JOURNEY THROUGH OCTOBER: CONQUERING FEAR – Giving up Friday

~week four~

In the summer of 2014, God made a request to me.  He put it on my heart to spend every Friday with Him in the summer months.  This meant putting aside other things, taking off work and being faithful for a season.

For those of you who know this story of my life, you know that I didn’t take off one single Friday that summer.  After confessing what I missed, I haven’t thought a lot about June, July and August of 2014.  I did take off this past Friday though.  A friend of mine traveled very far to spend a week with me.  As a result, my thoughts of the summer past came back to me.

Over that week with my friend, there were many days that I did things I normally do not do.  We sat at the beach and talked about the details of our lives that get missed when there is distance between two friends.  We smiled about age that continues to creep up on us.  We talked about the complications of love and relationships.  We ate out and shopped some.  We shared dreams, aspirations and hurdles.  We walked arm in arm in the warm sun and finally said our goodbyes for another six or more months.

As I headed back to normal life.  Having missed a few mornings and nights with my kids and husband.  Having missed some time at work.  After getting one good night of sleep back in my bed, I reflected on time spent with her.  I saw a few things differently.  It’s good to see beyond your own views.  I had some renewed enthusiasm for my daily grind.  Being away makes home better.  I said goodbye looking forward to next time.  Time spent with a good friend is good for the soul.

I see very clearly now what God was saying to me that summer.  He wanted to speak into my life so I could see a few things differently.  He wanted to renew me so that I could be a better woman.  He wanted to spend time with me because that is what friends do.  It would have been good for my soul.

I’m going to leave you with a call to action as I wrote it in the fall of 2014.  I am not sure that I could have meant it more than when I wrote it one year ago.  What is different now?  The call to action is lathered in love, quality time and friendship even more so now than then.

So, all of this about me, to say to you, that I am sure that there is something you are holding on to.  I am sure of that because we are not in heaven.  You have a lot of excuses like I do. Some come across as very justified, but they are not.  I know for a fact that you are braver than me and can let go of the thing, go do the thing, step out into the thing . . . before the thing expires.  You don’t need to wait anymore to do the thing you are supposed to do.  Please do it.  And, after you do, tell me all about it.  I’ll be encouraged to the thing He calls me to do.  At the very next redemptive opportunity. 

JOURNEY THROUGH OCTOBER: CONQUERING FEAR in DR

~week one~day 5~

Last summer, our whole family visited my brother in Dominican Republic.  Going somewhere new is brave.  Traveling with your whole family is brave (but we love it!).  Adventure and nature make you brave.  I have some great stories of bravery from our summer trip.

My favorite story of bravery was my sister in law up on the mountains zip-lining.  I had no idea she hated heights.  She didn’t look scared at all.  She geared up to go with the GoPro cam strapped to her helmet.  I would have never known she was scared until I heard her whispering her bravery mantra to herself between taking deeps breaths.  “I can do this.  Yes, I can do this.”  And then she jumped off the ledge.  Flying across the line.  13 times.  Fear was behind her.

Another great story of bravery was my 81 year old grandma walking the ramp to the wood ledge over the deep spring.  About 10-12 feet above the water, she listened to us cheer her on and jumped!  The cool water meet her and she came up for air smiling ear to ear.  No doubt she jumped, in part, to keep alive the adventure my late grandpa was well known for.

We saw other kinds of bravery.  In the slums of Santa Domingo, we visited a family whose kids were sponsored by Compassion International.  About eight people and a few pets lived in a tiny metal semi-permanent structure built over the city’s sewer system.  I think of the mom as brave.  She was brave because she was navigating her faith around her husband who reminded me of the old Temptations song – – Papa Was A Rollin Stone.  She faithfully brought her kids to the Compassion school.  She let strangers in to see her circumstances if only for an opportunity to share her story.  She let us pray for her mainly because when the needs are too great to meet, you have no option except to bring it to God.

I think we’re made to be brave.  I think fear is meant to be conquered.  I think we have it in us to tell ourselves to be brave.  To jump off ledges into air or water.  Whether we are 8 or 80.

Warrior Friends

The rain surrounding the storm Erica poured down as I pulled in a great big hug from my friend Sharon.  We did summer with barely a peep between us.  But as the school year rolled in, it was too unfamiliar to let another week pass.  Without sitting and talking about me & her & kids & school & parenting & our mothers & love & God & change & fear & forgiveness and then finally, when are we meeting next?

We sat together in rain, shine and Florida humidity every other Thursday for the whole 5th grade school year.  Our sacred Thursday meetings are supposed to be as real as the human soul can be.  When we began, we bobbed through months of testing the waters of real.  Can I cry?  Can I call you between Thursday meetings?  Can I tell you the truth about my struggle?  Can I ask you hard questions?  Can you help me decide what to do?  Do I quit or persevere?  We will continue to sit together and share real words among two real women.  Doing real life.  In a real attempt to mirror Jesus.

