Dark night of the soul

Dear God,

Today I’m in a bad space. I’m stuck under a dark cloud I can’t escape. All I can do is focus on all the ways I’ve failed: the terrible books I’ve written, the weight I’ve put on, the time I’ve wasted, how I’m just washed up, old, ugly, and will never amount to anything. You’ve blessed me with so much, and all I can be is unhappy. That is just one more way I’m failing. I can’t be happy with what I have.

I don’t know how to escape these feelings. Perhaps I should just be happy with what I have, stop striving for more. But I can’t. I thought for sure I’d have been successful with my books by now. But this last book I published was a flop. No one is reading it, and honestly, I now doubt it’s any good. I’m no good. I used to think I was, but every book seems to be getting worse. I know less now than I did in the beginning. I believe in myself less. I’m afraid I’m going to die ordinary, and this scares me to death.

I need your help more than ever. I wish you’d fix this by just giving me what I want, but I know that’s not how you work. I know you want me to find happiness and joy in you, and in what I already have. I know you want me to stop being jealous of other people’s success, and to make the life of my dreams instead of sitting in misery. But I don’t know how! I’m wearing lead boots here, and I’m drowning. The weight on my chest is unbearable. My self doubt is crippling. My anger is killing me.

Please help me. Please take this burden. Please. I can’t do this alone.

Love, me.

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Fat-shaming, finger-pointing, and God speaking through my dreams

The other night, I had a dream that my pastor stood before our congregation, angry with all of us. He was getting ready to roast every person in front of him. He started with a young girl in the front row, telling her she was so fat, she couldn’t fit into any of her clothes. I saw this was going downhill quickly, and knew I needed to step in to save this little girl’s feelings, and to head off any more ridicule coming toward anyone else. I moved forward, and he turned to me, his eyes blazing. I reached him, and rather than tell him what he was doing wrong, I wrapped my arms around him in a huge hug.

“Take a deep breath and hold it,” I told him. We were suddenly in water, just the two of us, and he took a deep breath and dunked himself under the water. I held him down gently to keep him from floating to the surface, and then released him when he was ready to come up for air. He was visibly calmer, and I asked him, “What would Jesus do?” At this, he softened. Then he reached forward to move my hair from my forehead as a sign of gratitude and immense kindness.

This dream stayed with me in the morning when I woke up. I remembered hearing once that when we dream, everyone in the dream is actually us. I realized that the dream wasn’t about my pastor or that little girl. It was about me.

I was the pastor. And I was the little girl he was ridiculing.

The night before, I had been trying on dresses to wear to an event in San Francisco. My selection had grown slim, as I’ve gained enough weight that my favorite dresses no longer fit. The red dress I chose to wear still looked cute on me, but in a chunky girl kind of way, and not the slender sexy way it used to fit. I had to force myself not to focus on my flaws—how my arms spilled out, my fleshy parts, my lack of waist, my swollen face… Obviously, I still focused. But I didn’t dwell.

Except for the dream…

So, the girl in the dream was obviously me, and she was being shamed for her weight by my pastor, who was also me. He/I was telling her/me how fat she was, how she lacked self-control, how none of her clothes fit, and that all this was her fault.

My fault.

But the focus of the dream wasn’t on me as the little girl, though I was definitely concerned for her feelings. The focus was on me as my pastor, who was being unkind and harmful to MYSELF about having lost my self-control so much that I’ve gained weight.

“What would Jesus do?” This scene was a reminder that in times of losing control (in anything, but particularly when I’m angry and about to unleash fury on others or myself), to take a deep breath and let it out slow. Then I’m to think about what Jesus would do in this situation.

How would Jesus treat me about my body?

First, he’d tell me I was special and unique. He’d tell me that each part of me was made with love and care, and to serve a purpose. The eyes I am seeing myself with are through a global lens. I am judging myself through society’s standards, which keeps everyone striving to reach an ideal that can never be reached (thanks, Photoshop). People like me, who have had kids and are growing older, are pushed out and made to feel like we don’t belong, all because we aren’t devoting our time to constant exercise and losing the battle to gravity.

