Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Drugs and Desire

Insecurity has a way of making you feel hemmed in. What was once supposed to make you feel free and confident has a way of slowly making you a slave to it, driving you to do things that aren't a part of your normal character, or to even do things that are unhealthy.  Things like not enjoying time out with friends or family anymore because you are afraid to eat. Things like over-exercising, under-eating (or not eating at all), or binging and purging. Things like taking pills to try to lose weight. Things like dressing in tops that are too low or skirts that are too short. Things like obsessing over appearance to the point that it is all you think about.  And we've all seen the news flashes about people who overdo plastic surgery, give their 7-year-old botox injections or spend too much time in the tanning booth.

I've been there--am currently there on some of these issues--so I know about these things far too well. Suddenly, the voice of reason in your head gets skewed. Though they may try, no one can tell you that what you are doing is misguided. But that's what you are--totally and completely misguided by thoughts and actions that are justified by you.

Can I share something with you, friend?

There is a way out.

Binging and purging is not okay. Not eating is not okay. And I'll say this one for myself: over-exercising is not okay. Our bodies were not made for this type of pressure, especially when you combine them. For me, my method of choice is to 1) not eat (or eat very little), then 2) over-exercise and finally 3) take a weight-loss pill for extra insurance. For a few years, it had gotten to the point that I refused to miss my workout, even for (I'm ashamed to say it) a sick child.

In eighth grade, I was diagnosed by my doctor with Attention Deficit Disorder. As most of us are familiar with this type of learning disability, we probably all know that it is commonly treated with stimulant drugs. I stayed on the drug until I got to college, then tried to go it on my own for a while, but I found that I just concentrated a little better with it than without. So I went back to my doctor around the age of 20 and he put me on a similar drug with a different name. I got what a wanted--I was much more focused. I also got a little bonus: I lost weight and I had more energy. I was already insecure about the way I looked, so losing a little extra weight seemed to give me a little extra confidence, the little boost I was looking for. The problem was, I knew that if I went off the drug I would gain the weight back, so I stayed on for the weight loss, knowing that I had a "legitimate" reason and the doctors probably wouldn't stop my prescription.

Slowly, the vines starting entangling themselves in my life, suffocating me instead of giving me the freedom I was craving. I was dependent on a drug that was prescribed for ADD that I knew deep down I shouldn't be taking, but I was staying thin, I was eating as little as possible and exercising as much as I could. I was an all-out mess. I knew that no matter what those who cared about me would say, I could out argue them in a hot second, and pretty soon, no one said much to me at all about my habits, and I was able to justify them all in my head. Yes, I've under-eaten. Yes, I've over-exercised. Yes, I've depended on a drug to keep me thin. Yes, I've even binged and purged.

But these things never stopped my God from chasing after me with His love.

And they don't define who I am.

My way out was discovering and giving in to a God who loves me more than I ever imagined, who through His infinite grace and mercy is showing me that my confidence and worth is in Him.

After much prayer, and the prayers of my sister, I made the decision about 6 months ago to put my dependence on God instead of a drug. It was hard. I have gained a few pounds. I still want to over-exercise and eat as little as I can. I still justify my decisions to God and to myself. But I'm learning daily to depend on Him for my inner-most needs and desires. Needs that can't be met anywhere else, like finding true happiness, joy, love and inner peace. Needs like finding security, assurance, worth and confidence. I'm discovering that He is more than able to fulfill my deepest desires.

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4).

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Grumpy


8 Things That Will (For Sure) Make Me Grumpy:

1. Skipping shaving, make-up and hair and driving at break-neck speed to make it to an appointment, only to wait 45 minutes and have that person not show up.

2. Weeds. Weeds in the cracks between my patio pavers and weeds in my flower beds, weeds in my grass, weeds...

3. People who do not respond to emails.

4. Senior Day at Kroger (sorry, it's just crowded and they're always out of stuff I need).

5. Looking at the clock and realizing that I have 1.5 hours to accomplish a days worth of catching up on housework.

6. Forgotten laundry.

7. S-l-o-o-o-o-o-w drivers who refuse to do more than 30 on a two lane road when the speed limit is clearly 45.

8. The most important one: skipping my daily quiet time with God.

The missed appointment made me grumpy, as I didn't feel like I had time to waste. The grocery store made me grumpier because they were completely out of stuff I needed. As I walked through the store, I huffed and complained in my head about all the things that were not going my way. By the time I left, I'm sure I had a dissatisfied scowl on my face and an attitude to match. I was ready to give everyone else lessons on how to run a business, how to drive, how to park, how to eat right, and how to click on REPLY in your email inbox.




It wasn't until I got in the car that I realized what had happened: I had been in such a hurry to accomplish my tasks this morning that I shoved the most important event of the day aside: spending time with God. My time is precious to me, and what I do with it is indicative of what's important to me. This morning, I essentially told God that He wasn't important. What was important to me this morning was working out, which I did, and getting ready for my appointment, which I did, and going to the grocery store, which I did. The things that were a priority to me I made sure I got done. And what wasn't a priority was left behind--time with Him.

It was the psalmist who said "[i]n the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice..." (Psalm 5:3). I think it's important to start off my day with some time with God, praying and reading His word, because it gets my day off to a good start. This morning, because I skipped that time, I found that I was what I will call 'spiritually starved'. My heart was not full of His joy, mercy, or grace, so I had none to spare when things got a little frustrating. It's pretty amazing to me the difference in my attitude when I've spent some time with Him, even if it's just a little. Things just roll off my back a little easier, I'm a little more forgiving, and a little less irritable. And when a little time with Him becomes more, then I find that I'm more of those things. And when I spend a significant amount of time with Him, then my whole countenance is significantly changed.

It's funny to me that I was ready to give anyone who would listen an important life lesson on something like health and nutrition when I was the one who needed to be taught. But aren't all people like that at some point? It's hard to see the plank in my own eye when it seems like whole trees are growing from someone else's. But when I'm willing to take a step back and look inward, I can begin to see how I am in need of grace just as much as everyone else. Thank goodness that He is willing to give it unconditionally.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Me First

It seems to be the mantra of every 2-year-old on the planet--MINE! It used to drive me crazy when my kids would act that way. The bad news is they really haven't gotten over themselves so much. They still act as if they, by themselves, are in the center of their very own universe. Now, there are times when a small light shines through and I see them think about someone else--but they rarely put themselves completely aside in order to do so. They think of themselves in addition to someone else.

