The Danger in Comparing

 

Our girls have always sung: all over the house, at church, in the store… it shouldn’t have surprised me.  I was the child who clogged through every store my mother took me.

I remember our oldest 3 girls singing VBS songs in a grocery store and getting a bit loud, I thought, to serenade a woman standing nearby.  I tried to hush them a little, but as the woman passed me to leave she leaned in close and in a low tone she said, “Just think, they might be the next Point of Grace.”

It took my breath away, the way you know God just used someone to speak important truth to you.  The truth was that they were made to sing out loud, and it wasn’t my place to muffle them. I felt a little panicked, suddenly wondering if I was equipped to teach them what they would need to know.  I started praying right then and there that God would provide by enabling me or sending whatever teachers He will, and He has done both over the years.

My husband started them singing at the camp Annual Banquet each year, and I don’t remember how they began singing at church, but nowadays they sing at no less than 20 churches or events a year.  Their harmony is beautiful.  I don’t turn on the radio at home very often because who needs that when you have live music most of the day?

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It is a joy to watch and see how each one of the children develop in their gift each year, and even the older kids notice and appreciate as their younger siblings reach new levels. Lilly is 14 now, and has been coming into her own.  She is developing her own style and writing her own music.  I’ve seen our oldest listening, shake her head in wonderment, and I’ve known that she was comparing.

“My voice isn’t anything special,” she began to believe.

She forgot about the man who said that whichever sister is singing alto is “Amazing”.

She didn’t think about the woman at church who said she knew my Angel Girl would be able to pick out the elusive harmony.

She never considered how she has been becoming the teacher her sisters all go to when they need help understanding music theory.

I encourage her, but sometimes you need to hear it from someone who isn’t ‘just Mom’.

The comparing… it chokes dreams.  It kills confidence.  Instead of trail blazing, you fall to the rear because that is where you feel more comfortable. You might even talk yourself right out of the plans God has for you, but you and I, we’ve been chosen to be the bearer of the blessing others need.

In the Old Testament, God chose Esther.  He used Esther’s humility to save an entire nation.  He used her position: as the king’s favorite she had potential sway. He used her wisdom: a young woman who respected and listened to the uncle who told her that if she refused, God would use another way and she would forfeit the plan for her life.  He used her Jewish influence–the nation of Israel fasted and prayed with her in preparation for a risk that was greater than any you and I are likely to encounter: to go to the king without an invitation, and it could have cost her life.  She gave what she had to God as an offering.  She said, “If I perish, I perish.”  She didn’t say someone else was better equipped.  She risked everything and history documents how she blazed that trail.

While my Angel Girl was counseling at camp this summer, they put her on worship team. Every chapel, she had the opportunity to lead the singing with her peers while playing the keyboard and/or singing for worship.  I was glad.  I knew it would be a good experience, and I just kept praying God would use it as He weaves together his will for her life.

Angel on Worship Team

She said she played so often that the nervousness which normally paralyzes her concentration and her hands when she plays in public had disappeared by the end of summer camps. And then there was that voice she kept hearing over the monitor… the one she didn’t recognize as belonging to any of the other singers, and then one day she realized it was her own.  “In a good way,” she smiled.

Angel at bleachers

My daughter has been given a song to sing out loud.  So have you, whether literally or figuratively.

Your abilities? They don’t belong to you, as much as society will tell you that they do and that it’s your right to do with them as you please.  No, they were given to you by God and for God.  Don’t think about what other people think. Don’t belittle your gifts.  Don’t allow your song, whatever it is, to be muffled by comparing it to the abilities He has given to others.

Don’t fall back.

Don’t forfeit the plan.

Keep your gaze on the King.  He is your compass.  Orientate your thoughts, your feelings and your feet toward Him, and Keep. Moving. Forward.

You may never know all the lives you touch, but someday you’ll catch a glimpse of yourself the way God sees you.  You’ll hear your own voice in the so called monitor and be surprised {in a good way 🙂 } and you’ll be glad you chose to sing.

 

 

 

The Best Thing We Gained at the Fair

Have you ever noticed how kids have a very accurate internal clock, like, from the get go?

We took our oldest to the county fair when she was about three and the next summer, days before the fair was going to start, she started asking me about that place with lights and food and rides? We definitely went to the fair again that year,

and the next,

and every year.  🙂

Nowadays the fair falls the weekend after youth camps end so it’s easy for all of us to anticipate.  It’s a tradition.

When our oldest kids were little, and there were just a handful of them (instead of 2 hands-full) we would buy a sheet of tickets and let them ride a few kiddie rides.  As they got older, the more mature rides cost more.  With more children, one sheet didn’t provide enough tickets to go around.  We learned to be content walking through all the exhibits, petting the animals and having a treat.  My husband loves the malted milk shakes… it’s once a year. 😉

{Farm to Table Children’s Exhibit}

 

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{Miss our goats this year!}

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{Still wearing the camp swimming arm band… and look at that adorable face!}

This year, the big kids were hankering to do some rides and I promised them we’d save up for them to buy an arm band to do unlimited rides.  Tuesday of this week was that day.  However, rather than simply purchase the arm bands and send them off to get hot, dizzy and tired, we gave them the $20 we’d saved for each one of our flock.  We told them that they could pay for the arm bands themselves, or…  they could spend it (or save it) on whatever they pleased.

