Thank God, I’m Sick

“Thank God, I’m sick.”

I’m laying in bed with a tissue in one hand and a cup of peppermint tea in the other. The room smells like Eucalyptus oil. I’ve been housebound for two weeks.

Sadly, I’m not alone. Every time my cell phone beeps, someone is asking for prayer concerning their health. Toothache, flu, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, miscarriage. When I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself, I remember to pray for other people’s health.

Mostly, I’ve been learning to thank God in everything—even when I woke at 2 a.m., hacking till I thought I’d spit up blood. “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Oh, I know how to be a pollyanna—an optimistic character. I’ve learned to look for the silver lining. When a tree fell on our fence this spring, I thanked God the tree didn’t fall on our house. When I got sick, I thanked God for medicine, health insurance, and a husband to bring me tea. I thanked God I didn’t have pneumonia. But, if I thank God in every circumstance, shouldn’t I thank Him that I’m sick?

I know God can use all things for my good and His purposes, but thanking Him for being ill sounds ridiculous, right? However, I’m here to say thanking God this past month (even prior to my illness) has made a difference.

When we went to our son’s college commencement ceremony outdoors, it was raining. I had to wear a poncho over my new dress and walk in sandals over a squishy wet lawn. “Thank you, Lord, for the rain.”

Was I thankful? Not really. Did I sound sarcastic? Yep.

Thanking God in everything requires obedience before there are results. The day after commencement was so hot and humid that, given the choice, I was grateful we’d sat in the cool, drizzling rain rather than squinting and fanning ourselves in the sun.

However, what if we don’t see the positive in hindsight, other than, it might have been worse. Well, when the bad germs first hit me and I felt like road kill, I couldn’t see anything positive. My first instinct was to grumble, “No, spare me.” Then I remembered to thank God in everything. I forced myself to say, “Thank you, Lord, I’m in pain. Thank you for this horrific cough.”

Just saying the words, “Thank you,” put my eyes on God. He knows I’m ill. I know He cares. Thanking God for being sick has kept me from grumbling. How do you thank someone and grumble at the same time? And not grumbling keeps me from having a pity party.

Now, if I’d been ill during my son’s graduation, I’d probably be singing a less thankful tune. But, based on my God lessons and quizzes thus far, I can honestly say:

Being thankful doesn’t change the weather. I’m sick whether I thank God or not. And yet, thanking God in everything does make a difference … even in this.

 

Photos: Pixabay

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Are You Stuck?

I dreamt of an elephant. He was held captive, secured around one leg, and attached to a tent peg. Did that elephant symbolize me? Struggling to walk in the freedom of Christ? First, let me explain.

If a mighty elephant can push a tree down and pull heavy logs, why can’t he pull a small peg from the ground to free himself?

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Answer: He can escape, but the elephant thinks he’s powerless over that chain.

That’s because circus owners, and folks who use elephants as beasts of burden, chain a baby elephant by one leg to a metal pole. He may pull and tug all day, but instead of escaping, the chain cuts into his leg. The effort to free himself becomes pointless. And this mindset—helpless and avoiding physical pain—stays with the elephant so that even as a strong adult, he never attempts to do what he’s capable of doing. Only to say…

Have I been conditioned since childhood to respond in certain ways? Are there previous experiences and voices in my head that cause me to avoid pain and moving forward?

In Thin Within, a Non-Diet Grace-Based Approach to Lasting Weight Loss, I learned how emotional pain and un-forgiveness can impact our eating habits and cause addictions particularly when it comes to the way we view ourselves.

I remember hating my body as a young girl. I wanted to cover myself when I was forced to take a group shower every day during Junior High Girl’s P.E. How could I not compare my skinny body to the more-developed girls around me?

I remember seeing center-fold models in girly magazines when I was a child, and thinking, that’s how I’m supposed to look one day. Then realizing (later in life) that ideal, female figure was an elusive standard I’d never achieve; wondering if that made me any less sexy.

I remember a gal who was raped. She gained a huge amount of weight afterwards. Was she attempting to make herself less attractive to men?

I remember an intelligent, slim teenager who became anorexic because her boyfriend said she wasn’t “perfect enough” and chose someone else.

I remember a man numbing himself with alcohol because he was anxious and lonely.

When I remember these heartaches , I think about that elephant trapped by a chain that cannot hold him. And waits for his master to arrive with the key to release him.

Jesus is my Lord and Master. He doesn’t want me chained or yoked to anyone or anything, but Him. And yet, how many people…including myself…remain stuck instead of asking God to turn the master key?

What is this master key? According to Thin Within “It is God’s grace, which is extended to all God’s beloved through the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us. It is also His forgiveness, which was freely given on the cross at Calvary. It is through forgiveness that our temple is cleansed and the remaining rubble cleared away.”

And yet, that knowledge isn’t a magic pill. I’ve had to take action, and ask the Lord if there is anything in my past that needs to be unearthed and released in order to move forward and experience His peace and joy.

Do I need to forgive my own sin and imperfections? Forgive others who may have intentionally—or not—treated me poorly or trained me to view myself in a shameful way? Perhaps I need to talk to God about something He allowed in my life that I didn’t “feel” I deserved. Or an expectation He didn’t meet. Back in the day, I had to confess my anger towards God when I suffered from three miscarriages.

