Need Some Deep Cleansing?

It’s rare for me to reblog one of my previous post, but since I’ve been in a cleaning mode, this one still resonates with my spiritual walk.

Even In This

My eyes and nostrils burn from the pungent fumes of household bleach. For today, I meant business with my upstairs shower stall—the one I never use—which got plenty of use this summer.

Long, steamy showers (and a lack of ventilation) allowed specks of black mold to creep into the crevices of grout between the shower tiles.

With gloved hands, I scrubbed the shower walls and basin with a brush. Then I held a dish towel to my face while I attacked the grout with my spray bottle of bleach.

Spray. Scrub. Rinse. Repeat.

Water flowed down the shower stall walls, becoming a mucky grey, and swirled down the drain.

Satisfied, I advanced towards the commode, brandishing my toilet brush. I showed no mercy to the porcelain. I also mopped floors. Washed laundry. Cleaned out the cat’s litter box.

My housework wasn’t finished until I’d emptied all the garbage cans and took the…

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There Be Mountains

There be mountains out there which I find lovely unless I’m flying over them in a small airplane.

Instead of embracing the spectacular birds-eye view, and trusting the person who’s flying, I squeeze my eyes shut. Cowering beneath my jacket, I hold my breath waiting till we get to the other side.

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Even now, when my husband suggests flying somewhere, I ask him, “Will there be mountains?” Living on the west coast, it’s hard to avoid them.

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I prefer flying over the Sacramento Valley where the flat land is an earthen tapestry of rice fields and almond orchards. Cattle graze on carpets of green grass, and Interstate 5 stretches for miles like a runway. If need be, we could land the plane without too many bumps.

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Given the choice, I’d rather stay in the peaceful valley, but even in life…there be mountains.

Sweet moments in life might be called a Mountain-Top Experience like the breath-taking, ethereal beauty that comes after an uphill hike when we’re standing on top of the world.

But there are also treacherous mountains where the trees don’t grow and the steep elevation seems insurmountable. Only, our circumstances leave us no choice but to go up and over. Not knowing if we’ll survive the experience of….

  • Debts
  • Disease
  • Disabilities
  • Divorce
  • Disasters
  • Death of a Dear One.

Whether the mountainous problem looming before us is 5,000 feet high or a 14,000 peak….how should we respond?

  • Cower in denial like an ostrich hiding his head in a hole?
  • Pull back into our shells like a frightened turtle?
  • Forge ahead faithfully, one step at a time?

Fear—and a lack of trust—is my first response whether I’m flying in the mountains or facing life. I wonder if I’ll ever change. However, I did something on my last flight that changed my perspective.

As we took off towards the hills, I closed my eyes to avoid looking down and listened to Christian music on my iPod. Only this time, I meditated on the Biblical Truths behind the lyrics.

  • Does Jesus love me?
  • Is His grace sufficient?
  • Will He forsake me?
  • Is God sovereign?
  • Can I trust Him?

I thought about the geography of my life: Sunny beaches and lush meadows interspersed with barren deserts, hazardous mountains, and the vally of the shadow of death.

20160902_105006The ONE constant navigator and comforter in my life is Jesus. He never disappoints.

When I embraced that truth, and everthing I know to be true about God’s character and my relationship with Him, the fear vanished. My body relaxed knowing His Spirit is present within me. I opened my eyes and beheld the wonder of His creation.

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Knowing even in this…no matter what “this issue” happens to be in my life….

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1,2).

 

Help, I’ve Fallen

Pink scars line my right shin where I tripped and smashed—face forward—onto my asphalt driveway. It happened a month ago while I was doing yard work. Both my wrists and my right leg had cuts and bruises. My body ached from whiplash. I’m grateful I didn’t break a bone.

Today, those scars are the visible evidence that I fell. A reminder to be more careful when I’m walking. I’m not young anymore so I don’t bounce back as quick. The same goes with my weight.

