Monday, December 22, 2014

The Beautiful and Suffering Life

“How could I have lost the green dishes?”

Last Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me her beautiful green and gold china plates—the very same china a special woman in her life handed down to her. We packaged and shipped several boxes of china from Indiana to Oregon that day; LeAnne gave her granddaughters many beautiful pieces.  But the green and gold dishes she gave to me.  Down on my knees in our garage, I rummaged through box after box only to come up empty.  Sadly, I wondered if the dishes were lost during shipment when the doorbell rang.  A sweet friend came over to help me decorate my house for Christmas but I didn’t have my “act” together and told her so apologetically.  “I feel like I’m wasting your time—I can’t find the dishes LeAnne gave me.” 

“It’s possible they are in this old Goodwill suitcase we used to ship them in but the lock is broken and I can’t open it.” Without blinking an eye, my friend rolled up her sleeves and with a screwdriver and a hammer, broke open the suitcase after several tries; the green and gold dishes were not there. 

By this time, the dual feelings of waste and loss were distracting me: I was wasting my friend’s precious time (she has three young children who were in school) and I potentially lost something beautiful given to me by a loved one.  As I poured my friend a cup of coffee, I heard her words, “Pam, stop worrying about wasting my time—this is an excuse for us to be together.”  That’s when I realized why it was so important I pour out everything in me to find the dishes.   I pushed aside the natural feelings of waste and loss as we maximized our final half hour together tearing apart two more boxes.  Suddenly, my friend pulled out a wrapped dish hidden underneath the crinkly paper and my eyes fell upon the beautiful gold and green dish. 

“That’s it!  You found LeAnne’s gift to me.”  The upheaval of tearing apart my garage and my house to find those dishes, the disorder I brought to my friend’s free time—made a mess of the natural things in life.  But I saw that the natural had to be torn apart in order to make it spiritual.  God’s goodness to me that day was how he supplied time even when we spent it in ways I hadn’t planned.  Right up to the last minute, we set my dining room table with beautiful things . . . beautiful things given to me by someone else.

But there’s something more . . .

Each beautiful piece on my dining room table, including the re-upholstered chairs, were gifts from different friends and family.


One week ago, LeAnne passed away after suffering from a year and a half with a life-destroying disease.  In my mother-in-law’s last week, a friend of hers travelled miles and miles to care for her as her hospice nurse.  She cleared her schedule and poured out her life like water to the last drop until LeAnne took her last breath.  This friend pushed aside the very human feelings of waste and loss—knowing death was inevitable and chose to maximize her love to LeAnne.  The upheaval not only of her own life but of LeAnne’s spirit as she connected powerfully with her dying friend was a beautiful, life-giving sacrifice. The natural course of death was sacrificed to be made spiritual.  

God’s goodness to LeAnne and her friend was that he maximized the suffering and made it beautiful-- right up to the last minute of her life . . . he made the end of her life beautiful.

As family and friends pour into your home these next few days, ask God to show you how he is using the natural, material, tangible aspects of our world, even our own messy humanity to bring you into closer life with him.  Could this world be the usher into relationship with each other and God?  Life with him is not just “out there” in a spiritual cosmos.  It’s here—the beautiful, intangible God-life is in our skin as we actively pursue one another in love.  Mysterious and beautiful, God maximizes everything to let us know he is near, with us, Emmanuel.

Merry Christmas. Lovingly, Pam

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Loneliness In the Good Life

 (sometimes I'm truly never alone)

“But how do I know he’s real?” I asked staring into the mirror while having my first philosophical conversation about Jesus. 
“You can’t see him,” said my Mother.  “You believe in him by faith.  Jesus lives inside you and you will never be alone.”

But that’s not how I felt.  I had a rich imagination as a child that lasted through my teen years, generously helping me see and believe Jesus was indeed with me.  But there’s all the difference in the world between someone continually reminding you that Jesus is in you and believing it yourself when you’re all alone, especially all alone and grown up.

