A Heart For More

I did not want to stop eating chocolate. Then one day I did not work out, I also did not the following day. This turned into several weeks and then months. I also confess, I was bored with what I had done previously.

Just about eight years ago, I lost a lot of weight. I worked out twice a day, seven days a week (DO NOT DO THIS!). The weight came off so quickly that mentally I was not ready for my new body. I became obsessed about the number on the scale. Spending hours analyzing calculating my caloric intake and exercises.

I reached a point where I saw that all my efforts were going into maintaining this number that I wasn’t truly living my life. The reality of losing weight is that it not some magical formula to fixing oneself spiritually or mentally. It is so hard too because as I lost weight, so many people congratulated me on the effort. This approval was intoxicating to be honest. As I gained weight, part of me felt ashamed. That I had somehow let the people around me down.

There is this idea out there that healthy equals thin or fit looking. But the part that can get ignored is that a health is equally or more importantly internal. It has to do with my heart. When I lost all that physical weight, I placed my hope for Joy into my new body instead of Christ.

A few years later I did Whole 30, once I completed it there was no lasting change for me. It is a good system and I learned a lot but the reality is that it is a diet and not God. Earlier this Fall a friend reached out and asked if I would like to join a group of people from our church in doing the Daniel Fast. I said YES! without hesitation.

The Daniel Fast is a 21 day fast where ( in a similar fashion to Whole 30, food and drinks are restricted ). The difference is that the focus is not entirely on the food or losing weight (a by product of course) but in relying on the Lord. I participated because I knew if I tried another diet I would end up in the same place. Most of this year my prayer has been less of myself and more of Him.

In the 21 days I got to see that, I felt an internal change. I saw how much I relied on comfort foods and the habits I had developed without realizing it. There were some hard moments, day ten I wanted coffee so badly! There were a few times that I struggled to make it through the day.

I spent time in prayer and the book of Daniel. As I spent time learning more about Daniel, the more I learned that it was Daniel’s heart for God that sustained him throughout Daniel’s lifetime. That is what I desire, a heart for the Lord such as Daniel’s.

I have noticed a difference with my hunger, pre-fast, if I were hungry I would have to eat right away!!! During and post-Fast, I can deal with it until I can eat. While it is important that I exercise and eat well, it is more important to have a heart that desires more.

Linda under a tree

The Edges of Grief

This time of year can bring unexpected emotions for me. It’s an odd time, the season is Spring ( or if your down here in Florida, bordering on Summer), a time of renewal. And yet it contains the edges of grief.

Just over a week ago, a writer I respected passed away quite unexpectedly.Rachel Held Evans was a well known Christian writer who loved Jesus, people and gave so many a pathway as they questioned the idea of faith. This loss is immeasurable, most especially to her young children and husband. ( if you want to better understand the impact that one life can have, spend some time reading through the hashtags #prayforRHE and #becauseofRHE).

In thinking of her life and the grief that follows, I began to also think of all those living with the edges of grief.

Grieving takes a different shape for each of us. It’s complex and undefinable. Though in our desire to understand we try to categorize it. Define it by stages , which to be fair do exist but not necessarily in any particular order.

I lost my mom unexpectedly when I was twelve due to a brain aneurysm.It was a blow to my family that still reverberates to this day. Our relationship was tenuous, complicated. I I felt robbed of getting to develop a relationship with her.

Grief never truly leaves. It becomes less heavy, less prominent but ever present. It lives on the edges of our life. It’s the moment of laughter tinged with the thought I wish _______ was here for this. It’s years later after navigating through those family celebrations that one year I wanted the old way back. Just for a brief moment. Those thoughts don’t take away from the present joy, they are simply part of things as they now.

I think of these things as I reflect on the 27 years without my mom. I’m grateful for the relationship with my Aunt who stepped into my life when my mom was unable due to her mental health. I’m grateful for our relationship today, as we have come far from those initial days of grieving. I’m grateful for the stories about my mom that now flow without effort or that sting most times, I’m grateful for my sisters, who remind me of her and whose love keep her memory alive.

I remind myself that it’s ok to grieve still. Jesus wept after all. I think too often we want to just get through and check off the list. We need to lament, to cry out and to remember. Regardless if the grief is raw or not. There is no time limit on grieving. It took me time to understand how much grief had changed me. How it informed first my lack of relationship with God. But also helped form my current relationship with God.

Living with the edges of grief doesn’t mean I live a life lacking joy or happiness. It’s simply another part of me. And that’s ok.

Between Faith and Hope

Living in faith is hard. Having faith means having hope and hope can be painful. It can be especially hard when seeing so much heartbreaking news. On Easter my pastor walked us through the doubt Thomas had in believing Jesus was alive.

