Deep, Deep “Down-ness”

Deep down, I’m basically a pretty lazy person. When the alarm goes off, I’m at least a “two-snoozer” kind of gal, who regularly tries to eek out another 10 minutes of pillow time. My flesh would opt for sleeping in every single day if it had its own way. I’m sure there are people who love to wake up early and are happy from the get-go. Sadly, I am not one of those people.  Image result for Reaching for Alarm Clock ImageThe laziness in me isn’t just limited to getting up with an alarm, but spills over into regular daily routines as well. Making the bed, working out, showering, doing my hair and makeup – even preparing daily meals can feel like so many chores that get old after a while.

I think it’s the routines that make me feel like such a lazy person. Life can be pretty boring when you live a life dictated by schedules and doing the same things, the same way at the same time every day. It’s all so blah, blah, blah.Image result for blah blah blahBut deep down, deep in my soul – I’m a woman who loves God and one who has the Holy Spirit residing in all of my “deep-down-ness.” As I get older and my priorities shift, life is all about working towards letting the Holy Spirit dictate more of my life rather than letting my lazy flesh rule me.

I may only be one person, but I function as a 3-in-1 being. Some days my brain, which can be logical tells me I need to get out of bed and get moving with my daily “chores.” The brain is a stickler for my “To Do List.” But I’m not just made up of a logical thinking brain. My body — that lazy flesh of mine, tends to have a mind of its own and periodically it’s difficult to make my body cooperate when it’s time to get out of bed, particularly when it comes to exercise.

The third part of my “tri-part team” is my soul, where the Holy Spirit resides. It’s in my soul where my moral compass distinguishes right from wrong. My soul longs to obey the Lord so I know that taking care of my body and living with purpose is what He created me for. Jesus didn’t sacrifice His life so I could lie around the house like a lazy useless lump, living only for what pleases me rather than being a contributing member of society. In spite of the fact that my logical brain knows all this and my soul wants to follow through on all these noble things in life … my flesh still struggles to cooperate.

These struggles are a result of a very real enemy I (we) have whose sole purpose is to steal, kill and destroy life as we know it (John 10:10). The devil delights in attacking my mind as soon as I wake in the morning, usually before I’ve even put my feet on the floor. I’m convinced that this lazy, do-nothing, tired-of-doing-the-same-thing-day-after-day attitude is an arrow shot at me by the enemy.Image result for arrows hitting a bullseye

These attacks are designed to cripple me as early in the day as possible in order to keep me from doing anything productive for the Lord. I’m not going to lie … some days his aim is true and his plan has a modicum of success.

If I manage to overcome the lazy attitude, the enemy finds a way to attack me in other ways. Things like, I find myself complaining about little things, or struggling with a cynical attitude or giving into despair. The devil stirs the pot of depression when it strikes me, and delights in my anxiety when facing a seemingly daunting task.  He laughs when I give in to temptation to overeat because of my emotions. The enemy doesn’t care how he interferes with my day. He knows he has the advantage if he can gain the tiniest of footholds. He knows he’s got me if I let my guard down even slightly.

Thanks in part to the many changes I’ve made in the past year with my health, I am more on guard than ever for these attacks. My mind is starting to feel more settled. There has been a definite shift in my priorities. In the past year I’ve gone from praying that God would steal me away to live with Him in Heaven while I sleep, to finding joy in the little things and appreciating even the boring hum-drum days. Yes, even the alarm and daily chores of bed-making, exercise, showering and putting on makeup have made me realize what a privilege life itself is.

“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.”  Psalm 39:4

Most days as soon as I’m conscious, I do my best to remember “This is the day the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24) Even though many days I seriously don’t want to — I drag my lazy self out of my comfy bed, strap on my sports bra and workout clothes, lace up my worn-out Fila’s and engage in my daily workout. It’s not something I LOVE to do, but something that maintains my sanity and is strengthening my mind and my body for whatever the future holds. Exercise is a privilege.

