Nuggets: Cut Off Your Hand

In the span of 24 hours, three women I love deeply told me of their partner’s unfaithfulness. And it all began in their right hands.

That stupid phone.

That little gadget puts more power beneath our thumbs than between our ears. And more danger at our finger tips than in any previous generation.

All three women discovered that their husbands (one is a boyfriend) are having ongoing conversations with other women. Simple texts morphed quickly into rendezvous, emotional attachments and physical relationships.

And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

I’ve always thought Matthew 5:30 seemed a little odd. At least Jesus was using hyperbole, right? I still don’t think Jesus intends for us to literally chop off our hands, but it’s more obvious to me now how segmented we pretend sin is.

It’s almost as if when sin starts (and stays for a while) in just our hands, and not yet in our hearts or the rest of our bodies, we excuse it: “It’s just a text right?”

It’s as if we think when sin is so simple, so easy it must not be as bad, right?

Jesus doesn’t think so. My loved ones know it isn’t so. Sin hurts, destroys, kills. And it can start in the palm of your hand.

 

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Nuggets and Getting a Life

As a new mom, things are coming more in snatches than ever before: sleep, segmented workouts, snippets of prayer and reading in Bible study. God has kindly turned toward speaking to me in what I’m calling “nuggets” and I’m realizing that perhaps that will be the way I communicate with others too, or share the truths that He’s teaching me–through shorter writings, nuggets, if you will …

From today’s time with the Lord:

It’s tempting when plans get cancelled and I’m home alone with the baby to feel like I have no life, but as I was thinking that just yesterday – God brought to mind: I have more life in my hands right now than I ever have before. I am literally holding a life, a physical life, that he has given me. This is the highest priority, the highest honor, and the highest responsibility I have ever had and will ever have.photo-on-10-7-16-at-11-24-am

The Thorn in My Side

I was pretty stoked: God had given me an out! I had discovered the Bible verse that indicated anorexia was something I could struggle with my whole life.

Now, that sounds discouraging, but then, as someone who had fought the battle with anorexia for over a decade and continued to lose, it seemed like a welcome release. Perhaps I didn’t need to fight so hard, maybe this was something God had given me; my personal struggle. Maybe God wasn’t going to heal me or rescue me, maybe I could quit hoping and waiting and trying because this was just “my thing”.

Second Corinthians 12:6-10 says, “Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

See, I thought, even Paul had something that he struggled with his whole life.

But as I prayed about this and tried to find the peace that proved I had found the solution to my struggle, it wasn’t there.

Paul’s thorn served a specific purpose. In the preceding verses, Paul says that the thorn was given to him to keep him from boasting in himself; it was not a random affliction such that “everyone has one”.

Paul had become an untimely apostle, having seen the risen Jesus after his ascension. After that, with many visions, his extensive schooling in The Law, his dual citizenship and rightful authority and notoriety as an evangelist, Paul had good reason to be proud. God gave him this “thorn” as a reminder that he was not self-sufficient and perhaps even as a physically humiliating attribute that kept others from idolizing him.

My eating disorder can never be compared to Paul’s thorn in the flesh. First, the Bible says that God tempts no one. I believe that my anorexic behaviors were evidence of idolatry—worshipping myself. God frequently commands us to have no god besides Him. He will not “give” me an idol.

Second, Paul closes this passage by saying that he rejoices in his weakness so that the power of Christ might rest on him. To resign myself to an eating disorder as simply “my thorn” does not express the power of Christ and honor Him as the supreme one and only God, as The Redeemer.

Indeed, my eating disorder kept me on my knees before Jesus, more aware daily of how much I need Him. However, His power is made evident in my surrender to Him, not in my resignation to anorexia.

This article was first published at FINDINGbalance.com

When Seasons Collide

Dead leaves on bench

Dead leaves on bench

It’s the collision of the seasons.

Here I stand on the precipice of my favorite season–autumn. Summer is merging with colder air, the leaves are giving up their green and their death grip on brittle branches. I’ve already broken out the jeans (still paired with flip flops), and I’m reticent to recall shorts.

