Our Journey Back to Health: Managing Stress

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If you read my blog about my son leaving for boot camp then you know this mommas heart has held so many emotions this month that it is about to burst. Stress is a major enemy in any healthy lifestyle change and although I’m glad to say that we stuck with our healthy eating plan, I struggled big time.

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Food has always been a huge comfort for me, it’s my go to when I have something awesome to celebrate. It’s my companion when I’ve had a rough day and my constant friend when I’m alone.

Watching my son prepare for this new season of his life was amazing, he was ready for it, I was not. I wanted to use food in all the ways I always had. Celebrate this new season, comfort my aching heart, remove the pain of loneliness, ease the reality of letting go. Without my usual go to treats, I was at a bit of a loss. Breaking old habits is hard, creating new ones in the midst of raw emotions… even harder.

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I know this new season will be incredible. I’m always amazed at how God works it all out, but there is pain in the process and I was wanting some sugar to ease it all. To top it off my husband was away at a conference and had no choice but to eat out for most of a week and the way our schedule worked we ended up eating out for 3 days after he got home. It’s a wonder we didn’t gain all the weight back.

But we didn’t.

He ended up only gaining a pound and I didn’t get on the scale. Ignorance is not bliss but I have to be honest here. With all the emotions I was dealing with, I didn’t think I could handle the scale at this moment so I made the decision to take a breath and stay off of it. I decided that instead I would celebrate the fact that we had both stuck to our plan completely. Food cooked at restaurants may not have the same healthy standards that we have at home, so no matter how hard we try weeks like this will come and I knew that I needed to make a decision to be proud of our progress and move forward.  

So how did I deal with the stress? I’ve compiled 5 things that helped me through.

1. I took a lot of hot baths. 

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I spent hours in that tub and when I say hot bath I mean that if I step out of the bath and I can’t see a difference in the parts that were in the water and the parts that were not- we have a problem. (Yes, I do know that scalding hot baths may not be the health choice of the season, but I like it that way and it was better than eating a whole cheesecake which was plan B.)

I needed those baths. This was a time for me to turn all the lights off, light some candles, (I especially love those fake battery operated ones that look real) and turn on some great worship music. As I lay there, praying, worshiping, and sometimes crying, I found some peace. I laced my bath with Epson salts and essential oils, set a nice glass of wine on the side of the tub and soaked until I wrinkled. Those sweet peaceful aromas and that relaxing atmosphere did not take the stress away completely, but it did give me a much-needed reprieve. 

2. A great book is a perfect getaway.

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I love to read, but I don’t take the time for it anymore. So this month I did. I had a couple books that were recommended to me by a ladies book club at my church and I decided to dive in. These books were in the Christian self-help genre and what I found was exactly what I needed. I found encouragement, laughter, tears, and motivation. They were not diet books, they were books for life that held so many nuggets of truth that I had to make more mental notes that I can hold. Currently I’m re-reading one of those books. If I can fill my mind with the good things, then there won’t be room for the bad right? 

3. Prayer works.

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I know that I already mentioned prayer in the bath part of this blog, but this topic needs a section all its own. Prayer gives hope, help and a way to let go of stress. I have always been a praying woman. Lately though, I’ve been distracted in prayer and realized it was time to really refocus. I started writing in my prayer journal again, and I began to truly get alone with God. I need Him always but life gets in the way more than I want to admit. The bible says to give God our cares because he cares for us. How can I give anything to God if I’m not praying. Each time I’d pray- there would be peace. Like most of you, once I was done praying, the peace would fade. Life has a way of doing that to us, so I prayed often and held on tight.

4. Understanding that Good Stress is still stress.

My son leaving was what I would consider good stress. This was his dream, something he fought for, something he had overcome many obstacles to accomplish. I was and am very proud of him and extremely excited for him, but I quickly realized that no matter how “good” this was, I couldn’t control the anxiety it caused. What would my new life look like without him in the day to day?  What was my purpose now that most of my kids were raised and gone?  Who am I without them?  These are not bad questions, but they are stressful ones. I needed to get to a place where asking them didn’t cut like a knife and seem like an ending to a season I adored. Instead I needed to ask them honestly and prayerfully and find a way to see this new season as the beginning of an amazing new chapter.

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5. I need something to look forward too.

