Sunday, March 20, 2011

She Speaks Scholarship Entry: Plaid Luggage and Pom Poms

Something happened in the months from June to December last year…. I was broken beyond recognition; except He recognized me still. I felt left behind and alone but He reminded me no matter where I was; he was with me. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to do as He asked and then a friend reminded me “You may be the only Jesus they see.” I thought to myself: “ Any bit of Jesus I can share is better than keeping quiet in fear of failing.”
In my past life I was the life of the party and always wanting to lead people to the ways I was living. When I found Jesus, he told me that was one thing that wouldn’t have to change…it was just the life I would lead them to would be a different one; an everlasting one.
I belong to an amazing church…one I never saw myself attending. “Who would ever want to go to a church that size? It’s huge and they must all feel like numbers and not faces.” Out of 25,000 members, I am Gidget…not number 24,897. We have small groups and bible studies, LifeShare classes and seminars, missionary trips and volunteer opportunities. This large church is a building with many churches (bodies of Christ) making up its numbers. The opportunities offered since first walking in its doors a year ago have been limitless and fulfilling.
I am not a number but a face; a face that just happens to have an unusual name attached to it… a name that many of the staff know, along with many others that walk through the doors for services, events, studies, or classes. My husband and I wanted to be a part of it from the minute we crossed the parking lot and sat in row five, seats ten and eleven, for the first time last spring. We found Jesus just before moving and found our way to a baptism before thousands in May of last year. Let the life-changing begin.
With a church that size there are many staff and more volunteers to keep it running as smoothly as it does. The fact that I live across the street only keeps me there longer and more often, despite the weather conditions…studying, speaking, or vacuuming; bring it on.
What does this have to do with “Plaid Luggage and Pom Poms”?? Let me share, my friends.
There is a little conference (cough) about 600 in attendance last year I am told; that happens every summer in North Carolina…. the She Speaks Conference that is hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries. It is this amazing opportunity (funny how they number so many since becoming BFFs with Jesus)…. but I digress. This fabulous opportunity is for Christian women; all walks of life, all directions of addresses, and all levels of wanting to “Cheer for Jesus.”   Speakers, writers, and leaders Oh My.
This is the Cheer Camp to end all Cheer Camps and if you want to come with us, please follow the link to She Speaks Registration information. Yes… I said US. There are four of us going together….so we can be filled to overflowing and learn how to fill others. (Hint: this is where the pom poms come in).
I’ve never been to a Christian conference of any kind and now I want to go to one that is part conference, part fellowship, part seminar, part learning opportunity, part publisher parade, part speaker forum, part writing critique, part… who am I kidding; this isn’t part anything but a FULL three days of networking with those that have already lit the way for us to follow and those looking to do the following. FULLY AMAZING and FULLY for HIM…not PART anything.
I have no experience in leading just yet but I do hope to gain some. Jesus tells me “Be bold. Be transparent. Be the spokesperson I created you to be.” He doesn’t tell me in the “If you build it … they will come” kinda whisper but reminds me that I was created for this every time we get together over coffee or share the excitement I feel each time I learn something new from Him; through my mom, my church, or my friends. He is responsible for them all so He just smiles and, like a parent to a child when learning to ride a bike….excited at all of the places I can go now….(without the flowered basket on handlebars of course….but pom poms stuck in the handles would be a nice touch).
I write (blogs, devotions, stories, and thank you notes). I speak (sharing my testimony and past, and cheer wherever someone will let me). I sew (bible covers, journals, totes, and coffee cozies). I bake (scones, cakes, and cupcakes….even though Lysa’s “Made to Crave” has squashed that for me for a little while).
I have taken advantage of any opportunity offered at our church; taking classes to learn my spiritual gifts (scared of the word Evangelist until I learned it just meant Cheerleader for Jesus…. Sooooo me), learned to be a small group leader, involved in Prison Ministry, Women’s Ministry and Bible Studies, and currently taking a class to help the LifeShare Ministry… facilitating counseling and advising through challenges we have overcome in order to help others through divorce, cancer, addiction, weight loss, depression, etc.
When I felt alone during my isolation for six months that helped further the transformation He began two years ago…I missed my friends; the friends that Jesus himself hand-picked to be a part of my life. That feeling of loneliness is one I never want another to feel and I wanted to start a fellowship of Christian women when I returned… I did. We call ourselves “Lylas”…. Standing for “Love ya like a Sister….in Jesus” and we do. We are there for each other despite the circumstances; in person over coffee or just a shoulder, via email or text, biggest of smiles or with tear stained cheeks. We go to movies and dinner, host luncheons and teas, and even make handmade totes and jewelry, speak, or cook food in His name; each having a ministry of our own to Cheer for Him….spreading his name in any way possible, with multiple opportunities for people to feel as intimate with Him as we do.

I have never been to She Speaks but I assure you… receiving a scholarship or not, I will be there….along with three other Lylas (one already being blessed to receive a scholarship of her own)….a woman from Proverbs 31 Ministries left a comment on her blog that has become our motto (“The world says “Where there is a will there is a way.” The Father says, “Where there is a heart desperate to follow hard after me, I can make a way.”) Guess what? We have four hearts that are desperate to follow hard and cheer others to do the same…. We’re goin’.
And of course…. any group of women with a motto for their first Cheer Camp has to have a theme song “Get Here” by Oleta Adams says it all….
“You can reach me by railway, you can reach my trailway. You can reach me by airplane…… “
This isn’t about “winning” the Cecil Murphey Scholarship for attending the conference, because that would mean there was just one winner amongst us striving for this opportunity, making the rest of us “losers.” This is about hoping to be blessed enough to receive this gift….and if not this gift, another He has planned for us down the road. He has many blessings for us all and we only have to ask for them. I am asking for this one but I know if it isn’t me this time…He has another way and I will seek out the receiver of this gift at the conference and be sure to bring an extra set of pom poms for a woman picked “for a time such as this.”
Luckily for me my plaid luggage has extra pockets for just such occasions.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day Twenty-One: Just Rewards

