Persevering in the Grey

I opened my eyes.  The missing sun cast its presence by its absence.  Another dreary day.  September had been full of them.  I sighed.  Somehow I would have to get up the energy to be productive for another day.  With or without the sun.  I hadn’t realized just how much its bright presence cheers me.   As I stepped into the early morning, the humid air became a sticky blanket on my skin.  So…it was dreary and humid.

As I went about eating my breakfast and tidying the house, I argued with myself as to why this would not be a good day to exercise.  I had had the same losing argument with myself for every dreary day the past month.  And there were a lot of them.  It just wasn’t a good day to exercise.  Surely, I don’t need to exercise in such conditions.  In the meantime, by body, while not really gaining in pounds, had deteriorated substantially in tone and shape.

From somewhere deep inside, I recognized that I was going to have to push through the grey.  Push through the humidity.  Persevere.  I reluctantly walked upstairs to put on my running clothes.  Then I grabbed my iphone, my headphones, and headed out the door.

The first mile was tough.  The stickiness melted my clothing to my body.  Even when I was only walking.  I kept going.  I started to jog.  I knew, even though this wasn’t fun, that I was doing the right thing.  Not just for me.  But for my family.  I am a much better “me” when I exercise.   As I jogged, the flourescent pink trim and laces on my new running shoes made me smile.  There was a little brightness everywhere…if you took the time to look for it.

As I ran, I listened to these promising lyrics:

Everyday’s a brand new day
A chance to undo my mistakes
And be the me I know that I can be

Count my blessings one by one
Grateful for what God has done
Spending more time down upon my knees**

As I listened to this song, God showed me that my life choices weren’t so very different from this run of mine.  Every day, we are given the opportunity to make choices.  Good ones.  Bad ones.  The good ones are so much easier to make when the sun is shining.  When there is a crisp breeze in the air.  When the flowers and fields are sparkling in the sunshine.  But when it is grey…when all is dreary and dismal around us, then the good choices are harder.

When we lose our best friend…when we get sick…when our spouse is struggling at work…when a child is rebellious…these are the times our minds cajole us,  saying things like:  “Eat what you want.  You deserve it.  Watch TV and escape the world.   Go shopping.  Go golfing.  Escape with this book.  Play this video game.  Because you will feel better if you do this.”

But you never do.  You never feel better.  You always feel worse.  Oh, maybe for a minute or two I will feel some satisfaction from eating some Chocolate Chip Mint ice cream.  But as soon as the last bite is done…if I am eating it for the wrong reason…then the guilt comes.

As I finished my exercise with a brisk walk, the sun made a brief appearance and I heard this in my headphones “Now the bridge leads on…to a brighter dawn. It’s waiting for me.”  And I realized that the bridge does lead on.  That we who love Jesus Christ have the hope of an eternal dawn.  Where there are no grey days.  We need to persevere…we need to make good, wise choices–no matter what our circumstances– as we move ever closer towards that eternal, brighter dawn that is waiting for us in glory.

**Higher Calling by Blessid Union of Souls

Forming a Life

Little did he realize that when he took that first shot of vodka, he would be forming his future life.   He was simply out partying.  He wanted to have a good time.   Nothing wrong with that.  But 20 years later he is an alcoholic.  Drinking, cigarettes, and gambling are all known for their addictive qualities but let’s think about some other areas in which we develop bad habits and haven’t even given it a thought–

How about spending money?  You use a credit card for a purchase and think–“wow.  that was easy.”  And so you do it again.  And again.  Buying stuff you do not need.  Stuff you could live without.  But it is so easy.  And then the bill comes and there is that momentary feeling of uneasiness.  But you pay the minimum and then you just keep charging to a credit card that you can’t pay.   Stuck in the cycle of credit card billing.  Never paying it off.   Forming a life of debt.

Or how about with what you eat or drink?   Perhaps you find yourself drinking 2 or 3 sodas every day.   It isn’t until you decide to kick the habit that you realize the hold that soda (or chocolate…or you fill in the blank) has on you.   And your body is starting to rebel.  You are gaining weight.  You are not feeling well.  You are achy.  You are tired.  You are fueling your body with something it wasn’t ever meant to be fueled with and now you are paying for that decision.  Forming a life of indulgence (the opposite of self-control).

