Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Struggle is Real

Lately, I've been compulsively watching "My 600lb. Life".  I can't get enough.  Something about the struggle of these people resonates somewhere deep in my soul.  It's a allegory.  I can relate.  The premise of each episode is 2 people hitting rock bottom with their weight soaring, health declining and at times paralyzed by their bodies, no longer able to care for themselves.  Each one begins a journey with a specialized Doctor, committed to do everything he can to help them lose their weight and regain their health.  Through following a very specific diet and exercise program and undergoing gastric bypass they begin a new journey and a completely new way of life.   Although, I don't really understand physically what they are experiencing, I do relate to being desperate for a change in my life.

In the beginning, most of the people are so desperate for a change and after consulting Dr. Now, they leave excited and in anticipation of a new start.  Most of them have to go home and lose a certain amount of weight to even qualify for the surgery.  Some are in such bad physical shape they wouldn't be able to handle the gastric bypass. Some can't walk and haven't been able to leave their beds for years, but everyone of them leave the Doctor's office ready and willing to do whatever it takes to have that surgery and begin their journey back to health and living again...  Every one of them is so sick of just surviving each day...  and I get that.

I get it.  I totally get being so fed up with your life and knowing that it could be different, it should be different.  Knowing that you could be living a whole new life, IF you decided today that you don't want to live this way any more.

Excited about the future and hopeful for the first time in a long time, they leave the Doctor's office and head home to rearrange everything in their lives.  Junk food out, healthy food in, exercise and living intentionally for the first time in decades.  Coming out of a numb existence, where you mindlessly do what you have always done and making decisions as if every one of them is life or death.

Amazingly, the results astonish, as they each begin to lose pounds by the dozen, and  some take literal steps for the first time in forever, life begins anew.  As the pounds melt away each patient goes to see Dr. Now again to learn their fate...  qualified for surgery or not.  Some do and some don't,  but either way they are undeterred in reaching their goals.  They give all they have to losing weight and having surgery with hopes of regaining a normal life somewhere in the future.

After having the surgery, the pounds begin to melt in much larger numbers, as they do each person undergoes an amazing transformation, losing 1/2 of themselves in a matter of months.  It's a baffling process to watch the complete transformation that takes place, as each person gains confidence and self-respect that had been lost long ago.

Strangely, it never fails that midway through this amazing process each person has a relapse.  They begin to eat things they shouldn't and stop moving like they should.  Shortly after they lose heart and become depressed and when they go back in to the see the Dr. he always asks, "What's going on?"

What's happening to slow down your progress.  What is going on in your life that has caused you to begin gaining again.  Dr. Now will send them to a therapist to dig deeper and find out what the issue is...  The therapist always asks the question "What is your trigger?"

As each patient talks it out they begin to see a pattern...  when this happens...  I do this.  I turn back to what I have always done.

When you are 600 pounds what you have always done can no longer work... because it's killing you.  What comforts you is actually destroying you.

I am not 600 pounds.  I am not addicted to food, although, I do turn to food for comfort on a regular basis, but that is not my thing.  I do have a thing though, a few to be honest, and they are not killing me quickly like a food addiction can, but running to them causes problems none the less.

This post isn't really about my crutch though...  It's about my trigger.  It's about me knowing that Jesus can meet all my needs and it's about me drawing near to him knowing that He is the answer to my every problem.  It's about me knowing that it's not my husband or my kids or my finances or homeschooling that is the problem.

I know that everything I need is in Jesus and I get desperate for a deeper walk with him.  I do the things I need to do...  like prayer and bible study and church and spending time with other people who love him, and I do good for a while, but somewhere along the way, when life happens and I let that trigger rule me, I turn and run away from Him (the source of all goodness in my life) and I veg out, numb out and run to things that I know are only going to hurt me.

Why???  Because it's comfortable.  It's what I know.  I can be mindless.  It's easy.   But my trigger makes me feel hopeless and I give into that hopelessness.  But it's a lie.

In my allegory Dr. Now is like God.  He wants to help and he has the wisdom and the ability to help me achieve every thing my heart desires.  He knows I can do this, but it's up to me to believe it too.