The power of the Holy Spirit enables us to leave the past behind and walk forward in faith, by God’s grace. However, if I….

Refuse to believe I’m forgiven and free in Christ,
Think it’s impossible (or refuse) to forgive those who have wronged me,
Turn to food to escape the past instead of Christ,
Then I’ll live my life hobbled like that seemingly helpless elephant chained to the tent peg.

And if that image saddens me, imagine how God feels when He sees His children stuck in one place when they could be romping like calves.

Battle of the Binge

My recent loss with the Battle of the Binge—and the TW Lesson on Gideon—showed me three things when it comes to losing and maintaining weight. 

First, I had to admit that controlling my appetite is an ongoing battle.

I’m not sprinting towards a blue ribbon at the end of a twelve-week course. Food surrounds me daily like an enemy encircling camp. Waiting to sabotage me at every turn. 

For example, last week, the slim hostess of our book club…not knowing I’m trying to lose weight…set a plate of cookies on the table in front of me. I moved them towards the middle of the table and kept my eyes on whoever was discussing the book.

Then someone had the audacity to eat a cookie in front of me. She licked the crumbs off her fingers. Licked the mint chocolate from her lips. Actually, that’s an exaggeration, but I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a cookie. Craving sugar gave me hallucinations.

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Instead of quoting a truth card or memory verse, I told myself, “There’s freedom in Christ. One cookie won’t hurt.” Only, that cookie tasted so good that I ate another one. 

Yep, even though I observed and tried to correct, I succumbed to temptation. Every TW lesson shredded to pieces by my emotional longing to have a cookie.

If I’d been alone, I might have crawled on the table and made a feast of those cookies like the Cookie Monster in Sesame Street. Which is strange, because given the choice, I’d much rather have a cheese plate or a bowl of buttered popcorn.

Sadly, by succumbing to my sweet tooth, I drove home and made myself some fatty, greasy nachos. I’d like to say losing the Battle of the Binge made me feel ashamed. Not really. Like Scarlet O’Hara, I said, “tomorrow is another day.” And gave myself a heap of grace.

Secondly, I can’t fight this food battle on my own. Like Gideon’s 300 men, I need others to come beside me.

Had there been like-minded women at the book club, we could have smashed the cookies and exiled them into the kitchen trash. Or I could have played the heroine. Grabbed the cookie from my friend’s mouth to save her from those worthless calories.

That’s why the TW online community has been a delectable treat. Each day, I’m able to read about other warrior’s temptations, defeats, and victories! As we’ve encouraged and prayed for each other, the battle seems less overwhelming. I’m not alone. Neither are you! 

Thirdly, I can’t fight the battle on my own strength.

Not only do I need to put on the armor of Christ each morning, I need to follow Him throughout my day.

Listing God’s attributes isn’t TW busy work. In order to trust God to lead us to victory, and lean on Himwhen we’re empty (no pun intended) we need to know Him. Not just intellectually, by reading His Word, but spending time with Him so we’re familiar with His voice. And thus, more eager to obey Him.

Yep, last week I went A.W.O.L. from my healthy eating habits. But nothing’s wasted. By losing that Battle of the Binge, I’ve learned the value of the right tactics so I can win the next one.

Can I hear a hoorah!!

Help, I’ve Fallen

Pink scars line my right shin where I tripped and smashed—face forward—onto my asphalt driveway. It happened a month ago while I was doing yard work. Both my wrists and my right leg had cuts and bruises. My body ached from whiplash. I’m grateful I didn’t break a bone.

Today, those scars are the visible evidence that I fell. A reminder to be more careful when I’m walking. I’m not young anymore so I don’t bounce back as quick. The same goes with my weight.

In my twenties, I could eat what I wanted without evidence showing up on my waistline. Childbirth and an aging metabolism has added to my girth.  Thin Within is a Grace Based Approach to losing weight. It has showed me I need to be careful around food because I’m prone to fall and eat for no reason. And that bad habit increases my weight that doesn’t shed as easily.

This week’s lesson on God’s grace brought to mind those moments I’ve stumbled when it comes to food. Snack food…within easy reach…is always the culprit.

The lust of the eye gets me every time. “One bite won’t hurt.” And it probably wouldn’t hurt except I stumble into having a second and third helping. Soon, I’m belly aching because I tripped and fell—again—off the eating right wagon.

Oh, I may not have visible scars like the ones on my leg, but there are mental scars because I beat myself up when I fall. Frustration turns into hopelessness and smothers me like a wet napkin.

Will I ever be able to socialize without nibbling? I want to taste the snacks. When I discover they’re good—I want more.

Remember the mythological Siren that sang and lured men to their death? Their only escape was to cover their ears. Well, food—particularly appetizers—has the same effect when I’m socializing.

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I need to hide my eyes from the doughnuts when I walk into church. Cover my ears from the sound of people chewing popcorn in a movie. Glue my lips together when the hostess serves coffee cake at our book club. Slap my hand when I’m playing a board game with friends, and the snack is inches away. Tell me I’m not alone!

