Thursday, February 28, 2008

If I thought it wouldn't hurt you...

There are times when my mind rushes with things that I would love to say or write or shout. And unfortunately, most of the time, I either never say them, or I simply pray them off to God. It's not that I don't want to tell you. I do. But I don't want to hurt you with words that are careless, poorly thought out, or whose motive is nothing more than tearing you apart.

Sometimes I'm just irritated and I want to say something that is mean-spirited and ultimately irrelevant. But I don't (most of the time, at least) because I know that the wrongly stated and timed word can change the world for a lifetime. Often, I want to say something in response to something you've said to me that hurt me. But I won't because something reaches out to me and reminds me that two wrongs don't make a right. And sometimes, like right now, I have something that I really want to say, but I know that it could be taken the wrong way simply because I know that when I have heard these words spoken to myself, it has hurt or offended me deeply.

So, if I thought it wouldn't hurt you, I would write or tell you right this instant what is going on in my heart and my head. I would tell you to back off, to mind your own business, to get a life, or whatever would be most appropriate in the situation. I suppose the blessing in all of this is that still small voice that reminds me that I should speak in love.

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger."
--Proverbs 15:1 NLT
Please do not take my silence to equal anger. Most of the time my silence is nothing but an action of love for you and for our relationship. Prayerfully considered words, I have found, are far better received than those spoken in haste.
That's what I would say, if I thought it wouldn't hurt you...

How I refuse to be

The people soon began to complain to the Lord about their hardships; and when the Lord heard them, his anger blazed against them. Fire from the Lord raged among them and destroyed the outskirts of the camp.
--Numbers 11:1 NLT
This was the first verse in our Bible reading tonight. And it struck me, as we are facing many trials right now, just how easy it would be to become like the Israelites, especially in light of the many parallels of the Christian's walk with the wandering of the Israelites in the desert. And yet, right here, right now, I am making a statement:
Instead...I am going to praise God for His awesome kindness, love, provision, and many blessings--not one of which I am deserving of. I am going to look at today for the blessings and gifts that I was given.
I am going to count each moment of my work day that went without a major hitch as a blessing. The Lord only knows how many opportunities there were for things to go wrong, yet it was remarkably smooth. I am going to count each hug my youngest gave me today to tell me he loved me, instead of each time that I had to correct him for not listening or for being disrespectful. I am blessed to have a job--there are many who are unemployed and don't know how they are going to provide for their families; I am blessed to have children--there are women who cry themselves to sleep nightly from barrenness.
I am going to remember that although we have seen money come and go from our hands this month in ways that we had not predicted or planned for, I am going to praise God for making the money go far enough to provide for our needs as we continued to be faithful in our giving to Him first. I am going to remember that for each thing that I feel entitled to in this life, that really...deep down, death is the only thing due me.
I am going to remember that for each person who is ripped from my life--by distance, by death, or by other circumstances--new people are put into my life to bless me in their place. And although people may leave, they have touched me and blessed me in many different ways, and I will forever be better for their roles in my life.
I refuse to become a complainer. God has delivered me from far more than what I could begin to list as being problems in my life. I must stay focused on the blessing. And if you see my struggle, please remind me to stop and count my blessings.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Finding the Center

The last eight days have been tough. I'm nearing the end of my pregnancy and my days at work before my maternity leave are drawing to a close. I have been suffering with a horrible viral infection that my husband, daughter, and most of my co-workers have also had--marked with chest congestion, head congestion, fever, sneezing. Only, being that I'm pregnant, I have had limited abilities to treat the symptoms. I spent Friday home on the couch blowing a very red and irritated nose all day long and praying for a nap, only for sleep to elude me.

My pregnancy is going extremely well, and although the doctors have been watching me like a hawk for early signs of pre-eclampsia (which I suffered with during the last three pregnancies), I have yet to develop even the slightest abnormalities! Unfortunately, I have also been very sleep deprived as of late, which although I know is not uncommon, has not really aided me well in terms of fighting this cold or dealing with any of the other stressors in my life.

I have come to the computer several times in the last eight days longing to leave something for you, only to go away frustrated because I was too tired to write, or because I couldn't find my center enough to write anything that would bless or encourage. And tonight, as I left a comment on Lysa TerKeurst's blog about how I had wanted to write but was unable to--it hit me.

