Each of us forms our identity on all kinds of things. From the things that interest you and how you decide to spend your time can give a pretty good picture of who you think you are. It goes deeper than that though because what shapes those outward choices is what’s going on inside you. Your inner world of what you say to yourself, your belief systems, and your values shape how respond to life and the decisions you make.

And what you value and believe in and your inner thought life are all under your control. What you allow yourself to dwell on is a choice.

We’re all driving on this road called life and each of us are in complete control of how and where we drive our car.

If you’re like me, some thoughts have made some deep grooves in our minds that are really hard to drive out of as the tires are caught in pretty deep. It’s like I just went back and forth, over and over again, the same thought patterns, and many of those thought patterns were deeply harmful to my well-being. But it just means you need a shovel, maybe even a tractor, to dig you out. No matter what, you have choices. No matter how ugly or how tangled the grooves are.

My problem when I was trying to get myself out of the ruts and potholes in my head was I couldn’t find a worthy road that didn’t have it’s own broken pavement and sinkholes. Sometimes I thought I found a decent road to take only to find myself slipping back into the deep grooves of negative thinking. Roads like trying to get into the perfect shape, wear cute clothes, make and keep good friends, find the best romance, eat the best food, be the best mom, … get the idea? Each and every one of those things will fail. None of them are strong enough to build my identity on. I’m not saying those different aspects of life aren’t meaningful and valued, but they aren’t strong enough to hold me up. I have gained and lost weight my entire life, I have had and lost many friends, romance with another human being for the long-haul has complicated, messy challenges. So should my identity, my essence of who I really am, ride the tide of success and failure of those things? None of them can hold up under the mess of life and each of those things still had ruts connected to my gnarly grooved road of insecurity.

But there is One who can. God proved His love for us through the cross. When He knew we were caught in our mess, He loved us. Jesus leads the way to a well-made, solid road that does not give way into muddy grooves and broken potholes.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it [a]overflows).
John 10:10 (AMP)

Jesus’ road of grace and salvation is well-paved, immune to deterioration, and full of life. It’s so full of goodness, it overflows. If your tires are caught in the grooves of frustration, darkness, and negativity, I promise you you’re not on the road God wishes for you.

God has been teaching me for a long time that if I’m caught up in anxious, stressed, irritable moods I’m definitely on the wrong track. When there, where I am is not from Him, but it’s up to me to agree with Him and let Him give me a tow out of my mess. God either makes promises and keeps them, or He doesn’t. His Word can’t be partly true. I’ve chosen to believe His promises are true, so when I’m sunk in my wretched pot-holes I can now recognize where I am is not life-giving and it’s not of God. God gave me this particular passage in a particularly dark struggle with my grooves of negativity:

Even the darkness hides nothing from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.
For You did form my inward parts; You did knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will confess and praise You for You are fearful and wonderful and for the awful wonder of my birth!
Wonderful are Your works, and that my inner self knows right well.
My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret [and]
intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors] in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery].
Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written before ever they took shape,
when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139: 12-16 (AMP)

He taught me to speak these verses aloud when I was miserable, and trust me, it is the LAST thing I want to do when in my ugly mess. Those negative, deep ruts and grooves were driven into the ground, over and over, out of shame and self-judgement and I promise you the last thing I wanted to do was utter promises that God created me. But each time I obeyed God, if even very grudgingly, and did indeed say these words out loud, the hold of shame crumbled away and I could easily step onto the road of Light and well-being. Over time, these verses have become a meditation of joy, beauty and gratitude.

I’m forming my identity on who God says I am. He doesn’t make mistakes. I’m on solid ground when standing on His truths.

There are no words to express the healing and repair God’s Spirit can do deep inside a person. He truly knows the fibres of our being and mine sing under His touch. I hope and pray yours do too, dear reader.

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So much of my life I’ve lived with my face in the muck. The muck of trying to prove myself. A perfect muddy mess of fear, insecurity, and sin. There’s that nasty word -SIN- but I’ve learned it’s a tragic mistake when I try to find myself in anything other than God’s love and it is a sin when I turn from Him. It is a slippery slope into a lot of muck. I could never find my footing because there was nothing solid to stand my feet on; I’ve slopped around in my mud puddle of gigantic proportions that has sucked me in many times, causing me to fall flat on my face (many times). It is a mud puddle of my own making caused by my own choices.

But Jesus never lets go in spite of my mess-making. His nail-scarred hands have an iron grip that is stronger than my slippery muck. I welcomed Jesus into my heart over 20 years ago but it’s been a pretty messy journey. Any Christian that tells you it’s perfect with God is full of crap, well, something pretty mucky. But the Light that opened up inside my darkness in that moment 20 years ago when I said yes to Jesus keeps pulling me back. How could I ever completely run from it?

