Toxic

As someone who has ridden the “Diet Roller Coaster” since she was fourteen years old, I’ve been through a plethora of fad diets.  You know the story… you’re motivated and on fire when you first start a new diet, and you even do really well for a week or two.  But when something gets in the way of that initial motivation, or when you’re faced with all kinds of sugary temptations at a family function or birthday party, you throw in the towel.  Ultimately, you end up gaining back the weight you lost and then some.  I assure you, friends, if I had a dime for every time I said “I’ll start fresh on Monday,” I would be rich by now.

Believe it or not, even with that track record, I have been known to call myself a Health and Wellness Coach.  I use that term lightly, though; I don’t have that title as a certified professional in the industry, but with what I do for my side hustle these days, that is exactly what I am.  For all intents and purposes, let’s just say I’m a Wellness Coach- total wellness that is.  I may share some interesting facts about physical health and clean eating once in a while, but my real passion is to help other women like me find spiritual and emotional health, too.  Even more-so!

If you would have told me five years ago that I would one day be a Wellness Coach, health or otherwise, I would have died laughing.  But isn’t that just how God works?  I know someone who was mercilessly teased when he was a boy for a speech impediment, and today he is a well-known motivational speaker and preacher.  In one of her books, Joyce Meyer tells us that she was lucky to pass English classes with D’s year after year, and now she teaches, preaches, studies the Word of God like nobody’s business, and has written more books than I can count.  Of course, let’s not forget about how God used Paul!  (Read Acts for the miraculous story about how Saul went from one of the worst prosecutors to Paul, a fierce Christ-follower who went on to write two-thirds of the New Testament!)

It’s taken me five years, but I finally embraced the reality that God turned this food addict into a health and wellness coach!  I not only help people stay motivated when they’ve decided to make healthy changes, but I educate them about what they put into their bodies and how it affects their health.  For example, I teach people that it can be toxic for your body if you drink too many acidic beverages and not enough water.  It also does not do a body good when we eat too many processed foods and refined sugars and not enough fresh produce, whole grains, and lean meats that are filled with the nutrients we need to fuel our bodies.  There are also the “fun facts” I share such as, your body needs fat to burn fat, and, anything light or fat free is filled with chemicals and sugars.  There are many other golden nuggets like these that I share with my clients, and I love doing it.

What I do is not about taking miracle pills that offer a quick fix, and it’s not about slapping on band-aids that offer a temporary fix.  To truly be healthy- body, mind, and soul- I try to encourage people to change the mindset that got them unhealthy in the first place.  I do teach my clients about eating as clean as possible, but I never try to make them feel bad for just staying true to themselves.  I want people to honor their bodies, not hate them.  

Since I jumped off of the diet roller coaster five years ago and instead boarded the new healthy lifestyle train, I’ve learned a lot about why fad diets don’t work.  I’ve changed my reading habits from romantic suspense fiction to non-fiction health and wellness books or spiritual growth books.  In Eat & Stay Thin by Joyce Meyer, she states, “When they [people who struggle with weight loss] are afraid that anything they put in their mouths carries the potential for ‘making them fat,’ they would much rather follow the list of rules and regulations in a diet than have liberty.”  That struck a chord with me, because that is my true heart’s desire- liberty!

Ever since I tried (and failed) the program that made the most sense to me years and years ago, The Weigh Down Diet by Gwen Shamblin, I have felt like a complete and utter failure.  What I loved about Gwen’s program was that it wasn’t based on what you were eating as much as it was based on listening to God and our body’s God-given cues.  Basically, you were taught to eat whatever you’re truly craving, but to only eat when you’re truly hungry.  You’re also supposed to… and this is where I struggled the most… stop when you’re pleasantly satisfied, not stuffed.  In today’s terms, you may hear it referred to as “intuitive eating.”  Honesty, I’ve been chasing that dream since it was first introduced to me over twenty years ago!