I have done many a bible study that suggests in order to build a strong relationship, it's important to put your partner, not yourself, first. Scripture backs up these ideas (Philippians 2:3-8), asking that we do nothing out of selfish ambition, and count others as more significant that ourselves.

As I ponder this idea, I find that I have what I'll call "circles" of people that I'm willing to be less-than-selfish for.

The first is my husband, because I want to build our relationship. It's important to me to stay in love with him and to have a strong marriage, so I'm willing to put myself aside...but only while I'm still comfortable. Last night, we sat down on the couch to watch a movie. It was late and I was tired, so I just plopped down on the couch. And I so did not want to move again. But that seat happens to be my husbands favorite seat, so I moved for him because it doesn't matter to me so much. I joked with him that I would put him first always, no matter what, because that's what spouses do. Then he asked me to give him the blanket I had, knowing I'd be cold without it. He was only joking with me, but it got me thinking. I moved because it didn't matter to me where I sat. I was still comfortable. But when he jokingly asked me to give him my blanket, I balked. No way! It made me wonder how seriously I actually take putting another first, how far I will go to make sure another person is before me.

The next circle outside my husband is my kids. Somehow, without even really meaning to, kids have a way about them that insists you put them first. Again, I try. But how far do I go? I always reason with myself that they need to learn that the universe absolutely positively does NOT revolve around them. My goal is to figure out a way to teach them this while putting still putting them ahead of my own objectives and ambitions for the day. Some ways I've found to do this are by really listening to what they have to say, no matter how trivial it may be to me. To ask (and really want to know) how their day and school was and what they did. To lead by positive example in my marriage. To really spend time with them, and to not count being with them but doing what I want to do as time spent.

As my circles get wider and wider, I find that I am putting myself first more often, until it's finally just me, myself and I again. I reason that I don't need to put that other driver on the road first because they are the one acting like the idiot, not me. And I certainly don't need to put that rude person at the grocery store ahead of me because, well, I was in line first. But Scripture doesn't define certain circles of people to think of first or designate special groups of people. It doesn't divide people into "firsts" and "lasts". It counts all people as worthy of being put first.

I think it's probably human nature to be so completely self-centered, but I usually go back to the same old argument you learn in Psychology 101: nature vs. nurture. How much of my kids behavior is learned from me and how much comes from their own human nature? I'll go ahead and throw myself under the bus here, because I think my kids learn way more than I think they do from my silent examples. Since I have had the privilege of staying at home to raise them since they were little, they have spent a majority of their time with just me and my examples. Now that they are in school, the time that they spend with me is considerably less, and now they have me and their teachers and classmates as their main role models.

Scary, huh? Especially when you don't know what those role models are all about.

That's why it's so important to me to be a wise and discerning parent, with God as my center and everything else on the periphery.

It's hard to fight the "me first" battle when we live in such a "me first" world, and sometimes I honestly don't think it's a battle worth fighting. That's when I have to go back to my center: God. If He had thought anything like me, then I would be lost. Instead, He saved me from myself and gave me a set of guidelines to follow in order to live life to the fullest. It won't always be easy, and I will for sure have battles to fight. Including putting myself aside!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Busy

I know it's been awhile since I wrote...5 days in fact! I'm finding that when life gets super-busy, I fail at doing one of the things I love the most--write on this blog! As the end of school draws near, I definitely need a plan so I can write all summer long. It's the joy and the curse of having kids--they want your attention, which is great. It's a joy to spend time with them. But they will take all that they can get, and sometimes it's more than I have to give. So I'll recap the last 5 days for those who are interested...

Wednesday I went on an all-day field trip with Jack's class to Mill Mountain Zoo. I've said it before and I'll say it again--teachers are UNDERPAID! I find after certain activities like this one that I don't even like kids that much...I'm kidding, but it takes a special person to teach first grade. Or any grade for that matter, so my suggestion is to make sure you say THANK YOU to your child's teacher!

Thursday I do not even know what I did but I was gone all day running errands and such. Days like that are not my favorite. Plus, we had a softball game so not only was I gone all day but all night too! Friday was my baby boy's birthday! So of course we had to celebrate Richardson-style--all weekend long. (Note: I do admit that this is my style and not necessarily representative of the whole family...). Saturday, my sweet girl and I took a trail ride--and it was her first time ever on a horse! She did great! I am a very proud mama. Today we are having birthday celebrations with papa and grandma after church, then my husband and I have a date night! Whoo-hoo!!

All this to say, I have been a touch distracted...but will meet you back here on Monday :)

Have a great holiday weekend!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Blame

If there is one thing that I harp on with my kids, it's taking responsibility for their actions. I often hear the excuse "he made me do it" or "she told me to". I am constantly reminding them that no one can make you do anything. I tell them that when they make a decision, the final choice lies in their hands. It's up to them.


cianphelan.wordpress.com

Just as it is up to me to take responsibility for my own actions. There have been times in just the last couple of weeks where I have made a mistake or misunderstood something, and I would love to take the blame off of myself and put it on something (or someone) else. And if I worked hard enough, I suppose I could come up with a justifiable reason why it couldn't possibly be my fault. 

As a teenager and young adult, I had a hard time taking responsibility for my own actions. I tried to justify everything. The way I reacted when I was angry was my mom's fault, because she yelled a lot. My parents didn't show me a good example of a healthy marriage, so how could I possibly know?  I didn't think that I could change any of my behaviors, and didn't really have the desire to change either. It was all just a part of who I was, and I made excuses to myself along the way, blaming everything from my upbringing to my church to my insecurities for the way I acted.



I've heard other people do the exact same thing. As far as I can tell, the most common  excuse for behavior is a person's upbringing. Don't get me wrong--the examples that are set at home are of utmost importance, but at the same time, adults have to learn to take responsibility for their own actions and stop blaming others.

