still there are days where my brain feels like it is in a fog and my mood is low and depression settles in. Today was one of those days and I couldn't help but crying out to God in protest.
No more! I don't want any more of this! People always say God doesn't give us more than we can handle. Okay, so I can handle this. I know I can. But the bottom line is: I DON'T WANT TO. I don't want to have to handle this health, this loneliness, this rejection, this isolation, this valley. I want out. I want something different. I have been here long enough. Sure, I get the occasional boost from a deer here and there but I want more. I want a change in circumstances. I want relief.
God, haven't I proven that I will be faithful to you? Haven't I proven that I won't turn to sin and the ways of the world just to relieve my emotional grief and pain? What more do you want from me?
I want a life, not just an existence. I want purpose, not just survival. Haven't I waited long enough?
I must admit that words of "this too shall pass" did nothing for me today, in my fragile state. I wanted a quick escape from my life, not encouragement for the journey. I wanted an emergency exit, not an agonizing wait for an elevator.
And then I remembered that deer again - that deer that was all by itself just like all the others I've had sent to me. And I thought of this simple statement that I just knew God was trying to send my way, "I have not forgotten you." When I looked at that graceful, peaceful deer that was the first thought that crossed my mind: I haven't forgotten you....He said to me....
....It feels like I have, I know. To you this life has been taxing and troubling and you just want out. I get that. You wonder when your ship is going to come in, or if it ever will. You wonder what is wrong with you. Why the isolation? Why the lack of relationship? Why the slammed doors and repeated rejection? Why the constant struggles with health? What is the purpose? What is the use of all of this?
I hear your cries. You want out. You want this to be over. You either want a change in life circumstances or you want to be with me in heaven. I know your heart. I know your desire is not a life of lust and sin. You want a life that has meaning in advancing my kingdom.
But I am not ready to use you yet. I know that is hard to hear. You think you are ready. You're wrong. You are not yet ready. I am still pruning you. I am clipping away and refining the details. This phase of the process can be time consuming and might be tough on you. You will grow weary. But details take time to perfect. You must be patient. To you enough work is done and you are ready to move on. But I'm interested in details - details you are overlooking. You must trust that I know best. I have a keener eye than you. Trust in that.
I will keep sending you deer. I will keep reminding you that you are precious to me because I know that you are weak and need these little boosts along your journey. Daughter, don't ever doubt that I am taking good care of you. I love you and want you to have vivid, beautiful, distinct details. Let me do the work. It isn't a quick process. It is time consuming and tedious. I'm not asking you to do the work yourself. I'm just asking that you rest while I do it for you. Can you do that for me?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

