{One Step at a Time Gets Me There.}

So, I have a confession. I am an emotional eater. There, I said it.

Now, before I go any further, I should explain that I understand there’s an underlying spiritual issue — the emotional eating, that’s just a symptom. More on that another time. For now, let it just be enough to get that out there.

So, where was I? Ah, yes — emotional eater.

I realized there was a problem when I started gaining a reputation for the girl who loved donuts. I do love a good donut, it’s true. But is that the thing I want to come to mind when one thinks of me? Um, no. My poor, sweet friends. They really had no choice as much as I raved about donuts. Trust me y’all, it was bad. One evening I stopped by the Krispy Kreme and bought a dozen hot now glazed donuts. I ate four of them within five minutes — on my way to a workout session at my church. I saved the other six for my post-workout drive home. That’s right. And, I unashamedly boasted about it during the class. What?! Who does that?! {ahem}

Here’s the thing: I don’t do well with transition and there have been several major (GIANT) transitions in our lives over the past five years. I did have a baby during that time; even still, three years seems a reasonable amount of time to lose the pregnancy weight.  The pregnancy weight wasn’t the problem, though.

The problem was that food (junk food) became a form of stress management. If I was upset, I’d grab a fruit roll-up or three. If I was sad, I’d grab a dozen donuts. If I was confused, back to the fruit roll-ups. If I was feeling uncertain, I’d eat half a bag of cheese puffs. If overwhelmed, ice cream. You get the idea. No surprise when the scale told me I weighed nearly 200 pounds. (Did I mention all the major transitions?) Yep, almost 200 pounds! Even in my skivvies, even when I shifted around trying to distribute the weight differently, more evenly, even after I inched my feet backwards so my heels hung off the back of the scale. But, the scale wasn’t the only issue either.

Poor choices in one area of life affect all other areas of life in some way or other. I was watching that happen right before my eyes. I felt a little hopeless. One morning after tearing off the third blouse as I tried to get ready for church, I lamented that I was tired of being chubby and hated my clothes. There were tears. The big, ugly cry kind of tears. My sweet husband did the only thing he knew to do — he told me I was beautiful, wiped away my tears and then bought me donuts on the way to church. Really though, this wasn’t about being beautiful or weighing less — it was about being comfortable in my own skin. It was about living well. 

At the end of May, I joined a clean eating group. In June, I signed up for a 21Day Challenge Group and started using Shakeology. After that, I signed on with Team Beachbody as a coach. Sure, the discounted Shakeology and workout packages are great. But, what’s even better is having the opportunity to tell someone it’s not too late to live well, to live healthy, to be better.  That’s why you’re seeing more health and fitness posts on my social media lately. If you feel stuck or discouraged in this area of your life, I would love to help you.

I am happy to report that I have not eaten a donut since the end of May! I dropped 13 pounds after my first round of 21Day Fix + Shakeology. But, more importantly, I feel better. I am better. And stronger. I haven’t reached my overall health and fitness goal yet, but I am making progress. One day at a time. One workout at a time. One healthy decision after another. One step at a time. That’s what gets me there.

I can. I will.

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But, God.

I am simply overwhelmed at the faithfulness of God. Undone. Blown away.

I was sitting at my piano tonight, just stringing together random chords — not playing anything in particular. I am so grateful for the gift of music that God has given us to use as an expression of our worship. Music is woven into story after story through out Scripture. The first mention of an instrument and musician is in Genesis 4. His name was Jubal.  I think that’s SO cool.

The past weekend was full of music. I was invited to play piano for a wedding. Play. And sing. Um, what’s that now? In front of people? Yes. In front of people. Sunday, there was worship. I played keys and sang (at the same time). What’s the big deal? I told people for years, “I play the piano, but not in front of people and not if I’m singing.” Sometimes, I still cannot believe that I do that very thing on a regular basis. But, God knew that I would.

I took lessons when I was younger. When we didn’t have a piano in our home I had to practice at church. I’d go over and practice for awhile. I didn’t like to practice at the church because I wasn’t supposed to turn on all the lights. It was kind of spooky. So, I quit piano lessons and didn’t play much after that for a very long time. There were days I would go over to the church and pull out a songbook, Lift Him Up: Volume 3, and pick through some worship songs. I couldn’t have imagined what God had in store. I did not fully understand what He was pouring into me; nor, did I understand that He was preparing me. Even then. Way back then.

It is remarkable to look back and see the God moments — and to recognize them. There were seasons of my life where there was no song. No music. No worship. Sometimes, even now, I find myself wondering if I’ve missed something. But, God.

But, God was working. He always knew where I was. He surrounded me with people whom He would use to speak life, speak encouragement, to teach and train.

I will never forget the moment I sang my very first song in church. I was young. And it was empty. I would sing along with a cassette tape in the microphone while my parents cleaned. I always picked the microphone with the blue foam cover (or windscreen, if you’re a tech geek). I don’t know if the microphone was on, but it did smell funny. (Now, I know that was the smell of spit!) I remember the moment I sang in front of people. “The sun will come out to-mor-row…” My momma made me do it.

I will never forget the moment that God confirmed the specific calling He had on my life for worship ministry. It’s in me. He put it there.