All this exquisite splendor is the harbinger of time well spent with loved ones and favorite people in front of the fireplace, with a good book, cuddled on the couch, over a good cup of coffee (or a deliciously dark beer!)

And so, my soul is singing with anticipation, but I’m sad too, my heart is a little wounded and my hopes are fragile. It’s strange for me, this mix of opposing feelings. But I suppose it’s good–that tears are mitigated by laughter and disappointment with excitement. 

I’m not sure how much time I’ll get to spend with my husband this fall. Yes, last year about this time he was leaving for Africa, so count my blessings (more on that later) he’s safe here in the states. But, we have suddenly launched into a season of such intense training and planning that I scarcely see him for a half hour a day. And waiting in the wings are a few weeks where they will work straight through the weekends–at least 21 days in a row.

And this sadness, I might have shared earlier, but I wasn’t ready–a couple months ago, I miscarried the baby my husband I never thought we could never have.

We never planned or risked the hope of getting pregnant. So when we learned in late July (with utter shock!) that I was expecting, we were floored. Just as surprising was the joy that overtook us! We couldn’t wait to hold our baby! But that wasn’t God’s plan. Somehow, our little one lived a purposeful life, and filled the purpose of his life in just 11 short weeks.

We survived that.

But now, the pain is refreshed each month. We’ve dared to think we can try now. We’ve dared to step into the realm of miracles only God can do–and to hope. And that’s scary.

So, as you can see, my emotions (fragile as they are), are swirling like the autumn leaves shimmying to the ground. And it’s tempting to complain to God–a lot. It’s easy right now, to form all “prayer requests” around the little phrase, “God please!!”

God, please give us a baby. God please give us more time together. God please give my husband a day off. God please help me to be kind and compassionate and understanding …

You know, I think all that is okay. Today I was scrounging for peace–the peace that God promises in Philippians when we present our requests to God:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

And suddenly, it dawned on me. There were prerequisites for that peace. I’ve met one prerequisite by simply praying, the second one is harder–with thanksgiving. 

I can’t have this unbelievable peace as long as my prayers sound like whiny pleas. Of course, I still believe God will answer those prayers, but I’m sabotaging my own peace if I insist on whimpering and repelling His peace with self-imposed anxiety, even as I pray. My attitude, even my emotions, is my responsibility.

So, I changed my prayer:

God, thank you for your marvelous plan of blessing and deepening our marriage in this season. Thank you for balancing the sorrow of this season with nature’s beauty. Thank you for giving us a baby, for making us parents. Thank you for teaching me your own faithfulness through pain. Thank you. Yes, thank you.

I Will Step Up, I Will Be Faithful–I Will Even Stay Home

HOME-E-O-STAY-SIS — We will not be using the typical spelling or implied definition of the word. (Just didn’t want you to think the editor had lost her marbles!)

My first royalty check on the second book, Beyond Belief: Jesus Saved You, Now What? was less that $15. When they tell you that being an author is not lucrative–take them seriously. Of course there are exceptions; I’m not one of them. And perhaps that’s in part, or mostly my own fault. Let me start back at the beginning.

When my second book came I out, I was tired of writing. I felt God leading me toward editing (which I love) and He opened wide several doors. I stepped through with enthusiasm and God has blessed my new endeavors. So I quietly allowed the door to close behind me, effectively closing the chapter on my books.

To be quite honest, I hate promoting my books. I think every author does really, but I simply decided not to do it. Other than requesting a few reviews and a handful of comments on Facebook, I left that job to my agent.

Suddenly, I was swamped with discontentment and insecurity. I lay in bed Monday night and felt a familiar wash of melancholy and panic: What am I doing with my life? What if I don’t receive any more clients for editing? What if my books really go nowhere? What was the point of writing? Maybe I shouldn’t even call myself a writer. I can’t even come up with blog posts anymore. Maybe I should go back to school. Maybe I should get an outside job. Maybe my life is just pathetic. What am I here for, Lord?

All I do is stay home and keep myself busy with what–work that maybe doesn’t even matter? Suddenly, my contentment at home, my home-eo-stay-sis was interrupted. 

