How God Gets In You

Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
John 2:19,21-22

When I was growing up, summer meant neighborhood barbecues and spontaneous games of softball. My sisters and I spent a lot of time with our best friends from across the street. We shared secrets, sleepovers and homemade ice cream. Our friendships always deepened in the summer because we spent so much time together.

Did you know that God wants to live close to you and spend time with you so that, just like a good neighbor, you get to know Him really well?

Mishkan, is the Hebrew word for tabernacle, the tent-like structure God told them to make for Him to dwell in before they built the temple. About the tabernacle, God said, “And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.” (Exodus 29:45)

Shakhen, the Hebrew word for neighbor is from the same root as mishkan. When God told the Israelites to make the tabernacle, He meant it to be the place that He would live among them; in a way, be their neighbor.

Even better? Because Jesus saved us from our sins through his death and resurrection, we don’t need a tabernacle to live close to God. John 14:23 says, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.”

If you believe in Jesus, God lives inside of you. He wants to spend time with you. He wants you to know Him.

This was first published in the digital magazine: Tween Girls and God.

2 and 3 Things that Made My Recovery from Anorexia Final

 

marketLast week I shared with you #3thingstomakerecoveryfinal ! Instead of simply saying, Jesus Christ, and then opening the floor for a barrage of questions, I’m letting you in on my answers to a dear friend recently. You can read the first part, here.

2. There are some people that I’ve had to ask to change the conversation. I don’t do this often. But, I have a number of family, friends and acquaintances who are INTENSE exercisers. And though they love me and know my history, some are a bit careless in their conversations and criticism of heavy people or relating the details their last ultra-marathon. It was really tough, but several times I’ve had to say, “Guys, I need to talk about something else”.

3. One thing that really began to change my feelings about food was an experience at the farmer’s market in Olympia, WA. I was alone, walking through the stalls and suddenly overcome by the sheer joy on everyone’s face! These people made their living thinking about food all the time 🙂

And they LOVED it! No one I saw was super skinny. There were people sampling cherries, roasting nuts, counting apples and potatoes. Herbs hung from tall beams, Homemade soaps and mysterious scents everywhere. It hit me for the first time how much of a GIFT food is! How much God wants us to enjoy it! How excited He must be when we harvest and taste and smile over the delicious variety of His creation. But these people were just enjoying it with simplicity–no long mental argument about what was good, bad or best for them to eat.

This has become my pursuit with food and exercise–I want to enjoy this life: Really enjoy it! And whatever comes of my body as I’m “living it up” down here in my good God’s creation, so be it. He is capable of caring for me.

We hear so much about “loving” our body, but I don’t find that anywhere in the Bible. We are called to use our body and care for our bodies. We are asked to touch, feed, nurture, carry, speak, sing, love, hold, birth, reason and worship with our bodies. None of those things require “loving” it–either from a selfish “I’ve got the best body” attitude or the attitude taught so often in treatment that we need to learn to “love our bodies” just as they are.

That’s just it–our bodies just are. They are for the purpose of serving and using and worshiping. And whatever becomes of my body as I’m doing those things, so be it.

And you know the best part about “whatever happens”? In the process of using my body to honor God and enjoy Him, I have EVERY confidence that He will care for the health of my body.

I hope this helps, lovely friend.

Digging In

I’m of the persuasion that more is better. I mean, isn’t most of America? Supersize it! Go big or go home. Strive, push, go, run, driven, goal-oriented, persistent…everything we want to be, right?

I’ve internalized this message and applied it to my vocation as a writer. It feels like I’m cheating to reach back into my repertoire to say the same thing again. All past pieces, published or not, are just bits of gravel strewn along the path behind me. Admittedly, they have some merit to have brought me here, but to be a real artist, a real writer, I must only make new, not build upon ruins. Or so I have believed. I have dozens of folders of scraps. Half-digested ideas that made their way onto the page, but were soon forgotten and deemed irrelevant to current pursuits.

