Monday, May 18, 2015

My Journey Back to Health

This post has been a long time coming. There was so much in me that did not want to share the photo that I knew had to accompany this blog, and yet the truth is, I feel I need to share it and just be real about the past year and a half and the struggles I have been dealing with during that time. My prayer is that perhaps my story will encourage someone else who may be dealing with something that seems insurmountable in their life.

For a little over two years, I had the privilege of being a part of a Radio Morning Show. Yes, it had it's benefits and I definitely enjoyed the job - but the part that was hardest on me was the lack of sleep. With two teen daughters who like to talk late at night, a full time job of being a wife and mother and my getting up at 3am Monday through Friday, life really began to take it's toll on my health. I gave all I had to the morning show, and by the afternoon, I was running on fumes. My family got my left-overs.

I would always promise myself I would nap during the day, but I'd get busy and never would. As a result of my lack of sleep, I lost motivation and desire to go to the gym. I was totally exhausted. My blood pressure went up and I was even put on a blood pressure medication, which then resulted in my needing a potassium supplement (I ended up in the hospital with heart issues as a result of low potassium). I began to struggle with anxiety and was put on anti-anxiety medication and my brain began to literally shut down. I lost my memory, I was constantly in "fight or flight" mode and as a result, I put on about 30 pounds and began to fall into depression.

What is so ironic is that after the birth of my son in 1992, I began my first fight against obesity and poor health. I began taking fitness classes and then got hooked and began to study to be an instructor myself. I loved the progress I was making physically and wanted to share my enthusiasm with others by helping them achieve their goals, too. I instructed fitness classes, trained, coached and encouraged people for over 20 years. I even wrote a book about fitness! I didn't stop doing this until I quit working in the fitness industry in order to focus on my radio career. What I didn't realize was that my exhaustion and lack of sleep would lead to the exact same fight, just a little over 2 years later.

I remember having the thoughts, "Well, I guess this is it. I'm going to be overweight now for the rest of my life." I sort of gave up on myself and resigned myself to living this "new life" I'd created for myself. It was such a hopeless feeling. I began to pray for God's direction in my life. I knew something had to change. And I knew He would help give me the courage to do what I needed to do to reclaim what I had lost. Not only was I suffering physically, but also spiritually, emotionally and mentally.

After swallowing hard, trusting God and stepping away from the morning show, I decided to try to get back into fitness. I studied and became re-certified, went to Columbia and received my Zumba license (after being licensed in 2003, I had let it lapse) and I began to teach classes at HUB Fitness last summer. I began to get at least 8 hours of sleep at night and started eating more carefully. I noticed my cravings for carbohydrates went down when I began sleeping more. I also noticed that my brain fog lifted and my memory was getting so much better.  Within a few months, I was taken off my blood pressure medication and of course, that allowed me to go off my potassium supplement. I was also taken off my anti-anxiety medication. It was such a great feeling!

One of my classes at HUB Fitness! I LOVE these people!
Today, I have gone from a size 16 to a size 8 and I've lost 20 inches - but more than that, I feel so much better. I am enjoying instructing fitness classes and encouraging people to meet their fitness goals at HUB Fitness in Travelers Rest and I can finally, after a year, say that I feel like I'm getting my old self back again. It's not so much about the weight as much as it is about the way I feel so much better! No more medications, no more brain fog, no more feeling like my family is getting my leftovers.

I'm so thankful to God for leading me to Jennifer Arends, the owner of HUB Fitness and Coaching, who gave me the opportunity to return to what I love to do and allowed me to be a part of this incredible community at HUB. I know having this facility here in Travelers Rest has made a huge impact on my life! I've always believed that commitment, consistency and community are the KEY ingredients to success when it comes to life-change.

I'm not sure what it is you're facing, but I know we all have things in our life that seem insurmountable. I want to encourage you to press on. God may ask you to do something hard in order to achieve something that seems impossible. I know leaving the morning show was a difficult decision, but it was the right one for my health and for my family. I also see how God used that time in my life to grow me, teach me and humble me. Hard lessons, but ones that have built my spiritual muscles, for sure!