I need something to be excited about. It doesn’t have to be expensive or outlandish, it just has to be on the calendar. Something I can shoot for, mark off the days for. My husband and I have “date nights” a couple times a month where we literally just go out to dinner and then get groceries. I know your jealous, (LOL) but hear me out. Just knowing that I have a night away, a night where we will have a quiet dinner, a time to talk, and a reset on our weeks- this gets me through the tough days. In a few weeks we have a whole night away planned and I’m super excited about that as well. It’s amazing how 1 night away can reset a weary soul. What about you?  What works for you?  What doesn’t?  Throughout this journey I’m realizing more and more how unique we all are and how incredibly cool that is. My husband handles stress very differently than I do, instead of a hot bath he sinks deeply into his recliner and gets his mind on a computer game or watches a movie. If life gets overwhelming for him, that’s where you’ll find him. He has been there a lot lately. Letting go is hard. Adjusting to new seasons filled with uncertainty and change- even harder. So we learn to lean into God, we manage our emotions to the best of our ability and we keep moving forward. One step today equals two tomorrow and after a while we look back and we realize how far we’ve come.

Letting Go When You Want To Hold On.

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I didn’t realize that letting go would hurt this much. Sure I knew that time would fly and that in the blink of an eye my sweet babies would be all grown up and moving on in this world. I knew that. I held on tight. I made a point to snuggle as much as I could, to read stories, and have family nights.  I made a point to enjoy every minute. I did all that and it still went by far too fast. I still want just one more day.

 I’ll always want one more.

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Many years ago on a family vacation to the beach, we passed a cute little street of shops that I really wanted to check out, but after a long day of sandcastles and waves my family was just too tired to join me, all except Zach. He and I headed out and shopped that day. We checked out the souvenir shops, we looked at t-shirts and stuffed animals, seashells, and salt water taffy, then we decided an ice cream break was in order.  We sat at a cute little outdoor table and enjoyed a sundae that was far too big for the little guy that he was and we talked. We talked and talked and talked. Zach and I are both gifted in that art. Now I don’t remember anything we talked about, but I do very clearly remember this- after all the days at the beach, the aquariums we visited, and the adventures we had- I asked the kids what they liked best.  “The ice cream” Zach replied.

Ice cream.

Hours from home, new experiences, and long fun days and it all came down to ice cream. I learned something that day that I will never forget. It isn’t the big things in life that really matter. Instead, it’s the tiniest of moments that come together to make life sweet. It’s laughing around the kitchen table, watching family movies, coloring outside the lines and giggling at inside jokes no one else would understand.

That little boy boarded a plane today. He is flying across the country to join our amazing military. He towers over me now, and I am more proud than I ever imagined possible.  The problem is I struggle not to see the little boy with ice cream all over his face.

Me letting go but wanting to hold on.
Photo credits to my husband on this one.

 I struggle letting go.

Gretchen Rubin says that “The days are long but the years are short.” Oh how right she is. My oldest son and his wife gave birth to their first little boy just a few short months ago. It’s funny how life comes full circle. I watched as one boarded a plane and the other held tight to a brand new life. What a reminder of the blessings each season has to offer.

I realized something else today too. I realized that this new season that is so uncomfortable in the process- will hold the same tremendous hope that the last one did. I know that in time I’ll want this new season to last forever too.  There is so much good mixed in with the tears.

I still have one more son at home with me and he is terrified. He too has realized something in all this.  He knows that he is the last of my babies and that his mom needs something to hold onto.   She needs someone to “mother”. He’s terrified that he will get ALL the mothering that I have to offer and to be honest he’s probably right. So please pray for him he’s going to need it.

If you are struggling with letting go today. I want you to know that you are not alone. We will get through this and we will look back and rejoice at all this new season has to offer, but in the process- if a few tears are necessary, that’s okay too.

Our Journey Back To Health- The Gain

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Just one week after I finished writing our month one health blog- I gain two pounds. Two pounds!! I didn’t go off plan once, not even once! Incidentally, I’ve learned a few things- #1. You can gain weight eating healthy foods.  #2. Delicious grapes dipped in straight cream cheese needs to be eaten within reason. Now, for those of you who have never tried this delight, don’t knock it till you give it a chance. Month 2 started out with me craving sugar, bread and every single thing we had eliminated from our diet. In order to fight these cravings I decided to have a little bit of the aforementioned treats. I love them, in hindsight though- you can’t tell yourself that you can eat the entire package of cream cheese over a 2 day period along with some extra fried chicken wings and think that you won’t gain a pound.