The sadnesses of life have a way of opening the door to loneliness.  Loneliness is a very real experience even for those who intentionally choose to follow Jesus, seeing and believing that he is with them.  The striking thing about Jesus is that while he was on earth he never avoided just “being.”  

Yet we do. 

I know I’m running from loneliness (or the sadness of my mother-in-law's last stages of cancer) when I fanatically start looking for one hundred things to do.  Recently I found myself more eager to do God’s will than he was for me to do it.  It’s a striving, a sense that we need to try harder at everything we do. In reality I was avoiding just being.  The opposite happens, too, when we have a passive, paralyzing response to loneliness that manifests itself in doing nothing.

Here’s the problem: When we avoid facing sadness and loneliness while seeing and believing Christ is with us—we hurry up everything in our lives to fill the void.  We hurry up that forbidden relationship, that must-have job, that one more commitment, that drug addiction, that pornography site, that obsession with whatever—even being famous.

Facing our loneliness and sadness frees us to receive more of Christ’s presence preparing us for what he will give us to fill the void and usually it’s not something we ever thought of or imagined. We have to have a different way to imagine the process of loneliness and turning to Him. Feeling what our hearts feel is what it means to be human before God.  He never wants us to push those feelings down, rather He wants them poured out before him so He can heal.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Sad Life Inside the Good Life

Like a river quietly snaking through the lower regions of a forest, my grief suddenly has no beginning and no end.  Wherever I set my foot along its bank, I am dangerously close to jumping in with both feet whether I want to or not.  The forest, the river, my grief is always there.  Sometimes it's just enough to reach down and drink from a one-cupped hand of icy water.  But most days I am so thirsty, so hot with grief, I let the water wash over me with all its billows and tiny waves.

One constant remains amidst the currents, the deep places and the rocks scraping my legs: relief is not found when I turn or walk away from the river. I must face it and when that's more than I can bear, I must walk alongside it.  But I cannot walk away.

The Sad Life and the Good Life

Our family is living the sad life inside the good life.  Maybe yours is, too. Or perhaps you're living the sad and the good life as a single person.  Either way, we know rain must fall into every life but how do we not only face sadness and all its realities but feel sadness without it destroying us?  What's a healthy, sad life look like?

I've known for more than a year that cancer was spreading in the body of someone I loved. Barring a miracle, Jesus will escort our beloved mother and grandmother into heaven years before her time.  (See picture above of LeAnne with our three daughters).  Knowledge alone does not help us face our sadness.  A healthy, sad life knows the facts digesting them enough to feel them, too.

An Invitation to Journey with Me

Today hospice was asked to come to her home; today hospice entered our lives.  As hard as I try to prepare myself and our daughters for the finality of death and the hope of heaven, the sadness of losing this woman is ever with me.  I want to open my heart and mind to readers while I walk through these next several weeks of loss.  You might wonder why I would expose such raw and honest feelings amidst personal sadness.  Wouldn't it make more sense for Brad, my husband, to write about his mother? Why even give sadness attention when as people of Hope we have confidence in Jesus' presence in Glory?

The most pressing reason I am compelled to write is this: every person's heart is beating to both the good and the sad; each life follows rivers of loss and abundance, gifts and regrets.  Could sadness take us down a road longer than Jesus wants it to?  Recently, I listened to another's journey as her heart spoke the question, "how much sadness is too much? When does grief turn to joy?"

I want to write and respond to those questions from a place that is fully human as I receive the good life from my Creator in the middle of facing and feeling the sad life, too.  As I lean into God differently in this season, I want to share how I'm trusting him when he tells me he can be found by me when I seek him with all my heart.  And right now, all my heart is filled not only with my experiences but with those I'm closest to. For that reason alone, I need the courage to face the grief and to feel the loss in a good, sad way so those nearest me can reach into the river without being swept away.

