Where Are You Looking?

Overwhelmed.

That’s how I felt last week. To be honest, I’ve felt that way numerous days since the new year began. For someone who doesn’t have an identic mind (like Sheldon Cooper on TBBT), I’ve been doing a significantly accurate job of remembering every problem and concern in my mind. Frankly, it has consumed me.

It all boils down to a conglomeration of worry about friends and family, relationships, finances, and fear of the unknown. I’ve been researching on Google and speaking with other people in similar circumstances. Wrapping my head around it has been nearly impossible.

I’m back in the ninth grade, standing at the chalkboard during Algebra 1, stuck in an equation. My stomach hurts. I’m having performance anxiety. The fear of failure is pervasive. Every time I try to solve, it is clear that I am just not equipped to do so. Then Mrs. Randleman gently takes the chalk from my hand, looks me in the eye and smiles. AT THAT MOMENT, I know that she KNOWS the answer and is going to help me find the answer. And she does.

God is waiting for me to “turn over the chalk.”

“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 16:8

I HAVE TAKEN MY EYES OFF GOD!

I’ve trusted in myself and forgotten to trust in the One who is always trustworthy. I’ve convinced myself that I’m smart enough to figure these things out and ignored the One who is Omnipotent. I’ve chosen to stomp through the high grass, hacking away at the underbrush, and crawling through uncharted territory, even though God can make a way when there seems to be no way (Philippians 2:13-14).

If you’re there with me in that “I can do it myself” mentality, let me ask you to just lay the burden down. You don’t even realize how heavy it is. If it helps, you can cry all the frustration out. I did, and when that was over, I cried out to God and confessed my sin to Him.

Don’t be surprised if you get tempted to pick it all up and try it your way again. That’s the urging of the devil. He will come to you in your weakest moments and say that you can handle this all on your own. Remember that the devil is a liar and the father of all lies. (John 8:44).

I am praying the promises of Psalm 121 and claiming them. For everyone who has lost sight of the Source of our strength, I’m praying for you and I ask that you pray for me.

Psalm 121:
1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.

4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.

6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.

8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

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Soul Survivor

There’s a reason the first three letters in the word DIEt are DIE.  Any diet I’ve ever been on has left me feeling deprived, alone, unhappy, and thinking “I’d rather DIE than go another day eating (or not eating) this way.”  I was always waiting, waiting, waiting for the day that I could ditch the diet meal plan and “eat normally” again.  I should add that what I truly meant was over-eat normally again.

My friend, Michele, and I did a Bible study together that started in January of this year.  This was the beginning of the new me.  If you’ve not read Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst, I highly recommend it.  It’s not a “how to” plan, so don’t look for recipes or sample menus in this book.  It’s all about gaining your “want to” where eating healthy is concerned.  This is a woman who has been in our over-sized pants!  She is a woman of God that decided that her temple needed better upkeep and discovered why she couldn’t do it with just will power — because it’s not about will power.  If it was about will power, then some people would do well from sheer determination and others would never leave the comfort of their easy chairs.

Do you want to lose weight?  And if you do, do you know why you want to lose weight?  Do you feel your current weight situation is unfair?  Do you feel like the whole world is conspiring against you?

As a Christian, I honestly have to tell you that my weight loss journey has not just been about the pounds, the food, or the exercise.  It’s mostly been about finding peace — the peace of knowing I am healthier; the peace of knowing that because I feel better, I can be more pro-active in my daily walk with God; the peace of knowing that food is no longer first place in my life and that God is.

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Here are a list of questions I used to make my “soul assessment” at the beginning of our Bible study.  How many of these apply to you?

  • I think about food way too much.
  • My food choices are mostly high in fat and/or sugar.
  • I feel embarrassed about my weight and appearance.
  • The thought of changing how I eat makes me feel sad.
  • I’m reluctant to bring this issue to God.
  • I have gained and lost weight too many times to count.
  • I feel defeated and discouraged about issues that deal with weight or food.
  • I don’t have as much physical energy as I once did and wish I had more.
  • When I need comfort, I turn to food before I turn to God.
  • I say negative things to myself:  “You’re so fat” or “You will never change.”
  • I’m not sure God even cares about how fat I am.
  • I feel guilty or embarrassed about what I eat or the size of my portions.
  • I have health issues that are weight-related.
  • I eat foods that are considered unhealthy several times a week, every week.
  • I am an emotional eater.
  • I sometimes feel like food is more powerful than I am.
  • I sometimes eat in private or hide food.
  • I avoid physically exerting myself.
  • When it comes to food and weight, I feel like I am trapped in a vicious cycle with no way out.

Based on your responses, which of these statements is true for you?  (Remember — be honest because no one will know this but you and you cannot change what you don’t acknowledge!)

  • Issues with food are not waging war on my soul.  I am healthy physically and spiritually.
  • Issues with food are a threat to my soul.  I deal with some of these occasionally.
  • Issue with food are waging an all-out war on my soul.  I have no peace.

Dear friends, you are like foreigners and strangers in this world. I beg you to avoid the evil things your bodies want to do that fight against your soul.  (I Peter 2:11, NCV)

If you know your soul is longing for peace, then I invite you to pray this prayer with me.  It’s my personal prayer from my prayer journal, dated January 1, 2013.  I used to pray it every day and still go back to it when I allow myself to replace God Almighty, who made me to crave Him alone, with the god of food.  I invite you to make it your personal prayer too.

