The Picture

Maybe it was the infertility struggles, maybe it was naiveté, or maybe it was just a really good sugar high from too much cake, but there was a time when I held the lofty certainty that I could be the perfect parent.  I know what you are thinking, “perfect, really?” Well, no, I didn’t process my thoughts in my mid-twenties with that verbiage but let’s just be real, that was the burning desire– I was never one to be content with average performance.  So imagine my horror to find that I could indeed be the crappy parent I promised God I would never be.

I can still remember the moment my therapist said the words, her legs crossed as she pressed down the pleat of her pants, her top painted in warm inviting hues–really her very personage being akin to a warm, soft sweater on a cold, rainy day–safe and inviting– “What about being a good-enough parent?

I could feel the veins in my temple start to throb as the color rushed to my face and I found myself giving the armchair an undeserved death grip while I willed my fingers into its yellow flesh.  What the heck was she saying? Her calmness was disarming and infuriating. How dare she

Would that be ok?” she asked, and I found myself wanting to cuss at her and I really didn’t understand why.

NO! That would not be ok, why would that ever be ok– in a million years, no. Did she not understand my love and devotion to my children? Did she not understand that it was up to me to give them a perfect childhood? To make up for any brokenness that some of them had started life out with? To be Mr. Rogers, Martha-frickin-Stewart and Mother Teresa all wrapped into one? My kids deserved a mother that did it all perfectly and I just needed her to understand her dang job was to FIX ME. As the words rolled off my tongue and touched air for the very first time the light began to dawn, illuminating all the brokenness to my thoughts.

You are wanting to be a perfect mom, but is perfection truly possible?” she said, calmly shifting her hands in her lap as she grabbed her mug to take a sip of her tea.

Oh. Ohhhhhhhh. Dang it. Dang her.  How dare she? Why was I angry with her?  The depth of this depravity was not her doing but she was the one bold enough to point the stage light toward the steaming pile of crap.

Where did that leave me? What would this mean? If what she said was true then I don’t understand the mommy-hood picture I am aiming for anymore. 

The picture.  The picture of the perfect mum.  I knew immediately that this perfect picture hung in my head needed to burn.  It was all a lie. A mirage. It was also a means of torment. The yardstick by which I would measure myself every dang day and find myself failing.  But how could I not fail? I had set myself up for no other option.

Perfection isn’t possible.  The enormous pressure perfection burns into one’s shoulders actually breaks the barer. Yet, I ran after it like it was the great prize that determines my every worth and the entire fate of my children.

Snap.  There it is.  The why. If I do it all right then I will earn my motherhood honor badge and have avoided all the struggles and all the pain and all the problems that could befall my children, ever.  The picture in my head, haunting all my moments and reprimanding me like a brutal taskmaster every time I fell short. That impossible dang picture. The lie.

I sat in my therapist’s office, broken–not because of all the hard circumstances I was trudging through (like I thought)–but because of all the lies that lay buried beneath it all like a festering wound eating away at my spirit.  So, as the tears streamed down my blotchy red face I vowed to understand what good-enough parenting looked like and I finally let the fire burn the perfect picture away.

The freedom…

Good-enough parenting:  Where you work at getting it right a bit more than you jack it up, you deal with your crap and model that process for your kids, and fall heavily into grace in the midst of “I’m sorry’s.”  It is a messy place full of learning about love, compassion, and forgiveness. It keeps showing up, pressing in, holding onto peace and running after the truth that leads to freedom. And, knowing that when all else fails, there is always therapy.

 

The Fire

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The oxygen mask strapped to my face felt like a muzzle holding in my desperate cry. I grabbed for it to yank it off.  A stout hand firmly put it back in place and commanded me to breathe. Breathe deeply! A blurry image of a nurse sat next to the head of my bed, repeating her commands at regular intervals like the hands of a clock striking the next second, minute, hour. Breathe! I could no longer feel the pain that less than an hour before had torn through my body without mercy. My body was numb now, empty, and once again barren. I heard someone whisper–something about sats not yet stabilizing, the fever, the sepsis, it was still too early to tell.

