I’ve spent most of the night browsing holiday cards…because, seriously….Christmas is right around the corner. Holy cow! Minted.com is a sweet site full of amazing designs. Here are some of my favorite Christmas cards they’ve got this year…
I think these weight challenges are becoming an annual or bi-annual tradition between Andy and I. This year, we started on August 25 (okay, so I meant to start, but then Labor Day got in the way and a few ice cream runs got in the way, and, well…now I’m starting..haha). Our end date will be Christmas. The person to lose the most weight (by percentage) wins. Andy is also doing a thing at church where people have “pledged” to give so much money per pound he loses and all of the money will go to sponsor kids in his youth group to go to camp. So, let’s just say he has WAY more accountability than me. I mean, good grief, he put his starting weight and the pledge per pound details in the bulletin! Oh my.
If Andy beats me, I will give him money towards his youth group fundraiser.
If I beat Andy, he has to tell the church (or youth group) and/or publish in his church bulletin that he was actually competing against his sister this whole time and his sister beat him! haha.
Andy| Starting weight: 267.2
First week weigh in: 259.2
Total pounds lost: -8
Total percentage lost: -2.99%
Angie| Starting weight: 194.0
First week weigh in: 192.8 (pretty good for not trying..haha)
Total pounds lost: -1.2
Total percentage lost: -0.61%
Yesterday I told you that I have started volunteering as a devotional writer at my church. Each week, one of us writers will be assigned to that week’s message and we’ll write five days worth of devotions that correlate. These are to help people continue engaging in that week’s topic. We just recently added a resource panel to this piece, for an additional step if readers want something more. Here is the last devotion I wrote during our “Sola” series. Sola means “only” and these messages were based on the five pillars of faith that we cling to. The latin phrases were coined around the time of the Reformation. Here is my devotional on Sola Fide: By Faith Alone.
Last week we studied about grace, one of our essential pillars of faith. We were also reminded of Ephesians 2:9 – that it is grace that saves us (Eph. 2:9). If you continue to read through Ephesians 2:9, you’ll notice that there is another part of that equation – faith. This week we’ll take a look at what faith means, and how it plays out in our everyday lives.
Memory Verse: And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.” Luke 17:19
Monday, March 25, 2013
Read: 2 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 11:1
Reflect: When I was in high school, I went on a youth group retreat where we did a low-ropes course activity call the “trust fall.” Perhaps you’ve done something like this yourself. I teamed up with a friend and when it was my turn to fall, I would turn my back towards my friend so I couldn’t see her, cross my arms and slowly fall back towards her and let my friend catch me. Each time I “fell” towards her, she would move further back, while I nervously trusted that she would catch me. I couldn’t see her, I didn’t know how far away she would go, all I could do was simply believe she would be there. Faith is like a “trust fall.” We can’t physically see Jesus, and we can’t tangibly calculate his grace, but we must have faith that it is the truth. The greek word for faith is pistis, which means to trust or to believe. When we are saved by grace, through faith, it’s as if we are saying, “Okay, Jesus, if You say Your grace will save me, then I’m abandoning my efforts to save myself, I’m falling into your grace and I’m absolutely trusting that You will catch me.”
Respond: Close your eyes and imagine yourself doing a “trust fall” activity with Jesus. Do you trust Him? I mean, do you really trust Him? Do you trust Him with that health situation or that rebellious child? Do you trust Him with that addiction? Do you trust that His grace can catch you even after that deep, hidden sin? Spend some time talking to God about those areas.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Read: Romans 4
Reflect: Yesterday I told you about my first experience with the “trust fall.” What I didn’t share yesterday was the amount of times I stopped myself from falling before I actually got the hang of it. I would start leaning backwards, and at the very last second, I’d throw back my leg to stop the fall. I thought I could help the catcher. Essentially, I was trying to “catch myself.” How many times do we try to do that in our spiritual lives? We know that grace alone will save us, but instead of having faith that grace is enough, we try our hardest to be the best person we can be and hope that it will be additional help. Hear me out on this: working towards holiness brings glory to God, so we shouldn’t give up on that (2 Cor. 5:9-10), but those works cannot save us. Just like you can’t catch yourself in a “trust fall,” you can’t possibly do enough good to even come close to saving yourself from sin and death. Romans 4:5 (NLT) says that “people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.” Again, faith means to trust and believe. It is trusting that Jesus can handle your salvation, your healing, your struggle…without your help. It is falling into his grace fully, without restraint or hesitation.
