Hearing What Isn’t Being Said

You remember in the cartoons there used to be a person who was having a hard time making a decision, perhaps feeling tempted by something and on one shoulder there was an angel and on the other a devil?  They were trying to influence the character in the direction that was preferred (the good or the dark side).  Inevitably whichever side won would smile and beam and the other would “poof away” into a cloud and disappear.

I have found myself in many situations where I feel as if I have two messengers trying to help me navigate a situation or circumstance.  Quite often this can be food related.  The voices that I hear are trying to sway me, pull me in their direction and influence me to make a decision for their camp.  It probably seems silly to some that there would be an internal dialogue over a second helping of something or whether or not to try something on the buffet, or to even have a piece of wedding cake at a celebration you might be attending.  Yet, for those who struggle with a food addiction that struggles is all too real.  It’s also not something that goes away overnight.  I count it a blessing that most decisions I make now in terms of food choices are made confidently and comfortably, but there are still times when I hear things that aren’t being said.  Voices fill my head with sounds that would strive to defeat me.  I must deafen them with the truth.  This takes form in both mental and often audible declarations such as: “I can say no to that food.”, “I don’t have to eat anymore.  I’m not hungry.”,  “Yes I DO have time for a run or a workout.”, “No I’m not going to get fat again.”, “Eat slowly.”, “Drink a glass of water instead.”, and “It’s fuel NOT a reward.”

Oh the voices…they are there.  Sometimes they take form in an audible voice such as a friend or family member inviting me to a place to eat or suggesting something that I know I just can’t do/have at this time.  Sometimes the voices come in the form of a picture, advertisement or a commercial featuring something amazingly yummy, sweet and tempting.  Sometimes I have planned ahead and so I know that when the voices come I can answer them appropriately.   Other times I’m caught off guard and I listen to the wrong voice. The best times though are when I’ve planned ahead, prepared by saving calories/nutrition points and done extra workouts and so I don’t even have to listen to those nagging voices.  I know that I can make a choice that I normally wouldn’t make on a daily basis, but it will be acceptable.  I had such a time on Friday night, on a date with Nathan when I could share a piece of Key Lime pie with him and not feel badly.  I could eat a piece of bread with dinner and know the world wasn’t coming to an end.  It felt great and it absolutely did not sabotage me for the next day or the weekend.  The only voices I heard that night were the ones saying “Why don’t you date this man more often?”

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not crazy.  There aren’t audible voices that tempt me, but I hope you understand that seriously there is a war that wages within me. It’s not just about food.  I admit that I hear things that aren’t being said in terms of emotional, spiritual and mental hurts, habits and hang-ups I have.  When someone offends me there are the voices….”How dare that person treat you that way.  You don’t deserve that.  You shouldn’t forgive them.  Hold onto that grudge.”  When I’m misunderstood or disrespected….”People just don’t get you. Probably because they aren’t smart enough, deep enough or capable compassion. Just dismiss them and their actions.”  Oh the things that I hear that aren’t true. These voices seem so loud at times.  I’m often bombarded with voices that seek to keep my drowning in fear, anger and sorrow.  These voices want to keep me isolated and destroy my relationships.  Popular music is often full of melancholy lyrics or anger.  That’s why I stay away from it in general.  A lot of movies have negative themes and a lot of art and fashion can be displeasing as well and cause emotions to rise within me that aren’t healthy.  Notice I said SOME because there is a lot of great art, music, sculpture, art and movies.  I’m just saying that I believe I should be careful what I’m putting into my heart and mind.

I’m grateful for the renewing of my mind and the truth that I hear.  Even though my situation or circumstance might not speak truth, it’s still being spoken over me, to me and in me by the Holy Spirit.  God’s Word helps to counteract the lies that I’m faced with but to hear the small, still voice of my Shepherd I have to practice listening.  Just as I have been trained in certain exercises and continue to train myself to be disciplined in moving my body more and eating less I must train myself to read, ingest and memorize the truth.  I can also hear God’s voice on a trail as I run, while I listen to worship when I’m cooking or doing laundry, as I run and talk with a friend, as I play with my children.  If my soul is ready to listen it can hear.  But to listen I must stop speaking.  I must be silent.