I could die.

I could see the blurry outline of my husband sitting with his head in his hands, I knew this was all just too much to process, he was numb too. His hands wove through his dark hair endlessly, his tell of boredom or stress. He was not bored.

I could hear the tears falling.

Where was she? Where was my second baby girl?  We had just gotten to 24 weeks. She had a chance, unlike her little sister born just 2 weeks before.  It all floods back–the team working on her in the corner of the room as soon as she was born, desperately fighting to help her–my husband and my mother helping hold me down as the doctor fought to stop the bleeding–me fighting to stay alert, to get a glimpse of her, desperately wanting to draw her close to me.  Septic. 15 minutes she lived, while my life slipped away.

Why did I survive?

I remembered the specialist’s words again in that moment, spoken not long after my water broke at 17 weeks, their advice: terminate the pregnancy.  “The odds are not good. You, the mother, could die.”

Then let it be.

“I will not kill them. I cannot, regardless of what it might mean for me!” I had said it passionately and without hesitation as I carefully walked out of the small, cold office praying that even then the amniotic sack was resealing.  I knew I served a God who could do miracles, and I would hold onto that hope with every fiber of my being through the weeks to come.

But sometimes the miracle doesn’t come. Sometimes the fire just burns, and ashes are all that remain.

“Let me die!” First a whisper, then I rip off the mask and let it out in a long roar.

“LET ME DIE!”

The nurse is unflinching in her demand for me to breathe and calmly places the mask over my face again.  I have no strength to fight her.  My husband comes over to me, tenderly leans in close, and whispers how he needs me to fight, how he can’t lose me too.  My heart breaks for him and his pain.

I can’t.

Not even for him. Not for our 3 foster daughters either. Not for my mother, who I hear choking back tears as she stood to the side.  My fight was gone.

After years battling infertility we had finally gotten pregnant through IUI (intrauterine insemination), and in the span of a month everything had been lost. I had given birth to two precious baby girls, born less than 2 weeks apart, and watched them both die, powerless to save them.  I could not do this. I could not live through this. I did not want this to be my story. I was certain. And so I begged God to just take me home–over and over again.

Then a whisper played through my mind…

Be still and know that I am God.

A sweetness in the words was almost palpable, but my mind and heart still pleaded with God for a merciful end to my agony.  Again and again, it echoed through my mind, then my heart, then ministered to my spirit in ways no words could ever convey.

Be still and know that I am God.

I didn’t even understand that day what it truly meant, not really.  I just knew that it was a promise of His faithfulness, somehow. In a darkness so deep that I questioned if there would ever be light again, it lit the match.  He was there. In complete desolation, He was there. Though I did not understand, and I was shredded to the core, He was there. Though I did not feel his arms, He held me, gently, reminding me of His love.  Though I questioned, he never wavered.

I know that now…looking back.

This week, almost 12 years later, I learned the Hebrew root of the words be still.  It means to release, go slack, to let go.  I had to smile.  That is exactly what God has been teaching me how to do since that day.  To let go of my fears. To let go of what people think. To let go of my children. To let go of all the hard I face.  To let go of all the things, and sink deep into The One who is able to do immeasurably more than we can imagine.

I think I am beginning to get it, just beginning.

What I began to learn 12 years ago I continue to journey into, like peeling back layers of an onion, going deeper and deeper to the heart, His heart. I can bring all my pain, all my hard, all my tears to Him.  I can pour myself out at his feet. He is safe. And in return, He gives Himself, a precious perfect peace that defies all understanding–even as the fire rages. It was true then; it is true now.

He is capable of raising new life up out of the ashes!  I continue to learn that new, beautiful, wonderful things do come, even in the hard, even when there are scars, but the most precious of all these will always be his presence.

