Jan 312013
 

I think Epiphany might be my new favorite season.

We’ve usually celebrated it as a one-day event in our house—January 6, the last day of the official 12 days of Christmas, the day that marks the wise men (or maji) from the east wandering their way toward Jesus.

Technically, though, it’s a season lasting from January 6th until the first day of lent, so it’s usually at least a good 6 weeks long.

Though we often add the wise men to manger scenes at Christmastime, apparently it actually took them two years to find Jesus, meaning they arrived well after he was up and gone from the manger.

In the atrium with the 3-6 year olds, when presenting a scripture narrative with accompanying materials, we never speak and move figures at the same time. The children are so enchanted with movement

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that they won’t hear a word we are saying. So we read, stop, move figures. Read, stop, move figures. And so on. It can get tedious for impatient grown-ups who aren’t as easily enchanted with movement anymore.

In the last month I’ve introduced the children to the “Birth of Jesus and Adoration of the Shepherds,” as well as the “Adoration of the Maji.” I’ve noticed that a lot of time is taken up “journeying” various figures across the rug before the “adoration” part can actually happen.

And like the little clay figures shuffling across the rug, we are in what can feel like a stagnant time of

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year right now. We are waiting for something more interesting to happen. People are cold and hunkered, inside mostly, waiting for the weather to change. Football is winding down, baseball hasn’t started yet and it’s not yet time for March Madness.

Things are moving slowly and we are wondering, “Are we there yet?”

We are in epiphany.

The word means “showing,” as in God showing himself, giving a revelation of himself—especially to unlikely recipients, to those outside official religious constructs.

The Maji were not part of the religious establishment in Israel, and yet as seekers of wisdom and truth, they were drawn to the person of Jesus. The fact that they are so prominently included in the story shows that He was drawn to them as well.

This year in our family we each wrote down some names of folks we know who seem drawn to God but maybe feel further off from him than they’d like. We’ve been trying to pray for those friends during these epiphany weeks at dinner or bedtime, when we remember, which is maybe a quarter of the time if we’re lucky.

I told the kids to write their own name down first, because aren’t we all a little further off than we’d like? And doesn’t the “showing” of God himself seem a long time coming, if it comes at all? And doesn’t the hungering and wandering and squinting to see the star in the dark get tiring and confusing for us sometimes?

The good news is even though it took the wise men two tedious years, apparently they weren’t too late for the showing.

And apparently it wasn’t a waste of time. Something about that showing elicited their best gifts.

And there was “homage”—an adoration so deep it encompassed their whole bodies as they stretched out with their faces on the ground. The children love to practice this over and over again, little souls enchanted with movement.

God help us be fascinated with movement like little children. Let the journey be enchanting, even when it feels slow. Help us believe in The Showing, and what it might show in us.

Admin

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© 2012 Standing on Peace

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Jan 302013
 

Ok, I’ll admit it: I’ve always been a cereal girl. It’s been my post-race snack after high school cross country, comfort food in college and my favorite breakfast food. But while I was pregnant, I got unexpected news that would change not only my breakfast routine, but my perspective as well.

My relationship with food has not always been a good one. Being a perfectionist, I’ve spent much of my life reading nutrition labels and wanting to control every bite I took.

However, I was in a good place when I got pregnant. I finally had freedom, peace and enjoyment when it came to food. I’d embraced the idea that pregnancy would change my body, but I was determined to do everything I could to be the “perfect” pregnant woman.

To me, this meant I would enjoy “eating for two”, but I’d also work out like crazy so as to not gain much extra weight.

Until the halfway point of my pregnancy, everything was normal. My husband and I were thrilled when we learned that we were expecting a little girl.

Then, around the 20 week mark, I had to take a routine glucose tolerance test. After failing it, and a more extensive test
that followed, I got the less thrilling news that I had Gestational Diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes (GD) is a diagnosis of elevated blood glucose levels in pregnant women. The hormones in the placenta that help a baby develop can also block the insulin from doing its job: changing blood sugar into energy.