Today is the last day of the “Made to Crave” 21 Day Challenge but leads into the first day of the real challenge; maintaining the freshness with the full on bible study and continuing to be accountable to Kathy (a fellow Lyla taking this journey with me), my family, and my blog. I love the transparency that comes from spilling my chunky self into words; allowing others to see the real me that He wants to see be better, thinner, healthier, and happier. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see my weight as a direct relation to my happiness but I am already elated at knowing that I am headed in the right direction spiritually which makes me feel better physically.
Lysa had great insights on her devotion today and I never like to “cut and paste” too much from her but this had to be shared:
“Eating wisely can become more than just a diet. It can become our lifestyle! But better yet, we position our hearts to enjoy closeness and fulfillment with God for eternity!” “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7…. “Aren’t you encouraged to see that overcoming is possible? We can be more than just a woman who hide our struggles or deal with them just enough to survive. This verse in Revelation says “the one who overcomes.” In other words, it confirms that we can find absolute victory in an area where we once knew nothing but defeat. There’s reward awaiting those of us who press through our struggles all the way to absolute victory.”
Am I encouraged? Absolutely! They say if you want proof… look to the bible. If I didn’t buy into all that I have read in Lysa’s book, I can find exactly where she is coming from simply by flipping the pages of my bible. I love that she has done the work for me in pointing out scripture to validate each point she makes. I am encouraged that overcoming is possible. Not just overcoming this journey to weight loss but overcoming in general. I have been able to overcome many things since letting Jesus in; shouldn’t that be proof enough that He can help me to overcome something so silly as a few pounds? Seeming small in comparison. I looooove when Lysa says….. “it confirms that we can find absolute victory in an area where we once knew nothing but defeat.” I have tried and succeeded at weight loss but I have tried and been defeated ten times over. Even in my successes I never experienced absolute victory and I look forward to sharing the ups and downs; trying to be the spokesperson He created me to be.
Absolute victory. Hmmmmm….  “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12
I love this scripture and keep it close as a “promise to those who love him.”
I am excited at the possibilities this bible study has opened up. I love being able to answer the thought provoking questions Lysa puts out there in the participant’s guide and DVD. Not only has it been a way to get me on the right track physically, it is allowing me to grow spiritually, and has opened up a door to a new friendship in my accountability partner. This study has also bridged the 2500 mile gap between my mom and I as we compare notes and energize each other with topical references and “food for thought.”
I have an end goal of 175 pounds and I know that I will reach it. I have smaller goals (baby steps) before getting there and I am excited to reach each and every one of those. I want to wear some of those smaller jeans in the back of my closet to the She Speaks Conference in North Carolina this summer. I know that I can be at least 190 before heading to Charlotte and meeting the author of this study. Who knows… I may even be able to zip up those jeans without lying on the bed and tuck in a shirt so that a belt will be seen; I might even have to go belt shopping before the weekend with Lylas…learning how to be better cheerleaders for Him whether it be speaking, writing, or leading. This is the end of the 21 Day Challenge but it is not the end of learning to crave more of God and less of food.
And I couldn’t say it better than my bible crush Paul, so I quote:
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14
Me too, Paul. Me too.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day Twenty: It's All in the Jeans.....(those genes too)

Throughout this study, I have been trying to pray more and be more willing to listen to what He tells me, in whatever medium He wants to tell me. I have been very receptive to where Lysa is leading us and I understand why she wants us to focus on what we do instead of putting the focus where it doesn’t belong…pleasing our tummies and not our hearts. Let’s face it; an extra slice of cake makes the emptiness go away in our gut but it can’t replace what Jesus fills in our hearts. He is just as immediate as our chocolate treat but lasts so much longer (without any crazy calories). What’s not to love? I promise to apologize to my Cardboard Jesus later for the comparison to chocolate cake but I am certain he knows it was absolutely necessary to make my point.
Many years ago, probably six or seven now… I had an opportunity to try out for the Biggest Loser via a local radio/TV station. It was truly a “cattle call”. We were instructed to call in to get the secret location of where the “go see” would be held. I was elated to see what I could do. Knowing it would probably be all about a “gimmick” I had a football jersey made; the call letters and numbers of the station with my name “GIDGET” across the back, along the top. We entered a room, six at a time sitting at a long rectangular conference table with four others from the radio/TV station facing us from the other side. They asked us questions about health and why we wanted to participate in this contest; aside from the obvious about losing weight and wanting to learn healthier eating habits. This must have been some of their only answers because when it came to a few people in front of me to answer….they looked at the judges with glassy eyes and had nothing new to add. I was quite proud of my goals; being comical but completely true. I said “I want to be able to zip up my jeans without lying on the bed and tuck my shirt in so people can actually see a belt if I decided to wear one.” At the time my jeans were more than a little snug and even when finally zipped were the most uncomfortable jeans forcing my excess tummy to the top. If that is the epitome of muffin top, my muffin was extra full.
Lysa shared her story of skinny jeans today. The definition of skinny jeans being the ones that used to fit … “when we were skinny” and have kept in the closet waiting to see the light of day again one day. She was happy to get into them but was telling how getting into the skinny jeans shouldn’t be our source of happiness. (Whew… I can be happy despite having ten pair of jeans in my closet in various states of fitting; a couple that still have tags and have been “Reward Jeans” for months.)
After I read this in her devotion today I asked myself; “Self…. What is linked to your happiness?” Things are great but they could be better if _____________________.” Yeah, I had some things that I could feel that line with:
…Alyssa would visit, Anja would check in more, or Baby would come back home.
…my husband’s job that he loves doing; was in Michigan and not 15 hours away in Oklahoma.
…chunky didn’t run in my family; seemingly skipping my middle sister but we love her anyway.
I do find joy in everything I do…honest. But if my happiness is not contingent on other things benefitting me, how could I fill in the blank in the statement above?
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
Oh…. Cool, thanks Nehemiah. That’s a completely random scripture to just pop in my head. Not so random from where He sits though… I know.
I want to experience all this bible study has to offer and feel that THIS time the journey to weight loss is truly that; a journey.
-       Noun
1.    a traveling from one place to another, usually taking a rather long time.
2.    a distance, course, or area traveled or suitable for traveling.
3.    passage or progress from one stage to another.
I have read it often and written about it a few times…but am reminded of the trek the disciples made across the Sea of Galilee.
In the middle of everything the disciples faced, Jesus came to them. They didn’t recognize him at first and were hesitant in asking him into the boat; just as I put him off so many times before the BIG transformation. But…when they did recognize him and they let him into the boat….it was a decision that saved their lives and allowed them to get to the new place that God intended. If God sent them, then he was also committed to their destiny and would release all of the resources necessary for them to get to the other side. When God directs us in a way that leads us into transition, He has already committed Himself to come to us when we reach unstable waters.
I am committed to my destination of 175 pounds; to fit into the smallest of my jeans patiently waiting in my closet, ready to make their presence known. God is committed to my destiny and will release all the resources necessary to get me to the other side.Those jeans are suitable for traveling and they are excited as I am about the possibility of making the trip to North Carolina to the She Speaks conference…meeting the author of the book that made it possible; if nothing else….being a “How to” book for craving Him and not all of the things that made those jeans a forgotten friend in the first place.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day Nineteen: Carrots and Cupcakes