Somehow, with the $20 they gained in their hands, fair rides didn’t sound so appealing to them anymore. They suddenly appreciated the effort that it would take for them to earn that money back themselves.  Somebody mentioned having money for Christmas presents.

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No one went on rides.  When dad bought his malt, they bought their own ice cream (while mom *cringe* said nothing about all the sugar) and they enjoyed eating them together.  Dad got to taste every flavor because dads are good at sweet talking a taste.

We took in the exhibits.  We petted the animals.  C2 won a frisbee from The Pulse Radio. We won a $10 gift card for Cub Foods.

Yes, we brought home a lot of extra stuff, but the best thing we gained was the reminder that God is a Good Father when we lost. a. child!

Yes! Standing in a crowd with other people, holding tickets as the union for the grocery stores had a big drawing, Ella had a winning #.  She claimed her prize.  The giveaway ended, and as we started to walk away from the booth, I did what I always do:  I counted heads.

“5, 6, 7…” someone was missing.  I have had kids coming and going from camp all summer.  Every week we’ve had a different number at home, so the counting thing has been a little strange.  This is the first week we’ve had all the kids home since the beginning of June.

I re-counted with names and I panicked.  C2 is 4, and I didn’t see his little buzzed head or tye dye shirt.  We had been standing there, all together, the whole time!  How did he slip away?  Where could he have gone?

It’s amazing the clarity with which one can remember the details of a beloved in a moment of bereavement.  His big, tender eyes, full of wide wonderment filled my mind as I hollered his name and scanned the crowd.

I prayed.

While hubby turned the whole crew around, I spoke with the man at the grocery booth, and he said someone had taken a child to the fair office –{he pointed}– >>> that way.

We found him with an older couple, sitting in front of the information booth, and quietly crying as hard as he could.  He was hugging 2 stuffed animals from someone’s game booth.  When he saw us he flung himself into Dad’s arms and held on for dear life, and I silently praised God for keeping him safe.  As we walked away, the older couple who had cared for him said to him,

“Now, remember, your parents will always come for you.”

It was all I could do to restrain myself from snatching him up.  I let my husband hold on to him, but my arms ached to hold him, and I know that is how God feels about every son and daughter who wanders away from the safety of His will.  I can picture Him at the ready, even watching us as we consider stepping away; how he wants to snatch us from danger, but allows us to choose our own footing.

He’s the Good Father.

You’re never really a lost child when you belong to the King.  You can be rebellious, and you can suffer the consequences, but your Father knows where you are.  He has his eye on you and He’s listening for your repentant cry.  When you’re ready to find your way home, He will always come for you.

Always.

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them gets lost, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountain and go in search of the one that is lost?  And if it turns out that he finds it, I assure you and most solemnly say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that did not get lost.  So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones be lost.” Matthew 18:12-14 (emphasis mine)

Always.

 

One of the Most Valuable Lessons You’ll Ever Learn About Ministry

this treasure

I will never forget the first Ladies’ Retreat that Camp JIM hosted after our family joined the staff.  It was the first time I had ever helped plan a retreat, and to say I learned a lot would be an understatement!

Our theme that year was “Beauty for All Seasons,” and our speaker, a pastor’s wife, was sharing about how God works in the different seasons of our lives. Little did I know she was in a very difficult season herself, and it was because of this that she unintentionally shared one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned about ministry.

That year was one of the biggest retreats we’ve ever had, and to be honest, I think quite a few of the women were there to check out the new director and size up the direction the ministry might take.  Many seemed guarded, and the mood was pretty serious, though I noticed some “reunions” taking place as old campers were seeing each other for the first time in years. We had a hilarious group of older women sing as a special Saturday event, and their comedic music was the bright spot in the afternoon.  All in all, it was pretty standard, for a ladies’ retreat.

And then, something happened that changed everything.  During our Saturday evening session our speaker got real.  As she talked about the autumn of our lives, the season she was living, she began to share the struggles her family was going through.  They were the kind of struggles that no one wishes to experience.  The kind you don’t get through without faith.  The kind you can’t talk about without sobbing.  The kind that showcases God’s glory because He is right there in the middle of the mess, rolling up His sleeves and working side by side with you–pruning your life and polishing all your rough places.

As she struggled to speak through gutteral tears, every protective wall in the room came down that night,  like Jericho, truth spilling and stories tumbling out as the pretense and fear of being “less than” fell away.  Those women stayed up all night sharing their stories; every woman had one.

Every woman HAS one.

You have a story.

Your story has been instrumental in shaping you, but it doesn’t define you;

it changes you, but it doesn’t make you.

Your story is God’s glory.

 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-10

You are an overcomer through Christ.  And the thing is that your story, God’s glory, isn’t meant to be hidden away, but shared because someone else is right now walking a similar path to the one you have already grown familiar.

Have you overcome depression?  Someone else is experiencing despair.

Are you experiencing the freedom of forgiveness?  Someone else is living in shame.

Have you recovered from a financial disaster?  Someone else has lost everything.

Have you survived miscarriage?  Someone else has empty arms.

Was your daughter among the 1 in 3 who is sexually assaulted, and you have walked that path with her?  Someone else’s world just caved in.

Have you forgiven the unforgivable?  Someone else is embittered.

Have you lost a loved one to cancer?  Someone else’s beloved is still in the battle.

Been abandoned?  Broken?