Maybe one evening you were so tired, that you just fell in front of the TV to veg.  Before you know it, that is what you do every evening.  You have wasted thousands of hours vegging in front of an electronic box.  Forming a life of laziness.

You see, your life is not formed by the big moments, but by the little moments.  Who you are depends on those little decisions you make each and every day.

But the exciting news is that if you are alive, it is not too late to change!  And change comes with every little decision.  So instead of finding yourself locked in the same pattern…one day, you choose, instead, to–

-walk away from those really cute shoes.

-drink water.

-turn the tv off and read a story to your kids.

And then you continue that same pattern the next day…and the next day…and before you know it, you have made a positive change in your life!

I am personally working on kicking a sugar habit right now.  I did not realize just how badly I fueled my body until I was feeling it in a multitude of ways.  I am working at making those small decisions to make my life healthier, and consequently, more productive for God’s purposes.

We can never give in to Satan’s lie that it is impossible to change.  If we are God’s child and have been saved by His grace, it is NOT impossible to change.   God is bigger than my bad habit.  Isn’t that good news?

So what little change will you make today?

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  Aristotle

5 Things We Can Learn from Children

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The other night my daughter was babysitting a one year old. The adorable little girl came into our home, looked around, and made herself at home. She smiled at all of us, started eating the dinner that was being fed to her, and was content. It led to a conversation at our dinner table about how little children can just come into a strange home and feel right at home and how we, as adults, can’t do that. It got me thinking about a few things we can learn from children who are blissfully unaware of all of the social implications of their actions–

1)  No pretensions.  Have you ever talked with a little child? They are who they are. They are not strutting around pretending to be someone they are not. There is no wondering if the child is upset or happy or angry. We always know, don’t we? There hasn’t been years of wall-building and hypocrisy to dig our way through. While I am not suggesting it is healthy to express our emotions at every opportunity, I am suggesting that I think this world and our churches would benefit greatly if we would stop trying to impress one another. So many of us have built these thick walls around our hearts and lives. What would happen if we would tear our walls down and get real?

2) Live in the Moment. Have you ever seen a little guy dance to a tune that was playing? It is a joy to see the little legs bouncing up and down, as they try to move to the beat. But somewhere along the way, we forget to dance. We forget to enjoy the moment. We get wrapped up in taking kids to soccer, in paying the bills, in doing the housework. You know the old saying–Stop and smell the roses? Perhaps we should do that more often in life. Just stop and enjoy the moment. Enjoy watching the birds in your backyard. Enjoy petting your dog for a moment.  Watch your child chase butterflies and hunt bugs. Stop and really watch your husband wrestling with the kids. Grab a hand and dance joyfully to the song playing. These are beautiful moments the Lord gives us. Let’s not take them for granted. Those fleeting moments are what make up  the tapestry of our vaporous lives.

3) Eat until your full. Children do not continue to stuff themselves after they are full.  They only eat when they are hungry.  They obey the mechanism that God so intelligently designed and when their bellies feel hungry, they eat. And when they feel full, they stop eating. Somewhere along the way, many of us have stopped obeying that mechanism. It’s breakfast time? Then I have to eat, even if I am not hungry. I am at a party with a table full of delicious food? I have to try some, even if I just ate a complete meal before I came. I wonder what would happen if, as adults, we continued to obey our hungry and full signals?

4) Don’t Let the Fear of Others’ Opinions Rule You.  Some of my favorite “mommy” moments were when I could get my babies to start giggling. They would give this big belly laugh, filling my heart with pure joy. They didn’t worry what anyone was thinking about them.  They didn’t worry about if they were cool or look around, wondering if someone noticed that they “snorted”. Because it didn’t matter.  They were having fun! So often, we let the fear of others’ reactions dominate our choices. While I understand that we do need to be concerned about others and about our Christian testimony, sometimes we may be concerned about unimportant things. Does it really matter if the neighbor thinks you are crazy for catching fireflies at dusk? Does it really matter if you play a game and people make fun of how you run (personal experience on that one!)? Does it really matter if you fall on the ice? Or if your hair gets wet?  So often we let the fear of people’s opinions and reactions keep us from enjoying our lives.