What I am learning as a person: Take in the beauty of a good friend’s words.  Let them pounce into your heart.  Let them strain out the doubt from your soul when you are doing good.  Let them point out the path of righteousness when you staggering.  Let her words be like honey in warm tea whether you are sipping to get better or sipping to stay well.

Verse:  The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction.  Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.  Proverbs 16:23-24

Deep Thought:  I have intentionally halted at chapters of two different books unexpectedly covering fear and anxiety.  My dear friend Sharon concludes that God won’t let me side step what He wants me to hear.  My dear heart stirs and senses that God has something to say about fear and anxiety.  So, yes, I will read and grow and change.  And, while I don’t yet know exactly what He plans to say, I promise to read and grow and change.

Quote: … “Before I was formed in my mother’s womb” – – and here I paused to add, unable to resist, “whose ever womb that was – – God knew me.  He knitted together my innermost parts and fashioned all of my days before there was even one of them.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Even though I only just found out that I was adopted, God has always known, and he has always loved me.  And since that has never changed, therefore nothing has essentially changed. I may not be who I thought I was, but I still am who he says I am.  And I am more.  I am loved.  I am his.”  Undaunted by Christine Caine

Book(s)/Blog(s)/People that Shape Me: I hesitate to root for what I haven’t yet read, but I suspect that Wild in the Hollow:Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home by Amber C Haines will be exactly what it says it will be.

My Prayer to You: My prayer is that you have a few warrior girlfriends.  The kind that make time to know you.  Grow you and take full pleasure in seeing God work in your life.  I pray that you keep an open ear to Wisdom in whatever form she comes, in whatever pain or joy you are experiencing.  I pray that you are a warrior-friend to one or two or three others.  May you choose gracious words for her that heal like honeycomb and are sweet to her soul.  May you remember that, no matter what, you are who He says you are.  You are what He says you are.  And, that is Loved.  Amen.

Written By Sasha Katz

Swimsuit Season, Anyone?

Go to fullsize imageBy Bindu Adai-Mathew

I have two words to make you completely cringe and cause the hair on the back of your neck to recoil in disgust: swimsuit season.

 Yes, those two words are powerful. As children, it evokes images of summertime spent gallivanting in cool water to ward off the scorching summer heat.

 As adults, it evokes endless hours of our stomachs twisting in knots and hands wrenching with worry as we try to figure out how to “undo” months of our bad winter behavior in a matter of weeks so we can be bathing suit ready.

 For those of you in your twenties, getting into that cute swimsuit might require cutting down on a few snacks and reducing your intake of junk food. (Sorry, I’ll try not to hate you!)

For those of us who are no longer in our twenties and especially those of us who have had kids, that means not eating. Ever again. Oh, wait! I take that back. We’re allowed celery and lettuce. Apparently, those are negative calories because the amount of calories it takes our body to digest those types of foods is greater than the number of calories that are in them. Somehow that gives us hope that we can actually start tapping into the gigantic fat reserves that have made their permanent home around our thighs and hips.

Got body issues?

Skinny. Fat. Average Jane. Supermodel Janelle. We all have issue with our bodies. You can put a group of 10 women in a room together, and their body issues will be greater than the number that are just in the room. Put them all in bathing suits in a room and their body issues will be exponentially greater.

Take me, for example. In a business suit, I feel powerful. Capable. Put me in a bathing suit, and I feel vulnerable. Exposed. The entire time I’ll be fidgeting with my swimsuit, tugging and pulling to make sure I’m completely covered and worrying about what someone else will think about my less than perfect body. And is it me, but why is okay to wear bikinis out in public when it’s not okay to wear our bras and underwear out in public? Aren’t they one and the same? Or am I the only prude who thinks so?!

For many of us, our bodies are our sore spots. But as experts tell us, our attitude towards bodies are often indicative of emotional and mental issues and scars.

 But I want to remind you that our attitude towards our bodies can also be a spiritual thermometer.

 How so? Well, even as early as Genesis, we can see a spiritual connection between God and our bodies. When God made Adam and Eve, the Bible says He made them after his own image. But Chapter 2 adds 25The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”

But by chapter 3 of Genesis, they have sinned by eating the fruit from the forbidden tree:

7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Isn’t it in interesting that they weren’t ashamed of their bodies before they sinned but only after?

As far as we can tell, nothing had changed in Eve’s body. Eve didn’t eat one too many mangoes. Neither did she have a kid, gain a bunch of weight, and then suddenly become embarrassed about the extra cellulite. The scripture is clear—her shame had a direct correlation with her sin.

What shame are you camouflaging under your skinny jeans or swimsuit wrap?  And I’m not talking just about your sin…I’m talking about what others may have done to you…because even if you are the innocent victim of someone else’s sin, the shame of sin can still transfer on to you…it can linger on your skin, eating away like a parasite at your self-esteem.

