Writing My Way to Emotional and Spiritual Health

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your own heart.” — William Wordsworth

Writing has been a huge part of my life since I was a kid, but I’ve been finding it tedious as of late. I had a serious bout with writer’s block over a year ago which I wrote about here:  http://survivingdivorceafter40.blogspot.com/2011/12/blah-blah-blah-writing.html, but this isn’t writer’s block – at least not in the traditional sense. I’ll have a thought or get an idea, feel the need to write it out, sit down in front of my laptop, and all of a sudden I get very, very tired and want nothing more than to do something (anything!) else. I’m not sure what that’s all about to be honest with you. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this. I need to write, but for the first time ever I don’t want to write. It’s very strange.

I wonder if the journal writing I’ve been doing is sapping my creative energy. I’ve been writing a lot more in my (paper) journal lately than anywhere else, but it’s something I need to do – that outlet has played an essential role in my healing. God has used my journal writing more times than I can count to clarify something or point me to a much needed answer. It also helps me sort out my feelings and make sense of things when my emotions are muddled. When I die one day, I almost feel sorry for them if anyone reads my journals. They are quite the jumble!

In any case, if the reason for my lack of desire with regard to creative writing is, in fact, related to my journal writing then I think it’s worth it. While I know I still have a few things here and there to work on (who doesn’t?) I have to say that by and large I have come a great deal further in my healing than I ever thought possible over the past couple of years, and journal writing (which, more often than not, takes the form of letters to God) is the main reason I have come so far in such a short amount of time.

So as much as I dislike the fact that my creative writing has been suffering recently, becoming emotionally and spiritually healthy is a pretty good trade-off.

If you’re (ever) going through something painful, difficult, or just need to sort through your thoughts and/or emotions, I highly recommend writing things out in a journal. Whether it’s just for that particular circumstance or you wind up with a life-long habit, at the least it can be incredibly helpful and at the most it can save your sanity. It did for me.



Thoughts on Motivation

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” –Zig Ziglar

I’ve been overweight since 1986, but after many failed attempts to lose the excess weight, by 2006 I had gotten up to 325 pounds. In May 2008 I decided to give Weight Watchers another try and lost 70 pounds between then and early 2010. Unfortunately I stalled out and hit a wall after that and sort of lost the motivation to push through it. I’ve been up and down playing with the same 10-15 pounds ever since. I did pretty well this past fall though – I lost 17 pounds. But I had my gall bladder removed right before Christmas and was barely able to move around for a few weeks after that. That, and the fact I used both the holidays and my recovery period as an excuse to eat whatever I felt like eating (which translated to LOTS of comfort food – not exactly conducive to maintaining or continuing weight loss), resulted in my gaining back most of that 17 pounds.

When I first started losing weight back in 2008, my motivation was twofold. I wanted to lose it because I was unhappy with how I looked, and felt physically. But I mostly wanted to lose weight for my former husband (we were still together at the time). Like any wife who got complacent and let herself go over the years, I wanted the man I loved to find me attractive again. I also really wanted to make him proud of me. (there was a long stretch of time in our marriage when I wasn’t the kind of wife he could be proud of, so finally doing something to make him proud was important to me) As I said though, that motivation fizzled out by early 2010. (doing something like that for another person can only keep you going for just so long, I think) I would have lost more during that time if I had exercised regularly, but I didn’t. I was too lazy to push myself outside my comfort zone anywhere near as often as I should have, so my weight loss was very slow and sporadic – which ultimately goes back to motivation – doing it for my husband, and even for myself, wasn’t enough to drive me to overcome my laziness.

This past fall my motivation was, in all honesty, both for me and to make myself more attractive given that I am now officially “back on the market.” (why do I have the sudden urge to “moo?”) As shallow as that may seem for those thinking, “any guy who isn’t interested in you for YOU isn’t worth your time,” I have to keep reminding myself that first impressions matter and guys are primarily visual.

Anyway, by last weekend I finally felt recovered from my surgery enough to start exercising again. I really do want to finish losing weight so I can be healthier and look and feel better about myself, but as I thought and prayed about my weight loss and fitness goals it hit me that more than anything I really want to do this for the Lord.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Co. 6:19-20)

Not only do I want to honor my Heavenly Father with a healthy “temple”, I want to make Him proud of me. And you know, there is such a huge difference between wanting to make my former husband proud of me and wanting to make my Daddy God proud of me. I know God loves and accepts me completely AS IS. There is nothing I can do to make him love or accept me any more than He does right at this moment. I am His beloved daughter – His little princess. He is ALREADY proud of me, so there is no pressure. To Him, I am perfect just the way I am. There is such freedom in that kind of unconditional love and acceptance!

I’ve used food as my “drug” of choice as far back as childhood. I can honestly say I was a food addict. I turned to food the way an alcoholic turns to alcohol or a drug user turns to drugs. With that in mind, I was praying for healing from something in particular at the front of the church during worship one Sunday morning a few months ago, and I felt what I can only describe as an electric current pass through my body from the top of my head down to my feet. I felt that God had healed me of something, but I wasn’t sure if it was what I asked for or something else. So it was interesting when it started becoming apparent to me over the course of the next couple of weeks that God had healed me of my food addiction. I no longer “needed” food for emotional reasons. It was very exciting! But even though I knew that, I didn’t start walking in my healing right away. You see sometimes God will do a work in us, but we need to make a conscious choice to own it.

