Tangled Webs, Deception and Freedom

Right now there’s a lot of controversy surrounding a popular blogger who lied about some big things. No, I’m not that blogger. (Whew!) But I used to lie a lot. I still lie sometimes. I’ve been careful not to do it on my blog, but for a long time I lied to everyone. I get it. I’m not going to write a post defending her actions, but I do feel empathy toward her.

There are things from my past that are hard to talk about..hard to think about…that caused me to make mistakes that I shouldn’t have. Most people remember bright spots in their childhood, but I remembered the bad parts for a long time. I don’t talk about those things here because they’re too private. I don’t want to relive the past. I dealt with the issues, but I had to crash first.

I hit rock bottom a few years ago. I spent over a decade pretending to be someone I wasn’t. I didn’t do it because I felt the overwhelming need to impress everyone (though there were times when that was the case.) I did it I because my formative years were excruciating in some ways, and I became conditioned to be dishonest. I took responsibility for that a long time ago.

My sister grew up in the same place I did. We saw things that kids shouldn’t have to see, and we witnessed hurts that no one should have to endure. She didn’t become a liar. In fact, she grew into the opposite while I lied enough for the both of us.

I lied to get attention at times, but most of the time I lied because I didn’t realize that I could actually be who I wanted to be. I lived in a snowball effect of self-hatred, and it was easier to pretend that I was some  sort of impressive, elitist game changer than it was to pursue a path to become a person who facilitated change. I’m in my mid-thirties and just started figuring this out a few years ago even though it should have been obvious the whole time.

In short, it’s easy to say that lying is wrong, and it definitely is. The reasons that we do it just aren’t always quite so black and white. I didn’t do it to put one over on people, nor did I do it to be impressive. I lied because I despised myself and my life. I didn’t like the person I had become, and I felt completely worthless and helpless to change any of it. 

I lied for myself. It started as my attempt at self-preservation, and it turned into a way that I could feel loved (even though it wasn’t real.) I didn’t do it to hurt other people, but I did. I hurt people I was close to, many of whom forgave me without another thought. They allowed me to rebuild their trust, and now I have stronger relationships than I ever could have imagined.

There were a few who weren’t so gracious, and I get it. There are people who don’t think that I deserve forgiveness, and I realize that I have to accept that. I forgive myself anyway. I don’t need their approval the way I once did. Thankfully, most of the people in my life have shown grace.

I think that’s one of the reasons I’m drawn to God too. We all make mistakes; we all sin. (Romans 3:23) He offers enough grace and mercy to cover us every single day. I don’t have to live in shame and unforgiveness because Jesus paid the price for every single sin before I even knew I’d commit it.

The blogger I mentioned in the beginning of this post lied, and there’s no excuse for it. I’m just saying that I feel for her because I know how hard it is to stop lying once you start. I’ve been there, and I think that if we’re all honest, we’ve all been there. She took it too far, and I’m not defending her actions.

When I lied I didn’t do it because it was fun; I did it to cover up the emptiness, loneliness, isolation, guilt, lethargy and shame that I allowed to define me. I lied to cover those things up. I figured that it was easier to falsely impress someone at least for a while than it would be to let them know me because if they knew who I really was, what would there be to like?

I was tired of feeling lonely, but I felt lonely anyway. Lying didn’t bring me closer to people. It helped to create surface relationships, but nothing lasted because I couldn’t let anyone know who I was. I hate that I wasted so many precious years trying to make everyone like me. I regret wasting so much time before realizing that I’d rather have a few friends who genuinely know me and like me than to be surrounded by people who never scratched the surface.

When I started blogging I learned that I could be myself and that people would probably still like me. When I started making friends in New Orleans, I laid everything out upfront. I told many of my friends, starting with Clint (aka The Suit) and many people at NOLA Church, that it was hard for me to be honest. I explained that it was rarely my default response, and through lots of prayer and graciousness from the people sitting on the front row of my life, I began facing the truth and putting into practice. (James 5:16-17 is pretty clear about how to handle that.)

I’m still tempted to lie sometimes pretty often. (I proved that recently when I talked about my potential to enter into an adulterous thing in a previous post.) Sometimes lying feels easier in the moment, but it gets out of control quickly.

I am so thankful that I’m no longer a slave to the self-loathing and lies that I used to allow to define my existence. I’m so thankful for God’s incredible and unwavering mercy that allows me to live in freedom every day. I’m thankful for the second chance that I received, and I sincerely hope that the popular blogger gets a second chance as well.