Me, I’m comparing myself to 20-year-old girls at my gym who have never had kids, and have tight, perfect bodies. I’m comparing myself to people my own age who have devoted their lives to fitness and health, and look amazing because of it.

But I’ve devoted my life to writing, because that’s how God wired me. This means I’m doing a lot of sitting. Plus, my work is sedentary, and so is school and studying. I have a steep hill to climb to get fit, and often I don’t have the time or energy for anything more.

If Jesus were right in front of me, talking face-to-face, he would remind me about how I was wired, why I’m shaped this way, and tell me to not get distracted from my life purpose, which is to change the world through writing.

sanctuaryBut then he’d go on. He’d remind me that my body is two things—the temple for God’s Holy Spirit, and a gift from God. In that, I should treat my body with care. That means feeding it nutritious foods and moving it through exercise. I don’t need to suffer in this to reach an extreme ideal. I just need to treat my body with kindness, doing what I can to provide it with good health and preservation.

The final part of my dream was my pastor/me showing me how grateful he was that I corrected him through love and kindness rather than condemnation. Judgement and condemnation never work with anyone, not with ourselves and not with those around us. We see this all the time, from the political storms and divided fronts in our nation, to the financial differences that separate us by class, from different parenting styles, different ways to love, differences of faith, differences of opinion… When we lash out at someone we disagree with, each side holds on to their point of view, and no one bends. It becomes a feud, and condemnation and judgement fuel that feud.

The other day, my son and I got into a huge fight over chores. Both of us were seeing red, and we each said some pretty horrific things to each other. As things escalated further, it occurred to me that neither one of us was bending. I chose that moment to stop and go over to him. I grabbed him and hugged him. My 6-foot-tall, stubborn 16-year-old child put his arms around me and started to cry. It came out that he was troubled because it was his dad’s birthday, and he hadn’t talked to his dad in over a month, even though his dad had tried to reach him. On this day, my son called and left a voicemail message when his dad didn’t pick up. But as the hours passed by and he received no call back, my son was racked with fear that his dad hated him, and guilt that it was his fault (his dad called later, and everything was fine).

If I hadn’t stopped and hugged my son, we would have remained in this feud, plus my son would have these terrible feelings he couldn’t handle. We never would have reached the root of the issues.

Judgement and condemnation don’t work for ourselves, either. When we hold ourselves to the world’s standards, we forget that we are beautiful creations of God, and instead see ourselves as imperfect and ugly. We feel hopelessness, because achieving these standards feels out of reach. Then we compensate by giving up, choosing not to exercise because “what’s the point?”, or feeding our feelings with comfort food, which mends the hurt temporarily, but only causes more pain in the long run.

The other night, I filled myself on chips and tacos while hanging out with friends, and then ended my meal with ice cream—something I know doesn’t work with my system. I was already feeling rotten when I started eating it, and halfway through I felt terrible. I still wanted that ice cream, though, even though I felt worse with every bite. I had to force myself to put it down. That night, I was in so much pain, and I curled up in a fetal position half the night, wishing to fall asleep or die…all for a moment of good tasting food.

When we choose things other than God to give us comfort, it’s never forever. It’s for a moment. I did not need that ice cream, or all the chips I ate. The pleasure they gave me was only in the time I was eating them. But they were poisoning my body, my gift from God, my temple to his Holy Spirit. I knew the consequences. This wasn’t about striving for an ideal weight and failing, it was about poisoning the gift God gave me. There were healthy options there, and I chose the poisons.

Back to judgement and condemnation. When I looked in the mirror the next day while trying on the red dress, I saw every flaw. But I missed the miracle. I am not my flesh, though it’s a part of my body. I’m not my fat and rolls, or my swollen parts. I am not my extra 40 pounds.

I am a gift. My body is a blessing. God gave me the ability to walk, and to be healthy. He created me the way he wanted me, to serve a unique purpose. He sees me as beautiful.

My job is to remember my body is a gift, and to treat it with gratitude through healthy measures. This includes my thoughts.

