Saturday, January 14, 2017

Black Dog, White Couch

In Georgia we had a large, beautiful Cape Cod style home, surrounded by three acres of shady wood-lined trails.  The over-sized, overstuffed dark brown, living room furniture set we had went perfect in it.  Then we moved to the beach where I immediately fell in love with the white slip covered style furniture.  But with perfectly fine brown furniture, two kids and a dog, I held off.  Finally this past fall, with the kids being 18 and 20, I thought it was time to get the beach furniture I wanted.  Wasn't too worried about the dog as he doesn't normally shed and I've never seen dog hair on our furniture.

Finally the day came this past fall and I brought home my white sofa and club chair.  Not just any sofa or chair, but Pottery Barn slip covered ones and down-filled cushions and pillows as a bonus.  I then spent hours refinishing the coffee table and end tables in chalk paint colors of antique white and turquoise, completing the beach look I was wanting.  Added the right throw blanket and more down filled decorative seashell pillows and it was perfect.  Until my dog decided it was perfect for him, to curl up on, to run back and forth across the hanging down edge...and leave tiny black hairs all over it.  Black dog hairs?!  On my new stuff, seriously?!  Especially when he is almost 10 years old and never before have I ever seen dog hair on any of our sofas or chairs.  It was then I realized there probably was dog hair on our other furniture, but it was so dark and the type of material it was (suede fabric) that I never even noticed it.  It took the crisp new, white linen to show what was happening all along, and by all along I mean the past 10 years we've had our dog.

So what have I learned from this, other than the obvious of black dogs and white couches don't mix well?  That often in life we don't truly see what is happening.  Surroundings cover it up and we think it doesn't exist, but all along it is there, just hidden.  Because we can't see it doesn't mean it isn't there.  How often do we compare things we do to things other people do?  Because our issues blend in so well and aren't always obvious we easily convince ourselves that our issues don't even exist.  It's only when the true clean, white standard of God's Word is put against our issues do they stand out.  I feel like I'm in a similar season of life.  Things I've done for years, just as we've had our dog for years, are coming to light.  And now is the time of choosing.  Do we cover it with a throw blanket or pillows?  Do we try to place it next to something of similar color or actions so it doesn't appear to be so bad after all?  Or is it time to keep the white couch, the white glove test, the God standard, and remove the source of what is causing the imperfections?  One thing, no matter what the choice, you can't go back to the plea of ignorance.  Even if you hide it, blend it in or cover it up, you are now aware, and with awareness comes responsibility.  A choice to do nothing is still a choice.  Choose wisely... and don't buy white furniture if you own a black dog.

30 Day Sugar Free Challenge - Day 14

After my last post about the fuel you put in your body, I started a 30 Day Sugar Free Challenge.  Decided to include alcohol in it as well. Then inadvertently it included caffeine as all my caffeine comes from sugary Starbucks lattes or sodas.  So anyway, here I am 14 days into the challenge.  Doing good, no knowingly cheats.  Have been very careful checking nutrition menus, ingredient lists and labels.  And I feel so much better.

Day 4 was probably the hardest for any cravings, but the challenge I took includes coaching and journaling homework.  Going back through it I realized that most of the cravings are mental.  It sounds good, smells good, I remember the taste, but when I ask myself, "Will eating/drinking this enhance or hurt my life?" it doesn't match up.  And I've learned what foods to substitute and with the re-calibration of my taste buds, I'm truly enjoying the sweetness of things like fruit.  Frozen bananas, frozen strawberries, with a splash of almond milk and unsweetened Greek yogurt all blended together actually makes a pretty good ice cream substitute!

