Call Me Crazy – Doodle Diver Extraordinaire!

This past year beginning in January, I started reading a daily devotional that was written specifically for people struggling with weight loss issues, trials and challenges. The book is entitled: Diet Nuggets and Wisdom Appetizers, 365 Days of Encouragement for Dieters.

Each daily devotion shares a short story, an encouraging quote and ends with a daily prayer. It’s been very helpful to me this year and very apropos to a lot of the struggles I’ve been dealing with this past year in maintaining my weight loss.

And … oh yeah, I happen to be the author of the book that was published just over six years ago. I don’t say this to brag – but hey, any decent author worth their salt is always looking for opportunities for shameless self-promotion. (Available on Amazon.com) Even though I wrote this book – it was written so many years ago, I’ve forgotten much of what I wrote. I’m a firm believer that you’re never too old for a little refresher course.

Diet Nuggets and Wisdom Appetizers 365 Days of Encouragement for DietersEight months into the book, I’m discovering that not only has my writing matured in the last six years, my weight loss journey has improved since I first wrote and published this book. But then again – I’m also learning that I am far from “cured” and still wrestle with so many of the problems I was struggling with six years ago. I’m slapping myself upside the head wondering how this is even possible!

Last week was a bit of a tough week. I call it an “Off the Rails” sort of week. As “luck” would have it, I read two separate devotions in the aforementioned book that really found me feeling like I was reliving some things from my past. Sort of a dieters déjà vu. The devotions were entitled: When Crazy Calls AND Doodle Diving.

These devotions pertain specifically to the 3 – 4 pounds I’ve been wrestling with the past couple of months. These few measly pounds, that might not seem like much to someone else, has felt like a pretty big deal to me. These problematic pounds seem intent on permanently attaching themselves to my thighs and I’m getting pretty fed up with the situation. I’ve upped my workouts, both cardio and weight training. I’ve been tracking my food intake and trying to cut out as many unnecessary foods as possible. Yet – the harder I try, the more these few pounds want to grab on, like some sort of fleshly silly putty. One day, the 3-4 pounds actually became 5 pounds and that’s when the phone rang. It was crazy calling and like the dope that I am, I was gullible enough to pick up the phone. We had a rather lengthy conversation – Crazy and me.

I went completely off the rails, by railing at God! I yelled. I cried. I complained. And then I lathered, rinsed and repeated all of my railing crazy diet diatribe woes to the creator of the Universe for a tad bit longer. Boy, was it ugly!

After my weight-related wrath was spent, I did what I usually do. I laced up my tennies (or sneakers or athletic shoes – depending on what part of the country you’re from) and I walked until I felt better. A strange calm settled upon me as I listened to Christian music and I felt some of my frustration and toxic woes flushing out through my pores by way of my lady sweat.

Exercise always helps. At least for a while.

As a recovering food-addict (it’s been 72 hours since my last binge) I picked up the crazy phone for an outgoing called and dialed up my old friend and we did the dance we’re familiar with. I’m talking about my old chum, Cheesy Doodle Puffs. And I went all-in, full-on doodle diving.

In the past, whenever I was emotionally compromised or filled with any manner of anxiety or toxic angst, my habit was to throw just about anything food-related at the problem until I found relief. My off the rails, phone call with crazy last week? Apparently, that toxic angst demanded cheesy doodle puffs. I’m embarrassed to admit, I executed a perfect 10-point face dive into a 10-ounce bag.

For those of you unfamiliar with this crunchy, yummy snack treat, the official name is either Cheetos Crunchy or Cheetos Puffs. Last week, I stumbled upon their modern, up-to-date cousin known as Cheesy Puffcorn at my neighborhood market. I SWEAR I didn’t buy them for myself – but for my grandchildren!  Image result for Cheetos and cheetos puffs

In my “expert” opinion, this lighter-than-air pillowy puff really shouldn’t count for too many calories or warrant much space on the junk food pyramid – as they seriously are more air than doodle puff – which makes diving in much less satisfying than a full on Cheetos crunch.

I’m not going to lie – they were pretty delicious.  However, they carry with it, a similar pitfall as all the other Cheetos products. Once you reach your hand into that snack bag – you’ve sentenced yourself to at least one full day of day-glow orange fingers. Cheesy Doodle dust clings to your digits like it’s been applied with spray-on glue. No amount of sand-blasting or industrial solvent will remove the tell-tale shame from prying eyes. Your guilt is visible for the better part of a full day; a constant reminder of your fall from grace.

My momentary debauchery taunted me as if I watched from some sort of out-of-body experience. Did I mention that it was ugly?

As ugly as it was – it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Common sense, guilt or the Holy Spirit reined me in before I fell too far off the wagon. The wagon didn’t completely flatten me this time. I picked myself up; dusted the doodly-puff crumbs from my chest; soaked my day-glow orangey fingers in dish soap and re-evaluated my situation. See the source image

A sane person might ask why I have doodle puffs in the house given my history? Really … I swear … THEY WEREN’T EVEN MY DOODLE PUFFS! But it doesn’t matter one little bit whether the bag of sin was mine or belonged to someone else. The flesh wants, what the flesh wants – so whether it’s doodle puffs hidden in the pantry or granola and brand muffins in plain sight – when the emotions demand to be fed – it’s just a matter of time until you systematically eat your way through foodstuffs from A-Z. Anything not locked down is fair game! The crazy ALWAYS finds a way! Image result for Friends tv show  fried stuff with cheese

So … After shelving the crazy and hiding the doodles, I spent a little time praying, followed by a little internet research on my weight-related conundrum. I came upon an article which accurately described my 3-5-pound struggle. Apparently, the downside of the workout schedule I’ve established for myself has caused me to fall into the category of “over-training and under-fueling.” I literally fit all of the criteria with my physical symptoms including, but not limited to – weight gain.

Even though I know better – in my current I’ve-tried-everything-but-nothing-is-working phase, I’ve been trying to convince myself that if I work  harder and cut way back on my calories – I’ll quickly eliminate those annoying 3 or 4 (or 5) pounds. In reality, my weight has started slowly inching up because I’m just not eating enough. Sadly, those extra cheesy doodle puffcorn calories will not count the way I need them to.

Long story short – when training really hard – YOU MUST EAT TO LOSE! Image result for eat to lose

This goes against everything I believe in and in fact, this all feels like some sort of cosmic cruel joke. I’ve been limiting calories for a couple of months now, so suddenly adding in a couple hundred extra calories (the recommended for my situation) feels completely wrong. Realistically, it’s a bit tough to suddenly consume more calories when you’ve been limiting yourself to a certain amount for an extended period of time.

This entire journey is a bit of continual trial and error. I feel as though I play a lot of caloric Let’s Make a Deal, by constantly substituting foods trying to find just the right mix that will equally satisfy me, fill me up and eliminate hunger – while helping me to whittle away the pounds.

Ahhh … IF ONLY I were wealthy and I could afford a full time trainer, nutritionist and a chef!