As I was getting ready this morning, Jack Johnson's song Cookie Jar came on.  I listened closely to the lyrics, and they are so on target. Nothing will change if no one accepts responsibility for what's going on. It really spoke to me on a personal level, too. I will be stuck in a dangerous cycle of unacceptable behaviors and blame if I am unwilling to take responsibility for my actions or am unwilling to change. I can blame my insecurities for wanting to be thin for the rest of my life, but if I am unwilling to accept the load, then I will stay stuck. The good news is that I can unload on God. He is willing to accept my baggage and pour out His healing grace on me so that I can experience freedom in Him. So maybe the fact that I'm insecure about my appearance isn't necessarily my fault. I can still take responsibility for the way I behave and make a change in my life. I can't live forever blaming my parents and my Sunday School teachers for all that has gone wrong in my life. At some point, I think we all have to stand up, accept the baggage for what it is, and give it to God to deal with. He's more than willing to take it on, just as He was willing to die on a cross for the sins of the world.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Scratch Their Eyes Out!

The air was tense, quiet. Everyone was leaning forward in their seats, waiting. The batter was up. Smack! The ball was in the air, headed for the outfield. As it rolled past gloves, the fans erupted in screams and shouts. The young outfielder who stooped to pick it up was temporarily frozen. He didn't know where to throw the ball to make the play, and it seemed like everyone, from coaches to players to fans, was screaming at him "THROW THE BALL!!".  Poor thing. He's only 7 years old, and still learning. I know that everyone wants to win, but it was a little intense for a tee ball game.

I couldn't help but wonder that if he should decide to continue playing baseball what my son's high school games would be like.

He's a pro if you ask me :)


I have to admit that, as competitive as I can be, the nature of this game, the comments flying between parents and coaches--it was all a bit much. I sent a friend a text about my opinion and she agreed: be happy if your kids play well and have fun.  I am all about playing a game, and of course the outcome will have a winner and a loser. It's the nature of the beast. But when it comes down to doing what you have to do to win the game, no matter what, then I have a problem with that.

My child's sporting event isn't the only place that I see people get competitive.

I went to a class at the gym a few months back, and it was one of those really fun dance classes, you know the kind where you don't even feel like you are working out. There was one song in particular that I remember well because of the comments coming from the instructor as she was describing the move we were making: 'Make your hands like claws. Scratch your competition's eyes out.'

Hold up just a minute.

Scratch your competition's eyes out?

I understand that it was just a dance class, and she was merely describing a certain move.

But.

I feel like there is a fair amount of competition among women in particular, and usually it's competition over one thing: who looks the best. Who's thinner? Who's prettiest? Who has the biggest chest and the smallest waist? Who can attract the most male attention? Who looks (or is) the youngest?

I see it all the time, and whether it be a little friendly conversation about who's the youngest in the group or something much more harsh, it always has a bit of a bite to it. Are we willing to do whatever it takes--surgeries, credit card debt, backstabbing a friend--just to win? And if it's not bad enough that we as women compete with each other, I see girls my daughter's age starting to compete with each other, too.  All of the sudden, girls who were friends are starting to clash, and they don't always kiss and make up the next day. Where are they learning this behavior?

I think some of it is natural. I believe that as humans, we are just competitive. Some are more driven that others. I get that. But I also entertain the notion that a lot of behaviors are learned at home, and when I am competitive and focused on the way I look all the time, my daughter might also be. And that's not all. My son may take my unspoken cues and expect that women are supposed to act and look a certain way. No one escapes the examples set at home.

All of us were 25 and beautiful because we were young once. Now it's time to age gracefully, to be beautiful at any age, to be a good role model and to exhort those coming up behind us to be good examples to those behind them. Our younger generations need positive female mentors, not women who despise and hate.

If we as females would embrace and support each other instead of constantly comparing with one another, would it be possible to learn to love instead of hate? There will always be someone out there who is thinner, prettier, richer, or younger. Or all of that combined. Why do we automatically hate her just because she is? God's Word asks us to "...love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).

Having my sights set on the things that are above, not the things on earth (Colossians 3:2) means that I can get over not being the prettiest. At least I'm learning to get over it. I'm not quite over it yet. It doesn't mean I have to settle, though. It means that I have set my sights on Christ Jesus, and He is my center. When I find my security through Him, I allow His beauty to shine through me. I have begun to find that I don't need the constant affirmation of being the thinnest, the prettiest or the youngest to still have confidence or feel my worth, because I've found it through Him.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Reflections

The other day, I accidentally dropped my coffee mug on the counter in my kitchen, and the bottom of it cracked. I didn't think it was broken enough to throw away, so I got some heavy-duty glue out and glued the few stray pieces back into place. Almost like new, but not quite. It looked so good that I didn't think twice when I put the mug into the dishwasher, only to find that my heavy-duty glue isn't so heavy-duty when subjected to heat and water.  Now my mug has a permanent chip on the bottom of it. Back to the way it was when I first broke it.

Today, I discovered that not only does it have a chip on the bottom, but it has a hairline crack all the way up the side that I never even saw. The only reason I discovered it was because when I picked up the mug to take a sip, it was stuck to the counter where the tea and sugar I had in there had leaked out a bit. This is an unfortunate piece of business, as I don't know if I can find another one like it. I'm a bit disappointed that I was so clumsy with my mug.

Isn't life sometimes like that poor mug?

There have been times along the way where I have had wounds on my heart, big and small, and instead of going to God for complete healing, I tried to piece my heart back together with my own version of heavy-duty glue. Almost like new again, but not quite. Good enough, though, to keep going on with life. Except that my heart wasn't healed, it was only temporarily pieced back together.

And when I got exposed to some heat, my heart couldn't take it.

Life is full of heat, isn't it? Whether it be a major situation or minor, life can bring on some situations that I find myself completely unprepared for, and when my heart remains wounded, I quickly fall apart. My at-home remedys just don't cut it when life unleashes a storm. Those old wounds need the healing touch of God. That's the only way that I'll be completely healed and ready to take on what life throws at me. But if I'm not careful, those old wounds will create a hairline fracture in my soul that I'm not even aware exists--until the wounds start trickling out in the form of anger, stress, a miserable attitude, petty words, or irritation. Proverbs 27:19 says "As water reflects the face, so one's life reflects the heart". So true!