When I got the news of my GD, I was shocked and embarrassed. For someone who prided herself on eating healthy and being active, this was not what I expected. Didn’t overweight people get diabetes?

I was frustrated. After finally experiencing peace and enjoyment over food, I was going to have to analyze and read the labels of everything I ate to monitor the sugar content. I had to prick my finger three times a day to check my
glucose levels. The fun of “eating for two” was over.

Many people- including dear friends of mine- deal with much more serious struggles during pregnancy. But as I look back on my months with GD, I realize that it wasn’t wasted. I did learn a few things about perfection, sacrifice, and of course, sugar.

  • Perfection is impossible. The definition of a perfect pregnancy wasn’t contingent on how cute I looked or how much weight I gained. Embracing the imperfection in my situation allowed me to connect with others and recognize my dependence on God. Letting go of the desire to be perfect is a skill I hope to pass along to my little girl.
  • Sacrifice is a cornerstone of parenthood. I experienced unique sacrifice early on as I had to give up many foods I loved (hello, cereal!) that weren’t good for my baby. Recognizing that I needed to prioritize my child was good “perspective shift” for my self-focused mentality.
  • I made healthy changes to my diet. I was careful to limit my sugar (carbohydrate) intake… especially in the morning. This meant exchanging my beloved cereal for a protein-rich breakfast of eggs; granola bars and crackers for almonds and Greek yogurt. Changes like this allowed me to manage my GD and also my pregnancy weight gain. I was able to gain only a moderate amount of weight and lose it quickly after delivery.

Though I would have loved a more simple pregnancy, I realize that it was still amazing because of the gift of my beautiful daughter and the things I learned along the way. And guess what I now crave in the morning for breakfast…. Eggs!

By guest writer Beth Cieminis: Beth is a stay at home mom to her little girl, Leah. She has a background in teaching physical education. She and her husband reside in Orange County.

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Jan 292013
 

Sometimes I just don’t feel strong enough for it all…

These were the words I expressed to my husband after he reminded me of our family schedule for the next couple of months.

Part of this schedule includes my husband’s travel for his job.   Which is sometimes a lot.

The reality of his absence not only includes missing my best friend and our kids missing their dad, but it means no extra hands to help with the things I’ve come to rely on him for.

His hugs.  His playing with the kids after work to get all their energy out.   His disarming our tired kids’ melt-downs as I get dinner prepared.  His giving me a moment alone each day.  His helping with the kids’ bedtime routines.  His help picking up the house at the end of the day.  His tender touch on my tired body.

He so beautifully shares life’s load with me, I crave him when he’s gone.

But there’s something about the challenge of my husband’s travel that shakes me to my core:  I fear it brings out the worst in me.  The raw, insecure, selfish, worst of me.  I fear I’m not strong enough – especially for my kids.  And because this challenge is a constant in our life, I fear my worst is playing on repeat.

“I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.”  Psalm 34:4 (emphasis added)

We are all facing challenges.  We’re stuck.  Depressed.  A victim.  Longing for something that cannot be.  Trying to accept ourselves.  Fighting for our very life.

Sometimes our challenges find us tattered.  Begging us to raise the white flag.  Leaving us pleading with God to give us a different challenge – something we can handle for goodness sake!

As I’ve been thinking and praying about my feeling weak, God has brought a couple of truths to mind.

  • When we are weak, He is faithful to strengthen us.  We so easily forget to include God in our efforts to survive something.  To get through something.  But the truth is: He doesn’t just want us to survive our challenge – He want us to thrive in it and overcome it.  His strength is available to us, if we would just ask for and receive it.

“Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually.” 1 Choronicles 16:11

“He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.  Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”  Isaiah 40:29-31

  • Our challenges are part of His best for us.  God is not far off.  He has not forgotten about us.  He has not slighted us or given us His left-overs.  He knows EXACTLY what we need.  And it always includes a heart change.  Because it’s our heart He’s most concerned about.  Amidst our challenge He will accomplish His good work in us.

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

“Oh Lord, you are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; for You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, in perfect faithfulness.”  Isaiah 25:1

Are you facing a challenge today you need strength to face?