*****

For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

Romans 7:18 

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

James 5:16-17

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tornado Warnings in New Orleans

The power is currently out at my office, and we are experiencing some pretty severe weather. My office is on the bottom floor of the building’s interior, so I feel safe even though tornado warnings are always a little disconcerting. 

  
Growing up (mostly) in Texas and Oklahoma means that I’m no stranger to severe, tornadic weather, but it’s been a long time since I sat through a rought thunderstorm. 

Thankfully, I stopped for coffee on my way to work, so I’m content until the power resumes. I’ve heard that there’s an electric pole down a block or so from the building, but I don’t know that’s true or not. I do know that the wind blew a train off of the elevated bridge, not far from the Starbucks that I frequent! A TRAIN WAS BLOWN OFF OF THE ELEVATED TRACKS. 

It’s roaring outside, but I’m safe. I’d be safe at home too because I live in a tower that has survived nearly a century of severe weather, but I’m happy to be here because I’m among my co-workers. 

If you’re reading this, what’s the weather like where you are? 

Maybe I Can Be A Morning Person After All

I’ve been going through a period of adjustment lately, and I’m surprised that it hasn’t been more taxing. I thought it would feel really harsh to wake up at 6 am, but it’s not as awful as I feared it might be. Sunday afternoon I wasn’t looking forward to waking up early, but once Monday came it wasn’t too bad. I like what I’m doing at work, which makes it pleasurable to go in. 

I miss seeing my early afternoon Starbucks buddies, but I see most of them when I’m there to tutor, have meetings and/or coffee with friends, etc. Life doesn’t feel terribly different than it did before this transition, which makes me think that being a morning person isn’t so bad. I actually love that I’ve accomplished so much by 9 am. 

I’m not sure what my next step will be. ( Well, I have an idea, but nothing definite yet.) I just know that I’m much more open to the idea of getting to work early most mornings. That frees me up to do some things that I wasn’t willing to do previously. 

Who knew that growing up could be so rewarding and not at all dreadful? 😉 

An Honest Look At My Weight

I lost four pounds last week. Having a schedule that requires me to plan what I’m going to eat has definitely been helpful, but I had mixed emotions after looking at some photos that my friend, Simone, took of me over the weekend. 

  

I know I’ve gained a lot of weight. I don’t beat myself up for it because that doesn’t lead to positive results (at least not in the long run.) I don’t try to hide it, nor do I feel sorry myself. My weight gain, which happened for the most part last year, came as a direct result of choices that I made. I’ve talked about them here many times before, so I’ll skip that today. 

The added weight feels more noticeable now that it’s back than it did before I ever lost it. I’m still thankful that I stopped myself before I gained it all back, but I’ve gained enough to feel a significant shift. It’s incredibly visible too when I look at photos of myself from 2010, 2011, and 2012 compared to now. 

It’s easy to get frustrated, but that won’t yield any postive results. It’s just hard to recognize and admit that I don’t look or feel how I want to. I dress well, and I am well-groomed. I don’t feel ugly. In fact, I’ve been feeling kind of pretty a lot lately. (Thank you, GwynnieBee.) I’m just still aware of changes that I need to make. 

Life is so much better than it was a few years ago. I’m more content on the inside than I’ve ever been, but I also know that there’s more work to do on the outside. I’m glad I lost 4 pounds this week. Now I’m working toward being smaller next week, which has happened several times this year. 

I know that if I shed some of the excess I’ll feel better than I do now even though I don’t feel awful (yet.) I’d rather see the scale move down than move up, and it seems like the only way to make that happen is to go back to tracking everything that I put in my mouth. I started doing that when I started my new position, and it definitely makes me more congnizant of what I’m doing.

It’s incredibly frustrating, but I don’t hate myself for messing up so much of the work that I put into getting healthy. The truth is that I love myself enough to see my needs here and to change them. 

This road is a long and tedious one, but I’m still here…still not indulging in everything I want and recognizing that I spent far too much time trying to fill the gaping hole in my heart with food again last year. 

Now I’m focusing more on seeing myself the way God sees me, and I’m asking Him to be strong in my weakness. He promised to do that before I ever asked, and now I’m finally starting to take Him up on it in several areas of my life (including this one.)

I’m bigger than I want to be, and I’m working toward fixing that. It’s not my top priority, but at least it’s back in my top 5. I need to incorporate exercise back into my daily life, which means I may have to skip other things. (More on that later.)

I have a long way to go, but it feels like I’m moving in the right direction. 

The Slippery Slope of Temptation 

We all know that sometimes doing the right thing is hard; sometimes it just sucks. I’ve been struggling with desires that aren’t exactly in line with what God wants for me (and by ‘not exactly in line’ I mean absolutely not in line with His will.)

