Autumn Leaves 3 Column

Thursday, February 24, 2011

From Family to Foe

“If an Ephraimite fugitive said, "Let me cross," the men of Gilead would ask, "Are you an Ephraimite?" and he would say, "No." And they would say, "Say, 'Shibboleth.'" But he would always say, "Sibboleth"—he couldn't say it right. Then they would grab him and kill him there at the fords of the Jordan.” Judges 12: 5-6 (MSG)

Let’s take a break from the topic of weight loss.

I came across the above verse in my reading the other day and it has been rolling around in my mind since then. As we read in this particular record of Israel’s history, Israel has spread far and wide in the Promised Land.

Because of the distance separating this huge family from one another, new dialects have emerged in what was once their common language.

Now they do not even recognize each other as family members and they are battling each other! How sad that after all the tribe had been through, in just a few short generations, they seem to have lost track of each other.

But think about it. There is a grave lesson in this story that emphasizes the need to gather with our “tribe” (read ‘peeps’).

You see, there is a unique vernacular, nuances in conversation, that becomes established between two people who spend much time together, a kind of verbal shorthand that both people understand without even trying.

And when people are not able to spend that kind of time, they will lose the ease of their conversation. How many of us have experienced this with our families, best friends, or even our spouse?

I’ve realized that the same could be said about our relationship with Jesus. Without the daily, hopefully day-long conversation called prayer, we will quickly lose our ease with Him and a language barrier may intrude on what should be our most intimate relationship.

I know that without that daily quiet time in the Word, in prayer and in silence waiting to hear from Jesus, I would soon not speak the same dialect, and quite possibly lose out on the sweet communion that is mine when I sit with Him, share my heart, and wait to hear His still small voice. Let’s not risk losing track of Jesus, the dearest Friend we will ever have!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Necessity of Friends

“By yourself you're unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped.” Ecc. 4:12 (MSG)

The Word of God has been an amazing source of wisdom and truth for me. Yet how many times have I ignored what I know to be true even when I find it in the Scripture? I know and love the Scripture from Ecclesiastes I have quoted today and yet in my pride I was unwilling to be accountable to anyone as I attempted to lose weight again. I was deeply ashamed that I had gained back the weight in the first place and I was reluctant to ask my close friends for help.

But the truth is I need my friends to encourage me and keep me accountable. Our Father in heaven knows this and His Word clearly supports it. I can’t fight this battle on my own. The fact is I got into this mess on my own and should have asked for help long before now. My chances for success are much greater with the accountability than without it.

So I’m holding myself accountable in this blog and sharing the lessons I have been learning. I am letting you all know that I am actually walking/running two miles three days a week. My food intake has returned to a much healthier place. I have not done the mindless eating that allows me to “numb out” to my pain or hurt. And I’m making progress. My pants are more comfortable, I am getting stronger and a little faster, and mentally and emotionally, I’m in a much better place. So I want to thank my daughter Shannon and my friends Susan and Chris and you the readers for your support and encouragement as I continue this weight loss challenge.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Power for the Weak

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Is. 40:29

As I mentioned in my previous blog, Jesus has revealed a direct correlation with food and the abdication of self responsibility in my life; the less powerful I feel, the more food I put in my mouth! And perhaps if I had asked myself why I was mindlessly eating, I would have identified feeling powerless to meet needs….powerless to right wrongs, powerless to comfort pain, or powerless to engineer truces between warring factions. Like the picture, I take the world on my shoulders.

But the feelings of powerlessness are misplaced because those are not my responsibilities! Those wrongs were not mine to right, the pain some people had was not mine to comfort, and the warring factions needed to find a truce for themselves. The responsibility for meeting those needs belongs to God and His Holy Spirit. As Steven Curtis Chapman stated so succinctly, “God is God and I am not!” My responsibility begins and ends with myself, my family, my work, and, where I am invited, the lives of my friends. That’s it. My weakness is recognizing when and why I feel powerless. I am also weak when it comes to healthy food choices and portion sizes. And as I acknowledge this weakness, I can avail myself of the power of God, “who gives strength to the powerless.”

The Lord gives me the strength to make a healthy choice, to leave food on my plate, or to resist the second portion when I’m not even hungry. More importantly, in Him I can find the strength to identify when I’m taking not taking responsibility for meeting my needs, or taking responsibility to meet needs that do not belong to me. I ought to recognize when I’m using food as a method to “numb” the pain or the powerlessness. The truth is I am not powerless over myself. I have the power to say no. As I recognize God’s mighty hand revealing His truths in my heart and mind, I rejoice and accept the appropriate power He gives me to gain control over myself.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Understanding Learned Powerlessness

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Is. 40:29

In my last few blogs I have been sharing some of the lessons the Lord has been teaching me as I break the habit of over-eating. I recently began to recognize that the last several years have been deeply painful and highly stressful and that I have felt powerless to control the circumstances surrounding my life. And as I pondered the idea of powerlessness, I started to see a pattern of behavior emerge in my history.

Let me define exactly what I’m talking about. Children do not have the authority to make life decisions such as where to live, how money is spent, how discipline is applied, etc. Those decisions are left to their parents or guardians. Children learn how to make decisions by observing the adults in their lives making decisions and then being given the opportunity to make decisions for themselves. This is learned behavior. But what if the child does not observe or learn healthy decision making skills? The result can be an unwillingness to take ownership or authority in the decision making process, in other words, a learned helplessness or powerlessness.