So the last part of the dream, where my pastor moved the piece of my hair from my forehead, that was ME being loving to ME, treating myself with Agape love, feeling grateful for kindness in an unkind situation, and seeing myself as God sees me.

Beautiful.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – You know that your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit lives. The Spirit is in you, and is a gift from God. You are no longer your own. God paid a price for you. So use your body to honor God.

2 Timothy 1:7 – God’s spirit doesn’t make cowards out of us. The spirit gives us power, love, and self control.

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s handiwork (poema, masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Psalm 139:14 – I will give thanks to you, for I am wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. My soul knows that very well.

Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don’t work according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

1 Samuel 16:7 – Man looks at outward appearance, but Yahweh looks at the heart.

Thank you, God, for revealing how you see me, for reminding me of your power of love, and for speaking so clearly to me. You created me beautiful, wonderful. My body is a gift, a miracle, your Temple. You seem though eyes filled with pride and love. I am so thankful for this body you have blessed me with. It serves me well, allowing me to move, breathe, love… It isn’t perfect in the eyes of the world, but it is in your eyes, and to serve your purpose. I will do my best to treat it with kindness by feeding it nourishing foods and moving it with exercise to keep it limber, finding my comfort tin your, and in my conscious decision to honor you and your Temple through healthy habits. I am not perfect, and I know I’ll make mistakes. But you don’t require perfection. You love me as I am, and that is all the motivation I need to keep pushing forward and letting you be my comfort over everything else.

Thank you for you blessings. I love you. Amen.

The right way to support a friend going through hard times

helping hand

Today I received an education, and I’m sitting inside a tiny shame storm. Here’s what happened.

One of my good friends updated her Facebook status to speak out against memes that claim hardships make us stronger. She disagreed, and took issue with this statement.

I have a strong opinion on this, and it’s taken years to feel this strongly about it. I read her statement, and I thought of the hardships I’ve gone through. I thought about the years I stayed in an abusive marriage. I thought about the day I found out that my 7 month pregnancy was about to end in stillbirth because my baby had died. I thought about laying on a couch in a dark room, longing for light but unable to see it because I was so far gone in my depression. I remember struggling in poverty, raising kids on my own, withering away at my job, feeling overwhelmed, feeling strangled by jealousy… And then I thought about getting through these hardships and coming to the other side.

“Once I was out of it and had some distance from it, I realized there were bigger picture things that happened because of those struggles,” I wrote to my friend on her status update. “Some things paved the way for better things. Others gave me insight so that I could help someone else struggling through it. ALL of them made me stronger.”

I continued to give carefully-thought-out tips on dealing with grief and how to react, and how hardships really can make you stronger, and so on.

In other words, I was unhelpful.

You see, my friend is going through a very rough patch in her life. She’s recently experienced a few setbacks that have rocked her world and made her question everything she believes in. She’s slowly been withdrawing from activities and organizations that once meant a lot to her. She’s devastated by the way the world is right now, from her personal world to the world as a whole.

The last thing she needed was a lecture.

I posted a 6 paragraph response to what she wrote, trying to help her see that we actually can become stronger from our hardships. I felt compelled to do it, like it was the right thing to do as a Christian, and it was the right thing to do as someone who has overcome struggle and is now on the other side. I shared scripture and the meaning to it, trying to back up my claim. And I told her I believed in her.

I felt pretty good about myself after I posted it, believing I could help her see the light. But then I started to receive feedback.

Now, feedback on the internet is a scary place. I work at a newspaper—I see the comments. People can get downright nasty when they don’t agree with something. But let me tell you something…I was met with disagreement about what I posted, but all disagreeing comments were shared to me with love.

All of them.

“Sometimes the kindest words can feel like a knife wound at the wrong time and it's hard to let the kind intentions of others into our own dark space,” one friend wrote. She reminded me that “listening and caring can sometimes be the same thing.”

And that’s what I forgot.

I was so intent on sharing what I’d learned, to offer my experiences and insight, I completely forgot that this isn’t about MY experience. It’s true that we go through hard things, and then we learn something deeper about ourselves. We may even learn some of the secrets to life, and we want to shout it from the rooftops. But there are times when saying nothing is actually better than saying something.