Isn’t it out of our brokenness that God does a new thing?  He said to comfort others with the comfort you have received.  2 Corinthians 1:4

What is your story?

Sharing your story, comforting someone else with the comfort Christ has given you, it reaffirms your victory in Christ.

It softens hearts.

It breaks down walls.

It establishes safe zones.

It declares hope.

It precedes victory.

It cleanses wounds.

Treasure in Jars of Clay.  One of the most valuable lessons you’ll ever learn about ministry?  Be REAL.  TRANSPARENT.  Your story becomes your testimony.  You are not “less than” because of what has happened to you; you are “more than” because of the Christ treasure in you.  Instead of pretense that showcases how great you are, your brokenness allows others see HIM.  And that is what ministry is all about.

 

Photo credit goes to Pixabay.

 

Growing in Gentleness

gentleness

Gentleness is not weakness.  Gentleness is strength under control.

In our books, Chapter 11, titled “Growing Strong Through Gentleness,” teaches us that Gentleness:

  • Trusts the Lord
  • Submits to God
  • Follows Christ’s example
  • Bows the soul–worshiping God in humility
  • Makes the decision to put on Gentleness–we’re faced with this decision every day
  • Gentleness “takes it”–endures ill treatment

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Gentleness looks like humility, but from where does humility come?  James 3:13 says that humility comes from wisdom.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.”

How do we get wisdom?  Proverbs 9:10 tells us.

 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” ESV

The Amplified Version puts it this way: “The [reverent] fear of the Lord [that is, worshiping Him and regarding Him as truly awesome] is the beginning and the preeminent part of wisdom [its starting point and its essence],
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding and spiritual insight.”

Wisdom is merely seeing life from God’s perspective and responding accordingly.   In humility or gentleness, respond accordingly.

James tells us there are different kinds of wisdom.  There is worldly wisdom:

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

And there is wisdom from above… Godly wisdom:

17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Stop and think about the type of circumstances you find yourself when you are NOT being gentle… What is the sin nature that is showing itself in these circumstances?

  • I tend not to be gentle when I’m not being patient. (too tired, too hungry, stressed out, when I’m offended)
  • When I’m disappointed.  (That just ruined my whole day!) (You ruined my life! {My small children like to use this one}) Maybe I’m feeling crabby over having to change my plans.  Perhaps I’m lacking faith in these circumstances?  And the result is that I do not respond to life in a spirit of gentleness.
  • When I’m inconvenienced…
  • When I’ frustrated with people or difficult circumstances (not getting my own way)

Getting REAL, what is the sin issue in these examples?  PRIDE, self-centered-ness (is that a word?), selfishness!   In these examples I’m forgetting to trust God has things under control, lacking the faith that He’s going to work things out in my best interest despite my disappointments, or not stopping to make the intentional decision to have an attitude of gentleness.

Jesus is our perfect example of gentleness.  In John 12 he was preparing his disciples for his crucifixion.  He knew that in order to bear many into the kingdom of God, he first had to die.  This is what he told them:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.  If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”  verses 24-26

Jesus gave up self, and submitted to the Father, dying in order to bear fruit–in order to bear souls into the kingdom of God.  He birthed every believer into the kingdom.  Every mother knows what a sacrifice it is to give birth to another and put their child’s welfare first.

Philippians 2 calls us to follow Christ’s example of humility.

Lets put Gentleness into 2 categories.

1.) Gentleness with GOD: Obedience to God

This TRUSTS His plans for me are good!

This has FAITH in Christ’s sacrifice, BELIEVING I am truly free–he has broken my chains, so I should not keep walking like I wear them!

This dies to self DAILY.

2.)  Gentleness Toward Others

Philippians 2:3 tells us, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

When the kids are being difficult, I am to count them as more significant than myself.

When people in my job situation are demanding and hard to get along with, or persecuting me because of my beliefs, I am to count them as more significant than myself.

When someone cuts me off in traffic,

fails to follow through on a promise,

says something hurtful to me,

wrongly judges my intentions,

YOU NAME IT—Whoever they are, and no matter what they’ve done, I am to count them as more significant than myself, and respond (NOT react) in gentleness, remembering it is my responsibility to point them to Christ.

Hard, hard stuff!  That is why it’s a Fruit of the SPIRIT who is living in me… I can’t do it on my own.  I can do it only when I submit to Him.

1 Corinthians 10:24 says, “Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others. ” (Concerning not offending others or causing them to sin)

When I have difficult people in my life I am to call on that fruit of LOVE,

Convinced that it is not about me (part of that Fruit of Peace),

remembering that God is working in their lives and is concerned for their sanctification (or salvation) as much as mine.  I need to do well and put on a spirit of Gentleness instead of being offended so that I don’t get in the way of what God wants to do in them, regardless of whether they are being cooperative.

I am not talking about being a door mat.  I am not saying we should deliberately place ourselves in a position to be hurt over and over, or that we should stay in abusive relationships.  I am saying that when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances or have no choice about the people who are around us, we are to conduct ourselves in a Christ-like manner.  In the event that it is prudent to remove ourselves from a relationship, we may do so humbly, and with grace.

Remember, James 3:17 gives us a check list based on the wisdom from above to help us evaluate our responses before we respond:

  • Is my response coming from a pure heart?
  • Is my response peace loving?
  • gentle?
  • willing to yield to others?
  • Is my response full of mercy?
  • Is my response full of the fruit of good deeds? (yikes!)
  • Is my response free of favoritism?
  • Is it sincere?

