Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
Last week I planned on volunteering at a couple different organizations around the community. I guess I expected to be able to jump right in and start helping people. However, there was a lot of paperwork involved in before I could even start. So last week it was all about just signing up. I see how even the simple small act of just saying yes i want to help was a praise to God. Each time I signed up to do something else, I was really saying I was choosing to follow what God was asking of me. Through this I was showing him praise in action. Well, besides paperwork I now have to go through some training. Monday at the women’s shelter I have signed up for, I was stuck in a quiet room and given a bunch of training materials to read. I have to log 25 volunteer hours worth of training before I am able to start working. Logically this makes sense. I am not sure why I thought it would be any different. I guess I just had imagined to hit the ground running and just jump in.
I often find my expectation in life is to take a giant leap forward. Yet, again God keeps reminding me to move forward with purpose one must take steps. Small acts are sometimes better than large ones. Don’t get me wrong, taking a large leap forward is sometimes what is required. It can be a big leap when you first decide to follow Jesus. Then life continues to teach you how small steps are equally important. It is how you grow in strength. It is how you become rooted in faith. Not by just the big decisions in life but by the small ones too.
I have been reading this book by Heidi Baker which has given inspiration about Loving the one. She consistently points out God does just call us to love everyone but also the one right in front of us. Sometimes we are so busy trying to make a big impact we miss the one who had been there right before us. I know I have done this more than one occasion. I am sure I may miss someone in the future, but my desire is by seeing the small I will understand the bigger picture. There was this book I read a few years ago which was all about the small things in this world we often overlook. It was called Pilgrim to Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. It is a Pulitzer Prize winning book about one woman’s theology on life. For me her voice and language had an intensity I had never found by other authors. Yet, there was also simplicity and beauty in the words she used to describe each subject. There is a section in the book where Annie has gone into the woods to write. As she is sitting under a tree she sees an ant going about his day. She ended up writing on her observations of the ant. It stands out to me the most as I remember the book, because I remember thinking if this how God sees us. Are we like the ant? Do we just go about our day unaware someone is watching and recording what we are doing?
I used to think of God this way. As only someone who looks down on us from above. Now I understand he is with us. He walks beside us as we make life’s pilgrim. The change in understanding now shows me how when we love each other in small ways we make a greater impact than we can realize at the time. Small acts made out of love have great power. Seeing small does not mean we have to be small. As I left the women’s shelter yesterday, I had to sign out. In the lobby were three women; one was on the computer, one was standing beside her and the third was watching the small child running around the room. The small child came over to me and said hello. I greeted him with a big smile. As I turned around he pointed up to the sandwich back in my and asked” What is that?” I and the young lady watching him both said “carrots” at the same time. Without thinking I asked her if he could have some. She replied with a “yes”. I then bent over to offer him some of the carrots. I explained how he could have some, because I had plenty. He lit up with delight as he reached in and pulled out three baby carrots from the bag. I then looked up and two of the ladies were now in front of me. I asked if he would want more later, and offered for them to take the entire bag. The agreed he would probably want some more ,and said thank you before taking the bag from my had. I reassured them it was no problem because I had a big bag still at home. Then I left.
Driving home all I could think was how the small act of kindness had probably brightened their day. Then I thought about how because I had more carrots I home I was eager to offer them to others. I had more than enough. I wonder if we treated everything this way, then we would be more open to loving the one in front of us. If we know we have more than enough to share, we won’t be so greedy to keep it for ourselves. When LOVE is more than enough it becomes Bold. Through this boldness we can reflect the grace God has given us. We can make praise and action and not just a word.
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
Yesterday, was the last day of my 14 day fast. I am proud of myself for stick to it. Even though I had cravings, and found myself reaching for foods I was not eating on the fast. The motivation of doing this for God was the strength behind my willpower. I have decided to continue to avoid processed food and most added sugar for now on. However, I plan on making the exception for holidays and special occasions. I am also going to continue staying away from dairy, including cheese. I will make occasional exceptions to this choice as well. Make these exceptions will be about balance. So, if I make a conscious decision to eat a dairy product then I will not allow any other exceptions for that week. If I choose to eat a piece of chocolate which has sugar, then I will omit the fruit I may have eaten instead for the day. It will be about balance, and understanding my liver can only process a limited amount of sugar to remain health. I will only make these decisions if it serves me, and my body which is a temple of God. I am thankful for God taking this experience and transforming me by opening my eyes to poor past decisions. I was not eating a balanced diet. It was full of chemicals and sugar. I know this is one of the reasons why I have struggled to maintain a healthy weight for my height. I am 5’2 and weigh 190lbs, or at least last time I weighed myself. I have given up weighing myself, instead it is about being healthy not my weight and being skinny.