Dear Lord:  You made me, every part of me.  I am wonderful and beautiful.  But I have replaced my love for You with my love for food.  What I realize now is that this has left me empty and lifeless.  I cannot be the person You’ve created me to be because my life is consumed with the folly of Taco Bell, Cheetos, and Samoa Girl Scout cookies.  I am not living to find out what I can do for You, but how I pack ten pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the outside freezer and then consume them without anyone knowing that I ate them all by myself — including the two I inhaled tonight.  I do not have peace.  I feel like Satan is hammering away at my sanity with this food obsession of mine.  So tonight, I give these things to You because I have proven to myself that I have no will power.  The only power I have is through You.  From the time I was a small child, I learned this scripture:  I can do all things through Christs who gives me strength.  (Philippians 4:13).  Until this second, I have believed that only in part.  When I get discouraged, remind me that I am Your child.  Remind me that I have all I need because of You.  Help me become the Sandy You created me to be.  I ask this prayer in the name of Your son, Jesus Christ, amen.

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God in a Box

Do you ever put God in a box?  By that I mean, do you decide before you even ask that God cannot accomplish something that you need or desire?  I don’t do it as much as I used to, but even after all He’s done to show me His greatness, I take His power for granted.  And yet, He manages to look past my small-minded faith and show me that He is still in control.

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Recently, God blew the sides off of a box that I had wrapped up tightly with layers and layers of emotional duct tape.  What happened is surely proof that nothing is impossible if God has His hand upon it.

Ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you.  Matthew 7:7 (NCV)

After my second back surgery in March 1992, I was never able to go back to my job as a public school teacher due to chronic pain and nerve damage.  I was distracted from that because in December 1992, God sent us Martin and Steven.  Motherhood helped fill the void somewhat, but there was always a part of me that felt like I was meant to do something more.

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In other posts I have shared that I’ve been a lifetime writer.  From childhood, I have written poems and stories and kept journals.  I was the editor of our literary publication in high school.  I was a contributor to Facets, a creative writing publication at Fayetteville State University, my college alma mater.  I’ve written for our local newspaper, The Fayetteville Observer.

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In 1998, I found a correspondence course outline entitled “Writing for Children and Teens” at The Institute for Children’s Literature (ICL) of West Redding, Connecticut.  After much prayer and discussion with Kelly, we paid the money for the course tuition.  The course materials arrived and that little piece of me that longed for “something more” was fulfilled.

I loved the fact that, within reason, I could set my own timeline for writing.  This was perfect for me because I could not always gauge the kind of pain day I was going to have.  (And to this day, I can’t gauge what kind of pain days I will have.  My plans are always tentative, at best.)  Once I started the course, the writing juices began to flow and I loved it.  I had just finished my fourth assignment for the ICL when the proverbial hammer slammed against the anvil of my life.

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After almost seven years of chronic pain management, worker’s compensation decided to put me through what I can only call hell.  They attacked my integrity and said I was lying about the pain.  They abused my body by sending me to company doctors who never had my well-being in mind and put me through unnecessary tests and procedures.  One doctor did surgery on me without ever looking at a single MRI or x-ray of my back…and he ADMITTED this to me.  It was their job to send me back to work, whether I actually could do it or not.  It was only after one of their hand-chosen doctors said, “Enough!  This woman is who she says she is and she is suffering even more than she can tell you.  Shame on you for making her jump through your hoops.”  And with that little speech, the hell ended, but not before the damage had been done.  I tossed my textbooks and other course materials in the garbage and sent ICL an email explaining that I was withdrawing from the course.

I stopped writing.  I stopped singing.  I stopped reading my Bible.  I stopped praying.  Basically, I just stopped living.  And I blamed God for it all.  Thankfully, God did not “stop” on me.  It took me two years to come back to what I call a normal, responsive human being.  With the help of a Christian therapist and a family that loved me unconditionally, the fires of that hell left only minor burns.

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Fast forward ten years.

Three weeks ago, I was sharing this part of my life with Claire.  She said, “Mom, you should really see if you can finish that writing course.”

“They wouldn’t even have my files after twelve years,”  I said.  “I wasted that opportunity.  Let that be a lesson for you — sometimes, you just don’t get a second chance.”

After she went to bed, I prayed and asked God to give me the strength to never waste another opportunity as a long as I live.

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Fast forward twenty-four hours.

I opened my email account and found an email from Judy Paige.  I don’t know a Judy Paige and I almost sent it to spam without a second thought.  Instead, I opened that email and find that Judy Paige is the student services coordinator for ICL.

I felt a chill down my back, as if someone had slipped an ice cube down my shirt, and I held my breath.

Ms. Paige informed me that she was reviewing student files who had withdrawn from the course before completion.  Since my tuition had been paid in full, she wondered if I’d like to re-enroll and complete the course.  ICL would even send me new course materials, if I chose to do this.  If this was something I’d be interested in doing, I would be allowed to start with assignment five, having previously completed assignments one through four.

Yes, everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And everyone who knocks will have the door opened.  Matthew 7:8 (NCV)

Don’t be afraid to ask.  (But be prepared for answers that you could never conceive.)

Don’t be afraid to search.  (But open your eyes wide so that you don’t miss what God puts before you.)

Don’t be afraid to knock.  (But know that if God opens it to you, it is an opportunity not to be missed.)

Guess what?  My new course materials arrived yesterday.

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