Like Joyce Meyer, Gwen talked about how society tries to “make the food behave” instead of making ourselves behave.  We think that if something is fat free, we can have double portions of it.  The truth is, when you take a look at the real reasons behind overeating, and there could be many, no amount of diet rules can help us overcome the surface problem.

I constantly tell people that my battle with food is more spiritual for me than it is physical.  And that’s because I’ve always looked at overeating as sinful.  I wasn’t taking care of my temple, and I felt I loved food more than I loved God.  I was ashamed, and I was definitely stuck in bondage.  When I wasn’t a slave to the food itself because I was on a diet, I was a slave to the diet’s rules, meal plans, and limitations.  Even to this day, I often feel like I’m a slave to the scale, because I let its numbers dictate my mood, my motivation, my self-worth, and even my sanity.  Dare I say… my relationship with the scale is toxic!  I have to remind myself every single day that this is about me and God, not about me and that scale.

For me, this journey is truly about finding the freedom that Christ died to give me.  There are days I honestly feel like I could burn out from stressing so much about food, and toxicity, and meal plans, and carbs, and sugar, and right and wrong.

In Mark 7, verses 18 and 19, we read, “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you?  Food doesn’t go into the heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.’ By saying this, He declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.” (NLT) Jesus has plainly told us that there IS NO right and wrong!

Let’s dig a little deeper, though.  We also learn in the New Testament where the real problem lies.  Consider this: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful.  All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (1 Corinthians 6:12, NKJV)  Ahhh, there it is.  Most people today take the first part of this verse and run with it.  Jesus said you could have a 16-ounce steak, loaded baked potato, and a hot fudge sundae, true… but is that really helping you?

Now, I would never tell anyone that they can’t enjoy these things, so please don’t misunderstand me.  The key to good physical health and taking care of your temple is to adopt a healthy lifestyle where you make healthy choices 80% percent of the time, and treat yourself 20% of the time- not the other way around.  And instead of over-indulging like in my scenario above, try having an 8-ounce steak, a baked sweet potato with butter and cinnamon, and if that satisfies you, skip the hot fudge sundae.  You could always go out for some ice cream later that night or sometime the next day.

Let’s examine the second part of this verse.  “I will not be brought under the power of any.”  Now this is where I’ve truly had my struggle.  I can remember many, many times crying out to the Lord asking, “Why does food have such power over me?”  The pull of food in my life was always so prevalent that I wondered what was wrong with me.  It wasn’t until much later that I realized I am not alone in this fight.

The reason I believed this problem to be a sin in my life is because, as an emotional eater, I should be turning to God and His Word for comfort, not a pan of brownies.  When I’m angry about something, I should be turning to God and His Word to calm me down, not taking my frustrations out on a bag of Doritos.  When I’m stressed out about various circumstances in my life, I should ask the Prince of Peace to help me trust in Him, not visit the nearest drive-through.  Above all, I wasn’t honoring God with my body and with what I was eating and drinking.

It’s actually strange to think about how something as simple as food can have such control over your actions.  When you get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and then take an unplanned detour to the kitchen before returning to bed, you’re under the power of food.  When you stop for gas but just have to run into the convenience store for a candy bar, you’re under the power of food.  When you’ve had a wonderful dinner out and still order the chocolate lava cake despite being full, you’re under the power of food.  Do you see a pattern here?

I know what I’m talking about, because I’ve lived through every one of these scenarios more than once, and hated myself for it every time I did it.  I truly had a love-hate relationship with food.  But here’s a newsflash for you: food is not the enemy!  Believe me, treating yourself to a candy bar when you are craving some chocolate is not a sin!  But be aware that there is a true, blue enemy who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV) He will not only take advantage of your weaknesses, but he will surely kick you while you’re down.  After you down that unplanned candy bar or drive-thru burger, you will, if you’re anything like me, proceed to beat yourself up for hours afterwards because you “did it again.”

The devil likes to tell us we are failures.  He loves to remind us how weak we are.  He takes absolute delight in making us feel miserable about ourselves by illuminating our flaws.  He knows us well, and he will gladly use the information to keep us as far from God and His truth as possible.  