Now today was the first day of my next 70 days, as part of the 70 for 70 Project. These next 70 days are all about taking the small commitment I made and building on top of it with another small commitment. The commitment is to find new ways to praise and worship God. It is about more than just words, but instead living my praise through action. I will start each morning talking to God saying …..” Thank you god for the new day! What can I do today to Praise you, and serve you through my faith? ” I will pray he reveals this to me throughout the day. This is not only about praising him with my actions towards myself, but also towards others. Jesus has called us to love others as ourselves.
I want to share how last Monday as I was beginning to approach this challenge which I feel God has called me too. I knew the next 70 days will be about serving other people. I wondered how I might have the time to actually accomplish his will. Last Monday my manager came in and informed me due to corporate budget cuts they needed to separate employment at this time. With all the push back I had been getting about spending, and not having the tools to be successful at my job. I knew this was coming. I had been already looking for new opportunites. I just figured I had at least till the end of the summer. The good news is I still have 6 weeks left from my last unemployment claim. I soon realized even though this door closed, God has greater things planned for my future. In the meantime he has made space for me to volunteer around the community. Today I went and signed up to work at a local women’s shelter, they specialize in domestic violence. My mother was a victim of domestic abuse, so this is a cause close to my heart. I look forward to seeing how God can use me while I am there. I am going to work at soup kitchen which is part of my mother’s church tomorrow. God calls us to feed the hungry. So I will do just that. I also plan on stopping by the local art center to fill out their volunteer paperwork tomorrow. I do not plan on just sitting around and waiting. Rather I plan to live each day in praise and faith for the next 70 days. Once a job opportunity comes, I will take it knowing it is God’s plan. I will still continue to serve others every way I can. If that means spending my evenings or weekends doing volunteer work I will. Who knows maybe God will use this to open a door for a job. I will just remain in admiration of his purpose for my life. I will remain faithful. I will let go and trust in him.
I want to continue to bridge my past which is being transformed into who God has made me to be. I no longer want to be stuck in the middle. Instead I want to live on the other side of God’s promises. I will do everything as though I am working for the Lord and not people. Will you too take up the challenge?
Starting this Friday I am going to try and commit to sharing more of my poetry. SInce it seems like my poems get the most likes of all my posts. I am going to start with a series of Poems I am entitling “Before I Found the Light”. The are poems when I was suffering in pain and turmoil with depression, before I was re-baptized last summer. I was baptized as an infant when I was a child, but last year 2016. I walked into a river in Texas and choose to declare giving my life over to the Light of the world. It was then I was reborn. Over the next 10 weeks I am going to share some of these poems ever Poetry Friday. I figure it’s a good way to end the working week. First Poem is the answer to a poem I shared before. the one I wrote at the age 18 about who I am. Or who I thought I was at the age of 18. I am including both to show the transition that occurred. I wrote the first in at 18 and the second when I was 22 years old.
My 18 Year Old Self
I am trapped in myself.
Yearning to be set free,
captured by my own inner turmoil of self discovery.
My life moves outside the bubble
of inflicted learning, of self realism.
I cry to move.
Holding on just a moment longer.
Let go I say,
so I may be able to dance to a new me,
sing of the awakening,
think about tomorrow.
For it is then,
I shall be set free.
My 22 Year Old Self
I was once trapped in myself,
Now I am set free-
Free to my own self-discovery,
Enlightened to move into my own self realistic thought,
I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.
My whole I have struggled to make healthy choices for myself. Now when I was younger, I made unhealthy choices because I did not know the difference. I ate what my parents fed me. They ate what the culture promoted. As I became a teeneager, I started to learn about healthy choices, but still I ate what I always had eaten. The typical foods in which the American culture promoted. These foods are heavily processed, with tons of added sugars. The first couple years in college I actually started on this cycle of dieting. My only motivation was to get thin, but all the fad diets never really worked. I would gain the weight back as soon as I stopped dieting. Like many women I associated my emotions with food and comfort. I would even find myself just eating out of boredom.
It was in January 2007 right before I was to graduate from college that I actually started taking a stronger interest in my health. I started researching health, and learned about food and dieting in a different way. It was the beginning of searching for a healthy balance.