I used to be really closed off. I know that’s hard to believe because I’ve been spilling my guts here for years, but it’s true. I like attention, and I don’t have to work hard to get it these days. That can be a good thing, but it isn’t always. 

I’d love to say that I don’t know what draws people to desire a friendship/relationship with me when I meet them, but I know exactly what it is. I have a pretty positive outlook. I have some cool characteristics to offer. I’m friendly, sincere, and I extend a lot of grace because it’s been extended to me. I listen more than I talk, which is a relatively new characteristic for me. (I’m still striving to improve that one.) In short, I’m kind of cool, blah,blah, blah…and I love people. 

A few months ago I met someone that I had seen nearly everyday for months prior. He’s tall and handsome, and I often felt the desire to pray for him even though I didn’t know him. Earlier this year a mutual friend introduced us, and a friendship was born. There hasn’t been a single day that we’ve crossed paths without him hugging me, having a seat, and exchanging stories about our day, our past, our favorite grocery store, etc. 

He’s adorable and easy to talk to, and lately I’ve found myself struggling to keep boundaries in place in my mind even though he’s married. We have absolutely not done anything inappropriate outside of my agreement with his acknowledgment that we need to be careful with each other. We’re always in public, and we’re typically surrounded by other people that I know who come in to chat. I’ve just noticed that I think about him even when he’s not there. (I’m thinking about him now, and he’s not here.) 

I’m acknowledging this here for a couple of reasons: 1. It’s the truth, and I face the truth now even when I don’t like it, and 2. Loving Jesus doesn’t mean that life suddenly becomes perfect. Yes, He paid the price for my sins, and He extended His grace because without it, I’d be damned to hell. I’m so thankful for that, but I still struggle with doing the right thing. Right now I’m struggling more than I’d like to admit, but I’m facing it anyway. 

Religion likes to make us believe that once we become believers that we’ll no longer have problems. Religion urges us to act as though we no longer face temptation. God didn’t promise that life would be filled with sunshine and rainbows. Actually, Paul said just the opposite. In some ways, at least in this moment for me, it’s harder to fight the desire to sin. I didn’t feel tempted nearly as often when Satan wasn’t bothered by me; now he preys on my weaknesses, so I have to be on guard constantly. 

I have no plans to act on any of the thoughts that have played in my mind over the last week or so, nor will I be throwing him on the floor to do ungoldly things at any point…ever. I just won’t. I value myself more than that, and I value my relationship with God a lot more than that. There are lines that I simply won’t cross, but it would be naive of me to think that I’m immune to falling on my face if I try to deal with this without inviting God into the situation. (God knows I’ve done it a million times in different circumstances.) 

The thing is…Jesus was very clear when He said that anyone who even looks at another person lustfully has already committed adultry in his heart. (Matthew 5:28) Ouch!

God takes repentance very seriously, yet I seem to be struggling with turning away from my sinful thoughts (which include a desire for more attention from him among other things.) Confessing these feelings won’t change anything unless I stop giving them space in my mind, yet I’m having trouble wanting to do that too. 

The man is often at a place that I frequent, and that won’t likely change in the immediate future. I like him. I want to be his friend. I want him to experience the love and grace that I’ve experienced since getting to know Jesus. I just need to get out of the way so that can happen. 

Proverbs 19:23 says that the fear of the Lord leads to life, and He who has it will abide in satisfaction. In Monte’s sermon yesterday, which was timely, he said that living satisfied is a choice. Jesus is all I need, and I know that if I focus on Him, he’ll work this out just as He has in every other situation. 

My goal is to focus on who He is, to worship Him, and to fill my mind with gratitude for that and all He’s doing. He’ll just have to take care of the rest, and He will because, you know, He’s God and everything. 

Obesity and Energy Levels

I receive a lot of unsolicited advice about my “health,” and most of the time I appreciate it because people care enough to say something. It’s an important issue, but my size doesn’t accurately portray my energy level to many looking at me from a distance. 

Say what you want about my need to lose weight. That’s an undisputable fact, but I’m going to brag about my energy levels for a moment. 

I get up around 6 am during the week, and I’m up almost as early on Sunday mornings. Most days I’m away from home for more than 12 hours at a time. I’m gnerally not the “sit on the sofa while eating pizza while binging on Netflix” type, though I did make an exception for House of Cards. I’m the “wake up, hit the ground running, let’s smile because it’s finally time to be awake” type (at least most days.) 

I sleep well. When my head hits the pillow, it usually isn’t long until I’m dreaming. I typically feel rested when I wake up. I indulge in occassional Sunday naps, but it’s not a requirement…not even close. 