If you are struggling with sleep deprivation, I want to encourage you to read this article: Lack of Sleep and Weight Gain (WebMD)  Educate yourself on the importance of sleep and exercise and ask God for direction. One thing I specifically asked Him for was: Please God, help my "want to's" to change! I didn't realize that in order for my "want to's" to change, there were some difficult changes He would ask me to make in my life. But I trusted Him and now I see what He did there. (smile)

If you want to try a class at HUB Fitness, your first class is FREE and we'd love to see you there! Find our schedule at www.hub-fitness.com. The first step is the hardest. But I promise you, it is worth it!

1 Corinthians 9:27 – I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition…
Some of the awesome team of instructors at HUB Fitness!




Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Be Still...And Get Moving

What on earth does it mean to be still?  You hear the verse often: Be still and know that I am God.  But does being still mean playing a game of freeze tag with God?  Does it mean we do nothing and make Him do everything?

You can read about the Israelite's Exodus out of Egypt with Moses as their leader in Exodus chapter 14.  The Israelites were approaching the Red Sea and the Egyptians were hot on their trail.  There seemed no way out!  They were panicked and crying out to the Lord, saying to Moses, "Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren't there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn't we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt?  It's better to be a slave to the Egyptians than a corpse in this wilderness!"

Poor Moses.  He was only following what God told him to do.  He calmly told the people, "Don't be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today...the Lord Himself will fight for you.  Just stay calm."  

Just for the record...I can totally relate to this.  Everything seems fine until things look impossible when we are walking with the Lord.  That's when we begin to question everything.  Not only do we question everything, but we question God Himself.  Why does He allow such things?  It's easy to just go back to Egypt. Our Egypt is wherever it is that we came from before we began a relationship with God through Jesus.  It's tempting to just want to go back there and live.  Goodness...things seemed simpler then.  The enemy didn't bother us because we weren't a threat!  How quickly we forget the bondgage, the slavery, the horrific way of living back in our Egypt.  I wish it was as easy to get Egypt out of me as it was for me to get out of Egypt!

Anyway...in the next verse, God told Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!"  Wait a minute.  Didn't Moses just tell them to be still and let God fight for them?  What was God doing?  Why was He telling them to move when they were just told to be still?  Which should we do when we are facing our own "Red Sea" moment?

The answer is simple.  We need to be still and get moving.  See, being still doesn't mean just standing there and doing nothing.  In Joshua we read how God told the people to be still and let the Lord fight for them.  But did they just sit there?  No. 

Being still isn't always an outward retraction.  It's more often an inward reaction. 

The original Hebrew word used for "still" in Exodus 14 is yatsab which means to place, set, stand, present oneself or station oneself.  It also means to station oneself, take one's stand, stand, present oneself, or stand with someone.  God wants us to take a "stand" when we are being still.  That means we are steadfast in believing in our heart that God is going to fulfill His promises.  We will trust Him.  We have peace in our hearts, but we are not just sitting there doing nothing.

Being still is an inward reaction brought on by our total dependence on Him to use us as we go forward in obedience.

What is it that God is asking you to do right now?  Is He asking you to be still and wait on Him?  Please...obey Him in this.  Be still and get moving!  
  • That means if you have a dream you feel God has placed in your heart, continue in what you have before you right now while trusting Him with your dream.  Prove your obedience in the small things, knowing and having peace in your heart that God has it all under control.  He put that dream in your heart for a reason. Trust Him with the outcome - even if it looks different than you thought. 
  • It means that if you are waiting on God for physical healing, do all you can to be healthy, make good choices, go to your appointments and pray without ceasing, knowing in your heart and having peace that God has it all under control while you believe that your healing and deliverance will come. 
  • It means that if you are waiting for one of your children to give their life to Jesus, you continue to pray, fulfill your duties as a wife and mother (or husband and father) and have quiet trust in your heart that God has it all under control.  He hears you and He has a plan.
But it doesn't mean to just sit there and do nothing.  There is still life to be lived.  There are still responsibilities that need to be met.  There are still others who can learn and grow from your example of having peace in the midst of your "Red Sea" moment.

Blessing always follows obedience.  According to what I've learned on this little Biblical "treasure hunt", being still is one of the most action-filled things God asks us to do!  It is one of the hardest things, too, because we always feel like we must control everything around us.  Being still is relinquishing that control to Him and trusting Him to get us through.  It is when we are willing to allow Him to fight the battles while we walk forward in confident trust that He has it all under control.  It is rarely sitting there, doing nothing.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Waiting on God in an "Instant Gratification" World

Whatever we need in today’s world of convenience can be had within minutes, if not seconds. We definitely live in the age of instant gratification.