Before starting the “Made to Crave” bible study and subsequently the 21 Day Challenge, much like Lysa (the author of the study I have referred to for 18 days prior to this one) admitted “I have never craved a carrot stick.” I had to nod my head and raise a hand to the heavens when I saw/heard this on her DVD. “Amen sista”.
But, nineteen days into this program, I do find myself craving carrot sticks and let me tell you why. I feel like I am cheating a bit. It is the act of eating one mini carrot stick after another; hand to mouth action. I have never been a smoker but have known a few that have…and quit. They needed to do something to keep their fingers and mouths busy, to replace the act of smoking. I feel like carrot sticks do the same for me. No, it isn’t movie theater popcorn with butter in the middle and on top. And it isn’t quite as “indulging” as the spoonful after spoonful of my Chunky Monkey Ben and Jerry’s ice cream that I love so much. But it is the act of making me feel like I am getting something… one bite at a time.
Hmmmm…. the act of making me feel like I am getting something.
How many times in my life have I pretended that what I had was just as good as what I was missing? How often did I want to ask Jesus for a relationship with him but didn’t feel worthy?
 “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 10:23
Just because God gave us the power to choose for ourselves doesn’t mean that we use that power for good and not evil. When I made decisions for myself…by myself…the result wasn’t good. I did things that were self-gratifying with no thoughts of how it would affect others directly or indirectly. Everything was permissible and I felt everything was beneficial….to me, at least.
He gave me the ability to make choices and it seems like I made the wrong ones every chance I got….yet, He never took that from me, hoping that one day I would start making better ones. “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” Let me dummy it down into “worldly lingo;” …. Just because it comes in your size, doesn’t mean you should wear it OR that if you do wear it; it will look good on you. Being 5’9” and a size 16 for instance; you won’t see me wearing a bikini despite some designers thinking it will look good on every body type because it comes in black. Or… walking into the neighborhood pub with the best of intentions; only going to have a few beers when the first shot is offered. Within an hour, my good intentions were put on the top shelf with the expensive liquor…out of reach until next time. It was the same way with weight loss… if there was a goal in mind I would compete to reach that goal but then what?
This is what Lysa mentioned in her devotion today:
“Reaching my weight loss goal is a precarious place for me. That’s because I find it is a blessing strangled in a curse. The “curse” is the assumption that freedom now means I can return to all those things I have given up for the past months. The sacrifices… the missed treats… the deprived taste buds high on salad and low on French fries. I’m tempted to celebrate, live it up, and invite all those foods I’ve missed to a little welcome-home party.”
I feel I have already reached many goals since FINALLY tracking Jesus down and asking Him to fill the hole in my heart. I want to say “I’m better now” and can revisit some of the places I have come from. I am stronger. I know how better to handle myself and those things that led me astray before can’t touch me now because I have Jesus; and for the most part…that could be true. But…He has still not taken away my freewill and I know that there are some places I could go where it would be very easy to maintain my composure and there are others that would test me for sure. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1Corinthians 10:13
As Lysa mentioned before; “….tempted to celebrate.” I want to share my faith with those that I had to walk away from. It was necessary to “change my playground” physically and mentally to devote my entire “new life” to Him. But I feel so strong and because of that I think I would be okay and toy with the idea of letting some of those people back in my life…just to see what He is truly capable of because they knew me “when.” I share with them via facebook or email; the life I have now compared to then. But I remember that just because I am a Christian I am not immune or invincible. The world will still try to creep in and wreak havoc on the life Jesus has created for me and I am unwilling to risk that. Jesus was with Daniel in the Lion’s Den but he didn’t choose to be put there….he just knew that he was not alone and that is enough for me too.
I am excited to get to my goal weight and celebrate with friends and not food. Heck… we already have mini-celebrations each weigh in day and I know that would still be the case if the needle on the scale moved up and not down. We have much to be thankful and celebrate. More than learning to crave God and not food, in this study, I am learning to appreciate all I have in Him and not focus on what is missing. I no longer envy those with different lifestyles but enjoy the lifestyle he has created for me.
I am eating carrots but living cupcakes…. and mine is cream filled with sprinkles on top.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day Eighteen: The Art of Comparison