“And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” verse 18

I can wisely do this when I lose my life in Christ; I can ask for God’s exchange–HIS character for mine.

 

This devotional was written to use in conjunction with  A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit  by Elizabeth George.  The other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit can be found on THIS PAGE.

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How to Minister to the Lord

Several years ago, a women’s pastor who sometimes spoke at our camp Ladies’ Retreats was in the area and stopped by my home for a brief visit.  When I asked her how she was doing she glowed, explaining that she had just returned from a quiet retreat where she had fasted and prayed, “and,” she said, “just really ministered to the Lord.”

Ministered to the Lord…

I got stuck right there.  I had never heard anyone say that before.  Of course, God ministers to us and we minister to others on His behalf, but to minister to a God who already has everything and doesn’t need anything captured my attention…

earnestly I seek you photo

This week Ella came to me asking, “Mom, was Lazarus good?”

I knew she had just finished her devotions but, not knowing what she was searching out, I let her question settle while saying a prayer for His guidance.

“He was a sinner, just like us,” I ventured.

She was quiet a moment.  “But,” she continued, “he was Jesus’s friend.  Jesus cried when Lazarus died.”

“Yes, he was Jesus’ friend.  When Jesus traveled to his town, he and his sisters gave Him a place to stay.  They provided His meals… I’m sure they laughed together.  They sat at His feet and He taught them.”

I smiled.  There it was, on the tip of my tongue.  “They ministered to the Lord.”

None of us are good.  The Bible tells us that the heart of man is desperately wicked. (Jeremiah 17:9)  Yet, Jesus took our punishment for our sin and gave us His righteousness in order to make us friends of God.  This is the gift of God (Ephesians 2), not a result of anything we can ever do, but God’s grace extended to us.  His Holy Spirit lives with those who are saved.  He our counselor, our comforter, our Friend.  When we choose to sin~to live like we’re still spiritually dead~he is grieved like Jesus was when Lazarus died, but we bless Him when we choose to walk by His Spirit, seeking His will for our lives, and ABIDING in Him (John 15).

John tells us we love God because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)  He is our friend and, like Lazarus, we can minister to Him!

We minister to Him when we remember His greatness,

“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”  Psalm 103

when we seek Him,

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”  Psalm 63:1     

when we sing to Him,

“Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!”  Psalm 96:1

when we praise Him,

“Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant!”  Psalm 135:3

when we talk with Him,

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.” Jeremiah 29:12 (Read here for context.)

when we obey Him,

“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.'” John 14:23

when we follow His example,
“For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” John 13:15

 

when we serve others…

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  Matthew 25:40

We can minister to the Lord.  Today, many of you will be meeting with your local church assembly.  You will hear God’s Word, have opportunity to encourage and help your brothers and sisters, praise God through song… let it not just be an act of going through the motions and checking it off of your to-do list.  Be aware of the attitude you put on. Make it your goal to minister to the Lord!  You also will be blessed when you do.

My Journey to Health & Weight Loss, Part 2

 

Journey to health part 2

To Read Part 1, visit HERE.

I think it was some time during month 2 of dietary changes that I decided to add back in the meat and proteins that I had removed to follow the detox diet.  I used a salad plate for meals instead of a dinner plate, and continued to eat gluten free and sugar free.  There were no frills to my food, you know?  Just the basics: meats, grains, fruits and vegetables,  and with the Slim I wasn’t really hungry a lot of the time.  I continued to steadily lose weight, but more slowly than the first month.  I was able to dig out tubs of clothes that had been packed away for years, and it was like Christmas finding pretty an things that fit.  I felt less sloppy when I looked in the mirror.  I was standing up straighter, sleeping better at night, the natural practitioner I checked in with said my blood sugar levels were amazing, and my brain fog was lifting.  I didn’t remember ever having so much energy.

{11 weeks of gluten free, 10 weeks of Plexus Slim}

Years earlier, when I was pregnant with our first baby, I had researched an education in natural health, but it had not been feasible at that time, and over the years and our growing family I had forgotten that dream.  Now that passion began to rekindle, and my husband and I started discussing the possibility of me taking some classes in order to help our family instead of paying someone else.

I decided to get my feet wet.  One class, I decided, to see if I could really do this school thing, and find out if I liked it as much as I thought I would.  It was a block class that was held for long hours, several days in a row, and I had to travel away from my family to do it (which if you know us–it is a huge thing).  The class was on Enzymes and the part they play in our bodies, and I loved it.  I had learned just enough over the years, because of my own research and experimentation, to understand what the instructor was explaining and it made sense… a LOT of sense.  I was never going to look at nutrition the same way, ever!

I came home from that class armed with knowledge and a whole lot of enzymes!  I started giving them to our family with every meal, and tackled the job of changing our children’s diets.  I switched them to a primarily gluten free diet.  I worked the refined sugar out of their diets, too.  Within 6 months I noticed many of the health quirks each child had suffered were resolving… gone was bloat, dark circles under eyes, immune function improved and they stopped catching EVERY bug that went around, my husband’s heart burn went away and he was able to stop using kombucha after every meal, and the list is LONG.

Even with the Plexus Slim and dietary changes, I had continued to have soreness in my knees which had persisted since 6 weeks following that fateful tick bite and rash.  Applying the knowledge I had gained about enzymes, this pain now went away.