Image result for exerciseWhen I begin to feel like I’m tired of these boring, time-consuming “chores,” the Holy Spirit gently reminds me that I am blessed to have a nice home to live in with hot and cold running water. I have access to toothbrushes, hair brushes, soap, shampoo, shoes and clothes, gas in my car and a pantry and fridge filled with food. There are people around the world who sleep on dirt floors and forage for their next meal in trash heaps. In many countries people walk miles to collect fresh water to drink, cook and wash with. Why should I dare to complain that waiting for the water to get hot for my daily shower takes too long? Image result for complaining

“Do everything without complaining and arguing,”
Philippians 2:14 (NLT)

In the movie Forrest Gump, Forrest deliver’s one of life’s most iconic lines, “Stupid is as stupid does …”Image result for stupid is as stupid does

 

The devil thinks I’m stupid and will give in to his taunts and attacks. If I refuse to live according to the Word of God and fail to obey the Holy Spirit, then I’m letting the enemy know that he is right. BUT for now during this new season of my life, my prayer is: Lord, help me to be anything BUT stupid!

Image result for Psalm 119:73

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Faith is not about everything turning out okay, faith is about being okay no matter how things turn out. ~ Author Unknown

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Snap Out of It!

A few weeks ago, I watched an old film that I’ve always loved but hadn’t seen in years. I enjoyed the movie so much that I’ve officially added it to my favorites list. The movie is called Moonstruck which was released way back in the 20th century in 1987. This movie stars Cher as Loretta, who is an Italian-American widow who becomes engaged to Johnny, played by Danny Aiello. Shortly after proposing, Johnny leaves the country to visit his sick mother in Sicily. During his absence, Johnny’s younger brother, Ronny, played by a young Nicholas Cage seizes the opportunity to woo Loretta. Ronny hopes to steal Loretta away from his brother whom he has a major grudge against.

My favorite scene is when Ronny (Nicholas Cage) finally gathers his nerve to passionately confess his love for Loretta after the two share a night of passion. Despite not being in love with her fiancé, Johnny, Loretta wants to remain faithful to him. As Ronny declares his love for Loretta, she knows the relationship can’t possibly work because of her commitment to Johnny. In order to deter Ronny, she slaps him across the face, not once, but twice and yells at him to “Snap out of it!”

Things would certainly be much simpler if we could apply that “snap out of it!” logic to all of the problems we face in life.

Sure, maybe some people are capable of “snapping out of it!”… Whatever their “IT” is. But me … not so much.

I’ve had well-meaning “friends” and even family members that have given me their version of a “snap out of it” lecture, with regards to my depression or anxiety. They’ll suggest something like, “just think positively.”

When I’ve dared to talk about my food addiction I actually had someone tell me, “just stop eating junk food, if you aren’t happy with your weight.” Or “Why don’t you go on a diet?”  Or my personal favorite, that age-old classic of … “you just need more willpower.” 

Gee … like I never thought of that before!

People who make these “snap” suggestions or “easy fix” solutions, are obviously “perfect people” who’ve never battled their own demons.

If life has taught me anything it’s that applying “willpower” only works for so long. Fighting depression or an addiction can’t be fixed by just making your mind up to “feel better,” or stop doing that thing that makes you hate yourself.

We don’t need more willpower … we need more of God’s power. Where I personally fall short is that sometimes I don’t always turn to God FIRST. My natural inclination is to try to “fix” whatever is broken on my own before I turn to God. It’s like I think I can actually control things. Which is silly, because the Bible tells us:

 

Maybe rather than the idea of “snap out of it,” I need to “snap to it.” Which translated means, I need to make a choice to FIRST turn to God and ask Him what I need to do before I succumb to the darkness or do a face plant in a tub of ice cream.

I know I shouldn’t be so “me focused” but more “God focused.” I can “Snap to it” by searching the Scriptures when I need a word of encouragement. Or “snap to it” could mean I need to clear my head and get outside and get some fresh air; take a walk around the block and look at things with a different perspective. Of course, my go-to “snap to it” solution will likely always be exercise. Nothing clears the brain fog quicker than a good workout. But I’m not above calling someone to talk me through whatever I’m going through. Sometimes I just need a friend.

For me … the black holes are never going to completely disappear. The food temptations are always going to be knocking on my door. In order to be a survivor and not a victim who lets my depression or food addiction define me, I need to learn to manage these parts of my life. I will never be able to totally “snap out of it.” In order to manage it, I must fully surrender every part of my life, my body, my brain, my emotions, my addictions, my shortcomings, my choices (both good and bad) … literally every single part of me must be completely surrendered to God.

It’s easy to say I’ve fully surrendered my struggle with depression and my food addiction to God, but if I’m continuing to struggle … me thinks maybe not so much.

Lord, I want to “snap out of it!” I believe with YOUR HELP I really can … but please help me in my unbelief!