I know that 3-5 pounds should not warrant this much attention – but as a previously mentioned recovering food addict, I know first-hand how quickly that 3-5 pounds can morph into 10, 20 or more pounds. And it terrifies me to my very core! Yet again – the enemy swoops in and stations his minions of destruction all about me, filling me with fear; taking my focus off the more important things in life. Once again, the enemy is doing the happy dance because he’s been able to paint me into a corner where all I can dwell upon is me and my stupid weight-related issues. Man, how I hate this! Doodle dust notwithstanding – the devil doesn’t get to win this one! Image result for get thee behind me satan

Today, rather than focusing on these stupid 3-5 pounds, I choose to focus on 3-5 verses of Scripture instead:

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

It’s a new week. Time to hit the reset button and learn from my mistakes. When Crazy calls – DON’T PICK UP THE PHONE …  and above all – NO MORE DOODLE DIVING!

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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Yabbut Season!

When my children were very young, whenever they wanted to do something they knew I wouldn’t approve of, they resorted to a time-rendered classic of whining and complaining.  These arguments were prefaced with a familiar refrain in our household, labeled the “Yeah, but … defense.” They voiced these whiny protests so frequently, in fact, the words became a mash-up synonymous to our family that sounds something like this:

Me: No, I’m sorry you cannot get a baby guinea pig.

Offspring:  “Yabbut, all of my friends are getting one!”

Being the word junkie that I am, each grumbled “yabbut” was followed by my quick-thinking response of Yabbut?  What’s a yabbut?Image result for word nerds

These arguments were a regular, practically daily occurrence in our household. Being a mom who was always looking for teachable moments, I set about trying to teach my offspring the joys of a creative imagination.  They were young enough at the time that they totally bought my concocted far-fetched, but somewhat believable definition and description of a Yabbut.  And so, the Yabbut legend was born, becoming the subject of much family folklore that has since been passed on to the next generation with my children’s children.  It’s our Yabbut family legacy.  (Remind me sometime, to tell your about a few of our other legacies  … such as “buhcorn, Fushaling and Anchatilla bugs!”)

**I’m curious … Does your family have any favorite word mash-ups or folklore that are specific to YOUR family? I would love to hear them!

Anyway … By my account, a Yabbut is a small burrowing rodent that is largely nocturnal and indigenous to the southwest desert region. They live predominantly underground in extensive tunnels. The only part of a Yabbut you can see during the daytime is their protruding, brightly colored hair. The springy hair belongs to the Yabbut scout who positions himself near the entrance of their hidden tunnels to signal other nearby Yabbut colonies. You know – in case they want to have a play date or other Yabbut get-together.Image result for minions with spiky hair  At night when the humans sleep, all of the Yabbuts escape their secretive confines to run free and frolic unencumbered from their chamber restrictions.

At any given time, you can drive down a Phoenix suburban street and find evidence of a large Yabbut population based on the numerous multi-colored Yabbut hair sightings popping up in various locations. Large groups typically congregate near power poles. Differing Yabbut tribes are identified by their specific and unique hair colors. At least, this is the story I used to tell my children.Image result for spiky haired animals

In truth, the “hair” that sticks up from the ground are really multi-colored, exposed electrical wires that are used to mark water, gas or power lines on the side of the streets. So, it’s possible Yabbuts are not solely indigenous to my area – but likely a nationwide mammal with both urban and suburban habitats.

The only reason I share the Yabbut story is because recently I ran into an old friend I haven’t seen since I began my weight loss journey a couple of years ago.  The first words out of her mouth were, “Oh my gosh, you’ve lost a ton of weight!” 

Her phrase contained another word mash-up I’ve always coined as, Atunov.” Similar to the evolution of the word Yabbut” the words a-ton-ofcome off as some sort of back-handed compliment and are always spoken in rapid haste with much incredulity. Like it’s earth-shattering news, not to be believed that YOU have lost weight!

And while yes, losing a significant amount of weight is life-changing, I’ve somehow always received this particular “compliment” with much chagrin. First of all, for people who know me well, is it really that hard to believe that I could actually take weight off? Image result for Phoebe from friends, that is brand new information!

And second of all, I appear to have lost a TON of weight. Really??!! For someone to declare that I’ve lost A TON OF weight implies that I must have weighed a ton to begin with.  Wow! I must have been HUGE!  Image result for one ton

A ton is equal to about 2000 pounds. I did a quick Google search to learn what types of objects or animals were equal in weight to what I supposedly lost in body weight.

A small car weighs around one ton, as do a fully-grown brown bear and a polar bear. A southern elephant seal, a blue whale, a hippopotamus, a rhinoceros and an African elephant apparently all top the scale at roughly one ton. Hmm, the same as what I supposedly weighed at one time. Image result for animals that weigh a ton

I admit that there have been times in my life when I’ve been in the throes of depression and have literally felt as though I weighed a ton – especially when my weight was at an all-time high. (Oy – specifically that first pregnancy!) What is more likely though, is that the weight of depression pressed me down so fiercely, my emotions actually seemed to carry physical weight; pushing me down into an abyss of self-loathing. Image result for Dark thoughts about self loathing

Occasionally, I still have those days, in spite of what my digital scale readout displays. The weight of the darkness of tangled emotions continually lie in wait, looking for an opportunity to drag me back into the black hole of self-hate.

I realize my friend and other complimentary friends may sincerely want to make me feel great about my accomplishments by offering what they think will be an encouraging word. However, because of my history and my past struggles, compliments – no matter how they are presented or disguised, will likely always be difficult for my overly-sensitive psyche to process and/or accept.

Naturally, I don’t choose to behave this way. But I’m not going to lie; there are times I like having my ego stroked as much as the next guy – even if it makes me slightly uncomfortable. I am learning though (very, very slowly) that with the shedding of excess weight – I need to learn to shed these self-destructive mindsets that have held me prisoner for most of my life. See the source imageIf you look closely enough, you may start to notice that the roadways are very well littered with Atunov Yabbuts hiding in plain sight. People like myself who suffer from all manner of emotional dysfunction relating to depression or other types of mental illness are hiding all around us as well – oftentimes in plain sight. We get so caught up in our own depression or anxiety drama, we fail to notice those people around us who carry the same types of emotional burdens. We never know the pain people have buried inside of them.

My subconscious is littered with negative self-talk that I’ve amassed over an entire lifetime. It’s time to concentrate on losing the negative self-talk and shed my emotional burdens the same way I shed 55 pounds. One day at a time; one agonizing pound (or negative mindset) at a time – always keeping my eye on the prize and The One who has made it all possible. For without Him I can DO nothing on my own. The Lord gets all the praise and the credit.

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It’s been a lot of hard work every single day. Some days, I’m tempted to bandy about my own Yabbut excuses and quit altogether …

Yabbut, it’s too hard!

Yabbut, it takes too much time!

Yabbut, I’m sick and tired of doing this whole thing day after day!

Yabbut … what will happen to me if I quit now?