What do you need to let go of today?

 

Surrender or Fight?

Will I fight for me?

As I stared at my reflection last night (after everyone else was fast asleep), I saw a weary, worn-out, battle-scarred woman looking back at me.  The seasons she has pressed through glimmer in her eyes as she looks at her aching frame.

I have heard it said that comparison is the thief of joy.  I would say that not seeing the truth and walking in it’s freedom is the true thief of joy.  It isn’t about anyone else, it never really was.  It is all about your sight. The mirror can only reflect that which you choose to see, and you are the one who chooses where to put value.

Last night I took the time to truly see me.

It has been a long, hard couple of years in a body battling autoimmune issues dipped in a torrent of never ending pain.  I see it in my reflection. I see it in the inflammation and the weight gain and the wrinkles and the gray hair and the atrophy.  I see it. I feel it. Profoundly.

But I also see a warrior.  I see a woman who has not given up, even in the darkest of darks.  I see a woman who has done her best to battle through the terrifying unknown and FIGHT for her life even as she fights for others.  She is a poured out offering to her Savior, and she rests in His delight. She is battered and bruised but…

I see she is not done yet.  

And I hear that still, small voice ask again, “will you fight?”

There is a season to all things.  This is my season to fight, to press, to not surrender in defeat.

The labs were not good. The pain is not gone. There is more work to do. The end is unknown. The dreams are unrealized.  But the victory is certain! She trusts the one who holds her victory. And she starts again…

She starts with what she CAN do.  She takes it one moment at a time.  She equips herself with knowledge and wisdom.  She presses into the one who holds her perfectly and who alone can do all things.  And she belly crawls, slowly if she has to, toward the finish line.

She will fight because only her Savior gets her surrender.

 

Pushing in, Holding on, and Refusing to Give Up

Backstory:

Valentines Day 2012 I have weightloss surgery to help save my life and buy me time to change my health, while I continue therapy to understand why I use food in ways it was never intended.  I take on the full time job of what I describe as “dealing with my crap.”  I work hard, become an athlete, accomplish physical feats I never dreamed I was capable of.  All the while secretly hoping one day to try and get pregnant again before I got any older.  I would begin to learn I could stop running from the hard stuff and take it on, and battle through it.  I was fine, until things were not in my control.  I was fine as long as eating a certain way and working out a certain amount meant weightloss.  I was fine until I just couldn’t lose any more weight and it wasn’t making any sense, so my lowest weight never dipped below 208 pounds.  My heaviest was 311.  I began to learn about how my autoimmune issues played a much bigger role in weightloss but time was ticking.  So, I put my weightloss journey on hold and dove into the world of infertility again.  We would try to get pregnant, pour in all the hormones, I would gain weight (about 15 pounds), it wouldn’t work, I would spend a few months trying to lose the weight but a few pounds would stay on each time before we would try again, each time with more hormones.  Then we moved on to the mac-daddy of all infertility treatments, IVF.  It was our last try.  I was up to 228 pounds, a size 12, the day we began the IVF ride.  After inserting the approximately $10,000 worth of injectable fertility meds, the day of our embryo transfer, I was tipping the scale at 243 pounds.  Amazingly, we got pregnant with our precious baby girl, and I worked hard to eat well, exercise regularly, and only gained 11 pounds during my pregnancy.  So, the day I gave birth I weighed 254 pounds.  I had no idea at that time that the pain in my hip would not be normal postpartum pain, or that it would grow worse, or why.

After giving birth, I started exercising as soon as I could, determined to lose the weight as quickly as I could and restart my weight-loss journey again. Between the exercise and all the breastfeeding, I lost all the weight I had gained from the pregnancy and some of the IVF hormones in just a few short weeks.  However, the pain in my hip kept growing more intense with no relief.  So, when our daughter was 3 months old I decided it was time to figure out the problem because it was clear to me by now it wasn’t going away.