 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”  The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24 NLT)

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

 

I’ve “BEAN” UP and I’ve “BEAN” DOWN

It’s crazy to think that just by exercising a little self-control with regards to what we eat or by monitoring our food portions, we can actually change the way our bodies look and feel. Boy, that’s a lot of power … AND a lot of responsibility! The key word here though, is a word most of us don’t like: “Control.”   

Controlling our appetites – or better yet, NOT controlling our appetites is the main cause of why so many of us are unhappy with the way we look. The poor choices we make when we choose not to control our appetites is what leads us to despise stepping on the scale with any amount of frequency.

Because I’ve been at my ideal body weight repeatedly, I always find myself “stymied” as to how I end up regaining lost weight. Okay, that’s just my denial talking. The truth of the matter is, it’s really no mystery at all. I’m a person who chooses to feed my emotions rather than dealing with them in a healthy, balanced way. Name a feeling, and I bet I’ve got the perfect combination of junk food to throw at it.

Sure, I had times when weight gain was expected. Three pregnancies to be exact. But even then, I CHOSE to make poor choices with regards to my diet. That whole, “I’m eating for two,” really got the better of me. After my third and final pregnancy, I rejoined Weight Watchers for the umpteenth time and eventually lost my baby weight. And then for good measure, I went to work for Weight Watchers to insure my weight loss success would be a lasting one.

But, as with most things in life … LIFE got in the way and had other plans.

I can remember the exact day in which I willingly stopped making good food choices and the moment I fell off the Weight Watchers wagon. And trust me when I say, I fell off that wagon pretty darn good and hard! I not only fell off the wagon, but I stretched out on the ground and let the wagon back up and run over me. Repeatedly. And it all started with a no-turning-back-the-only-way-to-go-is-down shove off the wagon by a Styrofoam container of refried beans.

These weren’t just any ordinary refried beans, mind you. These beans are indescribably delicious, and possess some sort of magic property that changes a person’s brain chemistry, elevating them to a near blissful endorphin euphoria. Hmm … perhaps, that’s a slight exaggeration .. but at any rate, these beans are still one of my favorite treats.

I turned to the beans shortly after my mother passed away very suddenly and very unexpectedly. She passed peacefully in her sleep the day before Mother’s Day 18-years-ago. I was overcome with as much guilt as I was grief since she and I had a very challenging, oftentimes, difficult relationship. Her unexpected death left me with so many unresolved issues with no way of resolving them at that point.  I’d had opportunities to work through our problems in the past, but always opted to wait until “the timing” was better. Now there would never be “a better time” to resolve anything.

My Mother, Antonina “Lena”

October 6, 1933 – May 10, 2003

 

 

After receiving the news that my mother had passed away, I was numb for days – a veritable advertisement for The Walking Dead. My father passed away three years prior to my mother’s death – so to suddenly find myself without both my parents was tough to process. Even though I had a husband, children and a grandchild and in my early 40s, I felt orphaned. For once in my life, rather than feeding my emotions, I completely stopped eating for an entire week. In my mind, my mother was dead and somehow it felt wrong to reward my body with any type of nourishment. It makes no sense, especially looking back at it now – but at the time it made perfect sense to me.

I lost about eight pounds from the day my mother died until we buried her six days later. The minute they lowered my mother in the ground though, something happened. My brain developed it’s own opinions on how I should grieve and flipped a self-destruct button to the “ON” position. I suddenly became ravenously hungry. My cravings ignited, my hunger and appetite were insatiable. My body wanted — no demanded — comfort food and lots of it.

My husband made a special trip into downtown Phoenix to a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican food restaurant (aren’t those always the best places to get authentic Mexican food), to buy a couple of pints of my favorite refried beans. These beans are so mouth-wateringly delectable and are likely made with pure lard and lots of secret Mexican ingredients, slow-cooked for days over an open fire by a hunchbacked Hispanic woman who is at least 104-years-old. (Okay, I made that last part up. I don’t know how they cook these beans, but they are worth the 45-minute drive into town and back again. Absolutely THE BEST refried beans you’ll ever eat this side of the Rio Grande.)

After I polished off the beans, it almost became a contest to see how much food I could “secretly” consume. I couldn’t let my family know the depth of my grief and depression, so when they were home, I ate “normally.” When they all left for school or work, it became a marathon of binge-eating anything and everything not nailed down. Almost like an out-of-body experience, I watched as I ate myself stupid, ending every day falling asleep in a full-blown food coma, having eaten to the point of feeling sick. Filling my body to excess to the point of extreme discomfort took the focus off of my grief, temporarily. At least, that’s what I fooled myself into thinking.