Amazingly, we do have One that is strength, faith, love, and grace. God doesn’t just demonstrate those qualities, He IS those qualities. Anything you and I know of those traits are just grubby versions of what pure strength, faith, love and grace really are. Imagine that. Truly. I have a pretty powerful love for my son (as most parents do for their child), and it doesn’t compare to the One who is love. Think of the kindest things people have done for one another and then take it to another level knowing that God is even bigger in His kindness and grace than anything we’ve ever known.

I’ve experienced ripples of God’s grace countless times. When I look up long enough from my mud-hole that I somehow slipped into again, there He is with hands stretched out waiting for me to look for Him. And He readily pulls me out of the muck time and time again.

He cleans me off and stands me up and teaches me once again to build myself on the solid ground of His love and grace. And God does this knowing full well I’ve made the mistake of running to find love and fulfillment in anything other than Him many times. And He rescued me again and again, knowing I would need His rescuing. This patient love and grace waiting each time to reveal Himself to me when I was ready.

What breaks me each time is realizing that God extends his love and grace seeing what I do, from the beginning to the end. His grace through faith in Jesus covers it all.

With each broken choice and mistake I make, each time He reveals a little more love. A little more grace. God handles me gently with what I can take in. That love and grace comes with a power that make my insides quake with awe and a person can only handle bits of that at a time. Seriously.

Layer by layer, he cleans off my mud and layer by layer He covers me in grace. Yet it’s like the opposite of an onion, you know where you start peeling from the biggest layer only to reveal smaller and smaller layers inside? God’s grace is like starting from the inside with small layers that I can handle, only to reveal bigger and bigger layers that explode into eternity.

 

 “In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood,
the remission (forgiveness) of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses), in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favor,
Which He lavished upon us in every kind of wisdom and understanding (practical insight and prudence)”
Ephesians 1: 7,8 (AMP) italics mine

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In a space where there is no beginning and has no end, where the source of life sustains himself because he is life, this is where we reunite with love. The stars are hung in the canopy of the night sky and the sun blazes in its brilliance, yet he wasn’t done.

From the one who can see all that was, and is to be, still decided to create you and me. With his heart in his hands, he wove the fibers together that make you you, and me me. We were set apart from the rest of creation, made in his image; we each are precious reflections of him. As dirty as our mirrors can get, it’s still there.

You have to look carefully, as there are things that can only be seen from within, but there you will find the God who is longing, longing, to pull you back close to his heart. There is no greater intimacy, no gentler touch, and no one who would have such a joy-explosion like his upon hearing your words that you love him back.

When he knew we would turn from him, misunderstand him, and outright rebel against him, our knight in shining armour made a plan. Without the glam and glitter of shiny new armour, our knight shines with a light not of this world, and a light that will light up your very being. He walked in humble clothes and hung on a cross, but is no less the shining knight we need. Our hero became our saviour to draw us close to the Father’s heart. Close into the intimacy that will envelop your entire heart, mind, and soul.

Because he is love, he loves us no matter how ugly we get, no matter how low we go. When he hung on the cross, he saw it all and went through it anyway. It is why he did it; he knew how so desperately we needed him, even when we didn’t.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can stop his love for his own creation. Except you. Real love, the most beautiful kind, has no force in it. He loves you so much, he gave you a choice. Love flourishes and unites only in free-will. And the invitation is open, waiting for you to accept. He’s waiting for to turn to him and acknowledge that it is him you need. And he will continue wooing you till the end.

And little by little, he will carefully clean your mirror with a tenderness like no other, until slowly your reflection of him shines with his light, finding the freedom of what you were designed to be. The fibers of your being will start to vibrate with life under his touch as now you are plugged back in to your source.

He is the love your heart longs for. Nothing else will completely fulfill it. Nothing else can give us or hold up under what we truly need.

He is the ultimate chaser-of-you, the hero of the story, and the ultimate lover of your soul.

Out of Hiding
by Steffany Gretzinger

as you run

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I’ve heard others lump Jesus into ‘one of the great teachers’ of all time and that’s just not possible. Jesus consistently made some pretty outrageous claims that made it clear who he thought he was. Throughout his ministry, he boldly stated who he was, which is one part of the trinity, the Son of God. Jesus explained the intimate relationship he has with the Father God on and off throughout the gospels and what is always impressed upon me is how the Son reflects the Father and vice versa. My insides quake a little and I’m awe-struck. My point is, though, is that he can’t be regarded as a great teacher and then ignore the parts where he claimed he was the Son of God. He’d have to be a crazy maniac to make such a claim if it weren’t true, and then everything else he said would have to be doubted, too.