But, here is one truth from Romans 3:23-24, NKJV, that you should keep in your heart every moment of every day… “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  Woo-hoo!  Doesn’t that make you want to shout and dance?!  Listen, not one of us is worthy of receiving God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness, and there is nothing we can ever do to earn or deserve those good gifts, that’s all true.  But when the enemy takes that truth and twists it into something that makes you feel bad about yourself, that’s taking it way too far.  Christ came to reconcile us unto God, and through His sacrifice, we are holy, righteous, and redeemed!  Amen!

I assure you, I’ve been fighting this giant for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been beating myself up for “being a failure” for even longer than that.  Can I be brutally honest with you about something?  You are a child of God!  That means that when you make nasty faces at your reflection, talk down to yourself, call yourself names, or any other thing you do to beat yourself up, you are BULLYING one of God’s daughters!  (How’s that for perspective?)  Wow!  A daughter of The King is the last person I would ever want to bully!

The bible frequently tells us how much power we have in the tongue.  We can use it to tear down or to build up.  Which one do you think glorifies God?  Proverbs 15:4 states, “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” (NIV) Be soothing, my friends!  Your spiritual and emotional health & well-being are key to achieving physical health and well-being.  You can’t have one without the others.  

Do you know that when we are in Christ, we have a supernatural power within us to accomplish things we can’t do in our own strength?  Acts 1:8b reads, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” (NKJV) 2 Timothy 1:7 reads, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV) There are many more where they came from, too.  The Bible is chock full of wonderful truths that we should be telling ourselves (and telling the enemy!) every single day!

To this day, I have a stack of index cards that each contain powerful truths I’ve used at one time or another during this battle.  They are attached to a book ring and kept in a little filing box so I can review them often!  The Bible says the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. (See Ephesians 6:17 and Hebrews 4:12) The Word is our weapon against the attacks from the enemy, and we should be able to use it at any given moment.  But I use them to not only fight the enemy, but also to embrace the freedom that was promised to me when I gave my heart to the Lord.

I would like to share these Scripture verses with you, so if you would like your own printable copy of these flash cards, visit my Freebies page!  I color-coded them for easy sorting, too!  I have included 36 life-giving verses to start with, but I encourage you to begin adding your own as you study more of God’s Word and find the truths that specifically speak to you.  You can carry these little “flash cards” with you so you have them readily available, or you can use them as study guides to practice memorization.

I began this post by talking about body toxicity, and then I mentioned that my relationship with the scale is toxic.  For a very, very long time, my relationship with myself was toxic, too.  I can’t even begin to tell you how often God “hit me over the head” with His truth about my true identity, and that is why I am so passionate about sharing what I learned with other women like me.

What is your relationship like with you?  Do you have a toxic relationship with yourself like I did?  How do you treat your body?  Are you taking care of God’s temple by using food for fuel instead of for comfort?  What kinds of things are you telling yourself?  Are you using your tongue to crush or to soothe?  To hurt or to heal?

If you are a mother, you know how terribly painful it is when your children have trouble with bullying in school.  It is a very sad and helpless feeling to watch your child suffer with such torment.  Imagine how much more painful it is for God to see one of His children suffer with that torment.  YOU are one of those children.  Don’t be a bully.

To find out more about Joyce Meyer’s book Eat & Stay Thin, or to learn more about Gwen Shamblin-Lara’s Weigh Down Diet, visit my Resources page.  If you have any Scripture verses that have encouraged you along the way, reminded you of who you are in Christ, or helped you ward off attacks from the enemy, I’d love for you to share them with us.  In fact, if this post related to you in any way, I would love for you to share your comments below.  Thanks, and God bless!   

 

Birthday Blues

Balloons    We are now just over a month away from my next birthday.  As the day draws closer, I can feel myself start to fill with sorrow.  Not because I’ll be another year older, which, let’s be honest, is a problem for a lot more people than we realize, but because it is now, and forever, the anniversary of my dad’s passing.  Actually, I could feel the sorrow start to creep in as soon as the weather changed.  I felt it come on full blast when football season started, because it’s now just a blaring reminder that my dad didn’t get to see the Eagles win the Super Bowl.

