One year ago…

Today I had the opportunity to hang out with a good friend who I don’t get to see all that often (we totally need to change that, because she’s awesome!). And I was driving her to her parents’ place at the end of the day, we realized that we hung out on Palm Sunday last year. We were chatting about what we had done that day – one thing was that we hit McDonald’s for lunch. And she said, “Wow, I bet that was the last time you had McDonald’s.” I replied “Yeah, I bet it was, because it was during Holy Week that I started Weight Watchers.”

In the interest of full disclosure – I have had a McFlurry since then, but only once that I can think of…and definitely no full meals at McD’s.

After dropping her off, I drove home thinking about what a difference a year has made.

So many things in my life are different from this time last year – not the least of which is the transformation that my body and lifestyle have undergone. Sometimes it is good to just sit back and look at the journey you’ve been on. And to realize that in all of the changes that have come, God was there pouring out his mercy and grace upon you.

Food with Friends….

Today was a day full of meals with friends. First was lunch at a favorite Thai place with a friend I haven’t seen in a while. We talked about ministry and dreams.

Then I had supper with my chosen family in Oshawa. It was a fun dinner, too. We did finger foods (sweet potatoe baked fries, sandwiches with great deli meats, raw veggies and laughing cow cheese) and ate in the livingroom while we watched Disney’s Wall-e. It was a great, fun way to fit in dinner and a movie and still let me hit the road early. I’ve been fighting a sore throat this week, so I wanted an early night.

I left both meals feeling full. Full in stomach, of course, but also full in spirit. It is such a good thing to share good nourishing food with friends. Jesus totally understood this and had a pattern of having meals with people. I know I’ve said that before on this blog, but it bears repeating. It’s one of the things I love about Jesus – he understood how to nourish the body and the soul at the same time.

Hope…

Generally, I am a pretty upbeat person. I tend to see the possibility or potential in most people and situations. I like to laugh (which is probably why I have so many friends that are real jokers) and I smile. A lot.

But every once in a while I find myself overwhelmed by difficult conversations or situations. They drag on me and rob me of my general joie-de-vivre. This has been one of those weeks. It just seems like one thing has piled on top of another this week and none of the things piling up have been easy dealt with.

When this happens, I often make a mistake. My favorite Christian singer/songwriter puts it this way:

Well, I realize that falling down ain’t graceful
But I thank the Lord that falling’s full of grace
Sometimes I take my eyes off Jesus
And you know that’s all it takes

–Andrew Peterson, The Chasing Song

In hard times, I admit, I find it all too easy to take my eyes off Jesus…and you know – that is all it takes.

That is all it takes for me to stumble. That is all it takes for me to become overwhelmed. That is all it takes for me to lose sight of hope.

And it is a dangerous place to be. It is a place where Satan whispers all sorts of terrible things in my ear and I lean toward believing them. It is a place where my fear-and-anxiety monster grows because I have begun to feed him well. It is a place where I am easily defeated because I have forgotten the victory I have in Jesus.

And yet the grace of God is this: in that dark place, as I begin to lose hope, Jesus shows up and extends his hand to me. This week that happened when I received a lovely card from my folks. They wished me me a Happy Easter and included a Starbucks card (they know my addictions well). And it was just like a breeze blew through my spirit, carrying away the dark clouds away.

The week didn’t get instantly easier, I have still had some tough moments to face…but I faced them with hope and I was not overwhelmed. And I kept my eyes on Jesus because I had been reminded of all that he has done and continues to do for me.

Sabbath came early…

A friend asked me tonite if she had missed my blog entry from last night. I said, “No, the Sabbath just came REALLY early this week!”

It has been a busy week of meetings and the meetings have been tough ones, and I am tired. So last night I got home from a meeting, looked at the computer and thought “not possible.” I just couldn’t bring myself to sit down and write. I just needed a break.

Sometimes Jesus needed a break, too. He would go off on his own to pray and to think. Then he would come back to his ministry with renewed energy. He knew how important rest is when you are weary, and he didn’t apologize for taking rest when he needed it. I like that about Jesus. And not just because I’m an introvert at heart, and my time alone is precious to me. I like it because I think it is spiritually healthy – to balance times of work and times of rest, times of togetherness and times of solitude.