I grew up competitive and it stuck with me; even through becoming a Christian. Jesus knows that I am no longer cutthroat, malicious, or conniving in my methods but comparing was something I did for a long time. I think being competitive and comparing were two of my Top Ten faults; dishonest, addicted, judgmental, vindictive, and just mean- spirited…. to name a few more.
I was constantly comparing myself to others. First Grade… someone had higher ponytails than me but I had awesome homemade crocheted ribbons in multiple colors (Thanks Mom). Sixth Grade… many pretty girls in my class that looked much older than they were; I wore glasses and big pink clip on earrings (in my defense, it was 1980.) Tenth Grade… I was faster in cross country that she was; but she was a cheerleader and much more popular. (I love that I was just a late bloomer and am the self-proclaimed Captain of the Cheerleader for Jesus squad now.)
Lysa gave the example of an exercise class comparison….. “I was in exercise class one day when the gal next to me leaned over and shared concerns about her sister’s increasing weight. I was half listening and half straining to lift my aching legs when she quipped, “I mean, my sister now weighs like 150 pounds!” I didn’t know whether to laugh out loud or keep silent, because the number that horrified her was the exact number I saw that very morning on my scale!”
Let’s face it… my GOAL WEIGHT isn’t even close to 150 pounds; I am being realistic at 175 and will be ecstatic to see 200. Talk about a conversation being relative to those it involves, huh? I can’t even imagine that Weight Watchers says that someone of my height (I’m 5’9” in bare feet and nearly 6’ with heels on...which isn’t often) should weigh between 145 – 160 pounds. YIKES.  The last time I felt pretty good about myself was probably ten years ago; I was 175 pounds and a size 14. I felt comfortable. I was active. And I even wore a bathing suit in front of people….now I don’t even put on shorts or skirts higher than the knees.
Flashback to the “Mean Gidget” days…. Also known as the PJ Era (Pre-Jesus)…. Even being the chunky girl (265 pounds at my heaviest), I would compare myself to others. It would start off in a negative way; me comparing to the skinny twenty-somethings that could not only wear anything they wanted and look good…they were eating and drinking anything they wanted without compromise. But, I was pretty good at the “Art of Comparison” and it wouldn’t take me long to find someone that was chunkier than me or I thought I looked better than; either hair, makeup job, clothes, or accessories. Guess who I immediately would try to befriend…. Yep; me and the chunky wallflower with bad shoes would be best friends within twenty minutes. I’m not proud of the person I was but I mention it simply because Jesus picked me anyway. He walked into a room and out of everyone else He could have come to….He came to me. Whew. (Only now…. many years later, I wonder; was I picked by others in a room for the very same reason? Was I the chunkier girl that made them feel better about themselves?)
Ugh….  My heart hurts a little.
I don’t make comparisons anymore, although I admit to still being a bit competitive at times. Jesus says that friendly competition is okay but he raises an eyebrow at me anytime I get too close to crossing the line.
One thing I have learned since becoming Captain of the Cheerleading for Jesus squad is that in Him we are created anew. Not just in our hearts but the outside too. He changes us so that others can see what He is capable of. The only comparing we need to do is to him and the example he set for us. It isn’t about the numbers on the scale or what size jeans I put on this morning (although he did say my smaller ones look better).
The Art of Comparison is only to Him. I can remember that. I need to live it.
Today, Kathy and I met for our “Made to Crave” study and DVD session. The best part by far was the section based upon (of course) the words of Paul. In the participation guide Lysa says:
The statements below define the truth of your identity as a child of God. As you read each statement, write your name in the space provided.

_______________ ,the forgiven child of God. (Romans 3:24)
_______________ ,the set-free child of God. (Romans 8:1-2)
_______________ ,the accepted child of God. (1Corinthians 1:2)
_______________ ,the holy child of God. (1Corinthians 1:30)
_______________, the made-new child of God. (2Corinthians 5:17)
_______________, the loved child of God. (Ephesians 1:4)
_______________, the close child of God. (Ephesians 2:13)
_______________, the confident child of God. (Ephesians 3:12)
_______________, the victorious child of God. (Romans 8:37)

“Which of the identity truths above is the hardest for you to believe wholeheartedly? Why do you struggle with this one?”
Wow.... I couldn't pick just one, that's for sure.
I am reminded that there is no need to compare myself to anyone because I am….. the forgiven, set-free, accepted, holy child, made-new, loved, close, confident, and victorious child of God.
Would God want any of children behaving that way? 
Yeah… I didn’t think so either.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Day Seventeen: "But I want it ..... NOW"