Because if Jesus was right about who He was and was of sound mind, it’s a game-changer.

He can’t be a great teacher and the Son of God and a maniac. Each and every one of us has to make a choice when we come face-to-face with Jesus.

There’s enough evidence one way or the other to prove or disprove who Jesus was, and it comes down to your own brushes up with the spiritual.

And I can only speak from experience. There is no way I can deny Jesus’ sovereignty. Often there are no words to describe the depth of God’s love that has reached into my heart and mind, because of Jesus.

In my darkness, I’ve had my soul lit up.

In my parched thoughts and emotions, I’ve tasted the life-giving water.

In my uncertainty and chaos, I’ve felt the iron-grip of love hanging onto me.

In my wanderings and search for meaning in all the wrong things, I’ve known the grace that patiently waits for me.

In my struggles, I’ve experienced the healing of the greatest Counselor of all time.

I can’t do these things on my own. I’ve tried. No one else can offer these gifts to me. I’ve searched. God and God alone, through the love of Jesus on that cross, found a way to cross my soul’s barrier of darkness.

I’m no more, or less, deserving than you, either. All sin and wrong-doing and selfish acts turn us away from God. All of them! One is not worse than the other. He can’t tolerate it, as He is pure and holy and good through and through; but the author of Love made a plan and carried it out to save us in order to rescue us back to himself.

“For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world,
but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him.”
– Jesus’ words (italics mine) from John 3:17 (AMP)

If Jesus is who he says he is, and truly is the Son of God, there’s no place you can go to run away from that. You can try for a while, but we all come face to face with a decision at different points in our life. It means you are never beyond his reach, either, no matter where you’re at.

“If I climb upward on the rays of the morning sun or land on the most distant shore of the sea where the sun sets,
even there your hand would guide me and our right hand would hold on to me.”
– Psalm 139:9 (GW)

There is nothing that you’ve done, are doing, or will ever do that can negate what Jesus did on the cross. From the cross and after his victory over death, Jesus never once made exceptions to his grace. From the moment of belief, the thief on the cross next to Jesus, received God’s grace through no work of his own (Luke 23:32-43).

“Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion
would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God?
I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace.
If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.”
-Paul’s words (italics mine) from Galatians 2:21 (MSG)

It would’ve been unnecessary for Jesus to go to the cross if we could ‘make it on our own’ to God. It would’ve been unnecessary for Jesus to die for us if we were just so ugly, far-gone and lost in our darkness that there was no hope. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s grace and there is nothing we can do to ‘break’ it. It’s never-ending flow comes from a self-sufficient source. During Jesus’ ministry he continually sought out the broken, the sick, the ‘dirty’ ones of society. In my own life, I’ve repeatedly made bad choices that took me away from God and repeatedly God sought me out and rescued me.

Well, there is one thing that does come down to you.

The best kind of love is one where there is no force or coercion. God didn’t make us to be robots. It does come down to one choice that you make.

Is Jesus a great teacher?

Is he a maniac?

Or is he the Son of God?

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Call it a perspective shift. Call it a needed change. Maybe some disillusionment? On another level, call it disappointment and frustration.

My body responded AMAZING to paleo the first 10 months! A 20’ish pound weight loss. A stop to the spread of arthritis. Inflammation dialed down like you wouldn’t believe. Acne disappearing. Those little weird skin-coloured bumps on the backs of my arm vanishing. Sharp stomach pain came to an end. Heart palpitations over. Depression lifting off my shoulders. Never mind the much-needed learning about the sad state of our mainstream food-supply, learning about clean and whole food eating, and shifting my grocery shopping to local farmers and organic, non-GMO suppliers.

However.

At the end of that first paleo year I gained 10 pounds back. I blamed eating a stupid amount of paleo baked goods to that weight gain, but when I dialed those back the weight didn’t come off. I stayed at that weight for about a half year, and then proceeded to gained another 15. I blamed that 15 pound weight gain to introducing some gluten-free grains in my diet, but when I removed those the weight didn’t come off. I’m officially back at my starting weight from 3 years ago. And all the while continuing to eat about the same, and if anything making improvements along the way with added produce and reduced sugar. During this time I started and ended a paleo bakery which was a really cool experience but a painfully stressful one (stress ain’t good for finding your waistline). But the second round of weight gain grew on me AFTER I removed the bakery-stress from my life.

