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.

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.

Turning Forty

As I celebrated my fortieth birthday a few weeks ago, I got a bit reflective. Forty years went by quickly, I mean relatively speaking. Time is funny, it can sometimes go by quickly or slow or even both at the same time. I feel as if I’ve blinked and all of a sudden I’m here, in this moment. I’ll blink again and another forty years will have passed by (Lord Willing). My pop culture references instantly date me ( Seinfeld anyone?), and my bedtime for sure reflects my current stage of life. (Of which I have no regrets on that, sleep is my jam!)

I wouldn’t want to go back to my twenties or thirties because though there were good times, they also belong in the past. Romanticizing the past just puts a different filter on it.

I’m grateful for the the person I am today, right now at this moment. I’m grateful for the hard things and the joyful things I’ve experienced. I’m grateful to have the relationships I have loved ones. Most of all I am secure in my faith in the Lord.

I would not be the person I am today if I didn’t know Jesus. I used to be an angry person, unable to let go of hurts and slights. I used to believe that I was unloved though I was surrounded by it. Without Jesus, I would not have any sense of what peace and contentment could begin to look like.

The idea of being Forty used to look like something else to me. It used to look like I had checked all the right boxes. Boxes that I never truly strove to check off. I don’t know if I was ever meant to check off those boxes. It used to look like I was supposed to have all the pieces of the puzzle of life in place. The reality is in my life, the puzzle looks more like a mish mash of pieces from different puzzles. Some of which fit together well and others that don’t which I have learned to stop forcing to fit. I have this inkling that those puzzle pieces I’ve been searching for and even those I haven’t will start to fill in. Creating this beautiful but still incomplete picture.

I’ve learned it’s not so much the boxes I check off but what my heart is looking at. My heart today strives for the Lord. In my thirties my heart struggled to understand what this could look like or even mean for my life. In learning to let go of those ill fitting puzzle pieces, I’ve seen God all the more.

At forty , I’ve learned a few things but I still have so much more to learn. I look forward to this new decade of Life.

Being Single & Seeking Community

Living alone has great benefits. There is no one to fight for control over the remote, wearing  whatever you like and eating whatever you like. It can be the absolute dream of being an adult. But there are times when it can be hard too. Coming home after a long day of work to an empty home can either be a relief or hard. 

A relief when the day has been long and stressful. When all I crave is a nice shower or bath, a bit of food and quiet before bed. Hard when craving companionship and no one is available because well life. Then there are those days when it’s a mixed bag, when you desire a bit of both. 

Right now, I’m in a peaceful place with my life and therefore my state of singleness. I’m coming up on my first year of living in my own home, becoming more settled in my position at work and growing more in my faith in the Lord.

But I have been in a place when it wasn’t good. When I listened to the lies to start with, the ones that say I was not worthy of God’s love and care. When my defenses are down and exhaustion seeps into my life I’m more susceptible To seek out comfort or weakness and sin . I turned away from the truth of who I am in Christ. Choosing instead to believe the lies,that I am forgotten or unloved. 

Thankfully I’ve been connected to a healthy church for most of my Christian life. Writing those words I understand how privileged that is to write . Because without a healthy community to rely on a person can fall into becoming disconnected.

Falling away from community doesn’t happen overnight. It happens slowly, bit by bit until one day looking up and realizing that it’s just not there as it once had been. 

Finding a healthy church community is hard. Maintaining a connection to one is hard too. It means trusting strangers with all that we carry in our souls. People have been hurt because those they trusted disappointed them and so have withdrawn from pursuing community. 

A lot of factors can contribute to disconnection. Changes in work or school schedules, family obligations, personal health and mental health to name a few. Or perhaps there are difficulties with friendships or a feeling of a lack of care or finding understanding from your church. 

The thing to recognize first is do you believe that the Lord is your Savior ? I mean really believe that you are the beloved child of God? Without first believing this, then the rest doesn’t matter. Nothing else written here can help you. 

If you find yourself in a state of disbelief who can you reach out that you trust to discuss this? 

Pray for your belief in Him and in the community He desires you take part in. 

Peel back the layers of your struggle with connecting with others and seek the Lord’s wisdom in letting go of your defenses. Allow walls to tumble down in order to connect or reconnect.

Reach out to renew old relationships that help you to strive for the Lord. Some old connections do need to stay in the past. Be wise here.

Stay connected, living in community takes belief, trust and effort. It can be hard, but it is so worth it. Make the effort to join a group offered at church or volunteer.

I’ve learned to open myself up more, to be vulnerable with people and honest with people in my life. Instead of holding things in and it allowing bitterness to seep in. I try to reach out to people in my life and to stop assuming things about them.

I tend to long to be invited to things and so I had to challenge myself to also invite people into my home. Doing these things has helped me in those hard times of be alone.

Working at relationships has helped me to understand the Gospel even more so. Having a strong community of women who love Jesus has helped me in learning to disbelieve those lies.

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.

Linda - Victory

I Forgot Hope

Just like that in a flash it’s no longer the start of the new year but it’s end.

As I sit here contemplating what this year has been I realized that I forgot my word for 2018! I had to look at my post from last year to remember what my the word I had chosen!

My word was Hope, and I forgot about it. I think that’s funny.

It’s funny because I didn’t have to think about it. I wasn’t in need of reminding to Hope because this year has been living it out. That is such a blessing! Throughout this year of change and transitions, hope in Christ carried me through.

Just as with all years, it has been good, sad, exhausting, joyous and at times boring. I’ve grown in ways I didn’t foresee, fell back into some old habits and can say this has been a rather productive year for me all in all.

As those social media year end round ups start up I won’t sit there comparing my year against others.

I know what I achieved, what I let slide and what I chose to do with my time.

As this year prepares to wrap up, I understand Hope a bit more. Perhaps at times when I’m hoping for something instead of putting Hope in Christ I’m missing the point. What I learned this year is that Hope was something I already had.

I’m not sure I will choose a word for 2019. At this moment I don’t have an inkling for one. I’m not even sure what I’d like to try to achieve next year. Guess what, I’m just fine with that! Dear reader if you don’t either, embrace it!

A Place to Call Home

Last May I moved into my own place. For the first time since my early twenties, I had my own door to close. I’ve shared homes with roommates and family but it still was not something I could call my own. I never believed it would be possible that I would have have my own home.

But God did.

So much of my growth have been the times that God forced the situation. Forcing me to look at Him in trust and provision. Because so often when I have looked at the situation from my perspective, it was impossible. From God’s perspective it was possible.

I have lived God’s provision in my life over and over again. Ten years ago I was in between jobs, with no savings and no idea what would come next. For months, as I looked for work somehow I managed to put gas in my car and eat. I gave my sister what I could for rent and took up cleaning and cooking for the household to try to make up for the deficit.

Eventually, I did find a job along with some side gigs and another part time job. It wasn’t perfect and I still struggled to get by most weeks. But I was getting by and God was working in me through that time. I needed to mature in some areas and learn how to trust more in others. Trust in Him that good would come from this season.

Last May I signed the lease to my place and handed over my deposit. I held those keys with a sense of awe and disbelief. I finally had my own place! A place to be filled with people and laughter. I didn’t bother to change out of my pajamas or make my bed the first time I had someone over for breakfast. I’ve discovered I enjoy having friends over!

I still have my moments where I still can’t believe that I actually live in my own place. I understand what a privilege it is to have a place. God provided it and I recognize that just as He provided it, it can be gone. Having a safe place to live is such a blessing. A blessing I don’t take lightly. I’m just so grateful.