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© 2012 Standing on Peace

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Jan 282013
 

I HAVEN’T BOUGHT NEW UNDERWEAR IN PROBABLY 11 YEARS.  BEFORE YOU BECOME COMPLETELY DISGUSTED, YOU MUST UNDERSTAND I HAVE RECEIVED SOME NEW PAIRS IN MY STOCKINGS AT CHRISTMAS AND SOME NEW TO ME PAIRS ON INFINITE LOAN FROM MY MOTHER.  So it’s not as if I ONLY wear my oldie but goodie’s.  But here is the truth:  my oldies are worn.  Worn out.

I knew it was time to buy some new undies when my husband said, “Wow, those are some nice underwear.  I think it’s time for those to go in the trash.”  He had been dropping some hints about them over the last 5 years, but for some reason it wasn’t until this comment that I was ready to take action.

You would be proud of me.  I used half of my JC Penny gift card to purchase brand spankin’ new undies last week.  And I threw away my oldies.  My family can rest easy now.  No worries of seeing me in the tattered and torn underwear I purchased 11 years ago for my wedding.  I have to admit it felt good to be out with the old and in with the new.

Last week I had multiple days where I felt worn out like my oldie undies.  But one day stands out in particular.

My Day of Worn

  1. I woke up to my girls were screaming at each other. I ran to tackle the issue at hand.  Completely undressed, Lucy and Sadie had poured cups of water, ALL the toys, and hundreds of stickers all over the room.  The cream of the crop: Lucy had peed the bed.  They were tugging back and forth over one sticker.  Worn.
  2. I sent both girls to time outs and began cleaning the huge mess.  Worn.
  3. I began the regular routine of breakfast, coffee, and cleaning up the kitchen, while taking extra vitamin C to fight off a sore throat.  Worn.
  4. I wasn’t able to go to Bible Study to be filled up spiritually and emotionally due to my girls being sick.  I hadn’t been out of the house in a couple days.  Worn.
  5. I was on my period.  I was grouchy.  My motivation to be the positive, patient mom was more than gone.  Worn.
  6. We were out of lunch meat, milk, and laundry hadn’t happened due to sickness.  Worn.
  7. I hadn’t had time over the past week to write, read my Bible, run, or spend time with friends.  Worn.
  8. Both girls had been up in the middle of the night=no restful sleep for me.  Worn.
  9. I broke down and cried.  Worn.

Through my tears, God comforted me through His Word.  Come to me, all you who are burdened and I will give you rest.  Mt.  11:28

I don’t replay my Day of Worn in order for you to feel bad for me.  Reality is: I know you could tell me a similar but unique to you Day of Worn you had once, twice or many times this month.  I write about my worn to say I am with you, sister.

The Day of Worn is when we must cry out to Jesus.  Because it is in the worn that we can so easily draw into ourselves and forget to even ask for help.  But I have found He meets me so deeply in the worn.  He provides exactly what I need to continue on.  To get beyond me.  To praise Him in it. 

Just like I got rid of my worn out undies to bring in the new ones, we also can say goodbye to our worn self to embrace the new.  Our situation won’t necessarily change, but when we fix our eyes on Jesus we bring Him into our worn.  And through the power of His Holy Spirit we can find rest, help, strength, hope, joy and peace.  Jesus makes ALL things new.

“Joy is not the absence of suffering, but the presence of God.”  Author unknown.

Ps.  42:5  “Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

If you are experiencing a Day of Worn allow this song “Worn”  to minister to you.

What was one part of your Day(s) of Worn?

Jillian

Jillian

© 2012 Standing on Peace

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Jan 252013
 

Have you ever been unable to stop yourself from ruining a moment you knew should be absolutely joyful?  I have.  I almost ruined an entire day in Paris.

Not long ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to be in Paris.  We were without kids so we were enjoying calling the shots of our schedule.  One particular morning we had planned on getting up and going for a run together.

But, when the alarm went off, I could barely peel my eyes open, let alone move my body.  My husband asked if I would like to join him, I mumbled something about sleeping and I was left in beautiful silence for about an hour more.

It was beautiful.