During this time my adrenals have crashed. This is not a phenomenon in my head but a very real and daily struggle with fatigue and irritability that was proven by a hormone test. Hormones are so much more than puberty and that monthly cycle; to name a few things this intricate, complicated system controls, hormones determine how well you sleep, your energy levels, how you cope with stress, and how much extra weight you might be carrying. I can very well testify that that weight DOES NOT COME OFF even with the best efforts. I can only do mild exercises because if I do anything intense I suffer serious repercussions of terribly disturbed sleep, inflammation, and painfully long recuperation times if I over-do it. That’s my hormones at work – well, in my case, not working that great.

Something is just not right.

And then I stumbled across stories just like mine. People who have this amazing initial success with paleo and then they go downhill. Kind of just like me. Huh.

I just love Stefani at her blog Paleo for Women!! I even bought her book and highly recommend it – it’s a great starting point to a wholesome healthy journey with your body and the food you put in it. Here I learned that obviously women have different needs than men and for the most part really shouldn’t be on low-carb diets. Crashed adrenals, hello?! Chris Kresser has patiently repeated again and again that everyone’s needs are different and one cookie-cutter diet will not work for everyone (he even wrote a book about it – a very good one). And it took me a long time to get past all those paleo bloggers who flaunt desert recipes galore and make it seem like you can eat all you want without gaining any weight because the ingredients are just so awesome. I fell for that for a long time!

With my body going down the tubes I came to the conclusion that I never focused on gut healing. Sure, it’s good to remove offending foods like gluten but repairs are needed. This led me to stumbling across several resources. One is Body Ecology which is exactly about healing the guts. Another resources is Trim Healthy Mama and the last, but possibly the most thrilling, to me is the Adrenal Reset Diet by Dr. Christianson. All three have contributed to a shift in my outlook on food. There are a number of common themes between all three, one of which is super interesting is the idea of food combining. The Adrenal Reset is about carb cycling through the day to help with cortisol levels. But from going through all three of these I’ve decided to introduce some of those foods that are prohibited by strict paleo. The one that catches my attention the most is foods with resistant starch (I don’t have patience to try and talk about science-y things!! but this is a fiber that helps with digestion and the link will take to you a blogger who does have the patience to explain it). And shocking enough, the foods with resistant starch in them are grains, legumes, and seeds … all of which most paleo eaters cut out of their diet! This type of starch, which is basically a type of fiber, is good for, ahem, controlling weight and getting junk out of your system.

I’m still staying clear away from gluten, but some of those other grains, seeds, and beans can be very nourishing as long as they are properly soaked and prepared. There are legitimate digestion issues with those foods, but there are ways to overcome that in order to utilize the nutrients found in them. I’m adding small amounts of beans back into my diet. And rice. Maybe some quinoa. Shocking, I know!

My Big Plan: I’m following Dr. Christianson’s protocol since my deepest issues are my flat-lined hormones. I’m also adding in fermented foods daily, which is Body Ecology’s advice and is very healing to those poor guts. As an aside, I successfully made my first veggie ferment! Nom nom nom salty & sour carrots that are good for pooping haha! I’m trying not to focus on weight loss, and instead focusing on self-acceptance and aiming myself towards healing on the deeper levels.

I see myself now as a clean-eater of whole foods that I cut up and prepare in my own kitchen. That paleo label just doesn’t fit anymore.

 

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The One and Only

Ever noticed that hole in your heart? That yearning for something? I have my entire life and I’ve tried many things to fill it up. Friendships, acceptance from others, romance, looking good, perfecting whatever it was that I was working on. Wherever I searched for answers, for meaning, I’d get a hold of some it and then it would flutter away in the breeze. No matter where I looked it seemed like truth and meaning and something substantial eluded me.

This blog was started with trying to perfect my physical health – honestly, at first it was just about losing weight. Sure, gaining health was a bonus, who doesn’t want that? But really, really, at the heart of the issue was I just didn’t want to be fat. To show the world I indeed have it all together. Just so I could fill that gaping chasm of gnawing fear and empty insecurity.

Eating paleo has been life-changing and I firmly believe that what we eat can hinder us or heal us; our food has a tremendous effect on just not our physical body, but our mind and emotions, too. Also, where we put our dollars to buy our food has a great impact on the world around us, too. These are values I hold dearly. This however, is but a small stepping stone to finding deep meaning in life. Even the paleo world led me into that crazy tangle of searching for answers that always slipped out of reach. And one day God told me that paleo is not my god and it will never fill that void in my soul. Food and health is not the ultimate answer that I am searching for.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned things along the way and taken a little of this and a little of that. And I’ve picked up some valued treasures of insight from those little pieces here and there. One inspiration sort of led to another, but I always felt like I was stumbling in the dark. Each time I tried to say to myself in regards to something new I was learning was, “There! Here’s the solution to finally help me feel grounded on my own two feet! Maybe this time I’ll get fixed,” and the wisps of ideas and answers either slip away from me or tangle my steps.

