Fertilizing the Fantasies Through the Storms

Believe it or not, living in a climate that boasts more than 300 sunny days per year gets kind of old and dare I say it – boring, after a while. Nearly every day as I wake and throw back the drapes, my first thought is usually along the lines of, “Oh goody, another perfectly cloudless sky and sunshiny day. Are a few clouds too much to ask for, Lord?” Image result for Phoenix clear skies

The weather is one of things that we Phoenicians can become complacent about. It’s easy to overlook the Doppler and ignore the elements altogether. Save for the occasional freak storm that pops up during monsoon season; which surprisingly – isn’t always in the forecast.

If I’m being honest, I have a lot of things in my life that I ignore the same way I ignore the weather. I’ve got some relational storm fronts brewing far off the coast, but for the most part – they are minor tempests that don’t warrant immediate attention or concern. I will eventually deal with the tempests before they have a chance to explode into hurricanes of horror – but not a moment before I have to.

These circling relationship weather fronts prove to be difficult and are a continual work in progress for me. One-on-one relationships are not always my forte. Personal relationships are always evolving and changing because most of us are constantly growing. We all mature at different levels as we move through the seasons of our lives, so naturally our relationships will be affected by the changing seasons.

One of my most problematic and frustrating partnerships is with my laptop – which sadly, I’m currently in a love/hate relationship with. I want to give it the time and attention it longs for, but some days I just want to divorce myself from “this calling” that beckons. Some days – NO, most days, it’s difficult to devote the time needed to nurture this particular relationship. Image result for love hate relationship

I’ve got this novel I’ve been plugging away at for what feels like forever. It’s been like a slow-moving weather front that’s been circling high overhead in the stratosphere for months now. I keep waiting – hoping – for the winds of change to blow extra time, energy and creativity my way so I can move on to the next big thing. I have hope that when these winds move – I’ll be swamped with a wave of genius that flows like a river after a summer monsoon storm. Image result for flash flooded river

The enemy taunts me, pushing me to simply walk away. “Go ahead and finalize the divorce. There’s no shame in quitting,” he whispers. “Find a new calling. A better calling,” he beckons. “Everyone quits. Writing is hard. You’ve given it your all, with very little to show for it. Work on your golf game instead. Get a real job. Do something … anything besides this dead-end dream.”

I know he thinks I’m stupid. I know the statistics don’t lie and the odds are not in my favor. But really … how stupid does he think I am? He is working overtime trying to convince me that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But hel-lo …. I KNOW that you’ve still got to mow and water the grass over there on that side of the fence. Duh!

ALL relationships are hard work! If you don’t put in the work and keep things fresh, you’re in danger of losing what you have. You can’t rest on your laurels in most relationships. I really don’t want God to take this away from me because I’m not using it. I need my laurels! Image result for resting on your laurels

I need to cultivate, water and fertilize the soil of my imagination. Maybe I really do need to prune things back a bit to allow my creative juices to spill forth and sprout new life. It’s easy to get bogged down with distractions that interfere. Maybe it’s time to cut, cut, cut those things back that are emotionally or physically draining – or reconsider scaling back on those things that produce little but are huge time sucks.

What’s needed for me, is to sow some quality time into my writing; stop wasting daylight with long workouts or hanging out with friends on my days off. I should stop grocery shopping and cooking for my family. Showering, sleeping, doing laundry. All are huge distractions. Weekend church services, small group and volunteer commitments certainly aren’t furthering my writing career. All of that time spent babysitting that precious grand-baby with its story time, play dates and Baby Shark sing-a-longs are killing my brain cells. I should be using those brain cells for working on my novel! There simply isn’t enough time to do the things that matter most to me – WRITING. But – ain’t nobody got time for that! Or so the enemy would have me believe. Image result for ain't nobody got time for that meme

That little niggling voice deep in my spirit challenges me with the notion that perhaps if I MADE THE TIME to deepen my relationship with God FIRST, then the rest of my time-related challenges would fall in line like a row of newly planted perennials. Image result for matthew 6:33-34

I saw a movie many years ago with Justin Timberlake called In Time. The movie was set in the future where time is literally the currency used for survival. It’s a world where aging stops at 25 and the only way to stay alive is to earn, borrow, steal or inherit more time. I thought it was a conceptually brilliant plot line, yet terrifying at the same time.

There are days I wish I could beg, borrow or steal extra time from somewhere. If only we could grow extra time the same way we grow plants and flowers. But who am I kidding? I’ve got a brown thumb. Can’t grow squat – except for guilt and regrets. Sadly, those are blooming at alarming rates.

Me thinks it’s time to start ignoring the lies of the enemy the same way I ignore the Phoenix weather.

It’s TIME to sow hope and bury guilt. It’s TIME to water the seeds of faith I have planted in God and his promises. Send the rain so these seeds will thrive and yield creativity one-hundred-fold. Get out your shears, Lord. Prune off the excess vines of doubt that are sucking the life out of my imagination and restore my dysfunctional relationship with my laptop to one of pure love and mutual admiration and respect. We have work to do. These fantasies are not going to grow themselves. There is NO TIME to waste! The winds are picking up … bring on the rain!

Oh Mr. Son, Son.
Mr. Golden Son
Please reign down on me!

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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SON-SCREEN, SPF-IMMEASURABLE

Years ago – I’m talking many decades – my first summer job (and my most favorite job ever), was as a Lifeguard. I worked at the Air Force base near my home, at the Officer’s Club private pool. This was a dream job for a number of reasons. The most basic requirement of this job was certified lifesaving skills, which I possessed, although, I’m not entirely certain I could have saved someone in an actual emergency. Let’s just say, I’m glad my skills were never tested. The job itself had very little hands-on lifesaving emergencies. Zero incidents, to be exact – unless of course you count the time that some kid defecated in the deep end of the pool Caddyshack style. Lifeguard Logo

In the four months I was certifiably lifeguarding , my most challenging duty was applying copious layers of baby oil over every inch of exposed skin so that my entire body was evenly kissed by the Arizona summer sunshine. I basically was getting paid to get a golden brown sun tan. Of course, a periodic scan for distressed swimmers was expected while on duty, as well as any other pool-related disasters. The only real trouble ever to be had was blowing the whistle at little boys who insisted on running around the cool deck. Even I possessed sufficient skills for that particular job!

Those few months, though, were the start of my provincial sun-worshipping vocation. Baby oil, a coating of lemon juice on my long hair for lightening purposes, 110-degree days, a standard issue two-piece navy blue Lifeguard suit, and for a brief stint in my life – a smoking hot body – were the only requirements necessary to do that job well. I thought life couldn’t get any better.

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Over the summer, I mastered the art of flirting with cute, young pilots and my precision-like whistle swinging skills. Whipping that nylon cord in an authoritative manner so as to strike fear in the hearts of ne’er-do-well, pre-pubescent boys could have landed me as an alternate on the Olympic Whistle Swinging Team. Ah, if only I wouldn’t have thrown away my career on a stupid, reckless marriage with a stupid, reckless boy at the end of the summer. But that disastrous union is fodder for another blog in the future. Image result for whistle on a nylon cord

Back then, the suntanning rule of thumb was a decent “base tan” started with a good burn. I’m not a rule breaker by nature, so I was faithful to always burn first. Although, I had little choice in the matter. That’s just the way my skin has always been. As a young woman barely out of high school, massive amounts of sun exposure started with that initial burn, that quickly turned tan and then  always left me adorably freckled. Now? One must ask themselves – when exactly do cute freckles make the jump to unsightly age spots?