My husband and I began planning for my continuing education.  I felt like God was propelling me forward, and my confirmation was my husband’s persistence in sending me despite the fact he hardly sleeps when I am gone, so this was a huge deviation from the norm.  People started sharing with me on a regular basis about their struggles with Lyme Disease, even people I didn’t know—it appeared epidemic and I felt a burden to help others.  By the end of that first year, I completed certification as a “Natural Health Professional”.

I had been sharing Plexus Products with other people.  I genuinely wanted to see others attain better health, and I felt that sharing Plexus products could be part of that journey for others while helping me pay for my own products.  However, people are creatures of habit and we tend to take the easiest path.  So many wanted a product to do it all for them, wanted immediate results, and weren’t willing to make long term lifestyle changes to see that come about… in addition, because Plexus is structured as a multi-level marketing company I was concerned that people I might really be able to help as a practitioner may avoid visiting me for fear I would just try to sign them up in my downline.  I stopped sharing about Plexus.  I pulled back.  I experimented with what I had learned~ one can gain a lot of practical experience working with a large family.  😉

6 months into my own Plexus experience I discovered I was pregnant and stopped taking Slim with the intention of going back to it after the first trimester.  I suffered an early miscarriage.

My husband and I have committed our family planning to the Lord, and I knew another pregnancy was possible. Having lost a total of 50 pounds, I was comfortable with my weight and my body for the first time ever. God had been changing my heart in amazing ways.  He had used the difficulties of this season in my life to teach me to look to Him alone instead of looking to others for answers and approval. My “why” became completely focused on pleasing Him and being available to walk in His will.

I made the decision not to go back on the Slim, but to take time to evaluate where my health was without it.  My goal was not to need it.

Great progress had been made in rebuilding my health, but when I stopped taking Slim my energy plummeted again.  The rule of thumb for any practitioner working with someone who suffers from nutritional deficiencies and needs to rebuild their bodies is that after applying appropriate changes, it will take 3 months PLUS 1 month for every year an individual has lived with the deficiency for their body to regain proper balance.  In addition, the body picks its own order of priority.  The symptom you want to eliminate is often not the first thing to resolve.  The tick bite had been a catalyst to my making appropriate changes, but my health had been a struggle since I was in grade school, and I had been diagnosed with Environmental Illness and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as a young adult. 6 months of doing things right had only reached back 3 years in my health history.  I had a LOT further to go.

In my studies, I kept reading about the importance of proper food combining over and over.  Grrr.  This was another change I really didn’t want to make, but after it popping up in my studies so often, I began to feel like God was beating me over the head with it.  So, I obeyed.  Eventually I found the best platform for doing this was by following a Body Ecology Diet.  This diet is also good for controlling candida, which was a plus I needed.

In addition to food combining, my goals were to increase nutrition and decrease empty calories.  I made sprouts and learned how to cook some new foods, including coconut water kefir and kimchi.

I quickly became pregnant again, and this time I miscarried at 12 weeks.  It was a heart break and emotionally draining, and I also bled heavily which caused symptoms of severe anemia.  I continued to eat right, packing in the nutrients, and paid special attention to iron rich foods.  I took Maca Root, an adaptogen that slowly and gently aided my stamina and is good for hormones and reproductive health.  It is nutrient dense and rich in essential fatty acids.  As a result of the healing that continued to take place in my body, over the course of the next 6 months I slowly lost an additional 10 pounds.

Education wise, I really felt that I had barely scratched the surface of what I should learn, and so I continued studying and my family sacrificed to send me to more classes.  I became a Health Kinesiologist, and it changed our lives.  It will take a whole post to share exactly what that is, but I can start by sharing that the allergies that we have suffered with our whole lives are becoming a thing of the past as I take time to do the corrections.  Candida overgrowth is gone.  I have absolutely no residual symptoms of any tick borne illness.  HK is also a wonderful tool to aid emotional healing and the physical symptoms that can be a tied to emotional distress as our body, mind and spiritual health are intertwined.

God blessed us with a beautiful baby girl who is now 17 months old, and she is a lively, mischievous and healthy sweetheart.  God’s grace is abundant.

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I am 3.5 years into this health journey: 3 months plus a month for every year takes me back to those grade school years when my original health issues began in earnest.  I am following a ketogenic diet and am aware that a lot of detoxification has been happening… this has been something I have known I needed to do for a long time, and I believe it may be the last major step in healing.  I recently decided to try Plexus Slim again as Plexus has improved the formula and I wanted to rebuild muscle.  It’s still a great product, and yet I am grateful that I have not noticed any marked change in my energy.  I don’t NEED Plexus products to feel good anymore, though I know they are a beneficial product for my health.  The chronic fatigue that I have lived with since childhood is GONE, Praise the Lord!

God answers prayer.  I’m still studying.  Still learning.  I believe I always will.

God is the Master Healer.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Whatever it is you may be struggling with, ask Him what to do and then listen carefully… pursue Him, expect to feel a little nudge, and then buckle up.  His plan is always bigger than anything you and I can imagine.  God NEVER wastes pain.  He will never waste any experience you go through if only your submit your plans to Him.

Even the most difficult experiences we feel that we may barely survive are, as Ann Voskamp calls them, “Hard Grace”, but grace nonetheless.