I have lost my center.

In the midst of all that goes on in our lives, as Christians our center should always be easy to find. Our stronghold, our rock, our Redeemer is in Jesus Christ. And although I have prayed about the various things going on in my life, I have lost my centering in Christ. I really need Him in my life first and foremost to make sense of the madness around me, and to give me peace.

"I am leaving you with a gift-peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid. "
John 14:27 NLT
I need this kind of peace right now. And I know that the only way that I can find it is to seek it from Jesus. So, although I don't have a formula for getting there, I am seeking this peace right now. And it is my prayer that I will not find myself wandering away from it again anytime soon.
And, if it helps you the way it helps me, here is a clip of the song, "Jesus, Be the Center"--my Pastor's favorite praise song, and one that I am comforted by right now.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

To Whom It May Concern

Please excuse, Ceci, our blog writer for her absense the last several days. She was not playing hooky, but was validly ill. In light of her horrible flu/chest cold coupled with being in the third trimester of her pregnancy, she did well to get out of bed, dressed and drag herself to the living room where she could somewhat monitor the children as they prepared for school, played, did homework, etc.

The report is that she is feeling better and will return promptly to share her thoughts will all of you...especially something about parenting and personality.

Baby Elizabeth (in utero)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

There has to be a better way

I was raised by a single mom, so perhaps that is why I often feel the "need" to work in some manner to help support my family. Perhaps it's just the world calling to me telling me all the stuff I "need" to be happy (which I don't actually need, I only want). But whatever it is, I struggle with balancing the idea of leaving a traditional office/desk-based job to be at home with my family--especially as I near the end of my fourth pregnancy and can somewhat afford not to work.

Deep down, I know that there has to be a way to work from home. Part time. I mean, I'm good at what I do. Now, I'm not sure that I can continue to do exactly what I do right now from home, but the skills I have developed that make me good at what I currently do will make me great in other facilities as well. And my past experiences in college taking classes via the internet will make me a good candidate for a telecommuting position as well.

I don't know exactly why I'm posting all of this here. I could build my resume and post it here. I wouldn't take me long at all to do. But perhaps part of my need to write about this here is to overcome fear--fear of taking a step in a new direction, fear of finding out I'm not as qualified as I believe I am--and part of it is because I believe networking is the best way to find my way into this "new" career.

So, I you need help researching something, entering and integrating data, typing and editing word processing, or just need a personal assistant (or know someone who does), let me know. I know there has to be a better way!

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Way I See It

I have spent most of my "adult" years overweight. Perhaps it's not surprising when you consider that I've had three children, and spent most of those years taking care of them, and less taking care of myself. However, I know that there is far more to my past obesity (present obesity withstanding since I put the weight on during my current pregnancy and will be working my rear off to drop it again) than simply having three children. For years, I either ignored my "fat" body, or rationalized about it. I learned to love me the way I was and ignored the risks to my health and joints caused by my obesity.

As much as I dislike admitting my regular viewer-ship of reality TV, I have become a huge fan of NBC's "The Biggest Loser". Just a few weeks ago, Jillian, one of the trainers on the show told her team that there was always an underlying emotional reason for someone's obesity, and that until a person uncovered and dealt with that emotional reason for their obesity, they could not maintain any weight loss for a lifetime.

That really made me think.

Some of you are aware that I lost a tremendous amount of weight about 18 months ago. I maintained my weight loss really well until I met my husband, got married and pregnant. However, that was not the first time I faced that pattern. Back in 1999, I also lost a large amount of weight, maintained for six months until I got pregnant. I regained that weight and carried it around until 18 months ago...a period that was almost 5 years long.

For a long time, I addressed issues from my formative years that I thought were key to my obesity--eating habits, lack of exercise, the habit of convenience foods and drive through--and told everyone that I was not an emotional eater. In fact, when I'm overly stressed or emotional, I'm less likely to eat. But that is still a type of emotional eating. But what I missed all this time was that these were symptoms that led me to obesity, but they were not the cause. The cause lie much deeper than these.

I was raised by a single mom, and my biological father was emotionally and physically absent from my life. In fact, in my lifetime, I would estimate that I have spent less than 48 hours with him, including phone calls. I know who he is, but I've never really known him. He was always elusive. And I spent alot of my childhood bargaining with God to bring my father into my life. And when that didn't work, I attempted to gain my father's approval through my achievements.