Fast forward a few decades later and the smoking hot body is alas, no more – completely MIA, as is the wherewithal to lie about soaking up rays. Life at this age finds me exposing little to no skin since my dermatologist put the fear of skin cancer and melanoma worries in my brain. Oy – and to think that I used to baste my body with pure baby oil like I was buttering up a Thanksgiving turkey! Lord, what were we thinking? But back then, we didn’t have the benefit of research studies warning us of the sun’s harmful skin damaging dangers. Image result for basting a thanksgiving turkey

These days, my golden kissed-by-the sun tan comes out of a bottle, tube or a can. I’m a firm believer in avoiding the sun as now we know, it not only causes melanoma, but wrinkles as well! The fake tan has many names: fake and bake; tube tan, tan in a can or spray-on tan. All, when evenly applied gives you that healthy glow without sacrificing precious skin cells. Image result for Ross Geller fake suntan

Nowadays, I’m a firm believer in wearing lots of sunscreen. I raised my babies and my babies, babies on nothing less than an SPF 30. Protect and preserve have replaced the baste, bake and burn ideology.

This point was driven home when I enjoyed a girls’ day out on the lake last weekend. The temperature was a nice, moderate 102 degrees (it really is a dry heat), with little or no wind and a cloudless, azure sky. Perfect boating weather! Image result for lake pleasant arizona

Throughout our five-hour foray in the desert lake nestled between cliffs and generously dotted with desert flora and fauna, I sunscreened, sunscreened, sunscreened my entire body repeatedly. I came home with nary a red splotch anywhere on my person. One of my girlfriends though – not so much.

This friend kept defending her need to slather Hawaiian Tropic from head to toe. (This tanning oil contains an SPF of 2. Yeah, like THAT’S going to make a difference!) Being a woman “near to my age,” my warnings to her about the dangers of harmful sun rays and sunburns went unheeded. She insisted she was merely working on her “base tan.” By the end of the day though, she was a lovely shade of lobster-just-out-of-a-boiling-pot-scarlet red. Seriously? Have we learned nothing in all of these years? But it’s her skin, not mine, so more power to her.

I started thinking that perhaps my friend possesses a certain amount of “Son-screen,” with an SPF of about 1,000. This kind of Son-Screen is based on a strong trust in the Son of God and SPF stands for: Spiritually Powered Faith. By all accounts, my friend must have buttloads of it. She’s not hiding in the shade worrying about skin cancer. She enjoyed every single sun-soaked minute of the day, in and out of the water. Me? I chose to wear a hat, a moderate tank top, shorts and hide in the shade of the boat canopy for most of the day.

I know this woman to be a very strong and wise Christian woman. She knows the Word of God better than most people I’ve met to date. She also knows her body better than any outsider. She isn’t a stupid woman. She just doesn’t want to worry about something that may never happen: skin cancer.Image result for God's protection

I know there are certain types of skin pigments that naturally tan and never need much sunscreen. Then there are those that are highly susceptible to sunburn and melanoma. Like so many other things – our skin is part of our genetic make-up and DNA which can determine our likelihood for diseases and cancers. Maybe my friend falls in the category of DNA that has a low skin cancer probability. Who knows? Image result for Funny Sun Burn

What I do know, is regardless of the SPF number on my sunscreen bottle – I could benefit from an influx of Son-Screen with a higher-than-normal SPF rating. Who doesn’t need extra spiritually powered faith?

I have to question myself about the things in my life I’ve been unwilling to try because I had an overdose of fear flowing through my veins. Even while at the lake last week, I was too afraid to get in the water and swim with my friends because I know that rattlesnakes are good swimmers. I have a huge fear of snakes. Especially snakes that swim! That fear kept me from enjoying a nice cool swim in the beautiful lake.

**SIDEBAR NOTE: It bears mentioning that we did IN FACT, come across a swimming rattlesnake while at the lake, giving my I TOLD YOU SO rant a great deal of credibility. Said snake was spotted from a long distance away before it ever swam past our speeding boat – because apparently, they need to swim with their head far above the water line in order to breath and stay afloat. The girls all reasoned that if one person was keeping an eye out for snakes – everyone else could safely swim without fear. I of course, volunteered to be the snake spotter under the safety of the shaded canopy, protected by massive amounts of SPF 30.

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I know God gave us common sense for a reason. BUT, it’s a fact that with many people, common sense ISN’T common. I’m a common-sense over-achiever and have been since early childhood. I’m a cautious person, who rarely takes risks, I’m not likely to take a walk on the wild side (except for that disastrous first marriage at the age of 18). I’m someone who follows the rules; returns my grocery cart in the cart corral in the parking lot. I never take more than 10 items in the express lane and I never miss a day of flossing. I am the epitome of a goody-two-shoes.

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YET – I wonder how many opportunities I’ve overlooked or missed out on because I didn’t have enough faith to trust that God would see me through? What could my life have looked like if I would have been a fearless follower of Christ from the get-go?

This is where I insert my DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY excuse number 962, or thereabouts. You know … that monkey on the back of an otherwise normally sane person who moves through life under a mantle of fear. Someone for whom it’s virtually impossible to rub more than two positive thoughts together at any given time without questioning the why of it. That someone who is completely unable to relax and enjoy life without always worrying or being afraid of SOMETHING.

Yep, that’s me in a nutshell – which sadly enough, isn’t exactly a winning endorsement for someone who has walked with Christ most of her adult life and knows the Word of God pretty well.

I need a SON-Screen boost with a SPF of about 1,000 X infinity. Hook me up to a Spirtually Powered Faith I.V. STAT! In theory – if slathering on sunscreen keeps our skin healthy and offers protection against harm to our skin – wouldn’t it stand to reason that a large dose of SPIRITUALLY POWERED FAITH from the SON of God would be a much better screen of protection from spiritual and emotional dangers and harm? This SPF could protect us from potentially harmful and destructive attacks of fear, worry, anxiety and depression that the enemy is determined to throw at us.

When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came. (Luke 4:13 NLT)

How do we get that kind of SON-Screen SPF?

What if we checked in with God as frequently as we check our cell phones every day? What if every time we thought about complaining, or we had a fearful thought we reached out for Jesus and an encouraging word from the Bible?

What if … what if … what if … we made Jesus our covering for every day, every circumstance, every problem — literally EVERY THING in our lives? THAT is true spiritually powered faith that protects us with a power that is immeasurable.

Imagine the possibilities?

The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever.

(Psalm 121:5-8 NLT)

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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Peanut Butter and Jelly

Last week I was visiting with a friend and as we were getting caught up on each other’s lives, we did  what most moms tend to do – we started talking about our children. We discovered we each have children who suffer from depression and/or anxiety. In the last few weeks, I’ve learned this is not that unusual. Many of my friends and related family members are no stranger to depression and anxiety as well – which seems to be a recurring theme with people far and wide.

I’ve mentioned before that along with me, several members of my immediate family suffer from either depression, anxiety or both. With so many of us – friends, family, co-workers, children, etc., battling these afflictions, it’s starting to feel a little bit like an epidemic. Why suddenly are so many people afflicted with depression and/or anxiety?Image result for images for depression and anxiety

Has life suddenly become so difficult to cope with that we’re all affected by the fall-out from an out-of-control world – and the major side-effect has left us all with depression and anxiety? Is the whole planet being radiated from sun spots that are causing wide-spread mental illness? Have we been invaded by alien lifeforms that are sucking the sanity from our brains through long-range soul-sucking sanity extractors? Is it Agent Orange? GMO’s? Global warming? Pesticides? Pestilence? Smog? Pollution? Fossil fuels? Or American Politics? Image result for images for world problems

Okay – I’ll admit – the political environment and nationwide dissension in the country could quite naturally cause mental illness … but American politics have been screwed up since the beginning of America! It’s really not fair to blame depression and anxiety solely on that!

And why is it that more often than not, if someone suffers from depression, they automatically are crippled by anxiety as well? The two seem to naturally be lumped together like an old married couple  – like Kim K. and Kanye. That’s a bad example that one, since no one knows if that pairing will stand the test of time. Perhaps depression and anxiety is more like food pairings as with bacon and eggs, cake and ice cream or peanut butter and jelly. Image result for images for peanut butter and jelly

When did depression and anxiety become such an exclusive twosome?

They’ve probably always been a couple, but for years went undiagnosed as a piggy-back illness. Modern medicine has made such advances that it is now easier to identify and treat disease and mental illnesses.

Childhood depression was really never a thing way back when as I was growing up. My parents simply labeled me as moody or petulant. People blamed my quiet, sensitive demeanor on the fact that I was naturally shy and introverted.