Honestly, I am well aware that there are several people who will never understand my sadness at such a loss, for he was never really a big part of my life anyway.  If you read my blog post entitled His Princess, it gives a short synopsis of why my dad abandoned me when I was a baby.  To make a long story very short, he had suffered with a debilitating addiction to drugs and alcohol.  However, there is so much more to the story- his story, and mine.

I moved to the mountains of Pennsylvania when I was twelve years old, and as I met new people and made new friends, I began to realize that I didn’t really know a lot about my past.  As my friends and I continued to nurture our growing relationships and learn more about each other, I noticed that the memories I had of my “real dad” were few and far between.

I spent most of my childhood days at my maternal grandmother’s house, and one memory I have of my dad, that is still so prevalent today for some reason, is of the day he showed up to see me while eating a dog bone.  Yes, my dad was eating a big, crunchy Milkbone.  I remember worrying that he wasn’t getting enough food to eat.  There was another time he showed up eating an apple, and I was shocked to see him down the whole thing in a matter of seconds- core and all!

I was always so excited to see him, because it didn’t happen often.  My mother would tell me of times I would be playing in my grandmother’s yard and he would walk right by me.  I would yell for him like a banshee, but he kept on walking as if he never even heard me.  Once in a blue moon he would call me to tell me he was coming to see me.  I would plant myself on the front steps of my grandmother’s porch and never move a muscle.  I wouldn’t go in to use the bathroom, and I certainly wouldn’t go in for dinner.  I wouldn’t budge for fear of missing him.  Needless to say, just because he said he was coming, didn’t necessarily mean he was going to show up.

That’s how my relationship was back then with my dad… a long string of broken promises and missed birthdays.  I never got angry with him, though.  I was always so happy to see him on the rare occasions that he did come around; there was no way I was going to waste precious moments with him by being angry.  I do remember that each time he showed up, he professed his undying love to me and promised that things would be different from there on out.  Although, they never were.

What makes this story even more interesting is that when he wasn’t living on the streets, he was staying with his mom.  My grandmothers’ houses were just around the corner from each other, so when I was old enough to realize that, I spent my afternoons wondering if he was there.  One time I even escaped on my bicycle, hoping I would remember the way to Grandmom’s house and praying that my daddy would be there.  They were both so elated when I knocked on the door that day!  (But when he returned me later that afternoon, my mother and grandparents were NOT so elated that I had done that!)

Truth be told, I didn’t care that I scared the daylights out of them when I disappeared.  I loved my dad; I had him on a pedestal, actually, and I wanted to see him every single chance I could.  I eventually learned the truth about his addiction, but I accepted that things were the way they were back then because he was very sick.

When he got clean later in life, he even found a way to come see me up in the mountains when he could.  He had lost his driver’s license long ago, and he had no car, anyway, so in my eyes, it was no small feat that he found his way to me.  He was so remorseful and admitted there was no excuse for what he had done.  He asked for my forgiveness, but I honestly didn’t think there was anything to forgive.  His actions were dictated by his drug and alcohol abuse, not by a lack of love for me.

From that point forward, we were working hard to rebuild our relationship- to make up for the time we had lost.  So, when I became an adult, Greg and I would hop in the car and take the three-hour drive to go see him in Philly.  He had fought to get clean and stay that way, and he had been living with my grandmother again, helping to take care of her.  She never gave up on him, and neither did I.  And I wanted him to have a different relationship with my children than he had with me.  I wanted him in their lives, so we did what we could to make that happen.  As they grew older, we started to have my dad come and stay with us for a week over Christmas.

Things were finally going so well- too well.  It wasn’t long before my dad’s poor life choices caught up with him.  He had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C first, and later, with Cancer.  I would spend the rest of my time with him just watching him wither away.