It’s kind of like this: let’s say you need can opener. So I go out, get you the best can opener on the market, wrap it up, and put it down on the table in front of you. “My goodness! What is it?” you ask, all excited.

“It’s a Can-Blaster 3000,” I reply.

“Oh Lauren, thank you so much! I needed a can opener and you got me the very best one!” you say as you throw your arms around me to give me a huge hug.

But in spite of the fact that you genuinely need it, you don’t even open the package. You had a need, I supplied that need, you KNOW I gave you what you needed, you’re truly thankful for the gift, but you don’t open and use it.

I didn’t use that particular gift He gave me – then. Even though I recognized that I no longer felt an emotional need to eat, I still CHOSE to comfort myself with food. (sweets in particular have always been a major weakness)

However, since last weekend something has changed inside. With a few exceptions (hey, I’m not perfect!)  I have been looking to God to be my primary source of comfort for the past couple of years, but now I’m at the point in my life where I’m ready for Him to be my ONLY source of comfort. I finally made the choice to walk in my healing – to open my gift. And you know something? This past week, for the first time ever, staying away from things I shouldn’t be eating in order to live a healthy lifestyle and lose weight has been a breeze. And surprise of all surprises, I’ve also been able to get out of bed a little earlier than usual every morning this week to exercise. I have never been a “morning person”, but having made the decision, it just really wasn’t difficult. (which, again, ultimately goes back to motivation)

So while I do still want to look better, feel better, and be healthier, my Daddy God is my motivation this time. I desire nothing more than to be, in every possible way, the woman He created me to be. I’m doing this as a gift for Him.

After all, He has given me the greatest possible gift.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

All I have to give Him is myself. And fortunately, that is enough.

New Year, New Direction

My last blog (http://survivingdivorceafter40.blogspot.com/) was, in equal parts, about sharing things I felt were worth sharing with people and entertaining my readers. This one is going to be different. I’m not going to worry about entertaining anyone – I’m just going to write. I’m going to write about God, things He’s teaching me, family, friends (don’t worry, I’ll change names as necessary to protect folks’ privacy), stuff I’m thinking about, things I’m proud of, things I’m not so proud of, victories, failures… in other words, I’m just going to write about life.

To explain a little about why I chose the title I did for this blog, I should start by telling you that, taking a page out of a friend’s book, I started asking God a couple of years ago for a word for the year. The word is the particular theme my life will center around in the course of that year as I focus on growing spiritually. My word for 2011 was “grace,” 2012 was “hope,” and a couple of weeks ago the word God gave me for 2013 was “love.”

So my prayer for myself has become asking God to teach me, in greater depth than ever before, how to love people His way – selflessly and completely, without reservation. Jesus is my role model. Jesus loved selflessly and completely – without reservation. He held nothing back. He loved outrageously. I want to follow in His footsteps.

God has already started teaching me that one of the many ways I can love people the way Jesus did when He was here is to live a genuine, authentic life. I’m a Christian, but I don’t always have it all together; I sin and make mistakes, get sick and need surgery, struggle with negative feelings and temptations, sometimes say the wrong thing, go through trials, experience loss and grieve, use poor judgment, etc. And although Jesus didn’t sin while He was here, He was real, and he experienced the roller coaster of life with the people He loved – just like we do.

(My faith, hope, trust in, dependence on, and love for Jesus is what gives me the strength to push through to the other side of negative situations that come up in my life. He loves me (Oh how He loves me!), walks through these things right alongside me, challenges me, chastises and/or disciplines me as necessary, then He changes me. Seriously – I just keep changing – I’m not at all the same person I was two years ago. Heck, I’m not the same person I was a month ago!)

But I digress. For so long I was afraid to show the not-so-wonderful side of myself to too many people. I thought it would reflect poorly on God or something. But that’s not true. I’m human for pete’s sake – it just made me look like some kind of weirdo to try to hide my humanity – imperfections and all. In the interest of being real, when my husband of almost 18 years (whom I loved deeply) told me he wanted a divorce I wasn’t exactly Miss-Mary-Sunshine. I turned to alcohol (only a handful of times, but still…), I even contemplated suicide (although I dismissed that idea pretty quickly because I could never do that to my son). But I did spend months begging God to PLEASE give me a heart attack or something and take me Home. I actually had some pretty sharp chest pains a couple of times when I was home alone, and deliberately pushed the phone out of reach. Seriously.

I was shattered. I may be a Christian, but that has no bearing on the fact that I was truly devastated by my divorce. I didn’t just plaster a smile on my face and say, “praise the Lord and pass the potatoes!” It took me a little more than a year before I was able to see my future through hopeful eyes. God really blessed me with an abundance of grace that first year. And in the second, He filled me with hope. I’m always happy to talk more specifically about how He did these things in my life if anyone wants me to go into more detail, but the important thing to know right now is that God put me back together. I didn’t do it myself, nor did I look to another person/relationship to do it for me. GOD did it – and He can do the same for you if you’ll let Him. How He does it for you will probably be different than they way He did it for me, but that’s ok. If He wanted to work in everyone’s lives the exact same way, He wouldn’t have made us all so different.

So this new leg of my journey has me looking forward to learning more about how to live authentically and love outrageously. (Because come on, this is ME we’re talking about – I’m nothing if not outrageous!)

This should be an interesting year.