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I did know better, and although every item I ate was on the list of allowable foods, I fully realized that they were not the best choices. (Insert deep frustrated breath).

In my yo yo dieting days, I would feel wonderful as the weight was coming off, then the minute a pound came back on failure set in and giving up would follow. The old mantra would always begin with “I knew I couldn’t do this. It’s impossible”. “Look at all the people who have failed trying to lose weight and get healthy, if they can’t do it I certainly can’t”.

It never ends.

Today, I welcomed that garbage in like I welcome those Klondike bars in the freezer section of my supermarket. I chewed those thoughts up, swirled them around in my head and feasted on them. As I did, that old failure mentality came crushing back until I slapped it square in the face.

Sometimes you just have to take a stand.

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I stood. (And you may stop reading after you hear this, but in my head a battle raged that I needed to win) So, I pictured myself with a knockout punch to the head of that horrible hate filled monster that was hijacking my thoughts. Hey, I’m a pretty good fighter and I didn’t even know it. 

Seriously though, in the past this set back was my excuse to quit. Those thoughts dragged me right to the kitchen, where I would follow them with a binge like you have not experienced before. I can whip up a mug cake faster than you can read this paragraph and that’s just the appetizer. The chips and dip, the cookies, cheesecake, chocolate covered cherries, the Klondike bars- these are items straight from heaven itself. And because I had “failed” I would eat these things at first to comfort myself but that comfort would soon be replaced by an even greater failure and because I had failed again, I would begin to believe that I didn’t deserve success. (Insert more bad food choices here) Unchecked emotions always lead to another step in the wrong direction. Always.

Can I be honest? I’m embarrassed just reading this back to myself.

However, the truth is the truth, and how can we move forward if we are not honest with ourselves first and then others?

At this point, I needed to figure out how to move forward. One word came to mind and I tried to sucker punch it too but it wouldn’t go away. (Can you see my grumpy face in your head?)

Exercise.

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I don’t have time for this. There must be another way. We were already making time for Ryan to go in to work early a few days a week to exercise with a friend. So that meant me carrying the weight of the morning routine on my shoulders which made for an awesome excuse for me. I mean I didn’t need the exercise as much as him right? And It’s not that I hate it, I just don’t like it. I do on the other hand, hate sports bras, sweat, soar muscles and the time it takes on top of all of the other chores and mom duties that I have on my plate.

This time has to be different, this time I can’t commit to hard core cardio every day, I can’t commit to weight training for hours, I need something doable for me personally. Something that I can measure every day and work within my schedule. Just like fad diets don’t work for me, fad workouts don’t either.

Years ago, I had a cheap watch with a pedometer in it. I loved seeing how many steps I could get in a day.  It broke after about 6 months and I never replaced it. This is where I decided to start so I got on the internet and bought myself a new sports watch. Nothing fancy just something to allow me to monitor my steps each day and to set goals for myself. Will I add some other workouts to the mix?  Sure, but this would allow me to set daily goals that are attainable, can be worked right into my job (what’s an extra trip or two around the building if I am not making my step goal that day?), and it’s something I enjoy. I actually like setting those step goals and trying to see what it takes to beat them.  

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I am winning, not because the scale is turning around, not because I look the way I want to, (neither of these is true at this moment) but I’m winning because today, I broke the pattern. Today I chose a different path, I chose to take the one less traveled, the one with a different script that leads to a different destination. Instead of the cake, I chose the stepper.

So goodbye embarrassment, I refuse to think twice about the crazy in my head. Instead, I’m going to concentrate on the gold medal around my neck. The one that says that I am God’s girl, beautiful, redeemed, hopeful, and thankful.

2 Timothy Says “I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I kept the faith.” That is my new mantra. That is my new script.

Tomorrow I’ll take another step forward and one day I will win this race.

Our Journey Back To Health- Month 1

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Recently my husband and I decided to embark on a healthy weight loss journey. Honestly, neither of us was very excited to begin this journey, but we both agreed that it needed to be done.  And not for vanity sake either, we both hadn’t felt well in a very long time and we knew that our diet was contributing to the problem. (Okay, in the spirit of full disclosure, this decision may have had an element of vanity attached.)

In the past I have often called my husband my own personal “diet killer”. We would start a diet in the morning, and he would bake brownies, buy cookies, and take me out for a special ice cream that night. He has a gift.

