I Choose Joy

I love Christmas. I mean, what’s not to love? The scent of pine/evergreen in the air, beautiful trees decorated and sparkling with lights, “good will toward men” mindset a bit more prevalent than usual, surprising family and friends with presents that make them smile, festive Christmas music, peppermint all the things (!!!), yummy food, get-togethers with family and friends, and delectable. desserts. for. days. To name a few things.

But even though I absolute love Christmas (it’s my favorite time of year) I’m not feeling very Christmassy this year. I’m actually feeling pretty depressed. There are several reasons for this, yet instead of sitting and wallowing in how crappy and depressed I feel, I’ve decided to focus on the fact that, while I truly enjoy all those aspects of Christmas I just named (and others I didn’t), as the Grinch learned, “Christmas… means a little bit more.”

I have decided to choose joy instead of allowing depression to steal my Christmas. It may take a while for my emotions to line up with my choice (if ever), but I also know it’s ok to not feel ok. So I’m not going to pressure myself or make myself feel ‘less than’ somehow because I don’t feel things I want very much to feel. Here’s the thing though. Joy isn’t just a feeling. We CAN feel joy, sure. But it’s also a choice.

I remember calling a friend one day several years ago. I was upset about a particular circumstance in which I found myself and he said something that has jumped to mind many times over the intervening years. He said, “Lauren, your joy is yours to have. Choose it.” That simple yet profound perspective had quite an effect on me. My circumstances that day didn’t change, but how I reacted to them did because I chose joy. I wasn’t feeling joy at the time (that came later), but the choices I made in my self-talk and in my spoken words and my actions all reflected my choice to choose joy, so the day turned out much differently (better!) than it probably would have if I hadn’t made that phone call.

There’s an old story about a Cherokee grandfather having a conversation with his grandson when the grandson came to him angry over an injustice he’d suffered. The Grandfather said: “It is as if there are two wolves inside me; one wolf is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way. But the other wolf is full of anger. The littlest thing will send him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger because his anger will change nothing. Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, because both of the wolves try to dominate my spirit.”

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which wolf will win, Grandfather?”

The Grandfather smiled and said, “The one I feed.”

So I will feed my “better wolf” a diet of gratitude for the many (many!) blessings in my life. I will make time to sit down and list 3-5 things every day for which I am thankful. I will be specific, will read my list out loud after I make it, and take a moment to (also out loud) thank God for them. (Writing these things, even saying them, is important, I believe, but hearing them is even more powerful.)

However, most importantly, I will focus on celebrating the miraculous birth of the One true God Who loved us enough to come to earth in human form (admittedly not in December), and died so all who believe in Him can be forgiven of our sins and spend eternity with Him one day. For this I am more thankful than I can begin to express.

I choose joy.

A very Merry Christmas to you and your family!

An open letter to my friends and family for when they’re grieving the loss of someone they love

I wish I knew what to say. I’m so unbelievably sorry that someone close to you is gone and my heart genuinely hurts for you. Beyond this though, I’m at a total loss for words. Yeah, I know. I’m surprised too. ME. I love words – I’m the most longwinded person I know – so reaching for them and finding they’re not there is disconcerting. It makes me feel like I’m not myself and like I have nothing of substance to offer. To be completely honest, I’m literally frozen up inside from fear. Fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. Fear of not doing or saying the right thing. Fear of not being the kind of friend/support you need. I always fail as a friend when someone dies – every. single. time. I know this, but I don’t know what to do about it.

And I’m not writing this for anyone to try to try to make me feel better. DON’T DO THAT! Just. Don’t. Seriously. You experiencing the death of someone you love is not about me. This is just me sharing my heart to let you know that I’m not failing because I don’t care. I’m failing because I care so much that I simply don’t trust my instincts and I don’t know how to fix it. My instincts are to pick up the phone and call you immediately. My instincts are to jump in my car and go straight to your house to hug you. My instincts are to sit and pray with you (if you’re comfortable with that). My instincts are to bring you comfort food. My instincts are to try to take little things (that I’m physically able to do) off your plate so you don’t need to worry about them – like doing your dishes, cleaning your bathroom, running the vacuum cleaner, doing a load of laundry, etc. My instincts are to make us a cup of tea and just sit and listen if you need to talk. Or just sit and hold your hand if you don’t.