Need to talk to someone? Pick up the phone. No need for wires anymore. No cords. No dials. 

Need something to eat? Fast food. Microwaves. Boxed, prepared dinners. No need to wait. (We won't get into how unhealthy this can be...that's another blog!)

Want to get caught up on the news? Turn on the TV. Or the computer. Within seconds, you’re all caught up.

Folks, we are losing our ability to wait. And it’s killing us spiritually.

Let’s think for a moment…

Noah waited 120 years from the moment he started to build the ark to the moment God brought the first rain drop.

The Israelites waited 430 years in captivity to the Egyptian nation before God rose Moses up to lead them out of their slavery.

There was no word from God for 400 years until Jesus Christ finally came and fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies as the Messiah.

That’s a lot of waiting. 

A lot of years. Centuries, in fact! We can miss the years and years of waiting as we quickly turn the pages of our Bibles in these stories. But don’t you just wonder what those times of waiting must have been like? Clearly, the promise was not forgotten and there was always a remnant of faithful believers who stayed focused on the promise, while living in what seemed to be silence. But I believe there were many who began to doubt.

Are you waiting on something? I know the struggle of waiting. 

Waiting on a phone call from a doctor with a biopsy result. 

Waiting for a word about whether or not I was being offered a job. 

Waiting on an update from family about a sick loved one.

Waiting on God to handle a situation where I saw injustice. 

I’m still waiting on some loved ones to trust in Jesus Christ.

Some things we wait for are serious and some are just the fulfillment of a dream. Sometimes we’re waiting for God to act when we’ve seen and experienced terrible injustice. 

We often have to wait on God. I’m beginning to realize that in that wait, God is allowing us to be tested. He is growing our faith. He is preparing hearts around us and He’s preparing our own heart, too. He is lining up His perfect timing. 

Sometimes He even gives us an answer we do not want to accept after we wait - but we can trust He is protecting us and lining up His plan in the midst of our heartbreak. God is good. Our disappointments and times of waiting do not change that fact.

The Psalms and Proverbs have beautiful scriptures on how we can wait:

Wait honestly:
I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me. Psalm 69:3

Wait quietly:
I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. Psalm 62:1

Wait hopefully:
I am worn out waiting for your rescue, but I have put my hope in your word. Psalm 119:81

Wait patiently:
I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1

Wait courageously:
Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Wait expectantly:
Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:30

Whatever you are waiting for, I want to encourage you to keep believing and use this time of waiting to draw near to God, to learn to trust Him in new ways, asking Him to prepare your heart for the answer. Wait honestly, expressing your feelings to God during those times of weariness. Wait quietly, not complaining to anyone who will listen. Wait hopefully, knowing God hears and God has a plan. Wait patiently, trusting God’s timing is perfect (and usually not the same as ours!). Wait courageously, not fearfully or doubting. Wait expectantly, knowing God is working and He hears you. 

Yes, you can have instant gratification when it comes to waiting on God. But not in the way you might think. You see, it depends on where you choose to place your focus. If you are focusing on what you’re waiting for, you will be disappointed and will not have that instant gratification you’ve probably come to expect in today’s world. 

But if your focus is on God and knowing Him in a deeper way, you will be fully satisfied - instantly - as you seek His face, His purposes and His will. 

Come to think of it, that may just be what you’ve actually been waiting for all along.

Isaiah 30:18 So the Lord must wait for you to come to Him so He can show you His love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for His help.




Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Hold On

Hopelessness.
Despair.
Doubt.

There’s no question in my mind that the disciples must have felt these
emotions as they watched Jesus being brutally crucified. What was going on? They gave up everything to follow this man and believed He was the Son of God – the promised Messiah!

Just days earlier, the people of Jerusalem lined the streets while shouting, "Hosanna!" with palm branches and shouts of joy as Jesus made His triumphant entry. But now, there He was, dying a humiliating and horrifying death on the cross. Some of those same people who had earlier hailed Him were now cursing Him and spitting on Him. Some were, along with the disciples, weeping over Him as they still had hope He might be their salvation, their King.

