Monday, February 13, 2012

Trading Anxiety for Peace

This morning it is early as I write this, I mean EARLY! At this hour the rooster is still snoring and the Sun is still way beyond the horizons view, but yet....I am awake. My anxious thoughts invaded my dream and woke me up out of a perfect slumber, so now here I sit, bible in hand, meditating on what feels today like the most challenging scripture I've read in a long while.  

Phil 4:6-7 is a very familiar scripture to most Christians. One that is very pleasant to read when you are not facing trials or big life changes, but it is during these very times that we need it most. This morning I am lead to it again.

"Do NOT be anxious about ANYTHING, but in EVERYTHING by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all your understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." 

Sometimes I read this and feel like I should be skipping around in a world that rains lollipops and daisies while  I sing this verse and chase butterflies, but ideal as that world seems, it was meant for THIS world, and for me, in all life's turmoil which God foresaw. When there are multiple worries with multiple outcomes, how do we submit them to God in thankfulness and prayer? Today that is my honest question. Reading on it becomes even more mind-boggling. That once we submit our worries and anxieties to Christ he instead gives us peace that GUARDS our hearts and minds? Talk about a GOOD trade-in deal.

I can't help but think about all the past times we have tried to trade a vehicle in at a dealership crossing our fingers for the best possible price, but instead only getting a SHOCKINGLY LOW number that seemed like if we sold the vehicle for parts we would get a better deal...this is NOT the kind of trade-in value Paul is talking about in this verse. God's trade-ins are NEVER FAIR, they are always so far above the lowest price it would be like trading a rusty old 80's Honda for a 2012 Luxury SUV. His trades are always exceedingly selfless, and always give us the better deal, always. 

That's what trading in our anxiety for peace is as well. Who else could possibly provide us peace when we hand over our deepest worry or anxious fear? Only Christ.

Today I am faced with many scenarios that I can choose to play over and over, worries that I can repeat until they keep me up at night and cause me stomach aches.....OR I can thankfully, and prayerfully offer each of them to God...and then in return, He will offer me peace to GUARD both my heart and my mind from any thought that tries to steal them back. I think that sounds like the deal of the century. 

So, this is my challenge today. Anyone want to join me? 

Friday, February 3, 2012

A heart of PRE-Confession

We have all heard (and probably used) the saying, "ask forgiveness not permission", but I have often wondered what does God really think about this concept? I think the idea of using and abusing GRACE to cover up pre-mediated sin is uh, sketchy at best...but yet we do it, and I have been guilty of that many times. Now, I am not trying to get into a big debate on, "can we as Christian's really ABUSE Grace from God?", but the point I am trying to make is more about this idea of pre-meditated sin. When it goes un-confessed to God or others God has placed in our lives it ultimately will only grow, fester and justify itself in our hearts and leave us with blood on our hands in the end. 

Through my Recovery Program at church confession is a huge part of the two hour evening. What you are struggling with that week is usually brought to light as a part of your introduction at the start of the evening. What a contrast to the real world right? Imagine if you were just meeting someone and said, "Hi, my name is Nicole and I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who is currently struggling with self-control and comparison issues, nice to meet you". I think that person would run for her life out of fear that she would "catch" whatever virus I had! LOL! But isn't that how God want us to be? 

This week, God proved this point to me big time. For the last 5 or 6 days I have been pondering, obsessing, and justifying a program that a good friend of mine started to lose weight this last week. It's a physician run program (therein lies my justification) and is has a guarantee for weight-loss using normal grocery foods. Now, anyone who has read my FIRST BLOG would know that this was in direct contradiction to what God spoke to me last month...but the more I thought, obsessed and justified I had almost convinced myself that it wasn't really a "diet plan". Sound crazy? YES! That is how SIN works in our lives. 

After going to recovery class on Monday, knowing this was taking root in my heart, even to the point of planning my "cover-up" for the money spent, time away and meal plan...I knew that if I didn't confess soon I would be in direct disobedience to God. Being in this same place many times before I can humbly say, this was one of the first times I recognized the pull of isolation which leads to sin. I was in it...for 6 days. 

