Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Setbacks Happen. It's Not the End Game.

In the instance of taking care of ourselves and trying to stay healthy, we all tend to celebrate our victories. We put up our before- and- afters for all the world to see and after a while, the spark fades, life happens, and then we are truly put to the test. Can we maintain? Have we really changed? Life steps in and hands us stress on every level. We no longer are celebrating. We feel as though we’ve failed. We feel as though we’re giving up because we can’t possibly take care of ourselves when everything else somehow slips in and becomes more important. We feel as though, what's the point.

The point is quite simple at the end of the day. When we neglect ourselves, the healthiness of our well-being, mentally, emotionally, and physically, at some point, that catches up with us. We are run down, beaten up, and just exhausted. In my case, I was sick for several months, started a new job, left a job that I had been very much comfortable at in every way, and then others that I care about had things happen to them. Sickness happened, death happened, and the punches kept coming. Looking back over the past 6 months I can tell you I haven’t had the best diet. I ate because I was sad, depressed, and worried. I lost consistency in my workouts. My focus was somewhere else. My focus was consumed with worry and doubt and a lot of my stress came from the fact that in the back of my mind I knew I wasn’t taking care of myself. Eating badly and only having 1 to 2 workouts a week was causing me to have even more stress and feel even worse. I had reverted back to quick and easy. I was giving myself a half effort all over again.

This cycle of full speed ahead and half-heartedness is tiring. It's controlling. It's hard to break free from. I had a moment of clarity last week. I had a moment in which I remembered something I had said not too terribly long ago when I was going through a pretty tough time in my life. I remembered the words “If this is for the rest of your life, it’s never over. If this is forever, there will be times that are harder than others”. Part of the reason I had any kind of logic in my head about this matter is the thought that maybe I needed to leave my gym. I didn’t want to leave. I love my gym. I finally found one that I want to be a part of. I was using distance and time as excuses but realistically, I needed to be a better steward of my time. I needed to realize that my health is and always will be a priority. From the time I started changing my bad habits in 2012 until now, I still know the importance of taking care of me first. Why is this said over and over again by most people that figure this out? Like me, they realized how much better EVERY other aspect of their life goes. I never want to be unhealthy again. I never want to have something happen to my husband again and I feel like physically I can’t keep up. At the end of my life I want people to know that I was the best wife, best sister, best daughter, best friend that I could have been. Does my job matter? It does, but it should never control my life to the degree that everything else that is a priority falls by the waist side. In fact, the more I make myself a priority, the better I can be at my job. The better I can be at life.

I need my workouts. I need time to do things I enjoy when my mind is clear of my to-do list. I lost 64lbs. over about 8 months. And gaining 10 or 15 back doesn’t mean I’ve failed and it doesn’t mean I throw up my hands and gain the other 50 plus back, which is the usual routine of most people I know that lose weight. I have the tools. I know the routine. If I do what I know to do, I win every time. There’s no victory in a setback becoming all consuming. Reality is, it’s a setback. It’s not the end game. This is forever. This is until I take my last breathe. It’s not easy. It’s not a straight line to victory and it’s not quick. As the overused saying goes, it’s a marathon NOT a sprint. 

If you take care of yourself, if you feed yourself foods that your body loves, if you find something you love to do that is physically challenging, in every way your life will be better. I've never heard one single person that improved their health every say "I wish I hadn't done that. I wish I were weaker." This life is short. It's worth finding our strength. It's worth giving ourselves room to make mistakes. It's worth never giving up on the things that make us our best. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Thoughts From My Coffee Cup



As I sit and drink my morning coffee, my second cup, I might add, I am reflecting on all the change that is happening around me, to me, and that will happen to the future me. I think about the unfairness and the loss of comfort.  I think about how happy I was for what seems like a very brief moment.  Apparently I'm selfish that way. I really want ALL the happy.


