Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dear Lent...I'm Going to Miss You!

Have you ever noticed how the words fast and feast are very closely related? Just add or subtract one simple letter and you get two words that are polar opposites. When I think about fasting, I think about limiting myself from something, taking away or depriving myself. Feasting, on the other hand, brings up thoughts of enjoying myself, filling up on things that bring me pleasure, or having as much of something as I can possibly imagine. My mind has been on these two words this week as Easter approaches this Sunday. As I have said before, I gave up all soft drinks for Lent, including my beloved Coke. Lent will officially come to a close on Sunday and a time of feasting will begin as Christians celebrate the risen King. I can't believe I am about to say this...but I think I'm going to miss Lent.
I did not grow up observing Lent. I grew up in the Primitive Baptist faith, and like most Baptists, never really heard about or paid much attention to the Lenten season. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you are better or more holy as a Christian if you DO observe Lent, I'm just explaining why I didn't know about it and why I really like it now. I learned about Lent when I started attending my present church, which is Methodist. For the last few years, I toyed around with the idea of fasting and basically gave up something that wasn't hard to give up or either cheated and didn't make it past the first week. Then I really started digging deeper into what fasting is all about and this is what I have discovered. It is a way to truly humble ourselves before Him and confess our total inadequacy. It helps us strip off all of our pretenses and empty ourselves of pride. It has caused me to take a personal spiritual inventory and to start cleaning out things which hinder my relationship with God. This is where some people will think, "You want me to believe that you gave up Coke and learned all of this??" I'm saying that for me, giving up Coke was hard enough that I had to stop and pray...a lot. Instead of turning to that cold, sweet, syrupy goodness and instant gratification, I turned to Him and a lasting feeling of love, peace and contentment. It wasn't easy. There were times I wanted to cry because I wanted a Coke so badly. (Don't judge!) I began to notice that I had to rely more on Him to get me through the hard days and feelings and in doing so started to feel closer to Him. Who doesn't like feeling close to the One who loves you unconditionally and will never forsake you?
Basically, through small (or not so small) sacrifices and giving up of self we open up ourselves before God and allow ourselves to respond anew to His presence in our daily lives. So, what about the feasting and celebrating we do as Christians? I think that feasting and fasting are not mutually exclusive ideas. Stay with me. Feasting can come in many different forms, just like fasting. When I wake up every morning, I feast upon all of the blessings He has given me and the gift of a new day! I feast by walking outside, going to the beach, riding in my car with the windows down, hugging my kids, going to a movie or a concert or reading a favorite book. Fasting to grow closer to Him can be through giving up a favorite food or drink like I did or by giving up tv, the computer, facebook or anything or anyone else that puts a drain on your time or energy and takes your focus off of what is truly important in this life.
I think I'm going to keep going. I'm not saying I'm never going to drink a Coke again, but it has felt really refreshing to my soul to have a more prayerful attitude these past 40 days. I don't want this feeling to end. What I thought was going to be a period of deprivation and negativity turned into a feast on God's word and His promises to me. I know I usually sum up with a Bible verse that ties into what I have been blogging about, but I want to end with this scripture from Isaiah 53:5-6 "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our sins; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all." He is risen in me. Amen.