Respond: Part of letting go and putting total faith in God is admitting where you’ve tried to be “additional help.” Today, write out the areas where you’ve been trying to “earn” your salvation or even more subtly, earn God’s favor, and ask God to help you trust Him.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Read: Matthew 8
Reflect: When I went to Sierra Leone (Africa) last May, some of the most popular stories we told came directly out of Matthew chapter 8. The main reason those stories are so compelling in the African culture is because they believe so strongly in power – the power of spirits that can possess your mind, health, weather. It’s fascinating for them to hear that Jesus is more powerful than any spirit or storm or sickness. It’s too bad the disciples didn’t catch on to this concept when they saw Jesus healing person after person in the first part of Matthew chapter 8. By the time they were caught in a storm (v. 23-27), they should have known about Jesus’ all-controlling power. That’s probably what He thought, too, when He asked them “where is your faith?” Rather than reflecting on the miracles they had seen Jesus do previously, they were struck with fear. One of the best faith-building practices we can do is to get to know God better. The more we know about Him and His attributes, the more we understand what He can handle (which is everything, by the way!) and the more confidence we have to put our trust in Him. The next time you’re in a stormy part of life, remind yourself of who God is – what He has done and what He can do.
Respond: Spend time today writing out all of the ways you have seen God work in your life and in the lives of others. Keep that piece of paper with you and add to it as you remember things. To go even deeper, start a list of every describing word the Bible gives to God (ex: loving, faithful, good, all-powerful.) Add to the list each time you come across a new attribute.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Read: Luke 7:1-10, Matthew 17:14-20, James 5:13-20
Reflect: In today’s readings, we learn a pretty amazing thing: faith is powerful. The Roman officer in Luke 7 understood it perfectly. As an officer, he had authority over his soldiers. In today’s terms, if he said “jump,” his soldiers would say “how high?” He knew it was the same with Jesus, who had authority over all creation. If Jesus chose to heal a person, they would be healed..no ifs, ands or buts! Sometimes we don’t ask God for something because we don’t want to bother Him. Sometimes we don’t ask because we don’t think he will do it. But I think there are probably times when we do ask God for something, but nothing happens because deep down we don’t really think he CAN do it. That’s where our faith is put to the test. Please understand that mustering up enough faith to manipulate God into doing something for you is not how it works. Faith is not a trump card. God is God and His ways are higher than ours. But, when we come to Him with even a small amount of authentic faith (Matt. 17:20), mighty things can happen!
Respond: Do a short study today on how many times Jesus calls a person faithless, says “you of little faith” or asks “where is your faith?” Read a few of those stories. Why do you think Jesus points out their lack of faith?
Friday, March 29, 2013
Read: Matthew 9:27-34; Luke 8:40-48
Reflect: On Wednesday we learned that when we know more about God, the more confident we are to have faith in Him. Yesterday we learned that authentic faith, no matter how small it is, can do mighty things. These two ideas come together in today’s readings. Both of these stories are about people who know who Jesus is and they have faith that He can heal them. In Matthew 9, two blind men were so desperate for healing that they persistently followed Jesus home and begged for his healing. They believed and they were healed with a single touch. In Luke 8, a woman plagued with an awful disease weaved her way through a thick, loud, sweaty mob of people just to catch a glimpse of the One she knew could heal her. As He passed by, she desperately stretched her arm out and just brushed the corner of his garment. In the blink of an eye, she was healed. There will be times in this life when we will find ourselves desperately reaching for God with every ounce of faith we have and persistently storming the gates of heaven. He will meet us there. His will may not be our will, but He promises not to leave us alone. In those times of persevering faith, let us not forget that Jesus is our end goal. Ultimately, it is not about the miracle we hope to see, but the One who makes miracles happen.
Respond: On this Good Friday, and as we approach Easter Sunday, spend some time reflecting on the end goal of our persistent faith: Jesus. Write a love letter to Him. Thank Him for the gravity of His sacrifice and praise Him for conquering death so that we may have life.
If you’ve not accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, simply admit that you are a sinner in need of a Savior, believe that Jesus is the living Son of God, and choose to follow Him the rest of your life. If you need to talk to someone, call the church office (781-5959) or talk to our pastors or counselors after weekend services.
This Time Alone was written by Angie Lomas, PV member.
Hebrews chapter 11 is often referred to as “the hall of faith.” In this chapter, the writer lists many well known characters of the Bible and credits them for having great faith. This chapter is a great resources for us to study in regards to our own faith.
Take some extended time this week to study the characters listed in Hebrews 11. The verses in chapter 11 may give you a brief story of their life of faith, but challenge yourself to dig deeper, find their extended stories in various parts of the Bible and read all about each character’s life and context in which they found themselves having to rely on great faith.