I’m no stranger to change. I mean, I’m 33 years old. A lot has happened since 1980; Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama. I didn’t even have to Google that. I’m just so tired of the roller coaster. One minute everyone is thriving; you, your family, your friends, perfect strangers and the next you’re dealing with the loss of friends, a cancer diagnosis, a late mortgage, a rotted floor and 2 screaming kids. Not necessarily my life but things that have been happening around me. I reread that and it seems more than pessimistic. I can’t control that sometimes, the part of my brain that wants to be angry at everything and ignore any small glimpse of good.


Am I in a full blown wilderness? To answer that honestly I would have to say no. Logically I know that this is just a pothole on this seemingly insane, ever-changing stretch of highway of life.(My dramatic interpretation of comparing life to a road, but a big road.) Emotionally I’m just drained. I have tried everything to feel better. I’ve eaten things that are bad for me. I’ve prayed. I’ve read scripture. I’ve prayed more. I’ve yelled at God even. I’ve yelled in the car to myself and I've cried. I just feel wretched and like all the times before that I have felt this way there is this nudge that I must endure what I’m feeling. I must be strong. I must handle it in a way that was better than before. I wish I could say experience has helped me do all those things but I have my doubts. I still have anger, a lot of anger. I still have regret. I still soothe my pain with old habits. I still have moments where I am completely clueless as to how to move forward. I really wish life had a refresh button. You push it and everything works the way it’s supposed to again.


With clearly no restart, my options are few. In the words of Anne Lamott, “Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” In faith, in hoping, we are asked to be patient. We are asked to be willing to trust. We are asked to be willing to wait. I read a passage today from my Lenten Devotional about Moses leading the Israelites through the desert. As they journeyed they began to doubt this God they had chosen. They began to doubt Moses. Without water, without shelter, without certainty they had almost given up and they became angry despite what they had already been shown, despite the evidence that they had not been forgotten.


At the end of the day, no matter what change happens, I think all we really need to know is that we have not been forgotten. We need the reminder of goodness and safety even though we have been shown those things over and over again. We need the reminder that even when we ourselves have no instant way to soothe our pain or make sense of it, there is hope in newness, there is hope in our faith, and there is hope in discomfort. There may be loss, there may be pain but "how lucky are we to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." And how lucky are we that we have the opportunity to welcome the ‘light’ of a dark day.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Priorities of A Reformed Fat Kid


Image 

This journey for me of trying to be healthy and losing weight has been an ongoing thing since I was a kid. I could tell you about my traumatizing, fat kid stories where I got  harassed on a daily basis in elementary and middle school. I could tell you how even when I moved into junior high and high school and I was incredibly thin, I still didn’t realize I wasn’t fat anymore. My mind could never catch up with what had happened to my body. But, I would like to focus on my journey the past 2 years. Give me a few minutes and I’ll get there. 

I suppose I should touch a bit on my background though. Surprising to some, I’ve always been active. I started playing softball when I was 7 years old. I rode my bike, jumped on our trampoline, and loved to get dirty. I was always the taller kid and the chubbier kid. When I was younger I did not understand what being healthy meant. My motivation came from wanting to fit in, wanting to be pretty, looking good in a swim suit for the summer, and boys’ approval. Isn’t that everyone’s motivation between the ages of about 6 and 25 or until we get married?

I grew up eating junk food and I grew up with a mother I adored but she was obese. At one point in my life she was probably close to 300lbs. It wasn’t until I was 16 that she began to bring healthy food in our home and began taking care of herself. All that time, I related to her. People would tell me I looked like her or that I was “my mother’s child”. To me, that was just another way of telling me I was fat.

This has always been an up and down journey for me and never has it been easy. Once I was out of high school, it was up to me to be active and take care of myself, like it is for everyone. I began to gain weight again in my early 20’s and by the time I was 24 I decided that being 200lbs. was not something I wanted. That number you were NEVER supposed to get to, kind of like being 30. Because at 30 you’re old, right?! (I’m now 33. Shhhhh!) I cared too much about these numbers rather than my health and the condition of what was going on inside me. My problem then was that I was more focused on my pant size rather than my health. I just did not understand what was important.

