Results of Lent

As anyone who has been following me for any length of time knows, I started Lent with two specific goals that I made public, as well as several others that I kept private. I had planned on blogging every day of Lent but as I started posting I figured it would all be boring to most people anyway and so I didn’t. However, the main thing for me was to spend extra time focusing on God and my relationship with him, which is important because right now I’m so busy I can hardly see straight. I’m taking four college courses, I graduate from my first degree in July, I work 30 hours a week at an awesome job that for the most part I love. I’m going to therapy for my eating disorders, I’m doing some yard work and planting, and I’m working out. Something has to give, and a lot of times it’s my time with God that ends up being cut out. 

So spending extra, focused time was good for me. My two major goals were 1) to give up cussing, which I haven’t been perfect at but after almost 40 days, I cuss much less than I used to, and I go some days or even a few days in a row without cursing at all! For me that’s huge. My other goal was to not consume any caffeine, which I managed to do and hopefully I will remain caffeine free because caffeine is an issue for me. What I wasn’t planning on was for God to totally shake me up the way he did, although I’m glad that he did. There was a song that the band sang at church several weeks ago that I had never heard before but that really spoke to me and I have played it over and over since then. It’s a song called “Lay Me Down” and it’s a really rockin’ song. But singing the words “I lay me down I’m not my own, I belong to you alone…” was amazing. I find that when I sing things, or recite things, that it’s a declaration, and when I make such declarations, God takes them seriously. 
So between my extra focus on God for Lent, and taking the time to actually listen to him, and the song “Lay Me Down” really speaking to me, God told me I needed to get help for my eating disorders. Starting to deal with them has been very scary for me but I know that God is the great physician and that he heals. So on resurrection Sunday, I certainly will be different from what I was at the beginning of Lent. It is because of Jesus and his resurrection that I can be healed from my eating disorders and I am trusting him for that healing (well, today, anyway, today has been a pretty good day).
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Ugh…More About Food…

Every single day, food is a struggle for me. I managed to keep what I was doing a secret for so long. But just last week, I reached out for help to end a sixteen year struggle. I confessed to my doctor some of the struggles I was having. I love my doctor, she’s a blessing, and she has worked with me, prayed with me, told me that she’s sorry I can’t see how beautiful I am. I’ve never believed myself to be beautiful, and I pick at all the faults that I see on my body. People try to remind me that the Bible says I was fearfully and wonderfully made, but it’s just so hard to believe. I keep thinking that if I can fix one certain thing, such as my belly weight, that I’ll be happy with my body. But I know it’s not true because it never has been true. There are so many things that make me feel ugly, and then I think that I will always be ugly. I’m embarrassed that I’m 28 years old and yet I struggle so badly with food. Then when I am embarrassed I tell myself that I am stupid because of my lack of self-control.

I joined a gym again, I’m not sure if it’s healthy at this point in time but I do want to do something about eradicating belly weight, and just keeping fit. I really like how I feel when I’ve been working out. These past two weeks I’d been wearing scrubs pants and tops to work because I felt like they hide how fat I am, but today I decided I wasn’t going to do that anymore. Not sure if that will be a lasting decision or if I will change my mind tomorrow, that’s how fickle I am. Sometimes I feel a little stronger than other times, and the stronger times I will wear things because I like them, and in the weaker times I’ll wear whatever baggy clothes I own in order to hide my body.

I really feel that God wants me to get through this, and I know in theory that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, but this seems like such a hard thing. But then I remember that he has brought me through so many other hard things, and then I hope that maybe he can bring me through this, too. I feel like God is exposing my secrets to the light, and that is uncomfortable but being a Christian is about getting out of what is comfortable and actually doing something that’s meaningful.  

My Journey: The Food Edition

Sometimes I know something, but I don’t really know it. I’m a sociology student, which means I know all about how society constructs gender and how we embody certain philosophies and ideas. I have the scientific knowledge I need to research and explore topics such as why women feel the need to have slim bodies and conform to particular ideals. I know what the Bible says, too, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, I know that God loves me the way that I am. I have studied basic psychology and know about eating disorders, what the symptoms are, how they affect people.

And yet, I’ve struggled with eating disorders for most of my life. I have gone from anorexia, to bulimia and sometimes have gone between the two. It makes me feel really stupid, to know all the things that I do and yet to struggle the way I do. Food and I have had a controversial relationship for sixteen years. I’m sure food and I will continue to have a controversial relationship.

I thought that I could get through this if I could simply learn some self-control. I have some great friends who share truth with me about how God sees me, and yet I loathe myself and pick on every imperfection, over and over, not being able to realize that God doesn’t see them as imperfections, because it’s how he chose to make me. I forget that I’m an authentic, handcrafted creation. Over and over I try to force myself to believe the truth of who I am, and I have made some progress with that.

But it’s not that simple. It’s been a sixteen year battle and finally I have gone to get help. I’m going to be getting specialized counselling and getting the help that I need. I want to get through this. I know that some people document journeys through cancer and other diseases, I’m hoping to document my way through this, and I’m trusting God for healing (well, sometimes).