For years I thought the same things about myself – even though inside I was wracked with constant fear and lugged around an unrelenting sadness that simply clung to me like a second skin. Maybe if I would have been more forthcoming with a trusted adult, I could have been offered some sort of relief. Once I reached my teenage years, I sought solace much the way many teens did in the 70s – through pot and other experimental “medicinal” personality aides – which thankfully, was a short-lived period in my life.

For decades there was a certain stigma associated with mental illness. It was something that was swept under the rug that no one talked about, other than whispered conversations, peppered with judgment. Luckily that has changed considerably. Now since more are willing to openly share details of their struggles with depression and anxiety, the less taboo it has become. Which is why it seems like an actual epidemic, because everyone seems affected by it.

One positive takeaway from learning that so many people suffer the same illness as me, is that there is now a wider group of people to talk to. It’s comforting to talk to someone who knows exactly what I’m going through. It’s easier to explain what anxiety feels like when someone understands and “gets it” because they’ve walked in my shoes.

But yet, there are still many people who will never “get it.” When someone really doesn’t understand our struggles, they can sometimes do more damage than good. Especially when the best they can offer up when you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack, is to tell you to “get over it.”  When you’re knee-deep in the middle of a pit of depression, and someone tells you to “stop being so negative,” OR “Put on your big girl panties. Life is hard, suck it up.” All of this free advice from well-meaning friends is something that only makes things  worse. Image result for images for nobody gets me

None of this advice proves helpful to someone who is fighting a darkness so deep you need an extension ladder to catch a brief glimpse of daylight.

Sure, it’s easier to shut yourself off and hide – or worse – look for answers through drugs, alcohol, sex, food or whatever. But most of us know a peanut butter and jelly sandwich may satisfy for a moment, or throwing back a few pills or a shot of tequila can take the edge off – but those are only temporary diversions. Sometimes you need to humble yourself and ask someone for help. This won’t make you weak. Seeking outside help is the brave thing to do and could save your life. Image result for images for asking God for help

If you or someone you know is battling any type of mental illness like bi-polar, panic disorder or the PB & J combo of depression and anxiety, don’t suffer alone. Find a trusted friend or family member, a therapist or a doctor who can prescribe the right medication – whatever you need to do to make steps towards healing.  I pray you’ll get the help you need and won’t suffer in silence.

No matter how low you are feeling or how anxious the world makes you feel, there is always someone who is on your side. Someone who loves you and wants to be your champion through all of life’s challenges and trails. That’s right … just ask Jesus.  “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” (Romans 10:13 NLT)

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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“PITY PARTY … TABLE FOR ONE!”

Have you ever had one of those days that you THINK is going to be like any other – but before your morning caffeine has a chance to kick in, you feel as though you’ve been roundhouse kicked by the devil with some sort of Krav Maga, Ninja Warrior super move? No … it’s just me, then? Image result for images for a roundhouse kick

This happened to me one day last week on a day that started the way most of my mornings start. I was trying to convince my body to get up and go as I struggled through my early morning treadmill walk. Because it was a day like any other, my legs were dragging, my footsteps faltered and I was slugging my way through my work out. I’m talking, I felt like a fat, fat garden slug moving so slow I couldn’t have beaten an actual garden snail in a footrace.

The reason? Because it was a day like most days, I didn’t get much sleep the night before. A constant all-nighter of tossing and turning and a series of ups and downs to help my 15-year-old, half-blind, Jack Russell Terrier in and out of bed, made sleep nearly impossible. The poor old guy has a bladder even smaller than mine, which means most nights he’s up and down three or more times.

The lack of sleep messes with my CHE, which stands for brain CHEMICALS, HORMONES and EMOTIONS. I don’t know for a fact that this is a real thing – but it is a VERY REAL thing for me. What it boils down to is I am more vulnerable to all types of attacks, meltdowns, crisis, chaos and self-pity parties. Sleep deprivation is like that. Image result for sleep deprived, barely alive

The devil knows this and took advantage of me in such a way, that I’m pretty sure my back still bears the outline of his boot prints on my tender backside. In fact, he kicked me so far down, it was a quick slide down the clichéd slippery slope. Not even a slide really – but more like a shove down, down, down into the abysmal rabbit hole buried beneath the black hole of the deepest, darkest dark of the proverbial dark side. I landed in a pity pool so deep, it was all I could do to hold my head above the water line to steal a stingy breath.

There I was doing my best to stay afloat, while my mind fought against the life raft of sanity. In a span of a few minutes my mind was awash with negative, dark suicidal thoughts taunting me to find the self-destruct button. Image result for self-destruct button

Recognizing that the dark thoughts were not my own, my body took control of the situation by physically running away from the terrifying demons assaulting my mind. I cranked up the speed on the treadmill and ran for all I was worth. Because I am not a runner – I actually despise running – all I was worth was about a quarter mile. God did not hard wire my brain OR my body to physically run. Short squat legs, wide hips, heaving bosom, arthritic knees and/or hips … check, check, check and check. My max walking speed on a good day is about 4.5 mph. Anything above that is an accident waiting to happen.

Praise the good Lord and all that is Holy, the short run and physical act of trying to breathe while running at 5.0 mph (hey, that’s fast for someone who hates to run!) managed to reset my CHE. The loud sounds of Jordan Feliz pumping wildly through my headphones, was the exact recipe needed to chase the hounds of hell back into the demonic portal upon whence they came.

The suicidal thoughts faded into the dark recesses of my brain, where I promptly slammed the door shut and bolted it for safekeeping. What remained for the rest of the day was a regular, ordinary, gets-so-boring, been-there-done-that bout of self-pity.

Somewhere in the distance a tuxedoed maître d’ calls out, “Pity Party … table for One! We can seat you now.” Image result for maitre'd table for one

Pity parties, while common, are really no party at all. For starters, it’s the one party that doesn’t allow you to leave when you want and there are no lovely parting hostess gifts. The self-hatred left behind in the wake of pity party is a gift you’ve likely regifted to yourself on many occasions.

I’m no stranger to self-hatred and pity parties. I’ve been here before – so many times, in fact, the number is incalculable. My pity parties are planned with little or no imagination as the theme is a recurring one. It’s that constant battle fueled by self-doubt and low self-esteem centering around my life worth and purpose.

To be or not to be a “real writer?”

Other than my relationship with God and my family, writing is the only thing that makes any sense in my head.

For some time now, my writing career has floundered and struggled for breath much the same way you’d struggle to breath through a coffee straw. Lately it appears to have completely stalled and is currently in a dangerous stage of stagnation. In order to move it to the next stage, I really need to dedicate my days to writing and nothing more. But with a busy Granny (grandmother nanny) schedule and taking care of all of the other household chores, needs and demands – writing gets pushed far down on the priority list. And, I. Hate. It.

I heard a pastor say recently, that whatever your gift is – you can count on the devil doing everything in his power to keep you from using it – especially if it’s something that will further the kingdom of God.

I can testify to the validity of this statement. My gift is writing, so naturally this is the main area of attack from the enemy … and he is relentless.

Everything I write may flow through the filter of my mind, down to my fingers and end up on a computer screen – but I take little credit for my creativity. It’s simply how God fashioned me.

Child music prodigies, gifted athletes, the artist who creates masterpieces out of clay, stone, iron or watercolors; the singer whose voice transports you to heaven … all are God designed and doled out to each of us as God sees fit. NONE of us can take the credit for our gifts.

We can perfect our gifts. Study, practice and master our talents – but God is the master craftsman.

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You would think that since God created these human masterpieces with a purpose and a plan to use all of these God-given gifts and talents FOR HIM, why is it so difficult to carry out these missions? Why then, does God allow the enemy to come in and try to steal all that he has designed?

It should be obvious. If we could do all of these great and amazing things on our own, human nature being what it is, we would most likely end up using our gifts for selfish gain, fame and/or fortune. If we could do great things on our own – we wouldn’t need God.