YABBUT, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

Are YOU carrying around excuses for why you can’t do “that thing” that you’ve been wanting to do for a long while now? Yabbut … when it comes right down to it … they are just excuses! Don’t be a YABBUT!

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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Next Stop: GUILTY PLEASURES

No one EVER means for it to happen. At least that’s the excuse most people give when they’ve been caught.

“It’s not what it looks like.”
“I don’t know how it happened.”
“I didn’t mean for this to happen.”
“I promise – it won’t happen again!”

What it all comes down to is:

It IS exactly what it looks like!
You DO know HOW it happened!
AND
You absolutely KNOW it WILL happen again!

How could you not know? Unless of course you woke up this morning after wrestling with the Stupid Fairy all night, who force-fed you a super supply of stupid. As in stupid thinking and stupid behavior. Image result for Stupid Funny

Being who you are, you’re not fooling anybody. Your fall from grace totally WILL happen again. And again. And again. And again, until you get the help you need.

Matthew 5:28 in the New Testament says it better than I can:

Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt. (The Message Bible)

Based on this Scripture, I admit it … I am 100% guilty as charged!

But wait. Before you brandish me a rotten cheater and force me to tattoo a large letter “A” on my chest – you should at least hear my side of the story. Image result for the scarlett letter

It started innocently enough. Okay, maybe not so innocent. I knew once I turned the channel, I wanted to do more than just watch. My imagination fully engaged and I gave myself over to the lusts of my flesh. All of my five senses ignited. The sights. The sounds. I could practically smell everything my eyes desired. And I wanted it. I wanted it bad. And I wanted it all. The desire was all-consuming. So much so – that I couldn’t stop myself from stealing away in the darkness and tuning in a second time on the following night. All of my unrequited passion burned hotter than ever the second night.

I was completely compromised and wanted to dive in and partake. I wanted to do more than watch. I was wholly corrupted by my yearnings and it wouldn’t be long before my secrets were exposed. I’d been seduced with my eyes first. My mind followed suit. Image result for images for Friends Phoebe, "Oh my eyes!"

Like an episode of the Twilight Zone, I plotted in my mind how I could transport myself physically into the 4-K, UHD pixelated dimension and become a part of the debauchery my eyes, my flesh and my mind craved.

Once your imagination commits and hops on board it’s a quick ride on the Humiliation Express. First stop: Shamesville Station followed by a long layover at the Guiltland Gardens. Both places I’m so familiar with, I’ve picked out furniture and have a vested interest in a Time-Share. Image result for images for guilt and shame

I wouldn’t be able to hide my desire for long. Soon everyone would recognize my all-too-familiar shame and smell the stench of my guilt. There would be no hiding the fact that I am a dirty, filthy sinner.

Are you still with me?

It REALLY ISN’T what you’re probably thinking …

Last week was “Sweets Week” on my favorite prime time television show: Masterchef. Cake night aired last Wednesday evening, followed by Macarons on Thursday night – and I’ve never been more tempted to fall off the Weight Watcher wagon than I was this past week!

I don’t know why I torture myself so. Why do I subject my five senses to such tempting food porn, when I know for a fact that sweets – specifically, cakes and cookies are my Achilles Heel. Sugar is my kryptonite. I am weak in the knees just thinking about it – which I do a lot. I lust after sugary treats nearly every single day – sometimes for hours on end.

Even though I’ve not physically given into these temptations – my brain has me convinced I’m every bit as guilty simply by my continual thought processes. My body is influenced by my thoughts to the point that I can literally feel myself gaining weight. While my clothes still fit me the same, my head has persuaded me to avoid the scale altogether because I’ve certainly gained a few pounds from all of these lustful thoughts.

So here I am – caught between a rock (my brain) and a hard place (the bathroom scale) too terrified to even weigh myself. Why do I give so much power to my thoughts?  With this being the first full week of a brand-new month, I know that I have to face the firing squad this week – and by that, I mean I have to physically attend a Weight Watchers meeting for my monthly Lifetime member weigh-in. And I’m terrified. Why do I let the numbers on the bathroom scale fill me with such dread? Image result for images for a rock and a hard place

It’s not just because I’ve had lustful thoughts over television baking shows. In order to appease my physical hunger (which seems to never abate), I’m stuffing my face with fresh fruit. Because, hey – fruit is a zero-point Weight Watchers food! Trust me though – a person must deal with considerable scale-related backlash after snorfing down a pound of grapes in one sitting or a large bowl of fresh cherries, strawberries and watermelon!

The addict in me demands attention – so I revert back to old, bad habits. Rather than eating my weight in Oreos as was my practice – I’ve switched it up and now substitute fresh fruit and Fiber One Brownies and Lemon Cakes. The natural and processed sugars satisfy temporarily, but the anxiety in me demands release – which forces me to employ my other “go-to addiction:” EXERCISE. In the last four days, I’ve walked 30 miles on my treadmill. (I see a new pair of athletic shoes in the very near future!)

The sad thing is – I know all of these addictive behaviors are being triggered and fed by none other than my arch nemesis – Satan, himself, yet I feel powerless to stop this cycle. I can’t seem to step off the proverbial hamster wheel. The treadmill of insanity does not seem to have an “OFF” switch!

Image result for images for the definition of insanityI’m unable to hide from the hail of gunfire the enemy is blasting at me from very close range. No, not actual bullets, mind you, but the lies the enemy continually fires at my mind, shooting holes in my sound, rational thinking.

STOP! I’d like to disembark please!

I need a refresher course in the 12-Step food addiction program I attended many years ago. The first three steps are as follows:

  1. I admit that I am powerless over my food addiction and compulsive behaviors and my life has become unmanageable. CHECK! CHECK! AND DOUBLE-CHECK!
  2. I believe that a power greater than me can restore me to sanity. CHECK!
  3. Make a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God. CHECK!

New month. New week. New day. New attitude. No more faking it until I make it!

CHECKMATE, Devil!

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QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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Anchors A-WEIGH!

Up until yesterday, I was struggling with what to post for this week as it’s been a fairly uneventful week with nothing much happening. (Which is not necessarily a bad thing!) But God, being who He is – somehow always manages to drop little metaphorical nuggets into my brain that simply must be expelled in written form.

I was blessed and excited to be invited to go boating again this past weekend. In spite of the desert heat, it was a glorious day. With a very early launch time, there were just two of us willing to sacrifice a Saturday morning sleep-in. My friend who owns the boat is an experienced captain so luckily my non-existent first-mate skills were never tested. I was basically a useless lump with regards to any and all nautical requirements. Image result for Lake Pleasant Boat Rentals

With the mercury rising to what is considered a normal temperature for a Phoenix summer, we anchored the boat in a beautiful, secluded cove and spent several hours bobbing about on rafts like harbor buoys until all of our digits were sufficiently pruney. We basked in the blissful beauty of nature while being entertained Nat-Geo style by a band of wild burros engaged in full-on randy mating rituals.