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you."  Isaiah 43:2, NIV

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Calling to be More Human

"Don't pretend to care about something you don't care about."  These words came to me as I was pulling clothes from the washer to the dryer.  Me?  Pretend I care?  When do I do that?  With those thoughts, I headed back downstairs to my computer so I could respond to my emails and texts.  With each line I typed, I saw the person's face, their circumstances and even wondered how they were feeling in the deep of their heart.  But I ignored the promptings and kept my communication simple and direct.  After all, it was information we were giving one another.  One person wanted me to take a job while another emailer wondered if I'd heard anything back from a certain organization.  Prioritizing my responses, I focused on the slew of texts from other moms who needed help with rides, dates, and more information.  Finding a place to sit so I could stare at my phone, I was suddenly stopped mid text by a disturbing thought: "Was is it my job to spend the day responding to people?" And with that thought, my interactions with emails, phone calls and texts went from me trying to help to me resenting how communicating information was keeping me from my job, my vocation, what I was called to do on earth.

My heart hardened just a little bit.

My way became confused just a little bit.

The lines blurred as I prayed to God in decision making.

A few mornings later, I lingered a bit longer in my time with God and I heard this question whispered to my heart, "Pam, what gives you that deep sense of satisfaction?"  It didn't take me long to write in my journal:  teaching, studying, talking with people about Scripture and what God thinks.  And then I remembered how I pretended to care about something I didn't care about.  I pretended I cared more about the information than about the people I was sharing it with.

Isn't that what holds us back?  The truth is I care deeply about each person I'm in contact with and it's become almost impossible in our culture for the give and take of concern to actually happen.

Throughout my morning, I discovered how my newest calling is to be more human.  It looks and feels strange.  But Jesus is inviting me to this place where I don't have to pretend I care about something I don't.  This is now the blueprint for my life and however God leads me in my vocation I know I can't miss this.  Whether I'm prepping for a sermon or signing up as a chaperone for a field trip, I'm not supposed to behave a certain way.  I'm called to follow the pattern of Jesus who never pretended to care about something he didn't.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Devotionals for the Leadership in Women: Slow Down in the Little Things

Devotionals for the Leadership in Women: Slow Down in the Little Things: "Do you know how fast you were going?" asked the state trooper as she leaned down to face me through the passenger window of my c...

Slow Down in the Little Things

"Do you know how fast you were going?" asked the state trooper as she leaned down to face me through the passenger window of my car.  Swallowing hard before I answered, I made a split second decision to tell the truth.  "I was doing 45 in a 35, right?"  I could barely look at the clock as the gruff but direct woman waited for my driver's license and registration.  Watching her walk back to the SUV and its blaring blue and red lights, I started to panic and wondered if I would make it to my office in enough time to prepare for my communications class at the university.  But my personal anxiety attack was short lived when suddenly a voice much louder than the one in my head boomed through the window.

"I see you have a habit of driving fast in low speed zones.  You do this once or twice a year! Do you have children who drive with you?  You do realize they are paying attention to you?  Where are you going in such a rush this morning? Speeding on back roads is just as dangerous as on the highway--would you like the statistics?"

And with those questions, my panic melted into tears as I explained I really wasn't in a rush I just didn't think I was going that fast and my mind was on the lecture I was preparing for my upcoming class.  In between sobs I said I did have teenagers who are now driving and that more than anything I wanted to be a good example to them.  The state trooper was silent for a moment before she handed back my documents and then firmly said to me, "I don't think another ticket is going to make a difference for you.  You have a family, you have a job and you have a car--you have a big life but you need to slow down in the little things."

Several moments later, I pulled into a nearby parking lot to completely feel everything that just happened to me. Here's what I saw:  I often think that prioritizing my life means to get as much done as I can in a little amount of time so that I can be my best for God, for my family, my job, and ministry.  But the amount of stress and expectation I place upon myself causes me to take a blind eye to a little thing like driving 35 miles per hour, not 45, when the sign says 35 MPH.  I reviewed the big plans I had that day for my students--the kind of big things that get me excited to meet with them.  In my enthusiasm and excitement, the pace of my life picked up enough speed that I missed the sign to slow down.