The Bible is filled with stories of people being attacked by Satan. In many situations God stands back and gives the enemy permission to do his worst – as with Job. .

“All right, you may test him,” the LORD said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the LORD’s presence. Job 1:12 (NLT)

Being plunged into a deep pity pool last week and the ensuing darkness and suicidal thoughts that tortured my brain makes me wonder … was that just an ordinary, everyday test from God? Or was the whole thing a little puppet show, pulled from Satan’s hit parade designed to undo me so I would deny God, cash in my ticket and hasten my expiration date? If so, were the devil and the Lord sitting around watching me unravel while they kept score and making bets on the outcome?

I have more questions than answers. I do, however, think it is foolish for us to believe that we will make it to the other side, completely unscathed and scab free. We know the devil has one job: Image result for 1 Peter 5:8

Image result for John 10:10In retrospect, I know that I’m not the greatest writer that ever lived. Probably mediocre at best. But the good news is, that while I’m not writing as much as I’d like right now, what I am writing makes the devil profoundly unhappy. Hence the deep dive into the dark side of the pity pool.

The longer I tread, the stronger I become. I may not be a great runner, but what the devil fails to realize is I am an Arizona girl who grew up with a backyard swimming pool and I am a fabulous swimmer!

Suit up. Snorkel up. Grab your sunscreen and wet suit or whatever you need to stay afloat. If you are doing ANYTHING at all to further the cause of Christ – you can expect a plunge in the pity pool at some point during your journey. The next time I fall (or am pushed) into the pool of pity, I’m telling the maître d’ I need a table for two. If I can’t take Jesus with me – I’m not going!

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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CHEAT TO WIN???

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve read several articles on the best, most effective ways to lose weight, burn fat, and get healthy. After reading all of these articles – I’m not going to lie – I’m more confused than ever! None of the “experts” can agree on dieting programs, caloric intake, nor how much exercise is actually beneficial to shed pounds or maintain a weight loss. The truth obviously lies somewhere in the middle of these many conflicting programs. Image result for Diet experts

One program recommended 45-60 minutes of cardio, four to six days per week. Another program advised 30 minute cardio workouts, because anything more than that forces your body to burn muscle rather than fat – or so they believed. Several experts actually agreed that a HIIT workout (High Intensity Interval Training) offered maximum benefit with a minimal time commitment.

One program encouraged intermittent fasting, another one said fasting sends your body into starvation mode. One “expert” suggested eating lots of protein and no carbs, while another thought carbs were fine in moderation when balanced with protein and high fiber foods.  While yet another article recommended loading up on natural fruits – another proposed cutting out all fruits as they were loaded with too many natural sugars. Image result for exercise versus weight loss

Just yesterday, I read two different blogs with completely opposite viewpoints regarding how many calories we need to ingest everyday if we are working out and trying to lose weight. One “expert” said the more you exercise, the more you need to eat, while the other proposed working out a lot and eating less and practically starving yourself. Some “experts” firmly believe that 70-80% of weight loss is based on what you eat – and only 20-30% of weight loss is a result of exercise. So — is punishing ourselves in the gym a total waste of time?  Who knows? Image result for weight loss 80/20 rule

Two other “experts” agreed that in order to be successful in the long run with weight loss – you should allow yourself one “cheat day” each week. And you guessed it – yet another “expert” discouraged against any sort of “cheat day.” Many years ago, Weight Watchers introduced a program allowing members to “take the weekends off” from the program. It doesn’t take a genius to see the flaws in such a program. Members had a difficult time getting back on track and staying “legal” while taking every weekend off for a major food fest. Image result for rachel green, once a cheater always a cheater

Why can’t all of these experts get on board to make weight loss universally balanced and easy so we all can be winners?

The reasons should be obvious – the “experts” are as unique and individual as we are. We have different bodies that react according to our own specialized DNA and genetic makeup. What may work for your identical twin, your spouse or best friend – probably won’t work for YOU.

This was never more evident to me than during my stint as a Weight Watchers employee. Week after week, I encountered husband and wife couples who battled the inequality of weight loss challenges.  In most instances, the wife was the primary cook in the household. The wives prepared identical meals for themselves and their mates. Men generally are allowed more calories (or WW points) because of body composition of men versus women. When the couples ate the same exact foods for an entire week – more often than not – the husband frequently lost twice as much weight as their wives. This of course, created a lot of relational dissension. The wife’s complaints, not surprisingly mirrored one another with the standard issue: “It’s just not fair!” Image result for It's just not fair

The cold hard fact is, it really ISN’T fair! Especially when factoring in that men are more prone to weigh with their shoes on, and oftentimes without removing their wallets, phones and change-filled pockets. Women on the other hand, remove everything – sometimes down to their jewelry. (And once, even – a set of false teeth!)

The bitter pill of reality that we women are forced to  choke down with much anger and chagrin – is that when it comes to the battle of the sexes and weight loss – LIFE IS NOT FAIR! It’s for this reason, that I always seem to sabotage myself if I give in to a cheat day. If I succumb to my primal urges to cheat with high caloric debauchery and gluttony, eating what I want – be it a single snack or Lord forbid, one entire pig-out day – the climb back up the Weight Watcher wagon feels as though I’m scaling Mt. Everest.

If I’m going to cheat, my brain and the ruling factions of my common sense alter ego rarely agree on how much is too much when eating non-sanctioned foods. Keep in mind, once you decide to open that Pandora’s Box and cheat on your eating program – it takes your body and your brain a nanosecond to remember how easy it is to eat all of the wrong foods.

Once the palate is teased with a sugary and/or salty, crunchy snack – it can be hard to keep the junk food hounds at bay. What the flesh wants, the flesh wants – especially if its been denied tasty treats for long periods of time. (Oh wait – maybe that’s  just ME!) It’s risky to reintroduce forbidden foods to our bodies – even in small amounts. It quickly becomes a race to see what will transpire first? Will it be the common sense, career dieter’s flood of guilt that alerts our hungry brain and quickly halts the cheat before too much damage has been done? OR will the stomach stage an intervention by vomming up all that justifiable cheat day junk food? If our body  has adjusted to less food or healthier food choices for a significant amount of time – we may not be able to tolerate an over-indulgence of junk food the way we once did.Image result for Friends, once a cheater always a cheater

Sometimes I think the Barftown Express makes more sense. Once you get that nasty taste of regurgitated snacks in your mouth – the last thing you want to do is eat anything, anytime soon. Let’s face it, a major puke-fest can be a blessing in disguise if it will keep us from further cheating. When we cheat without restrictions, it quickly becomes so much easier to wash down guilt with a sleeve of cookies with an ice cream chaser. I’m a seasoned “expert” at washing down guilt – which is at the very core of most of my food addictions.

I admit, I am definitely no “diet expert.” I do have, however, an extensive resume that includes decades as an exercise junkie. I’m also a card-carrying member of the Clean Your Plate Club and I’m the unofficial self-proclaimed Queen of the Yo-yo dieting parade.  During my tenure, I’ve learned a thing or two about food, exercise, balance and creative caloric juggling. I’ve learned what works for me and what most definitely DOES NOT work for me. The most important of which is, listen to your body! BUT remember – your body is not the boss of YOU!  You and only you, have total control of what goes into your mouth, and how much to push yourself when it comes to exercise.

Do not try to duplicate the program of someone who has experienced a recent weight loss. Your body is unique to you. Weight loss is one of those things that we can’t catch like an air-borne virus. Keep some sort of a food diary so you can figure out what works for you and how your body reacts to certain foods.Image result for Psalm 139:14

Learn your cheating triggers and have some sort of counter-measures in place to stop the cheater in its tracks. No foods need to be completely off limits, unless you are one of those people who has zero self-control over your appetite. If one chocolate chip cookie will satisfy your craving – then eat one. Savor it. Enjoy it! BUT you don’t have to eat the entire plate of cookies. If you know yourself well enough to know that you have limits and can’t be trusted with any type of food cheats – then DON’T CHEAT! Know your limits. Set some boundaries.