But nothing I did--confirmation, high school graduation, my wedding, or my firstborn's baptism--was enough to draw his attention or interest in me in a real and tangible level. As a result, I did exactly what every sociological study about girls without active fathers predicts--I lost my virginity at a young age to an older boy who showed me attention. I sought this boy's love, since I could not get my father's love, and when he gave it and asked for more, I was more than happy to oblige, so long as he continued to love me.

The miracle is that God loved me all along and watched out for me. I was supernaturally protected from all the potential "results" of my mistakes. And I am able to write this because God loved me even when my biological father failed at it.

However, along the way, I learned to get men's attention. I wore close-fitting clothing and short skirts, low cut blouses, and longed for the attention of "older" boys. I hit puberty early and had much skill in actually drawing their attention, although it was for all the wrong reasons. I was the victim of things I should never have faced if I had simply had a "normal, healthy" relationship with my dad. But I didn't. And eventually, I learned that attention equalled power. But among other girls, it made me hated and despised--the object of gossip and lies.

Somewhere along the way, I got married and had kids. As a mom, I couldn't be the "sex kitten" anymore. My job was raising those kids, and I got caught up in that and "let myself go". I put on weight with each of my pregnancies, and at age 24 weighed in at 220 pounds! I had three beautiful children, and I loved myself mostly, but I was borderline "morbidly" obese.

When I made the decision to make a change and lose the weight back in April 2006, my decision was based upon health factors, and a "teensy" bit by my desire to meet a great guy. I could tell from my mom and her sisters' health issues where my life and health were going if I continued to carry around the extra weight for years and years. I did not want joint problems at a young age. I knew I had to make a change, and quickly, for life. And I knew that I wanted a healthy guy in my life, but how could I expect a healthy guy to accept me with unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits. A change was absolutely necessary.

So with help, over eight months, I lost nearly 70 pounds, going from 220 pounds to 155 pounds. I couldn't believe how great I felt and looked! Even women commented on my weight loss. I became an inspiration to others at work. I worked hard at my weight loss, and I was proud of myself.

But along the way, while I was taught to deal with the symptoms of my obesity--mindless eating, unhealthy food choices, lack of exercise--I never did deal with the real issue because I didn't really know what it was. It wasn't until I had lost the majority of that weight that it began to reveal itself to me.

My weight was a security blanket. It kept me from the unhealthy habit of attracting men's attention with my body. It forced me to stand on my personality and skill, not on my looks. Being the fat girl, I forced men to respond to me in what seemed like a "safer, more real" way. And it reinforced better choices for me, especially after a divorce that left me feeling unattractive and rejected even further. The men who did notice me were quality men seeing my skill, my personality, seeing a more "real" me. I was unremarkable physically. I had acne (even as an adult) and with my weight, men saw right through me. I even worked in an all-male office and often was heard commenting that it was almost as if in their eyes, I was asexual.

But when I dropped the weight and regained a curvaceous figure, the guys who had never noticed me physically started to drop hints and hit on me. And suddenly I found myself becoming hostile towards them about this. A man who had known me for three years during my obesity became almost aggressive in his desire to take me to dinner, although prior to my weight loss, his interest never left business. I was quite offended that I had "value" in his eyes as a thinner version of me, but had lacked value previously. I was the same person, only my wrapping had changed!

Even until I got married and pregnant, I continued to have similar experiences. Men who had not paid attention to me before my weight loss had new interest in me. And it was quite infuriating.

Ultimately, the problem was that being thinner, I became an object--when I was younger by choice, and now that I was wiser, somewhat by default. Neither really made the "real" me happy or feel loved. What I had desired all along was to be loved by my daddy.

See that was it. The real reason for my obesity was to hide from hurt and bad patterns I learned as a child to protect myself from the hurt caused by my biological father's rejection. To this day, there is still pain in my heart knowing that he still has not found enough interest to be a part of my life. But at this point, I also realize many other things. I have been protected from an emotionally abusive relationship. I have learned that my value does not come from my looks, although I feel better about myself when I like how I look. (The stress here is that I feel better when I like how I look...not when men like how I look.) And ultimately, the loss is my father's and not mine. I was the victim. It was not my fault. I cannot change his choice. I cannot convince him I'm worthy of his time, attention, or love. And those are the same lessons I learned from my failed marriage. True love doesn't require me to prove my worthiness to someone else.