I started at the chiropractor who quickly determined something was wrong.  I did acupuncture.  I then went to physical therapy (PT), which gave no improvement after 6 weeks.  Then I went to see an orthopedic surgeon who quickly determined after doing an x-ray that I had a glut med tear and simply needed more PT.  After an additional 6 weeks, still no improvement, it was getting worse.  At this point, after a horrible battle to try and prove I was indeed in pain, which had been growing worse for over 6 months at this point, I started on pain meds.  I took 1-2 just at night so I could have a break and actually sleep.  The constant pain made me fell like I was loosing my mind.  I went back to the same orthopedic surgeon, who decided that now, I didn’t have a glut med tear, but instead it was bursitis, and a simple injection would fix me up in a jiffy.  That simple injection put me at risk for a serious stomach ulcer because I had had stomach surgery, but I did it anyway.  It did nothing to help.  The pain just continued to get worse, while the pain meds became less and less effective as they often do.  The PT suggested he believed it was a labral tear, which would require surgery.  So, I went to a different orthopedic surgeon, who decided to do MRI’s with contrast to see if it was a labral tear.  The results were inconclusive, and so with great attitude, he decided I should have another shot, this time in the joint, which would put my stomach in jeopardy again and in no way fix whatever the problem was.  I had had enough.

Jjagged bone growth

Jagged bone growth

I did my research, and found an amazing orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Stephanie Pun, at Stanford who I was hoping would be willing to see me; she was my last idea.  Amazingly, I got in.  She looked at the MRI’s I had had done, she did her own x-rays, and she ran a test that included injecting numbing meds in my joint to see if it brought relief.  It did.  The x-ray clearly showed a large bone spur and the injection left her to conclude that surgery would indeed be beneficial.

The normally 2-3 hr surgery took about 4.5 hours.  When she went in, she saw that not only did I have a labral tear, but part of it had ossified (turned to bone) because it had been going on for so long.  She had to shave 4 mm of jagged bone growth off my ilium, remove 2mm of ossified labrum, reattach the torn labrum and the labrum where my ilium was shaved down and shave 2 mm of bone off of my femur before she was done.

Pictures from surgery

Pictures from surgery

16 months after the pain began.  But onto the point of this post….

For over 13 months I have essentially been unable to exercise, due to the pain it caused.  It has been maddening.  I have been given pain meds and antidepressants to help deal with the pain, both of which cause weight gain.  And, I am sad to admit, I have not regulated my eating, to be healthy, because I just couldn’t manage to make it a priority on top of everything else.  Today, I got on the scale, and I officially weigh more then I did when I gave birth to my daughter, 262 pounds.

And so, with a heavy heart, I start over, again.  This time I have to relearn how to walk, and while I have about 3 months of painful PT to look forward to, I won’t be able to go back to the gym until 6 more months have passed.  During that time I have to hope and pray that this surgery will have indeed freed me from the pain (because there are no guarantees) and that I will be able to regain normal activities again one day.  This unknown, this journey is one of the hardest I have ever been on.

I am not good in the unknown.  I don’t do well with this level of hard.  Chronic pain and being immobile are truly horrid for me.  However, I will press in, I will move forward, and I will work hard to do all that I can.  So, starting today I am weaning off the crutches I have lived with for the last 2.5 weeks.  I am beginning the weaning off of all the medications that I hate being on to begin with.  And I am tackling my diet, the one thing I have some control over.  It is time to work hard to reduce the inflammation in my poor body, and hopefully start to feel much better.  Here is to never giving up, even when you want to, even when you are so weary you can’t see straight, even when you have no idea what the end outcome will be.