The other thing I've learned so far is that I often turn to mindless food because of boredom or comfort measures (also learning that most mindless junk food and comfort food is some of the most sugar filled foods).  So on my journey to eat more unprocessed foods and find real foods, I'm also learning more about the real and unprocessed me.  Who knew a 30 day sugar free challenge could turn into an opportunity to learn so much about myself? Believe me, suddenly and drastically remove all sugars, alcohol and caffeine from your diet and you will quickly see your real, often irritable, whiny self, surface as it is detoxed from your body.  But here on past the worst of that, here at the half-way point, I'm excited not just about finishing a challenge (and it has been one! sugar is in almost every single thing) but taking the opportunity to do some deeper soul searching and finding the whys behind some of the whats.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

What Fuel are You Using?

While I'm not entirely sure where my love of cars came from, I was begging my parents to let me look at cars in the car lots by age 10 and playing with Hot Wheels way before that, I do know my grandpa taught me a lot about them.  He was fanatical about caring for his cars. 

While there were many car care tips, he always said there were two things that were indisputably the two most important things for car care.  One was regular oil changes.  Said the engine would get sludge and changing the oil keeps your engine running clean and longer.  And it isn't good enough to just add the right kind of oil, but the old oil has to come out each time.  Along with a new oil filter.   The second tip was to use good gas.  No chicken gas (an inside family joke) for our vehicles.  Nope, has to be Shell or Exxon preferably.

I currently drive a Miata that says "Premium Recommended, but not Required."  And a Cadillac that does require premium gasoline.  Do I do these things?  Of course!  And why? Because I value the cars and want them to be in top running shape for as long as possible.  I don't sit there at the pump and choose low octane gas due to the cost.  I might complain, but I use the recommended and/or required octanes.

Some of his other tips included keeping your tires balanced and properly inflated.  My STS alerts me if one tire is lower and has digital gauges where I can check the tire pressure.  I do this manually on my Miata.  Why?  Because if one tire isn't holding up it's correct amount of pressure, it will put the whole car off balance and wear out the tires faster.

I also read the manuals or google items to make sure the proper oil, gas and tire pressure is used for each model, as each of our vehicles are different. 

So by now you may be wondering, why the car maintenance lesson?  Glad you asked.  My body has been running sluggish, autoimmune issues flaring and join issues.  I was evaluating what I've eaten lately, and being the holiday season, I've eaten WAY more sugar than I normally do plus add in the early sunsets and my activity level has been lower.  I know I feel better when I eat right, but get lazy in it.  Healthy foods can cost more.  It takes time to prep food.  It takes time to read labels.  Here is where the car care comes into play.  I realized I pay more for better fuel for my car, I'll even go out of my way to find the "right" gas stations.  I take time to do the proper maintenance on them, to make sure the foundation (tires) are all equally supporting the car, to read the articles on how to get the most of your car.  Yet I'm putting junk in my body and not consistently making sure all the pillars (physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, etc) for a proper foundation are equally being cared for.  If I do these things for my cars, in the hope they will last 10-20 years, why wouldn't I do it for my body?  That I hope will last 80 years, and that God says is His temple. 

Sometimes we forget the maintenance on our vehicles, and we don't remember until an alert comes on or it runs sluggish or knocking.  It's always better to do preventative maintenance then repairs.  Same with our bodies.  I start feeling better and then let it slide until warning signs go off.  But right now my warning lights are all going off and its time to treat my body at least as well as I treat my vehicles.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

10 Tips for the Path to Wellness/Recovery/Wholeness

August 21, 2016

From my time volunteering in Celebrate Recovery, Gwinnett Detention Center, NAMI, at church and now with the AFSP I've been asked what works. While I wish I could say I've always followed my own advice, here are the things I think can make the biggest difference.

1. Remember HALT. If you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired then halt (stop) and fix what you can. The more these four are in play the harder triggers will be.

2. Keep a gratitude journal. When in a slump write out the things you are grateful for. In those really rough times you can't think of anything, go back and read what you've written before. 

3. Exercise and get some sunlight. Sometimes it's hard to motivate yourself to get up and do this, but it really does help. Even if it's just a 20 minute stroll with your dog. 

4. Healthy diet. I'm not great at this but at least try to make sure you get in one nutrient packed meal a day that isn't processed or fast food. Try to avoid sodas and sugar filled items. 