As he was nearing the end, I prayed and prayed that he would not pass away on my birthday.  My birthday was on a Saturday that year.  I remember it, because we would have gone down to see him at the nursing home that day had we not already had a college visit with our daughter previously scheduled.  We planned to drive down on Sunday instead… but that Sunday drive never happened.

I clearly remember being in the car on our way to Slippery Rock when I got the call.  My husband got the call, actually.  We both thought it was odd that my aunt would call Greg’s phone instead of mine, but I’m the one that picked up anyway since Greg was driving.  In hindsight, I guess I should have known right away why she would call my husband instead of me.  When I answered Greg’s phone, she sounded shocked at first, like she had dialed the wrong number by mistake.  She clearly said she was trying to reach Greg, but after I explained that he was driving, she said the four words that I will hear every November 21st until I’m gone from this earth.  “Daddy died this morning.”

Um, come again?  That can’t be right.  We were going to go down to see him the very next day.  I had been discussing this moment with God on a daily basis, and He knew full well that I did NOT want Him to take my dad on my birthday.

I spent the rest of the drive in shock, I think.  I don’t really remember much after the phone call.  I tried my best to pay attention to what we were being told at the various sessions we attended during the college visit, but the thing I remember the most is when my aunt called back later to ask me if I wanted my dad cremated or if I wanted to have a viewing.

Everything after that is like a blur.  When I think about that time in my life, I am plagued with the memories of things that happened right before his passing.  When we had gone down to see him the previous week at the nursing home, he wanted to walk us to the door when we left, but I said no.  I could clearly see he was already so tired from the visit, and I didn’t want to wear him out any more than he already was.

That was the last time I saw him.  I am now consumed with the thought of, “If I had said yes, I would’ve had just a few more minutes with him.”  I try to replay the last words I ever spoke to him, and I wonder if there was anything I left out.  Is there anything more I could have said to give him, and well, myself, more peace?

When we went down to see him the weekend before that, I had found that he’d been hiding pain medication in his socks.  I took them away from him because of his past drug history.  I was so afraid he would become addicted again, but who did I think I was?  I had no right to do that to him.  I had no idea what kind of pain with which he had been suffering every day.  I made his fight against cancer that much worse.  Could I have contributed to his death by not only increasing his pain, but also agitating him when I took his pain medication away?

I started writing this blog six days ago.   Usually I can get something written in an hour or so, but this one… this one was giving me trouble.  You see, the purpose of my blog is to educate, edify, and encourage.  I was trying so desperately to figure out how I was going to be encouraging, when I was in such a bad place myself.  Originally, I had planned on simply reminding you all that we’re doing this together- learning life together- and I don’t have all the answers.  But then something happened.

Until now, I had tried comfort myself by believing that it wasn’t God “taking” my dad away on my birthday, but rather, it was my dad hanging on with every ounce of strength he had left, so he could make it to see one more of my birthdays.  Until now, I was plagued with the sorrow that came with the thought of him dying alone in an unfamiliar place.  I hated that he died alone in that nursing home, and I’d been trying to picture what it was like for him to Jesus coming toward him with open arms.  But still… that imagery left me feeling like God took him away from me forever.

I know for a fact that Jesus came and took my dad to paradise, because my father gave his heart to Christ years prior.  I know it was a tremendous struggle for a very long time, though.  Whenever my grandmother or I would try to talk to him about salvation, he would just hang his head and say, “Jesus doesn’t want me.”  I couldn’t imagine anyone feeling so badly about themselves or about their past mistakes that they would believe Jesus wouldn’t want them.  How tragic to know there are still people in the world today who truly believe that.  People who don’t understand God’s nature and His unconditional love and faithfulness.  People who don’t understand the whole reason behind God’s plan to send us Jesus!

I realized later that it wasn’t a matter of God not being able to forgive my dad, but it was a matter of my dad not being able to forgive himself.  He had asked the Lord to forgive him, but he just wasn’t able to accept the forgiveness that God so freely gives.

