Healthy Humpday-Saturday Edition

I know, I know.  It’s Saturday, not Wednesday.  I apologize for not getting a post written on Wednesday.  School really handed my butt to me this week.  You know it takes a week or so to get back into the swing of classes after having a break.  Plus, this semester, I am taking a full 12 hours.  I really wanted to share this post with you, though, so I sat down to write it this morning.

I want to talk about listening to your body.  I wholeheartedly believe that our bodies talk to us.  God designed us a body, soul and spirit.  We are one unit, designed to function in harmony.  The problem is many of us live a disconnected life.  We go through the day almost on autopilot, completely unaware of so many things.  Many of us are unaware of our surroundings, our physical bodies, the people we walk pass; some of us are even unaware of our feelings, motives and drives.

We must learn to be present and aware of what is going on around us and inside us.  I think presence and awareness are crucial to living life to the fullest.  We must engage.  We must engage ourselves, our environment, the people around us.  When we do not engage and are not present, we are not living.

Let’s start with body awareness.  Are you truly aware of your body: where it is in space, what each part of it feels like, how it moves?  Now I know that we aren’t all physiology nerds like me, therefore, you may not be aware of the physiologic processes that take place in your body, but try this exercise.  Find somewhere quiet to sit (I usually do this sitting in the bath).  Start to think about a specific part of your body, like your toes.  Wiggle your toes.  Feel what it feels like to move them, to move your feet and ankles.  Think about what it takes to move those parts of your body.  Begin to give thanks to God for each of the processes you are aware of that make that possible.  Thank Him for giving you the health and ability to make those things work.  Not everyone has the health and ability to move toes and feet.  I thank him for bones that are strong enough to hold my weight, for muscles that can move those bones, for mitochondria that make ATP to power the movements, for nerves cells that carry the signals to the muscles, for a brain that can send the signals, for lungs that take in the oxygen necessary to make ATP, and a heart that is healthy enough to pump the oxygen around my body.  You get the point.  Don’t take it for granted.  Stop and be aware and thankful for those things that are necessary, but are so easy to take for granted.  Take notice of what it feels like to sit in your chair or stand on your feet.  We will come back to body awareness in a minute.

Now, let’s think about the environment.  Do you stop and take notice of the clouds in the sky, the way it feels when the sun hits your face?  Do you notice the trees and how green they are?  Do you notice the grace and the different shades green in it.  Do you take note of the sounds of the birds, the locusts, the children playing down the street?  Have you ever turned of the radio in your car and listened to the sound the tires make on the road?  Do you thank God for giving you all these things?  Do you thank Him for ears that can hear and eyes that can see?  Do you realize what a gift it is to be able to live in a country that isn’t ravaged by war, where you can drive down the street to buy food, where children have the “right” and requirement to get educated?  Are you aware?  Do you give thanks, or do you take it for granted?

Let’s talk people.  Are you aware that the person standing in front of you making your coffee is a person?  Are you aware that the wait person taking your order has feelings, is someone’s son or daughter or sister or mother?  Do you take a minute to really look at them, engage them, bless them?  Do you go out of your way to give them dignity, respect and grace?  Or, do you see them as someone who owes you service?  Do you ask, sincerely, how they are and tell them sincerely to have a wonderful day?  Do you look the people you pass by in the eyes and smile?  Awareness.  Engagement.

We are not a lone entity.  We are a force which it interacting with other forces all the time.  We cross,  bump, affect one another whether we realized it or not.  In a very real sense we are one.  There is energy in life.  We are interacting with that energy everyday even if we don’t realize it.  We interact with one another’s energy, with the energy of this planet, with the energy of God.  Energy exudes from everything.  To be aware of the energy, people, life that we are interacting with is to be present, grounded, to be living fully rather than just surviving and robotically moving through our time on this earth.  More on that another time.