Yoga helps you get in touch with your light from within, but I can’t light and keep the fire burning inside of who I am all by myself. No counselor or book I’ve ever read has ever completely convinced me that I’m worthy, that I’m valuable or even came close to untangling the issues hidden inside me. I have some mighty defensive walls built up around my heart and no one could ever scale them. Whatever I seemed to learn never extended into the reality of my day to day living. In spite of all that I learned how to think better, nothing truly impacted what really happened in my head.  Nothing I’ve ever learned or read about fills this void at the seat of my soul.

God showed me that building my identity on anything other than Him will always be an unstable foundation, truly like trying to build your house on the sand. And that’s exactly what I had been doing, shifting around and crumbling to pieces.

God is the One and Only that lights my light within and keeps it burning; who else but the One who created me (and you) will ever truly know me (and you)? Jesus has been my One and Only who has convinced me that I’m valuable – He went to the cross to prove it. The Holy Spirit has been the ultimate Counselor and has managed to scale my walls and untangle those tightly-held issues that nothing else has EVER even begun to come close to doing. God the Father is the One and Only who has convinced me that my existence is a reason for joy. God is the One and Only that seeps Truth into my heart that inspires a bravery in me to believe that has never happened before.

It’s because He’s the One and Only that is Love itself. A burning, fiery, passionate Love that can be as gentle as a soft summer breeze or an explosion of magnificence that blows the mind. A love that wraps me up and saw me before the world began.

It’s God Himself that heals the gaping wounds of my heart and the One and Only who can finally settle my soul with satisfaction. No more of those ideas/solutions slipping just beyond my grasp because I’m being held wholly by the One who is the ultimate answer.

God has been pressing this passage from Psalm 139 into my mind and heart lately and I’ll share it with you:

9 If I take the wings of the morning or dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there shall Your hand lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me and the night shall be [the only] light about me,
12 Even the darkness hides nothing from You, but the night shines as the day;
the darkness and the light are both alike to You.
13 For You did form my inward parts; You did knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I will confess and praise You for You are fearful and wonderful and for the awful wonder of my birth!
Wonderful are Your works, and that my inner self knows right well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret
[and] intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors]
in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery].
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written
before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.
(Amplified Bible)

Almost two months ago I was completely motivated to make some changes. I had discovered a recent 15 pound weight gain, which had followed a previous 10 pound gain about a year before that. I believe God is teaching me the need for self-control in my health, money, and in my mental activity. Both to honour Him and to honour myself.

After a month and a half of eating so much better (cutting out all grains again, don’t think my body agrees with them; a treat every 5th day, a massive improvement from one everyday) and exercising more, I have not lost a pound. Not one. In my hubby’s encouraging words, though, at least I didn’t gain any more! I also take my measurements and with some inches lost and gained in different areas, I’ve still only shed 1 inch overall.

Talk about completely defeating.

With negative thoughts and feelings threatening to choke me all day long, such as: ‘what’s the point’, ‘my body is so broken’, ‘I’m so trapped in this fat’, ‘you’re doing all the wrong things’, and the worst, most powerful underlying belief is ‘my worth is in my body’, I’m refusing to give up. I also realized that certainly continuing to walk on the path I’m on is good for me, and choosing not to and to revert to old habits of continual self-indulgence is only bad for me.

I had a light-bulb moment yesterday while I was exercising, and I realized that every time I’ve tried to lose weight in the past 25 years, it was motivated by a very negative belief that I’m a complete shame when I’m fat. So I’m learning to say to myself that I choose to exercise and eat healthy foods in order to nurture myself, to celebrate doing good things for my mind and body, and not try to change all the things I don’t like about myself. This is really difficult to do because I don’t always believe it. But from now on when I exercise, I will say to myself that I do this because I want to care for myself. And instead of checking off another step towards frantically wishing to lose weight, I will pay attention to how I feel a little stronger and that I feel SO much better for loosening up tight muscles and that my mood and energy levels lifted significantly after a workout.

I also don’t want to ignore that my measurements showed that my body IS making some changes in response to my efforts. I did lose a little of something almost everywhere. And my past track record over my adult life has shown me again and again that my body is slow to respond to my healthy choices. Funny how my body has no problem to easily and quickly gain weight. Hilarious.

As I was struggling in my misery earlier today, I was trying to turn over my problems to God. I want to trust Him, I want to follow His lead. I need His help. And as I was just trying to let it all go into His hands, which didn’t feel like it was working because I still felt alone and choking on my negative thoughts, God came close and asked me to invite Him in to my space instead. Just invite Him in to the thoughts and emotions that were strangling my confidence and hope.

So I did.