5. Vitamins, supplements and meds. This is different for everyone but pretty much everyone can benefit from a good multi-vitamin, B-complex and fish oil. If you are prescribed other things, take them. And don't "borrow" other people's medications. 

6. Find people to support you, keep you accountable and encourage you. When you get to where you think you don't need anyone or any accountability and can handle it yourself, that is one of the most dangerous places you can actually be. Don't be afraid to reach out for help if you need it. 

7. Consistent sleep schedule. Found out this is crucial for my own personal well being. Google sleep hygiene for more details. 

8. Worship music. Nothing like this to help move focus off your self. Headphones at night are great when you can't sleep due to racing thoughts or anxiety. 

9. Volunteer! Help others. It gives you purpose, helps them, and makes you realize you aren't on this journey alone. 

10. Remember that God is always with you. There are times when you might want to punch someone for spouting off a Bible verse, but when you are in a place where you can focus, God's Word is the only true source of life and strength!

I hope that at least one thing off this list will help someone else on their journey to wellness and wholeness.

Judgement and Grace

August 19, 2016

Four very drunk, totally naked women (around my age), drinking vodka and orange juice and being loud in one of my community pools, belligerently refusing to get dressed or leave is how I started my day at 7:30 this morning.

Honestly of your first thoughts is what is wrong with those women, or some other judgemental thought. Am I right? I know it was mine, right up there with seriously, this is how my Friday is going to be?!

Then God started whispering to me, what are you judging them over? 

Me: um, first off they are drinking and drunk way too early in the morning 

God: and who gets to determine that being drunk early is way worse than being drunk at night? 

Me: ouch. Ok, so they are naked and acting inappropriately. 

God: and you have never done that? Maybe not the naked part, but have you ever lost your inhibitions and acted inappropriately?

Me: wellll, this one time... but they broke the pool rules, the pool doesn't open until 8. 

God: I seem to remember you and a guy getting busted for breaking into a community pool after hours one time. 

Me: that was a long time ago 

God: and? 

Me: ... Dear God, please forgive my judgemental attitude. Thank you for showing me that they just need You. Give me grace and wisdom in dealing with these kinds of situations (and thank you for our wonderful local cops). And for reminding me of all that You have forgiven me. Help me focus on becoming more like You, and to use Your Word as my standard. Not focusing on others or using them to measure whether or not my moral compass is correct.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Our Anchor

This year I started a devotional book called Unpack Your Heart.  Though only three weeks into the new year and this devotional, I highly recommend doing it.

The lesson this week is called Soul Room and the memory verse is Hebrews 6:19-20 "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.  He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."

In this lesson, which I'm only on day two, she talks about our soul being a room, that without Jesus is dead and lifeless, but with Him, it is alive and life-giving.  Day two's lesson asked "What difference does Jesus make in your soul with His presence?"  My answer is "Brings in the light, fresh air.  Mold can't grow in His presence (the previous day asked what our soul is like without Jesus, to which I replied black moldy, with isolating darkness spreading the mold). A newness, cleansing.  A willingness to keep going, press on.  A hope.  An anchor. Restoration."

Which brings me back to the title and the anchor, our anchor.