Ask yourself: What does this story tell me about God? What does this story tell me about mankind? What does this story tell me about myself? How can I apply this kind of faith to my own situation today?
Each week, our church puts out a devotional resource that ties along with that weekend’s message. All of these devotions are written by volunteers. Just recently, I started volunteering on this team and it has been a really fun, really challenging thing to be a part of. You think you know the Bible until suddenly you are supposed to write a week’s worth of devotions on a subject! Talk about intimidating!!
Since I’ve already written two different times, I thought I’d share them for you guys to read….
William Temple said, “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God. All this is gathered up in that emotion which most cleanses us from selfishness because it is the most selfless of all emotions – adoration.” As we break down this quote piece by piece this week, we’ll consider several different ways to worship God. If you find that you’ve never experienced some of these aspects of worship before, challenge yourself to worship God in a new way this week.
Memory Verse: Psalm 100:4-5 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Monday, February 25, 2013
Read: Isaiah 6:1-8
Reflect: What does it mean to have our conscience quickened by the holiness of God and how does that cause us to worship? Let’s consider the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah was just as human as you and I — absolutely imperfect! Yet, God chose to let Isaiah experience just a glimpse of His presence through a vision (Is. 6:1). When encountering the holiness of the Almighty God, Isaiah knew that he, a sinful human, was nothing compared to the holiness of God. In fact, it caused Isaiah to say, “I am ruined!” (Is. 6:5) Perhaps in our words, we may say “I’m a lost cause!” He knew that, because of sin, he was utterly hopeless. But that’s not how the story ends. Isaiah also experienced the power of God’s forgiveness and commissioning (Is. 6:7-8). Isaiah could have said “thanks for the offer, God, but I’m just not good enough.” But he doesn’t. He says, “Send me!” We give God our worship not only when we recognize the depravity of our soul in comparison to His holiness, but when that realization leads us to accept his forgiveness and say “yes” to what He calls us to.
Respond: When you reflect on God’s holiness, do you find yourself getting stuck by feeling like “a lost cause?” Or, does experiencing God’s holiness cause you to worship God for choosing to offer you forgiveness and calling you to live for a greater purpose?
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Read: Psalm 1; Psalm 119:104-106,160
Reflect: Psalm 119:160 says that the Word of God is truth. Jesus says the same thing as He is praying to the Father in John 17:17. So, if God’s Word is truth, how do we feed our mind with it and how does this cause us to worship? Think for a moment about your eating habits. (Yes, there is a reason I’m asking…just go with me here!) When you skip a meal or two, does your stomach start to growl? Our soul, just like our stomach, needs to be fed. The only way to truly satisfy our soul is to feed our mind with God’s truth. Sure, we can try to fill that hunger by watching mind-numbing TV or by working endless hours just to get a few extra accolades or by stuffing our face full of chocolate cake. But, if we really listen to our soul, we will realize that the only thing that will satisfy that craving is the truth of God. We worship Him and give Him praise when we choose to feed our minds with His truth, rather than an easy, temporary escape.
Respond: What do you try to feed your mind and spirit with? Is it something other than God’s truth? If so, confess that to God, and plan a time to spend with Him today.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Read: Psalm 27:4; Psalm 50:1-3; Psalm 96:6-9
Reflect: As an artist, I am often captivated by a stunning, visual masterpiece. Musicians are mesmerized by the perfect harmony of carefully crafted chords. Writers are intrigued by the steady, rhythmic flow of words on paper. These things cause our senses to be heightened, our emotions to be lifted and sometimes make the hairs on our heads stand on end. But you don’t have to read very far into the book of Psalms to realize that God is infinitely more beautiful, attractive and brilliant than art, music or writing combined. Purging the imagination with God’s beauty is to remove all false notions of who God may be and filling your mind with the truth of who Scripture says He is. He is beautiful. He is awesome. He is majestic. And when everything within us makes us want to stand and declare that He is glorious and worthy, that is worship in its purest form.
Respond: Take a moment to think about the most stunning image you have ever seen, most thrilling piece of music you have ever heard or most moving piece of literature you’ve ever read. Now try to picture yourself in God’s throne room, even more incredible than what you just imagined. Spend a moment there and worship God and His beauty.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Read: Psalm 51:1; Psalm 86:15; Psalm 136; 1 John 3:1
Reflect: On her jewelry commercials, Jane Seymour always reminds us, “If your heart is open, love will always find its way in.” While it may be a great saying for her product, it also holds a bit of wisdom for us as Christ followers. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can get pretty stubborn and independent. I’ve been told that some of my first words were “do it own self.” To open up myself to be loved, guided or helped means I must make myself vulnerable. And being vulnerable is uncomfortable. But if I never fully open my heart, if I never allow others to see my weaknesses, how can they love me completely? They can’t. The same goes for God. We worship God when we are willing to surrender and to let Him into the weakest, most vulnerable corners of our heart. Only then will we be able to experience the vastness of His love. If we will open our heart to God, His love will pour in like a torrential flood. It is unfailing, it is abounding, it is great and it endures forever.