There is a season

There is a beautiful quote that keeps running through my mind. I've heard it many times but until today I had never looked for its source. A quick search on Google brought me to the originator of this little line. L.M. Montgomery wrote in Anne of Green Gables, “I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” 
Has there ever been a more perfect statement spoken in the midst of the changing fall colors of the North East United States? Few things in this world rival the brilliance of the leaves changing from green to orange. The array of colors is stunning, the smell is distinct. This time of year is magical.
God, in His great imagination, has blessed us with summer, spring, fall and winter. He has given us the consistency of knowing which comes next while still keeping us in suspense. How long each will last? As each season comes about there are new wonders to behold that are special and unique to that season alone. The tomatoes of late summer cannot be found with the asparagus of spring. The snow flakes in January are a distant memory in the hot sun of July. Each season has its own beauty and appeal. 
The quote that has occupied so much of my mind's attention could really be said about most any month of the year. I am so glad that I live in a world with Januarys and Aprils. I'm so glad there are Junes, Augusts and Decembers. I could say it for each month. Each captures my heart for one reason or another. Even March, the month where snow is taking its toll and Northerns grunt in unison at each weather report, has its appeal. The late days in March where the warm sun breaks through freezing cold breath hope and new life into our chilled bones. It reminds us that, once again, we will soon break free from winter's hibernation. There is excitement in the air of even the month of March.
I believe that God has given us the four seasons as a wonderful picture of our own lives. We will all go through seasons. Some seasons may seem more appealing to us than others. Sometimes a particular season may seem to drag on, much like a late snow storm in April. We tend to forget that warmth will once again unthaw our frozen finger tips. The seasons will keep changing. Where we are in this moment, for good or ill, will someday change. The leaves will turn. The flowers will bud. The snow will fall. Our current season in life is for a limited time only.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us of this truth, "To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven." You are probably familiar with this passage. It goes on to name all of the different seasons in life: healing and breaking down, planting and plucking, laughing and crying. God has created seasons for all of these emotions and circumstances.
During the difficult seasons of life it is easy to forget that some day "this too shall pass." We aren't always privy to the timetable in which the seasons will change. Predictions are always made about how long and how severe each season's weather will be, but often the meteorologist's predictions are wrong. The same goes with our own lives. We can't foresee what God has ahead. That is for Him to know and for us to trust in.
My prayer and hope for you is that you will find comfort in knowing that God controls the seasons of your life just like He controls the seasons of our calendar year. Have you ever experienced a year where God didn't bring about all four seasons? Has He ever skipped over the budding of flowers in spring or the first snowfall of winter? No, He is absolutely faithful.
He will be faithful in your life. Today the season you find yourself in may be one that is stretching your faith to its limits. You may be feeling alone, abandoned and helpless. But hold tight to God's promises. He is still the master of your destiny, the changer of the seasons. Remain steadfast in your devotion and dedication to God. Hold fast to His word and rest in His love. Find comfort in the way He changes the leaves on the trees in fall. Find solace in the first snow flake of winter. Just as He never abandons the seasons, He will never abandon you.
If you feel stuck remember that God hasn't forgotten you. His plan is still at work. He still cares for you and has a marvelous plan for you. The season He has for you right now may last longer than you expected but God isn't working off of your calendar. He has His own and it is always flipped to the right day, month and year. He hasn't made a mistake. He hasn't forgotten to turn the leaves orange. He may just be letting a certain season linger on longer than you anticipated.
Today as I run amidst the changing colors of fall I will praise God for His mighty hand over the changing seasons. I will thank Him for Octobers, thank Him for Januarys, thank Him for seasons of joy, thank Him for seasons of isolation. I will thank Him for never forgetting that after the cold of winter comes the flowers of spring. I will thank you God for each and every season.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The hormone of the heart

Ask most anyone new to an exercise plan why they decided to start and there is a good chance you will receive the following answer: to lose weight. Appearance is a driving force behind hitting the gym. Those extra five pounds or that ever growing beer belly draw many people to the elliptical, seeking a quick fix to their very apparent problem.
Sure, some people may say that they want to improve their cardiovascular health or protect aging bones, but those reasons come in a distant second to the common complaint of excess weight. If a person is at a reasonable weight but doesn't work out and doesn't have any major health concerns, what are the chances that they will suddenly begin working out? Slim, I would say. In general, people are drawn to exercise and workouts so that they can obtain a physical, visible result: i.e. a lower number on the scale and smaller number on the waist band.
The trouble with this approach is that it often overlooks a much bigger problem looming underneath. Running, walking and lifting weights can be wonderful for stress release and beneficial to overall health but there is something lurking underneath that holds the key to weight loss. This missing link makes weight loss natural, not a constant battle. The key I am referring to transforms the internal functions of the body, resulting in an external change on the scale.
Hormones are the body's chemical messengers. They send messages to direct the functions of the body. From mood to metabolism, hormones are key. When they are off balance they send messages that are faulty, either not frequent enough or far too many. Some times they shut off altogether. The result is a state of internal chaos that becomes evidenced in our external bodies.
These little internal messengers answer many of the common questions of dieters and cardio-crazed exercisers: What am I doing wrong? Why am I not losing weight? The answer is most likely your hormones. You can be religious in your workout routine but if you have hormones that are on the fritz then you might as well be sitting on the couch.
Although it isn't glamorous, there are some basic steps to balancing hormones. There is a reason these steps are often overlooked in the race for weight loss. The focus of them isn't a six pack of abs. The goal is internal health, something much more nebulous and harder to wrap our feeble minds around. Diet, sleep, toxins, and supplements aren't as measurable as twenty minutes on the treadmill at a four percent incline and four MPH pace. For some people they can't get on board with a plan that won't have those kind of statistical results written in their daily exercise planner. But without fixing this underlying problem the exercise junkie will continue on a frustrating path that yo-yos in its success frequency.
We must switch our primary focus away from simply the external results of our efforts. We must begin looking at the the health of our internal body's first and foremost. Before weight loss can come the hormones must be reset and rebalanced. Once that first work is done the body can metabolize fat, send the right signals for hunger and use your food for fuel and energy, not simply storage.