On time and a bit subdued, I stood in front of 50 college students an hour later sketching out our time together.  God wasn't telling me I was doing too much or that I shouldn't think big; he was acting as my Father by giving me perspective on how and why I needed to slow down in the little things.  I have to really want this.  If I just rely on my gut instincts, I will convince myself I'm invincible and will rush through life, constantly being pulled over with warnings.  The pace of my life matters.  The choices I make to keep my pace matter.  Learning to follow Jesus in my calling and passions with an eternal perspective matters.  It's in the little things where the big things are at stake.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Caring For Your Health

I once heard a pastor say from the pulpit, "We carry a deeply ingrained urgency that everything depends on us."  Yesterday I spent the early part of my evening making my lists of things I wanted to accomplish for work and in my home.  After I finished making dinner and eating with my family, I squirreled myself away with my notes and computer so I could get a head start on the next day's assignments.  But I couldn't focus.  I was worried about many things.

"Did I talk long enough to my husband?"
"I should make soup for my neighbor who is struggling."
"Why haven't I heard back from so and so? I really need to finish that article!"
"Was I truly worshiping God in my prayer time today?"
"My daughter needs to join another sport. Hmm, which one should it be?"

As I continued to eat the anxious bread of toil with both my working life and my personal life, I started to notice that I was hurrying, calculating, and burdening my poor soul to the point of exhaustion.  I was under the delusion that everything I needed to accomplish depended on me. Remembering a pattern Jesus was teaching me in daily living, I stopped the madness and said out loud, "Give me today the bread I need now."  For a moment, I envisioned God giving me what I needed for my evening--I saw him choosing what he would generously give me from his hand.  And his intention was good.  I let my defenses down; I totally trusted what would come from him was what I needed.

I closed the lid to my computer, piled the books on top of one another, clicked the light off on my desk and climbed the stairs to bed.  God gave me sleep.  It was earlier than usual but sleep was God's daily bread to me last night.  When I turned my attention to what God wanted to give me I felt vulnerable for letting go of all I wanted to accomplish.  God wants us as his human creatures to trust him above all else to receive everything we need--and that includes our health, our energy and our motivation for getting things done.

Don't resist caring for your health.  Get some extra rest and your spiritual growth, along with your calling, will grow.

An excellent resource on rest is a book written by Mark Buchanan called The Rest of God.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Practical Approaches to Vocation and Family

I didn't grow up in a traditional family. I spent my teen years being raised by my father who worked full-time.  Even though I grew up in the Church, the thought that I would have a "role" in the family didn't really occur to me. So by my late twenties when I was married with a small child and another one on the way, I found myself at a crossroads.  I worked as a full-time English professor at a small private college and I loved my job.  But I began to feel an inner tension.  I did what most of us would do when we become uncomfortable on the inside:  I prayed.  I asked God about this turmoil and eventually I started to ask women a bit ahead of me in life about the twisting and turning I was feeling.  With their wise counsel and the Holy Spirit's breathing of Psalm 46 into my spirit, I made some minor adjustments that calmed me as our second daughter entered the world.  And I kept my job.

Then one morning before work after our second daughter was born, I knew something inside was shifting again.  The wonderful woman who cared for our daughters in our home had a sudden emergency and I didn't have childcare.  Packing the girls and six diaper bags (that's what it felt like at the time) into my car, I drove us to the college and set them up in my office.  My colleagues and my husband helped care for the girls while I taught my classes.  It worked and everyone was fine. Four months later I found out I was pregnant again and I realized I had to make a change in the way I was working.

Placing aside any stereotypes of what I thought a Christian woman's life should look like, or maybe out of sheer ignorance since I didn't have a clue how this worked, I prayed again.  This time, I asked God to show me how to live out a family life with the gifts, passions and education he gave me.  I'm really thankful I asked.