Respond: Have you closed your heart off to God, trying to handle everything on your own? Challenge yourself to take a risk and worship God by letting Him into the most vulnerable areas of your heart today. Take some time to journal a prayer to God about those closed-off places in your heart.
Friday, March 1, 2013
Read: Philippians 1
Reflect: Jim Elliot was a famous missionary who was killed while trying to bring the Gospel to a native people group of Ecuador. Before he died, he once said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Likewise, in Philippians, Paul writes from a prison cell about the trials he faces while trying to advance the Gospel. Both of these men are excellent examples of someone worshiping God by devoting their will to the purposes of God. While we may never find ourselves in such extreme situations, God often calls his people to take steps outside of their comfort zones in order to fulfill His purposes. When we listen and obey, we are worshiping Him. The call may look different for each of us, but the response of obedience is what matters for all of us.
Respond: What is God asking you to do in order to fulfill His purpose? Is it going on a mission trip? Is it inviting your coworker to church? Is it adopting an orphan? Is it helping at a homeless shelter? Whatever it is, it may be out of your comfort zone. How will you worship God through this calling?
If you’ve not accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, simply admit that you are a sinner in need of a Savior, believe that Jesus is the living Son of God, and choose to follow Him the rest of your life. If you need to talk to someone, call the church office (816-781-5959) or talk to pastor or prayer counselor after weekend services.
This Time Alone was written by Angie Lomas, PV member
First off, let me say that I’m a bit sad. Which is a weird way to start off a book review, but this is why: I’m finished with the book, Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist.
“It’s a good thing that you’re finished with the book, because it means that you can actually give a comprehensive review of it, right?” You ask. Well, yes. That is true. But I’m sad because this book has been so incredible, so refreshing, so wonderful, that I wish it could go on forever and ever, amen.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a book review, but this one is seriously so great that I hope you will stop everything and order Bread & Wine from Amazon. I could go on and on about this book, but I’ll try my very best to boil this down to my very favorite parts.
I have all of Shauna’s books and have absolutely loved each of them. There is just something about her style that captivates me, soothes me and inspires me. Shauna’s attention to detail–to smells, to sights, to sounds–is something that has always kept me reading her books. Many of you know that I have a bad habit of reading a chapter or two of a book, then getting distracted by a new book without finishing the first. Not so with Shauna’s books. Each chapter is a story in itself, filled with passion and tender words, and I find myself wanting to read the next and the next and the next, until I suddenly realize that I’m up past midnight on a work night. If you’re any type of creative, you will love Shauna’s style of writing. Her attention to detail is by far my favorite.
I’m not very talented when it comes to the kitchen, most of you know. And the only food writing that I’ve read has been on blogs, no cookbooks or food related books. But one of the best things that Shauna addresses is that cooking is not about how fancy you can make things, or what it will look like on Pinterest the next day, but about loving those around you by meeting their needs and nourishing their bodies. That was pretty profound to me. I loved that she would tell a story in each chapter, usually revolving around some type of food, and at the end of the chapter she’d give the recipe. There’s quite a mix of recipes, from fancy to basic to comfort, and everything in between. To be honest, I thought that most of the recipes may be outrageously fancy and complicated…absolutely opposite of my kind of cooking. But one of the best surprises of the book was finding that there was an assortment of recipes, and the assurance that Shauna is just as “down-to-earth” as I am. She loves comfort food and easy recipes sometimes…just as much as the rest of us. Oh! And one of the other awesome things is that she includes many gluten-free recipes (or adaptation tips), because her husband eats gluten-free, just like Brian! She also includes dairy-free and meat-free options in some recipes. Very cool.
