Category Archives: personal growth

My Confession: Off the Wagon

I have a confession to make: I fell off the wagon. No, I’m not becoming an alcoholic. I haven’t even failed at another diet. No, I’ve failed at a different goal. Back in January I made a plan to go through all of 2017 without purchasing any clothing, shoes, or accessories for myself that were not fair trade produced. I thought I could pull it off because I have a bathing suit that fits, and I didn’t need new athletic shoes. Those are typically the hardest things to find fair trade. But I only made it to May.

This week I went looking for a sundress or two for some summer events we have coming up. I found a couple options on Amazon that were made in the USA. Since there is a minimum wage in America and labor laws in place to protect workers, I figured it was safe to buy American. I’m not sure where the fabric was produced, just that the construction was done here, so it was a bit of a compromise.

Then my favorite bra turned on me. There is nothing quite like being stabbed in the heart… There are a few companies making fair trade under things, I’m a big fan of my Pact Organic socks, and I buy their undershirts for my guys, but I haven’t found a company that caters to plus sized people. In fact, everything fair trade is hard to find in plus sizes, but undergarments and swimwear are the worst.

Since I was already making an order, I bought a few other things. That’s how it goes, isn’t it? If I mess up my diet, I eat the whole buffet. If I break my shopping fast, I make it worth paying shipping. I didn’t max out a credit card or anything, but I picked up a bathing suit cover-up and a pair of pajamas along with some underthings.

My husband is turning 40 this summer, and he decided that rather than throw a party, he would like to go on a short trip, just the two of us (as an introvert, this was more his style). So we booked a birthday weekend in Vegas. In August. Yikes. August in the desert… Since I already failed at my goal, I bought a second bathing suit for the trip, and a pair of cute shoes that were really cheap.

I did it. I messed up. I can’t change that (well, I could return some things. But that’s not always an option). But I have to pick myself up and start again. I went four full months without buying anything that wasn’t fair trade. That’s pretty good. I learned some things about need vs. want and making do with what you have, and I practiced saying no to my urge to medicate my feelings with shopping (it’s like eating your feelings, but more expensive…). Because of my commitment, I also learned about some great fair trade companies. There were some wins, for sure. Now I need to dust myself off and start again. It’s never too late to do the right thing. One binge does not make me a bad person. I’ve only failed if I don’t pick myself up and get back on track. (I’m trying to convince myself here. Is it working? I think so.)

I’m always looking for fair trade retailers, especially if they carry hard-to-find items like swimwear, plus sizes, and athletic shoes! Share your favorite fair trade or American-made company in the comments!

How to be an effective liar (or recognize the one who is)

Toddlers are terrible liars. I love the recent internet video of the little girl adamantly arguing that she is not crying as she sobs. When my son was little he didn’t know how to explain his dad’s job (software engineer), so he told his teacher that dad was a chef – because he knew what a chef did. Their lies are laughably unbelievable.

Teenagers and adults are better liars, because they’ve learned how to play the game. For a lie to be believable, there has to be just enough truth there to get the listener to relax.

The Bible tells us that Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). He’s really good at twisting and manipulating the truth enough to sucker us in to believing his lies.

This morning I was in the shower, and I was contemplating my schedule. “I really need to carve out more time to spend with the Lord,” I thought to myself. Almost immediately, a verse from Matthew 28 came to mind: “…surely I am with you always…” What a comforting thought. I recognized the truth and almost fell for the lie. Yes, God is with me always, but am I always with him? When he is speaking, am I listening? When he wants to spend time with me, am I doing something else? When he is gently correcting me, am I open, or am I defending and excusing myself?

1 Peter 4:8 says, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” He doesn’t charge, he prowls. He’s sneaky. He wants to catch you unaware, to get you to believe the little twisted half truths. He reminds you of bad things you’ve done and tells you that it means you’re a bad person, unworthy of love and forgiveness. He reminds you of your imperfections and presents them as evidence that you are unusable in the kingdom. He takes a little bit of truth, like bait, and snares you with his lies.

Don’t fall for it. You are loved. You are worthy. You are useful in the kingdom. You are not perfect, but you are perfectly loved. Recognize this trick and learn to fight back. Fill your memory with scriptures that you can turn back at the liar.

Rhetorical question: what lies are you believing about yourself? What is the truth according to the Bible?

Divine Appointments: Avoiding “Should Have”

I’m ashamed to admit this, but I can’t even begin to tell you how often I stop and suddenly realize that I had an opportunity to help someone and didn’t even notice it. I hate that feeling, and I hate knowing that there are people struggling and suffering because I didn’t even notice, or I noticed and it didn’t dawn on me to do something about it. Do you ever feel like that? “Should have” is a painful phrase.

Recently a friend told me that she has been praying for opportunities to serve. This friend has a job that brings her in contact with random strangers all day long, and she told me that she prays before and during work for God to bring her opportunities. And He has! All through her shift, people seek her out to ask for help, and to share their burdens. She has started bringing along supplies to hand out to the needy, and snacks to share with anyone who asks. Is God bringing these people to her because she asked, or were they always there and she just started to notice? I think the answer is a bit of both.

First off, we serve a God who answers prayers. And a selfless prayer like “bring me in contact with people that I can bless” is certainly in line with the heart of God. So knowing that He has a willing worker on the streets is a great opportunity for God to bring people together. He loves his children, and wants to see needs met. He also wants to see our character develop, so when we ask Him to put us in opportunities to grow through serving, He’s not likely to say no to that!