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Find an exercise routine that doesn’t bore you to tears. Join a sport team or walk with co-workers on your lunch break. Make exercise fun. Burning calories shouldn’t be another chore you hate. Engage your body several times a week in something physical. You don’t need to join a gym if that’s not your thing. Just get moving!

The most important aspect of getting healthy is to invite God into your life to walk beside you when you feel like giving up and chucking the whole healthy lifestyle thing. Find strength in the Lord when you are tempted to fall face first into a vat of ice cream or when your body rebels and refuses to get on board with your exercise routine. Image result for Isaiah 41:10

You get to tell your body who is boss! If you need a cheat day – then do it and proceed with caution. Remember though, long-term cheating won’t do you any favors. Long-term cheating is definitely not a cheat to win situation.

I’m tempted to say, “life is short, so do what makes you happy.” In the long run though, being overweight and out of shape makes few people happy. We always have free-will and the choice of … Don’t worry – be happy! Or Stay strong and committed and BE HEALTHY!

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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Unconscious-Subconscious-Insomnity-Insanity

Sometimes it feels as if the entire universe is conspiring against you when all you want to do is sleep. Each night I crawl into bed, my body bone-weary and over-tired; my mental acuity checked out and settled in for the night – but then … NOTHING! Why is it, when both your body and your brain are on board and ready to head to Slumberland – YOU JUST CAN’T SLEEP! Image result for images for I can't sleepInsomnia continues to be a major problem for me, pushing me to the edge of insanity. Part of my continuing problem – is that when I finally do fall asleep, my mind is so active, never powering down, that I dream the craziest, most bizarre things. Like mini movies in my mind, these dream movies that originate in my unconscious subconscious are so fantastical that I wake completely exhausted from the crazy adventures in my “sleeping brain.”

Years ago, I went to bed every night begging God to visit me in my dreams. Some of my favorite stories in the Bible, involve people who were visited by God in their dreams. “God, I WANT THAT!” was part of my nightly, bedtime ritual. After about 10 years of praying this, with little or no communication from the Lord, I stopped praying about my dreams. It bears noting that God works on His own time schedule, and He has a profound sense of humor and irony.  It was only AFTER I stopped seeking God for dream visitations, that He chose to show up in a big way. Image result for images for Acts 2:17

For nearly a year straight, God blessed me with some of the coolest prophetic dreams. Dreams that were all related and thematic in nature, that were specific instruction to me regarding a book project. God spoke into existence my second novel, The Name resulting from three dreams. So when I say this book was co-authored entirely by a ghost writer – that specifically means, THE HOLY GHOST. The Name: A Novel

Over the course of a week, God gave me three separate dreams. After the first dream, God waited a couple of days before He gave me the second dream – but what was so bizarre, was the fact that the second dream picked up exactly where the first dream left on. The same thing happened with the third dream. After the third dream, God specifically told me these three dreams were to be the subject of my next book. Of course, I proceeded to argue with Him about how daunting a task it was to take this project on. I felt completely unworthy (not to mention, overwhelmed) to be given such a monumental task.

After a few more dreams confirming this was indeed a challenge from God, I picked up the gauntlet and ran with it. It took me a few months to write the story and around six months to edit, re-edit and edit some more, before I finished the project. Throughout the entire journey, God continued to speak to me through my dreams almost nightly. Especially on those days when I struggled with dialogue or the story progression. Nearly every single dream involved water. Being swept away in a current or struggling to stay afloat was the most common recurrent dream. Image result for images for being swept away in a flood

When I had these dreams, God was faithful to remind me that He was writing the story. As long as I followed His direction and kept my eyes on Him, I would not succumb to the elements trying to take me out. He wasn’t going to let me drown or get in over my head. Many times I wanted to veer off in a different direction with the story.  Whenever I tried to go my own way, the drowning dreams intensified. God kept the story on track and moved it forward through the recurring dreams. Many days I merely needed to show up and turn the computer on. The Holy Spirit worked through me; I was simply on auto-pilot trying to get my fingers to type faster to keep up with the story the Holy Spirit unfolded.

Lest anyone should think writing everything at God’s command is easy – you should know that because I KNEW without a shadow of a doubt that this was GOD’S STORY – I suffered more attacks from the enemy than ever before in my life.

For months, the enemy did his best to slay me physically. I had such foot and knee problems that I could barely walk for months. Literally! During that time, I logged so many hours in the recliner, I could have been a test pilot for Lazy-Boy. Knowing these attacks were purely supernatural and orchestrated by Satan, I surrounded myself with a support system that included people praying for me who were willing to come to my house and lay hands on my feet, if need be.  While in the physical – it proved to be uncomfortable for someone who rarely lets anyone breach her circle of safety, the  prayer coverage was a necessity paramount to my success and overruled my discomfort.

Once the enemy figured out that I was getting “inside writing information” from God through nightly dreams, he did his best to block the flow of my dream creativity. I was seized upon and punished with horrific nightmares. Many a night I would awake screaming. My husband can testify to this! The dreams were so frightening and demonic to the point that I began to dread going to sleep every night. Image result for images for being satanic nightmares

For extreme circumstances such as this – it pays to know your Bible and know it well. God, in His goodness, allowed me to be semi-conscious when my subconscious was unconscious (I know – right! Image result for emoji faces for confused). I battled myself through the nightmares by speaking Scriptures repeatedly until I came fully awake. The nighttime nightmare rituals lasted as long as most of the writing of the novel. Image result for images for 1 John 4:4

Finally, just weeks away from completion of the book, God showed up in a big way one night during my fitful sleep. As God is my witness, I awoke from a nightmare to see three ethereal beings standing at the end of my bed. In an instant, God calmed me with the knowledge that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were watching over me, so I need not fear the enemies in my mind in my dreams. Image result for Trinity Father Son Holy Spirit Art

After that night – the nightmares stopped. I completed the book and successfully published it a few months later. To this day, the story remains one of my personal favorites. Shortly after the publication, I was invited to a book signing at a Christian book store. The manager of the story did a little Q & A and asked which of my books was my favorite. I quipped, “that’s like asking me which of my children is my favorite!” But – truth be told – The Name is secretly (well, maybe not so secretly) my favorite piece of work!

This book isn’t going to set the world on fire. I have no idea how many copies it’s sold to date. A few thousand … maybe??? Let’s face it … I’m basically a nobody with a small following. It’s a very simple story about an innocent little girl who believes that The Name of Jesus can solve just about any problem. I believe this to be true as well. This, however, tends to be a controversial topic in a world driven by things other than God these days.

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.  Psalm 91:14 (NLT)

I’m honored that God chose me to write this story. Whether it ever becomes a best-seller (while unlikely) was never the point. The purpose of the dreams and the corresponding book was simply about obedience and trusting God. Whatever path this book takes is entirely up to God. I am merely a vessel.

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That period in my life was such an amazing adventure, I find myself “begging” God to visit me in my dreams again. I’m ready for another big adventure! I’m ready and waiting to be divinely inspired – even if it means that I’ll have to do battle with the enemy again. Call me crazy for wanting to invite that sort of challenge into my life – but hey, life is short. If you can’t spend your days doing what God has called you to do – then what’s the point? Image result for Images for 1 Corinthians 1:27

I guess, the joke is on me and these “dreams” I used to pray for, are a clear case of “be careful what you pray for!” God certainly has done his part and filled my unconscious mind with dreams. My dreams of late haven’t exactly been fodder for the next book, but they at least, are certainly entertaining.  If my brain is going to continue to work overtime and keep me from rested slumber, at the very least I hope there’s a new book in there somewhere! The last book came when I least expected it, so perhaps there’s a remote possibility that this insomnia is working up to something amazing. Lord, I hope so! If I’m going to be half crazy from insomnia … hmm, foggy brain can’t complete a simple thought and I really am half crazy working my way up to a full-on crazy!

In the meantime … happy reading … happy writing to all of my fellow creative word junkies!