Also I surround myself with positive people who speak truth, have a greater understanding of reality and most often are aware of my struggle.  This support community intentionally tries to uplift me and be that “angel” on my shoulder helping me hear the voice of reason, the voice of truth.  I have such a community in Celebrate Recovery.  I’ve written about accountability previously, but I find it so important that I reiterate the point. It’s not bad to hear things that aren’t being said.  The question is….how will you respond?  How will I respond to what I hear? Will I have the courage to quell the negative voices and send them “poofing” away and walk in truth that is so much richer, higher, purer than a moment of temporary satisfaction that usually leads to guilt, shame and destruction.  Lord…may your still voice be the loudest that I hear.  May “You Speak”!!!

 

 

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“Restore Me to Sanity”

Celebrate Recovery step 2 says “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  That’s what I need currently…sanity. Throughout my life I’ve had seasons of doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results. Isn’t that insanity?  I’ve tried to be successful or accomplish something using an old pattern or behavior that no longer works for a current situation.  This coping skill has been tried not only in my personal life, but in this journey to health and wholeness.  Things must change and adapt and so must I.  God wants me to live a balanced, sane life and to make decisions wisely and with patience and clarity.

Obviously I didn’t get to 285.6 overnight.  Lately, I have been really wondering…how did I get there?  Even more recently how did I gain almost twenty pounds in 17 months?  How am I going to find my way back to “healthy”?  I want to dig deeper, to change the things that haven’t worked and to embrace reality.  I want to view ALL areas of my life with the clear lens of godly counsel, the Word of God, and truth, not fear.

I have been a part of a program, Celebrate Recovery, for 9 years and five months.  This program is based on the 12-steps of AA.  The difference is that the steps are paired with eight recovery principles and Scriptures that partner with each. My life in the past was filled with fear, anxiety, anger, co-dependent thinking and behavior and lots of pride.  This was almost a daily response for me. Those traits rear their ugly head from time to time and I’m always on guard for negative thinking and strongholds in my life.  I’m grateful for the tool of accountability and the program of Celebrate Recovery.  Because of my willingness to share in a safe place about my fear, depression, anger and food addiction I through the grace of God have lost over 100 pounds.  Learning to forgive and be forgiven has been amazing.  I now approach relationships with healthy boundaries and I’m loving people without expecting anything in return.
It doesn’t have to be Celebrate Recovery.  It could be therapy, Weight Watchers, a support group, OA, but I would encourage you to find a safe place to share.  I have a sponsor.  I have a running buddy and food accountability partner.  It makes a world of difference.
I’ve made big strides when it comes to fitness, exercise, health and accountability.  Food choices, organization, shopping, cooking, attitudes that surround food, and consistent losing of pounds are still a struggle at times.  I tend to be more up and down than I would like.  What I want is to come to full realization of negative patterns, behaviors and habits that are holding me back and keeping me from succeeding.  My prayer is for pure motives and a clean heart.  I don’t want to lose a pound if it is replaced with pride.So I journey on, daily praying for revelation, willpower, strength to get to the next phase of my journey.  I keep pressing on to the prize.  Phil 3:14 in the New Living Translation says “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”  As I’ve journeyed it has been great to meet people in person and on FB.  The connection with others who are on a journey towards health/wholeness/freedom/weight loss has been inspirational and uplifting.

 

I want to be healthy, whole, thinner, sane and joyful.  I desire to live a balanced, God-honoring life full of gratitude and peace.  Leaving a legacy of service, joy and love is important to me.  I have big dreams, but I have an even bigger GOD!!!  Fat 2 Fit by FAITH.  Ok…there’s also a lot of hard work involved too, BUT I can only do it by faith.  I’m so grateful to be running towards God, health, freedom, clarity, sanity and joy instead of towards chaos, people’s opinions, fear, food and bondage.  Here’s a song for the journey.  Thanks for reading.

Limited Sight Distance

On the route that I run I see this yellow road sign

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I’ve often thought about how this sign applies to my life and have wished that I could adequately express this notion. So today I’m going to write about how I’ve been feeling lately to try to process some emotions.