Be Still

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It began as a whisper in my soul,

The day my water broke when I was 17 weeks pregnant with our twin girls,

The day the specialist strongly suggested I terminate the pregnancy because it could cost me my life,

The day I held our 21 week-old-gestation baby girl as she took her last breaths in my arms,

The day I watched as they tried to save our 24 week-old-gestation baby girl as she took her last breaths, as they worked to save my life,

The day I stood at the smallest pink casket conceivable and said good-bye to two of my daughters,

The day we decided to fight to adopt our first three girls,

The day our oldest decided to leave our house, mad, two days after she turned 18,

The day our second oldest decided to leave our house in pursuit of a boy,

The days of anger, heartache, and pain after pain as we tried to fix all the broken,

The day I learned I couldn’t,

The day I stood in court and wondered if we would win our battle to adopt our fourth little girl,

The day our oldest told us she was pregnant,

The day our second oldest told us she was pregnant,

The time after time when we have been treated with scorn, when all the anger from their journey gets poured out on us time and time again,

The day after one yells, “I DID NOT CHOOSE YOU.  I HATE YOU!”

The day when once again a child walks away,

The day after what feels like unending drama and unending pain,

The days I wonder what am I doing all this for?

The whisper has grown to a gentle, loud, rhythmic beat in my ears over the years; patiently, unendingly He reminds me…

“Be still, My soul.”

I had no idea it was the title to an old hymn, until just this year.

And then I read through the stanzas for the first time, and wept; I wept at God’s precious love and faithfulness to me; I wept because for the first time I felt like I was truly beginning to understand all that he was saying in just a few words.  I recently read this description of the hymn and it is SO very good: (emphasis mine)

“Life is noisy.  A hymn like “Be Still My Soul” gives me assurance that in the noise of life, my soul is held secure in the silence- silence that goes before and behind me.  In the noise of my emotions or daily work rhythms, the silence between the happenings is a constant.  The silence helps me find my place in the world, to see who I am,  and it makes space for my soul to listen to God.  Even in the most joyful tones of life, as in music, the space between the notes is just as important as the notes themselves.  Hebrew scholar Ellen Davis translates the first verse of Psalm 65 in this way:  “To you, O God, silence is praise.”  Silence is praise?  You mean I don’t have to say or prove anything?  I can just be here, be who I am, where I am, and let the silence envelop me?  Like Job’s declaration of God’s goodness in spite of his personal losses, Katharina echoes:  “Be still, my soul, your Jesus can repay, from his own fullness, all he takes away.”  These are challenging and comforting words, strung disruptively close together.  The challenging part is the reminder that we are not the ones in control.  If space is a kind of loss, the comfort of the stanza is this:  like music notes on a page, we ought to submit ourselves to receive both the notes themselves (like joy) and the space between the notes (like loss) before God.  He, in His fulness, is the Great composer of our souls, moving us in and out of seasons, giving and taking away.  Using both space and melody, He composes our lives into a symphony far more dynamic and beautiful than we ever could have written for ourselves.  Admittedly, we can’t always hear the music that is being written in us.  Sometimes, the people around us can hear the sound more easily than we can.  It’s then that we need our friends to sing it for us and sing it to us.  In a hymn such as “Be Still My Soul,” in both space and melody, we are instructed in the practice of silence and the symphony of grace.  We are encouraged to “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” (Psalm 37:7).  And we are invited to “begin the song of praise.” ~Sandra McCracken

And just in case you have never actually read the stanzas to this hymn,
written by Katharina A. von Schlegel back in 1752, here they are:

“Be Still, My Soul”

1. Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;

Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;

Leave to thy God to order and provide;

In every change He faithful will remain.

Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend

Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake

To guide the future as He has the past.

Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;

All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know

His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart

And all is darkened in the vale of tears;

Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,

Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.

Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay

From His own fulness all He takes away.

4. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on

When we shall be forever with the Lord,

When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,

Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.

Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,

All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

 

Love

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A few years ago I realized that it was time to make a few changes.  I had spent the majority of my life seeking to please others, hungry for their acceptance, their approval, but most of all hungry for their love.  I realized that somewhere along the line I had become the preverbial “people pleaser”, willing to forego even the basest forms of respect in order to keep people in my life.  I believed that if I just worked harder, did more, allowed more, that eventually things would change.  I firmly believed that it was indeed all my fault when things did not go well and I was treated poorly or hurt.  Somewhere along the line I accepted the lie that I simply was not worthy of being treated well, let alone to be loved well.

Eventually, I just broke.

I knew I wanted things to change, so I got some help.  I started to see a therapist, and I started the hard business of really learning about myself and what desperately needed to change.  It turns out there is a whole other world out there.  A world where people have boundaries.  A world where people say no, expect respect and walk away from those who emotionally use and abuse them.  There is a world where family doesn’t treat you like junk, and children honor their parents.  A world where people believe they are worthy of love.  I use to think that loving well meant that you just endured all things.  Now I realize true love means sometimes having to say, “I love you too much to let you treat me this way.”

I have been learning who I really want to be.  What sort of daughter, wife, mother and friend do I desire to be?

Simple.  I want to love, really love– wisely, passionately, deeply.  Thankfully, God is patiently teaching me what love really looks like.  My education began with understanding who I no longer desire to be–the victim.  I have been digging in deep, combing through the words from the author of love. One story has been on my mind for weeks now, it has challenged and broken me in the best possible ways.  It is found in Luke, it is the story of Jesus healing the paralyzed man:

“Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus.  When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.” Luke 5:18-19

The fact that Jesus ended up healing the man was not what struck me.  I found myself thinking about the men who carried the paralytic.  I tried to put myself there, watching this unfold.  Here is this man, body broken, laying on a mat.  Did he want to get well?  Let’s just assume the paralytic actually wanted a working body, if given the chance.  Why did the men decided to carry him?  I am sure they had busy lives, and there were many other things they could have done with their time.  Let’s not miss the fact that they actually carried him.  Have you ever carried another adult before?  I am just going to go with saying, in the least, they were committed, caring and strong. They cared enough for this man to literally carry him to Jesus so that he could receive healing.

Wow.

In my world, that is pretty impressive if we just stop the story there.  How many would go to such great lengths to help another?  However, when they arrived at the house where Jesus was they realized that they could not actually get to him because of the great crowd.  What do these guys do?  Do they give up and say, well, we tried? No!  They refuse to stop, they battle forward, determined to press on to the goal–Jesus.  They decide to carry him up the stairs to the roof.  They carried him up stairs! Carrying him at all would have been a workout, but to carry him up stairs is an even deeper commitment.  Then, they actually break through the roof of the house and lower him down to Jesus.  Can you just picture that scene?  Can you imagine how humbling and amazing it was to be the paralytic?  I am floored.

What a beautiful picture of love.  Who was blessed more that day, the paralytic or the friends who carried him to Jesus?

I am challenged.  I want to be that sort of friend.  I want to carry those who want to get well to Jesus.  I want to fight for them, press in with them until they get the victory that God desperately wants them to have.  I want to weep when they weep and rejoice when they rejoice.  I want them to know that they are important enough to fight for.  I am learning that I want to walk in that level of love.

No matter what I choose there is no escaping the hard that is present in relationships. So, instead of attempting to hide from the hard, I would rather pick the hard that leads to the fruit of abundant life.  For there is one thing I may have finally learned; true love leads to freedom, healing and beautiful growth–not bondage, brokenness and despair.

Far Past the Shoreline

Shoreline

“Disturb us Lord when we are too well pleased with ourselves.  When our dreams have come true because we’ve dreamed too little.  When we arrive safely because we’ve sailed too close to the shore.  Disturb us Lord when, in the abundance of the things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life.  Having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity.  And in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim.  Disturb us Lord to dare more boldly to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery, where losing sight of land we shall find the stars.  Lord, we ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes and to push us into the future in your strength, courage, hope, and love.  Disturb us, oh Lord.”