Wednesday night I blurted out to my husband in a moment of sheer desperation (and pure guts) that I needed to talk to him. He quickly muted the television as he saw on my face this wasn't a light conversation I wanted to have with him. I had one of those out of body experiences then. Like I could actually see my spirit and my flesh fighting as I started to confess my plan to defy and justify what I knew God had asked of me this year. I confessed my isolation, my obsessive thoughts, and the hope that was quietly creeping up inside knowing that I was just around the corner from being able to "control" something again. As I spoke quickly looking at the floor avoiding eye contact with him (shameful of my thoughts) I finally glanced up to see him... smiling. Not a laughing-at-you smile, but a sweet, sincere, loving smile. He was beaming with love for me. He told me to look at how far I had come knowing that just months before I would have hidden this, covered it up and asked forgiveness later. But not this time....this time, I knew the power of confession before sin. 

Later, I had the realization that just like Tim smiling with pride at the progress of my journey...God must feel 100 times more than that when we turn from our sin. The consequences of ignoring His voice to hear our own only results is our future inability to hear him. That tiny pull, that small voice, that feeling that won't leave us alone when we are pre-mediating sin whether it be gossip, lying, cheating, over-eating, or giving in to addiction will get quieter and quieter until it is all but gone from the grief of being ignored time and time again. To think of losing the voice of the Holy Spirit in my life due to my continuous disobedience is a very sad and frightening thought. One that I hope will fight hard to always out-weigh my desire to sin. Pre-Confession I believe, is a part of God's plan for our restoration in Him. Sometimes it's not enough to be silent and pray in our heads about our sin nature, but we need speak it out to someone who loves us and loves Him. Don't be afraid...God will hear you, heal you and beam His glorious smile of delight over you each and every time you do it. 

PSALM 51:10
Create in me a clean heart oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Beauty is more than skin deep...

It's almost impossible to pin-point the exact moment in our childhood when we view "beauty" as something that needs to be pursued and achieved despite the cost, pain or extravagance. All of us to varying degrees have felt society's pull in this way whether we have met the expectation, or accepted to live sub-par against these pressures, usually in bitter defeat. But, no matter what the resignation may be or how many "hocus-pocus" potion- lotions we use to cover our flaws....there's a lie that lurks all around us constantly trying to get in.

I'm not going to deceive you, this has been an exceptionally hard week for me. Feeling, and dealing with the realities of what I'm being asked to accept is my own form of torture right now. There have been many a day I have acted childish and thrown my own kind of tantrums toward God hoping for some kind of release, or maybe my own rebellion to win out, but to no avail. The overwhelming pull of every media talking about cleanses, detox programs, new diets, pills, workouts and strategies have made me feel depressed and even sub-human at times. I know I sound pretty melodramatic right now, but every inch of me feels like I am fighting to remain obedient, and all I can really say is, it sucks. (Yes, that is the nicest way I can put it).

Despite all of that, I did feel like God spoke something to me during the last week in regards to beauty. As I mentioned above beauty has always been something I've tried measure myself by, along with my weight. Always feeling I lived in the shadows of my gorgeous friends ( know who you are), mother, and of course media figures, it was very difficult to feel I could "match" them so I would settle for "my best", which I had no doubt was sub-par. Of course, when you grow up with a self esteem like this, any sort of verbal approval seemed the highest reward, even though it would fall flat and empty just moments after. The hunger for more compliments and affirmations would only increase and try to outrun the fear and pain of feeling what I knew was the truth- that I was only second best. This week, God gave me a bit of an attention slap. 

I was at the massage-therapist for a recent minor car accident and we were chatting away while she worked on me. It was the second or third time I had visited and our conversation quickly became deep as we both shared a love for Christ and our church communities. I was gabbing away about something (who knows what really), when she placed her hand on my shoulder and interrupted me sweetly. I was expecting her to ask me a muscle related question, but instead she said, "I just have to tell you something, you have a very beautiful soul, and I love so look forward to your appointments with me". I was kinda dumbfounded, and sheepishly laughed and mumbled some thanks and then quickly kept talking about whatever it was I was saying prior to this comment. However, when I got in the car God brought it to my mind again. That was honestly the first time anyone had ever made a compliment on my SOUL...and God wanted me to understand the depth and value.