In my twenties, I could eat what I wanted without evidence showing up on my waistline. Childbirth and an aging metabolism has added to my girth.  Thin Within is a Grace Based Approach to losing weight. It has showed me I need to be careful around food because I’m prone to fall and eat for no reason. And that bad habit increases my weight that doesn’t shed as easily.

This week’s lesson on God’s grace brought to mind those moments I’ve stumbled when it comes to food. Snack food…within easy reach…is always the culprit.

The lust of the eye gets me every time. “One bite won’t hurt.” And it probably wouldn’t hurt except I stumble into having a second and third helping. Soon, I’m belly aching because I tripped and fell—again—off the eating right wagon.

Oh, I may not have visible scars like the ones on my leg, but there are mental scars because I beat myself up when I fall. Frustration turns into hopelessness and smothers me like a wet napkin.

Will I ever be able to socialize without nibbling? I want to taste the snacks. When I discover they’re good—I want more.

Remember the mythological Siren that sang and lured men to their death? Their only escape was to cover their ears. Well, food—particularly appetizers—has the same effect when I’m socializing.

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I need to hide my eyes from the doughnuts when I walk into church. Cover my ears from the sound of people chewing popcorn in a movie. Glue my lips together when the hostess serves coffee cake at our book club. Slap my hand when I’m playing a board game with friends, and the snack is inches away. Tell me I’m not alone!

When I fall, self-condemnation and a wailing regret are my first response. Grace—from the Lord or myself—no where on the table.

I’ve observed my eating habits for a month now so I know my weaknesses. Now, I need to correct my behavior.

When I get with my friend to play games, I’ll know to go hungry so I can have a small portion of her homemade snacks.

If I’m hosting book club, I’ll have the women fix themselves a small plate in the kitchen instead of bringing the food platter to the table.

At church, I’ll learn to strategically stay far from the doughnuts by pretending it’s the enemy.

Equally beneficial is studying Barb Raveling’s book The Renewing of the Mind Project to discover the little truths about myself.

Why do I love appetizers? Why do I associate snacks with pleasure and socializing? Is there something I can do to re-place food and still have fun with my friends?

Years ago, a friend of mine once struggled with her weight and she didn’t want to gain back the pounds she’d lost. Whenever we met in her home, she never served food with the beverages. Sometimes we’d walk while we talked instead of sitting around a table. At the time, I felt like food was a missing ingredient, but now I understand her wisdom. Even if I’m not there yet.

Hosting people in my home is synonymous with food. Drop into my home, and I’ll haul out the cheese and day-old crackers. Are you hungry? Let me microwave a frozen corn dog and smother it in mustard. Isn’t food the definition of hospitality? Even Biblical patriarchs killed and cooked the fatted calf whenever they entertained guests. But I assume they were hungry. They knew better than to pig out on fried pork rinds.

Who knows, I might be doing folks a favor and keep them from tripping if I become more creative, and less calorie-oriented, when it comes to entertaining.

Meanwhile, the Big Truth: God’s grace is new every morning. He’s not bringing up yesterdays belly flops and face plants. He wants us to “taste and see the Lord is good” so we’ll want more of Him and be truly satisfied.

Isn’t it time, we believe God and give ourselves some grace too? Knowing…

“The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord sustains all who fall and raises up all who are bowed down” (Psalm 145:8, 14).

Photo: http://jennywredephotography.com

You Can Go Now

I wrote this two years ago when my youngest child went to college. But since he just left for his junior year, and it’s the first day of school near my home, the theme is current.

Even In This

On the first day of school, student laughter drifts across the street like melody to my ears.

And along with their glee, three grown children unknowingly pluck my heart strings from afar.

How long does it last…this forlorn desire to rewind time?

Or must I remain tethered to the memory of my children the way they were?

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My mind’s eye sees them standing on our front porch. They’re dressed in new outfits, their backpacks filled with freshly-sharpened pencils, colored markers, and wide-ruled paper.

 I fumble with my camera while they moan, “Hurry up, Mom! We don’t want to be late!”

Within two weeks, I’ll shoo them out the door, “Hurry up, you’ll be late!”