I have limited sight distance in my life. I wish that I could have this sign in my yard or wear it on a t-shirt. People in my life need to understand that I don’t have all the answers and I can only see a small distance in front of me. I wish I knew what was going to happen next, but I don’t. This is especially hard for my son Joseph to understand. He, because of his autism, likes to know EVERYTHING about an activity, experience or opportunity BEFORE it happens. He needs organization, detail and almost constant coaching through things. He HATES to hear the words “I don’t know”. I hate having to say them because I know the reaction I’m going to receive. I try to use picture or written schedules with him. We try to practice things in advance or talk through different scenarios. His ability to adapt is improving and I’m excited and hopeful that as he continues to mature his social skills and comfort in group situations will increase.

My other children are asking questions about “Why did we move to WA?”, or saying things like “It feels like we aren’t accomplishing what we came here to do Mom and Dad.” “How long are we going to live here?”, and “Will things ever change?” are also questions that we hear. These things are very hard to measure for two ten-year olds that are missing their friends in NC, struggling for connection and dealing with unmet expectation. I can’t relate because as a military “brat” I knew that moving was our lot in life and that it had a scheduled time frame. This is so different.

Missional work is very challenging and I’m not sure we are adequately equipped, but we feel called to serve here in WA and to come alongside the faith family at Restoration Church Mukilteo. We are all missing the comfort and predictability of NC and are looking forward to a visit this summer. We have lived in WA for 13 months, but it isn’t home yet. Today once again I am forced to retreat to living “One day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time…accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.”

Limited…I can’t see the future. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I only know who holds the future. I can rest and trust in my relationship with God. Jesus Christ has proven Himself faithful to me time and time again and I believe His word to be infallible and relevant to my life today. I believe that Jesus wants me to walk in expectant dependence upon Him and allow the Holy Spirit to guide my days. Proverbs 3:5-6 states “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” So it’s ok that it’s limited…I can’t see the way, but I won’t fail because God is guiding me.

There is a saying that goes “Hindsight is 20/20”. I think what they are getting at is when you look back at the past you can see a situation more clearly. Perhaps there has been a lesson learned and applied. However, it is dangerous to spend too much time in the past. Even IT has limited sight distance. Details are forgotten. The mind can play tricks and things can be changed to fit into our life now or remembered in a way that makes us feel better about the past or ourselves. The past should be used to help us live a better present and to shape our future in a positive way. I’ve spent time revisiting my past through Celebrate Recovery and for the most part have dealt with the “demons”. Occasionally things pop up and as I’m haunted by the past I try and remind myself once again that I have poor vision. I pray for clarity to see my past, present and future through the lenses of grace and forgiveness.

There are days that the struggle is more real, more palpable. This dream, this blog, this weight loss journey….I feel as if it is slipping through my fingers like sand. I haven’t been able to have guest writers/bloggers, I haven’t kept any weight off since I started. In fact I’ve been at the same weight for almost a year and a half. I simply cannot have lasting success or get the numbers to budge and the number of people who follow my blog/like my FB page are fewer than I had hoped. I don’t have the time or funds to pursue this like I would truly like to and I’m becoming discouraged.

The methods I have used to measure my success or the success of my children (our home school) have been flawed and I’m praying for new perspective. It’s so hard to know if I’m doing a good job, a great job parenting, leaving a legacy, making a difference in five little people’s lives. This includes things like multiplication, long division, washing their hands before meals, being respectful of their elders and learning to make friends. It also encompasses do they know that Jesus loves them, do they have character traits that mimic a Christ follower, and are they honest.Test scores can’t measure all of that! The days of crying, screaming, wiping butts, cleaning up spills and staying buried in mountains of laundry aren’t telling me what I want to hear/see and I’m feeling inadequate ONCE AGAIN. But there is this still small voice reminding me….”Janelle you have limited sight distance. Just because Jesse and JoyAnn can’t seem to get along today doesn’t mean that they won’t be friends as adults. Yes, JoyAnn constantly leaves her dirty socks ALL over the house, but there will be a day when you won’t have to remind her 100 times/day. Joseph’s quality of life cannot be measured by the same standards and you must have faith that he experiences things that bring him joy even if he cannot communicate that adequately. James and Jonathan won’t always be unable to bathe themselves or wipe their own bottoms. HANG IN THERE…you have limited sight distance.”

