If I lived happily ever after…

012_chldLast night I read my little girl a bedtime story, the kind all girls (young and old) love. It starts with “Once upon a time” and ends with “and they lived happily ever after”

Long after I kissed her rosy cheeks and tucked her in, I still sat on the rocking chair, thinking about “happily ever after…”

Okay, I have to admit that I was in a rather melancholy mood yesterday, so it’s not really a surprise that I wasted my time pondering over sentimental things. I have a lot to be thankful for, make no mistake, in fact some might think that I have the perfect fairy tale life. However, I know better, I know that only by the grace of God can I claim joy in the midst of many trials and hardships. So I do love my life, but its’ far from “happily ever after”

And then, this morning while doing a new Bible study (isn’t it so fun opening a new Bible study?) I was reminded of how God uses trials to keep us close to Him. I know that this is true for me personally. I am ashamed to admit it, and it seems so wrong, but I’m afraid that the times my life touched the outskirts of “happily ever after” I was out there doing my own thing, celebrating my own happiness, forgetting about the One who made it all possible. I don’t want to be like that, and I always promise myself that this time will be different. I even promise God that I will stay so close to Him, if He will only…

I’m sure God made provision for this part of our fallen nature. I know for certain that His mercy and love reach way beyond our humanity and flakiness. What I’m getting at though is that I don’t like trials, I hate the anxiety and the pain and I don’t think I will ever get used to it. However, looking back on my life, I have to admit, it was ONLY the trials, the emptiness, the loneliness and the pain that made me remember: This life is not my home, I’m just passing through, there is Someone who loves me and will never leave me. And then I will turn back, and get closer to the lover of my soul, Jesus.

So I think I am after all scheduled for a “happily ever after”. It’s just different from what I had in mind initially, something my mind can not quite comprehend, and I might have to wait for it a little longer…

When the pastor changes into a hamburger…

If you struggle with food, you won’t think this is a strange line. In fact you probably never heard anybody say this out loud, but I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.

If the enemy tempts me with food that I haven’t eaten for a long time and don’t intend to eat again (I’m talking about deep fried, sugar laden fast food) during the week, then he puts in an extra effort on a  Sunday morning. I rush to get myself and the kids ready, so I don’t eat a decent breakfast on a Sunday. I have learned a long time ago that some protein takes me much further in the mornings than anything else. I could go twice as long on an egg or some nuts added to my cereal than any other type of food. But on Sundays I tend to have a granola bar and banana on my way to church. Nothing wrong with that, except that by 10pm my stomach is growling and the Pastor is taking on some suspicious shapes.

This morning though, I felt such joy flood my soul. God reminded me of all the years I would feel hungry and then either start thinking about all the things I’m going to binge on that afternoon, or I would rebuke myself because I would be on some restrictive diet. I would always feel so trapped, so cheated and probably end up binging on some junk food that afternoon anyway.

It’s not like that anymore. God has brought me far, and I am so grateful! There is truly nobody as grateful and filled with joy than the captive being set free. It’s because we know about that horrible pinned down feeling of despair and hopelessness and not having that anymore is like manna from heaven.

When the Pastor takes on edible shapes these days, I can put a hand on my growling stomach, take a deep breath and smile. I’m gonna be okay. I can go home and eat a decent meal, get to the park with the kids, write something and go to bed without depression and anxiety laying on me like a wet blanket. I don’t have to lay awake, trying to figure out how I can change my life around on Monday. I don’t have to repeat this cycle week after week anymore.

God is good. Let me assure you that he never planned for you to stay in this pit. You can get out. Go have a look at my story of overcoming bulimia and food addiction.

Good News!

Is there anything like it? Yesterday, I got a little taste of it: Good news, actually great news! I was so happy. I was crying and laughing at the same time, and my 9 year old was looking at me with a strange expression of amazement and worry. I was so giddy, I just wanted to phone somebody and yell out my good news.

My older kids came home with truckloads of problems for me to deal with and listen to, and I was so calm. None of the usual worry and problem solving going on inside my head. It was if I was standing in a field of beautiful flowers with the sun baking down on my face. I could see my kitchen with children talking and winter weather seeping through the windows only in the far distance. I was riding on the “Good News Cloud” and nothing could touch me.