….Words to live by and not just words spoken by a very spoiled Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka.
I don’t know that I ever said them aloud but I know I have thought them hundreds of time in my adult life. I have to specify “my adult life” because growing up, my sisters and I had to earn everything we received; taking nothing for granted and being very appreciative afterwards. Boundaries were set and limitations were put on many things. Where it wasn’t seen as a blessing then, with friends around us living the “Veruca Salt” way; looking back I learned that is what I should have done with my daughters instead of giving to them before they even had to ask.
My adult life couldn’t have been more different. I probably thought those words and sang the song in my head at least once a day. Whether it was a $5.00 Starbucks each morning, going out every night and leaving my kids at home, or buying something I knew I couldn’t afford. I was married at the time to a guy that just couldn’t tell me “no” and in the end, I blamed him for it. Yeah… I did that. Sure, he would try but that would inevitably start a fight and he would figure out that to keep me happy, which meant everyone around me was happy….I had to get what I wanted at any cost. It inevitably was the demise of our marriage; among other things.
My lifestyle had gotten out of control because my daughters were already out of the house, living their own lives and what little parental hold I had was no longer there. I thought it gave me permission to take it up a notch and live life even fuller than I was before but that quickly got out of hand. After one DUI…I had small realizations at there was a problem, for a little while... but after a few months, went right back to my old ways. It was only after my second DUI that I woke up and searched for the hem of Jesus’ robe, looking for the boundaries and limitations; desperately needing someone to “tell me no;” feverishly wanting someone else to make the decisions because my track record for making my own wasn’t too favorable.
Lysa’s devotion today was about those very boundaries and the reasons we have them… for our own good. “Boundaries are not meant to be restrictive fences meant to keep you from enjoying life, but gifts from a God who cares about your well-being.” “Sometimes, the words “no”, “boundaries”, and “limitations” stir up feelings of deprivation and resistance in my strong-willed self.”
I experienced those exact circumstances growing up. How did I turn into such an entitled, spoiled brat as an adult? Growing up in a small town, I vowed to get out as soon as possible…just like many from my meager sized graduating class. I graduated high school early and couldn’t wait to get to college and then the Army where I could do whatever I want. It does seem like an oxy-moron; doing whatever I wanted in the military, but let me explain. I loved the discipline. I loved the opportunity to impress someone, either with combat skills, physical exercise, work ethic, or just being on time. This is where the masks started coming into play. I got to be the responsible blonde girl in the medical unit full of men, all attention on me. Yes, there were limitations and boundaries but when I clocked out… I was on the loose; still taking the “all eyes on me” feeling with me into my personal life. THIS is the moment I started feeling entitled. I got away with a lot of things, treated differently because I was a female in the military, even being able to drink under age because my boyfriend was old enough. I may have discipline and limitations at work but my personal life was revving up to be full blown enabled. I was looking for free reign and got it. If Jesus tried to come in my life then; I definitely wasn’t listening.
It got worse before it got better but I now know that is exactly how it was supposed to be. Paul spoke from experience because he was on a destructive path of his own when Jesus turned his life around.
“If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family or believers.” Galatians 6:1-10
These few verses from Paul are what I try to do now, knowing I fall short much of the time. I know that I pretended to be someone I wasn’t because there was no one to put boundaries on me. I know that I was on a path to reaping the destruction, I myself was sowing. I was caught in sin over and over again. I thought I was better than those around me despite the lies I told and the people I hurt. These verses remind me that, like Paul… I can turn my life around and embrace boundaries and limitations. I may become weary in doing good but I feel that because Jesus rescued me from a dark and dusty road, I must do what I can to “pay it forward” even knowing that some around me may balk at my story because of where I came from. If Paul can do it…. so can I.
Paul never tried to forget who he was but embraced it; I am certain that he was mocked in the process because everyone knew who he was before. But, he reminds us that God cannot be mocked and He chose him to be a spokesperson to those that once feared him.
If I had it to do all over again, I would have known that my parents raised me the way they did for a reason. I would have followed their example and not ruined the relationships with my daughters by raising them with minimal boundaries and limitations. I used to think it was too late to turn things around since they are young adults now and living on their own but I am trying to set an example now in the life I lead and hope that they see changes in my life and how they, too, can turn things around if they don’t like their circumstances.
No… I never thought boundaries were a good thing. Limitations were something I avoided. Being told “no” would surely have ended up in a fight. But now I know that God has my best interest at heart and the things I went through were necessary to “show” me and not just be told what could happen. I wouldn't have believed it and thought "That only happens to other people."
I am surprised at just how much this “Made to Crave” study is making me think. Not just about healthier eating but about a healthier way of looking at things. He isn’t telling us “no” to punish us but to protect us. He isn’t depriving us of things we want but telling us why we need to make better decisions. He doesn’t want us to wear masks and pretend we are happier, richer, or more Christian than we are. Like a parent…he wants what is best for us and is sad and disappointed when we make the wrong choices, hoping we learn from that mistake and make a better choice next time.
I still say “I want it NOW” a lot, only I am usually referring to an answer to prayer when it doesn’t come quick enough. (Still working on the “in His timing, not mine” mentality). I was a spoiled, entitled, and enabled brat. Now I am just a child of God that is constantly seeking my Daddy’s approval and he knows that being a chunky child of God isn’t making me as happy as He wants me to be.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

She Speaks Blog Entry: What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

Having been a Christian for just 17 months; reaching out to help women was not something I dreamed of doing, growing up. Like most girls in my generation (which shall remain nameless), school teachers, secretaries, and housewives were at the top of the lists. I grew up in and out of churches because my parents went but I never got to a point where I wanted a relationship of my own. I was a follower in those days; moving from clique to clique but not belonging to any. I graduated high school early to check out college and then off to the Army; without a clue but completely fearless in finding out.
I wanted to be a teacher growing up. Then it was a fashion designer. Then it was an Airborne Combat Medic in the Army. Then it was a nurse for a plastic surgeon. Then it was working for a racing team in NASCAR. Then it was being a Personal Assistant for a variety of companies… Harley Davidson, Miller Brewing, and JD Power and Associates to name a few. This isn’t my resume but proof that I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up….until Jesus came along.
When I left home, it was the beginning of a twenty year road trip without looking back. I took the scenic route; getting married, having three daughters one year after the other, and getting breast cancer. For more reasons than I could list in a “Why do you Wanna go to the She Speaks Conference” kinda blog, I definitely needed a detour. Packed up a UHaul trailer and moved to another state and another husband, still not even looking around to see if that guy Jesus was comin’. I didn’t need him. Life was good. I had survived and I was going to spend the rest of my life celebrating until the celebrating got out of hand and then my story shifted gears….  two husbands, two states, and two DUIs. (Okay… now I’m lookin’ for Jesus).
I knew who He was and was pretty sure He knew me but it was like a High School reunion and neither of us were seeking each other out. I used to pray to him when I got into trouble; which, let’s face it…was more often than I care to admit. I prayed the “Dear Jesus, if you get me out of this one I promise to ___________" prayer. He would show up, get me out of whatever mess I had gotten myself into and I would be on my way, having no intention of fulfilling the promises made. I guess I didn’t want to be trustworthy when I grew up either (how is that for a sad realization?)
But one mess after another and I finally got the message; Jesus was the only way for me. I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up….it took me until the age of 40 but I figured it out. I wanted to be forgiven. I wanted to be saved. I wanted to go home again, even if I hadn’t been there in 20 years. I wanted to be like my mom and use her as an example to live a Christian life. I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I wanted to be a Cheerleader for Jesus. (And cheerleaders need to go to Cheer Camps to hone their skills and talents... "She Speaks" is sooooo my Cheer Camp. I'll bring the pom poms).
I wondered if I had waited too long in asking Him into my heart. I wondered how He could forgive me when I couldn’t even forgive myself. I wondered how someone like Him could ever want someone like me. But it worked out and I don’t know how I could have gotten through the next two years without Him. Two of my three daughters weren’t speaking to me, I lost my job, was in and out of court for the DUIs, took a six month hiatus in California (doozy part of this journey to be shared at the conference…. I promise), more job layoffs and economic downturns, and moving to a new city in the middle of winter; no jobs, no friends, no family, and no bank account. Just living by faith and footwork and we were thankful for it.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12
Of course Paul had to be part of this blog entry. It is my crush on him that has made me even hungrier for the word. When I was in California, apart from my husband, and friends, and church for six months… I turned to my bible. It was more than it had ever been to me before. It wasn’t a history book or even love letters from God… it was like my own personal “Narnia”. I read with fervor and felt like I was literally there for each story being told. I joke that reading anything from Romans to Hebrews is like “The Bachelor.” I know, that just like “The Bachelor” there are others that he is wooing but I feel like they are all for me. (They say that Hebrews is an unknown author but if you knew Paul like I do, you would say it is him without a doubt…. And is it a coincidence that all of the letters he wrote are in a row and Hebrews just happens to be the last one? I don’t think so). But… back to my own reality. I truly believe that, despite writing those letters to others, he was speaking to me….his words not missing a beat as he describes his emotions, regardless of where they were written from.
It was because “He Speaks” that I want to attend “She Speaks.” The power of communication to spread His word is unmatched; whether we are learning to convey a story to a crowd for 45 minutes at a time from a stage or compelling audiences to turn the page to see what happens next in a story that could be any one of us; I know that this is His plan for me and I need to take action. Jesus always says to me...."Be bold. Be transparent. Be the spokesperson I created you to be."
There is a scene from the Breakfast Club at the end of the movie. All day long on a Saturday, five kids from different walks of life, each thinking they are individuals with nothing in common….had to spend the day in the library for detention. Their assignment was to write an essay telling the teacher who they were.
Much like the movie, we all think we are individuals, each having a situation that was especially unique to just us; the “no one else could possibly know what I was going through” mentality.
I am thrilled to say that Jesus helps to bridge that gap and I know that a conference like this one is THE best tool I can have in being the messenger for Him.... and making that happen in my little corner of the world.
In the movie, it ends with just one letter being written simply saying: “You can see us how you want to see us…but in the simplest terms, by the most convenient of definitions, what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a loner, a princess, and a criminal.”
I want to be able to bridge the gap and help women tell the world “You can see us how you want to see us; divorced, depressed, addicted, lost, broken, sad or abandoned. But with Jesus and the people He puts in our paths, we know that each one of us can overcome anything that comes our way.”
As the Prodigal “Son” that returned home both literally and spiritually, I like to think that Jesus, and maybe Paul and Barnabus too… are hanging out in heaven watching the things we have gotten through together and Jesus saying: “Looks like we’re going on a road trip to North Carolina boys.” To which Paul replies: “Shotgun."