I graduated college and went to live in Connecticut to work a theatre company there. This was my first real professional job I had out of college. I was working as a follow spot operator. During the show, when I wasn’t running the spotlight, I had a lot of free time to read. I was talking to one of the actors about how I had been more interested in learning about a healthy lifestyle balance. She suggested I read a book called “Diet for a New America”. I went to the bookstore my next day off and bought it. It was not the subject I thought it was. I believed it was a diet book which would give me advice on dieting. Instead it was a book about the food processing in America, with a main focus on meat production. I realized one day when I returned from the grocery store, I had unconsciously been avoiding meat. For the three weeks I had been reading this book, I had not eaten any meat whatsoever. It was shocking to me realizing I had gone so long without something I had always eaten. This book is was what lead me to become a vegetarian about ten years ago. I just simple decided if I had not been eating meat for three weeks and did not miss it, then I could probably keep not eating meat while I did some more research on the subject.
I wanted to dig deeper into this subject of meat production in America. The facts in the book disturbed me greatly. However, at the time I felt it was important to read other books on the subject. I wanted to make a conscious informed decision. The fact that I was losing weight without trying just added to the confidence I had in this first choice. Then as I read more of the same facts over and over again, I realized the production and processing of meat in America was not healthy or safe. I decided to become a vegetarian.
I had been diagnosed with hypoglycemia at 17 years of age. It is something my mother has too, so I knew you had to eat small meals every few hours to control your blood sugar. Instead of having diabetes, I had low blood sugar. Basically when I would eat a lot of sweets my pancreas would over produce insulin. I had to cut out sweets in high school. I will be honest I have a sweet tooth and this was a challenge for me. So I would eat sugar free sweets, just like my mother had always done. Although I would sometimes not follow that rule and eat sweets anyways. One of the changes I recognized when I became a vegetarian was how my blood sugar seemed more regular. Even if I were to eat a piece of regular cake or ice cream, my blood sugar did not drastically fall like it would have before. I am not saying this was a cure, but it did help me regulate my blood sugar. To this day I do not have as many problems with it like I use to. I can eat an ice cream cone without feeling dizzy or light headed a few hours later.
Now you can be a vegetarian and still be making unhealthy eating choices. Pizza and ice cream are both vegetarian. They are also two foods I love, and I eat them to often. Like many new vegetarians, in the beginning I started substituting dairy products for the meat I used to eat. I have probably eaten my own weight in cheese over the years. Not to mention all the milk I consumed. Seven years ago when I first moved to Boston, I realized I was being an unhealthy vegetarian. It has always been a back and forth. Going on a diet for a while to focus on losing weight and being thinner, and then settling back into old habits of buying cheap processed foods to comfort me. Especially in times when I was going through emotional struggles and depression. It was at this point I started digging deeper into what was a healthy vegetarian. I started dieting again, eating more vegetables. I joined a CSA (community shared agriculture) which forced me to try vegetables I never knew existed before the CSA. I even tried my hand a yoga. I managed to go from a women’s size 12 to a women’s size 6. I lost forty pounds in a year. I was loving my new body, and my new life. Then I met someone who I started dating. All of a sudden my focus no longer was on my health but instead on my relationship. It was easy to fall back into old habits once I changed my focus to something else I valued more. These were my choices though. Then I started to struggle more financially when he and I moved in together. I had changed jobs and wasn’t getting as many hours. At this time in my life I was selling cosmetics at a department store. It was easy to buy processed food because it was cheap. I would buy the groceries since he was paying the utilities. Then he would help out with the other things like toilet paper and laundry detergent when we ran out. All of a sudden the budget I used to buy my food now had to include his food. Pasta became our main staple. Now pasta alone is not bad, but when it is the only thing you eat in a week. It becomes a poor decision.
Now when we broke up and I was only buying for myself it became easier again to start buying more fresh vegetables. However, the unhealthy habits had taken hold in my life again. I had changed them once but had struggled to change again. The motivation had only ever been about how I looked, being thinner. The decisions I have made about healthy food have always been about how I want to look. And the side effect is feeling better.