And then, of course, some bad news came. The bad news was actually about the good news so it was literally as if you took a pin and pricked my good news balloon. Did I take it well and stood in faith like a decent woman of God is supposed to do? Nope. I was flat! I’m sure there’s a more eloquent way to describe this feeling I had. But seriously, I wasn’t low, or down, or discouraged, no I was downright flat! Anybody?

In my ongoing state of lowliness, last night, God reminded me of something my dearest Grandma said earlier that day. We call her “Ouma” which is Afrikaans for grandma. She is 88 year old, and just the sweetest little lady. I am always amazed at her positive attitude towards life even though she is very ill. Today she reminded me to take hold of the wonderful moments in life, because those become precious memories when you grow old. She was pondering that day on potty training me and my cousin and a few other memories that our conversation triggered.

It’s said that that life only has it’s perfect moments, not days or even hours, only moments, and we should grab a hold of those or miss it. I should know that by now, but I keep wanting to squeeze a little more perfection or happiness out of life, demanding that those moments last longer.

Actually, like I’m sure my Ouma knows at her very ripe and wise age, life is short. My prayer, at least for this day, is that I will grab a hold of those precious perfect moments and really live it, not just watch it go by. And then when all the other moments of “nothing special’ or “monotony” or “sorrow” or “anxiety” show up, I might be more inclined to stand in faith that God is ultimately in control, and this too will pass to make way for another precious moment.

This little mind of mine, I’m gonna…

…well I wish I knew what I’m suppose to do with it: Little mind, big problem. My mind is not that big in comparison to, well a lot of other things! However, this mind of mine can wreak havoc.

Some people say you have to think positive: Good idea, if you can keep it up.
Others say you have to fill your mind with the Word of God: Good idea, if you remember to do it.
Others say that you simply have to take charge of that run-away mind: Been there, done that, doesn’t work so well.
Others say you have to keep busy, because idleness can get you in trouble: Definitely some truth to that, only, it’s not always possible to stay busy. What about when sickness strikes or unemployment.

To tell the truth, sometimes I just want to wallow in my negative thoughts for a while, and nobody or nothing will stop me. However, I know through trial and error that if I let this go on for a few hours or a few days I could get in serious trouble. Life is hard and if we sit down and count our sorrows, we will quickly have a truckload full. The danger is to stay in that place. It can cause serious depression.

It’s really like that for many different things in life. It’s not about falling into the trap of overeating that sets us up for another bout with eating disorders. No, it’s in the staying down. If we repent, forgive ourselves and try again we can move on quickly. It’s when we listen to the enemy’s lies in that moment, and believe me he will never just feed you one little lie. No, he will pile on self loathing, guilt, sorrow and self pity. If you give in to it, life can start spinning out of control very fast.

I am tempted every day to go the route of negative thinking, and I’m sure so are you. The only thing that helps me: Consistent time with God and talking candidly with other human beings who experience the same stuff. Every day I ask myself: Why do I do this Bible study and prayer thing again? Isn’t it just a legalistic religious formality? Or I wonder if it’s truly necessary to put time into friendships and invest in other people’s lives. But then the enemy attacks my mind with negative thoughts and accusations, and I know again why I do what I do…

Just one word from Scripture can give me new hope. Just one laugh with a girl friend can pick me up and make me think that this life is not so bad after all…

Weekend, why does thou torture me so?

I love the weekends! I look forward to them with high expectations of fun, romance, and adventure. My Fridays are filled with anticipation, like opening one of Willie Wonka’s Wonka-bars, hoping to find a “golden ticket” or in my case, a “perfect weekend”.

Weekdays have a tendency to rob me of all my joy. Slaving away to bring in the bacon (turkey bacon of course), and running around like a chicken with its head chopped off can suck the life right out of you. But oh (sigh), then there’s weekends…

People walk around on Fridays with a bounce in their step, strangers greet each other friendly, and cashiers may fill you in on their weekend plans. Bank employees may even offer you doughnuts and coffee on a Saturday morning.