Day Sixteen: Indulge

At first glance, indulge seems like a great word. I can indulge in a day at the spa; a treat with friends, a reward. I can indulge in great conversation with my mom about everything and nothing at all, on a daily basis. I can even indulge in quiet time, my favorite book, or devotion with Jesus. But there is a fine line between indulge and over-indulge and you don’t see it comin’
-       verb (used without object)
1.    to yield to an inclination or desire; allow oneself to follow one’s will: Dessert came, but I didn’t indulge.

-       verb (used without object)
1.    to yield to, satisfy, or gratify (desires, feelings, etc.): to indulge one’s appetite for sweets.
2.    to yield to the wishes or whims of; be lenient or permissive with: to indulge a child.
Growing up, I was not over-indulged. We always had our needs met but we didn’t get things for the sake of getting them. As a parent, however, that was not the case; over- indulging my three daughters in ridiculous ways. I wasn’t a great parent but I thought I could buy their love, and even felt it worked for a little while; name brand clothing, new cell phones every couple of months, thousands of dollars on birthday parties, even cars. I wish I could do it all over again because I know now that the best love I could have given them was to comfort them, care about them, listen to them, and be there for them no matter what. I have also learned that you can’t turn back the clock….but I do try to make up for lots of things I messed up on. I can’t change the past but my realizations and actions now, have a direct reflection on the future.
When we indulge, we gratify our own feelings and desires; regardless of those around us, satisfying an immediate need or want, regardless of the rippling consequences that follow.  When I stopped indulging my daughters, I turned all of my attention to the worst person I could have…. Me. If I thought my over-indulging of my daughters was bad, ignoring them to pursue my own personal needs was even worse but I was so blinded by my own wants that I was always able to justify everything. I even went so far as to blame those around me for “letting me” do the things I was doing. Who am I kidding? If anyone had tried to stop me from “indulging” I would have packed my very fashionable bags and gone on to someone else who wouldn’t.
I had THE biggest inclination and desire to allow myself to follow MY will. God gave us freewill. He wants us to have the ability to choose. He just always hopes that we make the right choices with Him at the center. I am certain that each time I made a decision that didn’t include him or, at the very least, do the right thing…he cringed a little and then said “Well, I’m sure she’ll get it next time.” Only there were many more “next times” before I started putting Him first. Thankfully, Christ died for our sins so that we may have eternal life and don’t get the punishment we deserve for the things that we do; always getting the opportunity to hit the reset button.
Today Lysa’s devotion was right where I was. I have been thinking a lot of my past behaviors and the consequences that followed them; leaving home the way I did, the way I raised my kids, the failed marriages, and the rollercoaster of weight loss and physical activity. She spoke of the “G” Word. Without looking at much more than the title I immediately thought “God” or “Grace” or “Gullibility” (Yeah, that last one is a weird one but I have been reading a lot lately and discovered just how gullible I truly was until finding Jesus, so I definitely put it in my top three “G” words that she could have been referring to.) Anyway… her word was “Gluttony.” I liked my words better… not so “dark.” But when she continued on, I knew that she was “spot on” again.
Gluttony = excessive eating and drinking and is one of the seven deadly sins. She says: “Indeed, our souls are thirsty and ravenous vacuums. If we fail to fill our souls with spiritual nourishment, we will forever be triggered to numb our longings with other temporary physical pleasures that will never satisfy.”
Oh my gosh… “numb our longings with other temporary physical pleasures that will never satisfy.” (Ding ding ding)
I was constantly looking for the next best thing, never being fulfilled but constantly trying to patch the holes in my self esteem. Buying a purse for $500 because I didn’t like my weight and thought accessories would make me feel better…since shopping for clothes was out of the question. Buying things to decorate my house and trying to pretend I was something I wasn’t; overextending myself to pretend there was more in the bank account than there actually was. Gluttony is excessive eating and drinking, of which I was guilty but I took it a step further and indulged in anything and everything, leaving others to “fend for themselves” in my wake.
Lysa was right… I was failing to fill my soul with spiritual nourishment and the emptiness was never sated for any length of time; just like eating Chinese food…. I love it at the time, but find myself hungry again an hour later.
Since finding Jesus I strive for spiritual nourishment every day. I indulge in all that he gives to me and I am thrilled to pass it along at any given opportunity; even if that means He and I make our own.
I love the idea of a spiritual buffet and am no longer satisfied with fast food takeout.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Day Fifteen: Lost and Found