Whether we realize it or not, our bodies have a direct spiritual connection to God. Even the Bible is clear on the matter that our bodies are more than just flesh: 

19Do 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; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6

Today I want you to take a personal inventory of your own attitudes about your body. Maybe, like many of us, you have been indulging in one too many potato chips…if that is the case, resolve to treat your body more healthily this year.  Occasionally substitute that craving for potato chips or chocolate with some fresh fruit…like apples…or some sweet, juicy mangoes (Sorry, it’s mango season here in South Florida! )

It will not be easy, but be determined to take better care of your body this year. After all, if you have visitors coming to visit your home, wouldn’t you do some spring cleaning, tidy up the clutter, and spruce up the place?  Well, remember, according to 1 Corinithians 6: 19-20,  you do have a permanent guest of honor residing in your home.  Now that verse makes swimsuit season seem trivial in comparison, doesn’t it?

And even if your body is less than ideal, resolve to find your peace with it. Several years ago, I came to the conclusion that it was futile to fight my body. I was never going to be a supermodel so why was I bothering to hate and fight it so? I might as well accept the way God made me and do my best to take care of it.

Or maybe your negative attitude towards your body is the result of something horrible that happened to you a long time ago, and you’ve decided your body is pretty much worthless and not worthy of being treated well.

Again I encourage you to pour out your hurt to God. Isaiah 61:3 promises you who are grieving that God will trade you a  “crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

Whatever you have been through or whatever has been done to you, you are not worthless. That is what Satan will have you feel and believe. But it is a lie. God can and WILL trade you your hurt and shame for beauty. He can heal you, and you can once again be a shining example of what He always intended when He created us.  After all, it isn’t just your body…it’s HIS.

My prayer for you beginning with today, July 4th, is that we inspire you this month to live and celebrate your life in spiritual freedom! Freedom from self-condemnation, self-hatred towards your body. We hope to connect those dots between the body-mind-spirit  that can encourage you to live your life to its fullest. Remember your true relationship with your body and with God is a reflection of your attitude and your heart…not the reflection of your dresser mirror.

Be Out of Your Ordinary: The 31 Day Mind-Body-Spirit Challenge

By AbbyA

As the heat of summer kicks in – – kids out of school – – the regular routine is on hold for a few more months.  Less traffic, more weekend plans, road trips.  We have a chance to be somewhat out of our ordinary.  We took a road trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Although I worked a fair amount of it, I stayed up late without worrying about lack of sleep for tomorrow.  I saw the bloom of beautiful pink rhododendrons on the top of Roan Mountain.  I watched our kids roar with laughter on the white water raft.  I had a chance to be challenged spiritually . . . walked a little further down the path that God has prepared for me.  Celebrated my birthday.  But even there in the midst of surroundings that look like God’s perfect peace, we can be distracted.  Did I really need to skip my morning bible study to try to finish my work  before the kids woke up?  Did I really need to bypass a country drive with my husband because it was time to make dinner preparations?  Did the laundry in the cabin basement really matter?  (Okay, that did.)

The heart of what I am getting at is God’s greatest commandment to Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  Matthew 22:37.  God fully equipped us to serve Him with the gift of intellect, hands and feet and a spirit.  While we know that the Trinity always is in perfect peace, keeping our mind, body and spirit connected is not easy.   The tough part is that if we are not connected in body-mind-spirit, we trip up in our judgment.  Hence, skipping a drive with husband to cook dinner or skipping a bible study for no good reason.  It comes out in other ways too.  How about feeling exhausted and, instead of taking a jog or a nap, you go through way too many Ghirardelli squares to calm your nerves.  And, what about those nerves?  Have you given your mind attainable, challenging goals?  Or are you cycling through out-of-whack emotions where you can’t focus?

Connecting your mind-body-spirit is not about self-help or self-improvement.  It’s about honoring God’s greatest commandment to love Him with all three.  The Trinity gives us the best example of this.  Each of its person serves a purpose and stays in perfect unity with the other.  If we can seek to keep the mind, body and spirit connected, we’ll be able to genuinely live out God’s greatest commandment.

This month, give yourself a chance to be out of your ordinary with us.  We are going to take a week to look at and consider, first, our body.  We have so much to cover as women – – our body image, fitness goals, our body’s health.  During week two, we’ll delve into our mind.  What are your intellectual, professional, financial and career goals?  Are you setting out to make the best of your mind and keeping it healthy too?  Finally, the spirit.  Where are you at in your walk with God?  If you asked Him, would He tell you that you are just where He wants you or is it time to make some adjustments?  Yes, there is week four.  But, we are going to let God lead.  No doubt, you the readers and the Holy Spirit will tell where to end on this all-encompassing 31 day journey.    Be Out of Your Ordinary.  You never know where God will take you.