Five Minute Friday: Practice

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Gentle Reader,

I’m actually writing this on time. And I even got to pop in and chat for just a second. Wild.

Onward, before the benadryl kicks in. So much sinus pressure. Stupid allergies.

Kate says: practice.

Go.

I drop to my knees, grateful for the thick yoga mat beneath me. Sweat drips from my brow, dotting my forearms. Again I wonder why I am awake earlier than I want to be. Why I am putting my body through the torture of physical activity. A disgustingly chipper voice encourages me to get back into plank position. With a heavy breath, I plant my hands on the mat and press my toes onto the slides.

Pull legs into a crouching position. Push out into a straight line. Use abdominal muscles to make the movement. Press down on the slides, legs out into a v-shape. Back into a line. In again.

Arms shake. Core tight. Legs ache. Lips tremble.

They say that fitness is a journey, not a destination. It’s all about the practice. About being better than you were yesterday. One more rep, a little heavier weight.

So, too, I think with our faith.

The Kingdom is then, in eternity, a place for us to look forward to with hope. But it’s also now. Right here. Inside you and me. We are called to a different way of living. Different ethics, different perspective. We get to participate in the beautiful, difficult work of sanctification. We get to show the world what it is to live for and with Jesus.

We don’t always get it right. Sometimes we fall to the mat and wonder why we even try.

In those moments, in the sweat, in the pain, in the weariness, the Spirit says: Get back up.

Stop.

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Five Minute Friday: Secret

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Gentle Reader,

It’s been a month since I last participated in Five Minute Friday. Missed the chat tonight because I put off exercising until 5:15 p.m., which I rarely do, because as much as I hate mornings, I hate exercising at night even more. As often as I’m able, I roll out of bed, slide my feet into my shoes and get the job done. The sweaty, annoying job.

So. Anyway.

Kate says: secret.

Go.

I am not a health nut.

When I talk about my exercise schedule or the way I have to eat (which is pretty much vegan at this point), some assume that I’m an amazing gym rat or that I spend my days crafting fabulous, quinoa-based recipes. No. Not at all. Not true.

What I am is a lazy junk-food addict. I love Pepsi, chips, cookies, Arby’s and bacon. I don’t like getting up and doing burpees or hefting weights above my head. I want to binge-watch Netflix all day while sitting in a barrel full of Doritos. I want to take as many naps as possible. I want to become one with the couch. If I believed in spirit animals, mine would be the sloth.

So what’s my secret? How did I manage to change my diet? How do I keep up with the exercise?

There is no secret.

Taking care of our bodies to the best of our abilities falls under the realm of stewardship. We don’t own these flesh-tents. God made them. They belong to Him, just as our hearts, souls and minds do. Being the humans we are, we easily slide toward laziness, as I do, or toward obsession, spending hours and dollars crafting the “perfect” body because we hope that a beautiful outer package will fill the inner void. Neither is healthy.

Stewarding our bodies really is as simple as “eat less, move more.” We don’t like hearing that. We want the quick fix. We want the diet fad. Having to make deep, lasting lifestyle changes? #nothanks

So if there is no secret, and the route to success is truly simple, why is it so hard? Why do I (and maybe you) have so much trouble aligning our attitudes, thoughts and desires with the actions we know we must take?

Because we forget the spiritual aspect.

…let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

– Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)

This verse is eschatological. Paul draws us to keep our eyes on what lies ahead, knowing that serving Jesus now is worth every effort and toil because in the end we will receive the great reward of being with Him, face-to-face. There is a broader principle, though: sowing and reaping. In verse eight,

…he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

– (NKJV)

Again, eschatological and broad. We have everlasting life by “sowing to the Spirit,” meaning placing our faith in the saving grace of Christ. But the kingdom is not just “then.” It is also “now,” within us, by the indwelling of the Spirit. We are to live as people who see things differently, who comprehend a new reality.

So I pray, Jesus, help me. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to make a salad. I don’t want to do push-ups. You’ve got to enable me to do good. You’ve got to empower me to listen to the Spirit instead of myself. 

And He does.

Stop.

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The Detox Diaries: Tears for Fears

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Gentle Reader,

I’m back.

I would like to tell you that I feel less upset than I did when I began the two-week blogging break, but that would be a lie. More than once this fortnight I was hit with that awful pain, the one that sits somewhere between your heart and your stomach (or maybe it takes up the whole space), the one that heralds a sudden crash into sadness. Yes, there is a very real, very physical ache that comes with deep emotional distress.

It hit me again last night as I lay in bed, trying to fall asleep after watching a documentary about the rise and fall of the Russian Empire. (Don’t judge me). Rest was pushed away by tears, tears that came unbidden and unwanted. I wasn’t crying because I had just turned 30. I wasn’t crying for any specific reason. I just…cried.

As a testimony to the illogical and irrational nature of emotions, I crashed mid silent-wail sometime after 1:30 this morning. Nothing was resolved. I had no sense of enlightenment. My body simply clicked the “off” button and wasn’t particularly happy about being aroused a few hours later. I smacked the “dismiss” button on my alarm and dozed, telling myself that I could go in to the doctor’s office and get the blood work done at any time. I didn’t have to get up early. That was true, but it was also true that I had to be fasting for the labs.