I never used to write in my books, but over the years I have started to underline some things so that I could remember the main points that stood out to me. I’m becoming more like my mom, who would be more efficient reading with a can of spray paint than a highlighter. This book has numerous lines and stars and brackets…deep thought after deep thought. To be honest, I thought this book may be a bit difficult to read during and after my Daniel Fast during lent, but I found it to be the best thing I could have done. Shauna talked about the real struggle and balance of enjoying foods you love and being disciplined with your body. This was the biggest thing I’ve taken away from this book. As Shauna said, “I believe in the back and forth rhythm of feasting and fasting…” I love that idea. Enjoying amazing flavors and foods, but also knowing that it’s not healthy for mind, body or spirit to indulge at all times. So it brings you back to discipline. I just love that concept and will probably be something I live by. She also talked about running, which I thought was pretty timely in my life since I’ve been trying to run longer distances. She talked about the idea of hospitality, and that it’s not about being fancy and complicated, but about loving those you love with food and with your undivided attention. She talked about loving those who are hurting and grieving, about celebrating with those who are celebrating, and the fact that it’s all about meeting the needs in the most crucial of times. She also talked about her difficulties with miscarriages and getting pregnant, the hurt and pain and struggle that it is…something that needs to be talked about, and she did it in such a tender way. I loved the way Shauna pulled together the idea of bread and wine going far beyond a simple culinary duo, but that these symbols are deeply sacred, and can be a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice each time we experience those elements, especially outside of the communion time at church. I also loved that she gave tips on hosting parties at the end..that was great!
“My phone’s probably pregnant. That chair over there just got pregnant without even trying.”
“I tend to believe the worst about myself – I could never do this, I’m not that kind of person, I’ll always be like this, or I’ll never be able to get over that. …. And I remember that people can change. That I can change.”
“But if feeding people around your table is about connecting with them more than it is about showing off your menu or skills, isn’t it important to cook in such a way that their preferences or restrictions are honored?”
“I don’t want to live by rules and regulations, but I also don’t want to be ruled by my appetites. I resist and kick at discipline every chance I get, and then when I break down and do something hard, I find that it builds something in me, that it makes me stronger, not just in that area but in all sorts of areas.”
“I’m realizing this after what seems like a lifetime of saying to myself, “Well, you can’t be expected to do something hard on a day like this, can you?” I did expect more from myself, and I did do something hard, and I’m thankful.”"
“The church is at its best, in my view, when it is more than a set of ideas and ideals, when it is a working, living, breathing, on-the-ground, in-the-mess force for good in our cities and towns.”
“The table is where time stops. It’s where we look people in the eye, where we tell the truth about how hard it is, where we make space to listen to the whole story, not the textable sound bite.”
I could really talk about this book all day, but I don’t want to give away all of the awesomeness within this book. You’ll just have to BUY IT!! and read it for yourself. And if you think that just because you’re not a cook, you won’t like it, that couldn’t be further from the truth. You will love it just as much. You will feel encouraged to take another chance in the kitchen, to challenge yourself at a new recipe and to love those around you in the most basic of ways…through nourishment and conversation.
As for me, I’m ready to fire up the grill and take a stab at the Mar-a-Lago Turkey Burgers and Mexican Grilled Corn. Or maybe the Sweet Potato Fries and Mini Mac & Cheese. Or maybe just the Blueberry Crisp or Nigella’s Flourless Chocolate Brownies. Shoot. So many amazing choices. I may just have to try them all…in the same night.
Go get this book. I’m serious.
You won’t regret it.
P.S. — I don’t know if the kitchen in the picture is Shauna’s real kitchen, or just a promo shot kitchen, but can I just get a forklift to transport that entire room to my house? Because, seriously, it is all that I want in a kitchen and more. That’s all.
Easter was such a day of celebration for me with ending the fast, but not in the sense that I thought it would be. During the first week or two of the fast, I could envision myself gorging on chocolate and meat and cheese and and everything my little mind could fathom. But that’s not what it was like at all. My first meal was breakfast with my family…ham, egg, cheese hashbrown cassarole. I started out slow. I wasn’t craving meat. Sugar didn’t sound remotely appetizing. That’s when I noticed the growth that had occurred during lent. These foods were not controlling me. I had control over what I said yes and no to.
For lunch we had turkey loaf and cheesy potatoes and tapioca jello. I ate what I wanted, but didn’t over indulge. On the way home to Kansas City, we stopped and got coffee. It was oddly not all that I had imagined it to be. That night we had pizza and soda. It was a day of celebration.
But what I found was that these things were not what controlled me anymore. After it was all said and done, my head felt clearer. I felt God’s presence all around me, something I hadn’t felt for a while. I felt joy and a peace, rather than guilt or shame. I felt free. That was the celebration.
Since then, I’ve done fairly good at eating what I need to eat. Sure, there are times when I probably over do it. And Starbucks…well, it’s a slippery slope. It’s easy to get caught up in bad habits. But the fast taught me some important truths..that Jesus can and will break those chains that we can so easily get caught up in. That those foods can’t ever satisfy…in fact, they can actually make you feel pretty crappy if you eat horribly.