He takes our impossible and turns it into glory.

glo·ry–

noun: glory
1.  high renown or honor won by notable achievements.

synonyms:renownfameprestigehonordistinctionkudoseminenceacclaim,  praise

2.  magnificence or great beauty.                                                                                                          synonyms: magnificence, splendor, resplendence, grandeur, majesty, greatness, nobility   {a thing that is beautiful or distinctive; a special cause for pride, respect, or delight.}

3.   praise, worship, and thanksgiving offered to a deity.

My Journey to Health and Weight Loss

My Journey to Health and Weight Loss copy

I was at a garage sale recently, pumped to find a cache of 50 cent fancy flip flops that I could pick from for my big girls, when conversation with the home owner turned to just that: all my girls… AND boys!

“You have 8 kids!” she exclaimed, “And you look like THAT?!?”

I have to say, it was a pretty flattering change.  I have found a hobby that I enjoy more than food…finding beautiful, small, and incredibly cheap clothes that fit me nicely by shopping thrift stores and garage sales, because for years my wardrobe size was the only small thing about me.  I was overweight and I didn’t want to invest in clothes that I was sure I would not fit for much longer… I desperately wanted to lose the excess pounds.

I was a size 8-10 when I got married.  I had a slender waist and curvy hips, but even back then I was not comfortable in my own skin.  Some kid in the 6th grade had made a comment about the size of my hips and thighs after PE hour in the school pool, and the blissful age of innocent self-awareness ended, ushering in decades of painful self-consciousness.  I was never happy with my body.  Eventually, during my high school years, I drank a Diet Coke in lieu of lunch and began the horrible practice of purging when I felt guilty for eating anything I worried would negatively impact my weight.  By the grace of God I watched a movie about the Carpenters, and was touched by the story of how Karen Carpenter died young because of the damage her body sustained as a result of her eating disorders.  I was convicted that my body was the holy Temple of God, and that I was harming myself, and by this awareness God rescued me from these damaging habits.  And yet, I still did not like my body.

During my first pregnancy I followed recommended dietary recommendations of that time and gained a whopping 40 pounds.  Precious #1 was a year old when I lost it all plus some, and was almost happy with my body for the first time.  I followed The 7 Day Miracle Detox Diet for a whole year and was smallest I had ever been in my adult life.  Then Precious #2 came along and I gained another 40 pounds, only this time I became pregnant again when she was only 8 months old, and I had not lost all the pregnancy weight.  4 more pregnancies, retaining some weight from each one, found me the mother of 7 and very overweight.

I hated the way I looked.  I hated the way I felt.  And then there was a tiny tick bite that caused a rash, joint pain and began to cause numbness in my feet, throwing my health (which was already challenged) into a tail spin.  When a doctor told me that my precious baby (#7) would inherit the bacteria that was making me sick through my breast milk, I thought I was going to lose it.  I was afraid.  And I was desperate for answers. I prayed without ceasing.

An antibiotic cleared up the numbness that had been coming on in my feet, but it did nothing for the exhaustion and joint pain I struggled with daily.  Instead, the antibiotics instigated new symptoms, like bruising easily, my hands began hurting, and candida soared.  That, coupled with growing brain fog, had me wondering if I should stop home schooling.  To add to depressing, the trip to the doctor who gave me the antibiotic revealed that my home scale (which was 17 years old) was off by 20 pounds which meant I was more overweight than I even knew.

We began to see a natural practitioner who was giving us drops which she said would eventually clear up our symptoms, but a couple of months and too many dollars later, I noticed no improvement.

I knew several people who had been diagnosed with tick borne illnesses, and their doctor had recommended that they cut all sugar and gluten from their diets.  I had spent several years completely revamping our recipes to low sugar and wheat free sourdough (spelt), and in many ways our family ate very healthy—better than others we knew.  I felt so bad, I didn’t think I had the energy to learn a whole new way of cooking, nor did I want to cook one way for me and another way for my family.  I had been doing that for years in order to deal with our various food allergies, and how exhausting!  To be honest, I really rebelled against changing my diet again, but desperation would eventually win out.

About this time our pastor asked our entire congregation to fast for two days and to pray for direction for our young church.  I was not sure I could do it, but the more I considered it, the stronger I felt the Lord was prompting to go ahead.  Baby boy was eating solid food and so I did the fast, and at the same time I made the commitment that when the fast was complete I would go back, for a time, to following The 7 Day Miracle Detox Diet.  It would be challenging, but it would be sugar-free and gluten-free.  After all, my body was God’s temple, and I owed it to Him to give Him my best, right?

During the fast I prayed for our church, but I also prayed for personal direction.  The fear and the panic melted away and I developed a new found strength rooted in faith that no matter how difficult this health challenge, God was going to be faithful to carry me through.  I read a book called The Uncommon Woman by Susie Larson.  In it, she shared how she had been very ill as a result of Lyme Disease and that during a low period God indicated to her that He was going to heal her, and He did. I was just overwhelmed reading that, and the tears came.  I felt the Holy Spirit’s peace, indicating that this was a personal promise, and I held on to it.

