Wednesday, January 25, 2012

for when trying is utterly futile

[raging battles with the seen: part 1]

since my health adventure began, there’s been a big slice of life that has been off limits, with uninviting exceptions that i can count on one hand. an area so prominent that i unfortunately can’t avoid it, especially around the holidays. because afterall, how else are the holidays celebrated, but by indulging in all kinds of delicious FOOD, right?

i don’t need to tell you that food is a beloved topic of conversation, especially among women. IRL and online. it’s the theme of social gatherings year-round, the centerpiece of holiday parties. food is a popular topic in the stories i read my son, the songs i sing.
it. is. everywhere . . . relentlessly!

the world seems to revolve around food.
and so does mine.
just in an exhausting, overwhelming, and utterly disheartening way.

i’ll spare you the details and simply say that for the past year and a half, my body has only been able to tolerate a handful of plain foods. plain potatoes, a gluten-free pasta, a protein drink, some plain veggies, and a ration of fruit. yep, that pretty much covers it. (whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. because they're all the same.)

so as thanksgiving approached, i found myself grieving. grieving the loss of freedom i’ve always known. grieving the loss of comfort that i never knew i sought – until it came to a screeching hault. and grieving the loss of convenience that i desperately want back sorely miss.

and as i’ve slowly shifted from being confined to my couch to reentering life outside my four walls, the world around me looks the same as it used to.
but i’m not.
i cannot interact with it the same as i always have. and that’s been a painful adjustment.

rationally, i know i’m not missing out on any health benefits derived from sugar, MSG, and whatever else lurks in our food. but emotionally, i don't care still long for the freedom, the occasional comfort, and oh, the convenience.

and then i am challenged with this:
"we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

- 2 Corinthians 4:18

that is one impossible tall order, but i know it’s the only way i’ll avoid giving in to the temptation to be self-absorbed, or to buy into the lie that something aside from God can satisfy me. sure, i know that.
in my head.

but oh, the road from my head to my heart. it’s an awfully long, dark, and windy one, friends. because i’m a tangible, literal, planning kinda girl.

i like the seen!!

things i can touch. smell. and of course, taste.

and i live in the seen . . . i walk through aisle after aisle in the grocery store seeing all the food i can’t have. i practically drooled at the heavenly smell of fried chicken permeating from somebody’s open car window in a parking lot recently. and what i wouldn’t give to be able to go out on a dinner date with my husband again . . .

i’m weary of this road i’m travelling.
i’m struggling hard with impatience.
and sadly, i sense my relationship with food growing bitter and resentful.

amidst the struggle, i read this from joyce meyer:
“pride prevents patient waiting because the proud person thinks so highly of himself that he believes he should never be inconvenienced in any way.”

ouch . . .

okay then. so i am called to fix my eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen.
somehow . . .

friends, i haven’t solved that dilemma. i’ve thought about it a lot. i’ve talked to God about it a lot. and i’ve been banging my head against the wall trying to figure out how to actually to fix my mind’s eyes on what is unseen, rather than on all this plethora of food that surrounds me and causes my senses to scream brutal lies of deprivation to me

and then i remember . . .

i don’t have to figure it out.
victory doesn’t come in trying harder.
the power to overcome is only found when i stop trying.

this is a battle i can not win.
but Jesus already has.

“this is the assigned moment for Him to move into the center,
while i slip off to the sidelines.”

(john 3:30, the message)

in miles stanford’s book, the green letters (which i highly recommend), he shares this liberating truth from norman douty:

“throw down every endeavor and say, i cannot do it,
the more i try the farther i get from His likeness.
what shall i do?

ah, the Holy Spirit says, you cannot do it;
just withdraw; come out of it.
you have been in the arena, you have been endeavoring . . .
come out and sit down,
and as you sit there behold Him,
look at Him.

don’t try to be like Him, just look at Him.

just be occupied with Him.
forget about trying to be like Him.
instead of letting that fill your mind and heart, let Him fill it.”

my freedom lies in the simplicity of the gospel – when i remember that i am completely incapable of living this Christian life.

when i cease striving . . .

i invite you to read about the powerful experience that i had with God after seeking to surrender all this to Him. read raging battles with the seen: part 2 here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

because love covers a multitude of smells

today, i’m celebrating the value of community.
and sharing a story about my morning as pig pen.

as i walked through the church doors yesterday morning, i saw a friend and gave her a hug. but i didn’t realize that she had an open tin of fish in one hand – until my hand felt wet after our hug . . . apparently, she had just finished an object lesson for a children’s class, and was looking for a good place to dispose of the hazardous material.

i stopped in the bathroom to give my hands a quick wash, and then headed to the worship center. as soon as my husband and i got seated, i was knocked over by the stench of fish that had me on the verge of nausea.
i reeked!

so i exited the premises and bee lined to the restroom. only i couldn’t locate the origin of the smell. so i rubbed a soapy paper towel all over the one side of my sweater and pants, and returned to the worship center.

moments later, it became grossly apparent that all my lathering hadn’t resolved the putrid stench.

i felt helpless.
i was embarrassed.
i stunk!

in a room with about 1,000 other people, i spotted a good friend of mine. and at that moment, she was taking off her blazer.
in the seat.
front of me!