The loud, intermittent cacophony of braying alpha-male burros, blended seamlessly with the sounds of jumbo lake trout breaking the surface of the water in pursuit of whatever it is trout pursue. Conversation flowed effortlessly as we pierced the bubble of casual friendship, diving deeper into more serious life issues. As my friend is currently navigating the open of waters of a recent divorce, much of our conversation was spent delving into the trials and nuances of transitioning to an unfamiliar lifestyle not of her choosing. Image result for life's not fair

Having a fair amount of life experience on the subject matter, I found myself sharing some of my own trials and deeply personal struggles of a divorce many decades past. My intent was to encourage my friend, offering hope that life after divorce can sometimes be an unexpected blessing – especially if you are open to letting God push you through new doors that were previously unavailable to you.

Rich conversation and water temperatures that fell into that perfect range of neither too warm nor too cold, combined to create a wonderfully relaxing and therapeutic boating adventure. Time passed far too quickly. After a brief lunch, my captain – my friend, set about preparing the boat for departure. With the sun at its Zenith, the quiet cove, was rapidly filling with wild party animals seeking weekend, raucous fun. The cove, named Humbug Cove has a reputation as being the most popular party spot on the entire lake, which was more than enough reason for us to hoist the anchor and be on our way. Anchor’s away – or so they say!

That’s when our relaxing, problem-free day hit a snag. A big one. The anchor refused to budge from its resting place, some 60 feet below us. Oh captain – my captain, tried every trick in the “what-to-do-in-tough-situations” maritime manual – all to no avail. She attempted several reverse and slow forward maneuvers with the horsepower at her disposal, followed by physically pulling and tugging with all of her might. (I did my part by standing there being utterly useless.) The anchor held fast refusing to release its death grip on our tether. After 30 minutes of tenacious effort, the only option appeared to be to cut the line.

Rifling through her emergency kit for scissors, she sighed, “It’s the only way.” Image result for pirates of the carribean drop anchor

She confessed it wasn’t the first time she’d lost an anchor and likely wouldn’t be the last as this particular lake is littered with many an anchor falling victim to the rocky bottom.

Later that day once I was home, I found myself wandering into unpleasant, yet all too familiar territory. I was suddenly ravenously hungry and too impatient to take the time to cook a proper meal. On one hand, I argued that hours spent frolicking in the water and climbing in and out of the boat could possibly have given rise to an unusual hunger. On the other hand, I wrestled with the notion that surely I deserved a proper pig-out after enduring hours in the 110 degree heat!

No matter the line of reasoning – I was besieged upon by an unknown force that demanded sustenance – yet nothing I ate satisfied. I wouldn’t say I fell prey to an all-out bingeing breakdown – but the sudden carbo-load from the secret stash of “grand baby goodies,” dulled my senses just long enough to release the beast in me.

Somewhere between the mouthful of cinnamon goldfish crackers and a fistful of cashews, my eyes rolled back in my head in sheer disgust at my own lack of self-control. I quickly put the kibosh on my meltdown and made a hasty retreat as far from the kitchen as possible.

I headed for the shower to wash the lake out of my hair and the self-loathing out of my spirit.  Upon further examination, I came face-to-face with the knowledge that I wasn’t stuffing food in my face because of actual hunger, but I was attempting to feed those emotions disguised as primal urges unleashed earlier in the day during my two-hour soul purge, gab-fest session.

Many of the things my friend has dealt with regarding her divorce mirrored my own long-buried past. Infidelity, lies, secrets, verbal abuse, public and private humiliation and rejection all rallied around reminding me once again about the unfairness of life. It felt as if I’d jumped back on a horse I thought was dead, only to discover a second wind propelled the horse around the track for one last race.

So many feelings and emotions threatened to push me straight back into old habits. The overwhelming urge to stuff my emotions with junk food is a practiced pattern the enemy has always used. Starve a cold … feed a fever … bury your pain under a buttload of food.

Once an addict …

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Right there, smack dab in the middle of coming to grips with the realization that in spite of my recent weight loss, I am still far from “cured” from all manner of emotional eating, I had a come-to-Jesus-moment. God dropped a picture of that boat anchor into my head. I felt as if the Lord was telling me … “it’s time to cut the anchor. It’s the only way.”

A difficult childhood, child molestation, parental rejection, troubled first marriage with an unfaithful spouse. All of the shame that defined me for the first half of my life from situations that were not of my choosing, all of which were completely unfair … those are all nothing more than heavy emotional baggage weighing me down and tethering me to a past that no longer has any control over my present-day life. Image result for weighed down with emotional baggage

The solution is simple. Cut the anchor. Let the past go. The enemy cannot control this part of me if I don’t let him. I’m holding the scissors that can set me free. I’ve made my peace with the past. I’ve forgiven those that hurt me and have let the pain of my past become my testimony that now defines me as a survivor.

Feeding the devil’s lies with food only serves to anchor me down with shame, regret, dread and guilt.

Been there. Done that. Not going back for another round.

As I compose this post, the words of the Hillsong United Song* roll around in my head encouraging me:

Whenever I say Your Name, Let the devil know not today 

(Words and music by Joel Houston and Matt Crocker)

Sorry devil – not today! You don’t get to win this one!

Cut the anchor … CHECK!

Moving forward … CHECK!

Getting rid of all the dangerous pantry snacks … CHECK, CHECK and CHECK!

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What about YOU? Are you still tethered to past hurts and failures that are weighing you down. Perhaps it’s time to consider cutting the anchor loose …

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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Hungry, Hungry Hippos (Lumps and All)

A couple of days ago, I got suckered into watching a Facebook infomercial that was billed as a “short-video” for the latest, greatest fat-burning supplement. The operative word here being “suckered,” as the video ended up being 45 minutes long. Talk about false advertising! It literally was the longest short video I’ve ever seen! Not only was I SUCKERED in by the subject matter, but the handsome, tank-topped beefcake drew me in like a Plecostomus in an overrun algae pond. In my defense though, I multi-tasked by working out as I listened to the “short, informative presentation.” Image result for images for false advertising

The “short video” touched on all the right words designed to pique viewer interest. The video reeled in their targeted demographic by offering promise and hope to the hopeless and miserably overweight souls who have “tried everything, without results.”  At one point, the “hunka-doodle-do guy” waxed poetic about how our fat cells have been taught to talk to each other – telling one another to “Store this fat! Under no circumstances do you want to burn up and turn this fat into fuel!”  I actually laughed out loud at this, because I’m pretty sure all my fat cells have ever said to each other is: how you doin’?

Image result for Joey Tribbiani how you doinTo keep viewers interested, words like “double-blind studies versus placebos” were thrown out there along with “doctors and experts from Harvard and Johns Hopkins.” When he started talking about our “TP-DVD-1 cells” or some such initials representing “specific biological, physiological neurotransmitters designed to burn fat,” I think my eyes started to glaze over just a bit. I should have turned the video off at that point and gone straight to the comment section – but I must be a little bit of a glutton for punishment, because I watched till the bitter end just so I could see how much this miracle supplement cost.