Sometimes saying “me too” or “I’m so sorry you’re hurting right now” or “I care about you” are better than trying to solve the problem. Sometimes just showing up and listening is better than anything else you can do. Sometimes it’s better to save that 6 paragraph post for your private journal, and offer unconditional support instead.

Finally, as I said earlier, it took YEARS to get to where I am on hardships and strength. It also took years to get on the other side of depression, a disease that sucked the life out of me. If someone had come to me during that time to tell me about hope, and that our hardships make us stronger, I would have stopped talking to them. I am lucky that this friend, and a few others, were gentle in correcting me. I don’t know if I could have had that much grace.

These were the lessons I learned from this.

First, put myself in the other person’s shoes completely before I try to “educate” them.

Second, the world would be a much better place if we all took the time to have a civilized and gentle conversation with the people we disagree with, aiming to offer a new perspective instead of shame.

Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions. Proverbs 18:2

When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad. Romans 12:15

“I will give you rest”

I’m in a very busy season of my life. I’m in the middle of midterms and gearing up for finals in college. Work has been crazy busy, and the stress just keeps mounting. I’m wrapping up the edits to my book and gearing to start editing another. I wake up early every morning so I can work or get homework done for several hours before my job. I haven’t been to the gym in weeks because there’s no time. My social life doesn’t exist anymore and I think my friends have forgotten me. I know I could be doing so much better as a mom, a wife, a granddaughter, a daughter, a friend, a disciple….

My English class got out early last night, and I had an hour of gifted free time. And you know what? I didn’t know what to do with myself. I think I find comfort in the busyness. It’s almost like I need to be constantly doing to feel safe. And I don’t even need to be doing something constructive. I need to be reading, watching TV, scrolling through my phone, checking my email, writing, and so on. I can’t just sit and be silent for a moment. 

I’m exhausted, and yet I can’t stop going. 

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” 

I’ve been doing a lot of Bible reading lately. It’s how I start my day. Many morning I’ll even journal, reflecting on what I’ve read and working out a few issues, just like I’m doing now. This is all good, but without moments of silence throughout my day, I’ll never hear God speak to me. I’ll never hear his answer to the prayers I keep petitioning him with. Instead, I use pockets of time for social media, reading, listening to music… I avoid doing nothing almost as if I’m scared of it. Am I? And yet, God could just be waiting for the moment I finally STOP DOING and just be still. He could be waiting for me to come to him so he can give me rest. 

Come all you weary. My job is to show up. He’ll do the rest. 

God, the author of my story

knowme

In my critical thinking class last night, we discussed retrospective narration in a novel, such as in Jane Eyre, the book we’re currently reading. Retrospective narration is when the narrator is telling a story after everything has already happened. When they are telling the story, they already know how it will end.

God already knows how my story will end.

As people of faith, you’ve likely been told that all your life. God knows everything about you, he knows everything that’s going to happen to you; he has a plan. And yet, we often take that truth for granted, or fail to think about what that means. This is proved in times when we cry out against God for what’s going on in our lives or worry about what’s going to happen next. I’m not saying it’s wrong to do either of these things—we’re human, after all. However, we forget there’s a captain in charge, someone who has already charted the course. God knows the exact path to take to get to that end. He knows how to use our life to affect the path of other people’s lives. When bad things happen, you better believe there’s a reason.

For me, this means my path as an author. Most of my lamentations are in regards to how slow success is in this profession, my frustration with having to work so hard right now to make it happen, and the weight of self-doubt that’s constantly on my shoulders. Reading the above Psalm, plus recalling the discussion last night on retrospective narration, it hit me—God knows how this will end. He knows the exact moment my books will take off. He knows when I’ll be ready to handle success. He knows it all. And while I don’t like thinking about it, he even knows if this path is not the right one for me, but will lead me to the one that is.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalms 139: 16

I wonder how different my life would look if I started to trust that God knew the outcome, and everything was already falling place.