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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FAKING FINE

Yesterday women the world over celebrated Mother’s Day. I know this day can be particularly challenging for those who have lost children or for the children whose mothers are no longer with them. Women who struggle with infertility are likely more troubled by this day of honor than most. My heart goes out to all of those women who hate the painful reminders of Mother’s Day and all that this day is NOT. Image result for Images for mother's day

My mother passed away 16 years ago. She actually died the day BEFORE Mother’s Day. Some years, Mother’s Day falls on the exact date of her demise – but most years – Mother’s Day and the anniversary of Mom’s passing are within two days of one another.

Sixteen years is a long time to be without your mother. My mom and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye on things and frequently argued over one of the most important issues in life: knowing Jesus as our Savior. Our relationship was fraught with all manner of emotional dysfunction for reasons that are far too complicated to share here. Even now, years later, I continue to walk in regret and guilt regarding the way our mother/daughter relationship ended. My mother passed quietly in her sleep with NO warning beforehand. Consequently, the abrupt end to her life and our relationship left me with unanswered questions and unresolved pain from childhood trauma.

All these years later though, our many disagreements are inconsequential. The fact remains, I miss my mom. Now that I am a grandmother, I find myself missing my mother more than ever. I look at my children and the amazing people they are and the children they themselves have borne – and I think, “I wish mom was here to see how well her grandchildren are doing.” I’m saddened that my mom never got to know the joys of being a great-grandmother, as well. It sucks that she’s missed so many important milestones. Image result for grief

The grieving process plays out differently for each and every one of us who have experienced loss. People who’ve never suffered through the loss of a loved one, would argue that 16 years is more than enough time to get over it. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You don’t simply just get over it when someone you love is no longer in your life – no matter how many years have passed. The statute of limitations on grief has no expiration date.Image result for grief

Most of the time – I am fine when I talk about my mom or her passing. On the days that I am not fine —such as Mother’s Day, my mother’s birthday, MY birthday, the anniversary of mom’s passing and just about every single major life event that happens with me, my children or grandchildren – I’ve honed my skills and become proficient at faking fine.

You know how it goes … may even know firsthand the discomfort of the “How are you?” question and found yourself formulating the requisite, “I’m fine,” response. Because let’s face it … when most people ask you, “How are you?” they really don’t expect, nor do they welcome a real answer that’s likely to be wrapped up with truth, pain, tears or anger. Many of us KNOW this, which is why the only response is usually “I’m fine.”

Personally, if I know someone REALLY well, I may press for further explanation if I deduce, someone is anything BUT fine. When you can tell that someone is totally faking fine, you have to be willing to gamble and press for a genuine reply. Image result for I'm fine

The problem with pressing those that are hurting is – emotions can be messy and complicated. We oftentimes realize (after it’s too late) that we may have dug ourselves in deeper than we expected and bitten off more than we can chew. Few of us like to chew on someone else’s messy feelings – especially if we have more than ample trouble processing our own complex emotions.

Relationships and friendships require a lot of work if they are going to be mutually successful and satisfying. Nowadays, society has made it far too easy to isolate ourselves and hide behind our social media personas. We may have several hundred Facebook or Twitter friends and followers – but how many of those “fake friends” would drop everything to come and cry with us or grieve with us when we find ourselves in a faking fine situation?

I’ll be the first to admit that I could be the president of the faking fine club. It really is easier to hide behind my computer and pretend that I’ve got everything together than face interrogation and possibly risk revealing buried emotions. It’s tough to open myself up to anyone. I’d rather not pick at emotional wounds that have finally healed — or at the very least — scabbed over. Image result for I'm fine

Faking fine is just one of the skills I perfected with my mom while she was alive. I had very few open, honest and soul-bearing conversations with my mother. But then, I suspect my superior skills were an inherited behavior passed down from her, as they were inherited and passed down from generations of Sicilian women before her. She and I were never able to communicate beyond a superficial level. We were a family that never talked about anything and denied everything.

Life is filled with shoulda, coulda, woulda regrets. I’m unable to go back in time and undo all of the relational mistakes I made with my mother. That relationship is sealed in stone. Rather than live with the continual regrets and guilt though – what I CAN DO is forgive her, forgive myself and press forward and learn from those past mistakes.

Today is the day to move forward and become a better mother and cultivate the relationships with my children and grandchildren I wished I had with my own mother, but was never able to achieve. Above all, it’s important to realize that a life wasted faking fine really doesn’t make life better or easier. So, while I didn’t have the relationship I longed for with my mother while she was alive – she is teaching me a thing or two about life from the grave. I don’t want to live and die faking fine for the rest of my days left on this earth. Image result for regrets

How are YOU? Are you faking fine? OR are you someone who is really good at discerning and helping others who might be faking fine? Pick a team and dive in. Make sure though, that whichever group you fall in to … you invite Jesus along for the journey. Jesus can free you from failures, fears, false feelings, friendless futures, faking fine … and pretty much EVERYTHING life throws at you.

My friends, if someone is caught in any kind of wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should set him right; but you must do it in a gentle way. And keep an eye on yourselves, so that you will not be tempted, too. Help carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2 (GNT) Image result for Galatians 6 1-2 Restoration

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QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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Once An Addict … ???

It started with something as simple as ICE CREAM. Somehow though, the ice cream opened up a whole can of metaphorical worms. The grocery advertisement proved to be a temptation almost more than I could bear. My flesh wanted desperately to download the digital coupon. In my mind, I plotted how I could rearrange the freezer in order to hide my slide down the slippery slope of my addiction. The coupon was for Blue Bunny Ice Cream snacks and pints of Blue Bunny Sundae concoctions – all of which fuel the fantasies of one hopelessly addicted to … well … FOOD! To someone like me – those grocery ads are quite simply – food porn!  Image result for images for Blue Bunny Ice cream

It’s not just supermarket ads either. Let us not forget – Cupcake Wars, Cake Wars, The Great British Baking Show, Spring Baking Championship, Kids Baking Championship – and ALL manner of Food Network Shows that feature the word BAKE or CAKE in the title. You can easily turn off the Food Network Channel, but of course, there are all of those other television mediums that zing you with their restaurant ads and snack commercials. And YES – even the weekly supermarket ads are extremely challenging. They ALL send me into a fit of caloric lust for which there is little escape. Image result for Depressed Cupcake

The likelihood of me actually downloading the digital coupon and making a trip to this particular grocery store are slim to none. It’s not a store I frequent – plus there’s that whole thing of being techno-challenged by downloading anything on a two-year old phone that has little to no storage space. I knew in my heart I was safe from falling down that particular rabbit hole BUT that didn’t stop me from entertaining those fantasies of falling. And fall I did, for several minutes at least.

In my mind, I could see myself buying six (it would have been more, but six was the coupon limit) of the most decadent flavors of gooey, chocolaty, chocked full of peanut buttery, treat-filled, creamy ice cream ever concocted in an ice cream manufacturing plant. In my mind, I wanted to devour every last morsel of the forbidden frozen treats – one pint at a time, one cup at a time, one bar at a time. And heck, if I was going to sink to that level of debauchery, I might as well download the digital coupon for Double-Stuff Oreos, Nutter Butters and BOGO (buy one-get one) Donuts while I was at it. Let the flesh experience a total and complete breakdown of normal, common-sense, Herculean restraint and Weight Watcher will-power!Image result for no willpowerWhile part of me is proud of the fact that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I would never succumb to such a temptation – the OTHER part of me was faced with the reality that although my flesh is able to abstain – my mind was diving ALL IN, face first and devouring as much as I could, as quickly as I could. For several minutes, I mentally undressed every frozen ice cream bar and fondled every unearthed candy-coated peanut butter bunny.
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Once an addict – always an addict – at least FOR ME. True – I may not actually hide in the pantry and devour snack foods in secret as I once did. But there’s no denying that to this day, I remain an emotional food addict.

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I have a friend who swears that if you are an addict of any sort, those addictive behaviors can very easily seep into other areas of your life. My friend swears that having one addiction, makes you more vulnerable to many other addictions. His beliefs are borne out of a past life of surviving simultaneous addictions to alcohol, cocaine and gambling.

I don’t dispute this argument, especially after a being coerced into visiting a local casino last week.