But everyone is so different. Grieving is so, so deeply personal. I don’t ever (EVER) want to intrude on anyone’s grief, and I don’t know if any of my instincts are what you need from me so I wind up freezing and not doing any of these things. Daily I’ve had to (literally) fight my innate instinct to jump in my car and just show up at your door (no exaggeration). I can text and call, but I don’t want to call too soon or too often because I know it can be overwhelming. And I don’t want to text too much because I don’t want to be a pest and make you feel like you have to call or text back if you don’t feel up to it. But then at what point do unreturned texts and voicemails become annoying to you instead of making you feel like “I’m so glad she cares – I’ll text back or call when I can?”

I know there’s absolutely nothing I can do or say that will make you feel better, but I don’t want to add to your grief by inserting myself where I’m not wanted or needed. (Not saying you don’t want or need my friendship, just that my presence may not be what’s wanted or needed right then.) I want to help you however I can, however would be beneficial for you, but as I said, it’s not about me. It’s not your job to make me feel better by allowing me to give you something you don’t need. I would even be happy to simply sit with you in total silence if that’s what you need. But even asking “how can I help?” seems like it’d probably be overwhelming for you. You may not even know how I (or anyone) can help. You may not be able to articulate it. But I also don’t want to make things worse for you by just barging in in the midst of your grief and deciding how to help. I want to be there and help however you need me to be. But I’m having trouble figuring out how to do that. I need to figure out a way out of this vicious cycle I’ve caught myself in (wanting to help but not wanting to intrude and not wanting to pressure you, but wanting to help…) In the meantime, please know I love you. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t care about any of this. And please forgive me. I will try to do better.


Taking Up My Sword

I always start out a blog post with a title that winds up shaping how I write the post. Not this time though. The title will come last. That’s unusual for me, but it’s ok. God is ‘doing a new thing’ in my life. After tons of trial and error (T-O-N-S…) and lots of research over the last couple of months, I finally (FINALLY!) figured out the eating plan that’s right for me, that will help me to reach my weight loss and health goals. But it can’t end with simply knowing what I should eat and following the plan. If it was that simple, I’d never have gained weight back in the first place.

I’m a food addict. I habitually take comfort in food even while I’m loathing myself for doing same. Food is my drug of choice.

And no, it’s not harmless because it’s food. In fact, it’s pretty darned harmful. You can learn to live without drugs or alcohol, but you can’t live without food. So while I admit it’s not at all the same as being addicted to drugs or alcohol, it’s also not easy to overcome and it’s definitely not harmless. Quite honestly, I’ve created additional health challenges for myself with my weight gain and with the poor food choices I’ve been making. Comfort, for me, has come at a very high cost.

Then there’s the whole guy thing. I’ve been divorced for 7 1/2 years and living on my own for 8 1/2. In that time I’ve been on two dates with two different guys (and one that was date-like, but was defined ahead of time as more hanging out with a friend and getting to know each other a little better with an eye to maybe dating in the future – which it turned out he wasn’t ready for). One thing I realized a while ago is that even though I’d love to be in a relationship, staying overweight, while painful for other reasons, insulates me from being hurt. Guys are very visual, so it’s easy for me to blame my weight (and the resulting mobility issues) for why guys just aren’t interested in me romantically. But now I find myself faced with the fact that losing weight will mean losing that insulation/excuse. It’s a scary proposition, but one I finally feel brave enough to face with a renewed knowing that I won’t be facing it alone.

So on top of the eating plan I’ll be starting over the next couple of weeks as I clean out my fridge and cupboards and replace things with only plan-friendly food, I’m confronting and dealing with the food addiction head on. I’m not doing it alone though. Deepening my relationship with God and relearning to find my comfort in Him instead of food is the only way I know I’ll be victorious.

I’ve also committed (to God and myself) to writing daily again – something I haven’t done for far too long. It’s who I am – a writer. Just saying that, admitting that’s what God created me to be, is more freeing than I can begin to tell you. I’m not saying I’m good at it mind you, but like breathing, I need to do it. Not doing it has made me feel a bit lost. I’ve allowed myself to feel unworthy of my calling for the last few years and haven’t sat down to do any real writing in that time. I’ve written in my journal and dabbled a bit with minor projects, but nothing serious. I have at least four books I started years ago that need to be dusted off, the ideas re-evaluated. But I’m going to do that. Soon. Once I reorganize and make a good-sized dent in the book I just started, that is.