I’ve still been working towards the 5k and that has been really healthy for me. I’ve been eating better and my body feels a lot more free than before. There are times of celebration and feasting, and other times of discipline and fasting. It’s a balance. It’s moderation.
And the fact that I’ve gotten to this point…stronger mind, healthier body, and nourished spirit…that indeed is a celebration.
The final week and a half of Lent. FINALLY. It is finally here. This past week and a half was definitely THE hardest week of Lent for me.
The last time I did the Daniel Fast, which was only 3 weeks long, the third week was pretty difficult because I started craving everything that I knew I’d be able to eat again. That seemed to hit me in week 5, but during week 6, I didn’t think about it as much. Sugar didn’t seem that appealing to me, which was a huge struggle for me before the fast. The biggest cravings I had was meat and cheese (hello pizza!). Besides that, the fast wasn’t too difficult the last week. The one good thing that happened was weighing myself at 177.8.
The final week and a half of Lent was also when I first attempted the week 5, day 3 run of my Couch to 5K program, which is a 5 minute warm up, TWENTY MINUTES STRAIGHT RUNNING, and 5 minutes cool down. Twenty minutes!! Oh my word. This is the first day that they make you run without any walking breaks in the middle. I had already mentally felt defeated when I thought about this day, but everyone said I could do it…so I made my first attempt. It ended after 11 minutes. I was discouraged that I didn’t run the entire thing, but was proud that I had at least run 11 minutes straight..my longest run yet. A few days later I tried again…13 minutes. Still not the full thing, but this time I came to realize something. I posted something on my facebook that day that said something like this: “I’m up to 13 minutes straight running. This process is teaching me that not completing a full run (or project, or hard situation) is not a failure. I did better than the last time. That’s success in my book.” I was felt proud that I was getting better with each run. But then, the next few times I attempted the 20 minute run, I quit early. 10 minutes. 5 minutes. 7 minutes. I just couldn’t seem to get it. It was discouraging. I was getting closer and closer to the end of Lent, and my goal of finishing a 5k by Easter (by trying to cram an 8 week program into 6 1/2 weeks) just wasn’t going to happen. Heck, I couldn’t even run for 13 minutes like I had just a few days earlier! What was my problem!?! A few days later, I tried again…this time I got 15 minutes! I was excited. I didn’t get to 20, but I was getting closer now! That was my last run before Easter. 15 minutes. A long way from a 5k (30-40ish minutes), but 15 minutes longer than I had run when I first started! And I was proud of what I had accomplished.
But those things weren’t even the hardest parts for me. The hardest part of week 6 and 6 1/2 was just living life. On the Friday before Palm Sunday, a coworker lost her husband to cancer. She was someone who I’ve had something in common with, a husband with cancer, and now her road was taking a different path. It was hard, painful, scary…a lot to process. That entire week was hard…he was declining fast and there was nothing I could do about it. Something I couldn’t fix. Something I couldn’t say anything to change. And then watching my coworker lose her husband…something no wife ever wants to face. It was an incredibly sad time. And then, on Palm Sunday, I suddenly got a text message from a friend asking for prayer. One of our very close friends had just lost her dad, very suddenly, very unexpected. It was like someone dropped a load of bricks on me. I was stunned, shocked, deeply sad, and felt totally helpless. Those two things deeply affected our staff as we walked through Holy Week, leading up to Easter. That week, I posted on facebook: “I don’t know about you, but in my world, it feels as though my friends and I are desperately crawling to Easter, weighed down by the weight of the world. Thank you, Jesus, for Easter. Thank you, Jesus, for being our rescue. Thank you, Jesus, for being our hope. Thank you, Jesus, for being the light at the end of our tunnel.” Beyond any of the things I had done during Lent this year…the fast, the 5k challenge…the anticipation of Easter was almost tangible. But not in an excited, anxious frenzy that you would think. It was probably the most emotionally accurate “Holy Week” that I’ve experienced. The Bible does not describe the events of that week being filled with anxious excitement. It was a painful, agonizing, grueling week leading to the Cross.
The one advantage we have today is the fact that we know how it ended. We know what happened on Sunday.
And that was the one thing that got my coworkers and I through that week. The final details on a laundry-list of “to do’s” for Easter, dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s when we’d already spent months working towards this event at church, the preparations for funerals, attending funerals, grieving with our friends for their losses. But Sunday was coming. We know that Jesus wins. We know the outcome…that Jesus is our hope of escaping this broken world and being reunited with our friends, family, and ultimately with Him.
By the end of the work week, it was time for us to head up to Iowa to celebrate Easter with family. We had a great time together. We celebrated the news that there will be a new family member by Christmas this year..another niece or nephew for Brian and I. We made great memories. And then we experienced something that most of us will probably never forget.