The disciples could not understand at that moment that all was well. They could not understand that the plan was going just as God designed from the beginning of time. At that moment, things looked so dark and discouraging to them…. but resurrection was coming.

Hope was around the corner. If only they had a glimpse of that coming glory!

Friends, if life seems hopeless, overwhelming or confusing, please hold on.

There must always be a death for a resurrection to come.

Death of a dream, death of a relationship, death of a habit that you feel you can never break or even death of our foolish pride – these are types of deaths we all experience in our lives every day.

If only we could have a glimpse of the coming glory!

Maybe we cannot understand at those moments that all is well, that things are going just as God designed from the beginning of time. Things may look dark, difficult and discouraging…but resurrection is coming.

Yes, things looked hopeless the day Jesus took His last breath.
But resurrection came. 
And resurrection is coming for you, too.

Hold on.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Those Awkward Years (And How to Love Your Kids Through Them)

The highlight of my week in third grade was when Mom would drop me and my sister off at the local Roller Rink. Carpeted walls.  KC and the Sunshine Band playing "S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!".  The mirrored disco ball. The hokey pokey.  The dice game.  Couples only.  That funky smell of the spray they use in the roller skates to "disinfect" them.  

Yeah, it's still the same.  

If you don't believe me, go to the roller rink.  It will take you back. 

I have some good memories from third grade, but honestly, it was a tough year for me.  I was overweight, wore glasses, had no confidence, was totally insecure and nobody really liked me.  During "couples only" at the roller rink, I was always sitting and watching everyone else holding hands, slowly going round and round the rink, wishing I was out there skating with someone like everyone else, but no one ever asked me.  I wasn't exactly what you would call popular and I was socially awkward.

I think it started when we were sitting against the wall at gym class and we had to sit "Indian style" (it wasn't a politically incorrect thing to say back then - now we call it "criss cross applesauce").  I felt a bubble in my tummy and tried to straighten out my legs to keep it from escaping, but my teacher yelled at me and made me sit "Indian style" again.  Before I even knew it was coming, my "tummy bubble" escaped and it thundered loudly against the wooden suspended floor in the gym.   Everyone looked at me "Ewww!!!  Gross!!"  

Giggles. 

Pointing. 

Judging. 

Like no one else ever did it but me!  

It was the end of my reputation, if I ever had one.  Oh, do I feel for kids in school!  One good thing about third grade for me was my friend, Jimmy.  He had a wooden leg.  I thought that was pretty cool but nobody else would talk to him. It's like they were afraid of him. I never understood that.  I would sit with Jimmy at recess on the bench and he would teach me math since he couldn't play on the playground equipment like everyone else.  I liked Jimmy a lot.  But I hated third grade. I hated math too, but that's another blog.

Did you ever have a year like that?  An awkward, socially destructive, frustratingly difficult year?  Oh, it's the worst.  The only thing worse is seeing your child live through a year like that.  If I didn't know those difficult days were what God used to build so much of who I am, I'd give anything so my kids would not have to go through it at all. But I know He taught me to become more compassionate, empathetic, humble and sensitive to others through those experiences. 

Romans 5:3-4 tells us, "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation." Your child's character is going to strengthen through their struggles. They will become more empathetic, more humble, more compassionate and a lot more sensitive to others who are struggling.

If "awkward years" describes your child, share your stories of your awkward years with them.  Make them laugh.  Listen.  Hug them a lot.  Encourage them. Teach them the truth about who they are, according to God's Word. Be patient. Trust God and try not to "fix" it (I know that's a hard one)!

And one more thing...

By all means, please...don't ever insist that they sit "criss cross applesauce" on the gym floor. (smile)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Sinking Ship

We watched the movie Titanic the other night for the first time in years.  It always makes me cry, never fails.  I remember when the movie first came out many years ago that I watched it several times and I think there was this part of me that hoped that maybe...just maybe...it would end better if I watched it again.  I know that sounds crazy, but a girl can dream, right?

While watching the movie this time, something else struck me.  (I've given up hope for a new ending at this point!) I was watching as the boat was sinking and so many of the people on the sinking ship were so clueless as to what was really going on.  They were listening to the musicians, who kept playing so everyone would stay calm.  They would look around them and everything looked so normal, so they just didn't take it seriously.  Many of them didn't even put on life-vests.  The rich people were still more concerned about being separated from the poor people.  The rescue boats were not filled to capacity.  Nobody seemed to understand that the boat was truly going to sink and they didn't have much time!  It was dire.  Nobody seemed to notice or believe that the boat was actually slowly filling up with water underneath of them.  Until it was too late.