I went to Maine last week thoroughly burned out – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I needed to lie low this weekend to recover from the trip, but even in the midst of a debilitating, exhausting, painful Fibro flare-up I could still feel the residual effects of the week. I spent hours (HOURS!) reading the bible and an equal amount of time outlining, researching, and starting a novel (with a harbor view, no less). It was the best thing I could possibly have done for myself. Renewing my mind in such a beautiful, peaceful spot, away from all the distractions of home, affected every other part of me as well. The salt air was invigorating, being so close to the water rested and refreshed my soul, and a few places unexpectedly triggered my imagination. But most importantly, because this was very much a spiritual battle, I was reminded that I know how to fight burnout and the resulting numbness I was experiencing; the same way to fight anything – with my sword – God’s Word.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Ephesians 6:11-17


Sunset – view from my balcony in East Boothbay, Maine 10/8/2019

Love Thy (Sick) Neighbor as Thyself

“Jesus demonstrated selfless and sacrificial love to us which we did not deserve or even want. When this same love flows from us it is evidence that Christ is at work in us.” –Pastor Tim Cochrell

Among other things, this morning in church Pastor Tim spoke about community. How “church is not just somewhere we go or something we do. It is who we are.” He talked about how brothers and sisters in Christ shouldn’t just come together on Sunday mornings to sing a few songs and listen to a message together, but that, like the believers of old, we should be doing life together (we are part of the same family after all); and how the way we relate to and interact with each other, the unconditional love we show for each other, should stand out to others – it should set us apart.

Now I’m going to sound like a bit of a crazy person – jumping from one topic to a seemingly unrelated one. But please bear with me – I do have a point.

My immune system hasn’t been that great for a very long time. I’m working on trying to improve it, but it’s taking a while. So basically, what that boils down to is I catch everything that comes down the pike. I was in bed for three days just last weekend with a fever and head/chest cold. Fortunately my cold is almost gone, but I’m still not quite back to 100%.

About 20 years ago, Kevin and I were horrendously sick with the flu for at least a week because someone came to a pre-Christmas gathering with the flu, bringing their sick kids (who also had the flu). So by the time Christmas Eve/Day rolled around they were all feeling much better, but Kevin and I were both so sick, our fevers went up so high, we felt like we were dying. This was important for me to mention because this was when my rather vehement opinion initially formed that it is the height of selfishness for someone to go someplace when they’re sick and expose everyone else to what they have. (Granted, I was pretty upset at the time, still, the opinion stuck.) So anyway, because of my weaker immune system, if I’m around sick people I inevitably get sick.

Fast-forward to this morning. Keep in mind I am JUST feeling better after being sick (to varying degrees) for a little over a week. As I’m listening to Pastor Tim preach, all around me people are coughing. But the worst one of all was literally sitting right in back of me. They coughed incessantly through the whole service. Listening to all the coughing all I could think about was how one of the reasons I stayed home last Sunday (heck, why I stay home whenever I’m sick) was so I wouldn’t expose anyone else to my germs. No matter how much I may want to go somewhere, I have simply never been able to reconcile loving others with disregarding their health for my own agenda.

So I’m sitting in church this morning, listening to the coughing, getting more and more irritated. But then Pastor Tim mentioned diversity in the body – how we all bring our own cultures, customs, and unique expressions of God to the proverbial table (I’m paraphrasing here, but that was the essence of the statement) and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, something just “clicked.” Just because I think something is right doesn’t necessarily make it so. (I know – I was surprised too!) 😉

Seriously though, we’re all different and come at things from different (not wrong – just different) directions. Staying home when I’m sick may be the way I need to express love, but maybe the loving thing for them, their sacrifice of praise to God, is to go to church no matter how awful they’re feeling. (Heck, maybe it’s a cultural difference.) Whatever their reasons, they chose to be there this morning, worshipping and soaking in the Word with the rest of our church family. And just like that my irritation melted, love took its place, and I was able to pray for them.

When all is said and done I know I’ll still stay home if I’m sick, but I know I can go to church without an attitude now, even knowing others may not do the same, because that’s the loving thing for me to do. Being there – being part of our church family – loving them regardless of what’s going on with them. Isn’t that what families do? As soon as I embraced that this morning there was nothing but peace.