Now that brings me to the problem, actually two problems:

1. I expect way too much from two fairly ordinary days

2. Fun in my dictionary is the same as FOOD

The one is connected to the other. If I try and eat right and exercise on a weekend, I’m already stifling the fun. So, I have to find a back-up plan so the fun can go on. I start looking around at my husband (who of course has his weekend expectations) or a friend (who’s plans didn’t quite include me) or a family member (who thought this weekend is a good time to dump some problems on me).

None of this is helping. Any time now I can find myself wandering through the house (or better yet, the mall), scouting for a glimpse of hope, any indication that this weekend is not going to crush my dreams. Lo and behold, what do I find? Morsels of hope, the true essence of life, the flavor of living, you know it, food.

If there’s one thing I am trying to learn, and I’m asking God to help me with, then it is to not set high expectation on days, people and things.

How many times in my life has this left me devastated and hurt? A far better idea would be to surrender (or at least try and surrender) to God’s plan for my life.

Beth Moore says that God is supposed to be our “mash potatoes” and all these other things and people are just the “gravy” (my translation).
So, it’s great if my weekend actually turns out to be all I ever imagined: A romantic getaway with hubby, laughs with my girls friends, or a great visit with family. However, I have to keep in mind that these things are only the gravy of my life, we all love gravy, but if I don’t get the gravy, I’m okay. I still have the mash, I’m satisfied.

I know, I know I’m making you hungry again! This was not my intention, but I hope you got the picture. If your struggle is food, then you know by now that weekends can be a fierce opponent. The enemy uses all those expectations of fun, laughter and good food to tempt us to throw in the towel.

We will indeed be wise to remember that Food Addiction and Eating Disorders can only be conquered through CONSISTENCY. Two innocent days every week can break that consistency time and time again. Things can actually change for good if we approach weekends prayerfully, with more caution than other days, and with rest and recreation in mind.

Recently I asked myself: Could weekends be the one thing (or one of the things) keeping me from total freedom from overeating? Maybe. I know I have nothing to lose by checking it out. No foothold should be given to the enemy, right?

Maybe a better question on a Friday afternoon would be: What expectations do you have for my weekend Lord? Sounds too holy? Well, I’m going to try anyway. God’s answers tend to surprise me. In fact, in my struggle with food, I’ve found His answers to be much more practical and hands-on that I could have ever imagined. That is of course if I get around to asking Him…

I read a great book recently on this topic: Walking with God by John Eldredge

Love  as always

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Something might be lurking…

Having lived a little on this old planet of us, I have to say that things are never as they seem. There is always something hidden under the surface, especially when it comes to people. If you really want to see, you have to look hard, have a compassionate heart and be prepared to be shocked. Nobody knows this better than counselors. It’s our job to pry, look deeper, and find out what’s really going on in order to help people deal with the actual problem not just the symptoms.

So why am I surprised to find things hidden in the corners of my heart? I have found that these hidden things, those things I even hide from myself, will come out one way or another.

The first way, and unfortunately the road most traveled in my life, is when something triggers it: My children’s sibling rivalry can poke at it, neglect from my husband can give it a stab, or a friend’s hurtful comment can plug it wide open. Things come pouring out of me that I had no idea I had in me. It always leaves me shocked and puzzled, as if I had no idea that there was anything more to me than just the outside happy face I put on.

Max Lucado wrote in one of his amazing chidren’s books about a boy who comes into the King’s presence and the King removes all the things that cling to him: The stars (the compliments and praises of people) as well as the dots (the rejections and hurtful things said by people). The King then reminds him of who he is, without all the false pride or insecurities.

Now this brings me to the second way to get to the truth, the best way by far, yet the one I often “forget” to take.
Just this morning I experienced it so vividly:. I got up feeling a little “down”, nothing serious, something I could easily shake once I start home schooling and working. I knew that I have vowed to start my days with God this year, but this morning I was hesitant. I was staring at the carpet in my living room where I usually pray. Something was holding me back (as if I don’t know who by now).