God, you knew me before I was born. You knew what I’d like and dislike, what I’d be passionate about, and the choices I‘d make. You know my whole story, beginning to end. You even know the moment I will stop fighting you on this journey and trust that you know what you’re doing. You know what you’re doing. I can’t promise to stop backseat driving, but Lord, I’m going to try. You know better than I do what needs to happen before I reach my destination. I’d prefer if you were the one driving.

Amen.

I can never get through a baptism service with dry eyes

baptize2

Our pastor surprised us today with an unannounced baptism service. I am usually prepared for these days. I go light on the eye make-up, and I bring a healthy stash of Kleenex. I know me. I will start bawling as soon as the first person steps up to be baptized.

Today was no exception. In fact, it was worse. Today, there were no planned baptisms. It was basically a time for anyone who felt the call to be baptized to step forward and do so. There was a chance that no one would step forward at all. But at least 6 people did come forward and proclaimed their life to Jesus in front of our church. And I was a blubbering mess.

I got to thinking about why I cry every single time there’s a baptism. I think it’s because this is just the beginning for these people, and I know how much they have to look forward to. I also know how hard this path is, as well.

Perhaps it has more to do with my own journey than theirs. I remember what it was like when I made a purposeful choice to life my life as a Jesus follower, how it felt to be so on fire. Shortly after my baptism, I had a stillbirth, we fell deep into poverty, I was a battered wife, I got divorced, I became a single mother, I became lost… I went through a dark time in my faith, one where, even after proclaiming my life under Jesus, I chose to step outside my faith in my actions. I asked God to look away for a while so that I could live life according to my rules. I know now that God doesn’t work that way. He knows all. He sees all. And he loves me anyway.

Life now, it’s so much different. My faith is stronger. I am well aware of my blessings. I’m safe. I’m loved. And I love Jesus. I can feel God near me almost all the time. When I don’t, it’s because I’m not paying attention.

When I see someone getting baptized, I cry because I know that this is just the first step to a beautiful journey, and there is so much they’re about to experience. I cry when I see their family and friends surround them as they make such a life-changing decision. I cry because I know our Father in Heaven sees this and is so pleased with his child coming back to him. I cry because being wrapped up in God’s love and grace is such a wonderful feeling, and I wish everyone could understand how that feels.

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.  There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.  Galatians 3: 26-29

Prayer to Do Good


This prayer was in my devotions today, and it struck a cord. It reminded me of all the times I’ve been unpleasant or huffy because someone was inconveniencing me, or when I referred to another driver as an idiot because they cut me off, or when I just failed in general to be kind because it was inconvenient or I was more interested in acceptance from my peers.
How many times have I fallen into actions that were against the Kingdom of God? Countless times.

It’s easier to think about my own worth, my own comfort, how to make things convenient for me, or how to reward myself. It’s easy to step on others while I make my way to the top. It’s easy to think mean thoughts, and to say them aloud to make myself feel better. But when I submit to my own selfish ways, I am at war with the Kingdom.

This was not what Jesus called me to do.

Jesus called me to deny myself and take up my cross in the name of God (Matthew 16:24), and to do all things for Him and not for mankind (including myself) (Collosians 3:23). This life is not about what is best for me, but rather, how I can help gain souls for Heaven. How can I save mankind from a life away from God? I tell you one thing, it’s not by looking out for my own best interest. It’s about showing Jesus to the world. In this, all my actions should be like His. So when unexpected work lands on my plate, or a coworker wishes to gossip about another, or someone cuts me off in traffic, I am to think first about how Jesus would handle this situation, and then act accordingly.

None of us strive to be more selfish and self-serving, and yet, that is often how we act. May we instead lose ourselves so that we can gain the world.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭16:24‬ ‭

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Collosians 3:23

Lord, thank you for revealing ways I can please you more, and how to serve you better. You offer me grace, even in times when I am blind to the wrong I do. I am not perfect, and I have a far way to go to resemble your Son. But you love me in spite of myself, and you wish for me to do better. I will try my best. Amen.