But recently, I’ve come to a stand still. I don’t know if you can tell (I don’t know if I want you to notice) every noun seems forced, verbs evade me, sentences seem slippery and limp. I can’t seem to make anything new. It feels like I’m slogging through molasses. I…can’t…seem…to…press…on…

A very perceptive friend emailed me last week. He took the time to write me a long letter, encouraging from one perspective and a bit convicting from another. Realizing that I am thrashing and flustered by my lack of creativity, he reminded me of my own words: when I first found your website years ago, I picked up on your words “Sometimes it takes pain for us to hear the already God-given permission to rest”, so make sure you practice what you preach.

Oh my, practice what I preach. Indeed. Guess I might have caught that if I ever “wasted” the time rereading my own blog. At the time I wrote it, I was so certain that God was speaking to and through me. I could barely spill the words fast enough. I must have assumed that I mastered whatever God was hoping to teach me, because just as quickly I pressed on.

While rereading that post, I stumbled upon a whole season in which God kept insisting rest, rest, rest. 

My friend continued to talk about the futility of striving. He gave specific accounts of his own life. Striving took its toll, but when he stopped, too tired and worn to press on, God did beautiful, complete things in his life.

I thought about the physical parallels of this. An image of myself treading water formed in my mind. Usually, swimming  laps seems superior to treading water. But have you ever tried to tread water for any length of time? It takes more strength to pedal your legs and flap your arms just so, in one spot, than it does to perform a perfect crawl stroke for the same duration. Not to mention, it takes incredible mental stamina to tread water.

I felt God lean into my heart with the words: Go deeper, not wider.  I’m still unearthing all the treasure associated with that little phrase, but this is a start: Stay here. Tread deep. Reread. Relearn. Don’t go forward. I love the way Exodus 4:37 says this, “But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were until it lifted.” My cloud isn’t moving.

At this time, I don’t think still necessarily means stationary. It simply means not going forward. I need to do what I have here to do. Go deeper with my platform, the publications for which I am already writing, in my blog and talking here with you, in the church and the small groups I have now, in my marriage, with my friends. I must wrestle with this discontent, this inkling that where I am isn’t good enough and I must do more, reach farther.

I’ll leave you with this for today. I wrote an article prompted by the word “silence”. My heart kept seeking the word “silence” in Ps. 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” It’s not there, but what I discovered about the command to be still surprised me. 

So I’m settling in. I’m going deep. I’m staying right here. Until He tells me Move. 

Letter to a Friend

Recently, a new friend admitted to me that she has struggled with an eating disorder for many years. As we shared pieces of our stories, she asked a question that launched a mini-sermon in me. Don’t worry, I’m preaching to myself really! But as I clicked “send”, I realized just how much of my response encapsulated all that I’m learning about my eating disorder and recovery in the process of prayer and writing.

I want to share my letter with you.

Dear Friend, 

You asked about the “why”. Funny, I have thought about that a lot lately as I penned my book and prayed and relived all those years of my own eating disorder. And yes, I’ve come to a conclusion. 

 
The treatment community spends an exorbitant amount of time trying to unearth our issues, figure out what made this happen. We say that we aren’t “blaming” anyone, but that family dynamics, abuse and a plethora of other things must have all combined to make this happen. Exactly as you said though, “Why not everyone?”
 
My sisters grew up in the same household and under the same parents that I did, in the same communities. Personally, I don’t have a history of abuse to blame my issues on. I have a fairly perfectionistic father (toward himself more than toward anyone else) and at time I believed he loved my sister, Jennifer, more than me. And, Jennifer was incredibly talented and smart so I was jealous of her for years. But really? I don’t have a good reason. 
 