A whole new chapter

I really don’t like it when I let my blog sit for long periods of time without writing an entry, but honestly it was too much effort for many months. I’ve been dealing with near constant Fibro flare-ups since the middle of the summer, and because of that I got very depressed. While the symptoms I deal with when depressed are pretty much the same, I don’t have chronic depression – the kind that can be helped with medication. (Trust me – I’ve tried different medications when this has happened before and it just makes it worse.) When I get depressed it’s situational – there is always a particular reason for it, so resolve the issue and the depression goes away. I finally snapped out of the worst of it around late November but there has been some mild, lingering malaise. I’m starting to feel better though. I’m on day 6 of a 30-day cleanse to rid my body of toxins, and I feel like my whole body is slowly waking up from a deep sleep. It’s a kind of a wild feeling so I’m really looking forward to how I’ll feel on day 30.

January 2018. I always find January a little exciting to be honest. There’s a whole new year stretched out in front of me with limitless possibilities. It’s like opening a brand-new notebook filled with blank pages yet to be written on. Is there anything more exciting?

God has given me a word for the year since 2011. It’s my “theme” for the year; it’s always a word that encapsulates the lessons God winds up working on with me that year.

2011 was my year of grace.

2012 was my year of hope.

2013 was my year of love.

2014 was my year of trust.

2015 was my year of faith.

2016 was my year of surrender.

2017 was my year to learn to follow (God) in a deeper way.

2018 is my year of change.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. –Maya Angelou

This will be uncomfortable for me because I’m not a huge fan of change in general. Some change is definitely good, but it can also leave you feeling unsettled. I like to feel settled, on stable, solid ground…safe. Fortunately God doesn’t change, so I will need to depend on Him more than ever to be my stable, solid ground.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  –Hebrews 13:8

“For I, the Lord, do not change” –Malachi 3:6

I sat down recently and prayerfully constructed a faith vision of what I want my life to look like, but the fact is that in order to get there a lot of things in my life, ways I’ve been doing things, etc. that haven’t been working need to change.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. –Lao Tzu

Reexamining my whole life and determining exactly what needs to change to get me where I want to be is a good bit daunting, but I’m always up for a challenge.

How about you?

Everything I know about loving myself I learned at a gas station

Ok, not really (but kinda). Eh, read on.

God has been working overtime on me lately it seems. As an intro I want to share something I posted in my personal blog a few weeks ago:

I got the most amazing compliment of my life a couple of days ago.

After a very busy weekend and getting to bed later than I anticipated on Sunday night, working all day Monday, going straight from work to a meeting then running to the store for a few groceries, very tired, I stopped for gas on my way home. When I was at Trader Joe’s I bought myself some pretty white and purple (daisies?) because, well, I’m a girl and I need flowers sometimes.

The flowers were sticking out of the grocery bag on the back seat and when I rolled down the window to speak with the gas station attendant, I smiled and made a comment about the weather. He smiled back, responded to my comment, then nodded toward the flowers and said with a wink, “are those flowers for me?” Without missing a beat I nodded in the affirmative and said, “Absolutely – if they’d make you happy…” and I reached around to the back seat, grabbed them, and held them out the window to him.

You could’ve knocked him over with a feather. I sincerely tried to get him to take them, and though he grinned and thanked me, he declined. When I had put them back he held out his hand and introduced himself (Cedric? Fredrick? Drat this memory of mine!). He expressed incredulity that I would do something like that for a perfect stranger and told me he can tell a truly beautiful person when he sees one. He said that most people aren’t like that and told me several times that I was “a beautiful girl” then (and here’s the amazing part) he said I “exemplify humanity – or what humanity should be.” Maybe it’s because I’ve been so tired for the last few days, but that a stranger would say something like that to me…it just touched me very deeply. I still get teary-eyed thinking about it. When he finished pumping the gas and I was pulling the cash out of my wallet he said, “you tell your boyfriend I said he is a very lucky man to have such a treasure and he should hold you tight.” I chuckled and said, “if I ever get one, I’ll be sure to let him know.” He looked surprised and said, “what? No boyfriend?! What is wrong with them?!” (Preaching to the choir, buddy…) Shaking his head and “tsk, tsk-ing” he said, “you’re looking in the wrong places, girl…the wrong places.”

At this point I was all set and ready to go so he smiled, waved, and wished me a good night.

It was one of those extra-special encounters with a stranger that puts me in mind of that bible verse about “entertaining angels unaware.” I’ll never forget it or how special he made me feel in those few moments.

Thank you, Father.

This was a life changing experience, but the reason for that didn’t really hit me fully until a couple of days later.