I want to get back to the body.  I believe that body awareness is vital.  Our bodies are designed to tell us when something is wrong.  Pain is a signal that something is wrong.  Tiredness is a signal that we need rest.  Inflammation is a signal that the body is being overwhelmed with something that is not good.  A bacterial infection causes inflammation (or rather triggers the body to make inflammation).  Allergic reactions trigger inflammation; ingesting something that body is sensitive to causes inflammation.  There are many signals our bodies give us that something is not right.

I am challenging you to start taking note of and being aware of what your body is saying.  It is not something you decide to do and then the very next day you are good at it.  It is a process, a rather long process.  If you start practicing, you will get better and better at hearing your body.  I have been listening intently and looking for patterns for about 10 years now.  As I have listened, I have also eliminated foods that cause me problems.  That process is hit or miss.  I have eliminated  foods only later to find out it wasn’t that food, but another that I ate with it.  I remove and then reintroduce foods several times looking for reaction.  It is a long process, but I promise it is worth it.  I feel better than I have my whole life.  I don’t have pain in my joints most of the time.  I don’t feel like I am in a fog or need to sleep all day long anymore.

Get a journal.  Start keeping track of what you eat.  Track how you feel.  Make note of problematic symptoms and look for patterns.  As you are present, aware and begin to document, you will see patterns emerge.  As you see patterns and eliminate problematic foods, you will begin to see symptoms disappear and feel better.  As I eliminated certain foods, I would see new problem foods.  It can be frustrating to give up foods you love or are used to eating and to find other foods to eat, but the relief in the body, increase in energy, and decrease in pain is worth it.  I promise.  It will take time, but if you don’t start today, when will you start?  Will you wait 10 years until you have worse symptoms?

I am not anti-medicine like I once was, but I do think that before a person starts dumping chemicals into the body, attempts to find a natural solution should be made.  Try to look at the diet, and lifestyle to see if changes could help.

I am not going to say what diet you should follow or what you should eliminate.  I think we all have different sensitivities, different systems, different needs.  We have to begin to listen and figure out what gives us optimum health.  What works for me may not work for you and visa versa.

I want to close with these two examples for how my body works.  I eat a very strict diet.  It is almost totally “paleo”.  It is not necessarily that I set out to eat paleo or advocate that eating plan.   It just falls into that category.  I advocate what makes your body healthy, strong, and full of energy.  I have had to eliminate all grains, corn, milk, and soy.  I don’t like beef, but I eat lots of chicken and fish.  Peanut butter is my favorite food in the world.  When it eat this  way, my body does not hurt; I do not feel sluggish, and I only need an occasional nap.  I can work out heavily and generally feel great.  I also almost never get sick.

Last weekend I went to a conference at church and got into the pastries.  Then I went to a new youth meeting at church and again pastries.  I felt like I was in a fog literally all weekend.  I felt lethargic, tired and napped.  It was miserable.   I totally regretted the pastries.  The taste on my tongue was not worth the misery I felt for days afterward.  My body was telling me that it did not like this food.  I have been doing this long enough to know.  The sad thing is, I knew before I ate it what it would do to me.  So, I don’t always eat perfect.  I eat things that I know are going to give me trouble and I pay the consequence for it.  The main thing is I am aware.   I don’t just feel bad and wonder why.  I don’t feel bad most of the time because I know what certain foods will do and I try not to make a habit of eating them.

The second example and the reason for this post comes from last night.  We had a date night.  We went to Chuy’s (one of my favorite restaurants).  I had queso (which I love!!!!) and a mini bean burrito. We followed us with Marble Slab.  Can you say milk overload?  I mean seriously.  It was delicious, but boy could I feel it this morning.  While I was doing my Insanity workout I could feel the heaviness in my body.  It was much more difficult than it usually is.  I could feel my heart struggling to keep up.  My body was telling me that it was overloaded from last night’s rich fair.  I knew, though, because I have spent years listening to my body that the food was the problem.  I made it though, but it was a little harder than it usually is.  I did not have to wonder why my workout was hard this morning because I have made the habit of listening and the correlation was obvious.