5) Be okay with the way God made you. Ever see a baby wear make-up? Or get plastic surgery?   So, let’s be honest. If you are like me–aging quickly–you are not feeling so adorable. Many of us won’t even leave the house without make-up. But why not? Why do we feel the need to have something on our faces to face the public? Why do so many feel the need to enlarge or reduce areas of their body through plastic surgery? Why isn’t the way God made us good enough? Instead of being grateful for the incredible body God designed, we complain that our noses are too large, our hair is too curly, our legs are too short, our hips, too narrow or too wide. But children are not conscious of this yet. They just are.  Sometimes I wish we could appreciate the amazing body we have been given without the constant attitude of criticism that almost every woman (and man??) feels when they look in the mirror.

Unfortunately, real life takes its toll and, sooner rather than later, we all learn some pretty hard lessons. People can’t be trusted. The way I look isn’t good enough. You know the dialogue. But perhaps we can learn just a few things from the children in our lives.

Just a thought for today…

My Personal Battle

I am at war.  With food.  This battle has raged for most of my adult life but has taken on extra intensity as I have approached middle age.   TVs, movies, magazines, and websites are filled with gorgeous, shapely women who are without an extra pound of fat anywhere on their bodies.   We are bombarded by articles and commercials on how to lose weight.  There is an unspoken rule in our culture that to be beautiful you must be thin.   This time of year we are bombarded with a variety of mixed message because food plays such an important role in our holiday celebrations.  We see tons of TV shows and articles with recipes and directions for making delicious, high calorie food and then are told how not to eat it.

In the recent years, there has been much more of an emphasis on healthy living versus dieting, and I think that is a great trend.  Because, after all, isn’t that so much more important?  Can we truly live our best if we are out of breath when we climb the stairs?  Or if we have to spend our money on medications that treat diseases we could avoid by being at a healthy weight?

So what does the scripture say about food?  Are cookies and cake evil?  Are we commanded to spend an inordinate amount of time on working out and eating right?  What is the balance?  I found a few verses and I want to be very careful not to take them out of context.  But I think there are a few basic principles we can glean from these verses:

1.)  Overeating is sinful.  To eat more than we need is not only unhealthy but it is sinful.  When we eat more than our bodies require, we are gluttons.  I only give one example below, but God uses drunkards and gluttons in the same sentence more than once in Proverbs.  I don’t know about you, but I find this very convicting.  Often is the time I have reached for that extra cookie or snack when I wasn’t the least bit hungry.  That is a sin??  I believe the Bible says it is.

Do not mix with winebibbers, or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe a man with rags. (Proverbs 23:20-21)

2)   There are not “good” foods or “bad” foods.  I know this will be a huge source of contention with some of you who read this.  But, I think there are several scripture passages that confirm this.  It is not so much about what we eat, as it is about how much we eat of it.   Now, to clarify, there is an over-consumption of highly processed, high-sugar, refined products in our culture that render little, if any, nutritional benefits.  Perhaps if there are any foods that could be labeled “bad”, it would be these.  Partaking of these occasionally is not going to ruin your health.  Partaking of these on a daily basis will.  We are required to be good stewards of our body.  We need to take responsibility and not live in default mode.  We need to eat a variety of all kinds of food.  And, yes, contrary to what may be popular belief, God did create sugar cane.  And He knew that a woman somewhere in history would create a pie…cookies…cake.   These things aren’t wrong in and of themselves.  It is in the over-consumption of them that we move into the realm of sin.

But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. (I Corinthians 8:8)

3)  The battle I wage with food distracts me from my spiritual walk.  When I focus too much on food–which is shown when I am gluttonous and spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what I will eat OR when I count every single calorie and obsess about everything I put in my mouth and spend hours working out– I am not able to focus on the things that really matter.  The bottom line is that God put food on this earth to sustain us and for us to enjoy in the proper balance.  When that balance is tipped one way or the other, I move into an area where it distracts me from my true purpose on this earth.

Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. (Luke 12:22-23)

This battle has raged on inside my head for many years.  Most women (and men, too) naturally gain some weight around their middles during middle age.  Is this sinful?  Or is this how God created our bodies to be?  I don’t really know the answer to this.  I do know, however, that I have a responsibility to keep my body in tip-top shape to the best of my ability…not so I can meet worldly standards, but so I can maximize the amount of time I have on the earth to glorify God and spread the Gospel.   But I have to admit…I look forward to not having to worry about it in Heaven!  While here on earth, I know I will always find food a source of temptation.   But I also know that in this weakness, God can show HIS strength.