They rush down the driveway with my voice vibrating like a helicopter…helicopter mom

ü  “Do you have your homework?”

ü  “Did you remember your lunch?”

ü  “Don’t forget to hand in your…

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Self-Condemnation not Allowed

You’re a horrible person. When will you ever learn? How can God love you?

Those are some of the nagging, ugly voices in someone’s head who wrestles with Self-Condemnation. They’re stuck. Unable to let go of their mistakes and sin. Or they view themselves as an ongoing failure.

I’ve been there, and I wonder. Did Eve live in condemnation because she listened to Satan instead of God, and ate the forbidden fruit?

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  • Did Eve justify her sin and continue to blame Satan?
  • Feel bitter towards Adam who blamed her when God confronted him?
  • Beat herself up whenever she thought of that fruit which was pleasing to the eye, but didn’t live up to Satan’s promise?

Or did Eve recognize God’s grace and praise His name? Aware that God could have struck her dead and taken another rib from Adam to create another, more perfect woman.

Instead, the Lord loved Eve and sought her while she was hiding in the garden. He listened to her explanation. Then—despite Eve’s guilt—God sacrificed an animal to provide skins to clothe her. And He promised that one day, her seed would bruise the head of Satan.

Did she receive God’s forgiveness…and forgive herself…even though she bore the harsh consequences of her actions?

I regret words and actions that happened decades ago. But there’s no place for loathing myself or living in self-condemnation. It’s also not good to overlook our wrong behavior with a flippant attitude that “nobody’s perfect.”

Even so, the enemy loves to wag his finger and lying tongue at us.

You’re a failure. Nobody loves you.
How many times will God forgive you?
You’ll never reach your goals.
You’re a horrible excuse for a wife and mom.

The only way to stop the lies—and condemnation—is to take our every thought captive. Then squash negative thoughts and emotions with God’s Word as we rely on the Holy Spirit’s power to transform us.

Barb Ravling’s book, Renewing of the Mind Project, helped me. It’s filled with introspective questions to reveal what we think and believe about God, ourselves, and our circumstances. She also provides tips and ample scripture—God’s Truth—so we can gain victory over our negative emotions and debilitating habits.

  • “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”(Romans 8:1)
  • “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.” (Romans 8:35)
  • “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:9)

Condemnation is an insufferable place to live. So is bitterness, anger, worry, stress, and emotional eating. Barb Raveling says, “If we want to be victorious over our habits and emotions, we need to take time to renew our mind.”

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After all, self-condemnation is “condemning someone God loves very much…even in this moment…YOU!”

 

I’m Just a Girl Who Can Say No

A few weeks ago, I decided to participate in Thin Within  which is a grace-based approach to losing weight and healthy eating. I have a weekly blog on their website, but wanted to include it here. Perhaps readers will find something valuable to apply to their own lives…

Sun rises on a new day, but I’m still a creature of habit. I roll out of bed and head for the scales which draws me like a Siren.

Surely there’s a mistake. I wiggle my feet on the scale’s cold glass, but the digital numbers remain the same.

So I drag myself to the kitchen for my next habit—coffee. While it’s brewing, I open the refrigerator to get Half and Half. The carton sits on the second shelf next to last night’s leftovers.

“What should I make for dinner?”

My husband hates that question at 7 a.m., but I have to plan ahead. Thaw the meat; buy the ingredients. Meals don’t just happen. If I was the only one in the household, I could eat a bowl of cereal. Pop some popcorn. Have an apple, but I’ve others to consider.

After I’ve been caffeinated and studied the scriptures mentioned in my Thin Within Workbook, I drive to the grocery store. My irritable stomach grumbles. Are you nuts? How dare you take me here when I’m a zero. Look at all this food. You’re killing me.

I pat my belly. Behave yourself. You can have some peas and carrots when we get home.

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I weave the shopping cart among the vegetables and fruit. Avoid the ice cream aisle. I came for fresh produce, eggs, and chicken breasts, but a bag of Fritos sneaks into my cart.