The more that I’ve prayed about it, I think the common treatment modality, “figure out the root and fix the underlying issues”, does us a huge disservice. I have really, really come to believe that my anorexia was nothing more than addiction and idolatry on my part. No, I’m not blaming myself either. I don’t believe there’s a “why” to be found or blame to be placed, at least not in all situations. 
 
It’s really no different than any other sin. It’s the way you and I chose to react to the circumstances and catalysts within a fallen world. Because we believe in Jesus as our Savior, our sin does not banish us from God or cause Him to hate us. So, I’m not saying that as we struggle with an eating disorder God is upset with us. Quite the contrary – and this where I get so excited!! – The pain of living in my sin, the pain of struggling with body image constantly, or starving myself or brutal workouts, the mental anguish of an eating disorder DROVE me to Jesus. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. It’s because as I was falling apart, He didn’t turn away, but reached out to me and loved me anyway (while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me).
 
Anorexia was what drove me to my knees before a loving Father. I can honestly say that I would not know Him like I do if I had not struggled. He might have used another issue, but He chose this one for me that I might seek the only one who could save me – not just from anorexia but from sin altogether. Does that make any sense?
 
We are stubborn creatures as humans. We will not naturally admit our need for a savior, so in order to open our eyes, humble our hearts and cause us to seek Him, sometimes God allows us to intimately feel the savagery of a sinful world. It is then that we know how much we need Him.
 
I hope that helps. Kinda got on a soapbox there, but I get so excited! 🙂
 
I’m just figuring all this out.

From Cheers to Tears

Funny how quickly we can go from cheers to tears.

This afternoon, some girl friends and I embarked on a teaching series by Mark Gungor, called Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage. I’ve written on that here before, but if you missed it, just click on the tags related to this post.

We picked this teaching series because there’s no homework and life is crazy at the start of the school year; and because no matter what we’re discussing, we always gravitate back to marriage issues. I don’t suppose that’s surprising. Our husbands are the single most influential persons in each of our lives – for better or worse. Right?

Mark Gungor is hilarious. His accurate and exaggerated portrayals of his and her’s brains kept all of us in stitches. However, within 15 minutes of ending the video, one of my closest friends was nearing tears. The beauty of it, is that she’s one of those super-women who leads and coaches and strengthens and mentors, but never needs.

She whispered, “I haven’t been able to cry for weeks.”

I think it’s easier to hurt than to watch a loved one hurt. When I see someone I cherish whimper in pain, I see no privilege in it. There’s rarely beauty in the creases of their eyes or the way their chin tugs when they cry. But then she said something else.

“I have never had someone else to reach out to in order to get my needs met. I’ve always been the coach, the mentor.”

She’s also been the mom, the wife, the professional coach, the teacher. And it’s here where I think our roads cross. I think this loved one is walking a similar path to my own. (Hmmm, we’ve done that before.) 🙂

You see, I’m the oldest. I’ve also been the FRG leader, the team captain, the manager, the Bible study leader, the financial manager, “household six” in Army lingo. For most of my life, someone has looked up to me. For most of my life, I’ve been praised for my leadership skills and my charisma. Believe me, I’m not tooting my own horn. These generous accolades have not always benefited me.

I only recently discovered what I believe lay at the root of my eating disorder. Needlessness. Does that sound crazy? Is anyone really needless? Anyway, what do the privilege of pain and needlessness have to do with each other?

Ruth Graham wrote a book called In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart. I recently read an interview with her.

This is a long excerpt from the interview, but worth the read:

RUTH GRAHAM: Sometimes I think we miss the most obvious example of suffering – the crucifixion. I believe that suffering strips us of self-sufficiency and we learn that we can’t go it alone. And it makes us rely on God. Of course, the more we rely on God, the more we find that He is trustworthy. And the more we find that He is trustworthy, the more we trust Him. And I know that God doesn’t delight in pain, but I know that pain is where growth takes place. And if we are to know the deep things of God, I think very often it is taught in suffering.