i broke out in the hallelujah chorus asked my husband if i should ask her to borrow it. but i was clearly asking entirely rhetorically, because without delay, i reached my hand out to her shoulder and asked. (mhmm, pretty much like the kid at the dinner table who asks, “are you gonna eat that??”)

my status quo was clearly
dysfunctional, and i had spotted a new pair of shoes!
and let me tell ya, there was nothing but a desperate willing heart here.

my friend joyfully gave me the blazer off her back. which didn’t actually surprise me – because that’s the will-give-you-the-shirt-off-her-back kind of friend she is.

so i disturbed the people sitting next to us now a third time hit the restroom yet again. and i returned a new woman.
the blazer fit.
it matched.
and it was cute!

and you know, friends, that’s exactly what Christ does for us. He rescues us from the overwhelming stench of our sin, and clothes us with new life. too often, we keep rubbing our soapy paper towels all over our messy hearts to try to make them clean. but the stench of sin will always remain unless our hearts are washed in the cleansing blood of Christ, and we are clothed anew.

as i sat there grateful for my new look (and smell), our pastor was speaking about none other than the importance of community. reminders to the body of Christ that we need each other. that we’re dependent on one another.
with my eau de tropicale, i was living proof. i was exhibit A.
and that was far from the first time.

community is a place where we remind each other of God’s strong love.
a place where we have the freedom to ask, the assurance of support, and the opportunity to bless.

true friends offer reflections of God’s glory as we live out life with them.

whether it’s through their gestures of support, their faithful prayers, their words of encouragement, or their inspiring example of God's power as they persevere through life’s hardest trials.

true friends live out the essence of the gospel.

because the purpose of friendship, the purpose of community, is that hearts and affections are drawn to Jesus.

thank you, my friend, for loving on me with a beautiful, practical portrayal of the gospel. (and all those around me enthusiastically thank you, too!)

Friday, January 6, 2012

flying shoes & dysfunctional status quos

“No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”(Psalm 84:11)

A few months ago, I bought some new shoes for my son. I successfully maintained my long-standing precedence of buying shoes that were too small, then going back to the store days later to exchange them for the next size up. Only this time, they didn’t have a ½ size bigger. So rather than embrace that there are other stores that exist in the world aside from Target and Wal-Mart naturally, we got a whole size bigger. And they seemed to be the right size. Until they started flying off his feet when put in playground motion.

Being the cheap frugal mom I am, I figured we’d just give it a little time, and he’d grow into them.
Right? . . .

At first, he was inconvenienced with having to retrieve his shoe and put it back on – multiple times when playing. So if you would have asked him a few months ago if he’d like a pair of shoes that fit better, he would have welcomed the opportunity.
But then, he adapted.

Several months weeks passed, and my husband and I continued to witness the case of the flying shoe. So I asked my son if it happened every day at school, and he very matter-of-factly explained that he has simply started to run slower to reduce the incidents.
He was compensating to accommodate a wrong fit.

When I heard that, I felt like a loser mom and horribly guilty badly, so I decided that it was time. Time that he had the right fit.

So I decided to take him to a whole new world shoe store on the way home from school today. And I eagerly anticipated announcing the good news to him receiving a hero's fanfare in response. It was going to be one of those special moments as a parent when I intentionally affirmed that his needs are important. I couldn’t wait to verbalize with all sincerity of heart that now, he can run as fast as he wants to.
That he doesn’t have to be held back, anymore!
It was an opportunity to give my son a gift of freedom, and I was fully embracing it.

But my son?
Um, not so much.

With a likely glow of pride satisfaction, I reached out to my son’s heart with the news this afternoon. And rather than embracing the fullness of the freedom at hand, or at least delighting in a much-improved situation, he resisted. He started to persuasively explain to me that his current shoes are fine. No, they’re actually great! In fact, they’re not falling off as much.
Only “zero – one” times!
A day. . .

Needless to say, we proceeded to the shoe store to remedy the situation. But I started to think – that’s exactly what we do as adults. We adapt to things that aren’t a healthy fit for our souls. Fear, patterns in relationships, comfort zones, emotional idols.

At first, we know something’s not best. We’re aware.Then, we begin to compensate in life to accommodate the pattern. To make it less frustrating.
It grows on us, becomes a part of us. We get comfortable with it.
And consider it good.

And then, God offers us better.
Maybe an opportunity to throw off chains of fear, stretch out our arms, and experience the thrill of a trust fall into His arms.

Or a gentle nudging from the Holy Spirit to take that first step.

An invitation from Him to be fragile, knowing full well that our souls are safely in the palm of His strong, but gentle hand. Nurtured, cared for, and protected.

The courage walk by faith, when sight’s screams are perpetual, and relentless.

And what do we do? We resist. I do. I start to tell Him all the reasons why my current this or that is fine. That I really don't want Him to move my cheese am okay with the status quo.

But what if?
What if instead, we said yes.
And freely received.

The next time our Father offers you or I a new pair of shoes, friend, let’s see them through His eyes.
And welcome them.

Let’s embrace the opportunities to clothe ourselves with His best, and the freedom to freely RUN!
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