Honestly, I kept watching, waiting for the pot of gold at the end of the weight loss rainbow. Hey – you never know. It could happen! I really didn’t want to miss out – just in case he said something revolutionary and as of yet, completely unheard of in the dieting world. But he didn’t. He didn’t even pass “GO” but went immediately to the hook which was irrevocably set with the words: :MUST ACT NOW as supplies are limited! … yaddah, yaddah, yaddah – blah, blah, blah … Been there. Done that. Heard it ALL before or something similar, a million times over. It all boiled down to  just another ploy to separate a fool and his (her) money and I’m sorry to say, I wasted my time – hunky beefcake and all. Color me stupid and stamp me “SUCKER!”Image result for Must act now!

I’m ashamed to admit, that IN THE PAST, I’ve been known to throw money at these “too-good-to-be-true” weight loss miracle products. In fact, way back when – one of my “spiritual gifts” was gullibility with regards to all things weight-loss related. Although, I prefer to label this substantial gift as “hopeful optimism.” My checking account can bear witness to my hopefully optimistic spiritual gift. Over the course of many decades, I’ve likely spent thousands of dollars chasing the dream of eliminating excess body fat and cellulite in the pursuit of achieving the end all – be all … perfect weight; buns of steel, six-pack abs, toned arms and thin thighs.

I’ve “invested” money in salves, creams, scrubs, pills, regimens and programs. I’ve worn out and/or burned up three stair-steppers, two elliptical machines, four stationary bicycles, one hip and thigh machine, numerous resistant bands, exercise balls, bells, ropes, slides, free weights, ankle weights and waist cinching sweat inducing wraps AND … a partridge in a pear tree. I won’t even mention the many pairs of athletic shoes and socks I’ve worn through or the incalculable miles I’ve walked on the many treadmills I’ve owned. I’m currently burning through treadmill number five.

Yes, I have lost a significant amount of weight in the last 18 months BUT I still don’t have buns of steel or rock-hard, six-pack abs. My love handles remain quite loveable. My saddle bag thighs are substantial enough to warrant a full-body pat down from TSA agents for fear I’m smuggling endangered hedgehogs. My reasonably toned arms have enough excess skin hanging underneath, it’s a wonder I haven’t slapped myself silly at weekend church services while enjoying praise and worship with uplifted arms. My back-fat overhang at times oozes above my bra strap like homemade salt dough mashed through a Playdoh Fun Factory. My overall fluffiness clings to me like an only child on the first day of kindergarten. I may be at my “perfect weight” but my body still remains perfectly “imperfect.”

I’ve bought into all the hype of “easy weight loss, fat-burning” products throughout my long, illustrious weight loss/dieting career. I’ve seriously tried every at-home, do-it-yourself fat-eraser exfoliant – with nary a thought to how ridiculous many of the concoctions were. There was a time, if you would have told me that you could make a sure-fire cellulite erasing paste by mixing coffee grounds from Amazonian jungle beans with lizard tails, eye of newt, bat wings and the ground up remains of the left testicle of a Rhodesian Ridgeback born and bred in equatorial Africa – I probably would have moved heaven and earth to acquire said ingredients. Image result for mixing witches brew

Yes, I was that gullible. Or – more accurately – that desperate and hungry to have what I considered “a normal body.” I hungered for shapely hips, a tiny waistline and bosoms that rode high on my chest where they once resided in my early 20s BC (before children). I hungered for the kind of smoking hot body that graced international magazine covers – or at the very least – I wanted to be “the hot girl” if even for a scant moment in time. I’m reasonably certain I would have hated any and all attention reaped from this smoking hotness, but a girl has to dare to dream the impossible. But, then again – I thought I’d be an award winning author by the time I reached my 30th birthday, walking the “books-to-movies” fast track, so what did I know?

Seriously – I don’t think I really wanted “the perfect, smoking hot body,” as much as I simply wanted to look “normal.” My inherited thick thighs and lifetime supply of cellulite drove me with an insatiable hunger for the impossible and unattainable “normal looking, smooth-skinned legs.” These legs of mine have been the subject of much ridicule and all manner of teasing from loved ones and strangers alike. The constant mockery  pushed me to chase after that which could not be caught. The lies I’d been spoon-fed my whole life by a society and people whom I thought loved me, always focused on the externals rather than my character and my heart. See the source image

It’s taken me a lifetime to recognize that my desperate attempts to achieve what I perceived as a “normal” body, were merely a side-effect of childhood depression, borne out of parental rejection (mostly my biological father) and childhood sexual molestation at the hands of my step-father.

For decades, my prison walls were constructed of fear, anxiety, depression, isolation, low self-esteem and silent suffering. The scars – while not physically visible, ran deep and wide. Self-hatred and self-loathing held me hostage like weaponized, emotional terrorists for longer than I care to admit.

Today – I am so much better, but if I’m being honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever be completely out of the woods with my mental health. Around every corner is a potential trigger (or a minion of Satan) lying in wait, biding their time hoping to bring me to my knees when I am the most vulnerable or hormonally compromised. My soul hungers for healing, but my emotions occasionally stage a hostile takeover. Image result for emotional triggers

Having lived a life controlled by food addictions mandated as a way to stuff down emotional trauma – is it any wonder my emotions and my very being hunger so desperately now?

Yesterday, I listened to a devotional by Pastor Rick Warren, entitled “Why You Need To Stay Hungry.”  Pastor Rick shared the story of a man who confessed that he didn’t really hunger after God, and wasn’t even sure he wanted to. The man admitted, he thought his real problem was that he probably just didn’t love Jesus enough. Pastor Rick told him, loving Jesus wasn’t the real problem. The REAL problem was that this guy didn’t have a clue about how much God truly loved him. If he knew how much God loved HIM, he couldn’t help but love Jesus more. You want to hang around people who love you.

Pastor Rick asked the question: “What is it that you hunger for most?” He offered many choices such as, career, money, position, success, relationships, pleasure. He said that if we aren’t hungering after God then we’ve got our eyes on the wrong things. Only Jesus can satisfy the longing of our soul. Only God can ease our spiritual and emotional hunger. Image result for blaise pascal quotesWatching that weight loss video a couple of days ago reminded me that for years the ONLY thing I ever hungered for was achieving the perfect weight. If only I could lose enough weight, I would finally be happy. Having been at my “perfect weight” many times over, I’ve learned that the number on the scale has NOTHING to do with personal happiness, satisfaction or contentment. I’m still not 100% content or satisfied with my body, but the progress I’ve made is obvious. If it were not so – I would have ordered up a six-month supply of “BURN,” in a hot minute. I’m no longer chasing empty promises or hungering for the world’s idea of perfection.

This imperfect body is me. I’m slowly learning to love myself – lumps and all. Rather than applying a topical salve on my childhood scars – I’m exposing them to the air so they can heal with a touch from God’s bright light. I’m no longer stuffing my pain with junk food and empty calories. I’m giving myself over to the hunger of my soul and doing my best to feed on God’s Word until I am consumed with the love of Jesus.