I have more energy and endurance than a lot of people who are much smaller than I am, but I don’t have as much as I had two years ago. This isn’t a post about comparing myself to other people because I don’t do that; this is about me. 

I’m aggravated with myself because I gained a significant amount of weight back, but I’m doing better. I’m consistenly eating less and making better choices. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but it’s been better for the last few months. 

My routine feels pretty solid now, but I need to exercise more than I do. I need to do it consitently because I know that it will lower my stress levels and increase my energy levels. It’s a win-win, so why am I struggling to do it? 

I’m busy from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep. I enjoy everything I do, so rarely does it feel like burden. I’m thankful for that. I don’t prioritize my workouts, which is no secret here. I know that needs to change, which is also not a secret. 

I know that I need to continue taking steps in the a healthier direction. I’m doing that by cooking chicken in my slow cooker and bringing my lunch to work, making more time to get enough sleep, drinking water, and eating vegetables. I know that there’s so much more to do. 

I just find it a little frustrating (and silly) that people (though most of them mean well) spend their time and effort telling me how I should detox, or how I should do this or that because it will give me more energy, etc. It’s odd because those people (the recent ones) aren’t as healthy, balanced, or energized as I am. They’re just skinnier. 

I don’t offer a lot of unsolicited advice, but if I did, I’d start by suggesting that people offer less unsolicited advice. I’d follow that up with the need to recognize that our looks don’t always portray everything that’s happening on the inside. In fact, it rarely does. 

This isn’t something that I plan to lose sleep over. It’s just a little PSA for those well-intentioned, yet misguided folks. I’m okay. I could sugarcoat what I’m about to say, but it’s not intended to be mean:

If you’re talking about this with me and I yawn, it’s probably just because these talks bore me. Thank you for caring. Just take a bit more time to pay attention to the reality of my situation if you’re going to comment on it. I’m juggling my priorities right now, and I’ll keep trying to do better. 

—–

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. 

Collossians 3:17

Two Years Later

I can’t believe that it’s been two years since I first walked in to NOLA Church. I know I gush about it frequently, but it’s because of the incredible impact being there has had on my life. 

When I arrived I was broken and in desperate need of the radical life change that Paul described in Romans. I was drowing in sin, directionless, and I was scared to change any of it. 

I thought I had to get my act together before I could turn to God. I knew what the Bible said about repentance, which is the act of turning away from sin. I just wasn’t ready to turn away; I honestly didn’t know where to begin.

My sins felt so big; my shame felt all-encompasing. At the same time I was filled with pride. I wanted the folks around me to know that I had grown up in church. I know verses like Romans 3:23 and Jeremiah 29:11. I had tons of Bible passages memorized, even the one in John when Jesus says that we’ll have troubles, but don’t worry because He’s overcome the world. (John 16:33)

I knew all about Him, but it wasn’t until I showed up (and kept showing up) that I began to understand the difference between knowing about Him and having a relationship with Him.

I wrote about that a year ago. Those changes were significant, but I’ve gone through many new changes over the last 365 days. I’m definitely still in a season of major change, but it’s cool to look back at where I was and where I am right now.

At this time last year I had experienced a lot of growth, but I was still struggling with surrender. I struggle with it now, but it’s not as hard to invite God into my situations as it once was. 

The first time I met with my pastor, Monte, he said, “Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable” or something like that. I remember looking at him like he was crazy (and a little scary) because I love comfort. I seek it constantly…through food, relationships, and all kinds of other things that provide momentary satisfaction. I didn’t understand what he meant back then, but I do now. 

Surrender isn’t easy; it’s not comfortable, but it’s important to recognize that without God, I’m nothing. I mean, if you know me, you know that I haven’t always made perfect choices. I’ve made mistakes; I’ve been too dependent on things for satisfaction. I’ve been wrong a lot. 

In January of last year I had an opportunity to surrender my feelings to God, and I said, “no way.” I was prepared to fight Him for something that I didn’t really want instead of asking what He wanted from me. I did things my way once again because it was too scary to let go, and as a result I went through a lot of unecessary pain. 

For months I refused to ask God to intervene in that circumstance. I gave other things up (things that I liked that I knew didn’t please Him,) which made me feel as though I had given up enough. (Uh, note to self: God’s way is so much better.) I did not yet understand that I’ll never surrender something to Him that He doesn’t replace with something better. 

In July of last year I had an even bigger crisis of faith. I wasn’t prepared to give God what was already His in financial circumstances (tithing,) and after the realization that God doesn’t need my money, I started tithing because I wanted to put Him first in every part of my life (even money.) That wasn’t exactly easy to do because I like to be in control. I’ve always taken pride in being autonomous, and I still am. I just choose to say, “Hey God, I trust you to be My Provider,” and He has been so faithful. (God is awesome like that.) 