When running, I’m always careful at the place where this sign is because I know cars/drivers have a difficult time in that area and I want to be as safe as possible. This reminds me that even though they know their destination and how to get there, there is a blind spot in that area of the trip. That’s how I’m feeling today. I know that my destination, my eternal home is heaven. Right now I just feel a little blinded by reality. I feel a bit distracted and am having to focus on every next step, knowing that I MUST walk by faith and not by sight. There is a heightened sense of awareness. However, I don’t want to live in a state of anxiety as I am prone to do and overcorrect making a blind spot become even more dangerous. I can exercise caution in both my physical and mental lives without becoming too obsessed.

To get through the spot where there is limited sight distance one must GO FORWARD. That’s what I’m doing. I’m not going to quit. I’m going to keep running, keep exercising, keep blogging and sharing, keep praying, keep memorizing, keep reading, keep crying, keep laughing, keep loving and living. Nothing can keep me from teaching, learning, growing, helping, and practicing. This is a temporary blind spot, but it feels dark. Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically I feel limited. A friend of mine told me months back “Feelings are damn liars”. Today I believe that. I can’t go by my feelings. I must go by the TRUTH. The TRUTH is a person. His name is Jesus and He DOESN’T have limited sight distance. He knows how my story will end.

My thoughts are jumbled. I’m not as eloquent as I would like to be in expressing myself. I pray though that anyone that reads my meager mumblings would be drawn to His story through me. I’m not who I want to be but I’m not who I WILL be either. I can’t see that final picture because of my limited sight, but my Bible tells me that I have the promise of hearing “Well done…” if I can complete the race and bring honor to Him. Holding onto another nugget of truth today in Phil. chapter 3 vs. 12-21 “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Even in the limited, dark areas of my journey I pray that with confidence, boldness and grace I can keep progressing.  Thanks for being a part of my journey….~Janelle

Where Joy and Sorrow Meet

So is it bad to say that I’ve had a really peaceful day? Is it wrong to say that I’ve breathed a little easier today and that the kids have been calm and settled? Laundry is almost caught up, the floors have been swept,  I’ve read and answered emails, and I spent time listening to JoyAnn read a book and helped Jesse make a list for a shopping trip that he and his father will be taking this evening.  A pot of soup is simmering and a ham is cooking in the Crock Pot.  I feel rested as the sun is shining bright and warm and I’m feeling almost happy.

Why would it be wrong to feel that way you might ask? Well….because not all of my children are under my roof. I must admit to you that it feels very good to not hear Joseph screaming today. It is nice to not hear the words “you idiot”, “shut up”, “I hate you”. It is great not having to wonder if he would run away or to wonder if he was eating something that is going to hurt him (non-food object).

How can a mother be relieved, happy and almost grateful that one of her children isn’t with her? Well….it’s complicated. Being Joseph’s mother brings me great joy and great sorrow. It brings me delight and crushes me everyday. It makes me proud and embarrasses me regularly. Some of you reading this might say I’m being a bit melodramatic. You would argue that parenting ANY child brings these emotions. Perhaps you are correct, but since this is my blog I’m going to continue.

I’ve been in denial for many, many years about our family dynamic. Although I first heard the words “autism spectrum disorder” when Joseph was four years old they still seem so new. There is a ringing in my ear and a hole in my heart. I’ve taken Joseph to 95% of his therapy sessions, evaluations, doctor appointments, counseling sessions, etc. I’ve heard more strategies, plans, courses of action, medical terms, statistics, input etc. than I can honestly comment about. I’ve been fully immersed in the world of ASD for many years. So….why is it that just this week I really “got it”?

Delayed grief. I’ve never really completely grieved…grieved the loss of the dream of who I thought Joseph was going to be, who he “should have” been, who I desired him to become. I’ve never really worked through the thoughts about Joseph always living with me, or having to visit him someday in a group home. There have been times of admitting, dealing with and surviving, but there have been many more years of stuffing emotions, rationalizing and spinning tales.  Busyness of trying to manage a home, repair a marriage, lose weight, mother five children and somehow care for my soul has blinded me to the reality of my life.