Try it and see.

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Five Minute Friday: Change

 

Now, set your timer, clear your head, for five minutes of free writing without worrying about getting it right.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

Oh and Ahem, if you would take pity and turn off comment verification, it would make leaving some love on your post that much easier for folks!

OK, are you ready? Please give us your best five minutes on:::

Change…

Change is such a beautiful thing.  Change makes us more like Him.  Because of His Spirit working in and through us all the time we are changed like the caterpillar changes into the butterfly.  How grateful I am that He changes me.

I am so grateful that I am not responsible to change myself.  I am so grateful that He taught me that He is the one who changes me not myself.  He know what needs to happen and when it needs to happen.  I don’t have to know what the next steps are or what layer needs to be removed next.  He handles all the details.  When I do think I know what needs to happen, He usually shows me that I have things a little out of order or am trying to rush things that He has a special timing for.

I didn’t used to think change was beautiful.  I certainly didn’t embrace it.  I wanted everything to go along in a prescribed and predictable order.  I wanted things to be black and white.  I didn’t want to take chances or let new people or experiences in.  Change was scary and uncontrolled.

Then He came and showed me that change was good and beautiful.  If I surrendered to Him,  I could trust Him.  I didn’t have to be in control, or right or even know what needs to happen next.  I can trust Him to change what needs to be changed when it needs to be changed and to carry me through by His grace to a better place.

Change, is His vehicle to make me more like Himself.

Stop

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The Gift of Suffering that God gave me

I want to preface this post with a TMI warning.  This post has information about me that is of the “not usually talked about” category.  I am, honestly a little intimidated to put it out there.  This post has been rattling around inside me for a couple of years.  Thus far, I have done a really great job of talking myself out of posting it.  “People don’t really want to hear about this,” I told myself.  How do you talk about things that make you and other people uncomfortable?  Well, the time has finally come that I don’t feel like I can talk myself out of it any longer.

I feel like the Lord is asking me to trust Him, step out, show my foolishness and watch how He chooses to use it.

This morning, as I ran, it hit me for the first time that this “annoyance” was, in fact, suffering.  The Lord was allowing me to suffer to His glory.

Elisabeth Elliot once defined suffering as, “Having something you don’t want, or wanting something you don’t have?”

I feel impressed that hearing about my humiliating suffering and how the Lord has used it to bless me may help others see suffering as a gift to embrace and rejoice in.  So, as I throw caution to the wind, I am going to expose myself in a very sensitive and hidden manner.

I have, for the last 20, suffered from incontinence.  Now, I know that this is a common problem in women.  I am not really talking about when I cough or sneeze or laugh.  It is worse than that.  It can be limiting to me.  It has gotten increasingly worse over the years and with each additional birth.  Generally, I am fine as long as I am near a bathroom.  The problem comes when I go out to run or when I do exercises or dances that require jumping.

It has been a constant source of frustration to me the last 10 years.  I try to position myself and my schedule around being close to a bathroom.  When I say incontinence I am not just referring to urination.  If my bowels decide they want to move and I am not near a bathroom it is quite catastrophic.  Therein lies the problem with running.  I wait around the house until I feel that things are safely concluded and my run takes me past a Starbucks that I can go use in route, but sometimes in spite of all my planning and orchestrating I still end up  in the position to be out running with no bathroom close and the need to go.

I warned you!!!

I used to be so frustrated that I was 30 and 35 years old with this problem.  I would cry and ask God why I had this problem.  It is humiliating; it is frustrating; it is really quite inconvenient.  I find it especially frustrating because I love to run.  I would love to run every day; I would love to run marathons.  There is nothing that feels as humiliating and horrible than having an accident and having to come home and clean up.  It’s not that anyone would know, but it feels gross and humiliating.  My husband is aware of the problem and is (as he always is) gracious and supportive about it.