Here's a few practical thoughts I'd love to pass along to you that the women a bit ahead of me in life taught me:

  • Follow your heart
  • Share responsibilities with your spouse
  • Find solid childcare even if you don't have a paid job
  • Be creative in making money during seasons when you step out of your field
I like the above wisdom but I LOVE the ones below and I think you should pay close attention to them as a Christian woman in our current culture:
  • Seek out women ahead of you in the race and initiate time with them
  • Show your true feelings with these women about working and having a family
  • Cry when the tears well up
  • Don't make vocational decisions in the heat of chaos: pray
  • Read Courage and Calling by Gordon T. Smith and consider doing it in a book group
What does it take to talk openly about family life and working as a Christian woman today without putting women into hurtful stereotypes?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wisdom in Our Calling and Vocation

Do you ever find yourself asking God, "What is it exactly I'm called to do?  Or maybe you've asked, "What is the goal of my vocation?" I spent my summer chasing a writing deadline with a very clear goal at the end: a book.  All my closest people heard about this goal, whether they wanted to or not, because finishing the book was constantly on my mind.  In fact, my husband and girls were super supportive throughout the eight and ten hour writing days until the very end when each one said, "Isn't that book done yet?"  Reaching that goal, finishing the book felt so good.  You might read this and think, "She's fortunate to know her vocation, her calling."

Well, here's the backstory.  For almost ten years, when my daughters went through preschool and elementary school, I asked myself the questions above.  I wanted to write a second book not only for the subject but also for my vocation, my work, my calling. And it took ten years until it finally happened.  Year after year it seemed every door would close and every answer was "no."  In dark moments, I let the closed doors and the confusion of hearing, "no" serve to distract me from doing what my Heavenly Father wanted.  Ironically, as the ten-year-story of my life unfolded, I did walk in my calling and vocation but not the way I thought I would hear it and live it.

Here's Five Nuggets of Wisdom I learned in the Past Ten Years:  (I have more but five is a good start)
  1. Our calling can come from a revelation, an invitation, or an employment situation.  I may not have said "Yes" to every invitation or job opportunity but I embraced certain ones with my whole heart.  I do not regret taking jobs or projects that seemed out of the box.
  2. What brings us deep satisfaction tells us something about our calling.  On the Friday after I finished the book, I felt joy--a full and filling happiness that caused me to laugh.  The days and weeks that followed were not filled with more writing but with extended time with friends and family I had missed while I was writing.  The satisfaction I experienced from spending time with them is also a part of my calling; satisfaction has a way of leading us.
  3. The "seasons" of our lives don't need to frighten us.  I wanted to do everything at once.  I have women friends who do this beautifully.  I wasn't one of those.  When the fruits of the Spirit started rotting in my heart because I was stressed, I knew it was God's way of letting me know I walked away from my calling.  I'm so thankful for a season of writing: it had a beginning and an end. Before that season, I had a season of no writing; I felt like Habakkuk in chapter three.  Looking back, that season had a beginning and end, too.  Don't let the word "seasons" frighten you.
  4. Marriage and Parenting are part of our vocation. Building meaningful relationships with my husband and daughters required me to slow the pace of my life down significantly. I made a costly choice to work with more flexible hours. 
  5. The burdens and pains I feel are an indication of my vocation and calling.  The very things that broke my heart and seared it with sadness were gifts God gave me to follow my call.  I learned to pay careful attention to them so I wouldn't lose the gifts I was born to embrace and hold dear to my chest.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

After a few months' break from blog-writing, I'm starting today to write about a new topic: Goals and A Woman's Vocation.  While I was finishing my book this summer, I had the sense that the chapter on vocation was calling for more attention.  As Christian women, we don't always have safe places to talk about our vocation and ask our deepest questions in fear of being misunderstood or judged.  Yet Scripture has much to say about our calling, our work, and our vocation.  Whether your work is full-time, part-time, volunteer, inside the home, around the world or caring for your closest people, I hope and pray there will something in these real-life writings that will speak to you or create good questions for you.  