The Bible clearly tells us what signs to look for in the last days.  I keep hearing people say, "Things have always been like this.  It's not any different than it's ever been."  Maybe that's true.  But when I hear this, I immediately recall the scripture in 2 Peter 3:3-4:
Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, "What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created."
If you look around, you will see that the headlines in today's newspapers are like reading prophecy from the Bible.  Israel is surrounded by her enemies.  Famine.  Earthquakes.  War.  Pestilence.  Persecution. Beheadings. All the while, a talk of unity and peace while our leaders from every country come together to attempt to make a one-world government.  Crazy weather.  Fireballs in the sky.  It's all in the Bible.  And the Bible says when we see these things happening, the time is drawing closer. Friends, our ship is sinking!

The signs were given to us for a reason.  I'm sure that iceberg didn't look quite as daunting from the surface, either.  But it was huge underneath it all and it sank the Titanic within a couple of hours after impact.  Some of the scriptures you can look up for yourself about these prophecies can be found in Matthew 24, Luke 17:20-37, Ezekiel 37-38, Daniel 11-12, 1 Thessalonians 5,  2 Peter 3 and of course, the book of Revelation.

Before you decide to argue eschatology with me (I had to look up the spelling of that word, by the way), please know this:  I'm not an end-times expert and I don't know a lot about details, politics or how it all fits.  I'm just an evangelist at heart - someone who knows the truth about Christ and desires to tell the world about Him.  I'm certainly not one to say that Jesus is coming back on a certain date and I'm not going to predict the end of the world by any means. I'm also not going to argue with you or be offended if you don't agree with me on this, I'm simply sounding the alarm and telling you what I believe to be true, based on the Scriptures.  Of everything I don't know, I do know one thing to be true: we are living on a sinking ship. But Jesus has provided a life-boat for us!

I bet there are many folks who were on the Titanic that wished someone had been honest with them about the dire situation they were in.  I can only assume that many of the lives lost were lost because people were living in denial of the severity of the situation.  God is sounding the alarm, my friend.  Every fulfilled prophecy written in the scriptures has come to pass with 100% accuracy in the past and God's track record is not going to change.  The ones that are still to come will come.

We don't know when, but we do know that God in His mercy gave us signs to look for and they are unmistakeable.  Some folks say we shouldn't get "all wrapped up" in prophecy, but I say that if God put these scriptures in His Word, He wants us to know it.  All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

I know I'm not the only Christian who senses something is going on in this world.  In 1Thessalonians 5:4, Paul tells us "But you aren't in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won't be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don't belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clear headed."

Believers:  are you sensing it?  If so, what are you doing to warn others?  Are we like the musicians on the Titanic, playing soothing music that makes others feel like nothing serious is going on or are we helping load up the life-boats to their fullest capacity?

Just like when I watched Titanic, the ending will not change.  It has been written.  The ship is sinking, but it hasn't sunk yet. That means we still have time to warn others and let them know that our God is mighty to save.  

I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you: I am going way but I will come back to you again...I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.  (John 14:27-29)

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Crisis of Doubt

Funny story...

I was struggling a bit with some doubts recently and I was praying for some insight. After I prayed and searched the Scriptures, I felt led to search on the internet for articles about doubts in the heart of a Christian. I didn't want to say anything to anyone because I was afraid I would make someone stumble, so I struggled silently. The only One who knew what was going on in my heart was God Himself.

Here's the funny part...

When I searched the internet, a blog I wrote over a year ago came up in my search. Yes, you read that right. I wrote a blog about doubt! And I had completely forgotten about it. For crying out loud, could it be possible God would use me to help me?

Well, He did. Needless to say, I'm a little rough around the edges and sometimes it takes a few times before Truth really sinks into my thick head! Thank you, Lord, for not giving up on me. I'm reprinting the blog because I know I'm not the only one who struggles with the occasional doubt. I hope and pray it will encourage you today!