Forlornly, I took my tears the the Father the next morning. Gently, as He always does, he layered answers from His word with sermons and affirmation from friends.

I listened to a sermon from Elevation Church the other day, a guest sermon by the author of Through The Eyes of a Lion. 

I won’t give it away, but his comments about focus, vision and sticking with it–doing the same things a new way–instead of “calling envy” and longing for a more important, significant calling, struck me. 

Then, God’s Word in Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work … will complete it.” God doesn’t stop halfway. And Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.“–Don’t give up! And then the clincher that tells me I am expected to be faithful too: “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Next, in Bible study this morning, a sweet friend confessed to feeling the same way recently. That night as she prayed with her husband, he voluntarily closed the prayer (which apparently, he rarely does.) His words: “Thank you for my wife, thank you that she is such a good friend.”

Her heart soared. No matter how low she felt in the eyes of the world, no matter how small her calling felt at home, her husband’s affirmation that she was his friend confirmed to her that she is smack in the center of her calling. And it encouraged my heart as well. That’s why I stay home–for the sake of my marriage, for the sake of my home, because this is the first and highest calling God has given me. Everything else that He’s blessed me to do falls neatly under that banner of wife, homemaker … friend.

Finally, God prodded my heart concerning faithfulness to the good work I began–faithfulness to work diligently to put the books He wrote through me into the hands of as many people as possible. A crazy idea occurred to me, and mustering my courage, I grabbed a copy of my book and marched into a local, Christian-owned coffee shop.

“Hi! I recently wrote a Bible study and I was wondering if you would permit me to place a few copies in your coffee shop for free. I’d like to put a business card in them in case readers would like to buy some. But would you permit me to simply offer a few free books to your customers?”

Their response was overwhelming. First of all, the only people working that shift were the owners (exactly who I needed to talk to). Then, not only did they agree to let me place some books in their store, but they offered to host a book signing. A women’s Bible study group meets there every Thursday night: “Would you want to have a book signing on a Thursday evening? You could start before they arrive and then you’d have an audience that is exactly suited to your book … ”

The rest of the conversation was equally uplifting. We briefly shared our stories, our desires to further God’s kingdom and our understanding of His call on our lives.

Only God could have suggested that idea to me and then prepared the way for my request to be received and blessed.

Oh! and one more thing. Out of the blue a wonderful Christian radio host asked me to do an interview with her this Saturday on Beyond Belief! (Details to come!)

So, I will step up. I will be faithful. I will be content in my home, diligent in and proud of my calling.

Seasons: Why You Might Be Overcommitted, Stressed Out and Irritable

There’s Beauty in Every Season

Somewhere, some-when, in the last several months, I’ve lost my “edge”. Suddenly, the blank page intimidates me again. I have nothing to say. Nothing seems original or worthy of the time and effort to put fingers on keys, nor does anything seem worthy of being read–it’s all been said before, right?

In fact, when I look back at the thousands of posts I’ve written–I’ve probably said it all before.

God’s Word is emphatically clear when it tells us that our tongues can get carried away. They can set an entire forest on fire! So, at what point does a writer say, “Enough?”

I’m wondering if that’s where God has me … I know many authors and writers take full lifetimes to express all God has laid on their hearts. But, I’ve turned a corner in my own vocation, finding greater joy and ease in reading others’ work than crafting my own. So that’s where I’ve been–reading, refining and relishing the work of other writers who call on the One True God. What a joy it is!

We’ve talked about seasons here before. I truly believe one of the hardest things in life is letting go of a lovely season. Think of autumn, always seemingly the shortest season of all. A few crisp days and then suddenly, they bleed into frigid temps and good reasons to stay cozy indoors. Or, summer clings to its very limits, refusing to release those long, hot days to the reprieve of fall.

In life, think of the things God’s given you to do that you absolutely loved! You found your niche–others could tell, too. For a time, you were successful, happy, predictable, comfortable and then … something interrupted your flow. Suddenly, you found yourself starting over, asking God, “What do you want me to do?” At the very least, you found yourself doing something you never expected.

I think that’s why I love the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon says over and over, “There is a season for … “. The interesting thing about seasons though, is one can’t begin until the other ends.