I joined a gym at that time and was in the best shape of my life, so I thought. I attended aerobics classes and was hitting the gym 5 days a week. I was eating slightly better. I was active again and I felt amazing. I was even teaching aerobics classes at a local church for college students and at my gym at the time. I had plans to get certified, maybe be a life coach. For 2 ½ years I maintained that lifestyle but when things began to change; a 4 year relationship ended, I quit teaching for numerous reasons, and I changed jobs, I began to lose control again. Basically, life happened. I lost sight of something very important. Me. I became a very low priority on the list of things to take care of in my life.

Over the next 7 years, I began dating my husband. I got married in 2007. We moved to Oxford 8 months later because he wanted to attend law school and there I ate my way up to 252 lbs. I was in a strange place in which I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t have a job at first, and I was 4 hours away from any family or friends. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am an emotional eater. I eat when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m upset. I eat to cope with life.
Image
Now, don’t think that I wasn’t active at all during those years. I attended a 2-week fit camp in which we worked out 6 to 8 hours a day and we ate super clean. 6 years ago I became an advocate for breast cancer after my aunt was diagnosed and I have walked in the Susan G. Komen 3-day walk every year since. The problem was I wasn’t doing it right. I wasn’t consistent. I couldn’t get motivated. I couldn’t forgive myself for the mistakes I had made. I couldn’t deal with the fact that I was miserable. I was in pain and I had injuries that the weight made even more unbearable.

In saying that, I should talk now about how I got here, with you. In January of 2012, almost 2 years ago, my husband and I joined a weight loss challenge at my sister’s church. It was a 5 month challenge and I was determined to lose 50lbs. In those months, I had good weeks, bad weeks and okay weeks. At the end of the challenge, I had lost and maintained 18lbs. Some of you are shaking your heads, but I was proud I lost and kept off anything because I hadn’t been able to do that in years.

In the fall of 2012, I was talking to a very good friend of mine that works in the weight loss department at my local gym. I wanted a gym that offered classes because that is what I enjoy doing. Put me on a treadmill and I’m in misery. There is nothing fun about that. It’s a means to an end but it didn’t float my boat, if you know what I mean. After meeting with one of their trainers and sales manager, I decided to join even though I was very reluctant and I had so many doubts about sticking around.

In October, just a few months after I joined my gym and the week of the Susan G. Komen walk, I hurt my foot. I would later find out it was tendentious in my foot and ankle and I was told not to do ANYTHING for 4-6 weeks. Life was raining on my parade but it was just getting started. The flood was coming.

The next week, I was in the car one night with my husband and after stopping at Walgreen’s for water, he had a seizure in the car right there in the parking lot. After spending the weekend in the hospital he was diagnosed with a low grade glioma or brain tumor and hypertension. He was put on a low sodium diet and he was given a hand full of pills to take every day. 4 days later, around 6 a.m. in the morning he had another seizure in his sleep and somehow managed to break his shoulder. During that first week we had numerous doctors’ visits and a month later we had to come and do it all over again; MRI, blood work, CT, etc. It was tedious and nerve-racking, to say the least.

Chris, my husband, was also scheduled to see a hypertension specialist since the drugs he was taking were not regulating his blood pressure. One crazy night and he had 5 pills to take, some of them twice a day, and he now had 4 doctors that he saw regularly. Also, as an added bonus he couldn’t drive for 6 months.