ELLIOTT: This idea of self-sufficiency that you mention is interesting. It is often our tendency as humans to try to cover up our problems because we don’t want people to know what we are dealing with. Why is that the wrong thing to do?

GRAHAM: Well covering up our pains, our faults, and our mistakes only isolates us more. I have found that as I have shared my faults and failures it’s as if I’m giving permission to others to share theirs with me. And I believe that’s where real ministry takes place, when there’s a real communication on the deeper level. And I think when we take our masks off, we enable each other to communicate on a deeper level.

I can’t speak for my friend, but I surmise we’re learning the same thing. I’m not needless. And the beauty of being needy is that it makes me more aware of my Jesus’ nearness.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Too much of a good thing?

I remember as a kid, my mom telling me, “You can’t play with Julie today. You’ve seen her every single day this week. You’ll get tired of each other and get into fights. That’s what happens when you get too much of a good thing.”

I know you’ve seen the woman who took a beautiful shade of blue and put too much of a good color on her eyelids.

There’s probably a food you used to love until you indulged yourself one too many times and it’s no longer a welcome taste.

Everywhere we turn these days, we’re reminded how good exercise is for us.

There’s a demoralizing quote by the Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, “A woman can’t be too rich or too thin.”

If that’s true, then there is truly no such thing as too much of every effort to achieve a woman’s highest goal – rich and thin.

But, let me confess a few things that I feel God has brought to my personal attention about the innate value of fitness.

There is no innate value in fitness. 

That’s a hard thing for a fitness professional to admit. There is no eternal gain in being able to run a marathon, no lasting reward for being able to see indentations between your abdominal muscles. Even though our jealous minds might try to tell us otherwise, no one is a better person because they get up at 5 a.m. to jump up and down like they have ants in their pants or perform pull ups from suspension cables like a monkey.

I recently was called to take a hard look at the money I spend in the fitness industry. Money for the gym, money for certifications, magazines, sandbags, other equipment, DVDs, online tutorials, special clothing. If I spent that money on my “adopted” child in Guatemala, wouldn’t I being making a bigger, more eternal difference?

Energy. I love that bone-deep fatigue that results from a killer workout. I love being able to actually feel the EPOC (oxygen deficit) as my metabolism rises to compensate for intense exercise. I love longing for my pillow at night because I “worked” so hard. But did I work? Did I change someone’s life? Did I get to know Jesus more deeply than yesterday? Did I serve my husband, tend my home and if so, did I find satisfaction in these things? Or was my greater happiness derived from my tiny personal success?

I’m not denying the value of exercise. I know it is essential, and I personally love it! I’m so glad that God gave us durable feet to pound out frustrations on the pavement when we run. I worship my Creator when I experience the pleasure a stronger accomplishment and when I see the amazing things He has made me capable of. However, I am firmly convinced that the only reason God endowed me with these abilities is for His Glory.

“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” I Timothy 4:8

 

A Pathetic Witness

I’ve had a lot of thoughts today about mentors and mentoring. None of them collections; they are scattered and hardly worth relaying. But perhaps they will stimulate your mind and prompt you to fill the comments with more meaty material than my post! (:

This morning I was journaling my disappointment with myself. The Bible commands Christians to always be ready to give a defense for the hope that it is  in us. I am confident that I have grown exponentially in my faith over the last 17 years and especially in the last 4-5 years. However, the courage and comprehensive thoughts that are required to present a persuasive “case for Christ” evade me. How is it that I can KNOW with all surety that Jesus is my life, that Jesus is the only reason that I am alive today, that Jesus is my hope and uncanny Joy, that Jesus is the solitary solution for every pain and question, and that everyone who does not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is headed to hell – how can I know this – and still stutter when given the opportunity to share my faith?

A friend from work joined me at church a couple weeks ago. She loves the Lord, but is admittedly young in her faith. Two days later we were both approached at work by another friend and the conversation led this friend saying, “Oh, I never read the Bible. I think it is just too far-fetched, a story. I raised my children to be religious. I believe that god is in each of us and we need to aspire to be good.”