Then there are the days that I am doing Turbo Fire (my favorite workout program) that every time a jump I urinate a little.  I have been known to have to change clothes 3 times a workout (seriously).  I refuse, however, to let that keep me from working out and enjoying it.  I just change clothes and wash a lot of laundry.  I guess someday I will have to wear some depends, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

Anyway, you get the picture.  It is a source of suffering in my life.  It definitely sometimes takes the wind out of my sails and the joy out of my run.

And I used to hate it so much.

Then one day I heard about these beautiful women all over the world who suffer from obstructed births leading them to have obstetric fistulas.  The link gives you more facts about fistulas, but just in case you don’t click the link, these ladies end up with holes in their bladder, rectum or both.  The causes them to leak urine and/or feces all the time.  The first time I was really introduced to these women I watched a beautiful documentary called A Walk to Beautiful.  I highly recommend it.  It is so well done.  And I think we need to stop avoiding things because they are sad;  we need to let ourselves be broken for the suffering all around the world.

The movie left me completely undone.  I was so heartbroken for these women who are despised, abandoned, cast out, grieving the birth of a stillborn child and left with this affliction.  I don’t know if you have thought through the implications of what this means.  Let me help you.  They are wet all the time because they leek fluid all the time.  They stink because the urine/feces runs out of them constantly.  They have sores.  They are all alone;  many times they spend years alone in a small tupelo where they do not move which leads to deformities in their bones from lack of movement, lack of nutrition, lack of sunlight.  Some of them are brought food and water.  Many of them just wait to die.  It is suffering unlike anything most of us can even fathom.

Dr.  Reg Hamlin and Dr. Catherine Hamlin  moved to Ethiopia in 1959 to start work with child-birth injury and eventually opened the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.

Many of these women, which are called Fistula Pilgrims, beg for years on the streets to get enough money to travel from the hillside to the fistula hospital in the capital city.  Some of these girls are carried to the hospital because the can no longer walk.  Dr Catherine Hamlin wrote a historical book about the journey they have traveled over the last 50 years called The Hospital by the River .  It is a beautiful and rich book that I wholeheartedly recommend.

From the moment I heard the stories of these women and girls my heart was moved.  Even as I type about them now, my eyes fill with tears.  I have not been able to get them out of my heart and mind.  They are a part of me.  I am filled with such a passion for the stories and the women and the work.

When I went to Ethiopia last year I was able to tour the hospital.  I cannot even explain the experience.  It was beautiful and emotional and draining.  As I walked around looking at the facilities and seeing the girls in each ward and on the grounds my heart was moved.  I could not contain the tears.  I cried the whole time.  I had to, at times, hold back the sobs that threatened to overwhelm me like a tsunami.  Here is a post that I wrote about being at the hospital right after I got back.

These woman are the one reason that I sometimes ask myself if I am settling by going to nursing school.  I find myself wondering if going to medical school to become a surgeon so I can help fix them is really what I should do.  They are a passion in my that burns.

One day a few years ago, as I was complaining to God about this frustrating tendency to have accidents at the most inopportune times, He opened my eyes.  This affliction gives me a very special tenderness for the suffering of those afflicted with obstetric fistulas.  I know in a very small way what it feels like to have a problem with  controlling my bowels/bladder.  I know them in a way that most do not get to know them.  I know the humiliation, the frustration, the aloneness.  I know what it is like to suffer with something that is “unclean”.  Suddenly, I understood.  It was a gift.  It was a gift that God had given me.  I was being allowed to suffer and through that suffering I am never able to forget the plight of the women.  When I have a struggle or accident, rather than curse and get frustrated, I can pray for them.  I can thank the Lord for the opportunity to have an intimate look into the suffering they know.

The Lord does not give us suffering for nothing.  He always has a plan, a reason to allow or dare I say send suffering.  Everything He sends us is grace.  Even the suffering He sends us is grace.

It is my hope that my openness with such a humiliating suffering in my life will help other begin to look at suffering different and maybe even be thankful for the gift of suffering.