This happened and my life was literally turned on its head. I was helping my husband bathe, get dressed, get to work, etc. All the little chores that were once his, were all mine. I was cooking, cleaning, working, paying bills, and taking care of him. I wasn’t sleeping much because of the fears I would wake up to him having another seizure or that he was just going to die on me. Completely an emotional response but I could not make myself think any other way, even with lots of prayer. During this time, I was away from the gym consistently for probably 2 months. I literally could not get there. Between making sure my husband got to and from work, we also were seeing doctors and just trying to live through the worry of what was going to happen next. All I could feel was anxiety about my health and his. The most amazing thing, we got through it together and we are both amazingly better than we were because we didn’t let the difficult moments paralyze us. We took control of what we could and we realized the rest had to be taken one day at a time.
Last year changed my life. The physical and emotional desperation that came was overwhelming and yet it pushed me to make changes that needed to happen. Being a young woman that had always thought I could do anything, gaining 80lbs. or so limited my life in ways that made me think I could do nothing. I have been determined more than ever to make my workouts. Spinning has become my obsession. This year I have gone hiking in the mountains twice and I finished the Susan G. Komen 3-day with no problem. (Let me remind you, that’s a 60 mile walk!) Training and hard work have paid off, as well as reaching out to a friend to be my accountability partner. My health is a priority. My health is something that no longer takes a back burner to everything else.

The one thing I finally understand is that if this is truly a life change and I must do this for the length of my life, the amount of time it takes to get the weight off doesn’t matter so much. In 2 years I have lost 63lbs. To some, that would seem unproductive or too slow but to me it’s the world. Day by day, week by week, I have been making progress. I can do more and more things I had almost given up on. In May of this year I will participate in the Warrior Dash and in the fall I will once again walk 60 miles for breast cancer and I can assure you, I will finish with flying colors and limited pain. Because we’re fat we’re NOT broken, it just means we have work to do that we’ve been neglecting. When we make ourselves a priority, we get the results we want.

I can’t control when I die or how many years God gives me, but I can control the quality of my life. Quality not quantity, that’s what I’m living for.
Image

Monday, June 24, 2013

After the Thrill is Gone....There's Still Commitment.

When everything in the world tells you to quit going, how do you make the voice inside you that keeps you motivated, the voice that got you started, scream so loud that you continue the journey of what you know is right no matter what?!

6 years ago I said "yes". I was called to step up and do something for a cause I knew little about other than it was taking the life of someone that I loved very much. I was "called". What an overused phrase, right?! Let me explain what that meant for me. There was an overwhelming urge inside me that knew I HAD to do something, anything. I couldn't fix the problem. I had no control but I needed to do something that made me feel like I did in some way. When I started that's all I cared about and that's all I saw. I didn't see the underlying problems with the foundation I was raising money for. I didn't see all the bickering and the name-calling and the completely emotional wreckage between people that were fighting for the same cause. I didn't see that people with the same goal continued to tear one another to shreds and were walking away from something that they were once very passionate about.

Finding out that being an advocate for breast cancer was not all rainbows and unicorns was like the time I was a kid and I found out that not every kid thought church camp was as awesome as I did and some of them were just there to meet people of the opposite sex or to get away from their parents. It was like what I felt when I found out that Santa Claus wasn't real or like when I was told not everyone I love will make it into heaven. It was one of those moments when my heart felt heavy and my soul was punched in the gut.

I continue to feel that way even today, as I sit here more motivated than ever, and yet, defeated in some way. The media has been having a field day with the Komen Foundation and the Komen Foundation is having some legitimate issues. How do I defend an organization who has run itself into the ground over the past few years and made some very obvious public relations nightmares for all of us that are trying to raise money for them?

I'm angry. But I'm just not sure who I'm angry at or who I should be directing my anger towards. Some people have chosen to crucify the CEO's that are making six figure salaries. Some are attacking Planned Parenthood or Komen. Some are just blaming the economy of the entire country. What I'm seeing, apparently, there's enough blame to go around. I am disappointed in my fellow advocates and walkers and crew that have allowed the media to distract us from our main goal. We have turned our eyes from our hope and our mission of working as diligently as we can for patients, people we love, for a cure. We have turned away and immersed ourselves in politics, hate, bickering and darkened something that should have never been overshadowed by our human flaws. We have forgotten that we ARE the answer. We ARE THE CURE. If we quit, there is no money, no advances, no awareness, no answers for future generations.