Feeling Like We've Missed Something

The moment I realized something in our communication went wrong, I became livid.  I was angry that my daughter had not arrived at the meeting place we agreed upon.  Checking my phone to see if I missed her texts, it was as if I could hear the minutes counting loudly, "Five, six, ten, twenty."  Questions raged and flared within me, "How could she be so disrespectful?"  "Why am I living my life for everyone else?" In the half-hour I waited for the car to pull up, I decided I would take her phone away for a week, I would not be so available to take her or her sisters places, and I decided it was time for me to take on a full-time job an hour away so my family would appreciate me more!

The second my daughter climbed into the car she heard and she saw how unsatisfied I was and she was prepared for this as she apologized.  She knew I was dissatisfied with her not calling, with the position she put me in--inconvenienced and uncomfortable.  By this time, both of us were in tears and unable to to have good communication.  As I drove home, skewed images and dark fascinations began to form in my mind as I willed myself not to speed:   These are the moments my daughter will remember when she's 25, her mom being mad at her; I've sacrificed my job skills to build a family and I've failed. And then the darkest downward spiraling thought came: I'm done! Why do I try so hard when things don't go my way?!

At the heart of our vocation and calling, we hear voices tempting us to imagine that there's a better life for us.  The tempting voices are from our enemy who wants to trip us up into feeling we've missed something bigger and better and more important than what we've done or what we're doing right now.  Our calling is to be fully human Christian women who bring Light into the world.  My flesh was crying out for satisfaction when things didn't turn out the way I planned with my daughter.  But couldn't that happen with my colleague? My boss? My employee? My friend? Finding satisfaction in our vocation and calling happens when we realize the voice of the enemy is trying to distract us.  At the end of the day when I realized I had been distracted, I was in a better place to accept my daughter's apology and to simply explain my expectations of her.  What brings you dissatisfaction in your calling, vocation, your life?  Can you identify the voices and see them as distractions?

Psalm 90:14 "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad  all our days."

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The "Must-Know" Prayer for Women Leaders

The “Must-Know” Prayer for Women Leaders  
MaryKate Morse, Guest Blogger 

A little while ago during a meeting, I had pressed a point that I thought was important. I came back to it a couple of times because I could see that my colleagues did not get it. Others were angry that I had brought it up, so I thought they didn’t understand. After the meeting I received an email from my boss taking me to task for causing problems. He put me in my “place.”  As I sat at my desk reading the email a deep sigh escaped me. I was and am weary of my contributions as a leader being perceived as “inappropriate.” I am a wife, mother, grandmother, and a woman who has leadership gifts. How do I lead as a woman called and released by God even when resistance is common?

Social research has shown that women’s identity gets constructed through relationships while men’s identity comes through accomplishments. So, people want women to be nice and play nice. If they are accomplished or show strength, their femininity is questioned.  If men speak up about an issue, they are “passionate.” When a woman speaks up she is often labeled a “control freak.” People are uncomfortable when a woman is strong. What bothered me most about my situation wasn’t the email censure, but rather knowing that men in these meetings who act passionately about a point and press it did not get emails from the boss putting them in their place.

So, what do I do? Women leaders face unique challenges throughout their lives as wives, mothers, aunts and sisters. Not just here in the United States but around the world. Women are 70 percent of the poorest and most vulnerable people on earth. One in three women suffers some form of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse by men during her lifetime. And yet we lead. We want to make a difference for Christ. We want to be obedient to God’s mission to go and make disciples. So how do persevere emotionally and spiritually?  What do we do as women who love Jesus and lead?

We begin with prayer, and I have found one that helps me a lot. When Jesus was facing his greatest challenge – his betrayal, torture, and crucifixion – he went to his Father in prayer. Jesus suffered injustice and pain, yet he prayed. He was misunderstood, ridiculed, de-valued, yet he prayed. In the Garden with even his closest friends unable to be present with him, he poured out his heart to his Father who loved him completely. Jesus prayed for himself with intensity and deep emotion. His prayer was raw and honest. He prayed three times for God to take this cup from him. Three times is a Biblical literary device to mean completeness. In other words, Jesus prayed his way through from his despair to fully entrusting himself to God. He said each time, “Your will be done,” until it was deeply settled in his heart. Jesus modeled for us the first steps on a difficult journey.