Finally, with a deep sigh, I buckled my knees before the King of Kings, and you know it… I started bawling. Deep sorrow poured out of my soul onto the carpet. Where did this come from Lord? What am I hiding? He told me, He held me, and He healed me in that place… I got up from that carpet and what you saw was truly what you got… I wasn’t hiding any pain, I didn’t want to eat two bagels for breakfast anymore, I didn’t yell at my kids, and I felt a deep sigh of joy escaping my lips…

Oh, if I can only learn that even though I feel alright, something might be lurking and it is always worth checking it out.

It’s war baby!

How do I forget so easily? It amazes me that I always need to be reminded that we’re in a war. And by this I don’t mean physical war (although that’s a huge reality for certain families right now). The war that I’m referring to is in the Spiritual realm. We can’t see it but we are in it and we experience casualties, pain and confusion every day.

Now, of course this is a controversial subject. People would rather deny the existence of a war and thus hope to avoid the repercussions of it. But we can’t, I can’t… It’s evident that we can not be Switzerland in all of this.

If I take a step back and look at my own life I can see the battle clearly: Difficulty in my marriage, problems with the kids, relationships that vanish, jobs that don’t work out, financial crisis… to just name a few. I’m not naive, I know about the part that I play by making the wrong choices and being disobedient. However, I also know that in the midst of life on this earth, that tends to be hard, I can’t afford to be an open target. I can’t afford NOT to choose sides: And yes there is no middle ground.

So I’m so glad when God reminds me to get in there and take part in the battle. I’m so glad every time He uses the Bible, a friend, a book or a circumstance to remind me that by not facing the enemy head on I am leaving my back open for him to shoot anyway. In this day I want to remind everyone I can to again pick up the sword, strap on the armour and stand. There is joy in the standing, there is victory over addiction, habits and temptation. There is peace in coming under the wing of our Commander in Chief, resting in the knowing that He fights for us, and He commands angels at our disposal.

To deny the existence of the war is to swim in dangerous water without a lifeline. I’m choosing again today to open my eyes, to stand and fight for my freedom, my family and my marriage.

Are you a little insane?

You know how insanity is defined as “repeating the same behavior or action and expecting different results”.

I would find myself doing exactly this in my struggle with food, the same thing over and over and over… and you know it… always the same results.
When it comes to loosing weight without falling back into eating disorders, I always have to have a little walk down memory lane to keep me from repeating the same mistakes. I tend to do this little walk at the beginning of the year, after falling back into some unhealthy eating habits over the holidays.

I would go down my list of things that worked: Juice fasts, liquids only, no carbs, diet pills… In the past I would grab onto one of these, just to find myself in a nasty eating disorder cycle of fasting and binging, and as a result months of agony. Now off course diet pills worked very well, and also a few other dangerous methods, but it was also a path of insanity, leading to only one thing: Health deterioration and a good chance of dying. So when I start to weigh my options I try to remember that it was always the same story, quick results initially followed by a heap of misery and extra weight in the end.

Now the more important question, the one I am supposed to ask: What did I do in the past to get weight off and keep it off, without spiraling into an eating disorder or knocking at death’s door? Only one thing: The thing my impatient nature does not want to hear about. The only thing that really worked was me eating healthy every day, exercising at least 4 times a week and getting rid of sugar and white flour. It worked, for six months or even a year at a time: I would loose the weight, I would not have anymore sugar cravings, I would be able to eat anything, and the anxiety would be gone.

Now, if this worked, then why did I fall back? Why couldn’t I keep it up forever?
Simple: I became insane again. Every time I would get greedy, wanting more weight loss and wanting it NOW! Every time I would reach for the same things I’ve done so many times before, expecting different results this time. I would reason that maybe the pills will make me skinny without killing me this time. Or, the weight loss on a low carb diet will stick and I won’t start craving big chunks of bread this time. I would reason that doing the same things and getting the same miserable results is perfectly normal

I’m on the track of sanity again. May God help me to stay sane this time. In fact, keeping close to Him keeps me sane, and I know it! It’s when I crawl out from under that Everlasting wing that the enemy gets me alone and whispers to me to try the same stuff again so that the insanity can prevail.

The agony of New Year’s resolutions!!

You know it, we all make it, sometimes we really mean it, yet we hate it because it tends not to last.