I'm saddened and heartbroken and I have no idea how to fight other than to be persistent in the goals I've had all along. I am trying desperately to block out all the unwanted noise that continues to blind me from what is really important. It gets incredibly difficult on days when funds are slow to roll in, training is SUPER hot and humid, and it seems things are unraveling at the seams. 

I am interested to see the future for the largest organization fighting the war on breast cancer. For now, I will consider this a restructuring time for us all. A time when we can regroup and make plans to push ahead in whatever way we need to. Our cause is too great to just walk away. The journey isn't over. The mission isn't complete and therefore, I will not walk away.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Perfection Isn't Reality and Yet...

“Part of abandoning the all-or-nothing mentality is allowing yourself room for setbacks. We are bound to have lapses on the road to health and wellness, but it is critical that we learn how to handle small failures positively so that we can minimize their long-term destructive effects. One setback is one setback—it is not the end of the world, nor is it the end of your journey toward a better you.” -Jillian Michaels

My entire life, losing weight was centered around the idea of this image of perfection. Movie stars, magazines, television programs all told me what perfection was "supposed to be". Every spring break I was "supposed to" have a beach body for bikini season and the same for every summer. As someone who absolutely loathed bathing suites, and still does, all this did was make me angry. If I got invited to anything that involved a water activity, I immediately could feel my throat closing and my heart beating 90 miles an hour. I would start thinking of reasons why I couldn't attend. What can I say, kids are super judgmental and I was my own worst critic.

As an adult though I had an epiphany the other day: if I want to swim, go skiing, get in a hot tub, or head to the beach for a few days, I should buy a suite that fits and bask in all my imperfection. Seriously, who looks like Victoria Secret models aside from Victoria Secret models. NO ONE. Yes, there are women that are attractive and are at the gym every free second they have, but I can tell you that's not the majority. The majority of women are trying to get an hour in 3 or 4 times a week, if they're lucky. You know what?! That's okay. This idea of perfection or nothing is silly. Perfection is a social construct that isn't real.

Maybe I took one too many sociology classes but bear with me for a moment. Surely you've heard this concept that society tells us what pretty is or what we should look like. Whether you want it to or not, it does. We see, everywhere we look, what a woman is "supposed to be". We grow up believing that we have to reach this level of flawlessness that is created out in media world. I am so confused by this mostly because that ideal image isn't real. Hear that: IT ISN'T REAL.

There are so many of us that think that there's a magic pant size or a magic number on a scale that is going to send us into perfection-ville and all our problems will cease to exist. That isn't real either. There is NO magic and this idea that we have created solely in our minds of a perfect us isn't correct. Am I saying embrace the unhealthiness that is you? Love that you're 100lbs overweight and miserable? No. Most people I know are not happy being overweight and sedentary. Our bodies were made to move and to eat foods that weren't processed and reprocessed and reprocessed again. The importance here is to realize that if you're unhappy, for heaven sakes, do SOMETHING! Start walking. Make small changes. Instead of a hamburger, eat half a hamburger and order something besides fries. That's just one example of many.

I am an emotional eater and I know that because every time something stresses me out all I can think about is going somewhere to eat something I like to make myself feel better. Once I realized that about myself, I now have the power to change it. I just suffer through the pain, maybe say a prayer, cry, punch something, not someone, although that could be effective, and keep going

This journey is not easy. Let me repeat that: Trying to eat healthy and make the right decisions for a quality life is NOT EASY. If you choose to do it the right way, it will never be easy. If you're an emotional eater like me, it's a constant fight between emotion and logic. "I want to eat that cookie. I WANT that cookie! I'll feel better. Just a bite. Just let me lick it...No! Do you know how long you'll have to stay on the ellipical if you eat that?! That hover-round is calling your name. If you keep eating like this you'll have a grabbing stick in no time." And so it goes...

My main goal is to tell myself every day not to be an all or nothing person. I have a prayer that I was saying every day for a while, "God, help me not to be an all or nothing person. I need the middle ground right now." Simple but effective. There's nothing more freeing than having control of your emotions and knowing that you don't need to rely on a substance of any kind to get you through the day. It's freeing to know that perfection is not reality and that I don't tell myself that to just feel better BUT because that is TRUTH. My "perfection", my self-worth, is based on the goals I set for myself that are realistic, that I can meet and be proud to reach. Perfection is realizing there is no perfection.