God—you’re my God!
    I can’t get enough of you!
I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God,
    traveling across dry and weary deserts.  Psalm 63:1 (The Message Bible)

I’m not all the way there yet – but the closer I get, the more insatiable my hunger for God’s love becomes.

How about YOU? What are you most hungry for?

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QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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Big Head, Big Head, BIG HEAD!

The television show Friends that ran for 10 seasons on NBC, is unarguably (in my opinion) one of the funniest TV shows of all time.  Top three at the very least.

Image result for Images for Friends showMy family watched every episode during its 10-year run and thanks to the wonder that is cable syndication, we continue to watch it nightly. Being the super fan that I am, I can quote nearly all the lines spoken by any of the six main characters at any given time. I also believe there is always an apropos Friends line suitable for many of life’s trials and situations. I frequently borrow Friends quotes throughout my week – because no one says it better than Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe or Joey. Image result for Images for Friends show

This week has been no different as far as Friends applications go. All week long I’ve been hearing Chandler Bing’s voice in my head saying “big head, big head, big head!” Chandler repeats these words over and over in his mind while he’s on a date with a woman from his office. He avoided asking her out for some time because he had a propensity to find something wrong with every woman he’d ever dated. He was turned off by the office co-worker because he felt her head was unusually large for the rest of her body. (Season 4, Episode 4) Image result for Images for Chandler Bing big head, big head, big head

An overly large head could be unattractive or problematic – but what is far worse in life is getting a “big head” when you lack humility and give in to pride. Life these days seems to be geared towards making yourself happy … you deserve the best, treat yourself, you’ve got to take care of yourself first, you’re number one … blah, blah, blah. It’s relatively easy to fall into that whole, “I am better than you way of thinking.” It’s easy to think “I am more important because I have this job, this degree, that talent; I’m prettier, thinner and have more money,” etc., etc., etc. You see the problem? Big head! Big head! Big head!

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Whenever I find myself doing anything for God to further his kingdom, I like to pray that God would help me to remain humble and not get a “big head.”  I’ve actually given God permission to bring me back down to earth if I ever feel myself becoming over-inflated with self-importance.

After each of my books were released, I enjoyed a modicum of success and was asked to participate in a number of book signings and a few public speaking engagements. With each success, my prayer was, “Lord, keep me grounded in YOU. Keep me humble! Don’t ever let me bring shame to the name of God.” I know that apart from him, I can do nothing (John 15:4-6); but with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26.) I never wanted my books to be about me or look how great I am!

Letting our flesh become too puffed up with pride over our accomplishments is a dangerous path to walk. I’ve crashed and burned a number of times throughout my life – because hey … I’m human. Each failure was worse than the previous. Every helping of humble pie I’ve been forced to choke down, a constant reminder that I am nothing without God. Image result for humble pie

It can be very easy to want to take the credit for our successes rather than giving God the glory. God can quickly reduce us to nothing and take back everything he’s ever given us, if we dare to let our head get too big.

Lately I’ve started to worry that I’ve somehow gotten a big head with regards to my weight loss journey. I’m wondering – have I stepped over the line and started taking the credit for my 55-pound weight loss? Have I stopped giving God all the credit?

The reason for my concern is, in the last couple of months I’ve seen my weight fluctuate up and down by 3-5 pounds. The last two weeks, has been more up, than down. It’s not a lot of weight, but my flesh is really wrestling with these stupid few pounds.

Yes, it might seem silly that I’m stressing out over a few pounds – but I’m smart enough to know (and I’ve been here before), that 5 pounds can turn into 20 or 30 in the blink of an eye. These few pounds have the potential to bring me to my knees. These few pounds can bring on a bout of depression and severe self-loathing. These few pounds could literally make me hate and despise myself … if I LET THEM – which is why I’m analyzing everything!  Image result for images for self-hatred

I feel like most of the time, I give all the glory to God for my miraculous weight loss. Whenever anyone asks me “HOW” I lost so much weight, my story usually begins with, “well, God got my attention through the worst bout of depression I’ve ever had in my life.”

I’ve struggled with depression most of my life. I’ve been a yo-yo dieter – losing and gaining the same weight – most of my adult life, as well. Looking back on the 10 months of weight loss and the 18 months of maintenance, the only difference THIS TIME is I’ve relied solely on God. I’m convinced he somehow supernaturally intervened and forced my body to start losing weight – because I have literally done nothing else different from all of my previous weight loss journeys. God somehow, made this last weight loss … easy.

Knowing this – I’d have to be the world’s biggest idiot to take credit for something I KNOW God has orchestrated.

Well guess what – I’m the world’s biggest idiot! Not because I’ve been taking all the credit for my weight loss – but for something else I didn’t even realize I was doing. I’ve been very judgmental of others who are trying to lose weight. Worse still – I’ve been extremely judgmental of others who aren’t trying at all. Not openly verbal, mind you – but definitely within the six inches of grey matter between my ears.

You know how “we” are. You’re out somewhere and you see some random stranger walk past who is overly fluffy or profoundly jiggly and think, “Ewww … they should NOT be wearing those shorts with legs like that!”

Maybe you see an old friend or relative you haven’t seen in months (or a couple of years) and your first thought is, “boy, has she ever let herself go!”

Wait … no? So, it’s just ME then?

Guilty as charged!

Yep – there it is … judgment! At the core of each of these judgments – is the root of PRIDE. I am a prime example of someone who has fallen head first into the Pride Pool. I’ve apparently become so water-logged with my superior attitude because of my weight loss success … that I’m amazed I can even hold up my own big head, big head, big head! Image result for images for pride, 7 deadly sins

For someone like me who grew up with zero self-esteem and always worrying about other people’s opinions – you would think, I of all people, would know better!

The thing is – I DO know better, but apparently my big head has been so puffed up that I’ve somehow managed to suffocate any and all common sense and I’ve completely choked out a lifetime supply of sweet Christian morals. I KNOW better than to speak or think negatively about anyone, yet that hasn’t stopped me.

Part of the problem is when we chew on those disparaging remarks in our big head, we think it’s okay because we’re speaking those thoughts in our mind. No one else can hear us. If we don’t share those thoughts with someone else – those destructive words can’t actually hurt anyone.

Here’s where the “stupid” comes in though. God absolutely does hear all of our thoughts – stupid or otherwise. We’re not fooling him for one second.

I’m actually glad the 3-5 pound wrestling match brought my judgmental behavior to light. Now that I know I’ve been operating in sin and walking in pride; I can take the next step and ask God’s forgiveness and repent of my superior attitude.

Image result for 1 John 1:9Some days … it’s two steps forward and 3-5 steps backwards … because hey, that too, is life.  I’m praying this enlightenment is enough to deflate my big head, big head, big head. I’m checking my ego at the door in the hope I can diffuse the situation before the 3-5 pounds gets the better of me and plunges me past the point of no return.  The rabbit hole is forever beckoning.