During the fast, I was surprised at how much better I felt.  A home-school group mom contacted me on Facebook and began telling me about a product called Plexus Slim which had helped her recover from year’s long symptoms she had suffered from Ehrlichiosis, another tick borne illness.  It had taken several months, but she felt it had been worth it.  The product was expensive, but it came with a 60 day warranty.  I hemmed.  I hawed.  And then finally, after discussing it with my husband, I decided to try it.  I wanted to feel better. The cost of not doing it and remaining ill seemed far more steep than the actual price tag.  One of the other “side effects” of using Plexus Slim was weight loss, and if that happened it would definitely be a welcomed, though I tried not to think about that in the beginning.

 

 

{This is me, the Day I started Taking Plexus Slim, sick and overweight.}

 

I had lost 4 pounds during the fast and the 2 days following, but I was suffering from headaches and body aches from the detox that was occurring.  I have known for years that I have a liver detox pathway that doesn’t work efficiently, so detoxification is hard for me.  My body tends to take the easy path which is to hold on to toxins, and so detoxification has to be deliberate and it often makes me sick.   When I started using the Plexus Slim the normal ill feelings I experienced with detox went away, my back pain faded, and even some of the little issues I had lived with since childhood (and assumed I always would) went away.  The Slim tasted good.  It is a powdered drink sweetened with stevia and Lo Han extract (Keto friendly) that you mix in water and drink, not as a meal replacement, but 30 minutes before breakfast.  I looked forward to the sweet drink every day, but more than that I looked forward to the extra energy I began to experience.  And to top it all off, I lost 15 pounds that first month.

 

You can find the rest of my story in Part 2!

Know Your “Why”, Committing Your Plans to the Lord

Yesterday was my Sabbath and, consequently, the day I choose not to exercise.

There’s a reason I committed to exercising 6 days a week, and it wasn’t because I thought my end goals would be unrealistic if I kept my fitness program to 5 days.  The truth is, when I have a day off I’m not eager to begin again.  I feel good after a work-out and I’m glad I did it, but I don’t enjoy getting started.

So, when my alarm went off at 6:15, I didn’t want to get up.  Night summer rains had left gloomy clouds overhead and, between the dark and the barometric changes, I felt sooooo tired.  Still, I got dressed, downed my Plexus Slim, and tied my running shoes.

running shoes

Good morning to you too.

I was moving slow, my body felt heavy, and Theresa Tapp was just a little too perky.  My form did not feel strong.  I was just sure I couldn’t be getting much out of it… but I was more sure that if I sat down like I wanted I might not get up and move tomorrow either.  And so I had to keep reminding myself of my “Why”.

Why am I doing this?

Goals are good.  Having a standard to measure success is normally a good motivator, except building muscle tone and getting into my wedding dress are not truly my “Why”.

I have all kinds of good reasons to take care of myself, and goals that I can set:

To feel well.

To set an example for my children.

To be strong so I can stay active and be a good mom to my little people.

Someday I want to be the fun Grandma, not the weak and fragile one.

I like my small clothes.  😉

To please my husband.

I made a commitment to myself.

I told those people on Facebook I was going to do this… huhmmmm.

My “Why” is that for some reason God really chose this, stewardship of my body–His Temple, as a major bone to pick with me.  I think He began when a conversation with a friend led me to ask Him to teach me what trusting Him with my health would look like. He started as this still, small voice, but really had to crank up the volume to get me to focus on His message instead of making those excuses, “I should, could, didn’t…I don’t want to,”  and so THIS: obedience, is my “Why”.  Honoring God with this body He gave me (the only one I get) by doing my part to keep it healthy and strong so I can stand at the ready to go forth and do whatever He calls me to do without any physical excuses to hold me back.  He wants me to be faithful to do my part and He is always faithful to do HIS.

I was reading in Acts 20, Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Elders as he prepared to go to Jerusalem and the end.  ESV

(22)And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, (23)Except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.  (24)But I do not account my life of any value not as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” verses 22-24

Paul’s life as a an apostle had not been easy.  He had traveled from place to place, working when necessary, building relationships, teaching, preaching, discipling (and disciplining). He was slandered, stoned, and ship wrecked, and still he faithfully ministered the gospel wherever the Lord lead.  But now he says the Holy Spirit is preparing him that imprisonment and afflictions await.

That’s just what you want to hear when  you’re packing for a trip, isn’t it?

Verse 24 in the Amplified Version say this: “But none of these things move me; neither do I esteem my life dear to myself…

When storms come, your form is bad, and discouragement looms, what will guarantee that you stay the course?

Goals change.  When you meet your goal, then what?  Too often we slide back into bad habits.  Good reasons can be subject to whims… “I don’t feel like it today”, “How did that chocolate make its way into my fridge door?”  “I can’t.”

There are days that there are no reasons good enough to keep us putting one foot in front of another, but there is a way.  God tells us that,

The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

Have you committed your plans to the Lord?  He will let you know if your plans are from Him and worth pursuing or if maybe you’re losing steam because you went out on a limb by yourself.

In Acts 20, Paul’s was on the Lord’s errand, not His own.  His “Why” didn’t change. Regardless of his circumstances, he would not be moved off course.  He was driven to complete the responsibility given to Him by God.  To finish his “race” well.  To disseminate the message of God’s grace and salvation for mankind until God said his turn was finished.  He trusted God’s way.  That was his “Why”.

What are the things in your life that are worth doing right?  What have you dedicated yourself to?  Are you committed to the Lord?  A marriage?  A ministry? Home-schooling? A healthy lifestyle?  A budget?  Finishing school?  Writing a book?