Because we all process grief differently my way of dealing with my mother’s death was to punish myself in a way that would hurt me the most. My self-esteem has always been tied to my weight and my physical appearance, so sabotaging my weight was the most self-destructive thing I could do to provide maximal pain to my splintered emotions.

The weight that had been so difficult to lose and maintain, returned almost instantly. As you would imagine, sudden weight gain is not the greatest endorsement for someone who works for a weight loss organization – especially one that requires monthly weigh-ins for their employees. I was forced to quit my job, siting “personal reasons” for my sudden departure.

In no time at all, the number on the scale that I vowed never to return to, was suddenly surpassed and at the highest it had ever been – including those months spent gestating a human baby inside of me. I was plunged into a pit of depression so deep, I thought I’d never escape. The years that followed were a blur of fad diets, yo-yo weight loss/weight gains and the darkest emotional times of my entire life leading up to the wedding of my two younger children nearly two years ago.

What makes me so sad is that my entire struggle could have been avoided if only I had sought the proper medical attention immediately following my mother’s death. Both my siblings and my aunt relied on treatment for their grief and depression with medication. I tried an anti-depressant for about a nano-second, but gave up almost instantly because I didn’t like the way the drug shut down my emotions completely. After that brief trial, I willingly chose to self-medicate with Double-Stuff Oreos, Cheesy Doodle Puffs and Bunny Tracks Ice Cream. These were my “go to” junk food staples I kept locked and loaded. And these were just a few of the caloric weapons in my total self-destruct arsenal.

In spite of the fact that I was a strong Christian at the time of my mother’s death, I fell into such a state of despair that no amount of praying, church attendance or Scripture reading could alleviate my self-induced suffering. It was as if I didn’t feel I deserved to be healed, healthy, happy or whole. I willingly chose to let the enemy, the master deceiver, the chief liar – Satan himself – destroy me … one lie at a time … one bite at a time.

If only I could turn the clock back and undo all of the damage the devil did to me way back then. If only I would have willingly chosen to chew on Scripture verses like Romans 15:13 rather than junk food … Think of the emotional pain I could have avoided.

Simply being a Christ-follower is no guarantee that we will have a perfect life free from challenges. And of course, merely reciting Scripture and praying may not ever fully alleviate our pain and suffering. But for me, it’s comforting to KNOW that I’ve got the Creator of the Universe in my corner. It’s encouraging to KNOW that He grieves with me, even collecting my tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8) and that my suffering has not gone unnoticed by Him. God’s Word also promises that He will never leave me (us) or forsake me (us.) (Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5)

Even after all of these years, my mother’s passing reminds me that I need to cherish my relationships and right any wrongs sooner rather than later.  Falling off the wagon reminds me, that eating my way through any difficulty only makes the trial that much harder to bear.  To avoid any future setbacks I MUST remember, FOOD IS NOT AND NEVER WILL BE the answer to dealing with life’s trials! MY answer is a healthy mixture of Jesus, prayer, Scripture reading and memorization, portion control, exercise and making good choices TODAY!

In this season of learning from my past mistakes, I vow to fight with everything that is in me to never willingly be defeated by my food choices again. Not every day is victorious, but there are victories in each and every day. Life is for living one day at a time … one challenge at a time … one bite at a time … one workout at a time.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking, only to learn that it is God who is shaking them. ~ Charles C. West

Don’t “THREAT” The Small Stuff

The human body is a natural wonder in the fact that it is capable of growing, shrinking – even incubating and birthing another human being. What a marvelous piece of fleshy machinery God has created.  

Over the course of my life, my body has transformed itself a multitude of times. Due to three full-term pregnancies and decades of yo-yo dieting, I’ve gained and lost well over 500 pounds over the past five decades. Yes, you read that correctly!

After having lost weight AGAIN for what I hope will be the last time, I’m finding that at this more “mature” age, my body is transforming yet again. Decades of all that yo-yoing and I’ve created some pretty significant challenges for my aged body. Not to mention, I’ve been double-teamed by Mr. Gravity and Father Time, who’ve had their way with my skin and various body parts. Things sag and hang lower than they used to. Joints creak and ache; muscles hurt more and take longer to recover. Getting older is no joke!