Just over nine years ago I weighed 325 lbs. And let me tell you – I truly hated being so heavy. But even more than I hated the weight and the limitations it placed on my physical abilities, I hated myself. More than one person told me I was pretty (or more accurately, that I had “a pretty face”) but I couldn’t see it. Finally though, one day in May 2008, after more than 20 years of being morbidly obese, it was like a switch was flipped and I was just “ready” to lose weight. I joined Weight Watchers and my weight started to come down. It wasn’t easy and it took a long time (too long in my estimation – especially since my ex-husband lost over 100 lbs in the time it took me to lose 50) but I was doing it. And when my ex and I first split up in 2011, miracle of all miracles, I didn’t regain the 75-ish lbs I’d lost – I maintained. Eventually I lost an additional 39 lbs bringing my total weight loss to 114 lbs. That was in the spring of 2015 and I was 36 lbs away from my goal weight. (36 pounds!!!) But here we are on the cusp of summer 2017 and I’ve gained back some of the weight I lost, so I find myself faced with the daunting task of needing to work to lose it again.

Such a thing should have me feeling pretty horrible, shouldn’t it? I mean – I failed, right?

I’ll be honest. I did feel really bad about myself for a long time. Horrible even. I berated myself (even as I slowly kept gaining weight over the past year and a half), felt like utter crap, and cried whenever I looked in the mirror and tried on clothes that were practically falling off me two years ago but are now too small. I’ve celebrated, rewarded, comforted, and punished myself with food for years – convinced that no guy worth having will ever see past my weight to the woman inside, so what difference did it make? (As if finding Mr. Right is the only reason to lose weight.) <insert sigh & eyeroll here>

“You can’t give away what you don’t have – if you want to love others you need to be filled with love. Period.” — Valorie Burton

But you know what God used that encounter with the kind fella at the gas station to teach me? That I am beautiful. Yep. You heard me. I am beautiful just as I am. You know why?

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3: 3-4)

According to the Word of God, I’m beautiful inside (even if my overweight body, with stretch marks everywhere, isn’t). I am not, nor may ever be, a size 10, but if I had to make a choice I would rather have a beautiful heart being made more and more like Christ’s every day than a beautiful body (as defined by Hollywood/society).

You know what’s funny though? The weight is coming off again. Not anywhere near as quickly as I would like, but it is definitely coming off. Truthfully I haven’t stepped on a scale for a while, but a pair of pants I couldn’t even pull on a few weeks ago went on easily and fit comfortably two days ago. God has done some major healing on the inside so food just isn’t as important to me as it used to be.

I guess the bottom line is that, for many reasons I won’t get into here, I never felt like I was enough and couldn’t see any beauty in me at all, so I didn’t think I was worth very much. From the time I was in my early teens until somewhat recently I actually felt as though I had to practically apologize for my existence. I felt like I was intruding on people’s lives just by breathing (no exaggeration).

But I don’t believe that anymore. God has changed me.

I am enough.

I am beautiful.

I am valuable.

And I most certainly have nothing to apologize for – I add to, not detract from, the world.

It’s important to note here that I’m not saying any of this in a conceited “I’m all that and a bag of chips” kind of way. With some help from a terrific therapist, some healing love from some truly wonderful people in my life, but mostly from God (reading His Word and reminding myself frequently who I am in Him), I can honestly say, for the first time E-V-E-R, that I love myself. Again, not in a vain, arrogant way – I just recognize my value as a human being and beloved daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (which, incidentally, makes me a princess), believing I am worth the time, effort, and resources to take care of myself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Thanks to my Heavenly Father, I can, at long last, hold my head high and look the world in the eye. And not because of me – but because of who my Creator made me. I am His.

So while I am definitely going to continue working to lose this excess weight I’m finally, at long last, doing it just for me – not in the hopes of snagging some great guy (because let’s face it – if he’s really all that great he’ll recognize the treasure inherent in winning my heart no matter how much I weigh). I want to move more easily. I want to be able to walk long distances without losing sleep because I’m so much pain I simply can’t get comfortable. I want to be able to be on my feet for long periods of time without needing to ice my knees for hours afterward. But more than anything I want to be able to dance at powwows.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)

I’m not stressing about it anymore though because I know I’ll finish it and get down to my goal weight this time. I’ll get there because of my ‘why.’

I’m doing it for me.

And that is enough.


Rain, pain, and gratitude – a major “aha!” moment

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians. 5:16-18)

God is changing me.