When I fall, self-condemnation and a wailing regret are my first response. Grace—from the Lord or myself—no where on the table.

I’ve observed my eating habits for a month now so I know my weaknesses. Now, I need to correct my behavior.

When I get with my friend to play games, I’ll know to go hungry so I can have a small portion of her homemade snacks.

If I’m hosting book club, I’ll have the women fix themselves a small plate in the kitchen instead of bringing the food platter to the table.

At church, I’ll learn to strategically stay far from the doughnuts by pretending it’s the enemy.

Equally beneficial is studying Barb Raveling’s book The Renewing of the Mind Project to discover the little truths about myself.

Why do I love appetizers? Why do I associate snacks with pleasure and socializing? Is there something I can do to re-place food and still have fun with my friends?

Years ago, a friend of mine once struggled with her weight and she didn’t want to gain back the pounds she’d lost. Whenever we met in her home, she never served food with the beverages. Sometimes we’d walk while we talked instead of sitting around a table. At the time, I felt like food was a missing ingredient, but now I understand her wisdom. Even if I’m not there yet.

Hosting people in my home is synonymous with food. Drop into my home, and I’ll haul out the cheese and day-old crackers. Are you hungry? Let me microwave a frozen corn dog and smother it in mustard. Isn’t food the definition of hospitality? Even Biblical patriarchs killed and cooked the fatted calf whenever they entertained guests. But I assume they were hungry. They knew better than to pig out on fried pork rinds.

Who knows, I might be doing folks a favor and keep them from tripping if I become more creative, and less calorie-oriented, when it comes to entertaining.

Meanwhile, the Big Truth: God’s grace is new every morning. He’s not bringing up yesterdays belly flops and face plants. He wants us to “taste and see the Lord is good” so we’ll want more of Him and be truly satisfied.

Isn’t it time, we believe God and give ourselves some grace too? Knowing…

“The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord sustains all who fall and raises up all who are bowed down” (Psalm 145:8, 14).

Photo: http://jennywredephotography.com

I’m Just a Girl Who Can Say No

A few weeks ago, I decided to participate in Thin Within  which is a grace-based approach to losing weight and healthy eating. I have a weekly blog on their website, but wanted to include it here. Perhaps readers will find something valuable to apply to their own lives…

Sun rises on a new day, but I’m still a creature of habit. I roll out of bed and head for the scales which draws me like a Siren.

Surely there’s a mistake. I wiggle my feet on the scale’s cold glass, but the digital numbers remain the same.

So I drag myself to the kitchen for my next habit—coffee. While it’s brewing, I open the refrigerator to get Half and Half. The carton sits on the second shelf next to last night’s leftovers.

“What should I make for dinner?”

My husband hates that question at 7 a.m., but I have to plan ahead. Thaw the meat; buy the ingredients. Meals don’t just happen. If I was the only one in the household, I could eat a bowl of cereal. Pop some popcorn. Have an apple, but I’ve others to consider.

After I’ve been caffeinated and studied the scriptures mentioned in my Thin Within Workbook, I drive to the grocery store. My irritable stomach grumbles. Are you nuts? How dare you take me here when I’m a zero. Look at all this food. You’re killing me.

I pat my belly. Behave yourself. You can have some peas and carrots when we get home.

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I weave the shopping cart among the vegetables and fruit. Avoid the ice cream aisle. I came for fresh produce, eggs, and chicken breasts, but a bag of Fritos sneaks into my cart.

I frown, but then I’m reminded: “Just because You’re losing weight doesn’t mean Hubby stopped eating snacks.”

Good point. I head for the check out line…before I’m tempted to visit the cookies…and set my groceries on the counter’s conveyer belt. 

While the female clerk rings up the food, I notice I’m conveniently hemmed in by two metal racks. Candy on my right. Magazines on my left.

One offers worthless calories and a quick sugar high. The other offers me recipes and a fast pass to lose weight. I study the headlines which are designed to bait my vanity.

“New Water Cure—Drop 8 lbs in 7 days”

“Lose 10,20,30 Pounds—in Just Weeks!”

I’d buy these magazines in a heartbeat if I thought losing weight were that easy. Only, I know better. The female models on the magazine covers are string-bean thin and half my age. I suck in my gut. I can lose weight, but I’ll never look that good. 

 Time for a Truth Card. “God doesn’t look at my outer appearance, but on the heart.”

The clerk pauses. “Anything else?”

I glance at the candy bars in their brightly-colored wrappers. My stomach begs me like a spoiled child sitting in a grocery cart, “Can I have one? Pretty please with a cherry on top?”

I remember 1 Corinthians 6:12 from Thin Within’s introduction.

“Everything is permissible for me – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me – but I will not be mastered by anything.”

“No, thank you.”

My stomach sinks. It’s not used to hearing me say, “NO.”

I pay for the food and escape the store waving my receipt like a victory banner. Who knew? Renewing my mind with God’s Word really works!

But my smile fades fast because my belly’s turning somersaults,  and it won’t give up. “Yippee. Let’s eat something to celebrate! Got any Fritos?”