I am beautiful and loved. God created me and bought me at a high price. I was set aside to be a princess. And no man can take that away from me. And only when I truly claim that knowledge in my head and heart can I really see me the way I am in a healthy manner, no matter what I weigh.

As I near the end of my pregnancy (and as I weigh in at the same weight as my previously highest weight), I have decided and resolved to lose all the baby weight again in the first year. I will do it, not by centering on a weight, but centering on health--measured by body fat and fitness, and by blood pressure and cholesterol--for my children, for my husband, and for me. But most of all, I will do it because God loves me and made me His temple. And there is a great blessing in taking care of it for those reasons.

"Do not consider his appearance or his height... The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
--I Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The ultimate Valentine

Last year, I was alone for Valentine's Day by choice. By that, I mean that I had given up looking and had not been approached by a suitable man. I didn't mind though. It was where I was in my life, and I embraced it (although it was hard to watch as the other women at work got flowers delivered all day long!).

Today, I am married to the most wonderful man that I could have in my life, and I'm expecting his baby. Money's tight, so our celebration was simple. And although I still didn't get flowers delivered to me at work, inside there was still a joy in my heart. I know that I am loved--with or without flowers.

And all of this made me really think about being loved. Even when I was a single mom, working crazy hours and longing for a great Christian man to come into my life, I was still loved. In fact, I have never been unloved. NEVER.

The amazing thing about love is that we can all have it. God sent Jesus to us as a baby to demonstrate how much He loves us. In a way, Jesus is a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses. He is the symbol and the price of God's deep love for us. And Jesus' life is not unlike a rose--filled with beauty, and marred with thorns. Jesus is our Valentine's rose.

I believe that the best time to receive roses from my beloved is at a time when I won't expect it. So while receiving roses on Valentine's Day is very romantic, receiving them one week afterward, or before, is even more romantic, because it is not expected. This is the same kind of romance we see in God's gift of Jesus.

Jesus came in a way that was unexpected (although it was foretold). And his arrival was a surprise to many who thought a king should have a more noble and royal arrival. Even the people who had been foretold of his coming did not accept or realize that he was who he was. It was that much of a surprise!

And we can all have that gift. God sent Jesus for each one of us because He loved us. All we have to do is acknowledge that, accept our need for forgiveness and our inability to save ourselves, and ask Jesus into our hearts. And then we can have a Valentine every day, no matter what.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Serenity Prayer, part two

When I wrote the other evening, I "googled" the Serenity prayer and found much to my surprise that it was much longer than what I had been exposed to all these years. And yet, as I read and reread the expanded version, I decided that I really like the full version.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;

How difficult this is! I try so hard to live each day as if it were my last, to live my life out loud, unafraid and unabashed, and yet, I often feel that somehow I am held back by some fear that if I don't plan ahead, I'll fail miserably. But when we have Christ in our hearts and lives, we have no need to fear the future, and thus no reason not to live for today alone. This part of the prayer is something I need to remember each moment.

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;

Hardships as the pathway to peace? It sounds ridiculous! And yet, many world religions teach similar virtues, that facing and surviving trials teaches and develops character and strength. What would break a single strand of thread will not break a three strand cord. Surviving and accepting hardship moves us from being a single strand to becoming a cord. And the more strength we posess, the less our peace can be shaken.

Accepting the world we live in is something that we all struggle with, regardless of whether we believe in a god or not, or what God we believe in. There seems to be some innate requirement in us to seek change for the better, but at times that desire to make things better tears at our need to find balance and acceptance. There are things that we cannot change, no matter how unfair, how unrealistic, how horrific they may be, and by fighting against them without recognizing that they are fixed, we waste energy and weaken the heart, mind, and body. We are weakened by fighting what we cannot change.

And, if Jesus was willing to accept the sinful world as it was, why should we not also accept it? This may seem like a call to love sin, but it is not. It is simple acceptance of an imperfect world that we sojourn in for but a brief moment. We can change who we are in it, and we can change how we respond to the sinful parts of it. The choice to do this in a healthy manner will lead to further health and joy for us.

Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

I have to think that one of our biggest fallacies as broken humans is the ability to trust anyone or anything. Putting our trust in something or someone else takes us out of the seat of control and puts us at some external force's mercy. It's extremely difficult to deal with or accept (ask any teenager). However, as infants we come into this world left to trust completely someone else's competency to care for us. And the majority of us were well cared for as infants and children.

Surrendering to God and to His will for our lives is difficult, not because He will not take care of us and do it supremely well, but because it means that we have to give up a part of "I want" for "I needed". God will take care of us. But we have to submit to His will and let Him do it. That's the hard part--letting go.

But as the writer stated, there is happiness when we do let go and trust God to take care of us today and for the future. And perhaps for you, like I find for myself, making the choice to let go and let God take care of us is a moment by moment choice, over and over until we get it right.

Because, serenity really comes from letting go and letting God take care of us. So simple, and yet so difficult to actually do.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

There is such a relief in finding something that you cannot change, accepting it, dealing with that fact and just making the most of what you have. And the realization that we can't change something is tough for us many times, especially for me.

I'm not a control freak exactly. I don't long to control everyone's lives around me. But I do like to feel like I have a say in what happens in my own life and in the lives of those closest to me. I want to believe that I can affect change on the world around me. And I dislike being told that there is nothing that I can do. I'm just what I like to think of as a "do-er".

Not necessarily a bad thing, unless you can't accept that there are things that you cannot do anything about. PERIOD. And I'm working on that. I'm working on identifying those things early on, and letting go of them, working around them as they stand.

Right now, that means that I am accepting some changes that have happened at work. I haven't fought them, exactly. But I have been stubborn to truly accept that they are permanent changes that I dislike and would not have chosen. In many ways, these changes have stolen the joy I found doing my job. I do still have moments where I look at what I do and think, "Wow...I'm glad I get to do this," but those moments are becoming fewer and further apart. More often, I am pulled down by my secret resentment of the changes. I waste precious energy on this resentment and it does nothing to change the situation, or to change me in a positive way.

So now that I have identified that I cannot change the situation, I have decided to make the best of what I have, or to remove myself from the situation completely. And for lack of courage to remove myself at this time, I am just resolving that it will never be to me what it once was. I will never look at the people around me through the same view. I will not experience the same feeling of pride from doing what I do. Instead, I take the moments that cause me to smile, or the "thank you" from a customer and hold those close to my heart as a reason to press through.

And you know what, it gives me serenity.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Recovering from the blessing of a baby shower

I apologize that I'm not going to take time to write some glorious and inspirational entry today. This afternoon was my baby shower, and I've been out and about for over 12 hours today.

To all of those who attended my baby shower and blessed us with wonderful gifts, thank you for your kindness and generosity! To those who sent gifts but couldn't make it, thank you also.

I'm going to spend tonight with my kids and hubby trying to relax and recover in time for an awesome day tomorrow, and hopefully some hugely relevant things to share tomorrow!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Help me count down!

Lilypie Expecting a baby Ticker

The Pattern

I have always loved geometric patterns, especially those repeating kinds that almost seem to create an optical illusion. I remember spending hours coloring in these really cool coloring books my grammy gave me filled with those kinds of patterns. I loved doing that.

When I was still quite young, my mom taught me how to cross stitch. My first "piece" was very simple, only about 20 stitches, but she taught me how to read a pattern and count out the stitches on the fabric and how to read the pattern for color and stitch type. At age seven, I had completed several very basic pieces.

As a young child I also remember watching the ladies from my grammy's church come together over an elaborate piece quilt. Together, they put all these little shapes together to create an elaborate design. And I remember watching my mother stitch on a white-on-white baby quilt to create a picture on an otherwise blank piece of cotton.

The thing about patterns is that they take separate things and entities that mean nothing alone and put them together in a harmony that creates something larger and more complex (and often more beautiful and enjoyable) than any of the individual pieces. Patterns often teach us how to "read" them also, making further sense of the colors and shapes involved. Some patterns are simple, much like my first cross stitch piece. Other patterns, like the log cabin piece quilts I saw, were complicated and required forethought and skill to put together in a way that made sense.