When it comes to Jesus; and the bible in general, there are many examples of the lost and the found; my favorite of course, being the story of the Lost Son. I strayed….for longer than I care to admit, doing things I’d rather forget; but He doesn’t let me. He has a plan for me and if I were to forget those things that He has gotten me through, I wouldn’t be able to fulfill his purpose for me in helping others that are just as lost as I was. I love this story for so many relatable reasons. The father representing God to all of us, his children but it also has a very literal meaning for me since my parents prayed and waited for me to come home in a very real way, somehow patiently waiting for twelve years. I am also blessed to be the parent in this scenario, having “lost” children of my own; thinking about them always and praying about them incessantly. Even if they don’t believe in Him, I do…and I know that my faith is just as strong as my parents although I hope I don’t have to wait as long…only He knows for sure.
Another obvious story that comes to mind is the parable of the Lost Sheep. A shepherd going after one of his flock that strayed instead of being satisfied with the 99 that are left; finding him and being thankful for his return; just as Jesus is more excited to get one of us back than to have the others stay and do the right thing all along. It is a promise He made and I love the idea of a party in heaven when we figure things out, return to the flock, and seek Him.
Today was a weigh in day on this great journey of “Made to Crave”. I lost 1.2 pounds, and while I was happy for the scale to be moving in the right direction, I was elated at what I found this week….being worth more to me than a number on a scale. I found insight into scriptures I had read a dozen times before. I found confidence in knowing I was sticking to the program. I found even more quiet time with my Cardboard Jesus. I found purpose and encouragement from my blogs. I found affirmation of why my best friend is my best friend.
I lost more than a little weight today. I lost my bank card. But…somehow, I did not lose my cool but prayed and found patience instead. Jesus was definitely at work there. I went to the gym, did my thirty minutes, weighed in, and then was going to go to the store with Lynnette. Just before walking out the door, I decided I needed to make sure my list was together and money / bank card was all present and accounted for…it was not. I stopped and thought: “Think back. Retrace your steps. Where did you use it last? When did you use it last?” YIKES here it is Wednesday and I hadn't used it since coffee before church on MONDAY NIGHT. I searched pockets and purses, datebooks and notebooks, and even looked under the seats of the car to no avail. I looked again. It was lost. I called the coffeehouse, certain it was left behind or found by someone and returned. (Apparently I wasn’t the only one in a state of “uh oh, I lost my bank card” because they told me they “still” didn’t find it and hadn’t seen it since the first time I called.) Called the church in the event someone returned it after my training meeting... nothing.

Darn it.
I prayed for patience. I prayed in faith that He would figure it out. After five minutes of “Well, now what are you going to do?” I found common sense. Called the bank to reissue and cancel, with promises to arrive by Friday. But what would I do until then? Hubby out of town, bills to be paid, groceries to be bought, and a very important payment that had to be mailed and in someone’s hands by Friday. <gulp>  Any other time, a lag of a couple of days wouldn’t matter but the VIP payment could not be postponed.
While on hold with the bank, I received a text from that best friend I mentioned above. I was to call her ASAP. As I was holding with the bank on my cell phone, I picked up the home phone and dialed as quickly as I could, wondering what else could go wrong today.
Flashback to Lysa’s devotion today saying that  “Life as a Christ follower will always be a learning process of depending less on our own strength and more on God’s power.”
“The testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that you may mature, complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:3-4
I had to interject her words and James’ quote there because what happened next was completely His will and just another reason why I am so thankful for the people that Jesus puts in my life.
I called her, expecting to hear that something was now amiss with her at home too. She knew of my dilemma and didn’t freak out or make a fuss, which is probably one of the reasons I was able to remain as calm as I was….not a fun situation. But I digress. She told me simply “I have money. I have cash.” What?? She said again “I have money. I have cash… for you. I went to the bank to get money for you to take care of what you need until you get your bank card.”
I was at a loss for words. At that moment, He was testing my faith and I didn’t have to wait long at all for him to prove to me what an awesome God he is and what an awesome friend he has given to me. I had faith and my friend did the footwork, without hesitation, without a request, without a doubt.
James said: “….so that you may mature, complete, not lacking anything.”
I imagined how this scenario would have played out before Jesus and it wasn’t pretty; but there really is something to this living by faith and footwork. I do feel “mature, complete, and not lacking anything.” Not only am I not lacking anything, I am living abundantly and have more than I could ask for.
In my PJ Era (Pre Jesus)…not lacking anything meant having 5 pairs of shoes, exact same style, one pair of every color they came in. To put this into perspective now…. I have 10 pairs of shoes… TWO pair of EVERY color they come in.
I lost 1.2 pounds today but I found so much more.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day Fourteen: Going Back for Seconds and Thirds

“His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’”   Lamentations 3:22-24