This time though we decided to change our eating habits a bit differently.  We looked at what was making us feel bad physically and we eliminated those things. Here are some tips that made our first month successful.

  1. Meal Planning:
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Every week my husband and I sit down and we find meals that fit our new plan. We have decided that for us counting calories and worrying about proportions just won’t work. Since we are trying to make a permanent change, we needed something that we could do anywhere easily. We would plan healthy meals that consisted of mostly meat and veggies. In a nutshell, we decided to give up bread, pasta, and sugar. This plan isn’t for everyone, we prayed about what would be best for us and decided that this was something that we could maintain long term. My husband eliminated oatmeal from his diet as well. When he eats oatmeal his sugar spikes, I on the other hand have no trouble with it what so ever and so I eat it sparingly, usually when he isn’t around.

  1. Goal setting:

We set some short and long-term goals all while allowing us some rewards and fun in the process. For example- on Valentine’s day a friend invited us to come along for a date night at a local venue. For one fee, we could enjoy an appetizer of cheese fondue, a meal of steak, chicken and veggies, along with chocolate fondue for dessert. In between enjoying the food, the men would create flower arrangements for us, while we got to put together a nice bottle of massage oil for them. Oooo laa laa. Together my husband and I decided that since this special date night was about a month and a half into our new lifestyle we would plan for this to be a night of reward. IF, we stuck to our new plan we would allow ourselves to celebrate. We decided not to call it a cheat night. I hate that word and it isn’t cheating, it’s celebrating how well we had done. We also decided that IF we failed to stick to the plan, we would cancel the night. Listen, for us we needed both the incentive and the consequence.

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What we didn’t do was put a weekly weight loss amount on our plan. If we were hungry, we chose foods like fruit, veggies, nuts, anything on the plan would work.

My husband does not view the scale like I do. To him the number on the scale is just that. A number. For me the number sometimes means that I have failed, that I have not made good choices and that I am ugly. Like I said earlier, full disclosure. This leads me to the next tip.

  1. Change our (my) thoughts:

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I needed success to be measured by each day doing something healthy for my body. I needed to change my thoughts, change my heart and start telling myself each day that I was who God said I was and not be defined by the scale. I needed to re-see those numbers and realize that they may be an indication that I need to make some healthier choices, but they are not any indication of my worth. To do this I knew that I needed to study God’s word in this area. I needed to see what He had to say about me so that I could unravel years of wrong thinking. It’s unbelievable how much we grow up learning to agree with the world instead of God. So, I found scriptures about my worth, my beauty, and how much I am loved. The world says I need to fit a standard to have value, God says I have more value than the world can count.

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I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again- progress over perfection is where I’m at. I am making progress in this area, but there is so much more work to be done. I easily slip back into my old habits and thoughts. I recently did some research on how long it takes to break a habit and create a new one. What I found was very revealing. The facts showed that it takes anywhere from 21 days to a year to truly create a new habit. Not so shocking is that the number of days it took was very personal. Each of us is an individual and our bodies and minds are individual too.

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Month 1 results: (Yes, I did say that I have issues with the scale- I didn’t say I wouldn’t be getting on it. Although I need to see the big picture in all this, I do need to visit this little piece from time to time.)

I’m very happy to report that the best result is this- We both feel so much better. We have more energy and have found that we are really enjoying our new meals. We look for recipes that appeal to us and have added some new favorites to our menu.

Moreover, yes, we have both lost weight. I have lost 8 pounds, my husband 9.  Our jeans are already fitting better and to be completely honest I haven’t felt like it’s a diet. Instead, I find myself excited to see what’s next. We have had some days that were hard and we will talk about those in the upcoming weeks, but all in all this process has been a really, really, positive one.

Change is…Good?

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I had goals, I had expectations for life, and I had a plan. A really good plan by the way, and as long as everything went as planned then life would be perfect. Right?

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Oh how wrong I was.

Nobody told me that no matter how hard you try, how meticulous you are with the details, life can still snatch that perfectly laid plan and disrupt the whole thing.

Disruptions were not part of my plan.

When I graduated High School (just a few very short years ago…) I planned to go to college, after college I would get married, and after 2 years of marriage I would have a baby. Now, I wasn’t actually dating anyone at the time but that was not the point. This plan was good and if I followed it to the letter I would be a successful, happy adult.