On the other side of that screen are all of us at home saying, "YOU CAN DO THIS."  Take one more step, pass that drive-thru, don't eat that burger, you don't have to live like this...  I imagine people in my own life, who are watching my struggle and see me turn back to destructive, lifeless substitutes, yelling at me through the screen, "You can do this.  I know it's hard and I know it hurts and I know you're tired, but you can do this."  You can have a life again.  You can lose the weight...  Dr. Now is right....  YOU CAN DO THIS.

Eventually, each person decides that the effort to change is worth all the discomfort.  The desire to live pushes them to try again...  and even though they know it's not going to be easy and it may take a long time to get where they want to be... they are convinced that there really is only one way to live the life they want.

We must do the same thing.  We have to decide that Jesus is better.  We have to believe we can do this.  Things are going to happen, but I can't keep using that excuse to give into my old comfortable way of coping.  In Christ we have all that we need to succeed, but we have to turn to him.  We have to be intentional.  We can't live numb.

Jesus said, "I am the bread of life.  No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry again, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again."

Psalms 34:8 "Taste and see that the Lord is good.  How happy is the person who takes refuge in Him."

"Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.  Pay attention and come to Me; listen, so that you will live."  Isaiah 55:1-3

Look friend, I don't know what your struggle is, but it's real.  I don't know what your trigger is, but it's powerful, I don't know what your drug is, but if it's not killing you quickly, it's killing you slowly.  It's stealing your joy and your hope.  Only Jesus can satisfy that hunger that keeps driving us all, but that means we have to pursue Him intentionally and be ready to feel, to face disappointment, to push through the pain to get to the gain.

The struggle is real...   but we can do this!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

When I can't save the world.

I want to do stuff and I can't and that's hard.

Sitting on the couch with a fussy 4yr old in my lap.  He's tired and maybe not feeling all that great.  I'm grumpy and the house is a wreck.  Kids are fighting and I know nothing is going to be accomplished today.

It feels like my life is insignificant a lot of the time.  I had big dreams of doing something for Jesus and then I had kids.  Kids are overwhelming.  Pregnancy is tiring. Babies are all-consuming.  Toddlers are toddlers.  Just when I thought I was out of the woods I realized that big kids need you just as much as little kids.  Saving the world has been put on the back burner.  The reality is that it took having kids for me to realize just how messed up I am... so I wouldn't have been much of a world saver anyway.

There is so much I wanted to do that I can't...  For years (13 to be exact) I have wrestled with feelings of insignificance.  I think we all struggle with the idea of doing something that means something.   Our culture is especially affected by the idea of fame and fortune and being someone special.  So, what happens when we can't do stuff or be someone or save the world?

What happens when you're pregnant and sick and tired?  What happens when it's flu season and you can't leave your house for 3 months, because every single time you do, you come home with a sick kid?!  What happens when your life consists of sitting on the couch holding little people?  Instead of mission work, your days are full of laundry and dishes.  Instead of taking care of orphans and widows, you feel mired down by the weight of parenting, knowing you can't even do one more thing?

Through the years of wrestling with all this, I have found a few verses in the Bible that have given me lot of comfort and I wanted to share them with you, if you, like me feel like you're not doing enough, but you know you can't do anymore.

"He protects his flock like a shepherd; he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them in the fold of his garment.  He gently leads those that are nursing."  Isaiah 40:11  another translation says "those that are with young"...  The idea with this verse is that God is a Shepherd who leads his flock and sets the pace with those who are most venerable.  He leads the flock gently and carries the little lambs in the fold of his garment.  He's not in any hurry.  There is no rush with Jesus... He is the Good Shepherd.

In Psalms 23... the shepherd boy turned king says,

"The Lord is my Shepherd
I shall not lack.
He makes me lie down in green pastures:
He leads me beside still waters."

He makes me lie down...  when I need rest He takes me to a quiet place and makes me lie down.

"Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."  Matt. 11:28

When Jesus is talking about rest here he is talking about resting from striving.  Resting from trying to prove your worth and value.  Jesus is our Sabbath Rest.  We can stop and we can rest, knowing that where we are and what is going on in our lives is right where we need to be...  So, momma if the only world saving you are doing right now is holding a little baby in your arms... rest in that.  If all you can accomplish right now is loving your family and mothering well, rest in that.  Let the Good Shepherd take the lead and set the pace.