Life didn’t suddenly become perfect because I love Jesus. I still struggle with food and other things. I know that my desire to eat more than I should is something I have to surrender. (Again, I’ve proven that I can’t do it on my own.) I’ve also been open about how hard it is to turn away from it.) I just know that life without God sucks, but knowing Him gives me so much hope. 

In looking back I see that I’ve grown in my relationship with God. I’m not as self-centered as I was, and I love sharing His love with everyone I meet. I want others to feel the peace, joy, and contentment that I feel because of His mercy and unconditional love. I get passionate about it because  it has radically altered my entire life. 

I couldn’t have imagined all of the amazing changes that I would experience the first time I went to NOLA Church. I am so thankful for God’s love and for the community of people there who have walked with me on this incredible journey so far. 

I’m humbled and amazed by God’s willingness to use me as His vessel, and I’m already looking forward to seeing where that leads in the next year. As long as Jesus stays at the center, I know it will be better than I can imagine.

*****

You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.

Romans 2:3-4 (The Message)

Are Cankles A Job Hazard?

I feel like I’m adjusting well to life at the office, but I’m having one issue that I wasn’t expecting. My feet and ankles are swelling.

Is it safe to assume that it’s because I’m sitting a lot more than normal? Several people have said that, but why would sitting make your feet swell? What should I be doing to combat it?

I’ve been taking my lunch to work each day, and I’ve made packed healthy and well-balanced meals. I’m also drinking a lot of water. I bring it by the gallon, so I can refill my pretty Starbucks tumbler all day.

I’m not incorporating exercise into my daily routine yet, but I know that will help the swelling too. Won’t it?

It’s amazing to realize how much I move around on an average day. Coming here has definitely made me much more sedentary than I was, so I need to figure out how to be active during the days that I’m here too.

I walk to the far restroom when I need to go, and I spend my little breaks walking around the building. I just need to do more, and I’m not sure where to start. I’m only here Monday through Thursday of most weeks, but that’s a big chunk of time.

I’m eating healthier things, and I’m going to bed earlier. I’m drinking water, and I need to exercise.

Does anyone have ideas to help reduce the swelling? If so, I’d love to hear them.

 

 

Embracing Change Today

I’m writing this post from my new office. (Don’t worry; I’m on a break.) My desk is in an office in the corner of a government building, but I don’t mind. It’s just so weird to have a desk after so many years of doing everything from home or the coffee shop.

Kenlie Tulane Cup

Change is scary, but I I think I like this one. It feels good to do things differently, and it’s not as scary as I thought. I’m not sure why I dread things at times that end up being good for me, but I’m guilty of that sometimes.

In this case I’m just really thankful for the opportunity, and I’m looking forward to creating some good habits while I’m here.  I packed my lunch and snacks: salad with roasted chicken, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, and pretzel thins with a Laughing Cow wedge. I also brought my Nalgene that I plan to fill a few times a day while I’m here. 

Sometimes change isn’t as horrible as I worry that it will be, and on days like today I’m thankful for that.

Meal Planning

It’s been a long time since I did meal planning, but I’m working on a list for things that I can make and take to work with me next week. I typically work from the comfort of my home (or Starbucks,) but I’ll have to be more proactive with planning if I want my transition to go smoothly. 

I don’t know if I’ll have access to a refrigerator and/or microwave, but I’m assuming that I will. I want to prepare healthy snacks and lunches that won’t bother others. (I will not be the woman who makes popcorn at the office. It seems invasive to me.)

I know I could bring things like almonds, but the fact is that they don’t do much for me. I need to come up with some ideas that will be healthy, yet appealing. 

My plan is to pack fresh fruit in one container and fresh veggies in another. I also have olive oil popcorn from Trader Joe’s, which will be easy to portion out. I purchased some KIND bars earlier this week, and they’ll definitely make their way into my rotation as well. Maybe I’ll do almonds and string cheese. I have a stash of rosemary and balsamic chicken breast from Trader Joe’s as well. Greek yogurt should probably go on my list too.

I want to lose weight. I want to get my habits under control, and I think that this could be a good way to do it. Today I am making chicken and spinach soup, which shouldn’t have a strong scent if it’s reheated. It’s easy and delicious, and adding a little tortellini thickens it up nicely too. ( I think tortellini is fine since it will be portioned out.)

I haven’t been doing what a person needs to do to lose weight, but I’m going to give it another go. I think that with some planning, I can see success again. What do I have to lose (except weight?)