The day before Easter, my family was leaving our hometown church after helping get things set up for Sunday when we witnessed a horrible, terrifying, fatal car accident right in front of us. The images of that day still haunt me. Just like that…life changes. Just like that…someone lost their life. Nothing prepares you for that. It felt like a cruel joke….one more incredibly difficult thing to process before Easter would arrive. As if the week hadn’t been hard enough. As if we weren’t ready for Easter to symbolically bring us hope and freedom that we were desperately crawling to.
After the events of that entire week, and the 6 1/2 weeks leading up to it, I was more than ready for Easter. It brought such a rich meaning. A hope that I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so strongly about. A hope that almost felt tangible. Finally….Easter. Freedom, hope, a reason to give us peace and joy in the midst of this broken, shattered world. I processed all that I had been through over the course of Lent, with the final week weighing heavy on my heart. It felt more real to me than almost any Easter ever has. Jesus…it’s all about Jesus. He died for ME. So that I would have hope of being with Him some day, away from the brokenness of this world. Jesus. He died for ME. So that I could walk in freedom from the chains that so easily shackle me from day to day. Jesus…He died for ME. So that I could have victory…over addiction, over sin, over death.
I processed all that I had experienced in the past 6 1/2 weeks. The difficulty from breaking incredible chains to luxury foods. The process of dealing with emotions without stuffing my face. The great news of remission. The mentally and physically challenging process of running, a new attempt for me. The incredibly trying projects at work leading up to Easter. The times where food taunted me, while everyone was eating delicious things around me and I was eating something less than delicious. The good news that Brian’s metabolism levels were looking good. The discouraging process of not being able to run 20 minutes straight. The joy of losing a few pounds. And the agony of the final week…deaths, details and an almost literal crawl to Easter morning.
As Saturday night faded away, I wrote this as a note on my phone…
“Thank you Jesus for what you endured on the cross so that I could have freedom from bondage. Let me walk in true freedom and not let myself become enslaved by things in which you have set me free. Thank you for your forgiveness when I fail over and over. Thank you for your grace, because I will never be good enough. Thank you for loving me so deeply that you willingly gave up your life for me…even when I miserably fail you. I am so unworthy. Help me live a life that brings glory and honor to you. Give me strength to live a life of freedom and not to run back to the snares that so easily trap me. Help me see that you are enough and that you satisfy me completely, more than any food ever could. I love you. I want to only glorify you. Thank you for your love and holiness. Help me to walk in your holiness. Help me listen to your quiet voice of truth. Food can’t ever satisfy me in the way that you do. It can’t ever heal a broken heart or celebrate in joy the way you do. I love you. Thank you for loving me.”
And just like that….it was Easter.
Week 5 of lent was not extremely memorable or eventful. I honestly don’t even remember much that happened that week. I suppose that is a good reason why I should have written this blog immediately after that week, rather than waiting for two weeks.
On Tuesday, March 19, Brian had a doctor’s appointment with the Integrative Medicine doctor to review his progress from the last time we met with him. At our last appointment, the doctor suggested several different vitamins and minerals for Brian to take, as well as a wheat-free diet to reduce the inflammation the wheat was causing. At this most recent appointment, the doctor was very pleased with his current lab results. The inflammation has dropped dramatically, not showing much sign of wheat inflammation at all! That is great! He also said that Brian’s labs look much more stable and balanced than the first time we came in. This is another great thing! We have learned so much from this doctor. He has taught us for things to look at within Brian’s labs to indicate any possible upcoming issues. If Brian’s labs start getting unstable, it’s possible that it’s an indicator of the cancer growing back or that the conditions are right for the cancer to come back. So it gives us the ability to possibly keep an eye on his body through simple blood tests before we’re able to get another PET scan done. Overall, we’ve been very excited about this doctor and what we’ve learned through that.
During week 5 of lent, I was finalizing Easter pieces and working on the next message series graphic for church. While this might not seem like a big deal, it was. The series prior to this was probably the most difficult design project I’ve ever worked on, in regards to constant revisions, working with a team of different personalities and opinions, and trying to put forth my best work within a deadline. It was extremely difficult, and at times, very frustrating. So, to say that this next design was a bit intimidating would be an understatement! It was quite a daunting task to create a new series graphic and not know what kind of feedback I would get, or how long this process would take. And again, with a looming deadline hanging over us. Thankfully, we were able to land on a graphic fairly quickly and move on to the other components that come with a new series. Times like these have always been a challenge for me, when it comes to food. When I am stressed out, anxious, frustrated, nervous….I always wanted to run to food. And usually, the more stressed I was, the worse the food choices got. I’ve told co-workers before that if you see me walking in with a bag of McDonalds, you know my day has been pretty horrible. Yet, through this fast, I have been working through these things without the luxury (or curse) of most foods.