So, I do what my Lord did. When I feel misunderstood, frustrated, and weary on this leadership journey as a woman, I tell my Father all about it. I bring a vulnerable honest self to God. I tell God what I want and what I’m feeling, but then I give it all back to God. I pray, “Your will be done.” I do this over and over again until I am back settled in my Father’s arms and released from my weariness and sadness. I entrust myself to God who loves me completely and who watches over me.

The mystery of this prayer is the peace and resilience I have to go back and lead again. Instead of dreading the next time we had a meeting, I arrived feeling clear emotionally. Instead of avoiding my boss, I asked him about his family and day. I knew the struggle was not ultimately mine, but God’s. I felt God’s favor to be myself and trust the Spirit for the outcomes. Nothing really changed for this situation, but I was okay. Though a word of caution as one woman leader to another, sometimes after the prayer of relinquishment, the Holy Spirit will guide you to leave a toxic environment, or help you discern how to confront the person or issue, or help you mature into a better leader. The relinquishment prayer is a first step, not the next step. On our own we cannot change this world, but when we are fully submitted to God, God does watch over us and use us.   

MaryKate Morse
Author Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space, & Influence and A Guidebook to Prayer: 24 Ways to Walk with God

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Nothing Better: Eat, Drink and Be Satisfied

Nothing in our culture encourages us to enjoy God by loving the bodies He gave us.  Body care and weight management is an art and a skill that can be meaningful.  I was asked to speak about the spiritual aspects of weight management recently and I found myself remembering a very difficult season in my life when I was in a pit of unhealthy body issues.

It's not easy for me to reflect on that time but as God lifted me out of the slime, He demonstrated to me how my body was created in wonder--I was wonderfully and fearfully made.

Do you look at your body and believe it was created in wonder?

Glancing quickly at research on this issue, I discovered how 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at sometime in their lives.  For many reasons, people struggle with body dissatisfaction.  By age six, girls can start to express concern about their bodies.  This breaks my heart.

Here's a brief story of how God rescued me.

When I was 21-years-old, a senior in college, I realized I had an issue with eating.  From all appearances, I was a successful student, I was in good physical shape (I even taught aerobics), my friendships were strong and I was working to help pay for school.  To deal with the stress, I started to restrict myself from certain foods.  Something was wrong, though, as I knew I was restricting myself from something deeper. But what?  I remember the day I was in our little apartment standing in the kitchen when I devoured a pan of cinnamon rolls in minutes.  It happened before I even knew it.  As I looked up from the dark pit, I asked God, "Why did I just do that?"  Soon after, I heard, "It's an intimacy issue. Your goal is to enjoy me forever and not fill up on anything else."  ( Don't think sexual intimacy here - think emotional connection).

It didn't take me long to let my women friends in on my struggle.  Just telling them, brought both my feet out of the pit.

 What was I so hungry for? 

The preacher in Ecclesiastes 2:11 says, "When I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless  . . ."  Several verses later he concludes that a woman or a man can do nothing better than "to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work.  This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or drink or find enjoyment?" (24-25).

I was hungry for satisfaction and here's what I learned through the years about enjoying God through seeing my body as a wonder of His creation:

  • Body care or weight management is a daily craft: a little bit everyday is enough
  • Body care is not just physical: Psalm 139 says we were knit together and fearfully made
  • Body care is meaningful: it's wise to please God by feeding ourselves with plenty of healthy foods
  • Body care is not about being in control but practicing self-control
  • Body care is not about conforming but being transformed

How are you encouraging the younger women around you to see their bodies as a wonder of creation?  I'm asking myself this as I spend my hours with three teenage daughters.

Let's share our lessons with one another in transparency and awe of God's creation.