And I’m stunned by how His comfort wraps around me. I’m amazed by His compassion for my pain. He whispers to my spirit that I’m so much more than my body. He gently turned my attention to my teeny son who was chattering about his Lego while eating his breakfast and showed me that there is so much more loveliness in a person than our physical appearance. That I have a purpose to love, teach, and nurture my son and my ability to do that has very little to do with how fat or thin I am.

I’m reading a book called Parenting the Wholehearted Child by Jeannie Cunnion. Lately, God has been beautifully prompting me to just keep my eyes on Him. Whenever I feel like I’m just itching to do SOMEthing, anything, that surely God doesn’t want me just hiding at home cooking and cleaning, God has consistently called me to rest. Again and again. It is hard for me to accept, and harder to do, because I want to prove that I’m worthwhile by all the wonderful things I do (which doesn’t work by the way … because by those standards a person isn’t worth much when things don’t succeed or get accomplished) but God wants me to rest in Him. And I’m talking about a kind of rest where I’m in a place fully trusting Him. Yes, it’s good (and needed) to physically do something restful, but I’m learning to have my mind and heart at rest in Him through the day. Learning being the operative word! God had done some prep work in my heart so that when I read Jeannie’s words in black and white ink bare in front of my eyes, I was ready.

“He wanted me to rest in his selflessness, in his patience, in his goodness, in his wild love for me. And he knew that only when I realized that by grace alone I am not only saved but also accepted would I find peace and rest and real joy.”

His love for me, and you, does not change. I repeat. It does not change. His love stays the same when you’re on the top of your game and in your worst day. It’s because He IS love. What incredible freedom and joy there is when we start to grab a hold of that!

And He doesn’t want me believing all the negative criticisms running through my head. God doesn’t teach using shame, criticism, and judgement so those kinds of thoughts aren’t even from Him. If they’re not from Him, then I don’t want them to hold any value for me. In my journey to self-acceptance, the only place where I can feel its beginning is in God. In a place where I’m loved no matter what size I am, and in spite of any good or bad I do, I start to see my worth. My worth being a product of creation by the most incredible Artist. And the efforts and struggles I used to bring to my life start to unravel and fade away as I let my Creator fold me into his arms.

tell his story

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You have no idea how apprehensive I am about ‘religious’ language. It comes off as lofty and detached from real life. When I finally let God catch up to me once again, I told Him that things always have to be real. Messy. None of that goody-goody, fake Christian crap.

I was saved by Jesus’ love when I was 17 years old (because I knew I needed Him) but I spent at least a decade of my adult life shutting Christianity out. I was burned out by Christians being so, well, so annoyingly perfect. I tried that life, and it’s a lie to live like that. God doesn’t want us to live like that, either. In fact, He knows we can’t … that’s why Jesus on the cross matters so much. Only grace can save us, nothing we can do will ever be enough to earn our way to God’s love.

Thank God that He never loses His sheep (ya, that’s you and me … baa).

 4“Suppose a man has 100 sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the 99 sheep grazing in the pasture and look for the lost sheep until he finds it? 5When he finds it, he’s happy. He puts that sheep on his shoulders and 6goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says to them, ‘Let’s celebrate! I’ve found my lost sheep!”
– Luke 15: 4-6 GOD’S WORD Translation

I have felt the call of Love in my heart countless times. So many times God has spoken to me, and nudged me in a new direction that I would NEVER have done on my own. I have often questioned and doubted His presence in my life, because it can look so crazy to those who don’t know Him. But if it weren’t for God’s love, I honestly think I wouldn’t be here. Depression and anxiety are not small things to live with.

And yet that is what saves me. Brokenness. Coming to the end of myself. Knowing that I need something more than just myself to make sense and meaning of this life. I searched and tried out different types of thoughts or belief systems to try and fill this nagging void inside me. Nothing fills me up like the love of Jesus on that cross. Nothing gives me joy like the victory over death that He won for us.

Nothing compares to the love of a God who would do that for us.

Now I’m at this point where I want to love God back. I want Him a part of my everyday life. How do I do that without being fake? How can I do that without talking religious mumbo-jumbo?

I do it by surrendering myself daily to the grace of the cross. It’s a choice. That’s the only thing God left up to us. He’s done everything else. We just choose Him or don’t choose Him.

I so easily get caught up in all my shortcomings. I have been attending church more and it’s so easy to get this ideal Christian picture-perfect life embedded into my expectations for myself. I struggle with this like you wouldn’t believe. I choke on my own failures regularly.