Until I regained consciousness and realized I hadn’t gone running.  Instantly, a sweep of guilt, even anger, took over.

How could I be so lazy?  To actually miss running… in Paris nonetheless?  My hubby clearly was not lazy.  Why couldn’t I be like him?  Now he’ll be able to eat one more croissant than me!

I was literally disgusted with myself.

I quickly got ready and headed down to breakfast with my husband.  My grumpy mood hung over our table like a soggy blanket.  It was depressing, uncomfortable, unenjoyable and made you want to be just about anywhere else.

I let my idealism and perfectionism completely steal my joy.  In a moment when I wish I could have let all expectations go, I was comparing myself.  Stepping into that old trap of counting calories when I didn’t need to be.  I was labeling myself as a failure when that was the furthest from the truth.

I didn’t account for the fact that a parent desperately needs sleep when the kids aren’t around.  Or the fact we were jet-lagged.  I didn’t allow myself any allotment of grace.

I was rooting my identity in exterior standards, rather than who God says I am:

I am loved, adopted, chosen, accepted, redeemed.  (from Ephesians 1:3-14)

Thankfully my husband and I can talk about these deeper things without too much pain.  I’m thankful to have someone else in my life who can help me see truth.  Sometimes we need someone else to help us wake up.  To splash the cold water of truth in our face.

Recognition is always the first step to healing, right?  We need to start recognizing when our ideals or the world’s perfectionism is calling the shots.  When someone or something other than God dictates how we see ourselves.

Is your identity in your being perfect or is it in who Christ says you are?

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© 2012 Standing on Peace

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Jan 252013
 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

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Jan 242013
 

Well, I’m 40.

And I’m kinda likin’ it actually. New perspective is abounding.

First we had the once-in-26,000-years-solar-system-crossing-the-galactic-equator winter solstice (misinterpreted by some as the Mayan end of

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the world). And you can go ahead and make fun of me, but I woke up feeling differently! Something shifted and

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opened up in me. There was this warm, expanding sense that love is the only thing that matters, the priority that pushes out all others. (No, I wasn’t high!)

I was thinking about my husband in particular, and felt inspired toward a more radically generous love—a “no

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matter what” kind of love that relentlessly stretches to make room for someone however they are, whatever kind of moment they’re in.

It seemed obvious in a new way that this big, settled, spacious love should be my persistent response to the people I live with.

Then I went to a conference with 16,000 people who were reveling in the richness of different cultures and the wonder of God’s grace and power. The best part was being exposed to a dozen speakers and hundreds of service organization—folks whose whole lives are about turning darkness to light all over the world in breathtaking, practical ways.

I was overwhelmed with a longing to see my kids experience God’s goodness in contexts much different from their own, to experience the thrill of being part of God’s redemptive work in the world (which always means we get more redeemed too).

It seemed obvious in a new way that

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going after service adventures with my kids and exposing them to different cultures and lifestyles need to be priorities that push out others at this time.

But the third event in this trifecta of influential birthday moments definitely had the most impact—seeing the movie, “This is 40.”

Yep, it trumped the Mayan love mojo and the conference of do-gooders. This movie is raunchy and full of foul language. But it tells the truth in ways few movies I’ve seen do.

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It captures the raw, confused, tired, undermining, helpless HUMANITY we all bring to any lofty goal of radical love or service.

And it does so with humor and faith. (I’m thinking these two things might be the secret to life.)

In the movie and in my family, there are awful, awkward moments where things just aren’t working and no one knows what to do. We cringe, we go to our corners, we shuffle around feeling bad.

I am learning that these moments aren’t abnormal, they don’t mean we have huge problems, they don’t negate the bondedness and joy we have as a family.

If I can hang on and not freak out, eventually something fresh and unexpected unfolds. When Aaron and I are fighting, one of the most healing things he does is make a little playful joke about whatever the issue is. The ability to laugh at ourselves and with each other in our worst moments is incredibly powerful—I think it is one of the surest ways to express faith in the big picture even when we are in the midst of a bad, bad moment.

(And after seeing that movie, Aaron and I now have a whole new cache of jokes to throw around!)

