St. Jude 10K: Hiding a Mountain of Sin Behind How Well I Comply.

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All the dynamics of the physical overhaul of my life have been at play this week. I would love to simply report my compliance to my running schedule, because I am highly skilled at hiding a mountain of sin behind how well I comply. Yet, the truth remains that a person can truly go off the rails internally while appearing to be right on track externally, and that, in a nutshell, sums up the last few weeks of my physical health.

Therefore, in an effort to bring my internal and external world more in line with each other, I’m going to lay the truth out there. First, I fell off the food tracking wagon about 3 weeks ago. My life got really busy, and I would legitimately forget to check in. I was still losing weight, so I felt no need to change my behavior even after my life slowed down. Thus began the slippery slope…

Next, the short morning exercise routines started to become less consistent. It is no surprise that I began to gain weight back at this point. Unfazed, I continued to be lax about my food intake and my exercise routine. When I was well enough to get back to my running schedule, the consistent running allowed me to justify increasing my food intake, i.e. allowed me to justify eating large quantities of junk food.

For 3 weeks, I have gained weight back. Not only that, I have experienced the aches and pains and physical complaints that had just resolved when I started consistently eating well and exercising. I ignored all the evidence and justified carrying on in my old patterns. To wrap this neatly in a bow, the old habits still live, and I still have work to do on my mental and emotional game to really care for my health the way I am called to care for my health.

The plan for week 4 is to shift my course to get back on track, which means once again going through the painful process of killing the sugar monster. That beast is my greatest nemesis. It also means finding a way to increase my personal accountability and taking a deeper look at this pattern of self-sabotage I have going on. Ironically enough, I had a video in my email this week about that very issue, so it seems like a good idea to unbury from the mountain of emails and actually watch it. Finally, I’m going to let myself feel the victory of recognizing I was off course and taking the initiative to make a change after 3 weeks rather than letting it go for 3 months or 3 years!

That last piece is crucially important. Overhauls of any sort do not occur in big pieces or in short durations of time. It is all about the long game. It is about incremental change over a long period of time to reach an ultimate goal. As much as I rail against our culture of immediate gratification, I’m lying to myself when I believe that I am somehow above that particular struggle and that the greater culture hasn’t affected me in that way. It is that lie that keeps me incrementally sliding down the slippery slope of my bad habits.

This week, I make the turn to begin the climb back up. If you have any personal experience with this struggle, I’d love to hear your experience, your victories, your struggles, your strategies, and most of all, your heart change through the process.

As always, if you have heart for the work St. Jude does for children battling cancer, please visit my fundraising page: http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=3466532&pg=personal&fr_id=59186

 

Redemption in Divorce

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If I had remained married, today would have been my anniversary. This day has become like the New Year’s holiday to me, because I tend to reflect deeply about the time that has passed and the time that lies before me. I do not set goals like I may choose to do for a New Year, and I guess this is where my holiday analogy would move toward Thanksgiving. On this day, I find myself so very, very thankful and deeply humbled at the redemption the Lord has brought to my life, which leads to a story that I haven’t shared with many people until this moment.

When my marriage reached the pinnacle of insanity, I dug into my Bible looking for answers. At least, I thought I was looking for answers, but I was really looking for justifications. I was using what I was reading in the Bible to prop up my own insane thinking and to justify continued efforts to ignore all the very obvious evidence that my child and I were in very real danger. I would pray for protection, for 10,000 angels to form a protective perimeter around my house, but I would not leave. I would not leave, because “God hates divorce”, “the husband is the head of the wife”, and “wives obey your husbands” (that was my ex-husband’s favorite) and all those other scriptures, not to mention all the Christian judgments that have become so deeply ingrained in some sectors of Christian culture that they are mistaken as scriptures, were perpetuating the same cycle of shame as the abuse I was enduring. I was trapped by “my faith”. My ex-husband knew it and I knew, and he exploited it for all that he could.

It was not long until I reached a place of such deep mental and emotional anguish that I cried out to God from a place so deep in my soul that I never knew it existed. And you know what, He answered me. Clear as day, He answered me with, “If you will trust me to lead you out of this, I will give it all back to you. Family, friends, everything that you’ve lost will be restored to you”. In that moment, scenes from the last year of my life flashed across my mind, and I recognized them as opportunities God had put before me to escape that I hadn’t taken.

You might think that I packed us up and hit the road right then, but I did not. Trust was not something I was in possession of at that time. My head was all messed up, and I had a long history of poor judgment to prove it. Trusting God to lead me out of that deep hole was out of the question at that time, but like Gideon and so many others, I kept asking for confirmation. I bought a little notebook at the dollar store and carried it around in my bag everywhere I went. All day long for months and months, I would write my prayers and questions for God in my notebook, and when those answers came, I wrote them in my notebook too. In this way, I started building trust with God. He started giving me small successes that helped me begin to trust my judgment again.