I realized the reason I was so awkward was because I was so exposed. Laying on a table half naked (or really quite more than half ), no makeup, no fashionable clothing or jewelry, hair a complete rats nest...and yet I was getting a compliment? It felt very undeserving, and I was embarrassed to say the least due to my lack of  "trying" that day to be presentable. But the soul is not in need of makeup, accessories or covering. The soul is the absolute exposure of our truest self, the self that matters most. I thought about her words for days and God kept bringing them to my mind and realized that all the times I have worked so hard to look the part, and all the compliments I have received over the years when I "tried" to be beautiful paled in comparison to what GOD SEES BEAUTY IN. 

Though I have whined and complained this week a lot...this was a big fat lesson for me to think about.  I remember as a young girl being told that it's the "beauty on the inside that counts", and here I am again learning it at 30. I want the Lord to look at me and call me beautiful more than any person on this earth. For what is beauty if my soul is rotting away? And therein lies the answers of the "why" I am on this journey, God wants to keep dealing with my heart. I can lose weight and put makeup on all the livelong day, but without the hope, truth, grace, peace, love, kindness, patience, gentleness, and self-control filling my soul...I will always be pursuing beauty that's only skin deep. 

1 SAMUEL 16:7 
"For the Lord sees NOT as Man sees: for Man looks at the outward appearance and the Lord looks at the heart."

Amen to that.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Somethings are still unclear...

To be honest ( which seems to be a curse more lately than a relief), it's been a really crazy week around here. Getting back from Oregon just a few days ago has felt more like coming home from an overseas country. Everyone in my household is off....staying up very late and sleeping in very late. Reality will settle in soon enough as Tim will go back to work on Tuesday and Preston will start school Wednesday. The grocery selection in our house has been limited at best and in between doctors appointments (Preston's had a flu bug) and New Years Eve gatherings we have not made the time to go to store. All that ranting to say...there has been no sort of normal here for days.

Today however, is New Years Day, and I felt a significant pull to at least journal a tad bit. Although I've been captivated by my old, and now again fresh new love of novel reading....I have felt a tinge of conviction today. Part of my recent late nights (in addition to the awkward two hour time change) have been due to being so engrossed in the vivid stories in my head as I read my latest book. How very easy it is to stay up until 3am reading when it's something I desire to be doing...but how difficult it is to stop when I know there is something I SHOULD be doing....uh, like readying daily scripture. I feel like I have a brand new perspective on what Paul says in Romans, "I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I HATE, but if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good." Now. I don't hate reading my novels nor is it wrong...but ignoring my daily devotion time to find out more about the characters latest adventure is nothing more than a fleeting earthly trap to say the least. Here is where the balance I so hope to absorb from Christ is starting to work in my heart. It doesn't have to be just one way over the other....or binge eating over strict dieting (to bring a very near and dear subject back to the light) but instead I can hear from God, invest time with Him, and then enjoy the humanly entertainment on this earth guilt free, and perspective full.

Anyway, that wasn't exactly what I was going to write about today...but my popcorn mind lead me there. I do however have a little struggle I am wrestling with today, and I will surely seek this in my quiet time to come here in a moment. As I mentioned my commitment in my earlier blog to "not diet" this year, I am not quite sure yet at what point that starts and stops. My weakness is the extremism that I seem to always falter to especially in the area of my salvation and also in my biggest stronghold- food and body issues.