It’s hard to believe in the hope of Christ at times.

When churches are burned down in St. Landry Parish in Louisiana.

As the Norte Dame burned last week.

When families worshipping are violently killed.

When a young mother has to be put into a comatose state to prevent her condition from worsening .

It’s hard to hope in the midst of all that. To doubt that God cares about any of that. To have hope in the middle of hardships and pain.

In these things I see the care and love of God. I watch as people donate money to rebuild churches. As people sing hymns in the streets of Paris, worshiping, weeping and seeking. As people come together to grieve for worshippers killed at their Mosque. As Christians endured this tragedy this past Sunday. As prayers for Rachel Held Evans trend on Twitter, I see faith and belief and love take hold.

I see Jesus. He is there in the midst of it all. In the grief and the coming together, the messiness of it all.

Having faith doesn’t mean having everything fixed. It doesn’t mean everything is just right.

For me it means sitting with hope in the midst of hardship. It means sitting in grief because grief doesn’t negate hope. It means making room for questions but also for answers.

Having faith allows me to reach for hope when I fear the pain it might bring. Faith has allowed me to understand hope in the struggle. Sometimes it looks like living in the in between of faith and hope. In all of it Jesus meets all of us.

Embracing Waiting

Waiting. It feel like in my life that I’m constantly waiting for something, at times patiently and other times not as much. I know I’m not alone in this I’m sure.

Waiting is often seen as unfair. People hate to wait. If there is an unforeseen wait, people become uncomfortable and impatient. It can either be the day to day errands that end up taking longer. Or in the waiting for other things, dreams and hopes in life.

Waiting means inconvenience. It means that the thing I may want will take longer or even not at all. Waiting can mean disappointment. It can mean heartache. It can also mean gaining something far greater than originally hoped for.

What matters is how I wait. When I wait with an attitude of I deserve this or that, then I become selfish. I lose sight of the things I already have in my life. Instead becoming obsessed with this thing or hope.

When I wait with a sense of humbleness and prayerfully my focus becomes less on myself and more onJesus. Laying all my expectations at the feet of Jesus. This doesn’t mean I have ceased longing for these things but I give up on the idea that I have control over gaining them.

I confess this is hard for me to do. I’ve had to give up hopes & desires again and again. I’ve had to learn to let go of an expectation. I’ve had to learn that not getting something in the timeframe I wanted doesn’t mean I’m less than somehow. There are things I have longed for in the past that hurt so much when it didn’t happen. As I look back, I find myself grateful today for that journey. I understand that in some things I had desired was with the wrong heart and attitude.

It always comes back to that. It’s not so much the what I’m waiting on but where is my heart and attitude about it? Instead of seeing waiting as an inconvenience, I am choosing to see it as an opportunity.

An opportunity to learn, an opportunity to grow. This year I to choose to embrace waiting instead of fighting against it. Because I wonder how much I have missed when fighting against waiting. What lessons have I missed because my focus was so zoned in on what I was waiting on instead of leaning into where the Lord was leading me?

And just like that, I believe I have found my word for this year. Or in this case phrase Embracing Waiting.

Grief

Wrestling with Patience

Patience. The very word can send me into annoyed levels upon hearing the word.

The last thing I have wanted to hear throughout my life while in the midst of a struggle is be PATIENT.

Patience with others, situations or things to come has not been easy for me. To say the least.

Hearing to be patient when not in a place to be patient has been the least motivating thing for me. In fact it only made me more upset.

I didn’t want to be patient! I wanted what I wanted right now and in the very way I envisioned it. So of course I would shut down, turning inwardly and into the spiral of wallowing.

So many times I brought my frustrations to God and still found myself in the same place. It wasn’t until I began to attempt to align my heart with His that things began to change. The more I prayed for His desire over my own ( seriously not easy!) and learning to be thankful for people, experiences and things in my life.

It’s not that my life changed overnight, I just learned how to (ahem) be patient in my circumstances. At times this can be called contentment or even steadfastness as we like to say in Christianese.

Essentially, staying put when what I long to do is run away or solve the situation myself. Which wouldn’t be good. I tend to panic react and end up in a worse situation than I would of been if I simply been (you know what I’m going to say right?) PATIENT .

Slowly and with a lot of bumps in the road, changes in my day to day began to emerge. From how I dealt with people, my circumstances and who God is in all of it. The more my heart aligns with Him, the more I see less of my own desires.

Examining the heart behind my desires had been so humbling. Why do I really want this or that? What do I believe I will get from it that I’m not getting right now?

Believe me when I say that those examinations are tough. I have to go into some deep parts of me to get a small grain of understanding. Even still I’ve come out fighting for my desires over that of God’s.