Life is really not much different. We start with a simple pattern with very simple "stitches" and color "schemes". As children we learn from a small environment, normally our parents, how certain things go together. These are often simple things like saying "Please" and "Thank you" when making requests. There are few variables, at first, and we see them happen repeatedly, and we are urged even more repeatedly to follow that pattern.

As we age, the color scheme is broadened, more stitches are learned and used, and the overall complexity of the pattern is greater. We suddenly are in positions where we have to "fill in" the pattern from past experience. At times, we aren't sure what should go next and we are left to simply sink or swim on our own. Sometimes we have enough history with a particular pattern to make a fairly reasonable guess as to how we should respond. Sometimes we have nothing to help us. And sometimes, we just ignore it all and do what "feels" best to us.

But where I've found that life is not a simple matter of patterns is that it appears too many times in my own life, someone has grabbed the piece I was working on and replaced it with a new piece, sometimes even a new medium to create on and with. For instance, as I was having my children, I woke to a child who wasn't "perfect". His pattern had a flaw, and as I was perfecting the motherhood thing, I was thrown off kilter. Everything I thought I knew, everything I thought I could do was yanked out of my hands. Instead, I was given a new pattern, one with foreign names and colors and a totally different medium. My life took a totally different course because of the change.

Similarly, when my marriage failed, I realized that I didn't have a good pattern to work from at all. The pattern that I held in my hands was loosely planned and devised and highly inadequate for creating a piece that reflected anything of beauty. Instead it represented disjointed stitches in conflicting color schemes that played themselves out in a pattern of randomness that made little sense to anyone. Even as I realized how poor that pattern was, I clung to it because it was all I knew. But that pattern, too, was ripped from my hands.

In an attempt to create something better from what was left afterward, I attempted to create a new pattern for my life and for my children. For perhaps the first time in my life, I truly realized how much I needed someone or something bigger to guide my pattern. I sought God to make something useful out of the bits and pieces of the patterns I had been working on and having ripped from my hands all along the road of my life. I gave Him the control to make the stitches here and there, to change colors when needed, even when I couldn't see any sort of "real" pattern.

Over a period of five years, I faced parenting three children without a spouse. But God gave me angels to help out. He placed boundaries to keep me from becoming reckless with fatigue or being overwhelmed. He placed me in a church home that was supportive, even if not perfect. In time, He yanked my preconceived notions of the pattern He was creating for me. Time after time, He has changed the pattern, often to my own frustration. But I have attempted to be faithful, even when it has required me to give up the things I held most dear (i.e. things besides Him). Sometimes the "sacrifice" of what I wanted was painful and brought me to tears. Other times, it has left me in disbelief. Over all, it has left me totally and overwhelmingly blessed beyond what I deserve.

I still can't see the final "pattern" of my life. I can look back at squares that make no sense on their own, nor with the squares around them. But what gives me hope, what keeps me pressing on is the knowledge that one day I will stand beside the Creator and look back on the pattern, and I will know that it is beautiful because of the "Artist" who has created it.

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
--Jeremiah 29.11 (NLT)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Man-Fast--Looking Back One Year

“As part of this man-fast, I am giving up trying to guess what you are saying or what it meant. I’m not going to try to figure it out. It doesn’t matter what I think it meant. It matters that I am faithful to you, and right now, I know that I must put you first. No man has the right to come before you in my eyes. No human man can love me the way that you already do. And while I still would like to have a husband someday, if that is your will for me, I will choose to live today as I am, content and living with purpose…Please help me each day to keep my eyes on you. I know that it is a command, and then a promise.

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these thingswill be given to you.

How I missed that for so long, I don’t entirely know. And sadly, I am sure that someday in the future, I will miss it again. But for now, I am hungry for more of you. I want to know and be known by you. I want to serve for you. I want to love and be loved by you. I want to be exhorted by you. Show me new and wonderful things about yourself. Reveal your will each moment that I breathe so that I may know you and what I should be doing to follow you.”

The above is from my personal prayer journal written just one year ago, while I was on my “man-fast”. I felt led by God to put aside the desire for a man in my life. When I started the man-fast, I stopped chatting online, and all communication beyond work and church with single men. I knew that God had something special for me, if I could only stop and see it. So I gave up the distraction so that God could and would talk to me.