Maybe that’s how we find ourselves overcommitted, stressed out and irritable–we’ve launched into a new season with out telling the last one “goodbye”. 

What season do you find yourself in? Is one fading and another dawning? Are you afraid to say goodbye?

Even as He quiets my mind, heart and fingers, God still speaks. So, for the next season, I hope to share the little things He’s teaching me–the daily wonders, the calls to thankfulness, the stern rebukes, the steadfast love. These posts may be shorter, concise or questioning and even less than profound. But I hope you’ll enjoy this next season with me. After all, there’s beauty in every season.

Praying Through the Tough Stuff–When God Answers

Friends, I’m going to take a step back from the LASTing Peace video series–perhaps only for a time, perhaps indefinitely. I will still be writing and posting at least once a week and more often when the Lord leads.

This today is from my journal just recently. It’s a dialogue I had with God. He continued to faithfully answer my wounded heart though His perfect Word. If you’ve ever had trouble hearing from God, I hope this gives you a sense of what His voice sounds like when it whispers through the pages of Scripture:

_______________________________________

I have been worried lately that somehow my husband and I will revert to the “old us.” We’ve changed so much; God has healed and forgiven so much–to go back to a false sense of self-sufficiency–it terrifies me. I cannot live that way again!

But even as I fretted, I have been praying Proverbs daily for us and the beginning of Proverbs 14 says:

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”

That puts the onus on me. I can destroy this thing or I can build it up. I know that in the last few days, I have been kind of sulky and subversively unhappy about things: his long hours at work, his fatigue or distance at home … you know that, “It’s not fair” kind of thing. I know even in the midst of my poor attitude that I risk pushing my husband away by making him feel like he’s needed but failing to be available.

So then I fret that I’m going to ruin this thing—probably already have. What if, by my attitude, I’ve already shut him down. What if he’s already decided that I’m whiny, obnoxious, unnecessary and a burden? What if I’ve lost my chance to build us?

Zing! Here came Psalm 127:1

“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.”

And then fear grips me again. God, what if you started all this and now I’ve messed it up and you’ve given up and you’re just going to let us slide all the way back down into our mud. What if God!? What if you don’t care enough? What if I can’t trust you enough to keep us, save us, bind us, grow us? (Ever ask those questions?

Philippians 1:6 “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

God’s faithfulness is found in His word. There are answers to every hurt, every question, every longing. We need only be still enough to listen and willing to hear what we sometimes don’t want to hear–and finally, willing to agree that His way is always the best way.

Exposed! — And Why You Got an Eating Disorder (maybe)

When I’m exposed to good teaching, it’s difficult not to allow my cogitating to erupt in relative prose. How badly I want to convey the truths I’m learning but fear my attempts will be woefully inadequate. But alas, I’ve been exposed again and in my best efforts to internalize these truths, I’m going to try to explain them to you. And we’ll start right there…exposure.

Theres’s an old saying, “Children learn what they live.” I would modify that to, “Children learn what they are exposed to.”

In the realm of eating disorders, which I am most familiar with, it’s not uncommon to lay blame at the feet of modern media. While television, magazines and billboards cannot be held solely responsible, that logic does explain why eating disorders have become more prevalent in recent generations and why they are more frequently found in affluent societies. A quick look at most magazine covers, or a blitz through the channels, reveals that today our youth are constantly exposed to unrealistic, if not dangerously unhealthy images and ideas.

Our grandmothers were not exposed to Barbie’s bizarre dimensions. A girl’s sexuality was still considered sacred, not a bargaining chip for popularity, success and equality. Regarding sexuality, skin and bones was not considered sexually appealing—curves, soft edges, well-rounded hips and full-rosy cheeks were admired—not sallow complexions, hollow eyes and angular collar bones. History proves that we gravitate to, begin to approve and even see as normal the things that we are exposed to.

An example from close to home: A dear friend of mine, who struggles with an eating disorder, admitted to me that her earliest memories were of her mother’s self-imposed diets. Her mother’s voice still echoes in her head, repeating the familiar phrases, “I need to lose weight”, “If only I could look like her”, “That has too much fat”, “Well, I failed again.”