~ Sir Francis Drake

I just want to know I am right, and that I am not careening down a dead-end road that ends in a rather steep cliff.  I want the handwriting-on-the-walls-audible-voice-of-God-burning-bush-experience, complete with a carbon copy of all instructions via email for good measure.  I want certainty.  I want control.  I want to know exactly what I am getting into so that I can clearly and strategically decipher whether I have the ability to endure it.

I am lying to myself.  What I really want is to control the outcome, to avoid more pain and, therefore, opt out of any need to actually trust God.

Be still.  Trust.  Surrender.  Let go.

Yeah…those words feel like abrasive Brillo pads on my sensitive flesh.  And yet, if I will be still long enough, I can remember the numerous times of God’s faithfulness in my life–the mighty storms that revealed his greatness.  I can clearly see he is indeed trustworthy.  I understand that he alone will give me the strength to walk whatever lies before me.  It isn’t up to me, it isn’t about me, it has always been about him…and the story he is writing.

I can choose to trust him.  I can hold on to him desperately, moment by moment.  With my eyes clearly fixed on who he is, I am free to realize I have absolutely nothing to fear.  And so I climb into my rickety boat and venture out into wider seas, far past the illusion of comfort provided by the shoreline, and I wait.  I wait to see the stars.

Homeless in San Francisco

Homeless Woman

San Francisco.  Home of amazing sour dough bread, trolley cars, fresh seafood and one of the most diverse populations ever held in one city.  As I write this I am sitting in the fancy lobby of the Hilton in Union Square, where we have been staying for the last few days while my husband attends what I like to refer to as a “nerd conference,” featuring some of the latest and greatest in the computer programming world.  As you can imagine, my head began to ache just walking amongst the throng of this populace.  I came to relax, to turn my brain off for a bit, and to just enjoy being alone.  So, I ventured out into the big city of San Francisco all by myself.

I walked. I watched.  I even stepped out of my comfort zone and started conversations with others.  And I prayed.

And then I saw, really saw, possibly for the first time….the homeless.

I was undone.

How many times have I ignored the fact that they exist? Or judged them?  Or reminded myself it was just not my problem, what could I possibly do?

But as I walked the streets I was filled with so many thoughts I had never had before and it hit me:  these are our modern day lepers.  These are those who society has outcast, they are the forgotten, the unclean, the untouchable.

Yet, these are the very ones that Jesus would have hung out with, and even more shocking…he would have touched them!  And I am profoundly humbled to say that for the very first time I was struck by the fact that God profoundly loves them.  Deeply, passionately and completely loves them…just as much as he loves me.

They are someone’s daughter, son, father, mother, aunt, uncle or cousin.  They each have a story.  How did they get here? What happened in their story that landed them here, on the streets of San Francisco?  What mother or father looked at them as babies and thought, “One day, dear one, you are destined to be a homeless beggar.”  None.  And yet…there they are, in a situation they probably never saw coming.

And so I sit here and wonder.  I wonder if maybe Jesus had it right.  He made it simple: love.  Love!  A command, a verb, not a warm fuzzy feeling.  I do not know exactly what that love looks like in every situation.  However, I am wondering if our eyes are fixed on Jesus, and our focus is his love, then maybe it will change our actions…and maybe, just maybe, God will use it to change the lives of those whose paths we cross.

One thing I am certain of, even as I fall guilty of it, is that my judgement accomplishes nothing.  But God’s perfect love can change anything; and for some reason which I truly do not understand, he wants to use us.  He wants to demonstrate his love and power through us.  So, the question then becomes this: are we willing?

 

 

 

Hitting Walls, Quitting Weight Loss, and Detoxing

Protein shakes, counting calories, pushing myself at every corner to achieve a new physical milestone and then hitting a wall so fast, and so hard it sent me reeling.  It only took about 6 months to loose 96.2 lbs, thanks to having a sleeve gastrectomy, eating strictly  and exercising like a mad woman.  And then I hit a wall where nothing seemed to work to push even one more pound off, alueding not only the 100 lb mark, but totally missing the other 60 pounds I have left to shed.  It is about exercise and eating less calories, right?  Bull; it is just not that simple for everyone.  And the old Crystal, the fat i-d0-not-care-just-give-up Crystal gave me a smack down.