“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

Monday was a rainy day. For me, rain = pain. It’s been that way for years and years because of the bursitis in my knees and shoulders (worse in my right knee and right shoulder). I’m one of those human barometers who can tell you when it’s going to rain (or snow) even if there isn’t any in the forecast. Although I (really, really!) wanted to call into work because the pain was pretty intense when I woke up, I pulled on my big girl panties and went anyway, determined to smile my way through the day without complaining.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (1 Chronicles 16:34)

I prayed on my way to work as I normally do and, reacting to something God stirred up in my heart, made the decision to be thankful for the pain. No, I’m not crazy (not yet anyway) – I decided to be thankful because experiencing pain means I’m alive and as far as I’m concerned that’s something to be thankful for. (Right?) Really – how awesome is that? I get to be here for another day loving on people and doing what God wants me to do. What an honor! I also decided to use the pain as a reminder to pray for people; every time I feel a throb of pain I lift up whoever God calls to mind right then.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

And then I got a surprise. It would appear as though making the choice to smile, be thankful, and focus my prayers on others, even though I was really hurting, did…something (?)…in the spiritual realm which in turn affected my body.

I think.


“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)

I’m still pretty bowled over by it, but the pain quickly began to recede after making those choices – and following through. Although still a bit stiff and sore for a minute or two as usual when I got up from my chair after sitting for a long time – I’m always fine after I move around for a minute – my knees and shoulders were almost totally pain-free by mid-late morning even though it was rainy all day and into the evening. It’s important to note here that the bursitis flare-ups don’t usually dissipate until the rain is done – and even then it’s not at all unusual for there to be residual soreness for day or two. While I won’t presume upon God by declaring myself completely physically healed without clear confirmation from Him (there are still occasional twinges), I can’t help but wonder if the God-inspired change in my attitude from “oh poor me” while staying in bed and babying myself to “thank you, God, for this pain because it means I’m alive” and “please use this pain to remind me to pray for others” while going to work with a smile, didn’t somehow break some hold the enemy of our souls had on my body (?). I’m no theologian so I can’t say with any degree of certainty that’s why it happened; it’s just an educated guess.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30)

The more I think about it though, the more sense it makes to me. Scripture clearly states that a heart at peace gives life to the body and that envy rots the bones – and I don’t believe this is even remotely metaphorical. Matthew Henry agrees: “An upright, contented, and benevolent mind, tends to health.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary) I didn’t waste even a second of my day wistfully watching anyone else walk down the hall wishing I could move with such little effort. In fact, for the first time ever, I was at peace and truly content right where I was at in the midst of some pretty nasty pain. (Which, honestly, is a small miracle in and of itself – I’m not one who normally does well with that level of pain – which is why I usually just stay home and shut out the world if I have to deal with it.)

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)

While I don’t believe words themselves have magic powers, I do believe that the things we say affect us – they come out of our mouths, go into our ears, and we internalize them. Our words affect our thought life, which affect our emotions, which affect our belief systems, which affect our actions, which ultimately results in negative consequences in our lives. So if we routinely say negative things about ourselves or someone else, we’re “speaking death” and killing a part of our/their spirit. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that rather than “oh-my-gawding” and complaining about my pain (I don’t usually complain out loud all that much, but I think it’s safe to say I had a grumbling spirit about it as far as God was concerned), I chose instead to be positive, speaking life.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

Whatever the “why” though, God is very clearly behind this and I am more grateful than I can put into words.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” (Psalm 28:7)

Addendum: Today, Wednesday, we have more rain moving in, so ordinarily the bursae in my knees and shoulders would be swollen and painful.

They’re not.

Thank you, Jesus!

Well, my Father knows I love surprises…

“Sometimes what you’re looking for comes when you’re not looking at all.” –Unknown

Something pretty awesome happened this morning.

I need to back up a few years first though. My friend Eileen’s mother-in-law, Anne, has a friend who gave her a prophetic word years and years ago, but it wasn’t for Anne and she didn’t know who it was for. The Holy Spirit impressed the message on her friend, she wrote it out, gave it to Anne, and Anne put it in a pile of papers somewhere and promptly forgot about it.

Then one day many years later, in spring 2014, I was at Anne’s house. We spent some time visiting and some time in prayer together. Afterward she got up and headed for the kitchen, but she suddenly turned and walked over to her dining room table and pulled a piece of paper off the top of a pile of books and papers and said, as she handed the paper to me, “oh! I almost forgot… This is for you. I was going through some of my papers a few weeks ago and I found this – hadn’t even thought about it for years – and God said ‘this is for Lauren.’”