I’ve had a hard time of being patient with people. Many times I’ve been harsh or short with others because they were the ones bothering me. Often too , my impatience can be a cover for my embarrassment. When being caught off guard, my comfort zone is a place of defense. If I have enough bluster then maybe my lack of knowledge won’t be noticed.

Yeah, right.

I read through James 5:7-12, where James encourages patience. Not only patience for the things I desire in this life but to have patience for the coming of Jesus. I must give credit for this insight to the ladies in the young adults group I help lead at church.

In the midst of a current hardship and even joy, Jesus is the greatest promise. Beyond anything else, patience waiting upon the Lord. Because the promises of God are far greater than anything I can desire.

It’s ok to wrestle with patience. It’s ok to say you are frustrated but not to stay there. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned about patience.

A New Year, A New Word

It’s hard to believe but 2017 is about to end. 365 days that have been good, great, sad or bad culminate in a countdown breathlessly screamed out. What is it about the end of one year and the start of another?

It’s the clean slate idea. All that happened in these last 365 days is over and done. As the new year comes upon us all, we all have the chance to be different. This is the year of (insert declaration here)!

Then the list of resolutions begin to accumulate. This year I will do this instead of that. In years past I too made a list of resolutions. A list I would soon forget or walk away from altogether.

About five years ago I discovered One Word 365 while reading through my favorite blogs. The concept appealed to me, choose a word in which to live through as a lens for the next year. That’s it. Nothing else is required but to meditate, lean into and grow into this word.

Sounds weird right?

I mean we’ve been conditioned to make those lists! And that you can only do this at the start of the new year. Lies! By focusing on a word for the year, I find I’m more apt to accomplish goals. That as I lean into the word, it’s meaning only begins to evolve and expand.

I hadn’t given much thought to my word for 2018. In fact I completely forgot about it. Life had become busy with work and preparing to move. Until that is ,I began to journal the other night. Then there it was, written several times over in my entry. My word for 2018 had chosen me.

The word that repeated itself was Hope.

Hope

HOPE

HOPE

HOPE

Hope in the impossible, hope in good, hope in love, hope in all circumstances. Because I confess I have lacked hope at times. Because I don’t always trust what can happen. I’ve even stopped hoping for certain things because it’s too painful. Hoping means caring and caring means there is disappointment.

I have at times pushed aside the true hope I have in Christ. Because the lie(s) know how to whisper to me in just the right ways. I have chosen to not hope because it hurts. When what is hoped for doesn’t come to fruition, it leaves me bruised and untrusting.

Outside of myself, there is much need for Hope throughout the world. Hope that only Christ can deliver. If one is willing to believe that good can come from trial.

I don’t think this will be an easy word to lean into. I long to walk through the beckoning doorway to have a greater understanding of Hope.

2018 is the year of HOPE.

The Inconvience Factor

Inconviences can suck. They steal away time and chip away at my comfort. I had an afternoon of inconviences, so many little things piled onto each other that at one point some unholy words emerged from my mouth. What I wanted was kept out of reach for me and I did not like it. Often times I can become upset with things and most often it is not for any other reason than that I am not getting what I want at that moment.

It can bring the worst out of me. But I have learned the most from being inconvienced in my life. Even that day where it felt as if ALL the things went wrong. In some ways they did, and in other ways they went right. I had to remind myself that what I was dealing with was temporary.

But sometimes the inconviences do have long lasting effects. Some are good as I have learned and been challenged in my life. Learning from these kinds of moments has lead to the biggest breakthroughs for me. By asking myself the questions behind why am I so upset? Why is it so important for this to happen now?

Sometimes I know what that answer is, and other times it takes some digging to reveal it. Following Jesus is full of inconviences. I have been stretched to reach past what I know and go into the unknown. I remember the first time I was asked to lead a Bible study, it was scary. Being responsible for helping others follow Jesus when one isn’t 100% confident is difficult.

Leading a group can be inconvenient as anything. It means setting aside time to study up for the week, follow up with group members and spending time conveying information to them. Caring for people is inconvenient isn’t it though? It means having to stop what you had planned to do in order to care for them.

Jesus isn’t about convenience, following him doesn’t fall into a neat slot on the schedule. The lessons that stemmed from being inconvenienced have helped me to grow in my faith. Molding me into the person I am today and the person I will be ten years from now.

Life if full of inconveniences, varying in degrees. Some are small such as I experienced on that day. Others are larger, which I have also experienced in my life. They have made me slow down in the moment and think about what is happening behind it all. It’s not the inconveniences that matter themselves, but what I can learn from them. To look at them as opportunites rather than not.