I frown, but then I’m reminded: “Just because You’re losing weight doesn’t mean Hubby stopped eating snacks.”

Good point. I head for the check out line…before I’m tempted to visit the cookies…and set my groceries on the counter’s conveyer belt. 

While the female clerk rings up the food, I notice I’m conveniently hemmed in by two metal racks. Candy on my right. Magazines on my left.

One offers worthless calories and a quick sugar high. The other offers me recipes and a fast pass to lose weight. I study the headlines which are designed to bait my vanity.

“New Water Cure—Drop 8 lbs in 7 days”

“Lose 10,20,30 Pounds—in Just Weeks!”

I’d buy these magazines in a heartbeat if I thought losing weight were that easy. Only, I know better. The female models on the magazine covers are string-bean thin and half my age. I suck in my gut. I can lose weight, but I’ll never look that good. 

 Time for a Truth Card. “God doesn’t look at my outer appearance, but on the heart.”

The clerk pauses. “Anything else?”

I glance at the candy bars in their brightly-colored wrappers. My stomach begs me like a spoiled child sitting in a grocery cart, “Can I have one? Pretty please with a cherry on top?”

I remember 1 Corinthians 6:12 from Thin Within’s introduction.

“Everything is permissible for me – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me – but I will not be mastered by anything.”

“No, thank you.”

My stomach sinks. It’s not used to hearing me say, “NO.”

I pay for the food and escape the store waving my receipt like a victory banner. Who knew? Renewing my mind with God’s Word really works!

But my smile fades fast because my belly’s turning somersaults,  and it won’t give up. “Yippee. Let’s eat something to celebrate! Got any Fritos?”

When Perfection is Too Much Work

Stark naked and vulnerable. That’s how I felt…during a heart thumping, voice-quivering moment…when I took off the pretentious mask of perfection in front of my friends.

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I didn’t plan to bare my soul. However, emotions came to a head…stripping my polished veneer. Exposing the real me. The moment was sobering even for my friends.

Remember Eve in the Garden of Eden? Instead of a mask, Eve tried to cover her shame with fig leaves and hide from God because “she was afraid.”

Afraid of what? God’s reaction and the consequences of having her own way? Or hearing the disappointment in His voice.

Daughters of Eve, have you been there like me? Hiding behind a protective mask..afraid of  what others will think?

We tend to sweep our imperfections beneath a rug and stand on it so no one peeks. Pretend to have it together, and play at the perfect Christian.

We aim for control? Believing if we….

Keep our children in line, our house clean, our faces powdered, our marriages together, our skeletons in the closet, then we’ll appear and feel more….What?

Perfect? Better than?

Be honest. How many of us show up at each other’s homes, secretly relieved, when we find dust bunnies and a ring around the tub? Have you ever opened someone’s refrigerator and smiled. “Is that green mold on the creme cheese? Good! It’s not just me.”

Or we learn to evade our friends’ white-glove inspections and raised eyebrows. Instead of opening imperfect homes and serving second-rate food, we meet our friends at a safe, neutral place where…

We discuss the price of milk, the latest gossip, and exchange recipes…while the whole time…we hold our sticky game cards close to our chest. Let them think I have a royal flush, but not a bad hand.

Even our personal best seems flawed when we’re listening to the enemy’s lie. Isn’t that what happened to Eve?

Why do folks exhaust themselves playing Perfection if nobody can win? Wouldn’t life be easier if everyone admitted…we’re human? (Want to hear about toilet paper stuck to my shoe?) Let’s get real!

Only, nobody wants to go first. Either we’re embarrassed to reveal too much of ourselves. Or fear wagging tongues. Please don’t tell.

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Authenticity is difficult, but let’s face it. Sometimes we have to take a deep breath,  remove the mask, and allow our “ego” to skinny dip in front of our friends before they feel free to do the same.

Thankfully, my girlfriends are solid. They covered my naked, trembling heart with their love and prayers. And showed me, I’m not alone.

Even in this.…masquerade.

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8)

Photos: Karen Foster