But there are other evidences of the power of exposure. Post-slavery in the south, many slaves had difficulty adapting to a life of freedom. They had never been exposed to freedom; or more accurately, they had only been exposed to captivity. How was freedom to be managed?

My niece is obsessed with the movie, Toy Story. Quite honestly, she never had a chance to consider other options. From the womb, she must have watched that movie 1000 times. It is her mother’s favorite, followed Monster’s Inc. Her frequent and limited exposure to a certain movie programmed her mind to accept it as the best. Even more so, because she has been so immersed in that movie, she naturally believes that everyone else has too—and that I too should know every character and phrase. Because of her exposure, she has assimilated a specific opinion of what is “normal” and “good”.

Is there a way to harness exposure and use it to our advantage? Particularly in the field of eating disorders, can exposure be a useful tool for recovery? I think so, however, my musings run contrary to some popular methods of treatment.

I was a treated at an inpatient facility for more than six months over three different stays at two separate locations. Without a doubt, I benefited greatly from the experts there and from the companionship and empathy of the other patients. However, just as we can be over-exposed to the elements causing dangerous side-effects like frostbite, sunburn, heatstroke or poison ivy, the dynamics of an inpatient facility create the possibility for over-exposure to eating disordered habits, unhealthy thought patters, unhealthy bodies—even too much empathy.
It isn’t hard to see how anorexic roommates at an inpatient facility can feed off of each other. Regardless of hours spent in therapy, the power of exposure shows that there is at least great potential for constant, continued exposure to others who are unhealthy as well, to perpetuate the problem. Of course, this logic should not be used to negate the importance of inpatient treatment centers. I mean only to consider all the possibilities.

After two moderately successful inpatient treatments stays, I relapsed—again. This time, I didn’t have the luxuries of money or time to return to a facility. For a while, I clung to life and sanity by my fingernails—by the grace of God. By His wisdom and mercy, He began to use the power of exposure to affect true healing in my life.

Slow, progressive exposure to the elements can deaden one’s awareness to the side effects. So too, as God applied to my life gentle, progressive exposure to health, life, moderation and joy I barely noticed the changes happening in my mind and body.

I remember a friend who struggled for many years with bulimia. She told me the story of her final, all-out effort to recover. Melissa asked a friend to go with her to a donut shop every single day. Every single day, Megan and her friend ate one donut and left. Through observing her friend and experiencing moderation herself, Melissa was repeatedly exposed to a new relationship with donuts—a previous binge food.

Exercise addiction was a huge component of my own eating disorder. In fact, after managing it for a time, I made a choice to expose myself to a new group of friends—a running club. There is nothing wrong with those people. They were wonderful, kind and fun to be with. However, the constant exposure to conversations about running, races, stopwatches, intervals and long Saturday runs warped my mind. In no time at all, I suffered from overexposure to an unhealthy pattern and found myself on the fast-track to relapse. Suddenly, due to that exposure, running an unprecedented number of miles each week became normal and good—my mental and physical default.

Fortunately for me, exposure worked again in reverse. We moved after about three years at that location. There was no running club in our new city. The streets near our home were not conducive to running and I didn’t know my way around the city to simply take off on my own (my proclivity to get lost helped me reduce my exposure even more).

Almost by accident, my running tapered off. Other habits began to take over, other forms of more moderate exercise began to seem normal. When I finally decided that I wanted to be well, I terminated my gym membership too. I recognized by then that constant exposure to the environment of a gym had negative effects on my pursuit of recovery.

Exposure to healthy influences has helped my recovery in other ways, too. I notice an increased sense of freedom around all types of foods after spending a week with my sister. Her enjoyment of food and intuitive response to hunger and fullness cues inspires and instructs me. When I cancelled my subscriptions to all of my health magazines, I immediately noticed a reduction in obsessive thoughts about diet, exercise and aspects of my physical appearance.

Traditional forms of treatment have their place, and in many cases (including my own) are absolutely necessary. However, in conjunction and perhaps most effectively, in the wake of inpatient treatment, intentional, concentrated exposure to healthy elements can be the difference between recovery and relapse.