There reason: We want big results in little time!
According to research the two most popular New Year’s resolutions have to do with more money and less weight.
Now here’s the catch, both involve work. Not so much lots of work in a short period of time, but rather steady, consistent work over a long period of time. You know the kind: It wears you down, it makes you want to pull out your own hair and it never feels like normal living.

Yet, the people who study when others watch TV gets the degrees, the dream jobs and eventually (after much pain and agony) the big bucks. Also, and of course the BIG ONE: The people who go to the gym when others sleep in, eat the salad when others say “Hey, it’s Valentines day, I need to treat myself”, over a period of time weigh less, feel less depressed, have less health problems, and as a result look and feel great.
So, now that you feel lousy about your secret couch potato life (sorry), what to do…? We know it, we have to be consistent, but it’s hard, it can in fact be excruciating…

Last night while laying awake because of coffee and birthday cake (yeah, I still eat that) way too late, I got this image in my head of a tiny speck of light. One day of my life, infused with just a few good things: taking care of my body, soul, and spirit (exercise and eating well, spending time with God, and in my case, writing) can turn on a small light. Now that light doesn’t matter much at all, and is in fact almost invisible in a big darkness of 365 days. However, and I know you’re starting to get the picture, if I string them together it can make a big bright light. And even if I skip a few, you won’t even notice because the bright light will overpower the few dark days.
The biggest problem for me: I don’t value every little light. I think today’s light is too small to make any difference and therefor I might as well give up. So I keep living for tomorrow when I will change things, but tomorrow will never be enough on it’s own, I have to string it to today and all the other little yesterdays that were lit up. More importantly, I have to ignore the in between days, not focus on those dark days at all so that they can become less and not make me spiral down into weeks and months of darkness.

I need God to remind me, and we need to remind each other: Today matters! Today is all I have to shape my life! I have to turn this ship around ONE DAY AT A TIME! Just a little prayer, a little exercise, a little working on my dream, but I have to do it everyday to hold something beautiful in my hands at the end of this year.

I reminded you, why don’t you remind someone else…Think about it, talk about it, keep it alive:

The Glue of our Lives

Ever noticed that we have a certain “glue” that keeps our lives together? Yes, we know that God is the ultimate “glue” that keeps everything together, but what I’m referring to is the glue that He gave to us to help Him make a beautiful work of art out of our lives.

Now, the part where the arts and crafts get a little tricky: Our glue does not come in identical Elmers bottles. Mine is very different from yours and what keeps my life together might leave yours in pieces.

What on earth am I babbling about?
I’m talking about the purpose, dreams, desires, and talents God issued to us individually. You see those are the things we are suppose to keep alive, cultivate, prune and water every day. So what is the glue: The things we put in place daily to eventually get to a dream, a desire a Godly calling is the glue that keeps us together.

I’ve figured out, after almost 40 years on this planet what my particular glue consists of. I actually have a very easy formula, nothing glamorous, and something actually quite attainable for the average human being. Some of my ingredients might actually be similar to yours, in fact I am convinced that one ingredient is part of everybody’s glue. So here goes:

Time alone with God, exercise, and making time to write something

Simple isn’t it? Or is it?
Would you believe me if I tell you that those are the most difficult things for me to get done, every day of my life. Step 1, 2 and 3. So easy, so doable, yet so impossible for me at times. It’s not even that I try and do it in a certain way, or at certain times, or legalistically in a certain order. No, I just try and get it done, because I know, without a shadow of a doubt that it keeps my life together. Yet, somehow, it’s always a battle.

I know why too. I’m in a battle. I have an enemy. Me, being on this earth, living at this time is not an accident. There is a reason I’m here, there is something I must do, there are some people I should love and some experiences I should be part of. A masterpiece is being created, one that can only be appreciated by the Master Artist of all time. All He asks of me is to add the glue, not perfectly, not even evenly, but it needs to be added to have a beautiful end result.

So never mind how many times I’m tempted to cast it all in the wind, give up, throw out the glue and make my own paste, I always return to the Master Artist for a new bottle of glue. He’s eyes are always smiling, reassuring me that I am forgiven and that He is proud of me for taking up the job as his apprentice, yet again. And then, immediately, peace returns and joy floods over me…