In addition to being older and somewhat wiser, my body now has the uncanny ability to predict the weather. Whenever the barometric pressure changes, my arthritic joints (mostly knees) begin an old familiar ache. Thankfully we don’t get a lot of precipitation in my neck of the woods, so the achy joints only flare-up periodically. There doesn’t even have to be any real rain in the forecast, but just the mere threat is enough to cause my knees to ache. 

Because Phoenix averages about 300 sunny days per year, my brain and knees tend to forget that weather changes cause my joints to ache. Whenever my knees start to throb I head into panic mode thinking things are going back to the way they were before I had knee injections. But then it’s like, “Whew, never mind … it’s just the weather. Everything is fine!”

Last week I had a threat of a different kind. When I weighed myself at my regular weekly weigh-in, my weight was up three pounds. I know that three pounds is pretty insignificant, but for someone who’s just spent the last 18 months working to lose weight, those three little pounds were enough to push me over the edge of sanity and reason.

Familiar phrases ran through my mind: I’m so fat and disgusting! I hate myself! If I gain any more weight I’m going to kill myself! I’m such a loser! Blah, blah, blah, and a whole lot of other self-deprecating words, threats and lies conveniently supplied by the master of all self-destruction … our old lying enemy, the devil.

If you’ve ever suffered with any manner of self-hatred due to depression, anxiety, obesity, etc. you probably can relate – maybe even have your own self-debasing inner dialogues much like mine.

Because I truly believe I am wiser thanks to my relationship with Jesus and years spent poring over my Bible, this latest mini-meltdown over three little pounds crashed and burned out rather quickly.

As if on some pre-programmed auto-pilot, I had a “come to Jesus meeting” with myself. When my anxiety rises due to circumstances, I thankfully have a number of “Go-To” Scriptures that I say out loud designed to take the focus off of ME and my problems and put it back where it belongs … the Lord Jesus.

I refused to let this threat best me as it once would have. After chewing on the meat of these Scriptures for a bit, I did a quick inventory of my past week and what could have caused this slight weight gain. The likely culprit was that my husband was on vacation for the past nine days, and that man can eat! He’s very tall and thin and manages his Type 2 Diabetes by eating six small meals a day. Every time he would eat, I’d start thinking I needed to eat as well. I tried to limit my frequent snacking to zero-point Weight Watcher friendly foods. FACT: Those zero point foods are still dangerous if enjoyed in excess. Over the course of two days, I practically ate an entire 10-pound watermelon and about five pounds of grapes all by myself!

One of the drawbacks of maintaining a weight loss is that it still requires a lot of diligence to track what I eat daily. As with last week’s slight weight gain, portion control – weighing and measuring my foods – is crucial. Even fruit! Grapes might be a zero-point WW food, but three pounds of grapes contain a LOT of natural sugar and calories.

Most of us know regaining weight takes very little effort on our part. In fact, I could be the queen of that club! What took a year to painstakingly lose, could reappear in a matter of days or weeks. Portion control and pushing myself to exercise a little harder than usual will help to keep that three pounds from morphing into five or ten or more pounds.

Gone are the days of telling myself, “Well, I already blew it for today – I may as well eat a sleeve of Oreos or that bag of chips in the pantry! I’ll get back on track tomorrow.”  Many of us know, tomorrow can be put off indefinitely! The time to act is NOW!

I opted to immediately rectify the weight gain situation. I added five-pound ankle weights to my morning treadmill walk. I normally walk three miles with varying incline settings, but now I pushed it to four miles. I walked at a much steeper incline and a faster pace than normal. It was a great cardio workout that had me sweating like a sumo wrestler wearing a wet suit in a gym sauna room. (That’s code for a LOT of unladylike perspiration!)

By simply being diligent with portion control and increased activity, my weight was back to normal within two short days. What this little weight gain showed me though is that even the mere threat of regaining lost weight was enough to send me down the rabbit hole. If I wouldn’t have been immediately proactive, that three pounds could have doubled and likely sent me spiraling out of control, drawing me once again into the black hole of depression and the bottomless abyss of self-loathing.

The bottom line takeaway this week is: less food and more movement = less me and more God-given peace and joy. Don’t THREAT the small stuff. We can only do so much on our own, the rest is up to God.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

How strange to use “You only live once” as an excuse to throw it away. ~Bill Copeland