27lbs. down. 55ish to go.    




Friday, March 1, 2013

Living Healthy, Testing Sanity

When I began this blog it was strictly meant to be about losing weight and getting healthy. After a short while, I got distracted apparently. My focus is now turned towards venting, chatting, rejoicing, etc. about the journey of truly trying to be healthy which includes not only making healthy eating choices and exercising but also forming good habits. Period.

I can tell you that the past almost 2 weeks have been interesting. I finally made the decision to allow, ask, beg my childhood friend, Val to help me. She is a nutrition consultant at my gym and for a long time I refused to believe I needed anyone's help. At 32, I have decided that as strong I as I want to be or think I am, I still need help sometimes. I need support and accountability. It makes all the changes bearable.

For the first 3 days she put me on a detox plan in which I was eating mostly lean meat and green veggies. (Hold your excitement.) It was simple enough except the first day, what I call the day of panic, I was angry, grouchy, and just all out hungry. I felt as though I was losing my sanity. People kept offering me food I couldn't eat and I kept saying no. All I really wanted to do was head to Jody's Bakery and eat cookies until I I was in a diabetic coma. The fat kid inside me was having some issues. Day 2 and 3 were much better though, and after 3 days of detox and 3 other days of a healthy eating plan, I had lost 4 lbs. There was some exercise thrown in there also. Overall, feeling like a crackhead without a fix was worth it.

Today is day 11. I don't know if I've lost any more weight since I refuse to weigh myself every day but I do know that I feel great, for the most part. I'm stressed out over preparing food. I like to cook...when I have time...which is never. I like to make my own food at home BUT when I get off work or I come home on a lunch break, I don't want to spend the entire time trying to get all my protein and veggies prepared and down the hatch before running back to work or heading to bed. Now, I know what you're thinking. Prepare, chop, slice, dice and freeze. I know all of that. I know what I NEED to do but getting it all planned and together is another story. I told myself that I would take Saturday or Sunday of this weekend and prepare a week of food but honestly just thinking of that wears me out. It's a lot of work to keep up this lifestyle. A lot of work.

The flip side of that, it's a LOT of work to stay uncomfortable, fat, and tired all of the time from not moving. It's a lot of work to have to carry 80 extra pounds around on a skeleton that didn't grow when the fat did. I love the way I feel when I'm working out and not eating crap but it certainly is not the easier path. The easier, quicker path is to eat at McDonald's and be done with thinking about it. Yep. Eat the "poop nuggets" as I call them and carry on. Side note: the ingredients in those nuggets looks like pink poop, hence poop nuggets. Not to mention, they have the same nutritional value. Easy isn't better. Easy is regret.

I've spent the better part of my life trying to build and maintain better habits. I do well for a while and then I'm back to the same destructive patterns. My question to myself and every one else is, if it feels a thousand times better to live a life eating what God intended us to eat and sweating and moving, again, like we were naturally made to do, why do we choose the easier road that only leads to diabetes, high cholesterol, cancer, heart attacks, and gargantuan amounts of low self worth? We waste our lives running after a schedule of events that doesn't include what should be most important, our health and our well-being. Through our actions we are creating a world of tv watching, glutinous, lazy, barbarians. We are teaching our kids that a cheeto, burger, oreo filled lunch is okay because it fits the schedule and momma "ain't gotta cook."

I can only worry about my habits and my future children's habits, if I have them. Saying that, there will never be a time when I won't try to encourage people to make better choices. I hope that my better choices, all my "no's" to girl scout cookies and trips out to eat at the local pizza joint, will not just be an annoyance for my friends and family, but an encouragement and a knowledge that better choices are out there and we owe it to ourselves to choose better.

Today my goal is to choose better. To go to the gym. And to try not to be bitter about it.