Oh how good life is with a carefully laid plan. (Insert sigh of relief here)

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Then partway through my freshman year of college I ran into a guy I knew from High School. This was not just any guy, this was “the guy”.  The guy who had been one of my best friends, the guy who I had dated a bit and had the most fun with, the guy who I really liked, and most importantly the guy who could mess up any carefully laid plan.

Dang, there he was, there I was, and there was that kiss in the kitchen that sealed the deal. I was toast.

BUT, don’t get me wrong. I still had a plan and this would fit so perfectly into it. In just a few short years I would graduate college and this guy would be the perfect husband to that perfect plan. I just love it when a plan comes together, don’t you?

If you are wondering where the punch line is- I won’t make you wait for long.

Every single plan I made changed, and I was not very happy about it. “The guy” was in the U.S.Navy and in case you aren’t aware, people in the service can be moved to locations far away from you, which by the way was not part of the plan.

Ok, so maybe I’d compromise a bit here. I mean who said you had to actually graduate college before you get married?  Lot’s of people get married and still graduate right?

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Look at those kids, bless their hearts.

So I tweaked my plan and dropped out of college right before my junior year. We moved 18 long hours from home (In my plan I had ALWAYS said I would NEVER move more than 2 hours from home). Please, if you learn nothing else from me, please never ever ever say those two words. Because the truth is- following those two words are these two: Challenge Accepted…. Lord help me, it’s true.

My husband knew of my goals and my determination was unmatched. Once settled, I began looking for colleges to transfer to. I found one close, but alas, it didn’t have the major that I loved and again my plans had to change.

Did I mention that I hate change.

I really hate change.

I really really hate changes that I am forced to make.

I really really really hate changes that are out of my control. (I think you get the point)

Okay, so let’s look on the bright side, at least I can finish college… at least there’s that.

Then, a few months before our second anniversary I found out that I was pregnant. We were so excited. Plans were back on track, college was going well and life was good.

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Why is it that curve balls get thrown when they are least expected? Just when you think you have it all together, bam, curve ball. Ug.

(Insert curve ball here…)

Sadly, we lost that precious baby on our second anniversary. (another blog for another time perhaps) Being in the hospital on our anniversary was definitely, not part of the plan. My heart was broken. My life seemed like one disappointment after the other.

Not being the type to give up easily though, we began to try again. I was determined to be a mother.  Months passed. No baby. I began to get depressed. Friends were becoming parents and here I was wondering what was wrong with me?  Then, on the very month our first baby was due, I became pregnant with our oldest son.

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A friend once told me that although she had also had a very painful miscarriage, she realized that if it hadn’t happened, she would not have her daughter. My story is the same. Had I not had that miscarriage I would not have my son and I cannot imagine my life without him in it. Don’t misunderstand me here, I would never want to lose a pregnancy, but I did realize that I could chose to focus on the blessing instead of the loss.

Life has certainly not gone as planned.

No matter how hard I tried or how stubborn I was, life just had a way of knocking me right off course.

Life is so hard.

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As you have probably already guessed, I did not graduate college as planned either. It took me a lot longer than expected. I transferred universities a few times and got discouraged more than I want to admit. When I did finally graduate, I had a 3 year old son and was 8 months pregnant with his little brother. My husband often reminds me that for as long as I was in college I could be a doctor right now, and he could be retired. I often remind him that it is his fault we moved around so much. We are at a stalemate on this one.

The point is- I did end up graduating. My goals were not met the way I thought they should be. Not one thing I planned has turned out the way I expected or wanted it to, but to be honest, (I can’t believe I’m admitting this) I really think it has turned out better. My plans were good, but the challenges and changes that life has thrown at us, has made me appreciate the outcomes so much more than if I had just accomplished them in my own way.

Change makes us uncomfortable but it also makes us see and experience things that we wouldn’t otherwise. And although some change can be painful, I can see now how it has all made me who I am today.

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Change is the salt in our lives, it spices things up and takes us places we never thought we’d go.

It makes us regroup, re-plan, and refocus.

I can’t believe I’m saying this either, and I may not admit it later, but I have grown to really welcome change. I still don’t like it most of the time, but the outcome is always better than my own plans ever could be.

Maybe God really does know what He’s doing, and maybe I really need to just trust Him more.