The longing for breakfast won out over the longing for more sleep.

I wanted the blood work to be a get in and get out kind of deal, though I knew I’d have some wait time. “Some” stretched into 45 minutes. The information on my account was completely screwed up; they had me marked as a single, full time student seeing a totally different primary physician. After that got fixed, a nurse called me back and said she had no idea why I was even there. I told her that, at my last visit, my doctor had told me to come back in three months and repeat the tests. She sent me back out to the waiting room and I tried to read a dated Time magazine, all the while musing over how thrilling incompetence is.

Insert sarcasm here.

At least the taking of the blood was quick and very nearly painless. Maybe this time I won’t develop an epic bruise.

Nothing about this morning improved my mood any, so I knew I had to take a walk. I am learning to see the paths and sidewalks around my neighborhood as my antidepressant/antianxiety/anticrabby medication, my running shoes the delivery system. Moving even a little really does get the juices flowing, and that really does help.

Partway through my walk, I heard this song:

Once again I was reminded of the truth of the prophet’s words:

The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it? – Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV)

Emotions aren’t evil. They are not to be repressed. But they are also not the basis for how I live my life. They can’t be. I don’t understand why I feel the way I do. Yes, chemicals and all that, but really, at the root of it, I am baffled by how my feelings so often do not come into alignment with reality. What I feel can easily cause me to believe that something is wrong when everything is fine.

Feelings are a poor foundation. The verses I’ve been working on memorizing (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) speak of this fact. I must destroy speculations, and much of my anxiety and sorrow is fueled by just that. I must rip down anything that stands in defiance of God and His truth. I have to take every thought, and I would also say every feeling, to Jesus and ask, “Should I keep this?” If He says no, based on what He has revealed in Scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in my soul, then I have to get rid of it.

It’s as simple, and as complicated, as that.

Dearest friend, I want so much to tell you that I am further along on this journey than I really am. I want to tell you that I have found victory in all areas of my life. But really I’m just as weary and battle-scarred as you are. Every day is a struggle. To get out of bed. To go to work. To speak. To do house work. To be around friends and family. I am pushing through a constant, thick haze, one so heavy that it blocks my view of anything other than my feet.

But in looking down at those feet, I see also His nail-scarred hand holding mine. His is strong and certain where mine is weak and limp. In His other hand He holds a lantern, one that lights the way just enough for one more step.

So I go on.

My journey to faith. (15)

To read all the posts in The Detox Diaries series, go here.

The Detox Diaries: Grayness

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Gentle Reader,

I wondered if it would come.

That sense of sorrow, so deep it crosses into the confusion of numbness. That pain so awful it pushes with a physical ache into my heart.

Depression.

It always lurks, somewhere in my mind. Some call it pessimism, some call it a melancholy personality. It is both and neither. I have to work, every day, to push the grayness out of my eyes and see the sun. Some days the grayness is splotchy and it’s easy to overcome. Other days I feel like I’m trying to look through a blanket. Those days are hard.

As I lay awake in bed last night, trying (unsuccessfully) to get to sleep, the grayness invaded. I was unprepared for the onslaught. My chest hurt. The tears began.

I wasn’t sad about anything. I was just sad. That’s the difference between situational and clinical depression. And before anyone suggests that I need to deal with some sin, trust me: confession is often the first thing that pours from my lips. When there’s nothing to confess and you’re still sad, the only logical conclusion is that the sorrow is not connected to anything in particular.

The sorrow just is.

A few deep breaths and a, “Help me, Jesus!” later, I reminded myself of what was happening in my body. Without the Cymbalta and the hormones, I am, as Jackson Browne puts it, running on empty.  I don’t go back to the doctor until the beginning of August, so I have to ride this roller coaster for another month. Yes, diet and exercise help. Summer is the worst time of year for me (I hate the heat and always have), so I was just telling Chris that I wanted to make sure we get a walk in this evening when it’s a little cooler. I’ll be eating…sigh…avacado as part of my dinner. (Gross). I’m aware of what I can do naturally.

But you’ve got to understand something. All the diet and exercise, and even all the antidepressants and hormones, don’t make this thing go away. The grayness won’t flee because it’s confronted by some Omega-3 rich salmon. The consequence of living in a fallen world is, for me, a broken brain. I am always going to battle depression and anxiety this side of Eternity, unless God sees fit to heal me. Thus far, He hasn’t.

In a way, that’s okay with me. I don’t relish the feeling of my feet being like bricks, so that every step takes monumental effort. I don’t like crying at the drop of a hat. Honestly, though, I’m over the stigma. I really don’t care what anyone thinks about my being depressed and anxious; anyone who wants to give me some input or suggestions may do so, but I’m going to shrug off any negativity or judgment. I refuse to take that in.

You know why? The grayness pushes me toward the Source of all light. I can’t see clearly, I can’t understand rightly, and so I turn to God, time and time again. If this battle is what it takes for me to stick close to Him, then fine. I am His beloved daughter, and He’s happy…no, He’s delighted to have me around. My struggle and need doesn’t surprise Him or put Him off. He’ll gladly hold my hand.

He’ll even carry me when I can’t see to take another step.

My journey to faith. (15)

To read all the posts in The Detox Diaries series, go here.