I love this friend. We’ve had such fun together at work, laughing and goofing off. Now, she asked me a few questions and as I told her who Jesus was and why the Bible is trustworthy – it sounded sci-fi, out there and little crazy even to me. I found  myself saying, “It’s hard to explain.” I can scarcely believe I’m admitting this. I write this blog as devotional, with a heart to serve Jesus with my talents and make Him winsome to others. And here I am telling you that I’m pathetic at sharing the gospel.

Journaling leads me down rabbit trails sometimes, but then often drops me back off where I started by the end of my ramblings. That happened today. I drew the connection between mentoring relationships and Jesus with His disciples. They chose to follow Him. They sought His advice and learned from his teachings both in word and in action. He poured His life into them. I am a disciple of Jesus, so I asked His advice.

“Jesus, Rabbi. Why can I not explain the intense value, perfection and necessity of believing in you? What if Peter had been asked why he was following you?”

“Abby,” Jesus answered me, as a faithful mentor always does. “My disciples were asked why they believed in me. I even asked them myself.

‘Who do people say that I am?’ I followed that question with, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ And Peter answered with words that the Father gave him, ‘ You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.'” (Matt 16)

Suddenly, I saw a difference in Peter’s response and my own. Peter did not respond, “This is what I personally think…” He responded with undiluted certainty, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

When the final critical question is asked, a confident answer is required. Especially in financially troubling times, days of earthquakes, extreme weather, drunken fathers, abused children, AIDS epidemics and ravaging cancer – people do not care what I think. I cannot impart the truth with a timid suggestion of a possible truth.

So declaratively, without apology: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It is more than my belief. It simply, HE SIMPLY IS.

Mentored

Let me share with you some wonderful wisdom from two of my mentors. This is unadulterated, straight from their emails. The thoughts are a little scattered, but they are sincere and meaningful nonetheless.

Often we picture mentors as older and wiser. Don’t forget the people you are walking with. Usually our struggles come in surges and we are rarely caught under the same wave simultaneously, so we are able to lift each other to crest of the wave behind us. The Bible warns us against looking only to our peers and forsaking the counsel of those who are older and wiser, but we can learn and should treasure the companionship and empathy of our friends.

I love you Faithful Four!

 

 

Totally goes along with what I did in my bible study today. In the book of Matthew when Peter gets out of the boat and ten begins to doubt, Jesus rebuked him, but put HIS hand out and grabbed Peter! Matthew 14:31 “Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?'” The latter part of this verse is often quoted but the first part is even more powerful. “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand” What you shared Chrissy was a very nice supplement to our lesson today and I passed it along! 🙂 Praise the Lord that even though we doubt, He first grabs us, then rebukes us!!!!
I thought you would like this verse: In the book of Jeremiah, God called him to serve as His prophet. He spoke these five words which I know work in my temp situation as a single mom and I think can help you. I have them taped to my fridge. “Now, get ready. Stand up” Jeremiah 1:17. In other words…we are where we should be and it’s make it or break it time. I choose to bring it and I know you do as well!
Love to you all! Deployment sucks big time, but amazingly enough, despite flooded garages, canceled insurance, electric company mess-ups, Preston’s wanting his daddy, neither one of my kiddos sleeping, and full-time school…I can honestly say that I am happy!!!
Deuteronomy 33:27  Underneath are the everlasting arms.God–the eternal God–is himself our support at all times, and especially when we are sinking in deep trouble. There are seasons when the Christian sinks very low in humiliation. Under a deep sense of his great sinfulness, he is humbled before God till he scarcely knows how to pray, because he appears, in his own sight, so worthless. Well, child of God, remember that when thou art at thy worst and lowest, yet “underneath” thee “are everlasting arms.” Sin may drag thee ever so low, but Christ’s great atonement is still under all. You may have descended into the deeps, but you cannot have fallen so low as “the uttermost;” and to the uttermost he saves. Again, the Christian sometimes sinks very deeply in sore trial from without. Every earthly prop is cut away. What then? Still underneath him are “the everlasting arms.” He cannot fall so deep in distress and affliction but what the covenant grace of an ever-faithful God will still encircle him. The Christian may be sinking under trouble from within through fierce conflict, but even then he cannot be brought so low as to be beyond the reach of the “everlasting arms”–they are underneath him; and, while thus sustained, all Satan’s efforts to harm him avail nothing.