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So, the question is, do I still make plans? The answer to this one is simple, I most certainly do. I dream big, plan big, and then I ride this old roller coaster of life. It twists and turns my plans right upside down.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, and sometimes I just get sick to my stomach.  My plans may change, I may accomplish my goals far differently than expected- but oh I do accomplish them.  And along the way, I learn, I grow, and yes- I too change.

Change is good.

Life is good.

Hang on dear friends, change is coming. My prayer for you is that you can look back on your life the way that I do and be glad for every single unexpected turn.

Drowning in My Mess..

I may have gotten a bit behind on the house chores this week and in the spirit of making you feel better about your own crazy life I’ve decided to share mine.

This laundry may kill me. laundry

Now if you are one of those ladies that lives without dust bunnies and piles of laundry then bless your heart…
I on the other hand took one look at this tremendous pile of laundry and decided that just moving to a new house might be a better plan. I’m not even sure how it happened- a couple of nights of meetings and other events and it’s like I haven’t done anything in months.
And by the way- I really do think dust bunnies reproduce.
Listen, I’m going to make this short and sweet. We are in this together, we all fall behind, then catch up just to fall behind again. And let me assure you that no one will stop to visit during those rare times when you’re actually caught up. No way.
So, I’ve decided that all of that really doesn’t matter in the scheme of life. Dust will always be there, the dog will always pee on the kitchen floor right after you mop it, and someone will always stop by when it looks like a tornado has just made its way through the inside of your house. Those are just the rules of the game.
Buried in laundry and dirty dishes we might as well laugh. Ha. Ha. Ha.
messI did that today. I looked passed all the laundry baskets and saw some pretty cool things. My boys were laughing in the kitchen. There was warm soup in the crock pot, a good movie on TV, and here I was wrapped in a cozy blanket on the couch while my husband shared funny memes he was finding on the internet. We giggled and giggled. In spite of the mess, in spite of the chores that needed some attention, this is right where I want to be.
Even in the middle of my mess, there is joy.
I know that for some it’s hard to snuggle up on the couch with so many jobs left undone, and to be totally honest I used to be that way as well. But life has gone by so fast that I’ve learned that these moments are the ones I want to hang on to most. All the rest will fall into place. I’ll get caught up and usually I stay caught up. Other times I drown in piles of laundry.
As a side note I also have a solution to my laundry problem. In our house when things get “piled up” we have what we call “fun family folds”. The boys do not find these family events fun in any way but at this point they don’t argue either. (teenagers like to have clean underwear and if you don’t help when mom asks…) So together we will fold this laundry, they will accuse me of putting the wrong clothes in the wrong pile, and no one will want to fold my underwear (except my husband who will make embarrassing comments that the boys will grumble and then laugh about.) But it will get done. laugh
And tomorrow will come, hopefully with more laughter and less laundry but either way I’m thankful for it all.
And like I said- if you can’t relate to my chaos, bless your heart.

 

Is Love Lost?

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How sad it is when the world has lost it’s ability to love.heart-1463424_640

Looking at social media these days, I think we can all agree that people are far from loving.  (Understatement of the century.)   There are so many opinions out there these days that are less opinions and more targeted attacks on anyone that may see things differently. I find this incredibly sad. It used to be that we could have a point of view that differs from someone else and still treat each other with respect and love.

Not today.

Today if my opinion differs from yours then there must be something wrong with me.

Listen, I fully realize that many of us have strong feelings about various topics and I personally think that’s awesome. The world would be an incredibly boring place if we all thought and felt the same things.

I love the diversity.

I hate the nastiness.

stones-3364324_640When my opinion or belief suddenly allows me permission to physically or emotionally abuse another person, then we have a problem that far surpasses the topic at hand. This week alone I have read numerous articles from some incredibly gifted and scholarly people who openly give allowances to uncalled-for behavior simply because others don’t agree with them.

Honestly, I don’t think it matters what side you are on. I think it matters more, who you are on the inside. Who are you when no one is looking? Who are you when everyone is looking? What matters more is the person that you are when you are faced with opposing views. Who are you then?

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying you have to bend to someone else’s opinion. I’m certainly not going to. I’m going to stand on my own beliefs and views even if you don’t agree with them. What I’m not going to do is call you names, start cruel and unkind dialogue on social media, and beat you down for being of a different mind than me.

desktop-3303831_640Believe it or not, we can totally disagree about anything and everything, and I can still get the door for you, I can still have a cup of coffee with you, and I can still be kind to you.  In fact, I may not get my way in certain situations, we can have a heated discussion that is open and honest and fueled by our own differing viewpoints and I can still show you respect and love. You see, your opinions, beliefs, and actions should never be an excuse for me to be cruel.