SEASONS OF DOUBT

"I think the Bible was written by men. It is a political thing to try to control people." Those words just broke my heart. I was speaking with someone I love last week who has many doubts about God, religion, who Jesus is and what it all means. This is someone who grew up in a Christian home and even would have said they were a Christian several years ago. But doubts, fears, and wordly wisdom have invaded the heart of this precious person. And things have changed. After a long conversation, I realized my "arguments" were useless. I needed to pray and trust God but I had no power to make someone change their mind.

Later that day, someone on Facebook, who is an atheist, posted an article that basically says Jesus is not real but was made up by the Roman Government to control the Jewish population. I couldn't even read the whole article because I felt nauseous. It seemed everywhere I turned last week, there was another violation of my faith and I was getting weary.

I'd be lying to you if I told you I didn't start to doubt. What if they were right? What if I'm a fool? What if Jesus was just a made-up story? Have you ever been face to face with serious doubts like this?  Not only have you probably had doubts race through your mind at some point, they have also run through the minds of some of the strongest Christians in history. Even John the Baptist had his doubts - and the Bible says he was "filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb"! He was the voice calling in the wilderness, telling others the Messiah was coming - He saw the dove land on Jesus and heard the voice of God say, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." If he doubted, why do I think I wouldn't struggle at some point with doubt? You can read about his doubting here.)

As I have struggled and wrestled with God in this season of doubt, I've really come a long way in a short period of time! He is so faithful to meet us where we are, to answer our questions, to bring us encouragement and to renew our faith when we earnestly seek Him. Here are some of the things I've learned in this "doubt crisis" that I want to share with you:

1.  Confess the Doubt 
My first thought was that I shouldn't tell anyone about my doubts. I don't want anyone not believing because of doubts I would have. I don't want to make people think I doubt to the point of unbelief! But if I wasn't honest, it would stay in the darkness and it would certainly grow. That's what happens when we pretend. And then we do not walk in truth. God is Light and in Him is no darkness at all. I decided to voice my concerns and shine light on my doubts by speaking with a couple of trusted friends. And I found lots of company and more encouragement than I could have imagined!

2. Renew Your Mind
When doubts arise, it's an all-out intellectual and spiritual battle. But I'm reminded of how Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 how the wisdom of the world is foolishness to God. God saw to it that we would never find Him through human wisdom! He prefers to use His Word and what the world considers "foolish preaching". If you are struggling in the darkness of doubt, find a way to go toward the light of truth - where God is. Spend time in His Word, with His people and in prayer. Let Him renew your mind. He will do it. Some of the scriptures that helped me this week are listed in this blog. I encourage you to look them up - memorize them and know them (1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Hebrews 11, Mark 9:14-25, Psalm 94:19).  It's transforming!

3. Ignite Your Faith
Keep in mind that Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith, it is impossible to please God. He loves our Help my unbelief!" I can totally relate. God answered his prayer of faith and healed his son. And Jesus didn't scold the man for his confession.
faith! He is drawn to a humble heart that is seeking Him by His grace through faith.  Fan the flames of faith by remembering and thinking on the promises God has given and recalling the faithfulness of God in your past. Read through your old journals, recall times when you know God moved in your life. Remember the Dad whose son was possessed by demons in Mark 9? He asked Jesus to heal his son and then Jesus said, "If you can believe, all things are possible for him who believes." The father then replied, "I do believe!

4. Keep Your Doubt in Perspective
Finally, remember that doubt is not unbelief! There is a big difference. Doubt is questioning what one believes, but unbelief is choosing not to believe despite the evidence. The reason you are struggling with doubt may be because God is getting ready to deepen your faith even more! Take courage - and stand firm.

"When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer." Psalm 94:19

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Sweetest Hug I've Ever Received

I was emotionally exhausted. I'd been crying myself to sleep for four nights out of loneliness and homesickness. I was in a small village called Lijiang, a Southwestern village in China. I had been away from home for almost eight weeks. I was on the adventure of a lifetime, but it was the last leg of this adventure and I was emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically spent. I missed my family. I didn't speak Chinese. The people I was traveling with were a lot of fun, but most of them did not understand me at all. My faith was challenged in ways I'd never experienced before.