What about YOU? Do you struggle with pride disguised as something else? Is it time for an ego inventory?

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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Gene Pool Belly Flops

Last week I watched a time-lapsed video of a new dad who decided to get in shape after the birth of his first child. He appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s, but was already sporting quite the fluffy “dad-bod.” The time-lapse video covered his six-month journey in a matter of minutes. It was quite impressive, to say the least.

I’m not going to lie – after watching the video I was about 90% jealous of this young man’s amazing transformation. That green-eyed monster reared its ugly head when I saw how much weight he dropped and how much muscle definition this guy achieved in such a short amount of time. Image result for jealousy green eyed monsterUnarguably, one of the most unfair facts of life is, when it comes to weight loss and the battle of the sexes, we girls got a raw deal. It’s a proven fact that men lose weight far easier than women, for more reasons than I care to go into here in this post. But there is no denying … come on, ladies – say it with me … IT’S JUST NOT FAIR!

My “go-to” excuse comes down to that whole DNA gene pool thing. I blame my ancestors. I am half Sicilian on my mother’s side and we are a family of round, fluffy, squishy people. Most of the woman in my family have hour-glass figures much like myself, but we all are prone to carry too much sand in the bottom half of our bottom halves. It makes buying pants, shorts or skirts an exercise in patience.Image result for cartoon hourglass figures

The long and the short of it is – I clearly swam in the wrong gene pool. My ancestors must have spring-boarded from the DNA high dive with their tree-trunk thunder thighs shaped like Redwood stumps and belly flopped into a cesspool of cottage cheesy cellulite-y sludge. I’m guessing after belly flopping; they paddled over to the swim-up bar and threw back some black sludgy cocktails filled with all manner of genetic depression markers that sluiced forth from an anxiety filled black hole tributary that clung to them like fat leeches with a score to settle.Image result for belly flops off the high dive gifs

The end result produced many generations of depressed, anxiety-ridden, jiggly people, most of which have a high body fat count originating from under-working thyroids and metabolisms that move slower than the sludge from the gene pool from whence they came. I quite imagine that if I traced my family ancestry back far enough, our family crest would likely bear the image of thick thighs and pudgy cankles covered with layers of fat and unattractive cellulite.

Many of my female relatives have been able to lose weight and shrink their hour-glasses, much the way I did – but the basic framework remains the same. My mother weighed about 105 pounds when she died – but she was all kinds of jiggly and still had chunky, cellulite ridden thighs and puffy cankles. Praise the good Lord and all that is holy, that I at least, inherited something from my father and I managed to dodge the cankles bullet. I have very shapely, thin ankles – thank you very much.

I’ve exercised and worked out most of my life. I started in high school with tennis, swimming and biking. Once I became an adult, most of my exercise has been in a gym – either in home or a local franchise fitness center. Since I began what I hope will be my last weight loss journey 27 months ago, I’ve exercised roughly 810 days of the last 820 days – give or take. Image result for exercise junkie

I don’t say this to brag. Because of recurring depression and anxiety, I’m one of those people that needs to exercise for my mental health as well as my physical well-being. Physical exertion has made a significant difference with my weight and my overall health especially with all things related to said depression. I’m fortunate that I have the necessary workout equipment in my home, so I don’t have many excuses for not working out. I make exercise a priority and schedule my day around exercise, which means some days I have to get up super early if I hope to squeeze exercise into a packed daily schedule. I basically decided to make losing weight and exercise my part-time job. I only wish it paid better!

So, you would think that after punishing my body with rigorous physical activity for the last 810 days, I would have the body of an Olympic Tri-Athlete. But NOOOOO. I may weigh less now and I may have achieved a modicum of success with some muscle definition on my top half, but I’m still jiggly, squishy and cottage cheesy in all of the wrong places. My body – my basic genetic DNA makeup – simply won’t allow me to reshape my oddly proportioned figure.

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Even though I lost 55 pounds, my overall body fat percentage remains high at just above 30%. That’s down from about 42% – which is great, but no matter how many changes I make or how much I exercise my body – I cannot shed that protective layer of body fat and unsightly cellulite that clings to my lower body. I’m convinced marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese flows freely through my half-Sicilian veins and my chromosomes are probably shaped like penne pasta. What other explanation can there possibly be for the high body fat ratio? Image result for penne pasta

EVERY morning after EVERY workout, I strip down and close my eyes. I stand exposed in my saggy, dimpled birthday suit in front of the bathroom mirror (which is not as kind as the magic mirror in my workout room). It is there that I hope and I pray and I wish upon a lucky star that someway, somehow – the four-mile walk, the four sets of squats with hand weights AND the smorgasbord of lower-body weight exercises, all came together in a perfect marriage to miraculously whittle away my CRTs (charging rhino thighs) and erase every dimpled pocket of cellulite. But alas, EVERY outcome is the same and it sounds a little like this:

ME: Mirror, mirror on the wall – erase my fat, once and for all!

But, when I dare to open my eyes, this is also me:

ME: Oh my gosh – how can YOU still be here? Are you freaking kidding me!!! Why won’t you disappear already?

The Word of God tells us that we (all of us) are created in the likeness and image of God.

Image result for Genesis 1:26So, how come some people seem to get preferential VIP treatment when wading into the gene pool? My brain tells me, loving my body would be so much simpler, if my ancestors – and especially my parents – would have jumped the line and dove head first in the same Gene Pool as those Kardashian and Jenner girls emerged from.  There is no denying they are a very attractive family. Let’s face it – we all have two eyes, a nose, a mouth … all of the same orifices on our faces, but it boggles the mind at how completely different it looks on every face. What’s up with that? BUT, no matter. All of this comparison stuff is merely another set-up by the enemy who is happiest when we all sit about measuring ourselves against others and hating ourselves because we don’t look like so-and-so.

We know that God does not judge us by our outer appearance. But he definitely created some people to be more attractive than others. Throughout the Bible there are numerous mentions of good-looking people, such as: King David, his son Absalom, Joseph, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were all described as handsome or very attractive men.

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Truth being what it is – it’s probably safe to bet that simply being attractive is no guarantee that you are a happier person. Pretty people battle self-esteem issues just like the rest of us “average” people do.  Happiness must come from inside us – regardless of our size, what we weigh or what we look like on the outside. Image result for images for self esteem

Joyce Meyer frequently says, “make peace with your thighs.” Since I can’t afford to go under the knife to shave off my excess fat, and I don’t have the funds for any of those expensive cellulite treatments or regimes – I’ve no choice but to heed Joyce’s advice. It’s time to make peace with the size of my thighs! I need to concentrate on exercising for the physical and mental health benefits and stop complaining. It’s too late now to sign up for a gene pool water aerobics class. If my legs haven’t changed by now – they are never going to!

I don’t wear a $10,000.00 Rolex watch because a $20.00 Timex tells time just as well. I don’t drive an $85,000.00 SUV when a $20,000.00 one will get me where I’m going. So – I guess, I won’t complain about the size of my thighs when these two legs will carry me where I want to go in the same way a supermodel’s legs get her around.