So many people are fighting for change in society but true change starts in the hearts of the individual. What kind of change do we really want?  Acceptance?  We will never have any kind of acceptance through browbeating and harsh judgement. We will never have a society that works well together if we are constantly passing blame on the other side.

Listen, I know that no one wants to back down, but my question is this; Who said you have to?

Forgive me for repeating myself here- but like I said before, I’m not going to. And that does not, in any situation, give you permission to be cruel to me or my family. It does however give you complete permission to disagree, discuss, and move forward.

I’m beyond exhausted with our ability to lie, cheat, and steal to get what we want and to openly try and persuade others that this is okay because I believe my side to be so completely right that I should get my way anyway that I can.

If I am so right, I don’t need to do those things.

Period.

germ-1525665_640Today, I’m asking that before you speak, you check your heart. You ask yourself the same questions we tell kids to ask themselves- Is it kind, Is it true, and is it necessary?  Will it lift people up and change society for the better or are you speaking out of anger and aggression? Are you building up or tearing down?

Maybe this post will not change anyone but me, and maybe that’s ok. True change starts with each individual cleaning out their own hearts and lives. It’s when people start pointing inward instead of outward that we see real growth. Until we take an honest look inside ourselves and start truly loving others no real change will ever happen. I’ve never changed anyone by brute force, nor have I ever been personally changed by it either. I have however been changed drastically when someone has treated me with kindness I didn’t deserve. And when I am honest with myself, there is a lot inside of me to be changed.

Real change starts right here, right now, and in the right place- our own heart.

1st Corinthians 13
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…

LOVE. NEVER. FAILS.

Is the Church Relevant?

Post by Ryan Schrader

Up until the 1960’s it wasn’t uncommon to still see public schools using Bible verses as part of the school curriculum. The 10 commandments were posted in most public buildings and church was a place that not only met the needs of the individual, but the community as well.

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My how things have just changed.

Nearly everywhere in society today, the church has been pushed out and the government has stepped in. Secular programs have been designed so that people no longer have any “Church Guilt” tied to them. (Photo Via Pixabay)

This rapid change in culture has caused many churches to go down one of two paths:

On path one, churches have begun to change what they believe in order to better reflect what they think the culture wants. They’ve begun to water down the gospel, and sermons preached are to tickle the ears but often don’t cause real conviction or change.

On Path two, we see many churches out of fear of these culture changes begin trying to protect what they have. They isolate themselves, dig their heals in, and start drawing lines in the sand.

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There is a problem with both of these paths.

We see in Matthew 28:16-20 that Jesus has given us the great commission. He has told us to go out into the world and to make disciples of all nations. Isn’t this what it’s all about?  Going out into the world and giving hope, help and ultimately changing people’s lives for the better?

If we look back to scripture again we see Matthew 22:36-40. Here Jesus explains that the most important commandment in the law is to LOVE. In fact, he says that we are to love the Lord with all our hearts AND to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Photo Via Pixabay)  

I genuinely believe that in order for us to stay relevant in our communities and continue to have a positive influence over this next generation, we can’t change what we believe and we certainly can’t isolate ourselves either.

It’s time we flip the script.

It’s not love when we only see people through their sin. Every time the church draws a line in the sand, we are effectively telling a group of people that we have either given up on them or have decided that they’re an acceptable loss.

If we truly believe that we have what the world needs, then how can we justify closing those doors to anyone?

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There is something incredibly wrong when people in our community hit rock bottom, and come to the conclusion that they have nowhere to turn because the church has made it clear that it does not approve of how they are living their life. Instead of feeling hope, they feel the pressure of judgment. (Photo Via Pixabay)

The truth is – none of us are equipped to change someone’s heart. We just don’t have the right tools. The only tools I have available to me are guilt, disapproval and condemnation.

We forget that when we were struggling with that same sin it was God who convicted us out of LOVE and in turn, that is what changed our hearts so that we could have victory. As a church, we have to stop portraying ourselves in a way that makes people feel like the sin in their lives somehow disqualifies them from having the peace and hope that Jesus offers.