Is the Sabbath for God, or for us?

Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man must be put to death! The whole community must stone him outside the camp.”

Numbers 15:35

Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.
Mark 2:27

These two verses seem in conflict with each other. In Numbers, God orders the stoning of a man for gathering wood on the Sabbath. In Mark, Jesus tells us that God created a day of rest for US, and not the other way around (creating us to fulfill the laws of the Sabbath). If God created a day of rest for us – a gift to help us recharge and be our best on our productive days – then why would he stone a man for working on the Sabbath? Was this just part of keeping the Israelites holy, ensuring they stayed in line?

In my version, God would have explained his reasons for the Sabbath, guiding through gentle love rather than wrathful vengeance. But in all the stories we’ve read about the Israelites, they were a hardheaded bunch who complained and rebelled even as they were being rescued and provided for. A gentle explanation may have fallen on deaf ears, and could have also created perceived leniency – leading to a slippery slope of backsliding on any of God’s laws.

My takeaways from these passages: I don’t have to understand everything God does. There are some things I just don’t agree with, but I also can’t see the big picture. God has reasons for everything because he can see all, knows all, and is working toward the greater good. This life is fleeting, but God’s kingdom is forever. The life taken from the man who was stoned was just a blip on the forever life we will all receive when God welcomes all of us back home.

Finally, thank the Lord for Jesus, who took on our sins and imperfections, and tore the veil that separated us from God. No longer are we subject to strict rituals and terrible wrath for our sins. Instead we are offered grace and forgiveness, and allowed to experience the fullness of God’s love.

5/4/17

I just read something today that puts some perspective to Jesus’ teaching in Mark. When Jesus says the Sabbath was made for man, he’s pointing out how the Jews have made the Sabbath their lord instead of accepting it as a gift of rest. We are meant to have margins in our life to recharge. This rest also allows us to hear what God has to tell us. But it doesn’t have to be done on a certain day at a certain time. Jesus is doing away with the legalism that’s been placed around the Sabbath. He’s telling us it’s not something we HAVE to do, it’s something we GET to do. 

At the time when Jesus said this, the Jews had very strict rules about the Sabbath, and would punish people for working on this day. And it’s no wonder, because back in Moses’ day, people were being put to death for working on the Sabbath. But Jesus changes the order of things, changing people’s minds about each rule they’ve been following. He’s telling the Jews to not look at the Sabbath as another thing on their to-do list, but to look at the Sabbath as a true day of rest, a chance to unwind and enjoy the fruits of our labors. 

The Sabbath is a gift. 

What is Lent?

We are now in the Lenten season, a period of six weeks that lasts between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. According to many Christian faiths, including the Catholic faith in which I grew up, Lent is a time of fasting for the purpose of penance, repentance, atonement and self-denial. In plain speak, it’s about giving up something I love as a sacrifice to God, and to repay Him for all the sinning I’ve done throughout the year.

Basically, if I promise God I’ll stop eating sugar, watching TV, saying swear words, or some other chosen fast for 40 days, he’ll absolve me from my sins.

Does that not seem ridiculous to you?

I am no longer Catholic in my Christian walk, but I am still a believer in Lent. I believe it’s the most holy time of the year, but that’s only because my definition of Lent has changed dramatically from my Catholic roots.

Lent is not about atoning for my sins. There is nothing I can do to earn God’s favor. It has been given to me by grace. My debt has been repaid through Jesus’ sacrifice. I am only asked to have faith (which is a deeper conversation, as faith is not just about saying “I believe,” but about continuously developing my relationship with Jesus, and letting my life reflect that relationship).

So if Lent isn’t about atonement, what is it for? You could say it’s about honoring Jesus’ sacrifice through a sacrifice of my own—but even that seems silly. How can I compare giving up sugar (my actual Lent fast this year) to Jesus sacrificing His life so that I could be forgiven? And if I fail in my fast, what does that say about my love for Jesus? Do I not love and honor Jesus enough if I taste sugar before my 40 days are up? By placing a value on my fast, I am opening the door to unnecessary guilt—and I have enough to feel guilty over!