 

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This is a really great post which kind of explains the sleep pattern my body tends to gravitate toward.

Moment Matters

Because you can survive with 2 hours of sleep, screw that 8 hours minimum!

Sleep is a shitty waste of time. 8 hours of sleep entraps a third of your day and all you do is nothing. That time can be used to consume miles of productivity and/or leisure, but we just lie down and succumb to weakness.

Sleep is important, I know that. It is our natural defense against stress. It regenerates our body cells for optimal function and it feels damn good to be well rested. We cannot take it out entirely, but we can reduce it to save more time.

8 hours of sleep is called the monophasic sleep cycle, and it is very inefficient. In that cycle, we sleep once a day but it doesn’t mean that all the 8 hours are used effectively. Real sleep, the deep trance where we dream and truly begin resting…

View original post 479 more words

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Healthy Humpday: New Series on living healthy

Sorting through all the information available on “health” to make educated decisions about lifestyle changes can be a daunting task.  There are so many philosophies and so many opinions.  I also always feel like one must be careful about the motives of the author/publisher.  I would like to start a series of posts sharing what I have learned and experienced over the years.  On Wednesdays, humpday, I will post topics relating to health hence the name Healthy Humpday.

Right out of the gate I want to say these are my opinions based on my experience.  I do not have any real certifications or qualifications other than personal experience.  I am not looking to benefit from sharing or push anyone toward buying something I sell.  I just want to share some of the knowledge I have acquired over the years.  I am a Beach Body coach and a distributor for the supplement company Advocare, but I would rather you buy from someone else than have you question my credibility.  If I post any information on these companies it is because I believe something they sell works.  I don’t want mixed motives to get in the way of anyone being able to benefit from what I want to share.  So if you want something that I have spoken of, please feel free to find it elsewhere if it helps you feel like you can trust my opinion more.

That being said, here is a little of my story and what I think qualifies me as someone who can offer information on healthy choices and information is what I am offering because I find that informed choices are usually better choices.

I suffered most of my life with chronic fatigue.  I always felt exhausted.  I didn’t know why I was so tired all the time, but I felt like it definitely wasn’t normal.  By chronic fatigue I means 10 hours of sleep at night and at least one if not more 2 to 3 hour nap.  I would be okay then suddenly it was as if someone shot me with a tranquilizer dart.  I have, literally, fallen asleep standing straight up, sitting at a stop light, or sitting on the concrete somewhere.

About 10 years ago, I began having excruciated pain in my joints.  It was the most horrible pain I have ever felt.  When the pain was at its worst my whole body hurt.  My knuckles, my toes, my wrists, my ankles, my knees, hips, elbows, the vertebrae in my neck all hurt.  It hurt to walk, turn door knobs, drive, pick up my 6 month old baby; it hurt to do anything.  It would take hours to get my body moving; pain and stiffness were just part of my daily life.   Somedays I would just lay on the couch with the baby and cry.  My muscles even hurt some days.  I just wanted to sleep.  Shortly after I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia.

I have also battled my weight for almost as long as I remember.  I have been up and down for years.  My highest weight was 228.  At that point I was wearing a mens 38 jeans.

Me at 228 wearing men’s size 38 pants

I am not saying I have it all figured out.  I have learned a lot along the way.  The journey from that to hear has literally been a 10 year journey and it is not over yet.  I would like, though, to share some of what we have learned over the years.  It is a long story how I got from the overweight girl with crippling pain and chronic fatigue to the girl who is finishing the last couple weeks of Insanity and who runs 3 to 10 miles at a time or bikes 8 to 20 miles at a time.  If you would like to come along on this journey I will be happy to share my experience with you.  You may take what you want and leave the rest.  It is my hope to be able to help you all learn to be aware of what your body is telling you so you can be healthy enough to live to your full potential.  The challenge of a serious illness may still knock at the door.  I don’t have a full proof way to live to a ripe old age disease free, but I truly believe that if we are strong and healthy when/if something serious shows up we will be able to fight it better and withstand whatever treatment may be necessary to fight.  I also believe that we don’t have to live in such a way to encourage the development of serious disease.