King David loved the Lord, who had taken him from the sheep folds to be king over Israel.  He wanted to show his love to God by building his temple.  David called Nathan the prophet to him and said, "I want to build a temple for the Lord."  Nathan told him to do whatever was in his heart, but that night God spoke to Nathan and told him to go back to David and tell him these words...

":Are you to build a house for ME to live in?  From the time I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until today I have not lived in a house; instead, I have been moving around with a tent as my dwelling.  In all my journeys with all the Israelites, have I ever asked anyone among the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel: Why haven't you built me a house of cedar?"

"This is what you are to say to my servant David: 'I took you from the pasture and from following the sheep to be ruler over my people Israel.  I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have destroyed your enemies before you.  I will make your name for you like that of the greatest of the land........ The Lord declares to you (David): The Lord Himself will make a house for you."

I love this story.  It reminds me that it's not really about me saving the world or doing great things.... It's about Jesus doing great things for me.  I can rest in Him.  I can let him take the lead and set the pace and if the only thing I get done for Jesus today is loving my family... that's right where I need to be.   

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

When I put me first.

Today, like most other Americans, who have made New Year's resolutions, I started my day with a healthy breakfast and restarted my work-out routine.  I have gained 10 pounds since Thanksgiving and even though I have been busy, I haven't been active.  My diet has been a disaster and honestly, I have been feeling like crap.

I have no energy, no motivation, no desire to do ANYTHING.  You can imagine with me then what my house looks like with five kids.  When my house is a wreck I become the ranting, nagging, crazy woman no one wants to live with.  I feel overwhelmed, under appreciated and frustrated.

Worse still is the way I feel about myself.  I feel fat.  I feel ugly.  I feel old and wrinkly.  I don't feel attractive, so I don't act very attractively to my husband, which in turn negatively affects our relationship.

It's amazing the way you feel about yourself affects the way you view the world around you.  How quickly blessings turn to burdens, when you're tired, grumpy and feeling frumpy.

But, this morning I feel good.  I didn't use the excuse of crappy sleep (which I have had for weeks, because my two youngest sons have been up every night), like I did yesterday.  I got up and put my running shoes on(not that they have ever been used for running), because I knew they would motivate me to get up and do something.  I ate a healthy breakfast, instead of drinking coffee until 2pm, took my vitamins and started drinking water.  Even though I really didn't want to and I didn't really have the energy to do a workout, I turned a video on anyway, and let the cute, cheerful, fit instructor lend me the courage to start all over again.  I'm not gonna lie... I didn't make it all the way through the 30min video this time, BUT I did do some yoga after and that was AMAZING, heard my vertebrae pop back into their proper place and worked out that crick I've had in my neck for 2 months. Surprisingly,  I was still feeling pretty good after that and TBH, my kids were getting on my nerves, so I took a 2 mile walk. WOW... I forgot about fresh air and sunshine.  

After making myself a smoothie, I jumped in the shower, AND shaved my legs...  cuz, well I was feeling pretty darn good about myself.  Already I could imagine that my abs, hidden under years of flab, were trying to make an appearance and is it me or does my skin simply glow now?!?!?!  Could be ALL in my head, but I'll take it.  I even decided a little make-up might make me feel human again, so hair did, make-up on... Look out world you can't stop me now.

I might be starting all over again, but if I'm feeling this good on day 1...  can you even imagine me in a couple weeks.

I use to think it was selfish to take time out for me.  The bible does say we have to die to ourselves and put others before ourselves... so I took that quite literally.  I took care of my kids and really didn't do very much for me.  I hated exercise and I wanted to eat crap food, but that was just my preference...   I didn't do things like get away by myself, have time with friends (without kids) or even date nights with my husband.  I felt guilty when I was tired and needed rest and never said no.  I was also miserable, because all those things are important.  All of those areas of my life needed time and energy.