I’ve been pretty good at hiding my issues until now. I have started altering my wardrobe choices in order to hide as much fat as possible. I’ve been trying different things with my hair and style, never fully liking anything, going from one thing to the next. I want freedom, the freedom to be who he made me to be. I feel kind of stupid because I feel like I should have “gotten over it” when I was a teenager. I’m embarrassed that I’m 28 years old, and yet I still have these issues.

Interestingly enough, this issue has come to a head during Lent, while I have been focusing more closely on my relationship with God. I know God wants me to find freedom, and I think that’s one of the lessons he’s teaching me through the ritual of Lent. I’m really scared and I’m afraid of accountability because quite frankly, analyzing my eating choices that much just isn’t appealing to me, and yet I realize that that I analyse my food choices all the time, it’s why I do what I do. I just don’t want to be accountable for them.

The Bible says that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. I’m trying to believe, and I’m trying to get well. 

The 40 Days of Lent: Day 14

Lent has been very interesting so far, and I’m glad that I said I would try to post every day instead of saying I would post every day because last week, the everyday posting didn’t happen. Partly it was because I thought my Lenten posts had thus far been boring and uninspiring, but I have also started a new semester at school and I have been sick. I’m still keeping up with my reading for Lent, have finished several books already.

So far I’ve read:

“Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality” By Rob Bell
“Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate” by Justin Lee
“Jesus Wants to Save Christians: Learning to Read a Dangerous Book” by Rob Bell and Don Golden
“A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars” by Jonathan Merritt
I’ve just started:

“Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate” by Jerry Bridges
“Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture” by William D. Romanowski
“The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical” by Shane Claiborne
“A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story” by Donald Miller
I also want to read:

“Red Letter Revolution: What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said?” By Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo.
As to my goals, I was sick for three days and didn’t sleep at all in that time and I still managed to get by without consuming caffeine, which makes me really happy. I haven’t stopped cussing entirely, sometimes a word still slips out, but since I have been intentional in trying to stop, I’ve done it a whole lot less than usual.

I have learned a lot, a lot of things that I wouldn’t have learned if I hadn’t been intentional to set some goals and do some reading during Lent. My entire theme for Lent has been to be intentional, intentional about getting rid of bad habits, and intentional about developing new ones. Being intentional means that I have to put a lot of work and effort into what I am doing, but I am hoping that by being intentional with my reading and with my goals, that I will be closer to God on Resurrection Sunday. 

The 40 Days of Lent: Day 7

So, it’s been a week since the beginning of Lent, and while I haven’t been perfect at keeping my goals, I have to say I can count the times I’ve cussed since the beginning of Lent on one hand, and that makes me happy because I can usually count it on one or maybe two hands for a day. I think this whole idea of being intentional is great for me, and so far Lent has been a great time of repentance and self-reflection. I’ve been analyzing whether how I live is glorifying to God, and if not, where changes need to be made. I’m certainly not perfect and I’ve certainly messed up, but I am beginning to wonder if I will be able to give up cussing for Lent, as in, by the time Resurrection Sunday rolls around.

So far God has shown me how much I overindulge in certain things, especially food like a candy bar that I might like. I decided as a result of this to not eat my favorite candy bar at least for the rest of Lent, maybe longer. The thing is that if I don’t eat my favorite candy bar, I still have the option of having candy, but I probably won’t eat a lot of it because if I’m not eating my favorite I’m often not interested. Another reason for doing this maybe permanently is because slave labor is used to make most chocolate and I don’t want to be contributing to that in any way. I know that it isn’t really going to make much of a difference, because everyone else is still buying and consuming that candy bar, but I am making an intentional choice to try to be true to my principles.

Overindulgence is a big thing for me, probably the main reason why I feel the need to attend 12-Step recovery meetings.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading as part of my participation in Lent. I already know that next year I want to have a focused reading list prepared before Lent.

The 40 Days of Lent: Day 5

Tonight I want to share a post by Shane Claiborne about Lent, as it’s really a good explanation of why I and many other Christians choose to participate in Lent. It’s called “Fat Tuesday and Skinny Wednesday” and it really is a great article. It explains where I’m going on trying to give up cussing over Lent. I did curse once today when I dropped a box of lightbulbs at work and they shattered. It kind of just slipped out without notice, which shows what a hold that has on me and why I’m trying to give it up. So far Lent has been an awesome time of reflection and of learning, as I’ve meditated on God he’s brought so many things to mind. I’m so thankful for this time to just reflect, take inventory, and work on some active change.

I’m tired so I do believe I’m going to allow Shane Claiborne to do the talking for me tonight.

The 40 Days of Lent: Day 4

People change all the time, sometimes for good, and sometimes for bad, and already I myself know that I am not going to be the same person on Resurrection Sunday than I was at the beginning of Lent. I know that there is nothing magical about Lent, to be honest I used to scoff about people who “did Lent”. But focusing extra on Jesus and for me using these 40 days to try to kick an old habit, well, there is value in that. I’m doing a lot of reading, probably just as much reading as I do during the semester, which will be starting again soon.