So, after an 8 month weight loss stall, I quit.  I started to become afraid of every angle of the eating/exercise continuum.  Nothing was going as planned…I could feel defeat rear it’s ugly head.  I was sick of it all!  I was by no means bingeing any more, but I also stopped paying much attention to calories/protein or exercise.  I just simply told myself, “I am just taking a break from it all.”  Yeah…

First, I gained back about 8 pounds.  No shock, but just added to the pain.  What was the point if all my effort seemed in vain anyway?  Next, the energy wained, and I was already battling having far too little.  Then the sleeplessness, anxiety, and sadness dug in.  Lastly, the headaches returned and the tummy problems returned fiercer then ever.  I had a headache every single day for a week and a half.

Then I remembered…

this was life in the pit.  This was the foretaste of what believing the lies led to: a prison.  I promised I would never go back to that and there I was like a pig sitting in their slop, wallowing in self-pity.  We choose our hard, and I was once again choosing the hard of life in the pit.  It had not changed, it was nauseatingly familiar….and so was the pain.

Oh, how glad I am to know that I serve a God who loves me so dearly and is so abounding with grace that he will never be ok with me choosing life in the pit.

In a time of quiet before God, I heard the question once again that God seared onto my heart months ago.  Do you want to get well?  

Honestly, I just wanted my own way at that point.  I wanted to see results.  I wanted to know that once again I was in control. I wanted to not be afraid of what it meant to loose even more weight.  I wanted it to no longer be hard or feel impossible.

And then it hit me.  Did I really just find another idol?  Nope God, move on over, you are not going to be on that throne…I am.  I want it my way, in my time, and I know what is best.  But I CAN NOT EVEN FIX THIS!  So, clearly, under the light of truth and all things good, I make a horrible god.  Oh, how easily I can loose sight of what is true.

The truth is that I am in the best shape of my life.  The truth is that I have come a very long way on this journey.  The truth is that there is NO way in HADES that I am staying in that stupid pit.  And the truth is, I was going to give it all back to God.  I was made for freedom!

Two days later, my husband said he wanted to do this crazy detox program called Whole 30.  I thought, clearly, I could use a detox in every sense of the word, so why don’t I join him?  That was 7 days ago for me.  No protein drinks, no counting calories, no more giving up.  My only “cheat” has been a bit of honey.  It has truly been incredible.  Because it turns out that the one autoimmune disorder I still have to deal with, PCOS, has caused about 80% of my “wall.”

It took just 24 hrs for the headaches to go away.  In about 36 hours my intestines were happier then they have ever been in my adult life. Not to mention I am having some of the best sleep I have experienced apart from anesthesia.  Oh, and the energy, the energy has been wonderful.  And the added side note?  I broke the “do not weigh yourself rule” out of morbid curiosity, and I have been shocked to find that I have lost almost 8 pounds in the last seven days.

I will admit that the first couple days the withdrawals were pretty crazy, and well, my mood may have been less then sweet.  But man has it been worth it.  With 23 official days left of my “detox”, I have already learned that there are simply some foods that freak my body out and make it sick.  I will have to grieve the loss of how life was, and move on.  I have also learned anew just how much junk is in the foods we consume on a regular basis, and so much of our diet is permanently changing.  The plus side?  The food is incredible!  Just look at this dessert I made tonight:

Paleo Strawberry Dessert

So, if you find yourself ready to quit, or maybe you have already quit and you need to hear it again:  Do not be defeated.  It is not too late.  Press on toward the beautiful, marvelous, precious gift of freedom….no matter what your mountain is.

Love and grace!