We have to scream from the rooftops that there is no guilt, disapproval or condemnation inside these walls. Instead, we need to offer healing, encouragement, hope and fellowship. It is our job to disciple our brothers and sisters, not to discipline them. It’s our job to tell them about this man named Jesus who lovingly died on a cross for them. If we will do this, God will take care of the sin in their lives and He will do it in a way that creates lasting changes without the association of guilt or condemnation.

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If we want to be relevant as a Church then we have to make sure our community knows that our doors are always open and no matter what they will find love and compassion here.

We need to show people our hearts, let them know that we have been where they are and that they too can overcome anything the world throws at them. Revelation 12:11 says, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony…” Jesus offers life to those who need it and He is telling us to let down our walls and let people in. How about instead of telling people how to live, we tell them what we have overcome. Our testimony brings healing- our rules do not. (Photo Via Pixabay)

Let’s open the doors and tear down our walls. Let’s let the gospel be the gospel and our lives tell a tale of hope. Let’s quit hiding from a changing culture and instead introduce that culture to a man named Jesus who loves them with all His heart. If we do this, we won’t have to worry about being relevant.

Time to refocus?

Guest Post by Jenna VanLoon

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Sitting here, thinking (probably) way too deeply about a patch of grass.

Right in front of me, something sat in one place for too long. A tarp. It caused stagnant grass. It caused death. I didn’t even know this was happening, until I moved the tarp. It didn’t take long. In fact, given the “right” conditions, it only took 1 day to do the damage.

Now, the funny thing about that patch is that if choose to look outside of it, I will see something very different. I see a lot to be thankful for. Coincidentally, if I am so busy looking at the growth and beauty around it, by the time I look back, that death is going to look a lot like new life. It will look like a spot that experienced growth. (Author’s Photo)

My newsfeed has been overflowing lately with everything that is going wrong in everybody’s lives.

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I know struggles are real. But so is hope.

And what we set our focus on, we will achieve.

Are you focusing on all of your hardships, or are you choosing to see everything that is going RIGHT in your life? Got any tarps you need to move? I know I do! (Photo Via Pixabay)

Resisting Temptation

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All I was doing was looking for a recipe. Just a simple chicken something for dinner, but when I logged into my computer I was faced with a dilemma- lose 10lbs in 6 days sitting right next to a link to a pretty delightful looking cinnamon bun cake dripping in icing.

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Forget the chicken, it’s summer and losing 10 pounds sounds amazing… right after I try that cake.

Why is it that we fight so hard to do what’s right and so often feel slapped in the face with every temptation and desire?  I don’t know about you but I’m sick of it. (Photo via Pixabay)

So how do we resist temptation?

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The bible says that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (see Philippians 4) I could use a bit more of that strength. And although I do know I need to rely on Christ for the strength He promises me, I’m also realizing that I have a part to play. I can’t just sit back in my recliner and let God do the work. There are things that are required of me in all this. If I want permanent change in my life then I have to do some permanent work. A body builder doesn’t become strong by sitting back and trusting God to build those muscles- instead he or she goes to the gym and puts the time in. A farmer doesn’t sit at his breakfast table and believe in faith for a great crop if he has never sown a seed. (Photo via Pixabay)

We also have to put the work in if we want to see results in our own lives. God will do His part- will we do ours?

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1 Corinthians 10:13  says this about temptation- 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (Photo via Pixabay)

We can handle temptation. It’s awesome to know that God has already made sure of it. Besides not letting us be tempted beyond what we can handle- He is also going to show us a way out so that we can make it through. And although I’m using food as my example today- we all know that it goes much deeper than that. Temptations have ruined families, destroyed careers, and caused good people to do things they never intended.

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Resisting temptation is far from easy, but it is doable. The question for us today is will we do what it takes? Will we build our muscles to a point where temptation has no hope?  Will we sow the seeds of God’s word so deep in the soil of our lives that when we are faced with temptation it will have nowhere to grow because God’s word will already be taking up the space? (Photo via Pixabay)

God has already done His part. He’s given us every tool. Will we do ours?  The work is hard, but the results are worth it.

As for me- I went back to the chicken. Not happily back, but back. I didn’t want chicken anymore, I wanted to lose 10 pounds while eating the cinnamon bun cake extra icing please. Temptation offers us the world, but never delivers on it’s promises. God offers us the tools, but asks us to be a part of the process. Today- I chose the chicken instead of the cake. Hey, small victories are still victories, and even though the muscles may be small today, tomorrow the results will be unbeatable.

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