I’m not much of a gambler, per se. When it comes to casinos, if it weren’t for BAD LUCK, I’d have NO LUCK at all. Truth be told, I seem to have a very UN-lucky streak and free stuff rarely just magically comes to me the easy way. I positively hate throwing money away “just for the fun of it,” especially since “extra” money is really hard to come by in my household. But, visiting out-of-town relatives convinced me they really wanted to visit the casino before they headed home – and it would be oh-so-much-more-fun if we ALL went together. Isn’t that what families are for? Who am I to argue with someone who plays the “family first” card?

Not surprisingly though, the moment we  hit the casino floor – everyone scattered to divide and conquer their own particular favorite machine or table. So much for spending time with family! I opted to circle the casino floor a couple of times, mainly for the benefit of adding steps to my fitness tracker. Plus, I wanted to get the lay of the land and size up my machine choices before blindly throwing my money away on the first machine I saw. Image result for Casino slot machines

My stingy nature being what it is, I watched and waited for the right machine to call to me. Sadly, every machine that whispered my name, all repeated the same message: LOSER! After a mere 15 minutes and down by $15.00, I knew when to cut my losses. I found a comfortable chair near the lobby and alternated between checking Facebook, reading my emails and playing Slotomania on my phone. (How much of a loser do you have to be to go to an actual casino and play casino games on your phone???) With almost two hours of wait time ahead of me before rejoining the family, I engaged in one of my favorite pastimes of a little eye-opening people-watching session.  Image result for people watching

I deduced that my friend really knew what he was talking about with regards to addiction.  Though it may come in many colors and styles – no matter how you label it – addiction is all the same and possesses the addict fully and completely. Here it was the middle of the week and the middle of the day and the casino was packed. (The over-flowing, multi-leveled parking garage SHOULD have been my first clue!) How is it so many people have time to hang out in the middle of the day, for hours on end and throw away so much money? Throwing away hard-earned money on the hope that you might just be that one to strike it rich has a certain appeal – but clearly comes at a high price.

Years ago, I once sat next to a woman who won $5,000.00 on a slot machine and rather than cashing in (as I WOULD HAVE), she continued to dump money into the same machine for the hour that I was in the casino. For the love of all that is holy, WHY??? Unless of course – she was a serious addict.

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Many of these people seemed to corroborate my friend’s theory of multiple-addictions as well. The largest percentage of the casino patrons who held vigil at slot machines that seduced with their flashing lights and bells and whistles – ALSO smoked and imbibed of the free liquor being offered. And don’t get me started on the obese guy I saw seated at a Black Jack table, sitting in an electric scooter, smoking a cigarette (in spite of the oxygen tube hanging from his nose), drinking a beer, and eating from a large trough of pasta that had been delivered to his table. The only thing missing from this picture was a high-priced hooker sitting behind him wishing upon his lucky four-leaf clover and rubbing his rabbit’s foot necklace. Can you say multiple addictions? I think so! Image result for different types of addiction

While it may seem as though I’m standing in judgment of these people – I promise, I am not. If anyone understands the power of addiction – it’s me. I will likely always be a food addict. To my way of thinking, a food addiction is probably one of the worst  – because let’s face it, we cannot survive without food. You can’t say that about cigarettes, liquor, sex, gambling, shopping or most other addictions.

My list of past and present addictions is a lengthy one. Some of these addictions are rather benign, while others … not so much.  I would wager If people are honest, just about everybody harbors some sort of secret addiction. Heck, how many of us are addicted to our cell phones these days? Or coffee? Or diet soda?  At what point though – is an addiction just an addiction and not Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? OR does addiction start as one thing and then end up as OCD? Gambling in and of itself probably wouldn’t qualify as OCD, but whose to say that your compulsive need to buy a lottery ticket at the same place every week at the same time isn’t the thing that pushes you towards a full-blown addiction??? Sometimes there is no explanation for our weird quirks that begin simply and metamorphosis into addiction.

How can you know if you have a real bona-fide addiction? If you’ve ever uttered the words, “I can quit anytime I want to!” a little self-analysis might be in order with regards to your behavior. Simply ask yourself – “can I give this up? Can I walk away from _____________ whatever this thing is?” Image result for 1 John 5:21Perhaps if you are reading this, you can honestly say, “Yeah … I’m good. I don’t have ANY addictions.” If that’s you, that’s amazing! Good for you! In which case, I’m just writing this blog for my own benefit!

I know I have a problem in certain areas. Every day is a struggle. Every day finds me in pursuit of living a balanced life. The more I’ve come to understand the WHY of the reason I behave the way I do, the more I realize how lost I am and in need of a Savior. Will I ever get it right this side of Heaven? Only the God of Mercy knows for sure. With my every breath though … I’m going to do my best to keep pushing forward!

Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Romans 6:16 (NLT)

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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THE THINKS I THUNK

Many “experts” agree that the majority of people have one similar need and one common fear.

The most common FEAR – is death. Let’s face it – we are ALL going to die someday. The time, the place and the manner in which our spirits leave this earth, are all up to chance. Well not entirely. I’m pretty sure God has the final say so regarding our final expiration date. The fact remains though, that at some point – it’s going to happen whether we are ready or not. Image result for images for RIP

**SIDEBAR NOTE HERE: My advice to anyone reading this – GET READY! And by that, I mean – the only way you can know FOR CERTAIN whether you will spend eternity in heaven or in hell, is to say “YES” to Jesus, and the sooner the better!

The most common NEED we have is, acceptance. “Most people” (obviously, not ALL) crave acceptance and love based on who they really are (warts and all). The problem is so many of us work to hide “the real us” out of fear that we will be rejected. We think that if people really knew “the real us,” (that part of us that we never let anyone see); they wouldn’t want to associate with us. I fall solidly in this category. In fact, I could be the queen of this parade.

I’ve spent much of my life living inside my head. The battles warring inside me are lifelong. I’ve wrestled with low self-esteem (sometimes NO self-esteem), likely since the womb. I was born seven or eight weeks prematurely, so I imagine I probably started comparing myself to my peers from an incubator. Throughout my lifetime, everyone has always been prettier, more athletic, more physically fit, had better jobs, boyfriends/husbands, nicer houses, perfect children, more money, more educated, closer to God, wiser, more talented and gifted, blah, blah, blah – you get the idea. Essentially, in my mind EVERYONE is just overall – BETTER than me, in every single category that makes any kind of difference. Image result for warring thoughts in my head

The secrets I work to hide from the world, are the ones that hold me prisoner on a regular basis. I’m a contradiction of everything the Word of God tells me I should aspire to be. I’m judgmental. I’m fearful of everything. I trust no one, sometimes – least of all God. We’ve already established that I compare myself and come up lacking to just about everybody. I’m a chronic whiner and complainer. I give in to the temptation to gossip. I go to bed angry. Most days I live in a bubble of escapism. Escapism is actually how I get through life’s tough circumstances and the monotony of a life that’s not gone as planned. It’s easier to imagine my alter-ego is perfect in every way, married to the perfect man with perfect children and has a fat bank account that never runs dry.

But wait – I can’t tell anyone about how awful I am. I can’t let the monster living inside of me out, because who could possibly love or accept anyone who thinks such awful things? Some days my thoughts are so positively dark and evil that I scare myself. Where do these vile things originate, if not from me? Image result for where do our dark thoughts come from

Not all prisons are made up of concrete and metal bars. So many of us are held prisoner in the six-to-eight inches of grey matter in our skulls inside our brains. Our thoughts can be so damaging and self-destructive, making us our own worst enemy and our biggest critic, by far. Image result for being a prisoner of our minds

Joyce Meyer, a well-known Christian speaker and author has a saying about those dark thoughts we dwell on. Joyce says: “think about what you’re thinking about.” Her best-selling book The Battlefield of the Mind, is all about winning the battles that war in our minds.