This was years ago and I have had to learn that neglecting me is not really what Jesus was talking about...  In fact Jesus says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and all your strength.  The second is this: 'Love your neighbor AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF." Mark 12:30-31

You have to love yourself to be able to love others well.  You need to take care of yourself to take care of others.  You need a full body, mind, soul, daily routine of self love to love anyone well.

Our Savior understood this...

"And in the morning, rising a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and they that were with him followed him.  And when they found him, they said, 'All men seek for you."  Mark 1:35-38

Even though there were crowds of people looking for him, he took off to a solitary place and spent time with his Father.  This was his custom every day.  Another time we see him tell his disciples to cast off, away from the crowds and he falls asleep in the boat.  Other times we see him call his disciples up on the mountain to be alone with him.

Look at Mark 6:31"And he said unto them, 'Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest awhile."  For many people were coming and going, and they didn't even have time to eat."

Oh, sisters... that sounds like being a mom, doesn't it.

Jesus told his disciples to come away to remote place, so they could at least enjoy a meal with him.  We need the same thing.  First and foremost, we need alone time with Jesus.  We also need to take care of ourselves.  The science backs this up... we all know that healthy food gives our bodies what they need to thrive and everyday there is increasing evidence of the benefits of exercise... from relieving stress to feeling sexier and having glowing skin... what mom could not use ALL OF THAT and many more good things.

Our relationships need alone time as well, to reconnect and revive, whether that's time with our spouse or alone time with each of our children and time with friends or any other relationship that is important to us.

It's a New Year and another chance to give the best we've got.  It's that time of year that we start over and reevaluate what is important...  So, put yourself first today.  Take care of you.  Do good to yourself so that you can do good for others!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Prisoner of War

In Concentration camps, throughout Germany, rumors circulated that the Allies had come to the rescue.  It wouldn't be long and this war would be over and the horrors that millions had suffered would be a memory, instead of a constant living hell.  Rumors, whispers were enough to give some hope to stay alive, but for others it wasn't enough, day after day, people searched for ways to end it all.   It doesn't take long for the reality of your daily misery to make you forget all the joy behind you and the hope of the future set before you.

Imagine with me, day after day, of fear, starvation, human suffering to a degree I pray to never fully understand.  The atrocities and humiliation of prisoners of war, you can only know if you have experienced it.   The misery of always thinking and hoping this would be your last day...  This has been your reality so long you aren't sure you have the strength to believe you will be rescued from this hell.  But you've heard the rumors.  You want to hope, but day after day it's the same...  you're a prisoner of war, in the camp of your enemy.

Searching the skies, listening for a distant rumble, waiting.   You've heard the rumors, THE WAR IS OVER.  The enemy has been defeated.  The Allies have WON... but where is the rescue.  Who will set the captives free?

It's been more than 2000 years since we heard "THE WAR IS OVER."  Mark's gospel (good news) heralds "Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

"Jesus went through Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God: The time is fulfilled, and the KINGDOM OF GOD has come near." Mark 1:15

On the cross, our Savior, delivers the death blow to our enemies.  His ultimate act of war, having risen from the grave, conquering death...  He ascends to his throne as the reining King of kings.

But, we are still on enemy turf.  The enemy has been defeated, but we're still down here waiting to be rescued.

The Bible tells us that we are in a war.  From the beginning to the end the Bible is an epic, a saga, a chronicle of the war that is being played out until the Reigning King comes to claim his people.

In ancient times the conquering king would send out heralds to the cities with the "gospel" - the good news... "We have fought for you, we have won, and now you're no longer slaves; you're free."  -Timothy Keller.

Jesus the conquering King had defeated the enemy and he has sent out the good news through the Gospels...  We are His now.  We are free now.  He is coming to take us home soon.

Getting personal though and to be honest...  I feel like one of those prisoners in the enemy camp.  I hear the rumors.  I keep hoping I will see the rescue, but sometimes I can't see past this camp.   I have a hard time believing there is an rescue coming.

The enemy is so good at psychological warfare.  Yes, I believe there is a real spiritual enemy.  He has many names in the Bible; satan, the devil, Lucifer, the serpent...but his most telling name is the "father of lies".  He is the master deceiver.  He knows how to steal hope and kill joy.  From the beginning he cast suspicion on God's character and lures God's people away from him.  He continues to the same thing today.