That process played out for a year or so, and I finally did leave. And you know what? Only 2 people threw the whole “God hates divorce” thing up at me. One of them was my ex-husband and one of them was another man who had chosen to exit my life for the entire 8 months of my divorce process, and therefore knew next to nothing about what was going on but chose to levy his opinion against me the week that my divorce was final. It makes me wonder what those 2 men have in common that out of all the people who knew the scenario, from professional counselors to preachers to close friends and family, that only those 2 men expressed eerily similar opinions that had I followed them would have kept me in danger. It begs the question: what compels us to use the Bible the way we do, much like a shield to hide our secret sins? But this I know without a doubt: everyone’s secret sin will be exposed at one point or another. All houses built on sand eventually fall. I’ve spent years crawling out of my own collapsed house of sand, learning what true repentance means, trying to show my family and friends that I understand and take full responsibility for the ways that I went wrong, and that I intend to spend every day of the rest of my life following the path that God has laid out for me.

With that being said, let’s go back to the promise God gave me the day that I stood in the bedroom of my beach duplex, face to the ceiling, crying out for relief. The best part of today is looking back and counting the ways He has been faithful to that promise over the years. The first year, I won the right to move out of state from the Florida Court. The next year, I accepted a job that would allow me to support my little family. This year, May Lee and I moved into our very own home. And that is just the “big” stuff! I see His promise answered in some small way just about every week, whether its rekindling relationships that were lost to the chaos of my marriage and divorce, new relationships that have come into my life, advances at work, being able to enjoy experiences that I never thought I would be able to have again, and being able to dust off and reignite talents that have been dormant under the heavy frost of trauma for so long.

All of those things are so very awesome, and I will admit that I am amazed and deeply humbled every time I recognize a new layer of His promise coming to fruition. But I think the best part is yet to come. Some day, when someone else’s sandcastle collapses and all their secret sin is revealed to what feels like the entire world, I’ll be there to help them dig out the way only someone who has had the same experience can. One day, my story is going to help someone else see the light at the end of the tunnel, as well as the light of the One who wants to restore everything they have lost. That will be a great day, my friends. Who knows, maybe that will be one of the experiences I’ll be sharing with you a year from today. Either way, today I trust in His promise fully. I trust the instincts and ability to use good judgment that He has restored to health within me, and I know that goodness and adventure lie ahead.

AMEN.

Eunice Gave Me Some of Her Giddy-Up, and It Has Been Glorious

For a period of several months during my morning quiet time, the itch to get back into writing tickled the back of my mind. God really uses that morning quiet time to put things on my heart, and He’d been pressing the writing issue quite a bit while I, in turn, was faithfully ignoring Him. All the standard objections were levied: I haven’t written in years, I have nothing to say, I don’t have the time…and so on.

In the middle of this cosmic volley of divine requests and pathetic excuses, I received an e-mail invitation to fill out a form and potentially be a part of a book launch team for Sophie Hudson’s new book, Giddy Up Eunice. I was delighted by the thought, because I love her books and it was kind of like a Gideon-and-the-fleece moment for me. “Ok Lord, you say you want me to write, so I’ll know you’re serious if I get selected for this thing.” So, I filled out the form and almost immediately forgot about the launch team, because I fill out lots of these types of forms and I have yet to win any of Dave Ramsey’s money. I did, however, make a mental note of the release date for the book, because I wasn’t missing out on that action.

Let me tell you a little bit about my journey with Sophie Hudson’s books. I cannot remember the where, when, or how of my discovery of A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet, but it was shortly after I relocated from Florida to Arkansas. May Lee and I were living in my parents’ house while recovering from divorce and the insanity that led to the divorce. I was back home but didn’t really know how to be back home. A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet brought wave after nostalgic wave of home and family history, and it really helped break the ice of being back home after a very long ordeal. It also made me laugh until I had to put the book down and wipe the tears from my eyes so that I could see to continue reading. Straight up, uncontrollable belly laughs, my friends.

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If A Little Salty broke the ice around my heart while also turning my giggle box upside down, Home is Where My People Are took the thawing out to the next level. Sophie’s stories felt so familiar to me that they took me back to a time and place before all the heartache and helped me remember what having true friends and family was like, how much I was missing out on by sitting on the sidelines, and how deeply I wanted those kinds of relationships back in my life. It really renewed my motivation to start bringing down some of those emotional walls and try to genuinely engage in relationships again. And like before, Sophie had me crying both tears of laughter and tears of genuine heartfelt emotion.

Then the day arrived that I opened my e-mail and received the notice that I had in fact been chosen for the Giddy Up, Eunice launch team. At this point, God had put a name for a blog on my heart, and now He had responded to my Gideon-esque launch team fleece. So naturally, I immediately obeyed. Just kidding, I have a hard head, so what I really did was take it to my spiritual running partner who tried not to knock me over the head as she kindly stated, “I think you need to write a blog”.