When I read it I was so overwhelmed I cried. I couldn’t help it. That God loves me (ME!) enough to give me that message… There are simply no words.

As much as I loved what I read and hoped it was for then, I knew deep down inside that it was a reassurance for the future. I really feel like God made sure I got it when I did though so I’d know He hadn’t forgotten about me (I had been feeling pretty discouraged) and that no matter what things look like He is at work in and for me. I had it in my purse and let a couple of close friends read it, then, to my dismay, it vanished so I thought I had accidentally thrown it out when I cleaned out my purse. I was devastated because, due to decades of sleep problems, my memory isn’t what it once was. I couldn’t remember it word-for-word. I could remember the general gist, but that was it. I told God that if He wanted me to get the message again at some point that I knew He could make sure it found its way back to me somehow when the time was right. I’ve thought about it from time to time since then, and every time my heart ached over how irresponsible I had been with such a precious gift.

Then this morning, three years later, I went to my bookshelf to find a bible study to do. I wanted to bring it to work in case I was able to go to the library on my lunch break (I wasn’t). But this one book I haven’t read yet caught my eye, tugged at my heart, and I just had to grab it: Seeking the Face of God by Gary Thomas. When I opened it to glance inside a folded piece of paper fell out into my hands. It was the prophetic word I lost three years ago! (How the heck it ended up in that book I have absolutely no idea…)

I was on my way out the door to work so I didn’t have a lot of time, but, thrilled because it’s exactly what I needed right now, I had to stop and thank Him from the bottom of my heart. My cup overflows.

And I’m definitely reading that book!


Learning to Control my Feelings – part one

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” –Zig Ziglar

Yesterday was Administrative Professionals Day. I had an email waiting for me when I got in to work from my former boss, Betsy, who now works at another college, and I got pretty choked up. She has always been very thoughtful and made me feel appreciated. There were a few us in my department who came in to flowers from her on a fairly regular basis. Sometimes, like on Administrative Professionals Day and the first day of each new semester, she bought them, but she picked a lot of them from her own garden (including a pretty, bright yellow flower she grows that smells like chocolate. Seriously. Is there a more perfect flower for a girl?). Of all the ones she brought in my favorites were always the hydrangeas though. I still have the last one she brought in for me before she left last August.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” –Melody Beattie

Anyway, I never heard a peep from my current boss and, I’m ashamed to admit, that stung more than a little. Yes, it’s true. I’m not perfect. (Surprise!) Truthfully I struggle with wanting to be appreciated and recognized for my contributions like many other people, so I kept thinking (quite a few times) that it would have been nice if my boss had even just sent an email saying “Happy Administrative Professionals Day!” I guess Betsy spoiled me. I honestly didn’t expect flowers from my current boss though. Since her office is in a different building, mine is not the face she sees sitting outside her office every morning (still, I’m one of her admins). But again, just some acknowledgement of the day would have made me smile.

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” –John Milton

However, last night when a bunch of negative thoughts flooded in again, it hit me that thinking these things was making me feel down and negative. I don’t like that. There are plenty of things to feel negatively about in this world, but creating negativity is something I try hard not to do. Yet that’s exactly what I was doing. So I talked to God about it and He made me realize a few things. First, like a gardener tending her vegetable garden, I was fertilizing these feelings by entertaining and repeating the thoughts, and this was making the sad and negative feelings grow. Second, He reminded me that I have no right to place expectations like that on someone anyway, but even more so when they don’t know anything about it. How silly and self-centered is that? The woman isn’t a mind reader for pete’s sake. Plus I don’t know what else is going on in her life right now, so how inconsiderate is it of me to expect that she should remember the day? It was one of those “walk a mile in another’s moccasins” moments. Third, it’s not her responsibility to make me smile; and fourth, although I hadn’t actually said, “I’m offended by this” that’s how I was starting to feel. An offense is an “annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult” and that’s how I was viewing it – almost as an insult – so it would have taken no time at all for this to blossom into a full-blown offense. But then God reminded me of something else: being offended, or insulted, is a choice. I was choosing to let it bother me. I don’t think we can help it when thoughts just jump into our heads but we can certainly choose whether to entertain or reject them, and I was giving these thoughts importance by entertaining them. So I made the decision right then to reject any further negative thoughts about this. However I don’t think it’s enough to merely stop thinking about negative stuff – I need to replace the negative thoughts with positive ones – with truth.