Over the loud speaker of our minds he screams lies to make us doubt all that God has told us through his Word.  I feel like I am in a constant battle to hold onto and believe what I know to be true....  Jesus is my Savior, He is coming again, and He is preparing a place for me.

Christian, this is a war and we are still on the battlefield.  We are fighting the battle to Believe... We are fighting constantly to hold on to the ground that we have gained through faith.

The Bible tells us that satan is the "god of this age" 2 Cor. 4:4 and the "prince of the power of the air" Eph. 2:2, and "ruler of this world" Eph. 12:31.  As long as we are in this world we are deep in enemy territory.  This place is not our home, but let us hold on to and remember that we do have a home.  We all feel and know that this place doesn't feel right.  Eternity has been set in our hearts.  We have a longing for that place.  We may still be fighting battle, but the War has already been won.  As we are waiting to be rescued, let us not give up on what we know to be true.  The KING is coming.  The stories that we have heard are true.  Keep the hope alive.

Corrie Ten Boom, a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, suffered the same atrocities as others, however, she was able to keep her hope alive during her imprisonment, by reading a small pocket Bible she had been able to sneak into the camp.  She and her sister Betsie held worship services in their barracks with other women.   Corrie Ten Boom said that when they opened that Bible they "would hear the LIFE-GIVING words passed along the aisles in French, Polish, Russian, Czech, and back into Dutch.  They were little previews of heaven, these evenings beneath the light."

Heaven is never more real to us than when we suffer on earth.  If you are going through a hard time, maybe you're ready to give up the fight, you're tired of holding on...  you're not sure if you even believe all this anymore.. grab your sword, open it up and refresh your soul again with the words of life.  Drink deeply of the life giving Word of God and believe that your King is Coming, the War is over... we're just waiting for the rescue.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Facing the Giants...

My heart dropped into my stomach.  Tears rushed to my eyes.  My mind went to places no football mom wants to go to.  Broken legs, concussions and torn ACL....  My baby is sitting in the far end zone with his team, waiting for his game to begin.  A rag-tag group of 11-12 year olds.   A few are taller than  me, but some of them look more like 8 year olds, with tiny spindly arms and just enough weight that wind won't blow them over.  Hyped up and ready to do what they love...  football.  When a group of players from the team they will be facing walk by and every jaw dropped from our side of the stadium.  There was no way these could be 6th and 7th graders...  They were huge and they had more swagger than P Diddy...

The "Intimidation Walk" as it was termed did exactly what it was supposed to do.  Our football players became little boys again.  They lost there heart right in that moment.  Not only were they going to lose this game, they were going to get crushed. 

Immediately I started praying.  My kid was one of the biggest on our team, but he was a baby compared to what he was going to be playing against.  Even though he was my biggest concern, the other kids that were a 1/3 of the size of these boy/men had me even more nervous.

When It was finally time for the boys to go out on the field, I watched heartsick, as they trudged to the center of the field to meet the opposing team.  There was a handshake, then confusion, and finally a delay.  In the stands we have no way of knowing what's going on... but we had been told that there were players from the previous game that were disqualified for being older and playing down.  I could only hope and pray that's what was happening down on that field, because surely those were men and not boys.  There had to be facial hair and muscles that could tell the story. 

After several minutes of the officials and coaches talking, we saw 5 or 6 of the other teams players walking off the field.  Then we heard mom's from the other side yelling about how we had some big players too and it wasn't fair to send their kids home.  Relief!  Some of the giants were disqualified.  But that still left 9-10 very impressive football players. 

The game went as expected.  The giants played a really good game of football.  They played the way I would love our boys to play, but they were huge.  They crashed through the O-line time and time again and when they reached our little quarterback they slammed him to the ground.  One time he laid there on the ground for 5 minutes and it looked like he was knocked out, but thankfully he was able to hobble over to the bench and stay there for the rest of the game.  

On that play the guy blocking our quarterback was so intimidated he just stepped aside and let our QB get crushed.  Who could blame him???  Not this mom. 