Finally, FINALLY, after years of prayer and prodding, he was able to forgive himself and accept God’s grace and mercy and sacrifice!  As if that weren’t enough to cause us all to rejoice, my dad was later baptized.  He was baptized at my home church, in fact, just one short month before his death.  He had been up to stay with us for a week, because we had been trying to extend his visits to more than just once yearly at Christmastime.  I was glad he was here, too, because he wasn’t doing well at all, and I truthfully didn’t think he’d be able to make it back up for Christmas that year, anyway.  I was right.

I had finally gotten my dad back, and then, in the blink of an eye, I had to let him go again.  I had spent my childhood crying after his sporadic visits because I never knew when I would see him again.  After his death, I cried because I knew I never would.

I mentioned above that “something happened.”  Something happened to change my perspective about this whole situation.  That something was my daughter and son-in-law who came over one night to watch the 2018 film I Can Only Imagine.  My daughters and I saw it in the theaters when it first came out, and I bought the DVD as soon as it was released.  It was still in its packaging when Brittany and Will came over that night.

If you haven’t heard of it, it’s the film adaptation of the story behind Bart Millard, of the band MercyMe, and how he came to write the most-played song in the history of Christian radio.  According to, not only Wikipedia, but also the information given to us in writing at the end of the film, the song I Can Only Imagine has been certified quadruple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, and as of April, 2018, has sold over 2.5 million copies.

Bart wrote that song for his father, Arthur, who had physically and mentally abused him all his life, but who later found redemption in Christ and became a new man.  Arthur was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and according to the storyline in the movie, had refused treatment.  The film depicts the journey that Bart and Arthur took together as they worked to repair their relationship.  In one of Bart’s journal entries, he wrote, “I finally have the dad I always wanted, and now he’s being taken away.  How is that fair?”  Oh my, how I could relate to that!  And I was tortured by the reality that my dad had overcome a horrific drug addiction just to later be taken by cancer.

When Bart’s Memaw, referring to her son, asked Bart, “Can you imagine what he’s seeing right now,” the seed was planted, and I Can Only Imagine was born.  Until now, whenever I listened to that powerful worship song, I would try to envision what it would be like for me to see Jesus.  What would my heart feel?  Would I dance for Jesus, or would I be still in awe of Him?  Would I sing hallelujah?  Would I be able to speak at all?

Since re-watching the film and reflecting on how closely Bart’s story resembled my own, I began to think of the song differently.  I began to think of my dad’s final moments differently.  Instead of dwelling on the belief that my dad died alone, I started to wonder… what was it like for my dad to see Jesus?  After such a hard life and even harder death, what did his heart feel when Jesus came for him?

I can only imagine… what was it like when Jesus walked by my dad’s side?  What did his eyes see when the face of Jesus was before him?  My dad wasn’t alone; he was surrounded by God’s glory.  Did my dad stand in the presence of Jesus, or did he fall to his knees?  Either way, I can now envision Jesus picking my dad up and wrapping him in His loving arms, taking away his pain, once and for all.  I can envision my dad’s body being whole again- a smile on his face.  I can envision his soul being whole- a smile in his heart.  For the first time since my dad’s passing almost four years ago, I can imagine him, arm in arm with Jesus, smiling at me as if to say, “I’m okay.  I made it, and I’m OK.  It’s time for you to be okay, too.”

It’s time for YOU to be OK, too.  Whether you’re someone who mostly resembles Arthur Millard or my own father- bound by guilt and shame, or you’re someone who mostly resembles Bart and me- suffering with pain and loss, Jesus wants to set you free.  There is no greater joy than the joy that comes when you give your heart to Christ.

When you let Jesus come into those broken places that only He can soothe, a divine healing takes place.  Even writing this blog post was cathartic for me, and it was no accident that the unwrapping of that DVD was carefully planned and calculated by our Father in Heaven.

He knows me better than I know myself, and He knew what I needed when I began to write this post as an outlet for my pain.  The earth is God’s footstool, yet He is El Roi, the God who sees me.  He also sees you.  He loves you, and as the Author of your own redemption story, He wants to take you into His arms and heal those broken places like only He can.  Let Him in, won’t you?  And if you have already given Him your heart, give Him your pain, too.  Just imagine being surrounded by His glory.