As I work on my physical health this year, I don’t want to leave my spiritual and emotional health in the dust. I want to seek balance in all areas of my life. Because I believe in One who came to give life and give it abundantly. And it is not possible to have an abundant life if you’re all out of balance.

Peace…

This is something I am meditating on tonite. I am not sure that I can articulate my thoughts on it yet…so I will leave it mostly without comment and just say this: I believe this is true, but that doesn’t mean I always understand HOW it is true.

Still, I pray that I can be at peace in the midst of trying circumstances by practicing the presence of Christ. I pray that for you, too!

Blank screen…

I have been staring at a blank screen for at least half an hour now, trying to figure out what to blog about. Several ideas have occurred to me and been discarded. It has also occurred to me to simply declare tonight a second Sabbath (why? Because I can!) and not blog at all. But I have found myself dissatisfied with that idea as well.

Tonight I am having what I call a hollow day. My energy is low, I cannot seem to get to the point of feeling full when it comes to food (I have eaten 8 extra points on the day, which for me is quite extraordinary, and if I weren’t on WW, I would be in the kitchen right now snarfing more food). My brain feels similarly hollow. No matter how I try to come up with a good idea for a blog, I don’t seem to have the brain power to make it happen. Or when I do come up with an idea, I don’t seem to have the power to flesh it out.

Some days are just like this. Some days it is a tough struggle to control my eating. Other days it comes fairly naturally. Some days it is really difficult to write a blog entry. Other days the entry seems almost to write itself.

That’s the way it is with the presence of God, too. Some days it is just like he is walking beside me whispering to me all day long. Other days I feel as though he is absent, as though I am left to my own devices. In my sermon today, I talked about the letters Mother Theresa wrote which were published after her death and which spoke quite clearly about her sometimes agonizing struggle with faith.

I am somehow comforted to know that such an influential woman of faith knew what t was to have hollow days when it came to her spirit. And I am inspired that she did not give up the work she did in Christ’s name and that she did not leave the church. Sometimes the bravest thing a person can do is to simply keep on, when they are not feeling it.

Hollow days happen. But God is constant and constantly with us. Just as I know there will be days this week – maybe as soon as tomorrow – in which the struggle with food and with writing will go easier, so I know the same is true of my relationship with God. So now I will put this hollow day to rest with a prayer for an easier time of it tomorrow.

Water…

In all my health-improvements over the past year, one thing I’ve really struggled with is drinking enough water. I don’t know why that has been so tough on me, but I just don’t do it. I just don’t drink enough water.

I have known that throughout this year, but it took me until last week to decide to do something about it. I looked it up and discovered that I should be drinking about 2 litres (67oz for my American friends) per day. For the past week I have been filling my 1L water bottle twice a day and doing everything I could to make sure that I emptied it both times. All that is in it is water with a few drops of lime juice for flavor.

So far, I’m doing pretty well. I haven’t noticed any huge change in how I am feeling, but I have read articles that say that drinking the proper amount of water will help with weight loss, so I am hoping this will help me get through the last 20 pounds or so that I have to lose.

In the Bible, water can be a blessing or a curse. It is in the river that Jesus is baptized an the Holy Spirit descends upon him like a dove (blessing). It is through 40 days of downpours that the earth is destroyed in Noah’s day (curse). In Elijah’s life there was a time where God let him to a place where there was a clear brook and the ravens of the air brought him food (blessing) but then, when God was ready to move him on the brook ran dry (curse??). For the Jewish slaves the waters of the Red Sea parted (blessing) and then the closed again, bearing the Egyptians away (a blessing for the Jews, but a curse for the Egyptians).

I think water, like most things, is neutral – not inherently good or bad, but capable of being either given the right circumstances and reactions. I am glad that I have change my poor relationship with drinking water into a good one. And I hope it will be a blessing!

 

Muscling up…

I started a new workout routine last week. It’s called the Deck of Cards WOD (workout of the day). You can read more about it in this blog entry. I did this workout 3 times last week and 4 times this week.

When I do this workout, it isn’t pretty. I get red in the face. I sweat. I often make sounds that have my puppy looking at me with concern. It’s a tough workout. It is based on the crossfit theory which basically goes “hard exercise works.” Crossfit blends together cardio and strength training. The work out changes daily because our bodies adapt pretty quickly to any new exercise and the benefit of that exercise is reduced. So in crossfit, you are always doing different combinations of moves.