But then God’s Spirit comes close and shows me (once again) that it isn’t what I do that makes me worthy. It’s not even His agenda for my life the things I think I should be doing! Otherwise what Jesus did on the cross is worthless. If I could do all sorts of amazing things with my life and prove myself to others and to God, then I wouldn’t need Jesus. But I can’t. No one can. It’s what Jesus does that matters. A king who left His throne, was separated from His Father’s presence, was tortured and died for sinners like us who might still end up rejecting Him anyway.

“I don’t reject God’s kindness. If we receive God’s approval by obeying laws,
then Christ’s death was pointless.”
– Galatians 2: 21 GOD’S WORD Translation

God has been showing me to learn to follow His agenda. And it always, always, always starts with Jesus’ grace and love. My last post was about me learning self-discipline (once again haha) with regards to my physical health; learning to set limits and create some daily goals. I am learning to do the same with my emotional and mental health. I have to set boundaries on what I allow my thoughts to dwell on. You have no idea how fast I can travel down a negative spiral of choking anxiety, fear, and resentment. That is not God’s agenda for me, nor you in whatever you struggle with. Daily, I practice focusing my heart’s eyes on Him, that I’m His through the grace of Jesus.

I will always need His love. His grace. I will never get past the point of needing Him. My eyes often stray from Jesus and I lose sight of what He’s done for me on the cross, but thank goodness that I can never get too far away from God’s reach. Gladly I ‘restrict’ myself by throwing my tether to Jesus. It boggles my teeny mind how a restriction can in turn give freedom!

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Anyone who has anything to do with children will hopefully understand that teaching them rules and consequences is good for them. When I taught, I had the odd kid come through my classroom who obviously was not held accountable for their actions. It’s not pretty, and in my mind, borderline disgusting. Being completely self-indulgent isn’t a pretty picture. Bringing up a child letting them have free reign will have long-lasting and disastrous consequences. Discipline, understanding right from wrong, and how to treat themselves and others around them are critical skills in growing up into a functioning adult. Being accountable to one’s actions and taking responsibility for what we’ve done helps us to be better people and to continue to learn.

Boundaries are needed throughout our lives. We understand to get a paycheck we have to show up for work. We know that to keep a spouse, we have to sacrifice sometimes what we want in order to help the other. We know that indulging in cookies everyday will at the very least make our insides feel gross, let alone the possible consequences of weight gain (been there, done that). And a parent knows all too well the many sacrifices of self (time, money, and energy) in our efforts to raise a child.

I’ve got some of the basic ‘boundaries’ in my life in control. I set my alarm to greet the little one I babysit for. I grudgingly go grocery shopping and prepare good food to feed me and my family in the best way possible. I’m quite faithful in my exercise practices, to varying degrees, depending on how I slept through the night.

But with the recent weight gain, something isn’t working. Some rules need to be readjusted. I had let up on a strict paleo diet and allowed non-gluten grains back in; my son has much better poops with more starch in his diet so I also used that as an excuse to include it in mine (even though it did the opposite for me, so constipated <!!!> … and I believe it’s the main culprit for a recent 15 pound weight gain). I’m also horrible with sweets; I open the door a crack to let a little in and before I know it, an avalanche is ripping the door off its hinges.

No excuses. So often I hear people say they just ‘can’t do that’. If you want something bad enough, you will make it happen. If you want better health, then commit yourself. Period. I say this to myself and I say it to you.

Ever since my 2-month streak of clean paleo, sugar-free eating back in the fall of 2013 that resulted in no weight loss and the worst streak of insomnia I’ve ever had, I was discouraged (to say the least). But I’ve learned since then that those with adrenal fatigue quite likely need higher carb diets since it’s hard for their bodies to use fat as fuel. I’ve also learned that the key to any health endeavor is to first deal with mental and emotional stress. Either way, I used that perceived failure to let me eat whatever I wanted to. I did also notice that including more sugar in my diet meant I slept much better through the night, so it’s been tricky finding a healthy balance and deciding on what sort of sugars (a direct hit or more fruit or more starchy veggies). I have a hard time moderating. I do much better with a ‘NO SUGAR AT ALL’ approach rather than just a little in a day. Somehow a dollop of honey in my tea leads to eating half a dozen cookies. Sigh.

Time to reign in and set some new boundaries. No more non-gluten grains. Ever. I’ve done this for a month now. Even though another reason for allowing them back in was for some easy-prep food, I’m surprised that I’m happier not eating them anymore. It means for more prep in the kitchen, but it’s a boundary I’m content with. Another boundary I’ve made is borrowing from Teresa Tapp’s God-made/man-made food plan. The basics she lays out is eat God-made food (unprocessed whole food) 2 days, then treat yourself on the third day with something more processed. She firmly believes in not depriving yourself for long-term success, and I agree with her. However, for myself, 2 days isn’t long enough before a treat of some kind so I am doing 4 days ‘on’ before I get a treat of some sort. And all of this is within the bounds of paleo. My treat is some sort of paleo baked good or a smoothie of some sort. This has been the perfect challenge for someone (ahem, me!) who has indulged in whatever I wanted for half a year, short of eating gluten (my arthritis simply does not tolerate that all all). I also find that I’m content with a much smaller treat than I’ve noticed myself doing in the past.