To hear the life-changing chart topper, I Can Only Imagine, click here.  To purchase your own copy of this movie that I believe everyone should own, click here.  To learn more about how to give your life to Jesus and let Him heal your heart, please visit my Jesus and You page.  For the first time since my Dad died four years ago, I can truly and wholeheartedly smile with joy and gratitude when I think of my dad’s final moments, and I thank you for taking this journey with me.  God bless.

 

 

He Sighed

When I do my scripture reading and devotions, I like to journal a little bit about what I read.  A tip I received from my mother based on the method her Sunday School uses, is to use the acronym SOAP.  S is for the Scripture verse(s) that spoke to me from that day’s reading.  I always write down the passage and the reference.  O is for Observation.  I write out my reflection on the passage.  I briefly journal about why it spoke to me and what I think God is trying to tell me with the passage.  A is for Application.  After I think about what the verse(s) meant to me, I write out how I’m going to apply it to my life.  What did I learn from it?  What can I do differently based on what I learned?  P, of course, is for Prayer.  I always follow up my morning reading with a short prayer regarding everything I wrote.  If it’s something I need to improve on in my own life, I ask God for help.  If it’s something that newly occurred to me, I thank God for the revelation.  You get the idea. 

I may not be the quickest reader when it comes to Scripture, but my goal is not to get through the Bible as quickly as possible.  I like to take it in “chunks” and really digest what I’m taking in as I read.

As I was reading my daily scriptures the other day, I was thinking about what I was going to write about the passage, because it was a rather odd portion that happened to stand out to me on that day.  I wondered how I would “reflect” on this particular part of the passage, because this time it was only two simple words that really struck me.  The more I wondered how I was going to reflect on them, however, the more I actually began doing it.

The specific verse was Mark 7:34, where Jesus was healing a deaf man with a speech impediment.  The verse reads, “Looking up to Heaven, He sighed and said, ‘Ephphatha,’ which means, ‘Be opened.” (NLT)

The two words that caught me here were He sighed.  Every word that comes from God is important, so the fact that He wanted us to know that Jesus sighed in this moment is not irrelevant, and I was trying to decipher what was going on in Jesus’ mind at the time.  Why do people usually sigh?  Was Jesus bored?  Frustrated?  Feeling defeated?  Tired, perhaps? 

I tried to picture it in my head, and I read the verse again.  “Then, looking up to Heaven, He sighed and said…`Be opened.”

Then I pictured myself doing the same thing.  I physically- literally- tried out different types of sighs until I found one that felt right.  I don’t think Jesus was getting tired or frustrated.  Or maybe He was; He was human, too, after all.  But if you read the passages around that particular verse, you’ll see that He had been healing people all over the place.  He didn’t mind, of course.  Jesus came to bring healing.  However, down in verse 36, we see that “Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more He told them not to, the more they spread the news.” (Mark 7:36)

Now isn’t that just like us humans to do the exact opposite of what God tells us to do?  But did Jesus get angry?  Nope.  Did He stop healing people because they didn’t listen?  Nope.  Now… isn’t that just like our God to keep on giving even though we didn’t do what He asked of us?  I believe that Jesus sighed because He already knew that everyone was going to keep spreading the news.  I wonder if He sighed as if to say, “Come on, Dad.  We’re on.  Let’s do it again.”  It was inevitable that He was going to heal this deaf man from Galilee, and it’s a given that He was going to keep on healing the masses, because that is Who… He… Is.  He is our loving healer, who is still healing people to this very day.

I think this little story gives us insight into God’s character.  As a parent myself, I often like to look at God from the perspective of His child.  I know that God is also my friend, my brother, and many other wonderful things.  But when I think of God as my heavenly Father, it helps me to remember His patience, love, mercy, kindness, and faithfulness.

When I think about my own children, I know that even when they disappoint me- or even outright disobey me- there is nothing I wouldn’t do for them.  I would never get tired of helping them, and I would kiss every single boo-boo away if I could!  (I’ve often said I wish I could put them in a bubble!)  If we feel that way in our humanness, how much more does our Heavenly Father feel that way about us?