Another highlight of week 5 was my couch to 5k training. This week, the difficulty got infinitely harder. The first day was 3 rounds of 5 minutes running straight, with some time to walk in between. It was pretty hard, but I was very proud that I was able to do it! The second day got incredibly hard, which was 8 minutes running, 5 minutes walking, 8 minutes running. I literally thought I was going to explode after that day! But I was proud that I finished them! Even though it is incredibly hard, I am feeling more confident and stronger each time I run. I am so proud of myself, and I’m excited to keep going.
I’ve officially hit the half-way mark!! Woo hoo!
Week four was pretty uneventful. Since I had gotten behind on my 5k training, I jumped to the end of week 4′s run rather than doing week 3. It was surprisingly not that hard of a jump! I originally wanted to squeeze the 8 week training into the 6 1/2 weeks of lent, but that may not happen, and I’m slowly becoming okay with that. I also haven’t done my “Breaking Free” study for a while. I started it up again this week, but I was also hoping to complete that by the end of lent, but that definitely won’t happen. I am beginning to realize that all of this is a process. It is actually probably healthier for me to still have a study to complete and possibly my 5k training after lent ends, because it may help me transition into a more healthy lifestyle once this ends. I tend to be an all-or-nothing person, so once this was done, I could easily see myself tossing it all out the window. I don’t want that to be the case, though.
In “Breaking Free,” the first chapter is all about the pride that some of the kings of Judah had. It can be so easy for us to be prideful that we won’t be attacked by the enemy or fall to temptation, but that is because pride has made us weak. It’s a good reminder for all of us.
One of the hardest parts of week 4 was our staff lunch that we have once a month. This month they had fried chicken! Another thing that I shamefully admit that I really like! It smelled delicious. The further into the fast I get, the more ready I am for it to be done. Thankfully I’m over the halfway mark, so I’m on the downhill run now!
Also, towards the very end of the week, I hit 180.2…although I wouldn’t be surprised if I go back up a pound or two. It seems as though I’ve leveled off for a while, which is okay considering I’m not really watching my calories at this point.
I will have to say, that is the one thing that may still be a bit of a struggle that I haven’t worked through on the fast…portion control! But, I’m giving myself a bit of grace, since I’m trying to tackle so much at once.
3 1/2 weeks to go!
By week three, cravings had subsided and the eating routine had gotten easier. I remember last year’s Daniel Fast, when we did it for 3 weeks, and the middle part of the fast was definitely the easiest. In week one, I remember being foggy and craving everything, in week 3, your cravings come back because you know you’re so close..but in week 2, you kinda just “hunker down’ and deal with your food because you know you’ve got a ways to go. I think that’s what has started to happen in week 3 (since week 3-4 are the “middle” weeks of this year’s fast). I have had some consistent cravings (casey’s pizza and chicken being two of the main ones)…but they have been manageable.
I wasn’t consistent at the gym this week. I finished up week 2 late, and then things have been crazy at work and home. On Friday, we had Brian’s DLI which entailed getting to the hospital at 7 a.m. and being there until 6 p.m. that night. It was one of those days where I definitely would have “grabbed something” out of convenience, because things were so busy that day. We had already been planning to go to Iowa that weekend, so when Brian’s treatment was finished and he felt wide awake, we decided to head up there still that night. As we headed out of town, we stopped at chick-fil-a where I got a salad. Usually a salad is not a “road trip” meal, but that’s about the only thing I can eat at most restaurants. It was definitely a time I wish I could just be “normal” and eat regular food…but I made it work and it was fine. Brian’s fries and sandwich smelled delicious and my mouth started watering just thinking about fast food.
The weekend in Iowa was hard, food-wise. Since the Daniel Fast is so tricky to cook for, I had told my mom not to worry about meals, I could just fend for myself. I brought several snacks up with me, and she had gotten a bunch of fruits and veggies for me, so I had plenty to eat. The times it was difficult was being the odd-man-out at most meals, having to eat something different than everyone else. I didn’t ever feel hungry, because I had plenty to snack on, but the meals were a bit harder. The hardest meal, for sure, was when everyone else had pizza and I ate a peanut butter and banana pita. Since pizza has been one of my consistent cravings, it was hard to smell the delicious food and eat something so boring. But again, I survived!
Also, I dropped to 182.2 earlier this week!