I’m recognizing powerlessness has been my constant companion, starting in my childhood. With the specific dysfunctions in my family of origin, as a child many of my life circumstances were a result of someone else’s decisions and behaviors. As a young adult I had to learn to take back my appropriate power; my authority over myself; authority to say yes or no to someone; authority to engage or not engage in different activities, and the authority to experience the emotions I felt rather than denying them. Through counseling, prayer, and learning to trust “that I am who God says I am and that I can do all things through Christ” (thank you, Beth Moore and “Believing God”!) I made some significant progress in this arena.

However, when life becomes highly stressful, I fall back into the unhealthy behaviors, especially the behavior of learned helplessness that is so familiar. I found myself relinquishing my authority, my power in many areas of life, especially in my food choices. More succinctly, when profoundly stressed, I abdicate responsibility in my own life! But I have an inside track to taking back my power, for God gives strength to the powerless!

How about you? Do you find yourself abdicating responsibility in your life? How is that manifested? Does it take you time to recognize the behavior? I would love your feedback as I explore this topic further for my next blog.

And by the way, I have lost between 5 to 7 pounds in the last six weeks! I’m very excited about the weight loss, but I’m more excited about what God has been showing me in this process!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Whack-a-Mole Wrinkle

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor. 12:8-10

I have a dear friend who says that sometimes life is like the game of whack-a-mole; as soon as you nail one problem, another problem springs up that requires attention. Just as I start to get an exercise regime in place, the food intake decreasing, and as I work at not retreating to food for comfort (refer to previous blog), I find myself irritable, emotional, overly sensitive, and downright no fun to be with…and I cannot escape my own company! I don’t like fighting feelings of negativity and rejection that are probably just figments of my imagination. But what do I do with these feelings? Numbing out with food allowed me to not feel and escaping negative feelings is pretty addictive. And I was a lot more fun to hang out with. Now, I find myself writhing internally with hurt, pain, anger and a host of other emotions that have long lay dormant and are spilling through me like the water behind a dam-burst! How do I deal?

Writing this blog is somewhat therapeutic but I’m not sure why anyone would want to read about the processing of my emotions. Or perhaps reading about the emotions of another frees one up to consider one’s own emotions. Meanwhile, I just want to sit with a bag of chips and watch the feelings disappear. However, processing the emotions is my prerequisite. So writing, working out, prayer, and talking with friends helps the processing of the emotions, but frankly, I feel foolish and vulnerable sharing feelings and weaknesses as I consider posting this blog.

To my chagrin, when I take self (read pride) out of the picture, maybe it is a glimpse into the process of working through my emotions that Jesus can use to encourage and enlighten others. Perhaps this blog is not about the success or failure of losing weight, but about sharing the process of what I am learning as I sit quietly before the Lord and listen for the still, small voice of my Deliverer. After all, my desire is that my life be about Jesus Christ and His will being lived out through me, even in my weakness. Maybe Jesus can use this for you, dear reader, so that you feel less isolated in your struggles to gain empowerment over issues of your own. I would love any feedback you have for me. Until then, get your mallets ready to whack-a-mole!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Risking to Find Comfort for the Pain

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

Several years ago, I was in one of those deep discussions with a trusted friend that takes place late at night; the kind of discussion that results when two hearts have no fear of the other person and there is freedom to discuss profound ideas and intimate feelings. This friend is the quintessential business woman, intelligent, resourceful, well educated and well spoken. In the course of our discussion, I asked her, “How do you receive comfort when you are hurting?” For a few moments she was silent and she looked utterly perplexed, not even able to answer; she kept repeating the word comfort with a tone of confusion as though I had given her a word in a foreign language. This simple word, “comfort” left her profoundly mystified.

Strictly defined, “comfort” means relief in affliction, solace, or consolation. It can mean to soothe, console, or reassure. For those of you who read my last blog, I left off with this question: how was I going to be comforted in my pain and begin the process of removing the yoke of over-eating? I also solicited your thoughts on how to answer this question, and to those of you who have responded, I thank you. But in returning to the question, we all know the “good girl” answer is God and His word. I must be willing to turn to Him for comfort, rather than putting my head back into the yoke of over-eating. When I’m hurting and feeling bad, I read Scripture (especially Psalms) in my search for solace and pray crying out to God in my pain. But sometimes this just doesn’t relieve my affliction.

The truth is, sometimes I want God to have skin on so that I can see and touch Him. That’s why relationships with people are so necessary. Job’s friends knew this. Paul understood that same need for comfort and we read of many different relationships in his letters: Titus, Justus, John-Mark, Timothy, and others, and the comfort he received from them. In John 11:19, there is a reference to the fact that many Jews had come to offer comfort to Mary and Martha in the loss of their brother Lazarus.

Therefore, I’m realizing that I need to reach out to my intimate friends when I need comfort. And boy is that difficult! I despise feeling so vulnerable! What if no one wants to comfort me? What if no one wants to hear me? What if no one has time for me? What if, what if…this is the crux of the matter. Maybe it is time to take the risk and ask for the help of my dear friends instead of numbing out with food. The truth is, the numbness wears off but the pounds do not! Or at least, the pounds only come off after a lot of hard work. But the feelings will return and I will be back where I started, alone and hurting. God has provided me with incredible friends (you all know who you are) and I am profoundly grateful for these friends. So, I must be willing to take the risk, reach out, and receive the comfort they are willing to give me. When all is said and done, I’d rather take the risk than to put my head back into the yoke!