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I don't want to be clumsy with my life, trying to find ways to patch it up along the way. I have found that the only place I can turn for complete and total healing is to God, who can heal my heart and stand along side of me when life gets tough. It's important, as is says in Proverbs 4:23, to "[k]eep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life". When those old wounds open up, or new ones occur, I can find solice and healing in the hands of my Creator.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Springtime and Renewal


I've been looking back at some old photos of myself, trying to reorganize my pictures. It's a way for me to try to reorganize myself...reorganize my life.

As I look back, I can see the happy baby that smiles in all her pictures. Then I see the quiet adolescent, the awkward teenager, and the young adult who is trying her best to smile through all the insecurity she is feeling. It's obvious to me as I look at those pictures how hard I was trying to be just like everybody else.

Me as a happy toddler

See, there are lots of things that can cause people to start to feel insecure, especially when they are young. According to Beth Moore's book "So Long Insecurity...", these things can include instability in the home, a significant loss, rejection, dramatic change, personal limitations (like a learning disability), and personal disposition. When I look back on my life, remembering how very insecure I felt at a very young age, I can see how my home life affected me. This is not an opportunity for me to blame my parents for everything that is wrong in my life, nor is it the time for me to blast them for everything they did in error. It's also not the time to throw a pity party for everything that didn't go right in my life. As I'm learning, there is no parenting handbook, no perfect parents, no perfect kids. It's a learning experience, just as all of life is.

Yes, the unfortunate person to the left is me. The definition of awkward.


My parents were great people, but at times they were a bit like fire and gasoline--they ignited an explosion when they were together. Explosions happened more often than I as a young girl ever would have wanted, and many times I found myself wide-eyed and scared as their fights got worse. As my sister and I grew older, my mom's temper in particular got even shorter, and I found myself walking on eggshells around her, just hoping that she wouldn't get angry at me. She was a very rigid mother, and she was also very rigid with herself, with a very strict diet and exercise regimen. Later, after she was diagnosed with cancer, my mom was convinced that burying her anger and stress down deep and not dealing with it was part of the reason she got cancer. Anger and stress are toxic.
Oops, it kinda blurry, but you get the point. That's me with my little sister. In big, plastic pink glasses.

As a very insecure young adult and newly married, I felt like I had a new lease on life, a fresh start. My parents didn't define who I was anymore, they had no more say in how I could live. I could be whoever I wanted to be. I didn't have to be scared of making my mom angry anymore, I didn't have to ask her permission to do anything. I tried so hard to be someone different, someone else. I was completely ashamed of my background and was scared that if anyone knew who I really was, then they wouldn't like me. I got thinner, wore nicer clothes, decorated my house the way I wanted it, joined the Junior League...I made up the person I thought I should be and tried to fit into her skin. Only one problem--my past wouldn't go away. My insecurities continued to persist. I've fought against myself, tried to redefine who I am, and now I've come to a point in my life where I'm tired of fighting. I am a broken woman in desperate need of God's healing grace and mercy. I can't hide from myself.

Now the good news!

I realized that God has been walking along side of me since the day I was born. He held my hand through all my parents fights, through my awkward adolescence, through my insecure teenage and young adult years. I just didn't care to recognize His love. Thankfully, He waited patiently until I was ready. And now I see that even though I have never seen my worth in this world as anything more than what my outside looks like, He sees the worth on my inside. He knows who He made me to be; He created me. Now, He's offering His quiet assurance that He can take what I have to offer: insecurities, past mistakes and regrets, and weave them into His perfect plan for my life. He is my confidence, He is my security. That feeling of being significant, of being somebody, that I've been striving for my whole life is right there in Him, as He's offering me His version of transformation and renewal.

As if the others weren't bad enough..

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Great Day!

Do you ever just want to tell somebody how good your day is going, how blessed you are, or just how good you think God is? Just like Paul McCartney sings in his song Great Day, I think it's gonna be a great day! Actually, it already has been a great day, and I for one am really looking forward to the rest of my day. No, I haven't done anything spectacular or really fun. Except for teaching my aerobics class. Those are some great ladies, and I do have fun when I'm there. The energy they have is contagious and they are encouraging on top of it all. So other than that, I've had quite an ordinary day with uplifting things happening all around me. Like, the fact that I found a Christmas gift (yes, I do Christmas shop all year round, it makes it easier when December hits!) at Hallmark--for 20% off! Or like when a lady stopped me at Kroger and told me she thought I was pretty. What a day!!

These small reassurances from God are sometimes overlooked by me, and if I in any way represent the general population, then small gifts are overlooked more often than they are discovered or recognized. Frequently, I'm in a hurry--rushed, overwhelmed, anxious or a combination of all three--and I don't take the time to see or hear God working in my life. Very often I'm wondering why He hasn't shown up, especially when I need Him. Could it be that I just don't recognize that He's been around the entire time, waiting for me to invite Him in?

At times, I will even throw a pity party for myself--which, incidentally, I don't believe God necessarily agrees with because He never parties with me. I know I've said that before, but I think it bears repeating to my own soul. Pity parties can be dangerous, especially when a person starts focusing on themselves all the time. Being focused on self can have two sides: self-love and self-pity.  When I'm throwing a major pity party, I start to wonder why God has allowed some of the pain I've experienced in my life. If He loves me so much, then why hasn't He stopped some of the self-induced suffering, the depression, the heartache? Why does the pain of my past still haunt me as I'm striving to make changes for the future? Why can't everyday be a great day?

I personally don't believe that God is in the quick-fix business (see Quick Fix post here). He is, however, in the business of turning what I see as ashes into a beautiful tapestry. He can take the pain I've tried so hard to keep buried down and hidden and use it to His glory. He is taking my past and using it to pave a road for my future. I just have to keep my eyes focused on Him, and allow Him to use my past, my present and my future as a life-offering, poured out for Him. Will everyday be a Great Day? As much as I'd love to say yes, my answer is probably not. I'll savor the days that are great and deal with the ones that aren't, but there is one truth that I am certain of: I have His joy in my every day!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

God Is Bigger Than...