In our walk of faith we have an internal system that can be out of balance, too. When our internal "hormone" is not being run by God it is not functioning properly. Again, we see the evidence of this in our daily lives.
Many people come to God for a quick fix to a problem. Just like the exerciser wants weight loss, the new Christian wants a fixed marriage, obedient children or instant happiness. They come to God's table looking for instant resolution to their greatest predicaments. But God wants our heart. He is desiring to come and dwell inside of us, transforming our lives first on the inside before we see the external evidence. 
Galatians 5:22-23 says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." These are the characteristics of a heart in balance with God. You cannot fake this kind of fruit. You cannot work hard enough and do enough good deeds to make yourself a person of God. You must become balanced in the heart before you can produce a bountiful harvest in your external life. Before we can produce fruit God must come and reign in our hearts. He must put our thoughts, desires and actions into balance. It is only after this is accomplished that the work can be apparent to the outside world. There can be a change but only when God does the changing on the inside first. 
Our heart "hormone" must be put in a right relationship with God. If we come to God looking solely for blessings, putting in our volunteer hours and attending our Sunday school class for good measure, we are missing the point. Our heart is still out of balance and nothing can function properly until that is reset. 
There is nothing in the external that can be lasting and sustainable unless it has been worked out in the internal, spiritual health and physical health alike. Weight loss will be inconsistent and a struggle. Walking the straight and narrow with God will be a series of missteps. The path will be a battle instead of a joy if we are trying to do it on our own strength, grasping for the fruit and results that we can see. We must be striving for that which we cannot see. 
Truly surrendering body and soul to God is the only way He can do the work needed in our live's to rebalance our hearts. He cannot produce fruit in us if He is not the one gardening, managing and tending to our hearts. We cannot be truly, sincerely and forever changed unless we allow Him to do the changing on the inside. The external will come. Just like with rebalanced physical hormones, our spirits need time to be retaught how to walk with God. We are sinful and fallen, yet with God we can be rebuilt and restored to a right relationship with Him. He can redirect our actions, shape our thoughts and fill our soul with desires that are of Him. But He can only do this when we come to Him, heart surrendered out to Him in entire obedience and dependence.
Beloved, don't spend the rest of your days on a spiritual treadmill clocking in the hours hoping for blessed results. Surrender your heart. Lay down your claim on your life and ask God to reign in you. He will change you inside and out. He will transform your very life. You won't need to calculate and measure. You won't need to keep a progress report in a log. When you surrender your life those details will pale in comparison to the relationship you will be cultivating with your Savior. He will do the work to produce the fruit. All you have to do is allow Him to rebalance your heart "hormone."

Friday, October 4, 2013

The principle of specificity

The Principle of Specificity, as it relates to sports and fitness, states that training must be relevant to the specific sport the individual is training for to produce an effect in that sport. Your training must also be specific to your individual abilities, current fitness levels and training objectives. The plan you put in place to reach your fitness goals will be specifically designed to your body's weaknesses, strengths and capabilities.
In short, your training will be unique and special to you because you are unique and different from every other fitness trainee. Your body is different, your background is different and your goals are different. Not every person lifting weights in the gym is training for a body building competition. Some are just trying to rebuild strength to protect their bones from looming osteoporosis. Others are trying to increase their speed for their next half-marathon. And some just want flat abs for bikini season. Look at this as a school lunch table. Some people packed a turkey sandwich, others are sticking with peanut butter and jelly and still others decide to buy the cafeteria grub. They all end up at the same table but their trays all look very different from one another.
When training our bodies we do so with our own personal objectives. What we are trying to achieve is at the very foundation of how we will train. If we are looking to simply become healthier we won't be spending all our time on the ab machine. Training for overall health will require a more balanced approach that includes working all of our muscles plus aerobic cardiovascular exercise. The results you seek will guide the exercises you choose. They will be specifically targeted to the areas in which you seek progress and adaptation.