A little over three weeks earlier, I had been voted off my tribe on the reality show, Survivor: China. The protocol is that the contestants who are voted off do not go home until the show wraps up production, therefore there are no "spoilers" back at home before the show is aired later in the year. So all 16 of us had to go back home at the same time. Six of us who did not last long enough to make the jury were treated to a wonderful trip in China. We had visited Beijing, Shanghai, Xian and now we were in Lijiang. We had seen the Great Wall of China, the Tiger Leaping Gorge, the Forbidden City and more culture than I have ever experienced! As beautiful as the trip was, I was really missing my family and I was desperate for connection with other believers in Jesus Christ.
The ancient streets of Leijing, China

As I prayed one morning, I prayed a very specific and desperate prayer. I wanted to meet another believer in Jesus Christ and get a hug! It seemed a strange request, but I knew it was something my spirit was in need of, and I wasn't afraid to ask. Of course, I had in my mind that it would probably be some Christian couple that was staying in the same hotel, there to pick up their adopted daughter because in every hotel we stayed in across China, this was commonly seen. We saw dozens of families there on route to pick up their sweet new little one! It really warmed my heart.

So that morning, I set out to the restaurant for coffee and looked around for someone God may have sent to encourage my weary heart. But the restaurant was empty. I was so sure God was going to have someone there that I was a bit shocked, honestly. We ended up leaving the hotel awhile later and walked around the cobblestone streets of the ancient market. As we walked, I prayed and was still looking for a connection with someone, knowing God had a plan.

About twenty minutes into our excursion, I saw something unusual from a distance. Every shop had Chinese writing and I couldn't read any of it, but one shop straight ahead had an English word on it. As I walked closer to the shop, I realized it said "Emmanuel". My heart raced and tears immediately filled my eyes. I ran into the shop and looked around. There were little carvings of Biblical stories that were all hand made. I saw Noah's Ark, the 10 Commandments, Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, you name it - tons of sweet carvings encased in beautiful glass.

In the corner of the shop was a young Chinese woman who was carving away at a cross. Our eyes met and I said, "Jesus?". She looked at me and her eyes grew wider and she shook her head up and down saying, "Shi De!"(this means "yes") I pointed to her cross and then pointed to my heart and she stood up and hugged me as we both sobbed. We were sisters, but we had no means of communication except "Jesus". She didn't speak a lick of English and I didn't speak a lick of Chinese, but I have never felt so close to someone as I did that day!

There will come a time in the future when I believe I will see my sweet Chinese sister again in heaven, and on that day we will communicate with no language barrier and I will share with her how she was an answer to a desperate prayer in China in August of 2007. Hers was the sweetest hug I've ever received. I look forward to this reunion!

If you are waiting on an answered prayer, I want to encourage you to get the picture of what you think the answer should look like out of your mind and hold on tight! God's plan is going to blow you away. I believe He used that precious young woman because I would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He sent her to me. Hang on and trust Him. He's working. And if you're looking for what you think He will do, you may miss altogether what He is actually doing.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Unforced Rhythm of Grace

What was I thinking?

Those were my first thoughts one morning when I tried to get out of bed after I first started working out after a two year hiatus. Everything hurt! I pushed harder than I should have, hoping that if I did I would see quick results. I enjoyed the fitness class I was attending but was being reminded with every step, every movement, that I was going to have to pay for the time I spent not working out consistently over the past couple of years. I wasn't mad about being sore, I was mad that I allowed myself to get so out of shape in the first place!

When you take time away from fitness, you lose your fitness. You are more sore. You are less flexible. You are more tired. You cannot go as hard as you used to go.

And you know better.  

It takes a few weeks to make a habit and I found that just before I would get to the place where it might become a habit, I would always find excuses not to continue.

I'm busy. I'm tired. I'm worn out. I'm....well, you get the picture.

I can get into this same rut with my spiritual fitness. I find myself slipping away from God, away from His church, away from His Word, not listening to His voice. I find myself more weary. I'm less hope-filled. My focus turns to the negative.

And I know better. 

But I'm busy. I'm tired. I'm worn out. I'm....well, you get the picture.

Why is it so hard to do the things that are the most important for us? Why must it be so hard to do the things that matter most? Maybe it's because we need to want it more than anything else and sometimes wanting something important over wanting something comfortable and easy can be tricky. It's easy to lose sight of that in this busy world. But what do we really want?

It's so hard to get in the habit of going to church and so easy to lose it.

It's so hard to be still and spend time listening for God's voice and so easy to ignore it.