...The Boogie Man.

You can tell I have kids when a Veggie Tales song comes so easily to mind (and then gets stuck there...I'll be singing this little ditty all day now!).

What does the Boogie Man represent to you?

To my kids, it's something Big. Scary. Insurmountable.

To me, it's also something Big. And Scary. And definitely insurmountable.

Frequently, that's how problems appear: big, scary, and as insurmountable obstacles. Problems like health issues, depression, learning disabilities, financial strain, loneliness, behavior concerns, marital worries...the list of problems, worries and concerns could go on and on. More often than not, these things make people want to give in to their worries and give up on fighting. Sometimes the fight is just so hard. I have been known to angrily shake my fist at God and tell Him that I don't think what I am dealing with is fair, and that I just am not strong enough to continue fighting.

Here's the deal: I'm not strong enough to keep fighting when I'm fighting using my own strength. I will quickly wear out when I take that approach, and let me tell you, it's lonely out there fighting on the front line all by yourself.

After years of struggling and attempting to solve my problems on my own, I am finally learning to do what the psalmist suggests in Psalm 62:8 "Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge".  God isn't just a back-up plan when all else fails; He IS the plan. His shoulders are strong enough to carry the weight of my burdens, and Exodus 14:14 promises that the Lord will fight for me.

Learning to let God show Himself to be bigger than my problems isn't easy by any means. It means I can't put Him in a box with my own ideals of who He is and what He does. Sometimes He seems so far away, and I've reasoned that He has much more important things to be concerned with than my little problems. But He sent His Son to die on the cross for me individually, and I count to Him. He loves me, He loves you, He loves everyone individually, He created us individually and He has promised to take care of each and every one of His creation (Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6:26). I'm not just a number in a large corporation to Him, I'm Heather. To Him, I'm the little girl who grew up on Cotton Hill Road, who was and still is as insecure as they come, who grew up and turned her back on Him, who is now a wife and mother and is desperately seeking to shake off the baggage of the past 35 years. I know I need Him in order to be a loving wife with a healthy marriage, I know I need Him to be a good mother and raise children who love Him, I know I need Him to be a friend with sound relationships, and I know I need Him to sort out all my problems with me. I'm not suggesting that just because God is involved that suddenly all my problems will shrink down to nothing and all but disappear. I'm saying that even though problems are...Big. And Scary...they are never insurmountable with Him. He is standing there on the front lines with me, fighting for me.

Matthew 6:34 "...do not worry about tomorrow...each day has enough trouble of its own".

Monday, May 14, 2012

Full of Thanks

Yesterday, an internal battle was being waged in my heart--and on Mother's Day, of all days! As the day wore on, I was fighting the urge to be really down on myself. Do you ever do that? Call yourself names (maybe only in your head? It still counts), chide yourself because you didn't do as good of a job at something as you thought you should have, scold yourself because you forgot something, or berate yourself because maybe you ate something you felt you shouldn't have. I haven't met someone yet who doesn't have a list of "no" foods, kept either in their heads, on the computer, or written on a sheet of paper. I know I have a list. It's in my head, kept for a myriad of reasons: unhealthy foods, foods that could contribute to heart disease and cancer, foods that are too high in sodium and/or sugar, foods that are too high in fat, foods that make my stomach hurt, foods that I just simply do not care for, foods that I am scared to eat...

Foods I am scared to eat?

Maybe some people don't have a list as long as I do, maybe some people's list is longer, and maybe there are a few that don't have a list at all. I'm not suggesting that one way is healthier for the general psyche than the other. But I can tell you one thing: being scared to eat is definitely not healthy, and I believe it does contribute to undue anxiety and stress in a person's life. Yet that is where I find myself, being scared to eat, when this war is being waged in my very soul. Can anyone else relate?

Yesterday, I found myself slipping into a funky mood. Not necessarily a bad mood. A funky mood, where enjoying my day with my family was quickly going by the wayside and focusing on my faults was looming front and center in my mind. I hate it when this happens, especially when I feel that I have no control over my mood. I've heard that it's hard to be in a bad mood if you force yourself to smile, but it wasn't working for me yesterday. On the outside, I could see myself getting quiet and pensive, not caring what we did as a family or if we did anything at all. What a sad way to spend Mother's Day!

As we went out to play catch with our kids, I found myself wishing I could just enjoy my day and be in a better mood.

Then I realized I didn't have to wish.

I have Christ, do I not?? And He is all powerful, is He not? And I can pray directly to Him, can I not?

As my grandma is fond of saying "You waitin' for the Spirit to move ya?"

I decided right then and there, with no further ado, that I would pray my way out of this funk I was in over all the ways I don't like my appearance. And by His grace and mercy, He heard my prayers and met me where I was. Then I started praying for some things that I was thankful for, like:

I am thankful that I can come out here and run around with my kids.
I am thankful that I have a fully functioning body, full of energy and life.
I am thankful for the freedom I have to pray.
I am thankful for the fact that all my senses work--I can see, hear, touch, smell and taste.
I am thankful that we can put food on our table, and hey, I can be a little choosy about the food I buy because all I have to do is drive to grocery store.
I am thankful that my husband loves me, loves our kids, and wants us to have a fun day together. 
I'm thankful that my heart pumps, my lungs breath air...
I'm thankful I'm alive!

I'm positive that's not the end of my list. If everyone took a minute to write down some things they are thankful for, it might take the focus off of the other stuff, maybe even bring it into perspective. Am I sooo grateful that my hips are a bit wider now than they used to be? Well, no, not really, but focusing on that seems so small when life is out there, waiting for me to join in the fun.

The battle never really goes completely away. As I laid my head on my pillow last night, I found myself asking God why this particular issue with my weight has to be so persistent. Sometimes it's like a dull pounding in my heart, something that I can at times successfully quiet but never really ever just goes away. I don't have the answer to that, but I do know that He isn't just sitting there, waiting for me to call on Him while He focuses on bigger issues. He's fighting the battle with me, right by my side, pouring out His mercy on me. Now that's something I am forever thankful for!