This week I have done (for example), 4 variations on sit ups (regular, v sit ups, twist sit ups and hand-to-foot ball passes), squat thrusts, air squats, lunges, jumping jacks, skipping, mountain climbers, 2 variations  on push ups (ball push ups and regular push ups) and chair dips.

It is true, I am bragging right now. I am bragging because 6 months ago I am sure I could not have done what I am able to do now. I am bragging because I know once I’ve shared part of my fitness routine with with others, I am less likely to wimp out on it. I am bragging because I have a goal and I WILL reach that goal. I am bragging because just maybe someone will read this, think “I should try that” and find themselves living a healthier life. I am bragging because hard exercise works. I am bragging because it feels good to be muscling up.

My body is stronger today than it was yesterday. It will be stronger tomorrow. It is not easy to build up muscle, but it is good.

And that makes me think of faith. I had a conversation with a congregant recently in which we were joking about all the things we don’t want to pray for. For example – we said:  don’t pray for patience, because God doesn’t just flick his fingers and make you patient. God puts you in situations where you have the chance to work on your patience muscle. And it is hard work.

But it is also good work. And if you have the guts to pray for patience or humility or self-control or any of the things that you can imagine might lead you into some days of hard work to build up that muscle, I promise you two things: first, God will be with you in any situation you face. And second, you will find your life transforming into something beautiful and everlasting.

 

 

 

 

A little more on discipleship…

We did a little more on discipleship tonite at our Wednesday night study. What struck me as we discussed what it means to be a disciple – one who learns how to live from Jesus – was that it’s really about wanting. It’s not about doing the right things and checking them off your list. It’s about WANTING to do the right things because you know it brings joy to your Father in Heaven. But also because as you do those things, you learn that they are wise ways to live (Jesus, after all, knew what he was talking about!).

One member of our group talked about the daily paper delivery at her house. The paper guy just drops the paper at the end of their long driveway and so this lady has to walk out in the cold/wet/rain/whatever in the morning to get her paper. But recently she’s been finding the paper right beside the door. The thing is, this only happens on mornings when her son has to take the bus. So she figured out that he had begun doing this little chore to help her out. And she was deeply touched by his thoughtfulness. Not because it was some huge problem for her to get the paper on her own, but because his decision (on his own, totally unprompted) speaks to the love he has for her as his mom.

THAT is what God wants of us. Not some laundry list of “I’m a good Christian if I do these 18 things,” but a heart that longs to please him. A heart that loves him deeply and is moved to show that love through a million little actions. A heart that loves God the way that Jesus did – to the point where he was willing to lay down his life to accomplish God’s goals.

Warm…

So, apparently, when you lose 62.8 pounds (my current loss total), you begin to experience temperature in a whole new way. It makes sense – fat acts as an insulator and once you remove the insulator, that which once was hot can now become quite cold.

All winter I have been freezing. My friends have made fun of me as I sat in their house, wearing 3 layers of clothing (one of which was my winter jacket). This winter has been an unseasonably warm one. It has also been strangely light on snow. I have hated every frigid second of it.

So I simply must take a moment to reflect on the miracle that has been our weather this week. It has been whatever the Spring equivalent of Indian Summer is. Warm. Sunny. Gorgeous.

Since Friday I have been wearing summer shoes and leaving my jacket behind when I head out for a walk. I had to go and buy some summer clothes (thank you, Value Village), because I have nothing in my wardrobe that is for summer. The last time it was summer I was 30 pounds heavier, after all.

I know this weather cannot last straight through to November (oh, how I wish). I know that this could be more than a freak event and could actually point to the damage we are doing to our environment. I know for some people, this is the exact opposite of what they enjoy or what they need to make a living.

But for this week, for this girl, it has been an absolute blessing – a gift. Unexpected, un-looked-for and absolutely undeniable.

Sometimes it just feels like God does this: drops a gift in your lap. You hadn’t even thought of how to ask for it yet, and here it is. Because that is what a loving Father does. He stands waiting and watching and when we are still a long way off he runs to embrace us.

That generous kind of love is what draws me back to my faith whenever I wander. That kind of unexpected gift confirms the goodness of God to me again and again. This is why I give my life to serving God: not for what I can get from Him, but because I cannot imagine my life without Him.