Through Celebrate Recovery I’ve learned to accept responsibility for my own actions, thoughts and feelings, forgive others, make amends and release control of my marriage and other relationships to Christ’s care and control.  I’ve addressed anger, pride, selfishness and granting forgiveness.  I admitted a food addiction and have lost over 100 pounds.  I’ve surrendered most areas of my life and learned to embrace reality in almost every corner of my heart and mind.  However, it has become boldly clear to me that I have been holding an unrealistic and impossible expectation of myself, my family and most specifically Joseph.   I’ve expended mental, emotional, physical and spiritual energy forcing myself, my marriage and all five of my children into a mold that was never meant for us.  I’ve stood in watch of the door to reality with this silent guard dog, believing somehow that one more year to mature, one more therapy, one more prayer, one more book, one more….fill in the blank and maybe Joseph would “normalize” or our family would become a bit more settled and begin to resemble the picture of the Flint family I’ve held so dear in my heart and mind.

Well folks our family is far from the one I dreamed of as a young wife and mother.  Please hear me, I’m not saying it’s a bad family or one that I want to not be a part of any longer.  It simply has become a situation where we are navigating fields of land mines instead of taking strolls through the park of peace.  My decisions based in love have also been tainted with fear and ulterior motives of self-preservation.  This exhausting way of living has taken its toll on all of us and change is our only option.  So….I’m setting myself free as I set Joseph free. Evaluations of goals, expectations and dreams are occurring and I’m lowering my expectations of people but raising them of my GOD!!!

As bleak as things seem now there is hope.  Saturday we put Joseph on a train accompanied by my father leaving Everett, WA and headed to Greenville, SC. Joseph will be on an extended vacation to NC so we all can take a deep breath and figure out a game plan.  This is such an emotional time for us all.  Yet there has been hope, peace and rest even in the few days since Joseph’s departure.  One of the things that has brought me the most joy is hearing the peace and complete contentment in Joseph’s voice as we speak on the phone.  He and my father will be leaving Chicago later today and headed to Washington, D.C.  Yet coexisting with this peace and rest is a deep, deep sorrow.  On Sunday I was a wreck at church especially as Nathan and I sang “His Eye is on the Sparrow”.  I’ve cried so many tears in the last few weeks.  I’ve been dizzy and kept a headache.  My belly hasn’t been happy with me and my weight is yo-yoing again.  So joy and sorrow meet in one place….I must learn to allow this symbiotic partnership to reside within my heart and learn to find serenity in the midst of change.  God gave us a wonderful gift on Sat.  At the train station there was this beautiful rainbow over the train as Joseph and dad boarded.  I took it as a promise that He is aware of our situation, that I can trust Him to remember us, and that this storm is guiding us to a harbor of safety.  Here’s our rainbow….

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This kind of hope and peace is ultimately possible because of another place where joy and sorrow met and walked hand in hand.  Where might that be???  The cross, the foot of Calvary, where Jesus made a way for my sin to be covered and redeemed by grace.  A song that I have been listening repeatedly during this Lenten season (by the way we still have 11 days until “Holy Week”).  is “Where Joy and Sorrow Meet” recorded by Avalon.  Here are the lyrics.  It means more to me now than ever.

Where Joy and Sorrow Meet

There’s a place of quiet stillness ‘tween the light and shadows reach
Where the hurting and the hopeless seek everlasting peace
Words of men and songs of angels whisper comfort bittersweet
Mending grief and life eternal where joy and sorrow meet

There is a place where hope remains
In crowns of thorns and crimson stains
And tears that fall on Jesus’ feet
Where joy and sorrow meet

There’s a place the lost surrender and the weary will retreat
Full of grace and mercy tender in times of unbelief
For the wounded there is healing, strength is given to the weak
Broken hearts find love redeeming where joy and sorrow meet

There is a place where hope remains
In crowns of thorns and crimson stains
And tears that fall on Jesus’ feet
Where joy and sorrow meet

There’s a place of thirst and hunger where the roots of faith grow deep
And there is rain and rolling thunder when the road is rough and steep
There is hope in desperation there is victory in defeat
At the cross of restoration where joy and sorrow meet

There is a place where hope remains
In crowns of thorns and crimson stains
And tears that fall on Jesus’ feet
Where joy and sorrow meet