It's so hard to pray and so easy to lose my focus.

It's so hard to do the right thing and stand for Truth and so easy to compromise.

It's so hard to go to the gym and so easy to stay home.

Life can be so hard.

But it doesn't have to be.

There is a place you reach in your spiritual and physical life where it's not as hard to do these things anymore, it's actually harder not to do them. I think it's called the unforced rhythm of grace. And it is possible to live in that rhythm! It will take discipline and time. But it will be worth it. Don't give up!

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Fear and Death Have No Hold on Us

Hope for the Fearful 

June 14, 2007. It was the night before I was leaving to go to China to compete on Survivor and a heavy, terrifying and almost paralyzing wave of fear swept over me. I told my husband I had changed my mind and didn't want to go because I was afraid I would die and I didn't want my family to have to go through that pain and hurt. Rod and I prayed about me being a contestant on the show and knew God was directing our steps for me to go, but I still had incapacitating fear. My husband said something so wise: "We know the Bible says that our days are numbered, that God knows our time before we even come to be, right? Well, if it's your time, you will die no matter if you go or not. Wouldn't you rather die being obedient, than disobedient?"

I will never forget the impact that had on me. To this day, I fear less, knowing God is in control and I can trust Him. Not only does this help me fear less in my own life, but it also gives me comfort and peace to let go and trust God with the lives of those I love.
"Our times are in God’s hand; it is well they are so, for he will take care that those who are his shall die in the best time: however their death may seem to us untimely, it will be found not unseasonable." -Matthew Henry
I love this quote above because it reminds me that when we pass away unexpectedly, we can be sure it was never unexpected with God. Our days are numbered from the moment we were just a thought in God's mind. He takes us home at our best time. Psalm 139:16 says, "You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." 

Our time to step into eternity from this temporary life is determined and set, and there is nothing we can do to make it happen sooner or later. (You might be wondering about someone who takes their own life. There's a wonderful article written from a biblical perspective here that can help you understand the complexities of this situation.) Knowing our time is set doesn't give us a ticket to be reckless, mind you. We are still told we are to take care of our bodies, as we realize that they are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We will answer to God for this one day. God expects us to be good stewards of this incredible gift! But it does mean that we cannot let fear hold us back from obedience. Every day we wake up and have breath, we can be sure there is a plan in motion for our lives. A life lived in fear is not a life fully lived!


Hope for Those Who Have Lost Someone

The Word of God can bring healing and hope to fearful heart, and also to a hurting heart. Scriptures remind us that when we lose someone unexpectedly, we can still find peace in knowing that God is in control and has a greater plan we may not see. Nothing is unexpected with God! Isaiah 57:1-2 says, "The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death."

Often, when someone we love passes away, we are left with the "what if" and the "I should have" questions. These thoughts can be paralyzing and incredibly painful.  When one of my college roommates passed away after being in an automobile accident one morning in 1988, I kept telling myself, "I should have stopped her from leaving at that moment." And "If only I had breakfast with her instead of sleeping in, she wouldn't have left at that moment and she'd still be alive." I took responsibility for something that was not my fault, and the fear and guilt was overwhelming. Honestly, it wasn't until I understood God's timing and purposes that I realized, years later, that I was not to blame. But for a long time, I was deeply troubled by these thoughts. 

We never will understand, this side of heaven, why things happen the way they do. One thing we can understand, however, is the heart of God. From His perfect perspective, He sees the bigger picture and even when we cannot understand His plan, we can understand His heart.  Whatever the purpose, we can always trust the plans of God, who is sovereign over everything. His plans are beyond our comprehension, but His love and His heart has been revealed to us through His Word and through His Son. 

I pray that if you've lost someone dear that you will find peace in knowing God loves you deeply and His heart breaks for you as you mourn the loss of someone so precious. He knows your pain and He hears your cries. He bottles your tears. His heart breaks for you in your time of heartache. It's okay to mourn, it's okay to feel the way you feel. And I pray that if fear is holding you back from living your life fully, that you can let the fear go and walk in the boldness and confidence that God has you in His arms, and He will never let you go.

Walk confidently knowing when the day comes for you to step into eternity, He knew that day was coming. He's been expecting you! The party on the other side will be beyond your comprehension.

The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. -John 10:10



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