This principle isn't unique to just sports training. Our specificity doesn't end in the gym. Specificity is key to who we are as children of God. We have been masterfully created, each of us uniquely designed and unlike any other.  Psalm 139:13-14 says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
We are unique, special creations of the Master Creator, God on High. He hasn't made us like any other person. He has such a vivid and limitless imagination that He has created each and every one of us to be distinct and set apart from one another. He has put into practice the principle of specificity. Your life, looks, purpose and journey is unlike any other. The road map that God has plotted out for you is yours alone. You have the exclusive VIP inside pass to your life. There has only been one created. And it has your name on it.
Isn't that thrilling and exciting? Isn't it overwhelming to consider that the God who put the stars in the sky, created the vast array of animals and makes the seasons change has also created you with that same delicate hand? It is miraculous and awe inspiring. Yet, it can also be intimidating. If this life is unique to you and you alone that means no one else will be walking it right along side you, every step of the way. In other words, this journey could become lonely at times.
While you walk along your specific path you may find that no one else seems to be around you. Their paths have diverged from yours, taking them in their own unique direction. Maybe they have run into company for a time along their path while you find yourself completely deserted. At other times along the path you may find that you run into someone who is traveling in the same direction, at least for a time, and you join to continue on for as long as God allows. There is no telling just when God's will for you will take you off on your own or when it will come along side another one of His children. The journey we are on is specific to us and the precise steps it will take are known only to God. You are following and walking with Him, even if that means you don't see another human soul for miles and miles. This principle of specificity in faith means that our walk in life won't take the exact twists and turns as the next person.
On our walk we must trust God with our future, knowing that He has our best interest at heart and the best way to reach the great destinations He has in store for us. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Our path has been plotted out ahead of time especially for us. The special creation that God formed in the womb doesn't end with birth. The journey He has ahead is just as special. 
You may find yourself alone today on your own unique journey. You may be in the gym doing an entirely different exercise than everyone else around you. But take heart, you are being trained for your specific purpose. God's intentions for you are unlike those of the people that surround you, so He can't train you up like He trains them. The exercises you will perform won't be the exercises they perform. In the end, the training you will undergo will get you to the unique and marvelous destination God has waiting up ahead especially for you. He is preparing a wonderful place and it has your name on it. In the meantime, He is preparing you for entering that place. When you get there the journey, the exercises, the sets and repetitions will all make sense. You will finally see why you had to do all the crazy moves and turns that seemed so strange to you at the time. All the days of walks alone with your Savior, the periods of isolation - you will see that they were all part of the plan. Your plan: beautiful, unique and marvelous. A plan specifically designed by your Creator for you.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The overload principle