If I’m going to move forward with the values that feel most pressing and inspiring to me right now as a midlife wife and mother, I need to keep the faith when our family’s

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humanity gets in the way.

What’s speaking to you as you launch into 2013?

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Jan 232013
 

There is more to life than feeling overwhelmed. Our creator longs for us to live a life filled with peace and joy.

Last week I shared about feeling overwhelmed.

I seem to be the most stressed when my mind is focused on earthly things. Such as my “should” and “need to” lists.  That is when I feel the least amount of peace and joy.

The key to experiencing peace and joy in our daily living is inviting God to be a part of it all. But what does that really look like?

When I mentally focus on God, His creation around me, Scripture or my Blessings, He gives me peace and joy. The above exercises shift my perspective back to things above and remind me “life is not an emergency” (Ann Voskamp).

God is not a magic genie (to quote my 5 year old). No matter how much we wish He would wave a magic wand to take away the stress that is not what He always does. My tasks will be completed OR they will not. Still everything will be ok.

Here are a few tangible steps that help me experience peace and joy:

  1. Upon waking up in the morning, look to Jesus. Invite Him to be a part of your day. Ask for His guidance in your choices with your time and to be a part of all that you do.
  2. Pray without ceasing. Pray in the shower. Pray in the car. Pray about everything. Not just requests but prayers of Thanksgiving.
  3. Be aware of how your choices with your time. Be honest with yourself about these choices.  At the end of the day evaluate how much time you spent on the computer and on the phone.  Did you make time for prayer?  (Chances are that if you over spent your time on the computer or forgot to pray, you may feel overwhelmed or incomplete.)
  4. Take care of the “hot spot” in your home.  I read an organizing book (sorry, can’t remember the name) about how we each have a “hot spot” around our home. This is a task, that when not completed, brings us anxiety. It is the area that you should always take care of.  I discovered that one of my “hot spots” is unfolded laundry in my bedroom. Each time I see it I feel anxious and stressed. Once I started making an effort to fold clothes and put them away on a regular basis, I was amazed at the difference it made for my state of mind.
  5. Only touch something once. For example, if you have something that needs to go to the recycling, take it straight there. Don’t set it down to be done later. Later comes quickly and the item may be forgotten. You are helping yourself a great deal by completing a task and not leaving it for later.
  6. Be conscious of your thoughts. What do you spend the most time thinking about?  The more unpleasant the things you focus on, the crummier you will feel. The opposite is also true. The more positive, joyful thoughts you have, the better you will feel.

*Please remember that I am human and inherently flawed. I DO NOT have it all together and fail each and every day.  These are just a few things that helped me in my journey to experience greater joy and peace. When I remember to apply these things to my daily living, I feel significantly less stressed.

What do you do to feel less overwhelmed?

I wanted to share with you a song that has been speaking to me these last few days…

Give Me Jesus

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Jan 222013
 

Racing heart.  Sweaty palms.  Shaking knees.  The feeling I am going to stumble over every word that comes out of my mouth.  This was my physical state, as I drove to our Standing on Peace video shoot.

I opened my glove box, hoping to find a stashed away snack.  As I focused on the road, my hand blindly moved around trying to identify objects that might be food. In all my rush to hand off the kids and dinner to my husband, whilst being prepared for our video shoot, I hadn’t had a chance to slow down, pray and ask God to calm my spirit.  I was nervous and acting in my own strength.  Bad combination for me.

My searching hand finally came across a crinkling package.  Food!  Let me be more specific.  Sugar.   In the form of red licorice.  An entire movie theatre size package.  I opened it up and started biting away.  One piece.  Then two.  Three.  Four.  I resembled a wood chipping machine devouring branch after branch.

It wasn’t until I reached the last piece in the package when I came out of my eating trance.

What was I doing?

I was eating away my emotions.

Not a lot makes me more nervous than speaking in front of people.  Being on camera might second that.  My fears are an intertwining of tangled roots: fear of not being perfect, fear of not being able to speak the words I am thinking (If you are an internal processor, you know how I feel), fear of putting myself “out there”.