Play after play they crushed our O-line and kept us from scoring a point.  They laughed and jeered.  They talked smack, as did their parents who were making fun of our kids for getting hurt.   Even when they were up by 31 points, they kicked onside kicks and recovered the ball over and over again.  To say they demolished us would be an understatement.  It was a sound defeat and it hurt.

After the game the other team was jawing about how bad they beat us and how much we stink.  Even the parents were talking smack to our sad little team.  At one point a mom from our side said "Of  course you won...  you had 15yr olds playing against 11-12yr olds."  The mom from the other team said "No, he(her son I guess) is only 13."  Only 13 is still too old and he was one of the kids who didn't get sent home.  How old were they?

It's always tough to go home the loser, but this one really stunk.  It felt unfair, impossible even.  My son played one of the best defensive games of his life.  He loves that kind of challenge and I was so proud of him.  He knew from the beginning there was no way they could win, but that didn't stop him from playing his heart out.  He sacked, he picked, he plowed through their O-line, but he lost.  Play after play when the score board said "give's no use"...  he played his position to the best of his ability to the last play of the game.  He has more heart than I do.  But, he still lost... bad. 

Sadly, we were gonna have to play this team again.  It was hard to make it through that game, much less endure another one just like it.

The next day, we received an email from our league...  The "giants" had been disqualified for integrity issues.  As suspected all that swagger couldn't belong to boys who had yet to go through puberty.  Disqualified.  It didn't count and won't be playing them again. 

Yeah all that jawing...  for nothing. 

That reminds of another story.   You know the one where the 12 guys are following this one guy around, who claims to be the Savior of the world.  You know the one where that guy gets put  on trial for blasphemy and sentenced to death.  The one where he is beaten to the point of no longer resembling the man he once was.  The man who was mocked and his beard pulled out and spat upon.  The man who carried a roman cross on his beaten and bloodied back, with a crown  of thorns crushed into his head.  The man who was nailed to a cross for healing the blind and making the lame walk.  The one who died beside  common criminals.  Yeah it reminded me of how those guys, who had laid everything on the line and followed this guy they thought was Messiah.  Now here they are staring up at him on a cross.  Defeated.  Disillusioned.  Confused. 

The enemy is simply giddy.  He's won.  He played dirty.  He screaming from the roof tops...  It's over.  All is lost.  NOW WHAT??????

Those guys have no idea what to do now.  The guy with all the answers is gone.  It's over.  He's buried inside a tomb. 

BUT, that's NOT the end.  It's just the beginning.  Early in the morning on the 3rd day they get the call.  He's not there.  He's RISEN.  Death, lies, sin, shame, the enemy of our souls...  all DEFEATED. 

Death disqualified.  He is Risen.  Hope is restored.  Jesus conquers the enemy. 

11 men are overwhelmed and can't believe what they are hearing.... He's ALIVE.  Everything is going to be OK. 

David asked the question many times...  Why does my enemy prosper?  Sometimes it looks like the bad guy always wins...  but that's not the end of the story.

There have been so many times following Jesus and doing what he wants me to do, has put me on a field, staring across from an opponent who is stronger than me, tougher than me, he understand the game better than I do.  The other team crushes through my o-line and knocks me to the ground.  I've been know to lay right there and not get up.  I don't have the heart to try again.  I want the coach to put me on the bench and forget about me.  The other team is jawing at me with all their puberty laced testosterone and I'm shaking in my boots.  I'm not the kid who thrives off stiff competition.  I'm the kid that turns sideways and just lets the enemy run through. 

But, GOD,  help me to remember that even though I might be weak and not much of a player, even though I will lose a lot of games...  The end of the story is I'm on the winning team.  The star player has won the super bowl already.  The enemy will be defeated.  You want me to get back up again.  You want me to hold on to the TRUTH... that IF God be for me, who can be against me.  You want me to remember how much glory you get using the weak things of the world to confound the wise. 

You used a young shepherd boy to slay a 9 ft. tall giant and you can use me, no matter how impossible that might seem. 

It's hard to remember and sometimes the game "looks" so lopsided that you start to believe that it's all for nothing  and it would be better to give up...  but keep your eyes fixed on the truth that Jesus already won the game...  Just keep playing your position til it's over.  Get back up again.  Shake it off.  He's got this!