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Eunice arrived at my doorstep soon thereafter, and I read that thing like my life depended on it. I usually read slowly, only reading small sections at a time so that my mind can digest the content. Not so with Eunice. I couldn’t seem to put it down, and when I hit the pages where Sophie hops on her soapbox and demands that we not discount our importance and STAY IN IT, I was ugly crying. Honestly, I’m getting a little misty-eyed right now just telling you about it. Powerful stuff, ladies.

But it didn’t stop there. Oh no, the hits just kept on coming. I came to the pages where Sophie recounts all of her doubts about writing and they happened to be pretty much identical to my own fears: “what if people don’t read it? Or worse, what if people read it?! I feel icky about sharing my feelings!!!” But then Sophie’s wise friend asks her if she believes God gave her the words. When Sophie says yes, the friend lovingly commands her to trust Him with it. “YOU TRUST HIM WITH IT.” Deeply convicted doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings after reading that passage.

If A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet and Home is Where My People Are were gentle icebreakers and sweet reminders of the joys of living life, Giddy Up, Eunice was the swift kick in the rear that I needed to actually get going and make a move. The next day, I started this blog. While reading Eunice, I participated in a women’s walking/running group that ended with a 5K, I started working with my running partner to generate ideas about how to serve the women of this community, and I finally got involved with my church by volunteering in the 2nd grade.

Like all of the other books, Eunice came just when I needed her. I’ve started reading the book again and in small sections so my brain can really digest the content. This time, not only did I get a great reading experience, I got the wonderful fellowship of the ladies on the launch team. It has been a joy, and I am truly grateful for the whole experience. Now, I highly encourage each and every one of you to Giddy Up!

https://www.amazon.com/Giddy-Up-Eunice-Because-Women/dp/1433643111

http://boomama.net

 

 

When pink Converse fly…

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I have a very fashion-forward 5 year old. She has been known to offer fashion critiques to me, such as “you may want to take a break from jeans for a little while” and “you never did learn how to do hair, did you”. We were in the Payless recently to buy new shoes for spring and summer, and at one point my daughter was sitting in the middle of the aisle clutching multiple shoe boxes while crying “I don’t have enough shoes! I need all the shoes!”. All of that to say, for a child who seemingly invests her entire heart into her footwear, she doesn’t keep shoes on for a second longer than she has to.

As a result, pretty much every day when I come to pick her up from my parent’s house, we have to hunt for shoes. It goes something like this : “Where are your shoes? Where did you leave them last? You have to look with your eyes and in more than 1 place if you want to find them….For the love of heaven, will you please for just one minute stop pretending to be a puppy dog and help us find your shoes?!” However, on this particular day, her little pink Converse were neatly located by the couch.

As I was settling in to help get her shoes on, May Lee said “Mommy, untie my shoes” and threw her little pink Converse at me. As it bounced off my body, I calmly said “Don’t throw your shoes at me…” but before I could get out any more words, she had already picked up the shoe and launched it at me again. It bounced off my body a second time, and I silently prayed for Jesus to be near…preferably standing between me and the shoe-throwing child. “May Lee, don’t throw your shoes at me…..” and a little more slowly and gently this time, she picked up the shoe and tossed it at me.

Needless to say, obedience has been on my mind a lot these days, and a thought keeps rolling around in my mind thanks to a recent parenting seminar at church and to the concepts we employ at the treatment center where I work. That thought is “what is my mode of operation when it comes to obedience?” Because whether you say it outright or not, kids pick up on your mode of operation in everything and inevitably end up mimicking it.

And that, my friends, is a sobering thought, because if I’m real honest about where I stand with obedience or compliance, it leaves much to be desired and it certainly isn’t something I want my child imitating. In my life, compliance looks like people pleasing. It’s a way to either a) make myself look good in someone else’s eyes or b) satisfy a difficult person in my life so that they will leave me alone. Essentially, it’s manipulation and admitting that to myself makes me gag a little bit.

But if I play out that concept in my child’s life, I quickly move past gagging and accelerate right into full blown panic attack. If that is how obedience and compliance work in my life, then I’m not teaching May Lee to be authentic and genuine in her interactions with me or anyone else. I’m certainly not teaching her to set healthy boundaries, which is an invaluable life skill these days. What I’m doing is teaching her to present a false front to alleviate a temporary, uncomfortable circumstance or to project an image of herself that fits someone else’s perspective of who she should be/what she should do, and boy howdy, how much will that come back to bite me when she gets to be a teenager!?

At this point, I wish I had some great wisdom to impart that would offer a 3 step plan for cultivating genuine obedience in ourselves and in our children, but I don’t. Life is hard and we all fall into various coping mechanisms in order to survive our circumstances, and I am no exception. All I know is that I’ll be talking to Jesus a lot more about creating in me the things that I want to see in my daughter.