I have this nasty habit of beating myself up when I think I’ve disappointed God, and I often refrain from asking for things in prayer because I feel I don’t deserve it, or I didn’t earn it.  If you know anything about God’s character at all, you would know that it is just absurd to think that way!  There is absolutely nothing anyone can do to earn or deserve His love and good gifts.

I mostly get this way when I know I haven’t read His Word faithfully every day.  I feel that if I don’t give Him the time He deserves, how dare I even think about asking Him for anything.  But you know what?  I have a teenage daughter who spends just about every moment of every day in her bedroom.  It’s even difficult for me to get a hug out of her, because physical touch is not her love language.  But would I ever think she had no right coming to me for her wishes and desires?  Absolutely not!  It is my heart’s desire to lavish her with the things that make her happy!

Why is it so difficult for us to believe that God feels the same way about us?  And even more so?  He created us in His image, and He is the one that put those feelings of love, tenderness, and devotion in our hearts.  If that is all true, then He must have love, tenderness, and devotion in His heart- even more than we can imagine.

I am not saying I’m an expert at this.  I still have to work at it every day.  Self-image was never one of my strong suits, and I have a bad habit of thinking I’m unworthy.  God has had words with me more times than I count when it came to how I viewed myself.  To put it plainly, He has beaten me over the head with His truth!

If you read my story and learn more about my history and upbringing, you would understand why I tend to feel unworthy.  But I’m here to tell you to not be like me!  Sometimes I wonder if God gets frustrated with me because I just don’t “get it.”  Does He sigh when He has to tell me, yet again, how special I am to Him and how beautiful I am, because I am made in His image?  Does He sigh when he has to remind me all the time that He has a plan for me?

Sometimes I sigh when I have to repeat words of affirmation to my daughters.  I sigh when I have to tell them for the one hundred twelfth time that each one of them is beautiful and special and created for a purpose.  I don’t sigh because I’m frustrated with them, and I don’t sigh because I’m tired of saying it.  I think I sigh because I’m a little sad that they don’t believe it themselves sometimes.  They don’t see what I see when I look at them.

And we don’t see what God sees when He looks at us.  Maybe Jesus sighed that day because He was sad, too.  Maybe He was sad that there were so many people with so many different ailments.  The truth is, I don’t have the answer to why Jesus sighed; I can only speculate.  The “why” is not written, just that He did it.  And maybe that’s the way God wanted it.  He wants us to take that time to reflect on His words, because each one is important.

Maybe He wants us to know that He gets sad, too, sometimes.  Maybe He wants us to realize it is His will that all should be healed, and He didn’t pick and choose who was going to have what ailment.

My “ailment” has always been my eating disorder.  Compulsive overeating- it most definitely affects my health and well-being.  I don’t blame God for the food addiction; finding comfort in food was my choice.  Furthermore, God didn’t make my abusers mess with my body, mind, and heart, and yes, I know what they did to me made Him sad.  But they did those things because God gives us free will, and not everyone is always going to do the right thing, or for lack of better terms, not do the wrong thing. 

But, how I respond to what happened is what really matters.  I can’t undo it, so I can only move forward.  More importantly, what happened to me does not define who I am.  I am created in God’s image.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  I am God’s precious child, and that makes me a princess.  I believe it makes God sad when I forget that or even doubt it, so I made it my mission to make sure no one else ever does.

I write this blog so everyone who reads it knows that they are loved, and they have a purpose.  Today’s blog was written so that whoever reads it is inspired to take a closer look at the seemingly insignificant words that are found in their bible passages.  God is always speaking to us; sometimes we just need to be still and listen.

What is He telling you today?  Is He trying to get your attention?  Is He gently “calling you out” because you are not accepting of His unconditional love?  Do you have trouble seeing yourself the way that He sees you?  What is the ailment that holds you back from living up to your potential and purpose?  I would love to hear about it, so please comment below!