Basically, she recommends that whenever we are prone to despair, depression, hopelessness, all those dark thoughts, etc. we need to take a look at what our thoughts are fixated on. Image result for joyce meyer the battlefield of the mind

Most of us know that depression and anxiety are very real mental illnesses. Sometimes mental illness can be the result of a very real chemical imbalance in our brains, which frequently requires medication to bring things back into balance. BUT, many of us who suffer from depression, end up that way because we simply can’t make ourselves “look on the bright side.” We aren’t able to train our brains to focus on the positive. Well-meaning friends or relatives frequently suggest to simply “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative” thoughts from our minds. “Just stop thinking all those negative thoughts!” Oh – if only it were that simple! Honestly – if it really were that easy, don’t you think we would have done that years ago?

Would you tell someone with diabetes to simply eat better and train your pancreas to do its job? NO. Do you tell an alcoholic, just stop drinking! Do you tell a smoker to just stop lighting up!” NO. Name an addiction, pick your poison and then just -STOP DOING THAT THING THAT IS CONTROLLING YOUR LIFE! Seriously?

For me personally, I know that once a negative thought has taken root in my mind, no amount of positive mental dynamite is going to blast it away. It’s that whole falling down the rabbit hole; or surrendering to the dark side thinking. As soon as you surrender to the pull of downward emotional gravity, the thoughts in your head quickly become like compound interest on a credit card. Once you open the door and give a tiny negative thought a foothold, it quickly spirals out of control, compounding one negative thought upon another and another until you are buried under a load of crap from which there is no escape.

A mental foothold quickly becomes a stomping ground for the enemy. Image result for Negative Self Talk

Since I’ve been on medication, there are days when it’s easier to recognize the deception of the enemy and I can quickly shut down the lies by throwing Scripture at them. The Bible, Christian music, devotions or books can act as a type of mental super power that defeats the enemy, stopping him in his tracks before his lies gain momentum.

But on those other days … not so much.

It pains me to think that even with medication and being a strong, long-practicing born-again Christian who knows the Word, I continue to deal with these mental and emotional weaknesses. Not surprisingly, the reality that I am not perfect is just another one of the many thoughts that keep me so dependent on the Lord. He knows this about me. He knows every thought I’m ever going to think today and tomorrow – the good, the bad and the ugly – yet … He still loves me and accepts me just as I am. Image result for Jesus loves me

So … here we sit, judging ourselves because we don’t measure up (or so we think), because we’ve set the bar so impossibly high with ridiculous expectations we impose upon ourselves. In reality – while we are fixated on OUR insecurities, these people we compare ourselves to – are battling their own insecurities and likely comparing themselves to US. How mixed up are we?

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So, what do we do with all of the negative thoughts bouncing around in our brains? In a perfect world, retraining our thoughts not to wander off in the wrong direction would be as simple as breathing. Do it once – and you’ve got it down for the rest of your life. We don’t, however, live in a perfect world. Redirecting our thoughts is like trying to teach yourself to use your left hand, when you’ve lived for 60 years as a right-handed person. Translated – it’s going to take a fair amount of work.

Unlearning the bad habit of dwelling on negative thoughts should start with the simple suggestion of a common acronym people use before they say something they may regret later. It’s that old adage of THINK before you speak. But in this case the advice is –THINK before you THINK and become completely consumed by a dark, disturbing thought. Ask yourself these simple questions:

  • Is this thought True?
  • Is this thought Helpful?
  • Is this thought Inspiring?
  • Is this thought Necessary?
  • Is this thought Kind?

An air conditioning filter is designed to prevent all matter of impurities and allergens from circulating throughout our home. We need to employ a crap-o-matic filter in our thought life to sift through the garbage the world and the devil throw at us. We NEED to prevent the impurities of negativity from circulating in our brains. Image result for Breaking Habits

While it may not be as simple as “just stop thinking those negative thoughts,” perhaps by taking a minute or two to ask ourselves these basic simple filtering questions – we can teach our “old-dog brains” to learn a few new tricks.

THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT!

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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Till Death Do Us Part

A Facebook friend of mine lost her husband of 30-plus years to cancer just two days ago. His fight was swift and incredibly painful. Only five months after being diagnosed he breathed his last just hours shy of Easter Sunday. Watching my friend and her family battle through chemo and radiation, only to see their loved one wither and die so quickly leaves me speechless. Image result for cancer sucks

My friend faithfully posted regular Facebook updates throughout their journey for the purpose of asking for specific prayer needs with each health hurdle. Through it all … every surgery, every medication, every treatment, hair loss, steroidal weight gain then dramatic weight loss, every bucket of vomit, even the last 24 hours when his pain was unmanageable – my friend was strong, positive and at peace. My friend and her husband, who was her best friend and soul mate, both had a strong love for Jesus.

My friend did cancer well. I’m sure in her quiet time she must have railed at God a few times – probably had a breakdown or two. Who wouldn’t in that situation? No one would blame her for falling apart. Yet – her public social media presence was never anything but positive words of affirmation and trust in the Lord. She knows her husband is rejoicing in heaven now – cancer free and whole in mind and body.

I am both humbled and awestruck by her amazing faith, courage and love for her spouse and for God.  What an incredible warrior this woman is.

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How does anyone do cancer so well? How does anyone survive an abusive past, overcome addiction or come through losing everything in a horrendous natural disaster? How does anyone do ANYTHING and maintain peace through it all?

The answer is simple: Jesus. Image result for glorified bodies in heavenYet during difficult trials and challenges – especially the loss of a loved one – so many people choose to run away from God rather than running TO Jesus.

Yesterday was Easter Sunday and I find myself unable to write about (or complain about) anything else in my life today, except my love for the Lord.  Watching my friend’s journey, I don’t want to complain about years of battling depression and anxiety. I don’t want to complain about my dismal bank account or how my life hasn’t gone as planned. I don’t want to complain about my ongoing struggles with food addictions or yo-yo weight losses and gains. Because, realistically … I have nothing to complain about — not even politics, global warming, worldwide hunger or the border crisis.

Easter is a time to reflect and be thankful. I may not have as much as someone else, but I have more than a lot of others. I am blessed to sleep in a warm, comfortable bed every night – and even on those nights when insomnia is relentless, I still have a bed to rest my weary head. I have clean sheets, blankets, air conditioning and ceiling fans when it’s hot and central heat for when it is cold.

I’ve got reliable transportation, food in the pantry and the fridge, hot and cold running water and fresh air to breathe through lungs that are strong and healthy; as is my heart and mind (most of the time). I’ve got family and friends and while we may not always agree on everything – especially politics and the Lordship of Jesus Christ – I know they’re always there for me. Image result for what if you woke up tomorrow with only

If all of these things were to somehow suddenly disappear, I know… that I know … that I know … that I still have the most important thing in life – and that is a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ. I serve a big God who loved me so much, he sent his son to die for me. No matter what I’ve done – whatever horrific thought I’ve ever had, every hurtful action or deed I’ve committed, I know without a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus died for me. I know that Jesus loves me and when I breathe my last breath and my spirit leaves my body, I will get to live with him in heaven for all eternity.

Jesus did death better than anyone ever has, because he beat death by coming back to life and rising from the dead. The grave could not hold him. Image result for He is risen

He is risen. He is Lord. He died for you – no matter who you are or what you’ve done. Jesus loves you.

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NLT) 

My friend’s husband was lucky in the fact that knowing he was going to die – he took advantage of the last months of his life to get his affairs in order. I don’t know for sure, but I would imagine this man did what most people do when faced with their mortality and a specific end date. He had the gift of time to say his good-byes. Time to right right any wrongs. Time to  offer and accept forgiveness. He had time to help his wife set everything in order financially. He died in peace knowing that his family would be taken care of.  He died with the knowledge that this life is not his permanent home. He passed knowing that Jesus was waiting with open arms for him.

Not everyone is given a specific expiration date. A family member just received news that a high school classmate was killed last week while running. He was 25; hit by a car doing something he did every day. Every day of our life is basically a crap shoot. We never know when the death knell will sound for us. We might have the chance to accept Jesus in those final moments … but then again, we might not. Why would anyone want to gamble on something so important?  There are only two choices: HEAVEN or HELL. 

The choice is yours. Which will you choose?

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QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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