Another thing I’ve been able to do more of is exercise. Hopefully this is a sign of me crawling out of the depths of adrenal fatigue, but I also attribute it to Teresa Tapp’s methods. I went from not being able to walk more than 20 minutes due to horrid consequences of fatigue, a horrid night’s sleep, and arthritic flare-ups to being able to walk over an hour and be fine with it. I can do a T-Tapp workout 5 times a week and feel really good. Teresa takes the rehab approach, emphasizes the lymphatic system, and creates exercises that work with the body and not against it. There’s nothing wimpy about her workouts, I’m sweating like a pig after each one! My goal has been to step things up to try and build more muscle mass.

I’ve been going strong for a month now, though I think twice I pushed my exercise too far. I have not weighed myself yet as I think my body’s response will be slow. I don’t want to discourage myself from a number on the scale when I can feel a new confidence and strength returning to my body. My body has often been slow to respond in the past (except when I first went paleo) and I accept it’ll be slow while in the grips of adrenal fatigue.

Making boundaries for myself is a way of showing myself respect. That I care enough and that I am worth it. I’m much more happier following reasonable rules with goals for myself, than compared to when I just ate whatever and didn’t push myself a little while exercising.

Funny how that works.

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If you wanted to adopt a child, it is lengthy, challenging, and often very expensive. I looked into it a number of different times when I was younger and to go through with it would’ve been an all-encompassing, life-changing, committed process. Even before I actually received a chosen child!

When I read the following Bible verse, the word ‘adopt’ jumps out at me:

“Because of his love he had already decided to adopt us through Jesus Christ.
He freely chose to do this.”
-Ephesians 1:5, God’s Word Translation

God went through the lengthy (centuries of planning), challenging (we can be quite block-headed and not see His love), and very expensive (Jesus suffered on the cross and was separated from God the Father) process of adopting us. It is easy to overlook the sacrifice Jesus made for us, and some of us have heard the story many times. We get a little numb to it because of it’s familiarity. And we know the ending, if we believe, that Jesus won out over death; it’s easy to overlook its significance.

Sometimes, even daily (maybe moment by moment?!), it’s good to stop and take in what God has so generously given. God Himself, left His throne and clothed Himself like us. God didn’t need to do this. We’ve sinned against Him, and we’re broken because of it. But He did do it. He made a rescue plan and carried it out. Through Jesus, who had no sin in Him, we are given grace to cover all of our brokenness. It is nothing that we’ve done to earn this, it is freely given. All you have to do is choose to accept it.

If you adopted a child into your family, that child becomes yours. You would do whatever you could to train and support and love that child just that the same as a child of your blood. Furthermore, that child will receive your inheritance. By law and by your heart, that child is now yours.

God has done the same for us! Before accepting Jesus, we are spiritual orphans. But once we admit our deep need for Him, He gives us Himself. The Perfect Parent. The Lover of our Souls. The One who has Limitless Grace.

I’m learning to fight my way out of depressive, anxious thinking patterns and this means identifying the old ways and replacing them with new ones. I can’t do this by myself. God is the only One who has ever convinced me that I’m worthy of new ways. His love is without bounds and it never stops chasing me; the beauty of His grace is the only thing that makes me forget myself. He’s the only One who is able to heal me.

Daily, I’m claiming my inheritance through Jesus Christ:

  • I am God’s child. John 1:12
  • I am hidden with Christ. Philippians 1:6
  • I am given God’s glorious grace lavishly and without restriction. Ephesians 1: 5, 8
  • I am forgiven. Ephesians 1:8
  • I am included. Ephesians 1:13
  • I am not alone. Hebrews 13:5
  • I am set free. Romans 8:2, John 8:32, Galatians 5:1

These are rich gifts and ours for the taking. These are His promises. Through His death and victory on the cross, we become a part of Jesus’ glory as His children, which reaches out into eternity. To go from a spiritual wasteland, which is what it felt to me compared to what I have now in Him, to a place where the soul is truly quenched is something I don’t know how to put words to.

“God is a father who graciously adopts believers in Christ into his spiritual family
and grants them all the privileges of heirship. Salvation is much more than forgiveness of sins and deliverance from condemnation; it is also a position of great blessing.”
– “Adoption” from Bible Study Tools

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