My question/struggle is do I weigh myself ? And if so, when? This is the longest I have gone without weighing myself and that was the day before Thanksgiving of 2011. After gaining back about 25 to 30 pounds of a large amount of weight lost last year I was in a very deep and dark depression that I can only know as a shame so great I could hardly stand myself. In the recovery world I believe it to be called, "rock bottom". Shortly after this misery is when I heard God asking me to make a stand this year against every fighting cell in my body that wanted to take control and diet again. Although the shame has passed and God's grace has filled me again, I am still torn on this issue of the scale. What is the good that can come from it? And what is the bad that can come from it? My fear in weighing is the temptation that it could bring to this challenge I am on and cause me to go off course, finding a way to feed this diet addiction I have. My other fear is to become so out of touch with the scale that I have no benchmark for reference during this year....I know, don't even say it. I hear it...control. That's where it loves to hide it's ugly little head...on the scale.

So I will pray about this issue today and think it through carefully, if you would like to weigh in (LOL), please do.
Sorry for the scattered-ness today....but it seems to come naturally as this has been my way of life the past few days.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The No-Diet Year

The irony in starting this blog on December 30, 2011, is the all too natural connection between the word DIET and New Years, which is quickly approaching. Although it would be easy and extremely convenient for me to play into this idealistic facade of a resolution for a better me (as I have for way too many years now) this blog is not for the sake of a better body, a better image, a better work-out plan or a better weight. In fact this blogs purpose is for the accountability which will ensure the very opposite of all those things mentioned above. Weird, right?

Yes, very!

What is a No-Diet year? Why would I, an over-weight mom of two commit to such a depressing and sad existence for 12 whole months? Well, at this very moment I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it all myself. About a month ago (Nov 2011) I heard God speak to me....and challenge me in what could be the biggest way possible. No, I wasn't called to Africa or asked to give all my money away, or spend all my time with the homeless...but God asked me to give up the one thing that has brought me ANYcontrol or hope over the last 20 years. Dieting.

Such a strange thing to say, right? I would rather do missionary work in the heart of Africa than be asked to stop dieting? Well, as hard as that can be to understand, yes. Though the two are not even close to equal in physical or emotional exertion, it is the quiet and complicated inter-working and discovery in my heart that would quantify the truth in this comparison. It's in the shadows of my heart where my brokenness hides, and in those same shadows a beacon of light has recently exposed. God has revealed to me something so ugly, so deep and so frightening that only HE could have revealed it, for I would have chosen to keep it suppressed and alone...forever.

After a lengthy history of abuse of food and self...I am throwing in the towel of control and realizing my powerlessness without GOD. I have tried everything to "get happy" by losing weight. Thousands of dollars spent, thousands of hours stolen, thousands of tears shed and thousands of lies believed....and I am finally ready to try the one thing that is absolutely FREE, Jesus.

This isn't the Jesus that is the answer to every question asked in Sunday school as a five year old girl....but the Jesus that I now know as the All-Powerful, All-Knowing, All-Sacrificing, All-Sufficient Jesus that loves me deeper than I'll ever know or comprehend. My constant compartmentalization of  my obsessive sin nature and insecurities can no longer be segregated from the light...for it IS the segregation that holds the true consequence of my sin... separation from Christ Himself. 

I am currently in a 12-step Christ-centered recovery program that has opened my eyes to so much over the last 5 months. One of the first hurdles to get over in recovery is denial which then leads to acceptence and confession of sin. Although denial is human nature, confession is most definitely not. When I meet with my small group each week I speak openly and free of excuse, sugar-coating or withholding, and that is what I will do here on this blog as well.

What is the hope? The hope is that this blog will be an extra source of accountability to what I KNOW I have heard God speak to me. That I will cling to HIS word and the scripture that HE has spoken over my life time and time again, "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. " Romans 12:2. For everything in me wants to believe that there is life and hope in the behaviors of this world...but in fact there is only destruction, despair and depression. I want to know balance and reliance on Christ. I want to know truth that penetrates me so deep that it will cancel out all lies that have been the default mode of my mind for far too long. I want to know FREEDOM that inspires me to live a life within the boundaries He has placed for my own benefit and well-being.

So NO, this is not a New Years Resolution...but it is in fact a journal of my hearts journey to find HOPE in Jesus alone and not in the scale, in the pant size, or in the next diet plan. There will be days of frustration, new revealed sin and sin history, but also the conquest of my deepest stronghold....let month one begin.