Now as I have been fasting for 7 days, my motivation for eating healthy food is not about how I look. It is about building a stronger temple. Feeling better than I do when I eat unhealthy foods. I found the sensations the first four days to be the most challenging. I felt like I had the constant munchies. All I wanted to do was eat. I had hunger pains in my stomach, every hour. I found myself reaching for foods only having to stop myself before I unconsciously put it in my mouth. For example, my nephew was visiting the first weekend of my fast. He had left some candy buttons on the floor in his room. I went to pick them up to put in a plastic bag so he could take them home with him. Then I realized I had peeled a button from the paper, and one of the candies was about to go in my mouth when I stopped myself. I even remember asking myself what I was doing.
The food I ate did not satisfy, and the water I drank did not satisfy. The only thing which quieted my growling stomach was scripture, song, and prayer. The past three days as I have continued to press into my motivation for this fast. My motivation is to build a stronger temple for the spirit which dwells within me. And to be obedient to the word.
The one thing which surprised me the most today when I went grocery shopping with my fast in mind, was how many foods I could not purchase. My shopping cart looked more like a garden than a cart of boxes. Other than fresh vegetables or fruit, I got some canned chickpeas, nuts, brown rice pasta, frozen vegetables and fruit, some whole grain oatmeal, and canned antipasto ingredients. Nothing had added sugar, nor was it over processed. I would say most of what I bought resembled the item it was when it came from the earth with the exception of the brown rice pasta which only had four ingredients in it. All which I could pronounce.
For the past three days I have not had hunger pains, but my body does tell me when I am hungry. When I eat a small portion I am satisfied. When I feel thirsty, I drink and feel satisfied. I have even found myself naturally eating smaller portions. I eat not until I am gorged, but until I feel satisfied. I will continue to press further into him as I go through week 2. I will make food choices which serve the temple God has asked me to build.
My prayer is that I find better understanding in myself and the way I make decisions. I want to make the right decision each day and not just because I am fasting. I want to do what I love and not what I hate. I want build a strong temple which will not falter in faith. When the dark storm rolls in, it will stand strong on the rock. I no longer want to live on sand, falling into old habits I know do not serve me when I desire to be the best version of myself. The person who God has made me to be.
The word I read a couple days before my trip was Psalm 119:49-50 .
Remember your promise to me; it is my only hope. Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles.
The word was a reminder of God’s promise to me, to all of us. I asked for God to take any burdens I was feeling , and surrendered it to his yoke. I instantly felt relief from any stress I had been feeling that morning as I drove to work. Then as I was signing praise and worship to his greatness, I heard God ask me for my next commitment as I am continuing on for the next 70 days of the 70 for 70 Project. As I finish the last two weeks of my maiden voyage I am to prepare myself for 70 days of Praise. I will press further still into the Lord. Asking how each day I can best show my praise to the Lord for all he has done. I am to show with actions.
Praise is more than words or songs, it is also in what you do. I am going to spend the last 14 days of my first commitment fasting in order to prepare for this next step. I am going to do a partial fast, breaking from all added sugars, processed foods, dairy, white flour foods, chemicals, and preservatives. I will eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa, nuts and seeds, legumes, healthy oils and fats, a variety of spices, and only drink water. Instead of looking at this as depriving myself of things I enjoy. Or having an attitude that I am punishing myself, which is how I sometimes feel on restrictive diets.
I am going to view this as a sacrifice for my Lord. If Jesus could sacrifice his life for my sins, then surely I can sacrifice sugar and sweets for preparation of 70 days of praise. Especially, eating my favorite foods of pizza and ice cream. I will also continue pushing further into my exercise commitment, which I will openly admit has not been as successful as I would have hoped.
A friend of mine once said that she uses yoga as a tool to build a better body. She teaches a christian yoga class in colorado. She described it as allowing God’s presence to embrace you through each stretch and pose. I am going to give this a whirl. I have found enjoyment in a good yoga class in the past, but did not always get into the whole yogi thing. Of course during my fast I will be doing a daily bible study. I will try to update you as I move along through it.
I feel like God is going to use this as a way to show me actions I can take over my 70 days of Praise. If I am building a temple for God, and the first 70 days I was clearing the foundation. I believe these next 70 days will be about pouring out the cement for the base of the temple. I want to build a strong temple on the rock and not on sand. I am planning to start my 14 day fast today June 5th and ending on the 70th day of June 18th. The funny thing about this is it was on December 18th of 2016 when God first asked me to commit to the 70 for 70 Project. It was 70 days before when God had asked me to wait for him to reveal a plan for me. I know his timing in all these small commitments are lining up perfectly. It makes me excited to start.