Sunday, April 10, 2011's not just a river in Egypt

Well, it's been one month and 4 days with no coke products now, not that I'm counting. It actually hasn't been as bad as I thought it was going to be. Don't get me wrong, I have wanted to break down and drink one several times, but I didn't. I am a person who normally loves doing what I want and getting what I want. I love instant gratification! Who doesn't? Wouldn't it be awesome if I decided I wanted to run a marathon today and then just went out and ran one tomorrow? Just skip over all of that gruelling time-consuming training and the sacrifices that go with it. Instant gratification definitely has its payoffs. For me, when I am trying my hardest to eat better and eat less, it rears its ugly head in the form of something sweet and full of carbs. This happens normally when I am feeling stressed and overwhelmed by someone or something and I think that eating said item will #1. Make me feel better and #2. Show that I can do what I want. Lets examine #1...I could go on for hours about how awesome a fresh, hot krispy kreme doughnut tastes when you put it in your mouth. These things are like kryptonite for me. They are so evil that I actually avoid driving past the store when I am in Tallahassee! I know my limitations, people. I have a friend who went INSIDE the store, ordered ONE doughnut, ate it and walked out. This boggles my mind! Why bother? Maybe one day, I too can have this super human power over the almighty doughnut! It's not just doughnuts, though. I can feel better after brownies, cakes, pie, Little Debbies, cookies, etc....temporarily. The key here is temporary - the problem is still there, the stressor hasn't left, and I now feel worse. Now, #2...who am I showing that I can do what I want? I know I can. I'm only hurting myself. My health and fitness are suffering, not anyone else's. This issue stems from me wanting to feel like I am in control of something in my life. It's hard to learn how to "wait for it" when I have lived in a fast food society for so long! Do I want fries with that? Yes! Do I want to super size it? Yes! Now I am learning to deny tell myself fast from some of these things of the world that I love. Denial is painful at first. I have to keep telling myself that it has only been 5 weeks. I am redefining what gives me pleasure. I have to admit, it does give me pleasure to step on the scale and see the numbers getting smaller. It gives me pleasure to be able to fit into clothing that has been hanging in my closet for some time now. I am able to play longer and harder with my kids and I can even jump on the trampoline! I am even starting to like exercise a tiny bit. (very tiny) The Bible verse that jumps out at me is Luke 9:23 "Then he said to them all: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Jesus knew that we would have to deny self to live how He want us to live. It isn't something that we can do once and be done with. Jesus spells it out for us...we have to do it daily. Every day. We have to take up our cross and follow Him. Trust me, some days I'd rather hide under the covers. But His mercies are new every morning...and the payoff is so worth it!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kids Say The Darndest Things!!

Everyone who has children knows that they can be hilarious. They can say the funniest things and make you laugh out loud. However, sometimes their biting wit can unfortunately be directed at you. My youngest child, AC, has been on a roll lately when it comes to helping me out with the "compliments". Did you pick up on the sarcasm? The first incident occurred after a trip to Walgreens. I went to buy some new lipstick, nothing big or special. However, I was feeling good about my purchase and thought that the color looked pretty darn good on me! I turned around after applying said color and asked AC what she thought about my lipstick. She looked right at me and said, "I can't tell that you are wearing any lipstick." Ok. Hmm. Not the response I was looking for. Shot down by a 5 year old. The second incident was at Wal-Mart. This one was more touchy because I was trying on bathing suits. I think I had about 10 different ones to try on in the dressing room. AC patiently waited as I tried on each one and refrained from making any comments about my appearance. When I finally narrowed it down to two choices, of course I HAD to ask my shopping partner her opinion. She bit her lip, furrowed her brow and pensively studied me for a few seconds. Then she said, "Well it doesn't look too good. But I think it is the white socks you have on." At this point I was pretty delirious from all of the trying on and started laughing hysterically. I was sweating from the exertion of pulling lycra on and off repeatedly and I personally think they heat the changing rooms on purpose. White socks. This was what was causing the bathing suit to be a fashion don't. Nevermind the cellulite or the stretch marks, people, the white socks are causing that to fade into the background!! Let's just end this story with the fact that I left Wal-Mart empty handed. One of my good friends took her 5 year old dress shopping recently and had a similar experience. She asked her daughter what she thought of the dress she had selected and she said, "You can't wear that dress. That is a skinny dress and you need a fat dress". She also left the store without making a purchase. While my friend's daughter was definitely more blunt about her opinion than my daughter, it had the same effect on both of us. It hurt our feelings. Even though I laughed at AC's white sock comment, I knew she was purposely trying to think of a nice way to tell me that I did not look very good in that bathing suit. Heck, I already knew that! I have definitely struggled with my self esteem over the years. I have tried to look or act a certain way to fit in with certain crowds of people at school, at work and out in the community. I have tried to change myself a thousand times for all of the wrong reasons. The change was never permanent, though. I never felt truly convicted in whatever change I was trying to make. I wasn't doing it for the right reasons. I wasn't doing it for ME. I wasn't doing it to become the person that HE created me to be. Ephesians 2:10 says "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." We are not just any painting in the museum...we are each a masterpiece! I see so many young (and older) women struggling with this same issue today and hope that it doesn't take them as long as it took me to figure out that they are worthy and valued in their Heavenly Father's eyes. Each one of us is a daughter of the most high King. AC tells me that we are all princesses and God is the King. I think she is right. I'm claiming my title, what about you?