This assurance of support is a comfort to any weary but earnest worker in the service of God. It implies a promise of strength for each day, grace for each need, and power for each duty. And, further, when death comes, the promise shall still hold good. When we stand in the midst of Jordan, we shall be able to say with David, “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” We shall descend into the grave, but we shall go no lower, for the eternal arms prevent our further fall. All through life, and at its close, we shall be upheld by the “everlasting arms”–arms that neither flag nor lose their strength, for “the everlasting God fainteth not, neither is weary.”

A Hairable Disaster

This was originally written in my memoir writers’ group as a free write. Then I entered it in a Faith Writers Challenge and now, it’s here to amuse you!

Don’t forget to check out the other funny stories, poems, excerpts and comics at: The Purple Treehouse

Arguably the hardest part of moving frequently is leaving my hairdresser behind.  It takes about six months, at least, to cull through the options and find the individual who can work magic on my fine, straight, dishwater-blond hair.  That’s longer than it takes to find a mechanic, a doctor, a favorite coffee shop or a good grocery store.  That’s because you have to visit those places more frequently.  But, when you’re trying not to break the bank on vanity, you must limit visits to the stylist to no more than every eight weeks.

 

My husband and I moved from Fort Bragg, NC, to Fort Benning, GA, in March of 2006.  I’m all about saving money, so as usual, my first two gambles were at Master Cuts and Super Cuts.  I keep thinking that one of them MUST have a diamond in the rough who can cut hair like she is being paid four times what she really charges.

 

By the sixth month, I had moved on to beauty schools.  A young girl who went to our church was nearly finished with the stylist’s program at Chattahoochee Beauty Academy.   Natalie had an edgy, chick, short cut.  I failed to consider that she probably didn’t cut her own hair.  So, wanting to support a friend, I set an appointment with her.

 

I sat nervous and rigid on the cracking plastic seat.  Natalie suggested a perm to “lift” my limp hair and “give it some body.”  While she pulled and twisted and then squirted my hair with the offensive smelling processor, I watched other students mangle and chop mannequin hair.  It took forever!  Either from fear or boredom, about three hours into the ordeal, I closed my eyes and started to doze.

 

“OK, Abby.  Let’s move over to the sink and remove the rods.”  Natalie poked me and escorted me to the row of ugly, gold sinks along the far wall.  I tipped my head back ignoring the discomfort of the edge digging into my spine, in favor of concentrating on long finger nails massaging my scalp and warm water trickling over my cheeks.  Even if she ruined my hair, at least this was indulgent, right?

 

I thought so, until I looked up and saw Natalie’s eyes widening with horror and disbelief.  Her face hovered over my own; I’m sure she wanted to be anywhere but there.  I started to wonder what she was seeing, but I kept my mouth shut.  I thought I saw her eyes even watering.

 

By the time I was tipped upright and my hair spun up into a towel, I was starting to think I shouldn’t remove the towel at all.  Natalie led me to my plastic seat again, pulled the towel down and ran her fingers through would-be curls.

 

Now, I felt my own eyes watering.  What had been fine hair was now translucent hair.  Sprigs of frizz poked out or limped down depending on which way their rod had been rolled, but not a single strand boasted vitality, body or life.

 

“Do you want me to style it for you?” Natalie’s voice cracked.