ONE YEAR LATER…how have my struggles changed? how are they still the same? Have any of the insights from a year ago really dramatically changed my life? Will today’s insights change my life in the coming year?

Ironically, when I gave up my desire to find a man to spend my life with, not too much later a wonderful man was dropped into my life. He was a man who saw me in much the same way God does, and I still feel unworthy of the love and devotion of either. However, I still struggle daily with putting God before my desire to please my husband. I think that most of us struggle with this, as Paul noted in I Corinthians 7:

“In everything you do, I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord's work and thinking how to please him. But a married man can't do that so well. He has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be more devoted to the Lord in body and in spirit, while the married woman must be concerned about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible. (vs. 32-35, NLT)”

Clearly, the married folk have the complication when serving God of trying to make a spouse happy and still serve God with a whole and complete joy. I know for a fact that I struggled with this in my first marriage. I had no idea how to make God happy, and even less idea how to make my husband happy. And in the end, I failed both miserably. (Praise God for forgiveness that allows me a fresh start!)

That’s not to say that I believe that marriage is within a constant struggle of our relationship with God. I just believe that it is a very careful balance, one that even I cannot begin to explain to others. But what I do know is that marriage to a like-minded believer is much easier than to a non-believer. In fact, I am so excited because my husband and I read the Bible together everyday. He reads it aloud to me, and I follow in my own Bible so I don’t get distracted. We talk about what we’ve read. We search each other’s knowledge for things we may not understand, and we discuss our take of what we’ve read and how it applies to our own lives. We also talk about the sermons from both churches. Most weeks, the morning message (my church) is a lead into the evening message (his church), and it deepens our understanding of the Word and of God.

Did my insights from last year really change my life for today? Well, I’m writing about it. That must mean it did. And the fact that I’m writing about it for you to read means that it will likely make a difference in a year. And that is the wonderful part about growth. When you stop growing, you die. I have no plans for that anytime soon!

If you are reading this because you are still searching for “Mr. Right”, I pray that God will make it clear to you exactly what He wants for you. It may be just what He wanted for me--to give up that desire and make God Himself the ultimate desire of your heart, or it may be something quite different. No matter what it is, when you seek God first and align your heart and life with that, the rest is sure to be a blessing. And ultimately, the man-fast taught me one thing: God-seeking first means no man-seeking required.

Six months of absolute bliss

So, I admit, I almost missed it completely, so I'm not surprised that he didn't remember it either. But it is today, and it is a HUGE milestone for us. Today is our six month wedding anniversary. I can honestly say that I have no doubts about our marriage, only about my own self. My hubby is the most wonderful and perfect man for me. And sadly, I remembered that this was the day after he got to work (and had to turn off his cellphone *frowns*).

All the same, I wanted to take a moment to tell the world:


The footprint across my heart

We had an ultrasound the other day of Baby Elizabeth. This picture is exactly what she is...a footprint across my heart...

Clearly, she is going to have feet like her daddy...I think she's going to be born with feet that are bigger than mine!

Join me on my journey

I'm a brave girl. I was a single mom to three beautiful kids for almost five years. I faced almost any challenge with a "can-do" attitude. But I wanted someone to share the journey with. I longed for a godly companion to stand beside me as I gritted my teeth and pushed onward and through whatever obstacle I faced.

Last August, I married him. And my life has been so much richer, fuller, funnier, scarier, busier, and so much more wonderful because of him. God truly blessed me, and I still say a prayer of thanksgiving each day that God felt I was worthy enough to be with such a loving man.

Part of this journey has been an expanded family. Together, we have five kids ranging in age from 7 to 11-1/2. We have three boys and two girls. Oh, and by the way, our 6th baby is due in eight weeks!

Part of this journey has been giving up control. I didn't really think of myself as a control freak--when you are responsible for everything, you are just in control. Turns out, I have minor control issues and I continue to work through them. (Yes, there is more than one route from Safeway to the house--I just have one I prefer!) I apologize for getting upset when things are different than I'm used to, or in places I wouldn't have put them. So it's also been a journey of growing and changes.

Each day is full of its own new experiences. Some are exciting, some are scary, most are stressful in some way or another. But it's a journey that is blessed. And perhaps along the way, I'll have some insightful moments to share that will bless you. That's my prayer. Join me in the journey!