Oh, how I long to finally become comfortable in my own skin! For now though, I need to remember, they are just legs and I’m blessed to have two that work well and get me from Point A to Point B. Hopefully, I can keep them in good working order from now until Jesus calls me home, upon which time I will receive a new heavenly body – and Man Oh Shevitz – please may it include a great pair of legs! Image result for long supermodel legs

How about YOU? Are you at peace with your weight? Your size? Your outer shell? If not … why not? Life is too short to waste time hating who we are. Let’s stop letting the devil win. Love yourself today!

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 Corinthians 5:1 (NLT)

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

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MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE FLOOR …

Whenever I have one of those days when I don’t feel so great about myself (which sadly, is more than it should be at this point in my life), I spend a little quality time in my office/home gym. Yes, I DO workout when I want to feel better – and it usually helps. For a while at least. More than exercise equipment though, I keep a full-length mirror in my workout room that is propped against the wall, resting on the floor.

When we downsized a few years ago, I didn’t have enough wall space to hang the mirror any where. It’s more beneficial resting on the floor than not having it at all. I simply can’t part with this mirror. This mirror and I have a longstanding relationship.  It’s not a fancy, gilt-edged mirror. It’s extremely plain and boring. It’s really nothing special. I think it came from Wal-mart or IKEA.  But, IT IS unique. This mirror is “my magic mirror.”

The magical properties of my special mirror cannot be explained. Quite honestly, I do not want, nor do I need an explanation for a mirror that makes me actually like my reflection. Most mirrors have the opposite effect. Especially those mirrors that hang in the dressing rooms of clothing stores.

Fitting rooms  or changing rooms typically have over-sized  mirrors – or worse – two or three mirrors. The combination of the bright overhead lights and the ability to view your least favorite body parts in duplicate or triplicate can be rather detrimental to sensitive egos. Whenever I stand before these fun-house dressing room mirrors, my first thoughts are usually: WARNING, objects in mirror may appear larger than they really are! Followed by: “Good Lord, my butt looks so big it should have its own zip code!” Image result for Fitting Room Mirrors 

It’s not uncommon to hear sentiments such as these whenever a woman dares a trip to the changing room. All around you are the sounds of women complaining about their various body parts. I’m certain there must be some sort of fine print clause in a woman’s birth certificate that states we must hate the way our bodies look. It’s a universal complaint for the most part – even with supermodels, the rich and famous and the not so rich and famous. As a rule – there are very few of us who are ever completely 100% satisfied with the way we look. It’s for this precise reason I’ve held on to my magic mirror for so many years. I actually LIKE my reflection in this mirror. Image result for thumbs up emoji My short torso and squat legs somehow appear longer and thinner through this looking glass. My entire body appears elongated. And I’m not the only one who’s noticed this mystical anomaly. My daughters have unanimously concluded the same is true for the way their reflections appear. (They’ve all offered to buy the mirror from me on numerous occasions, but I’ve refused all offers – cash or otherwise.)

At one time or another, most of us have likely tried something on at a store and brought it home and thought, Ick! WHAT was I thinking? Unarguably, we see ourselves quite differently in the comfort of our own homes. We tend to feel more “real” in front of our bathroom mirror than we ever do in a clothing store dressing room. At least this is true for me.

Everything I buy must always pass the magic mirror test before it’s allowed to hang in my closet. When my stomach looks overly fluffy and it feels as though my love handles are suddenly spilling over my waist band, I head to my office to gaze upon my reflection to discern if a muffin top is indeed forming. If I feel as though I’m gaining weight, it’s the mirror’s opinion I value. If I feel good about myself and feel suddenly thinner, it’s the mirror’s validation I seek. More than any other, my magic mirror is the friend whose opinion I value most.

Mirror, mirror on the floor
Do I look fat?
Or something more?

Sure, maybe I’m kidding myself. But the mirror doesn’t lie. Or does it? What or WHO do we believe with regards to the way we look? WHAT can we accept as truth? Is the bathroom mirror truthful? The pictures from the family barbecue or class reunion? Are the photo shopped holiday portraits a true gauge to measure our appearance by? What about our reflection passing a store front window or the mirrored reflective elevator doors at the mall? Does the two-minute Facebook video of you making a fool of yourself on family game night speak the truth of the REAL you? Do we accept the compliments or criticisms about our appearance offered to us by friends or family? Or do we listen to the lies in our head the enemy repeatedly spews at us?Image result for truth versus lie

With regards to our looks – is it EVER possible to have a true picture of what we REALLY look like? Do we struggle with our appearance based on word curses spoken over us from years past? The ex-boyfriend who tells you, “Yeah, you look okay – but if you could just lose that jiggly stuff on your thighs, then you’d look a lot better.”

How long do we carry around the painful words of an older sister, who when she tried to fix you up in high school with her boyfriend’s facially challenged best friend – told you: “You know you can’t exactly afford to be picky with the way YOU look.” 

Where does the truth lie? Does it really matter how others see us if we are happy with ourselves? Does God care about our looks?Image result for 1 Samuel 16:7I can’t answer a lot of these questions because, as a woman, my self-acceptance with my outer shell is and always has been complicated. I can wake up one day and think I look pretty good “for my age.” Other days – not so much. Some days I want to hide in the house because I feel too ugly for public viewing. There are times when I feel I look good when I leave the house, but then I’ll see myself in a bathroom mirror at a restaurant, or the movies, a store or church – and think, “who’s that ugly old toad staring back at me?” Oftentimes, we are our own worst critics, which makes it so easy for the enemy to get us to see only our flaws. He wants us to zero in on our least desirable attributes and become so self-conscious we’ll be completely useless to God because we are so consumed with hating ourselves.I know it seems a rather tall order or perhaps an unlikely possibility this side of heaven (especially for us women), BUT we need to get to a point in our lives where we can become comfortable in our own skin. No matter our weight, our wrinkles, our flaws or imperfections – we, ALL of us, are created in the image and likeness of God. We need to stop comparing ourselves with others or even where we were 10 or 20 years ago. This is the day the Lord has made and we need to rejoice and be glad in it. 

If YOU don’t need to hear any of this, I certainly DO need this! I need to hear this over and over and over again until it becomes part of me and I actually BELIEVE it!

This is it.  Mrs. Toad’s Wild Ride is a one-shot ticket ride. This is the ONLY life we have, SO … before any more time passes, we need to love the skin we are in! Whenever the devil whispers that you are an ugly toad, remind him: I may not always believe what I see in the mirror, mirror … but my Father in Heaven tells me I’m the spitting image of Him and He thinks I’m fabulous, fabulous! Image result for Genesis 1:27What’s it going to be: mirror, mirror or Father God?

QUOTE OF THE DAY:Image result for Quotes about the way we look

 

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 one thing that matters most to me – WRITING. (Okay, maybe not THE MOST important thing, but definitely high on the top of the list!) 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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