Do I have it perfect? No way!!! I fall off the wagon still.  The difference is that my body lets me know immediately that I am making poor choices.  I have learned to listen to my body.  I can’t even tell you I am at the fitness level I want to be, but I am making forward motion toward it.

I am a jagged grace creation myself.  I don’t have it all figured out.  I don’t have all the answers.  I still fall down.

What I can promise is that I will honestly and authentically share what I have learned, where I have failed, what has worked and what has not worked.

What worked for me, may not be the answer for you, but if you can learn the techniques of listening to your body and tracking food and its effects on your body, you can feel better and better.  Maybe reading some of my experience will help you find your journey and look at things that you may not have thought about looking at before.  Some weeks you may come read about how I fell off the wagon and how it effected me and some weeks you may read some new piece of the puzzle I have found.

It will be a journey.  There are no easy answers; it is not quick.  It is a journey that takes months and even years.  I will try to tell the story of my recovery a bit at a time as well as share things I am currently learning.  I am in school preparing for nursing school currently and it has been such an amazing thing to begin to piece together what I have experienced the last 10 years with learning normal physiology, pathophysiology, and disease progression.

Check back next week and see what we will be discussing.

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Five Minute Friday: Stretch

 

Now, set your timer, clear your head, for five minutes of free writing without worrying about getting it right.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

OK, are you ready? Please give me your best five minutes on:::

Stretch…

It’s amazing to me these prompts always strike exactly home with where I am each week.

Stretch is really a word for what I am walking through this week.

As I pray through and look to what the Lord is putting before me, stretch is definitely the word I would use to describe it.

I have had a hair license for the last 7 years.  I did makeup for many years after I got out of hair school, but didn’t really try to pursue hair.

I have told myself for years that I did not want to do hair.  But every year or so I come back around to this thought… should I pursue using this license I worked so hard to earn and paid so much money to acquire.

Usually, I move on and decide not to go further than just flirting with the thought.  I have told myself for years that I don’t want to do hair.

This week, I feel like the Lord showed me that the statement that I don’t want to do hair is a lie.  It is a lie I tell myself so that I don’t have to admit I am afraid.  I am afraid to do hair.  There I said it out loud.  I am afraid.

I left the makeup industry several years ago and I believe that I needed to get away for a while and let the Lord tell me who I was in Him because I kind of lost myself in the beauty industry.  Then I went to this other extreme and became super granola.  I mean no makeup, grew out my hair and stopped coloring it.  I took that extreme all the way to almost scrubby.  I didn’t try to look nice at all.  I mean I was clean and groomed, but in the most wallflower, don’t pay attention to me way that I could.

Stop:

Well, I can’t just leave it there.  So, I will cheat.

I spent 2 great years working at Starbucks.  It was safe.  I didn’t have to wear makeup.  I wore plan clothes (long sleeves because of my tattoos); I wore a hat, grew out my hair, took out my earrings.  I looked like a totally different person.  I learned how to love people. I learned how to serve people.  I learned how to stop needing to impress people.  Then the time came that it was over.  It was time to leave.  Starbucks became a safe place for me to hide.  It was safe to make coffee.  I didn’t have to face my fear of disappointing people.  I didn’t have to put myself out there with hair/makeup and chance that someone might not like what I did.   I knew that to stay would be me choosing safety over obedience.  But even after I left, I have kept myself safely hidden way from the risk.

I have been in school taking my prerequisites to get into nursing school.  It has been fun and challenging, but yet again in a safe way.  I have a very easy time remembering things and learning.  I don’t have to really worry.  School is not risky for me.  It is very much a concrete pass/ fail.  Either you know the material or you don’t.  Mostly I know the material.  There isn’t risk involved.  I am an A student.