Making soul decisions without letting Jesus be in the center does lead us to death and lifelessness.  And as I'm sure we all have, some decisions I made were soul affecting decisions, without Christ.  Along this journey I keep saying I'm asking God and the Holy Spirit to lead me ONE step at a time.  I know I can't handle more than one at a time. Some of the steps have been small and easy, and some hard, difficult and takes me a while to take it.  Back in September I felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit telling me I needed to make some things right with my husband.  I didn't know how to even take that step, but haltingly and stumbling I attempted.  And it turned out horribly.  He asked me to give him some space and leave the house.  I was too numb to think and did leave that night.  But my emotions were in such a turmoil in the next couple of days that all I could think is I can't handle this, RUN.  So run I did.  Hopped in my car, gassed up and just headed out.  Made it only as far as Pensacola.  And there ended up on the pier.  Caught up in a storm, and knowing it was of my own making, made it even worse.  There was no one else to blame, no one else at fault.  Just me and my choices.  I spent a couple of hours leaning over the railing, looking in to the water, watching the waves dash onto the pilings.  And wondering what was next.  Eventually I needed something to drink and went back into the store on the pier and a bracelet caught my attention.  It was leather with a pendant, and carved into the pendant was an anchor.  I immediately thought of the memory verse for this week, "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." I bought it, put it on and went back out to the end of the pier.  I stayed out there all day, watched the sun set and as the waves of self doubt, and despair would roll over me, I kept looking at the anchor.  Putting my trust in God.  Knowing that while I caused the storm, I was also following His promptings in trying to make it right.  And that no matter what happened, I had hope, an anchor, if not for my how I may want my life to play out, at least for my soul.  Even after leaving the pier I wondered around quite a bit that night, being blown all about in the storm of my own making.  Barely able to think or function clearly, yet all the while hanging on to the promise of the anchor.  At one point I remember not being able to think or say anything but mumble over and over, "its ok, I have an anchor, its ok, I have an anchor."  And God, in His loving kindness, sent me some people via text messages helping to be that anchor that night and for my ship to safely get home.

That particular storm has passed, and as in many storms, we (my husband and I) are both closer and stronger from having survived it.

But this is life, and storms continue to come.  Some large, some small.  From December 30-January 6 my daughter was battling some mental storms for her own life and was away from us in a safe place that was her anchor for that week.  Right on the heels of that I got very sick on January 7, then spent January 8-17 (today) pretty much in bed, unable to do much of anything else.  But again, I HAVE this HOPE, this ANCHOR, for my soul.  And it is FIRM and SECURE, despite the size of the storms.  God taught me so much this past week of not being able to do anything on my own.  I learned to be still, I learned to listen, I learned I can't fix everything (I have to learn this lesson a lot unfortunately as I tend to keep forgetting it).

The day I was to get her from the facility was one of the "visualization" days in the study.  I had to get her alone, and I frankly was full of anxiety at doing so.  Lots of triggers for me in that process.  And in that "Chosen" lesson Jesus came to me (I didn't go to Him in my vision, as I felt unimportant, my problem wasn't big enough, he was too busy, others needed him more) but He came to ME.  And told me I wouldn't be making that long drive alone.  He would be with me.  He would be my anchor.  At one point while picking her up, I was in a locked tiny room alone, with just one window, covered in bars.  A waiting room of sorts.  And as the anxiety started rolling over me, I heard Him.  "I'm still here with you, higher than the highest mountain, deeper than the deepest sea.  There is no where you can go, that I can't be with you."  With that I felt His peace, stilling the waves of anxiety that threatened to overtake me.  What is cool is that the next day a friend, not knowing all those details, gave me a poster painting of Jesus on a ship calming the storm.

This past week the "visualization" day of the study I was still home in bed, sick.  The topic was "Busy In a Tree" and about rest.  I was fretting over not being able to do anything and missing so much work.  Again, in my vision, I turned and there was Jesus, in jeans and barefoot, sitting cross legged on my bed.  He told me he knew I was hurting and sick, and as he said this, he turned ever so slightly, just enough for me to see the scars on His back from being whipped.  He told me that it is by His stripes I'm healed, not by my frantic efforts to "fix" things or speed up healing.  And the devotional speaker had referred to "racing thoughts" and pent up energy.  Jesus reminded me that us humans all tend to have that same tendency, and that He created me as I am.  Not to have labels, but to take those racing thoughts when they come and bring them to Him.  To cast my cares on Him.  That peace doesn't come from pills, serenity doesn't come from syringes and anxiety isn't drowned in alcohol. That He is my cure.  The only One that can truly make me whole.  And to take the rest of the time I was sick to rest, strengthen and grow.

As I mentioned earlier, part of that resting included listening.  Some of that was listening to my daughter.  Not talking AT her, or even to her.  But listening, not just to her words, but to her heart, as she opened up and shared with me.  She and I cried with each other, for each other, held each other and bonded in a way we haven't in a very long time.