A better explanation of Lent is that I’m fasting for 40 days as a way of drawing closer to God. Every time I crave sugar, I must shift my focus to God and lean on Him for strength. If it feels too hard, I must pray harder. If I succumb to my sugar addiction, I am to seek forgiveness—not for eating sugar, but for not trusting God to heal me from my addiction. And then I am to experience the fullness of his grace and move forward in trusting Him as my strength.

Further, this 40-day fast is not about giving up something for 40 days and then living as usual for the rest of the year. Rather, it’s about developing a deeper relationship with God—learning to lean on Him in my struggle, and to crave Him instead of earthly things. Giving up sugar is symbolic of denying the temptations of this world and proclaiming God as my only need.

“A person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” Galatians 2:16

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:13-14

Have I been perfect in my fast? 4 days in, and I have not had sugar. However, I’ve been leaning on my own willpower instead of on God. I have filled the void with other foods instead of filling it with prayer. In this, I have not been perfect.

But Lent is not about perfection, it’s about aiming for devotion. I have years and years of experience in relying on my own strength. When it comes to food addictions, I keep forgetting how badly that’s worked out for me. Now is my opportunity to develop my muscle of faith—to believe that God can cure my appetite for sugar, and can fill the void it leaves behind. It’s not my perfection in abstinence that counts, but my willingness to lean on God. Lent is not about my sacrifice (it’s not about ME!), but about admitting that I can’t do this alone and letting God give me the strength I need.

Lord, it’s natural for me to depend on my own willpower and resolve to fulfill what I want to accomplish. This is why I keep failing. I keep forgetting that I wasn’t meant to do this alone. I am falling on old habits in my resolve to abstain during my fast. If I keep going this route, I will fail. There is only so long that this resolve will be a strong enough reason to avoid sugar, or anything I choose to fast from. But if I lean on You in moments of weakness, You will carry me through. My faith matters more than my sacrifice, and my strength comes from You. Thank you for always being with me, and for giving me the boost I need when I’m tempted to give in. I want to trust you in every struggle. Thank you for your patience. Amen.

Note to readers: If you want to understand the full effect of God’s grace, I encourage you to read the entire book of Romans.

Love keeps no records of wrongs…

My husband couldn’t sleep, and his frustration about it woke me up at 3:45 this morning. I snapped at him as he stomped around the room, and then I stewed about it next to him for another 45 minutes. I finally got up at 4:30. I usually wake up at 5, so being awake since 3:45 is not really that much of a difference. Still, I kept thinking of all the ways he was terrible this morning, how I could retaliate, and how intent I was on giving him attitude should he get up with me….

❤️ Love is patient. Love is kind. It is not self-seeking.
It’s not easily angered. It keeps no records of wrongs. ❤️

Sigh. Yes Lord.

Marriage can be a tough road. Not 3:45 in the morning tough…that’s the easy kind of tough. The tough part is when the two of you don’t see eye to eye, when one person feels like the scales are unbalanced, or when hurt or distrust resides next to the promise to love for better or for worse. Your spouse is the closest person to you. They get to see all your best parts, as well as all your worst. If the marriage is a true partnership, this reality can only draw you closer. But if trust isn’t there, these are the things that can be your undoing.

I’ve been in both kinds of marriages. I’ve been in the one where any imperfection on my part was scrutinized, while my trust of him was broken over and over again. Threats ruled that marriage: threat of hurt, threat of leaving, threat of retaliation… And then there’s the marriage I’m in now, where I can get mad at him over waking me at 3:45, but also know that we love each other immensely, even when we’re in a fight. It’s because trust is there, and there’s safety in our marriage.

If you’re reading this, I pray you get to live in that second kind of love, the one where you feel safe, where honor rules, and where you can back down in times when you feel the scales are tipped because you know that weight shifts from your spouse’s favor to your favor just as often. It’s no mistake that this verse is often used as the marriage verse (it was ours!). It’s the kind of love God has for us and wants from us. When your marriage follows the principle of this verse, your marriage honors God. ❤️