22 down. 60 to go.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Let Them Eat Chicken!!! Moo.

The times I have been angry at God, I know it had nothing to do with God. My emotions were all out of control. I have blamed God for everything that could have gone wrong in my life. He gets the blame for sickness, divorce, murder, war, death, etc. I mean, I’ve always been told that God could intervene. God could stop anything, right? My emotions tell me that’s the way it’s supposed to be but logic says God has a plan that I don’t understand and may never understand in my lifetime or ever. God doesn’t answer to me though. God is…God. I am owed nothing for this life I have. If I truly am a Christian then I believe that he sent his son to take away the responsibility that was mine. Do I have questions about that? Of course! But I have questions about a lot of things. I mean, we live on a planet that is in constant motion beneath our feet and out in a large void around a big ball of fire. If the big ball of fire dies, we all die. Who thought of that plan? But the better question is, how can I not have questions about that? I can tell people “It’s easy to understand. God made everything!” and then that’s the end. BUT, even if that is the answer, I don’t get why more people aren’t amazed by how BIG and amazing our planet truly is. How everything works so beautifully together, even if we are destroying that rhythm. God. Why did he give us such an amazing place to live that is so full of question and wonder? How do we defend it and defend Him if we’re people who believe?

The only answer that comes to mind is love. That may sound corny or like the typical answer but it’s the only one I can come up with. I, myself, am awful sometimes at just loving, especially when people are in my way. If I’m running late, having a bad day, have a headache or just need to complain about how out of shape I feel, I don’t want to hear someone else’s issues. I know that sounds awful and harsh, but I think others would agree with me. My job requires me daily to find strength somewhere within me to put all my “junk” aside and listen to others, even when they may be lying just to get something for free. I beat myself up because in my mind I’m thinking “If Jesus were standing beside me right now, would he approve of my actions?” My hope is that he would be proud of my effort even if I don’t get it right all the time. “E” for effort. I don’t know if God works on that grading system. Hmmmm… Maybe “F” for forgiveness. That’s more like it.

I’ve been very discouraged by how other Christians are representing all Christians. My opinion, I think they’re doing it all wrong. Of course! This club, this Christian group, seems to be excluding people. What?! That has nothing to do with love and it certainly doesn’t cover the forgiveness department. What about grace. “By the grace of God, I am what I am. 1 Corinthians 15:10” I am supposed to be accepting, loving and welcoming. I only exist by the grace of God. I’m no better than the un-bathed schizophrenic screaming at the sky or the guy that lies to get money to buy crack. Why? Because I have sinned. I am sinful. If I could just remember that. Not sit around wrecked with guilt and wanting to kill myself but if I could just remember, everyone is just like me. They are sinful, broken, lost and hoping for something better. Just like me, they want a loving, graceful, forgiving God that they know is there in the background taking care of business.

Of course, like most things, I’ve blamed God for the way other people perceive him. They kicked me out and told me I was wrong, not good enough, not worthy of the things in my life that I have and I’ve believed them and in that process, jaded myself towards a God that wants nothing more than to love me. People, their actions, their thoughts and perceptions have influenced my relationship with My God. These are the same people that God says to love. What a tough balance. I’m not giving up though. Challenges are my strength. I want to love people because I LOVE my God because I can honestly say, I couldn’t love them just being me. I love my God because every time I try not to, he reminds me that he’s there. He reminds me that my job is NOT to fight with others about chicken nuggets and their right to eat them or not eat them, but my job is to love everyone that does or does not eat chicken nuggets. He reminds me that as a Christian, my job is not to kick the losers out for the path they have chosen that causes me to call them a loser. He reminds me he is with me, even when I tell Him to go away. He reminds me he is proud of my efforts to help, even when I’m not perfect. He reminds me I’m not perfect and that’s okay because he reminds me about forgiveness. My job is to love the unlovable because I am the unlovable. My job is to meet people where they are and welcome them when others don’t. My job is to form my own perceptions of a God that knows me inside and out and loves me anyway.