Second, a “use me” attitude opens our eyes. If I go to work and all I’m thinking about is me and what I need to accomplish today, I’m like a horse wearing blinders. All I can see is the task immediately in front of me. But asking for these “divine appointments” removes the blinders. If you have a heart to look for needs, you will find them. They’re all around us!

There are many examples of divine appointments in the Bible. The book of Esther, for one, tells the story of a young lady put in just the right place at just the right time to save her people. After the queen disgraced him, king Xerxes held a reality-TV worthy search for her replacement. When he made Esther his queen, he had no idea that her presence in the palace would save the Jews. But Esther spoke up for her people, and they were saved. She didn’t desire to be queen, but she was willing, and God put her there. She was afraid to confront the king about her people, but she obeyed, and they were saved. Esther 4:14 reads, “who knows but you have come to your position for such a time as this?”

I ask you the same question: Who knows but you have come into your position (job, neighborhood, circle of friends, family) for such a time as this?

Open your heart and your eyes, and don’t be afraid to speak up. God can, and will, use you in big ways!

Greater Love

If you follow Food Shelf Friday on Facebook, then you may have seen this week’s scripture image featuring John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that to lay down one’s life for his friends.” This is a beautiful picture of what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross. It is also frequently used to honor the memory of heroes who sacrificed their lives in military service or in an effort to save others, like firemen and police who die in the line of duty. But I think there is more here, a message not just about the dead, but for the living.

Matthew 16:24-26 (also found in Luke 9, and Mark 8) – Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Galatians 2:20 –  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 5:24 – Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Death does not always mean the end of physical life. Repeatedly the Bible calls us to die to self, to willingly lay down what we want in favor of what God wants. We are called to deny ourselves, to stop striving to gain the whole world at the cost of our souls, and to keep our eyes on God’s kingdom over our own.

The flesh is strong. Very strong. I’m hungry, tired, weak, and selfish every day. And I find ways to appease myself every day. I eat junk food because it makes me happy and I “deserve” it. I rest when I should be busy (rest is not bad, you have to take care of yourself, but let’s face it, laziness is also real and I know most of us cross that line often). I fail to resist temptation. I think about myself and my rights first. This is what humans do. We take care of our own in as much comfort as we can afford, and then we think of others with our leftovers and cast-offs. It’s human nature.

But God’s nature is different. His eyes are on the big picture, a global scale that transcends time. Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us of this: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

God calls us to resist our own nature and take on his priorities. We are called to willingly sacrifice our rights, our comforts, and our sense of control for the ultimate goal of getting the gospel message to the people around us. We have to die to our selfish desires, showing the kind of love that Jesus showed when he was crucified to pay the penalty for our sins. In this way we show the ultimate kind of love, laying down our lives for a friend.

Overwhelmed

overwhelmed

In 1985, Dr. Kevin Leman published The Birth Order Book. It’s a good read. My favorite part is the opening sentence in the chapter on only children; “You can always tell the only child; he takes his briefcase to kindergarten.” As the mother of an only, I can tell you it’s true. Only children live with just adults, and sometimes they think they are adults.

My son fit this profile. When he was a preschooler he stopped taking naps, and those over tired days were hard. When J got overly tired, he would fixate on adult-like concerns. I remember him sobbing, “but mom, what will I do? I need a car to get to a job, but I can’t get a car until I get a job!” and “what if I get in an accident, and I don’t have money to fix my car?” After that one I made the mistake of explaining insurance. I thought it would comfort him, but over tired preschoolers are not easily consoled. “Mom, what if I can’t pay for insurance? If I don’t have insurance I can’t drive my car!” No matter how many times I told him that his dad and I would be there to help, no matter how many times I explained things, he just worried. He was tired. And four. (Ironically I blinked, and here we are providing the promised help as he works his first job and learns to drive. But that’s a different story.)

Sometimes I feel like that ridiculous overly tired preschooler. I look at the statistics, and I just want to wail that I can’t handle it!
1 in 9 people doesn’t get enough to eat.
1 in 4 children is stunted by malnutrition.
21,000 people die each day from hunger and hunger-related illness, many of them children.
A child dies from hunger or hunger-related illness every 10 seconds.
I just can’t do enough to put a dent in those staggering numbers.*

But maybe like my preschooler, I’m overwhelmed because I’m biting off more than I’m responsible for. Maybe I can’t save the world. But I’m not called to change the world. I’m called to change me. Think about the fruits of the spirit from Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  SELF-control. My goal is to improve the only person I can control – Me.

Maya Angleou wrote about this:
As I started my journey to being happy on purpose, I realized very quickly how little in my life was within my control. I had no power over other people; others will do, think, and feel what they want and there’s little I can do to change or even influence that. I could only manipulate my environment and the things that happened to me to a certain degree.

I started to wonder if I could control anything in my life at all and I realized that I can only control myself. More specifically I had control over my attitude and my reactions to what the world throws at me.

Mother Teresa understood this as well. She said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” And I’d say that served her pretty well! One person at a time she made an incredible difference for the hungry, and her legacy continues to inspire difference-makers today!

The systems that lead to hunger and inequality in this world are huge, and they’re beyond our control. But we can have an impact. We just have to fix our eyes on what we can control, ourselves, and work diligently to live our lives in a more mindful way.

 

*Quantifying these statistics is challenging. I chose to take this information from the UN World Food Programme, and the BBC. “Hunger related illness” means that an individual did not literally die of starvation, but that his or her immune system was compromised by inadequate nutrition, leading to death from some other illness, like measles.