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8, NASB)

When I read this verse, the word “these” is emphasized in my mind. “…dwell on THESE things” as opposed to dwelling on negative thoughts that a) most likely aren’t even true, and b) are making me feel bad. God is telling us here that we have a choice as to what we think about. He’s not talking about living in denial, rather focusing, or dwelling, on good over evil.

Stated very simply:

“Where the mind goes, the man follows.” –Joyce Meyer

So instead of focusing on my hurt feelings, entertaining the (untrue) thoughts that my boss doesn’t care and I’m not appreciated, I chose to focus on the truth about her: she’s friendly, personable, kind, caring, doesn’t micromanage, she really listens and makes me feel like the most important person in the world at that moment when I’m talking to her about something, and she has expressed appreciation for things I’ve done many times in the past.  Why do I need a special day for her to let me know she appreciates me? Given the choice I’d rather have a boss who appreciates me all year. And while she doesn’t give me flowers like Betsy did, she verbalizes her appreciation. So today is a new day and I’m choosing to thank God for the fact that I not only have a job, but that I have a job I enjoy, working with wonderful people, and for a woman I genuinely like and respect. And you know what? I feel thankful, lighthearted, and joyful today. Thank you, Lord!

“Your joy is yours to have; choose it.” –Dean Shannon

Following Christ

“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23 – NASB)

I’ve been doing some reading, praying, and reflecting on what it means to follow Christ.

 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (1 John 2:6 – NASB)

The Greek word “to follow” in the verse above (Luke 9:23) literally means “to mimic” or “to imitate.” God is not asking us to follow a list of rules, rather, He wants us to follow – or imitate – Christ Himself. He wants us to walk – to live our lives – in the same way He did. “Christian” means “little Christ,” and like children follow in their parents’ footsteps, so God want us to follow in (or more literally – walk in) His footsteps.

To give you a hokey metaphor, let’s say I need to cross a massive field in the dark and it’s very windy and covered with over a foot of heavy snow. If Jesus has already gone ahead of me and broken a path then the quickest, most effective, and efficient way of crossing the field would be to walk in his footsteps, right? I mean it makes sense to me; rather than going through the arduous, unnecessary, and even potentially dangerous task of breaking my own path, if I’m stepping exactly where He stepped I don’t need to worry about whatever may be buried under the snow – impossible to see. So walking in His footsteps is not only the quickest, most efficient way of crossing the field – it’s also the safest.

Life can be that way, can’t it? Like trudging across a snow covered field on a windy night. We can’t see what’s coming, the wind can keep us off balance, and we can’t even tell if our next step will be solid, if we’ll step into a hole, or worse, find it’s not a field at all – but a lake that hasn’t had time to freeze enough to hold our weight (eek!). But God knows what’s ahead of us and the safest, best way for us to cross the field of life (yes, it’s hokey, but it serves to make my point).

I like what John Gill says in his commentary on 1 John 2:6: (as written in the NIV – “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”) “The “as” is not a note of equality, but of likeness; for it cannot be thought that saints should walk in that degree of perfection, in humility, patience, love, and in the exercise of every other grace, and in the discharge of duty, as Christ did; only that they should copy after him, and make his obedience and life the rule of theirs.”

Think about that. God wants us to make Christ’s obedience and life the rule of ours. The rule – not the exception.


Jesus didn’t want to go to the cross. When He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane right before He was arrested, He asked God to “take this cup from Me.” He sweat drops of blood at the mere thought of what He knew He would have to endure. And YET…after He asked the Father to spare Him that agony, He also said “yet not My will, but Yours be done.” He absolutely did not want to go through everything He did, but was obedient regardless – doing what His Father asked of Him – to the point of enduring a lengthy, brutal, agonizingly painful death. Knowing this I have to ask myself, am I this obedient to God? Are you? I know I (very!) frequently fall pretty short (as I’m sure you do as well), but this is what He requires of those who claim to follow Him, so although I know perfection is not attainable on this side of Heaven, I love Him so I will never stop trying to get better at this following in obedience thing.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.‘” (John 8:12 – NASB)

I was always afraid of the dark as a kid, and even though I’m not ‘afraid’ of it (per se) anymore it can still be unsettling when I can’t see what’s around me. I am one who really likes to be aware of my surroundings so this verse really resonates with me. I am so thankful that I don’t walk in darkness anymore because I have Jesus, the light of the world, to light my way.

Do you?