God promises that when we commit our plans to Him, He will establish our steps.  He supplies the resolve, the strength, the partners, the tools… He gives supernatural gifts, abilities, and brings about fruit of self-control when we lean in close to Him.

If He authors the purpose, He supplies the way to succeed, but He requires our cooperation.

Our “Why” needs to be greater than mere “good reasons”.  It takes the whole, big picture into account.  It is a commitment to something, or Someone, greater. Unchanging. Captivating.  Worthy.  It is greater than our goals.  It generates our goals.

Commit your plans to the Lord, and then “none of these will move you.”  Resolve.  Know your “why”.

 

 

Our Body of Christ, Wearing the Mark of True Christians

Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord…  Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. ” Romans 12:9-11, 13

I love our church body.  We began attending Pointway Church in Baxter almost 4 years ago.  The first Sunday we attended I felt like I had come home.  There was never any question… this is the church assembly God was drawing us to serve alongside.  The messages are Biblically solid, the worship is heart felt, and the leadership is diligent in seeking God’s direction for our congregation, but what is it that keeps a family together?

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Love… when the heart strings are wrapped around one another with genuine commitment, when they strive to “outdo one another in showing honor” (not just that fuzzy feeling you get for someone you like, but the kind of concern that gets involved to meet another person’s needs), people are tied to one another.

Our family has been serving in camp ministry for 18 years.  Our oldest daughter Angel was 10 months old when we pulled in to our camp internship at Camp Forest Springs in Westboro, Wisconsin.  Camp ministry is a service oriented career.  Who gets to serve God and others while earning a living?  This is a great gig, but the hours are long.  The summers are not your own.  You work when other people are off and you’re off when other people are busy.  Families sacrifice for the camp professional to serve.  Camp wives are referred to as Camp “Widows” in the summer.  Not many people can relate.  Sometimes it’s lonely, but it is also very rewarding.

We’ve served at 3 camps and attended several churches over the past 18 years.  Our family travels a lot of Sundays, February through June, sharing camp’s ministry with supporting churches.  It’s great to have the privilege of connecting with so many church families and sharing in their joys and triumphs from year to year.  But when we’re on the road, we’re not at our home church.  We miss out on the common experiences.  And summers, Sundays are the first day of camps.  Staff leave church as soon as it ends, hopefully getting a good meal and getting to work to welcome campers to what we hope will be a life changing week of spiritual growth… and for many it is their introduction to a God who loves them and wants to have a relationship with them.  This is our calling. This is our resolve.

You know the saying, “Out of sight, out of mind”?  This has always been the way our relationship with our home church has felt.  When we’re there every week, we start to feel like we belong, and the rest of the time it’s, “See ya when we see ya.”

But this church body is different.  Our young adult summer staff have joined us at Pointway Sunday morning services for several years now.  Some of the teens in the congregation attend camp as campers and participate many weeks in our DIT Program (Disciples in Training).  We actually met our pastor because he stayed at camp when he first moved to our area and needed a landing pad while finding housing.  His wife was our cook the next summer.  A lot of these people get camp life.  And the heart strings?  They are tightening.

camp staff dishing up

This year our church is doing something amazing.  Instead of all the staff racing out directly after services, one of our ladies has organized members to provide a meal after church.  No dashing.  No disconnect.  The church body breaks bread together… or eats taco bar together (as in these pictures ), and fellowships.

breaking bread

There is hospitality.

There is goodness.

There is brotherly love.

I can’t tell you how full this makes my heart.  I so deeply appreciate the way this Body is showing zeal in contributing to the needs of the saints.  Our summer staff’s needs.  Our family’s needs.  My need… for fellowship, and for the need to be connected to my church family during the most demanding season of the year.  In Romans 9, Paul says these are marks of true Christians.

Pointway Church Family, thank you!!

Growing in Goodness

goodness

In her book, “A Woman’s Walk with God,” Elizabeth George teaches that Kindness notices people’s needs and makes plans to meet those needs.  Goodness, then, actually follows through on those plans.

I am reminded of Mordechai’s admonition to Esther, in Esther 4:14, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

God has placed you here and now with a purpose.  As children of God, we are to be walking in Goodness.  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

Part of God’s purpose for each of us is for us to be doing good works, which He planned in advance.  He has equipped each of us, individually, so that we are prepared, and he has placed us here and now.

Those who are within your sphere of influence have been entrusted to you,

yours to point to Christ,

yours to love,

 yours to disciple,

yours– to recognize needs and do your best, with God’s empowerment,

to care for them the way He cares for you.

We are not all equipped the same way.  The needs you notice, and the way you go about meeting those needs, will look different than Goodness in my life.

My teenage girls will notice a young mom with a crying baby, and know that mother will need a respite.  They would think of that because we’ve had so many Littles in our house. They know the joy of babies, and they also know sometimes mom gets tired.  A teenager who has not grown up with a house full of Littles may not notice a mother’s need for a break–not because they are unobservant, but because their experience has not trained them to recognize that need.  They will notice something different, in an arena they have talent or experience.

Your walk and your gifts may be different than mine, but where our journeys intersect we can learn from one another, partner with each other, and compliment each other.

So who and what has God entrusted to you for such a time as this?

Who is within your sphere of influence?

How have you been equipped to do good to those God has placed in your path?  We will talk about that next time…

 

This devotional was written to use in conjunction with  A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit  by Elizabeth George.  The other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit can be found on THIS PAGE.

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