Then the cherubim lifted up their wings...and the glory of the God of Israel was over them. Ezekiel 11:22

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Do you care for pie?

I thought this was so cute...

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. ~Tenneva Jordan

Happy Mother's Day!!

My mom, my dad, and me! circa 1978

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Beautiful People


A Confident Heart by Rene Swope FB page

I think this goes for everybody...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Wrapped Up

As I sit here today, contemplating what to write about, I look at the globe that is directly in front of me on a small table. I found it at a local antique store, and I bought it because it was perfect for this room, appropriately aged but not too much so. As an adult, I don't take too much time to look at globes or maps, but when I do, I find them fascinating. I could look at the names of different countries for hours, and it's interesting to see how things have changed in our world since my little globe was made.

It's interesting, isn't it, to watch this world change and evolve? Maps are constantly shifting to reflect the changes we make, like new roads and buildings. I guess the only constant we have in this world is change. Sometimes, as I look at the globe, I start to realize what a small bubble I actually do live in. I don't watch a lot of world news or media-driven hype, because honestly it scares the living daylights out of me, but as a result I'm further drawn into this protective bubble I have around me.  If I allow myself to think about what goes on in the world beyond what I see, touch and hear everyday, then my eyes are opened to the fact that there is so much more to life than just me. I live a fairly selfish existence, but I don't necessarily intend to, and I say that will all sincerity. It's just that, like most people, I think about the things I need to get done, the things that bother me, the places I need to go, the people I need to see...you get the picture. And because my existence pretty much revolves around me and my family, I start to think about myself more and more...until I am in the center of my own little world: population-me.

When this happens, and regrettably, it happens daily, my problems tend to become bigger than the worlds problems, all other 7 billion people included. I don't think about the fact that there is a serious war going on in the Middle East, or that millions of people in China are living in severe and extreme poverty. I don't dwell on the devastating effects of war and genocide in Africa, the drug wars in Mexico, or that millions die from not having food or clean water. These people are just trying to survive day to day in the circumstances they have been handed. It's sad and depressing. But what's even more sad and depressing is that I am seemingly more concerned about my appearance, my weight, my own issues. My heart is caught in a vice-like grip of fear and anxiety about my weight, and being concerned about things like going out without makeup on, wondering who will see me and what will they think.

It's a lie.

I have been caught up in a lie that who I am is wrapped up in what I look like.

Sometimes, I imagine my heart being squeezed by a giant claw...and it keeps squeezing, and squeezing, and squeezing until all the life has been squeezed out and all that remains is a bitter, cold, despondent woman. I absolutely, positively do not want to be that woman. Learning to depend on God as my source of security and confidence will pour life back into my heart. Learning to see my worth as His child will pour life back into my heart, and that part of myself that was losing life will start pouring forth His love.

Life is more than about just me. Yes, I have significant insecurities that I am asking God to help me work out. But I wonder if I would be willing to burst my protective bubble, to step outside myself and see the world through another person's eyes...would my view of what is really important change? Would I begin to understand that life is about more than just wishing I looked like some girl out of the Victoria's Secret catalogue...and being depressed because I don't???

While appearance is important to me, I am starting to see that I can refuse to believe the lie that appearance is life. Appearance has been life for a long time for me. I've wasted a lot of time being wrapped up in my own little world--population: me. Now it's time to open up my life to God, to see what He has planned for me. Maybe the population in my world will grow...

Listen to this song by Matthew West: My Own Little World

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Strong Enough


Sometimes I look at other people who seem to have an abundance of faith and I wonder if I will ever get "there". Will I ever get to the point where I stop relying on myself and totally depend on God? I was talking with a friend yesterday who was telling about some people in her life, some really faithful, believing people, who had been experiencing what I would call modern-day miracles in their lives. I've heard stories such as these, stories of miraculous healings, tumors disappearing, money arriving at the 11th hour, and so on. I know you have, too, even though it seems there is a consensus out there who don't believe miracles happen anymore. Do they? They happened in the lives of my friend's friends.

My natural tendency is to take these stories with a grain of salt...until I need a miracle in my own life. Then I'm on the floor, begging for mercy and grace from the only One who can offer it. At times I say to Him what the psalmist said in Psalm 142:6 "Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need, rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me". Indeed, my pursuers are too strong for me, and I absolutely do not feel strong enough to keep them at bay for very long. My pursuers are things like insecurity, things that distract me from God, things that might turn my head and keep my focus off of Him. Everyone has them, but recognizing them is sometimes a challenge.

So where is my faith when I beg God to intervene? I have to admit, sometimes it's just not there. I hope He heard me and I also wish He would answer my prayer quickly, but it's not very often that I have a strong faith that He will actually come through.

Take the woman who had enough faith that He would heal her that she followed Him until she could just touch the hem of his cloak (Luke 8:40-48). She knew without a doubt that He could--and would--heal her. I guess there lies the rub for me: I do know He can heal and perform any miracle that He wants to; in other words, He is able. But my doubt starts cascading in when I wonder if He will.

Am I strong enough to have a strong faith?

Strong enough to believe that God's Word is true?

Strong enough to trust Him even when I don't see an answer to prayer?

The Bible provides answers for all of life's vexing questions, and all I have to do is search. In the process, I get to know God a little better, I get a little closer to Him, and I feel my faith strengthening a little more. Plenty of people throughout history have struggled with the question of faith. In Mark 9, a father needed Jesus to heal his son, but didn't know if He could. After Jesus tells the man that anything "is possible for one who believes", the man asks Him to "help [his] unbelief".  Some other people who have needed Jesus to help encourage their faith are the paralyzed man in Matthew 9, who had faithful friends, Peter, who needed a little extra faith in Matthew 14, and all of the disciples, who needed a boost in the faith department.

Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see". Hm. That causes me to pause for a minute to process.