Those that know me, know that when I blog I just want to write about random incidents that happen when Jesus and I get together; and there are lots of them. I am not great at reading a suggested set of scriptures and then told “Okay… go write about that.” My style is storytelling and sharing what Jesus has put on my heart but I wanted to do something different when I started the “Made to Crave” bible study. I wanted to use the tools given to me and make this habit one that would “stick” and one that I could stick to. So I ordered the book, the participant’s guide, and Kathy picked up the DVD. We were set. But wait…. Then I find out there is a 21 Day Challenge available to me via email. I HAD to have that too.
I have been getting A LOT out of Lysa’s 21 Day “Made to Crave” Challenge (separate from the bible study and completely free by going to And now that THAT infomercial is over; I digress. Following her daily devotions as inspiration for my daily blog entries has been trying some days and completely “spot on” other days. Today is one of those “spot on” kinda days. She speaks of portion control and God being more than enough to satisfy us.
 “As Israelites traveled through the desert, each morning God would rain down exactly what they needed for nourishment – a provision called “manna,” which I imagine was something like little, sweet, potato flakes. They were to collect just enough manna for the day. They couldn’t gather extra, except before the Sabbath day of rest, or it would rot. This daily process was intended to put them in the habit of dependence on God, and only God.”
I am sure that many of you have heard that a habit can be formed by doing anything 21 days in a row; just a coincidence for this Challenge?  I don’t think so. Research has proven that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Habits are an essential part of our life, and without them, we would fail in most things we try to accomplish. They help us reach specific goals; stay focused along the way, and keep pushing when the going gets tough. At the same time, non-supportive habits can keep us from moving forward or even hurt our well-being. I can’t remember how many times I have tried to lose weight in the past. The problem was me simply trying and not doing. (James would love that part… “Yep. Told ya so. It is one thing to want to do something and even talk about it, but let’s see if you actually do anything about it.” (Me… paraphrasing of course).
My Cardboard Jesus and I were poking around on the internet and found out that there are six things we can do to help facilitate a habit being made into practice. (Finding the list wasn’t enough so we followed each with the conversation we had afterwards.)
1.    First of all, you will need to be clear on your intentions. Do you really want to buy that car or move into that house? or do you just want to be like everyone else and they have those things. “Jesus, you know that I have had the best of intentions before; some clear and some not so clear. Honestly, most were things I wanted because someone else had it and I didn’t want to be left out. I wanted things because they would benefit me; make me look better than I was or make me appear to be someone I wasn’t. My intentions this time are genuine, and although I will benefit greatly from being thinner, this journey I am on is about you and your plan for me; and me trying to do some of the footwork to get “us” there. I honestly believe that I am doing it THIS time, for all the right reasons.”
2.    Once you are absolutely certain you want to follow through with this, write down your intentions to use as positive affirmations; making them your goals. “Jesus, my goals have changed dramatically since before you came into the picture. I truly am putting your needs for me first and wanting to reach these goals not just for myself but to fulfill the plan you have for me. I don’t want you to be disappointed that you brought me this far and then I just “stopped.” I know that my goals are yours that you have for me and I will continue writing them down in hopes that others will see their own goals in what you share through me as well.”
3.    Identify your “why.” Why do you want to want to lose weight, walk 60Miles, or become a motivational speaker? “Jesus, I’m tired. I’m tired of just writing and talking of our relationship. I want to show people from the outside just what you and I are capable of when we work together. You have changed me from the inside out. I know people that are of the world and not following you, may or may not see those changes but how can they miss the changes that we can make physically? I want to be a walking testament of your grace without even opening my mouth. Just my actions and my love for you spilling into my every day. I want to see success in this part of my journey with you because I want my physical fitness to match the spiritual fitness I am growing with you daily.”
4.    Create diversions to help you stay on track. If there is a specific weakness you battle that stops you from progressing and practicing every day, try to find ways to distract you from the negativity. Total honesty with yourself goes a long way here. “Jesus, you know my weaknesses and my sins and you love me anyway. You know that I can be “VERY” Martha at times, busying myself with things that can wait. You know that I want you to be my biggest, most constant diversion. I don’t have a specific weakness but can be distracted easily by things I want to make important. I know that the best way to be distracted from negativity is to be in your word and in your presence no matter where I am and I promise not to stay too long at pity parties and you have my permission to say those little words to me anytime… “Be still and know that I am God;” reminding me that nothing else around me matters and I just need to keep my focus on you and not everything in this world that can so easily pull me from the path you have lighted before me.”
5.    Celebrate each step, regardless of how tiny it is. You need all the help you can get to keep motivated. It also helps to enlist the support of friends or family members; people who can motivate you to keep on going. “Jesus, I celebrate in all that you give to me; good, bad, or otherwise. I know that the last two years haven’t been easy but you were with me every step of the way. I know that I can find joy and celebrate each goal we meet together because we did it together. And I promise that no matter what the scale says each Wednesday we will celebrate that we are getting more intimate at this stage of our journey so the number is completely secondary.”
6.    Stay clear of negative people. There will be those who try to sabotage you. This doesn’t even have to be intentional. It could evolve from a negative statement aimed at you, or even a deep rooted belief you had since you can remember. Any trigger that could bring this out should be avoided. “Jesus, you and I already know that you told me to change my playground…and I did. I couldn’t be happier for you expanding my territories to get to the places you have shown me and I know that I am stronger now than I was when you pulled me from that train wreck of a life I was leading. But I promise you that I will never fool myself into thinking it was all about me and my strength. I know, more than anyone, just who is responsible for the changes I have experienced and changing my playground, leaving those negative influences behind  was more than changing my address and carrying that baggage to a new zip code.”
Doing this challenge for 21 Days is a kickstart to a better life than the one He has already brought me to. Yes, Jesus loves me just the way I am; the crazy, invisible friend conversations, crush on Paul, Betsy Johnson-like flare, and contagious personality person that he rescued from a life completely empty and devoid of any real substance. God is my portion. He is my seconds and my thirds. He is my favorite candy dessert table. He is more than enough for me and it is Him who I want to be completely dependent on, not the people, snacks, and stuff around me.
“The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’
Lord knows he waited long enough for me.