Here is where the stretch comes in.  I want to do hair.  I want to be confident with my cutting skills.  Color is easy for me, the cutting gives me anxiety.  Part time in the salon could actually help pay for the nursing school which I feel God told me to go do.

The truth is I want to have both licenses.

I want to be good at both.  I don’t like to fail.  That, I think, is why I tell myself and everyone else that I don’t want to do hair.

What if I fail???

I don’t want to be that girl who does things poorly, but thinks she does things good.  So, I take the cowards way out and lie to myself.

But…what if…I could use both my hair license and nursing license to minister to people who might otherwise not be able to be pampered and made to feel like a beautiful woman.  What…if…God wants to use both and I could get my hair confidence while I learned to be a great nurse.

Stretch…believe…step out…what if I could be a great hairdresser and a great nurse?  What if God wants me to be both, to use both?

Stretch means I will admit that I have been lying.  It means I will step out of my comfort zone and trust that He knows better than I do what I am capable of.   He knows better what He created me to be…to do.

Pursuing this…seeking the training and opportunities to gain the confidence and do this thing that I really do want to do, is a stretch.  It is way outside of what I “know” I can do.

I have reached the conclusion, though, that it just keeps coming up because I will never be content to let go and say I just couldn’t do it.  I have tried to be content and let it go, but there is something in me that will not let go and move on.  It is a whisper in the back of my mind that never goes away, “could I do it?”

 

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No greater Love by Levi Benkert and Candy Chand: My thoughts

This post is sort of review meets history meets impact for the book No Greater Love

Here is a link to the video about the book.  1cqdWnNR9Ig

Those who are closely acquainted with me have heard lots about Drawn from Water, Bring Love In and the Benkert family.  I have a tremendous love and respect for this family.  I am so grateful that the Lord crossed our paths so I could play a small part in this ministry in Ethiopia.

I just finished Levi’s book and I thought I would write a post about it and what this amazing family has meant to me.  Maybe some new folks will get to know the Benkerts and support the ministry they have poured their lives into.

Some history:  I will try to be brief, but brevity is not my strong suit.

I met the Lord 20 years ago in July 17, 1992 in a tiny church and was NEVER the same.  My life was turned upside down and I was set free.  That story and the 20 years following is not brief at all, so details can be found elsewhere.  I fell head over heals in love with Jesus; unfortunately, I did not fall in love with His mission, His people or His passion for the lost of this world.  My attitude for the fist 16 years of my walk can be summed up like this, “I love Jesus and I am so glad He loves me and died for me.  I am going to heaven, and the rest of you can go to hell.  If you don’t love Jesus, you get what you deserve.”  Basically, that is what I thought.  I know.  Harsh.  It is hard to even read that in print.  I wouldn’t have said it out loud, but that is how I felt and how I lived.

I am so thankful for God’s grace that He loved me even though my attitude was so unchristian.  I am also so thankful that His grace would not leave me there; that He wooed me to the place to completely dismantle me, transform my perspective and continue to make me a different person.

The Benkerts and Drawn from Water were extremely significant in the work God did in my heart.

In the year before I learned of the Benkert family and Drawn From Water, I had read a couple of books that were starting to kind of shake me up and open my eyes to how far off from the intentions of the Gospel I  was.  Then I enrolled in a class at the church we were attending called Hope lives.  I had no idea how deeply that class would rock me.  My eyes began to be opened to the intense suffering and poverty in the world.  I started to see how desperately we all needed the Lord and how desperately others in the world needed us to be more like Jesus.  My philosophy of I am saved, so that’s all I need to worry about became increasingly uncomfortable to me.  My lack of compassion was starting to really feel ugly and sinful to me.

I was also walking through Celebrate Recovery in an effort to get sober from an alcohol addiction that I had acquired some 15 years after meeting Jesus.  As I began to find freedom, I also started actually feeling deeply in a way that I had never been able to feel.  The Lord was unraveling and healing me from the pain of my childhood that kept me locked behind a plexiglass partition in my heart.  Suddenly I found that I could feel broken and weep over suffering and lack.  It was new and scary and sometimes painful.