When you pick up the phone and dial the number of a personal fitness trainer you are looking for their guidance to achieve desirable results, right? Maybe you have come to the end of your own attempts to lose weight, gain muscle, run faster or stick to a healthy eating plan. Whatever the case, you have decided that it is time to seek the help of a professional who can inform and guide you. The knowledge they have to share and the accountability they will provide, you trust, will ultimately lead to the results you seek. When reaching out to the trainer, you probably know that the plan they put in place for you might not always be easy to follow. You probably already anticipate days where you will feel deprived of your favorite sweet or pushed to your limit during a particular workout. Although you might not know the extent of the difficulties to come, you know, on some level, that this decision will produce challenges in one way or another.
This difficulty is a necessary part of achieving results. Your personal trainer is well acquainted with this principle. They call it the "Overload Principle." The idea behind it is simple. A greater than normal stress or work load on the body is required for training adaptation (i.e. growth) to occur. To continue to increase physical capabilities and fitness the stress must be changed and increased. If the work/stress load remains stagnant progress is halted and capabilities remain the same. Demand must increase in order for your body to meet those demands.
This is pretty basic. If you want to get better at most anything you have to challenge yourself. If you want to run longer start increasing your distance by 10% a week. If you want to lift heavier weights start by adding 5-10% more weight at a time. Too much too quickly and you could cause injury, sidelining your workouts and putting an abrupt stop on any potential progress. The trainer will guide you, making sure that you are enduring the right about of stress on the body to produce results without burnout or injury.
God uses this same principle. He has His own "overload principle" that He puts into practice to grow His children spiritually. He increases our faith by increasing the pressure in our lives.
James 1:2-4 is often quoted to encourage those in the midst of this pressure. I will call it the "overload principle" scripture. I am not a Biblical scholar but it seems quite fitting to me. The verses say, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
Do you see the overload principle at work in these verses? God is going to add stress to produce results. To increase our faith He must increase the demand for it. Will our faith grow in times of ease and comfort? Probably not. That is when it is easy to just sit by and let our faith remain stagnant. That is not to say we are devoid of faith, but we aren't seeing much growth, if any. On the other hand, when we are in the midst of trial and tribulation our faith is called on in new ways. Our need for our faith becomes paramount. This is the spiritual overload principle at work to produce greater faith and reliance on our Savior.
If you ask God to make you more like Jesus Christ, if you truly surrender yourself over to His will, then expect challenges. Anticipate trials of many and any kind. This is what you are inviting into your life when you ask God to grow you in faith. Just like reaching out to a fitness trainer, God is a personal trainer for your faith. When you sign on to be guided and trained by Him you must know that there will be difficulty. He will stretch your capabilities beyond the point you think you can handle in order to produce growth and progress. All of this is done in order that you may grow in faith and become more Christ-like.
God has a faith workout plan especially designed for you. He knows the sets and repetitions that will produce results. He knows the weight that will need to be administered to challenge you without throwing you into a state of burnout. To you the workload might look daunting, but He knows how much you can handle. He won't give you more than you can take. He will give you enough to grow you without breaking you. He will challenge you in ways you never expected. But take heart, because in the end you will see results you didn't know you were capable of achieving. God, your personal trainer, has mapped out the best plan for you and is promising that you will see the greatest of results.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Extreme makeover: your life edition

You have been selected for the opportunity to receive an extreme makeover! That's right! You will get completely transformed from head to toe by a professional Transformation Specialist. By the end of the journey you will shock and awe your friends and colleagues. Old acquaintances will barely even recognize you! There is no doubt you will be turning heads after your makeover is completed.
Now before you get to excited I do need to inform you of the rules of this endeavor. There are just a few things you should be aware of before you agree to join in this exciting journey....

1) You will not have any say in what the Transformation Specialist will do. The changes are not your decision. This transformation is going to be done by a pro, not you. Whatever He says goes. Fair enough?
2) Oh, and another important thing to note, there is no guarantee on the amount of time this will take. This is a TOTAL transformation! It may be quite time consuming. But you want the best results, don't you? That might take longer than you'd like but it will be worth it, that I can promise. Still on board?
Okay, good. Because there is another thing.
3) You might have to be separated from your current social circle, work, family and maybe even the comforts of home. You understand, don't you? They will have to keep on living their lives while you are swept away to participate in the transformation. This makeover is specially designed for you. Their offer will be different or at some other time, suited perfectly to them. But this time around the makeover has your name on it. Is that alright with you?
4) Another thing you should probably won't know what's coming next. I can't tell you the exact steps that will take place or their precise order. That will be part of the surprise.
5) And just one last thing. I can't promise you that this will always be fun. In fact sometimes you might wish you had never signed on the dotted line in the first place. But I guarantee that what you will see in the mirror at the end will make every ounce of pain you felt abundantly worth it. Every difficult day will be looked back on as insignificant in light of the magnitude of the makeover. Don't expect every day to be a walk in the park - this isn't a day at the spa. It is much more intense and much more gratifying in the end. This transformation is total, complete and all-encompassing. The process to get there will be taxing at times but worth every milli-second, every hardship and every moment of discomfort.

So, how about it? Are you ready to come on board? Because the makeover can't start until you are 100%, completely, unconditionally sold out to the process. You can't be half way in. You can't leave one foot in your old life and tip your toes into this one. A total, extreme transformation requires total commitment. It is as easy as saying yes and surrendering to your Transformation Specialist.