In order to be strong enough to have faith, I think I need to take the first step: ask for it!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Desperately Seeking Beauty

Wow! After a fun weekend visiting with my sister, then my daughter staying home sick on Monday, a field trip to the Homestead Creamery on Tuesday and 6 ball games since Friday, I'm tired! And all of this hasn't left me much time to write. I've missed being able to share all that's been on my mind, so I'm glad my week has settled down some and I have a few minutes to spare.

Have you ever noticed that being tired leaves you very vulnerable and open to an onslaught of emotional ups and downs, as well as being weakened in the areas where you feel insecure? I saw a "20/20" type show one time where they studied people who were tired and the food choices they made, proving that people who get less than 8 hours of sleep per night are more prone to make unhealthy food choices and therefore encourage the cycle of being drained of physical and emotional energy. When I'm tired, I notice that my own behavior seems to parallel the findings of that study. The more disturbing thing is, I find that I suffer in my prayer life as well. I can't seem to concentrate, my thoughts flitting about like moths at a porch light.

Seeking affirmation through beauty is my most obvious insecurity. I find that I sometimes desperately seek to be beautiful so I can feel good about myself. And it's not just one or two people that I wish would confirm for me that I am a pretty person, it's every person I come across. Sometimes, people are kind, and whether they truly mean it or not, they pay a "pretty" compliment. Clink. One compliment in the bank...but how much more left to go? 100? 1,000? 100,000? I think the problem is that I don't always set my sights on my True Security, the One who can actually fill my bank so I don't have to go seeking out affirmation like a beggar. When I set my sights on Him, then that's all I need. When I don't, I'm left dying of thirst, hungry for the next compliment. What if that next compliment never came? What would I do then?

The woman at the well (John 4), as she is commonly referred to, was searching just like me. Jesus offered her the solution for her thirst: his salvation, the water of eternal life. When I continue to look to other people or places for my confidence and security, I will, without a doubt, be thirsty for those compliments again and again. They can never fill me up. But when I take what Jesus has to offer, I will never be thirsty again, because, He says, "the water that I will give...will become...a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14).


harvest.org


Sometimes it's hard to imagine a life where I'm not seeking another compliment, some sort of affirmation that I actually am what I've always hoped to be: beautiful. It's also hard to imagine a life where I'm satisfied with what I see in the mirror, where I stop comparing myself to unrealistic magazine photos and cover girls. I've just lived with the desire for so long that it's like second nature now. But when I do stop long enough to look to my Savior, even for a minute, I see that I don't have imagine that life of security in Him. It's already mine for the taking. It's not a hard thing, either. It's desperately seeking the source of life and security with one simple plea: Please help me.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Earrings and Drama

I could tell when she walked into the kitchen this morning that something was amiss.  Her eyes were red from crying and her nose was snuffly.  I was surprised by this sudden change in her countenance, as I had left her only minutes earlier happy and sunshine-y.  When I asked, she said in a wavy voice "I tried to put my earring back in and it won't go! It hurts, mama."  When I went to help her, though, she pulled away because she was afraid it would hurt even more. She wanted and needed my help, but was unwilling to let me help. She tried time and again to put the earring in herself, with no positive results. "Will it hurt, mommy? Will it hurt?" she asked over and over, eventually working herself up into a frenzy of tears.

Anna Beth (left, on a happier occasion) with 2 friends


Thankfully, earrings are about the worst kind of drama we have in our house so far. In our 9-year-olds world, when your earring won't go in, that's about as bad as it gets. Especially when you've been excited about switching to said new earrings for months.

I find that when I have a situation going on that is hurtful, just like Anna, I tend to try to deal with it myself--sometimes for a long time--and generally, with no positive results. I want God's help, I need God's help, but I'm mostly afraid that getting His help will only hurt more. Just like I told my daughter that she needed to trust me this morning, God is gently telling me that I need to trust Him. But I don't. I couldn't guarantee that putting that earring into her ear wouldn't hurt, but I knew that I could see what she couldn't: her entire ear. She could only see the front, and try as she might, it was impossible for her to see all that I could. I knew that I could help her more than she could help herself, even though there would be some pain associated with it.

Those painful situation in life are inevitable. Just like most people, I mistakenly assume that I can't rely on anyone else to help me. I assume that I am alone in the situation that I am facing, whether it be as minor as putting an earring in or something far more serious.  God promises: "It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed" (Deuteronomy 31:8).  There are many such promises in the Bible, here are just a few:

Deuteronomy 31:6
Joshua 1
Psalm 9:10
Psalm 94:14
Psalm 138:8

It is such a comfort to know that God knows my painful situation, and He knows how to handle it. He will never leave me, even when I don't trust Him fully. He stands by me anyhow, waiting for me to understand that He can see my situation from every angle, in ways that are impossible for me to see. This morning, I told my daughter through gritted teeth (after 10 minutes of drama, with the bus coming...) that she was making me crazy. I was ready to just be done with trying to convince her to let me help her. Thank goodness God will never be done trying to convince me to let Him help me. He loves His creation so much that He is willing to wait for as long as it takes. He is in ultimate, final, and total control. Not me. And it's so much better that way, because I don't have the pressure of having to fix everything. I can give it up to Him, lay my burdens at His feet, and trust that He will work all things together for good (Romans 8:28). Will it be painless? Surely not. We live on a broken planet with broken people who all need the healing grace of God. But will He do work in ways that are impossible for me because I am limited and He is limitless? You betcha!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Weighed Down

Every weekday at 6 AM, what I call the "race" begins. It's when my alarm clock goes off, I hit snooze, realize I've snoozed too long, and then hit the floor at a run, my mind going at what seems like a million miles an hour. Does this sound familiar to anybody out there?

Most of the time, it seems like there is too much to do, and not enough time to do it in. And this makes me very anxious.  I feel that familiar feeling somewhere deep down, almost like I have forgotten something very important that I was supposed to remember. I hate that feeling. Just that feeling alone makes me more anxious than I was previously, and before you know it I have worked myself up into a tizzy...but for what exactly? When I examine my heart, I know the reason: I'm afraid, curiously afraid, of not getting it all done. I could probably not even define for you exactly what "it all" would be, but I'm deathly afraid of not accomplishing it.

It seems a little spastic, I know.