During the Hope Lives class one week, they played a video about Drawn from Water.  My heart was ripped wide open.  I cried and couldn’t stop.   In the moment I first saw the video, I knew I was going to Ethiopia.  I didn’t know how, or when.  I had never been on a mission trip.  I had never even thought about going on a mission trip.  Moving to another country was not anywhere near being on my radar.  Suddenly, I couldn’t explain it, but I knew I was going to Ethiopia.  A love for the country of Ethiopia was born in my heart.  A passion for children who don’t have parents to love them was born.  I also knew that I was was going to be involved in the Benkerts ministry.  I started showing that video to anyone who would watch it.  I started intently following the Drawn from Water blog and praying for them each and every day.  I also began to look around and see so many other ministries reaching deep into the pain and poverty of the world and started following what they were doing as well.  In the years since that class God has continued to unravel me and change me.

Last summer, I was able to meet the Benkerts for the first time.  I know it is super silly, but I was beyond excited.  You might as well told me that I was going to have lunch with Bono.  It was like meeting rock stars to me.  I know we shouldn’t put people on pedestals and all that, but I really admired them so much.  I had followed them, read the blog, prayed for the needs in Ethiopia; we had given into the ministry.  We felt our hearts were knit with them. To say I was excited when I got the invite is the worlds biggest understatement.  I was jumping up and down in the hallway of our house.

From that meeting, was born the plan for my first trip to Ethiopia.  That trip was so beautiful and life changing.  I got to really know the Benkert family.  I stayed with them for two weeks.  I struggled with   feeling totally underfoot, not because they made me feel that way, but just because I don’t like feeling like I am a burden to anyone.  None the less, I loved being there.  I really became even more fond of them.  They are so real.  They are broken and beautiful.  They are just trying to follow Jesus where He leads.  Sometimes He leads them into pain.  Sometimes He causes things to move so slow they seem to be standing still.  The Benkerts, though, faithfully follow, obey, worship and seek to glorify the King.  I have watched them for years now and have grown to love them deeply.  They are the real deal.  I have spent time with the Benkert children which I love, love, love.  They are so great, so quirky, so crazy, so flexible and well-adjusted.  They are amazing kids.

I am going back to visit this December with my daughter in tow and I cannot wait.

Reading the book for me was surreal.  I could see the faces of the children.  I could see the perplexed look Levi gets on his face.  I could see the gentle kindness in Jessie’s face when she is listening and discerning what is needed.  I could see the beautiful way that Everly’s face lights up when she smiles.  I could see the shy sideways glances that Ruth gives when she is getting to know you and deciding what she thinks about you.  I could see the nervousness of Luella’s face when she is unsure about a situation.  I could see the astute thoughtfulness in Nicoli’s eyes.  It was such a strange experience to read.  Every time I read a passage about how Everly came into the family I would weep.  I would be sitting in public reading wiping tears away because I could not turn them off.

In this book, Levi talks about the journey that led him the Ethiopia, the broken life that opened him up for it, and the struggles of settling in.  He talks about really looking at his motives and drives. He deals with the heart ache of losing what they had poured their hearts and souls into.  It is a real story about real struggle that does not have the fairy tale ending.

I loved reading what was going on in Jessie and Levi’s hearts.  I loved reading the struggle and questions and the wrestling with God.  It was beautiful and raw and real.  It gives validation to all of our struggles. It reminds me that life is struggle; it is beautiful, but it is struggle.  Our struggles might not be the same, but we are the same in our struggle.  As we share  our struggles with one another we are reminded that to be human is to struggle and it is okay.  We do not struggle because God has left us, we struggle because God loves us.  He is in the struggle.  In the struggle, we are made more like His Son.

I recommend reading this put with my whole heart.  You will not regret it.   It will shake you.  It will warm you.  It will break you.  It will remind you and comfort you.

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