As I recognized why I had just consumed an entire package of licorice, I stopped my racing mind and prayed while I drove.

I thanked God for opening my eyes so quickly as to why I was emotionally eating.  I thanked Him for His grace to start over – that these moments don’t have to send me down a path of unhealthy eating, food obsessions and guilt.  I asked God to forgive me for acting in my own strength; for not trusting Him to give me the words to say. I asked for His peace.  For His presence to be with all of us as we did our video.  I asked for His blessing as I embarked on this writing journey.

Emotional eating is when we eat for reasons other than feeling hungry.  It often brings a sense of comfort when we feel anxious, sad, depressed, and/or alone.  It is an extremely common response to intense emotion.  And it’s exactly what I was doing on the way to our video shoot.

Practicing “in the moment pauses” as you eat is a powerful tool when fighting these emotional battles.

Stop and Ask Yourself:

  • “Why am I eating right now?”
  • “Am I truly hungry or am I emotionally eating right now?”

These two questions can help you become aware of the roots of your food struggles. Roots could come from any number of aspects in your life, such as fear, perfectionism, relational hurts, disappointments, loss, isolation, where you are at with God, etc.  Asking God to help you become aware of the roots of your struggle is a small act that can precipitate big realizations.

When do you find yourself emotionally eating?  Will you consider praying for God to bring you awareness to your roots of emotional eating?

Admin

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© 2012 Standing on Peace

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Jan 212013
 

There I was.  On the airplane.  Weeping uncontrollably.  The stewardess came to ask me if I wanted anything to drink.  I was a sight to see.  As I smeared the mascara from the middle to outside of my face, I blubbered out mid tears, “It’s this book. It got to me”.  (Humbling moments such as this one seem to find me often.)

It was the book, “Kisses from Katie”, by Katie Davis.  A Christmas present I received from my sister in law.  Little did I know the intense emotions I would fight back as I encountered the story of this young woman’s journey of obedience to God.  I tried to explain to my husband how Katie’s story moved me to tears.  (He still didn’t fully relate with my emotional self, but such is my life as a woman.)

When God spoke, Katie said “yes”-even when it was to go to Uganda instead of partaking in the American dream of going to college, getting married, and living in wealth.  Even when it was to adopt thirteen Ugandan children.  She lived with “spiritual richness in material poverty, versus living with spiritual poverty in a land of material wealth.”

How Katie’s faith caused me to re-evaluate my life for 2013:

  • She confirmed my heart for adoption. Katie explained, “The truth is that there are 143 million orphaned children and the 11 million who starve to death or die from preventable diseases and the 8.5 million who work as child slaves, prostitutes or under other horrific conditions and the 2.3 million who live with HIV add up to 164.8 million needy children.  And though at first glance that looks like a big number, 2.1 billion people on this earth proclaim to be Christians.  If only 8 percent of the Christians would care for one more child, there would not be any statistics left.  I have the freedom, the opportunity to do something about it.  The truth is that He loves these children just as He loves me, and now that I know, I am responsible.”
  • I had an introspection moment of seeing my own selfishness.  Do I truly love Jesus and others in my daily actions?  Am I roledmodeling a life like Jesus to my children? I pondered what deliberate ways we as a family could serve the poor and open up our home to others.  Katie’s words are, “I don’t always want to help other people.  There are certain days when I want to do what I need to do and keep moving.  But so often when we stop to be kind, when we don’t really want to, that’s when the sacrifice becomes most rewarding.”
  • She helped me understand that living life to the fullest was my choice. I want to live life rejecting fears, embracing risk, obeying God’s promptings throughout the day, and welcoming strangers into my home.
  • I recognized I can live with much less and give much more.  Holding loosely to earthly possessions and comforts in order to give more to those who are struggling to survive.
  • I have a new thankfulness and purpose in my motherhood.  “It is God’s work, that in bathing and clothing and serving children, we are truly being the hands and feet of Jesus.”

This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees His brother in need but has no pity on Him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 Jn 3:16-18

Jillian

Jillian

© 2012 Standing on Peace

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