I think this anxiety goes a little deeper than just not accomplishing my tasks for the day, because, to borrow a phrase from my dad: "why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?" But this has some truth behind it: there most likely will be a tomorrow and there are some things that do not have to be done today. Life is too short to be stressed about the small stuff--so why do I sweat the small stuff so bad?

Here's the truth: I am a perfectionist. I like things to be just so, and when they aren't, it causes me much distress. (Confession time: even my refrigerator shelves and kitchen cabinet shelves are labeled. And color coordinated with the food pyramid. Somebody out there will understand. I hope.). I am sometimes hard to live with, and having this "disorder" (if you will grant me the liberty to call it a disorder) called perfectionism also makes it hard to live with other people. Okay, it makes it hard to live with myself, because honestly, I annoy my own self. Especially when I'm the one who has left something undone or out of place (GASP!).

When I haven't gotten through the entire list of duties I've made for myself on any particular day (or even worse if I forget to do something), I in some ways feel like I have somehow failed, but I think the only person I am really failing is myself. It's tough to be so rigid and expect perfection in everything I do and at the same time actually enjoy life. Life is a gift, given to me by my Heavenly Father, who has absolutely zero expectations in the perfect department. He is the only one who can really claim the blue ribbon in perfection, but He does no such thing. He doesn't brag about being perfect, He only invites me to relax and walk along side of Him. He says to me: "[Heather], take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your [soul]. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:29-30).

REST sounds good, especially at 6am. But it sounds good to let my burdens rest on Him, to give Him my anxiety, because what the Proverbs say is true: [a]nxiety in a [persons] heart weighs [them] down (Proverbs 12:25).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Strangers

Strangers.

Sometimes that's how I feel when my husband and I are busy with life.

Right now, both of our kids are playing sports, and we will have had in one short weeks time 8 games. When you add that in with everything else life requires, it can get pretty hectic! Plus, Jon is coaching one team and assistant coaching the other. He's doing his best to work all day and perform all his coaching duties, so when you add in physical therapy for lower back issues and some family time to his already busy schedule, he comes home one exhausted man.

istockphoto.com

All this to say, this schedule we are currently entertaining leaves very little time for the two of us to grow our relationship. Right now, he has very little time for ME.

I don't say this to sound selfish, but a little part of me wants to be selfish with my man.  I want his time and attention. I need his time and attention. But he is spread so thin that he has nothing else to give right now, and without saying anything at all, he is asking me to understand and support him. Which, if I am willing to remove myself and what I want from the equation, I can do. And to take it a step further, I can do with a joyful and willing heart when I allow Christ to move in my spirit.

I love my husband.  I'm learning to do what Christ calls everyone to do in Philippians 2:1-4 (The Message): If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

I admit, sometimes I absolutely DO NOT want to put myself aside. And there are times I don't, like last Saturday, when I was in a bad mood and pulled him down into my own muck.  But by forgetting myself long enough to "lend a helping hand" as The Message so aptly puts it, then I am actually doing what I desired to do all along: growing our relationship.

See, here's the thing: this is only a season, just like much of life. You deal with the proverbial high mountains and low valleys. Too often, people are willing to give up when the low valleys come. Sometimes, the valleys seem to last much, much longer than the mountains, but I've learned that this is where I tend to learn the most. There will come a time when the tables will be turned, when I will be spread thin. That's what a relationship requires of us, this give and take dance--but at times it's hard to learn the steps. It requires God, actually, because this isn't something I can do on my own. Jon is the one God blessed me with, he is the one I love and chose to marry, and I need to make my best effort to lift him up so he can succeed. He's indubitably worth it.



The four of us last October in the NRV

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fact of Existence

"The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see." Hebrews 11:1 (MSG)

As I sit here contemplating this verse, I think about things in my past (well, actually, my present, too) that make life worth living. Things in my past like pleasing my mom whose temper was like a spark, waiting to be ignited. It was very important to me that she be HAPPY, because it made my life so much easier. Things like having a certain boy like me. And, of course, having the right friends, makeup, house, car, and of course, the ever constant desire to look perfect and be pretty...those things made life worth living. Then I grew up a little bit, and began to understand how things like my kids and my husband were definitely important in making life worth living. But somehow, those things that were important to me as a child and teenager never really lost their grip on my heart. While I've grown up and matured a lot, I still have this sense that if I didn't have the perfect body or if I wasn't pretty, then life would somehow be...diminished, maybe. Not that I think that it wouldn't be worth living, but in the back of my head I entertain the idea that it wouldn't be as good of a life. So I have put all sorts of pressure on myself to fit a certain ideal (that's in my head), and you know what?! All that pressure actually makes life less full. It's ironic, isn't it? That what I've worked toward, thinking it would make life better, has actually diminished it in a way.

I think the way that my life has been diminished has mainly been a lack of joy. A lack of living life to the absolute fullest because I have been so wrapped up in how I look. Because when you're wrapped up in how you look, you tend to be very focused on yourself, and when you don't think you look "good", (for example, when you don't have any makeup on and you're totally grungy and someone comes to the door OR when you've eaten a food on your "no" list, like a doughnut or candy bar) then you can't enjoy anything you do, even if it's something you would otherwise delight in. I remember one time when we visited my sister in the DC area and we went to a cool air and space museum (not THE air and space museum...that one is way cool, too). My family was together, the kids were excited...I was visiting my best friend, for goodness sake! But I couldn't get over how tight my pants felt that day. For whatever reason, whether it be PMS or too much salt, my perception was that they felt tighter than normal. It's important to note that this was simply my own perception, but my how it can affect the psyche! I even went so far as to go get some Diurex, you know that stuff that helps you lose water weight?  The point is that I was so caught up in how I felt (that being that I didn't look my personal best) that the trip, to the museum at least, was a wash for me. Think about what a good time I could have had. If only...unfortunately, I can't go back in time and enjoy it again.

At least God is loving and merciful. I can't go back, but I can move forward and learn from my foolishness and ignorance. I can go on a trip and enjoy it, and I am determined that I will, because I know something now that I didn't recognize then: that God and only God, makes life worth living.