So I continue on this journey, step by step, through the calm and through the storms.  Knowing that whatever comes my way, that my soul will be firm and secure, as long as I keep my hope in Him as my anchor.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Star Wars: Rey & The Force

Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened in theaters this weekend and we went and watched it in 3D.  It was great, but one scene especially gave me chills and resonated deep within me.  Don't read this if you haven't seen the movie yet and don't want to read spoilers.

In the scenes prior Rey admits that she thought that Luke, Jedis and the Force were all myths. When she met Hans, she was told that no, it wasn't a myth but real.  Later Rey was captured by Kylo, who had gone to the Dark Side. He had her chained up and was trying to get in her mind and she was resisting.  Instead she realized that she could get in HIS mind. And told him that he was afraid.  This angers him and he leaves her chained by her wrists and ankles and guarded by a Stormtrooper.  She realizes that the Force is REAL, and IN her.  Rey, in a step of faith, tries out her new found knowledge and, in a voice barely louder than a whisper, tells the Stormtrooper "You will release me, leave the room and leave the door open."  She gets braver and says it again, louder.  The Stormtrooper hears and answers "I will not release you." She says it again, even louder.  He walks over to her and in a mocking voice replies, "you are nothing but scavenger scum."  She gets quiet for moment, you can almost feel her inner turmoil.  But then you can see it in her eyes, as she sets her resolve that the Force is real and she has the power within her.  She loudly exclaims, "You will release me" and the Stormtrooper replies, "I will release you" and proceeds to do all she commands.

This is when I started to wonder if I was in the movie theater or in church!  So many of us go through life hearing stories of miracles done by using the Force (Holy Spirit).  But so many think it is just old stories, passed down through the generations, just a myth.  Someone comes along and shares with us their personal story (Hans Solo) and by their testimony shares that it isn't a myth, but that the Force is real.  Satan (Kylo) can capture us in battle, chain us up and try to get in our head.  But with the Belt of Truth and Helmet of Salvation, activated by the Force within us we can resist.  As Rey resisted Kylo getting in her head but instead told Kylo what he was scared of, we also know that Satan is afraid because he knows how the story ends.  Knowing that truth didn't set Rey completely free though.  She was still bound and still guarded by her demons, the Stormtrooper.  She didn't give up and accept her bondage.  She gathered the strength of the Force within her and fought the only way she could while being bound, with her words.  She spoke, outloud, telling him what he would do.  Even when he told her no, then proceeded to mock her, telling her she was a nobody and worthless and he would never set her free, she didn't give up. She paused, but pressed on. Continuing to speak, more boldy, the truth of her freedom. To speak of those things that don't yet exist, as though they do. Much like Abraham did in Romans 4:17 "in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did." The end result was the Force grew stronger with her faith and she was released from her chains.  Kylo was extremely upset over this and sent a lot of troopers to go find her, because he knew that as she realized the power of the Force in her, she would get stronger and could eventually defeat them completely.  And later in the movie she did have a fierce battle with Kylo.  Backward, forward, slashing and fighting. Much like in our life, we can speak the truth, break the bonds but that doesn't exempt us from the fight.

And even after winning the fierce battle, she know there are more battles to come, so goes and seeks a Jedi (Luke) that has the Force strong within him and many years of experience and can train/mentor her so that the Force becomes stronger in her on her own journey. 

Much like Proverbs 27:17 "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." And 2 Timothy 2:2 "What you have heard me say in front of many people, you must teach to faithful men. Then they will be able to teach others also." Proverbs 9:9 "Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more."

Another scene that resonated within me was the love of Hans Solo for his son, despite the choices his son made, Hans loved him with an unfailing love.  Much like the love of our Heavenly Father.  

If you like Star Wars, even if its just a tiny bit, you should watch this movie and see what allegories you notice while watching it.

Sometimes sermons come from the most unexpected places....