This morning I finished Justin Lee’s book “Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gay-vs-Christian Debate”. I read is as part of the research I am doing for the book I am writing. While I disagree with Justin on his belief that acting on gay desires is a sin, his book has value and much to offer the contemporary church. He encourages the church and the gay community to move away from an us. vs. them culture war mentality. He has a lot of insight on the “ex-gay” movement which is important to know. So while I disagree with his theological position, the book is a must-read and helped me see what else I can do to make sure gay people experience the love of God through the church.

Christians are the church, not the building that we meet to worship in. So far I’m about 70 pages in to Shane Claiborne’s book “The Irresistible Revolution”, and the message so far is to be the church we want the church to be rather than complaining about the inadequacies of the the church. If we don’t like the way the church behaves, we can change the behavior of the church.

Today I saw a conversation on Facebook where some extremely conservative Christians were disparaging a woman who had hot pink highlights in her hair. They accused her of worldliness and some said that they would not want to attend a church where the youth pastors wife had pink streaks. I used to get involved in this kind of discussion, agreeing with those who said it was worldly and wrong, but today I argued a little for the other side before letting it go. My view now is that God created each of us to be a unique individual, and our expression of that individuality is an act of worship to God.

I’m looking forward to worship tomorrow with all my brothers and sisters at church, on this first Sunday of Lent.

The 40 Days of Lent: Day 3

While I have a short break from college, I am doing a LOT of reading, reading that I don’t get as much of a chance to complete while doing school work. I am going to be busy in this upcoming semester, taking some classes that I’m not as excited about but that are necessary to getting my degrees. And yes, I said degrees. I am not studying a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Writing and Sociology and was just admitted to the Bachelor of Professional Communications program majoring in Journalism. The purpose of this is to make up for some mistakes from the past and meet the qualifications to enter a Masters degree program. I will probably only have a year to a year and a half to actually complete the other degree as well, at which time I will qualify for the Masters program that I want to enter. Of course, none of this has anything to do with Lent except for maybe the fact that it’s taking place during Lent. I just figured that it was boring to blog only about my goals and nothing else.

We’re three days into Lent and already I am learning a lot. There is another issue that God has really shown me that I need to focus on as well, and so I will begin focusing on that as well. As far as working on my language, I managed to get through another day without cussing, although there were several times the words were on the tip of my tongue and they went through my head. I am hoping that if I continue being intentional about it, that the words will one day leave my thoughts as well. Today was a day where I craved caffeine bad, I wasn’t feeling very well and all my muscles hurt (no, I don’t have the flu, I have chronic pain). I was tired and somewhat lethargic, and I had to work an eight hour shift. I did make it through and resisted the urge even though everyone around me was drinking coffee.

My entire theme this year is to be intentional, and to do all that I do with excellence. These are the two words that I think of whenever I go to make a decision: intentional, and excellence.

The 40 Days of Lent: Day 2

This is just the beginning of Lent, and I am at the end of my rope in some personal situations right now, and although I am pursuing unity and peace and reconciliation, things are still tough. So for me Lent is an opportunity to change my focus from me and turn it onto Jesus. I totally get all the people that are going to tell me that I should be focusing on Jesus all the time, that is true, however, I still like the idea of being more intentional for 40 days. I think that really being intentional about my relationship with God and my own spiritual growth is my theme for the season.

Rachel Held Evans has written her 4th annual 40 Ideas for Lent (2013) and some of the suggestions are very helpful, but it is the first three questions that I am focusing on: “1. When I wake up on Resurrection Sunday, how will I be different? 2. Is there a habit or sin in my life that repeatedly gets in the way of loving God with my whole heart or loving my neighbor as myself? How do I address this habit over the next 40 days? 3. Is there anyone in my life from whom I need to ask forgiveness, or pursue reconciliation?” These were my thoughts going into Lent and so I based my decisions for the season on questions such as these.

Today it seemed that everyone at work was talking about and consuming coffee, but because I have decided not to consume caffeine for the entire 40 days (and hopefully beyond). Also it seemed like everyone was cussing, and I’m really happy to say that I don’t recall using any cuss words today. If I can do that for an entire day, I can do it again tomorrow!

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” Matthew 5:3 ~ The Message.

The 40 Days of Lent: Day 1

Just as I knew he would, God is already showing me some unexpected things, some very much too private to tell except to say that when I started this journey of reconciliation a week ago, I had no idea that it would come as far as it has, and that it’s a good thing, or even a God thing.

As far as the goals I have shared on here go, I have not consumed any caffeine today, and I only said one curse word which I know is probably not a big deal for a lot of people but for me to get through the day only having said one, is a big deal.

I have some interesting reading right now, some of it specifically for Lent and some of it for research for my book and some of it for research for a topic I will be studying this next semester, and some of it just because I want to read, which means that my reading isn’t any lighter than it is during school anyway.

Today’s post is going to be short, but I wanted to write it up because I want to try to blog every day through Lent.