I will never forget the moment someone referred to me as a musician, a good musician. Wait. What? That’s not how I would describe myself. Sure, she was and is one of my dearest and most favorite friends. But, she has mad skills on the piano. When she said it, it meant something. I may have cried, and she may have poked fun at me. But, still. She spoke life, encouragement.

I will never forget the moment that I played piano while I sang — in front of people. It was my Mamaw’s funeral. I was petrified.

I remember the first time I led worship. I remember the first time I led worship from the piano. That was . . . well, I have no words.

I could go on. Moment after moment. Specifically and divinely designed moments because I am His, and He is mine. He is always, always working. And, He’s promised that He will equip me. And as I played tonight, He reminded me of this: He is for me. He will never leave me. He will never forsake me. He loves me.

But here’s the thing: He loves me because He is love. I have done nothing to earn or deserve His affections. He loved me before I sang my first note or played my first chord. He loved me before I was even born.

That always gets me. Every. time.

That’s why I sing.

Don’t Forget to Remember

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of celebration. Let’s see – there is turkey, dressing, dumplins, and pumpkin pie. After we feast, we usually spend a bit of time flipping through the newspaper ads, pen in hand, marking our favorite things. Christmas is just around the corner, after all. We play games. We take naps. And, we remember.

I remember Tyler’s first Thanksgiving. He was 7 months old and the life of the party. He most likely had his hands in everyone’s plate getting his first taste of the delicious goodness that is Thanksgiving dinner. I remember the laughter. Lots of laughter.

I remember where I was standing when I received a phone call from the hospital just a few days later. I remember the heaviness in the room when I arrived there. It was suffocating. I remember being told, “He didn’t make it.” It was SIDS.

He. Didn’t. Make. It. The reality of that moment hit me in a way I cannot begin to explain.

I remember walking back to a different room. My eyes landed on my lifeless baby boy and pain pierced me to the very core. It would become a familiar pain. I wept while I begged God to “fix it.”

I remember walking away from that hospital without my baby. I can tell you it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

I remember losing a second child 15 months later. I remember my marriage falling apart. I remember being angry, confused, and feeling completely abandoned by God. The pain was relentless and I crumbled.

I also remember the moment I gave up and laid all the brokenness and pain at the feet of Jesus. I remember the moment He turned my mourning (YEARS of mourning) into joy.

And, I am so thankful.

I belong to a sovereign, perfect, faithful God. I am completely in awe of Him. He heals. He redeems. He restores. There is not one moment of my life when He has taken His eye off of me. (Or you!) He sees us. He loves us. Even in our darkest, most desperate moments. I know that now.

I know it.

So, don’t forget to remember. Remember who He is and what He has done. Remember the cross. Remember His lavish love and perfect grace. And in everything, give thanks…That can be a hard one to take in and live out until we remember Christ. Then suddenly even our most difficult moments pale in comparison to the pain and suffering He endured. For the glory of the Father and for us. 

After all this time. . .

Wednesday would have been her birthday.  Today marks the anniversary of her death.

I will not likely forget hearing the news that Sunday morning.  The moment is seared into my memory. Several of us were piled in a small room sleeping on the floor.  The hospital staff had graciously offered the space, and it was an improvement on the uncomfortable, unforgiving chairs and sofa in the waiting room. It was a tight squeeze, but I appreciated having people whom I loved dearly within arm’s reach. The door cracked open and the light from the hallway cut through the darkness. It was so bright. It seemed intrusive. Cold. I squeezed my eyes shut very tightly thinking that whoever had just opened the door might go away. Perhaps they had the wrong room. But, they did not.

I do not remember who came to the door; nor do I remember which of my sweet friends coaxed me to answer. But, the instant I stepped out into the cold, bright hallway I was fully aware. A nurse was waiting for me and she suggested that I get scrubbed up and go back into the NICU to see Haley. So, I did. You would have never known by looking at this beautiful baby that hidden inside was a malformed heart.  She was born 4 days earlier and had undergone heart surgery 2 days after that. During the second trimester of my pregnancy, she had been diagnosed with hypo-plastic left heart syndrome. I knew the situation was critical, but I was still believing that everything would be fine. In my mind, she simply was not going to die. That could not happen to me. Not again. It couldn’t. I told myself that God would not allow me to lose another baby.  No. Way.

Yet, it happened. She died. A short time after I saw her that morning, a doctor gave me the news.

When Tyler died 15 months earlier from SIDS, I was confused and completely broken.  Now, I was in a full-on crisis of my faith. There were so many unanswered questions.  I began to doubt everything. The overwhelming doubts led to fear and anxiety.  I felt as if I were standing on a rug, and any minute God was going to pull it out from under me. How could a loving, compassionate God not want to intervene?  What did I do wrong? Has believing in God all these years done me any good at all? I was angry. So very angry.

I really was trying to see God, but my perspective had become terribly skewed.  In my damaged (and very wrong) perspective, I served a God who was distant; He was a dictator and could not possibly be concerned with my heart or my pain.  My God had abandoned me when I needed him most–not once, but twice. I never doubted the fact that he was God; but, I questioned His character and doubted His integrity. (Have you ever been in that spot?)

Now? After all this time?

Here’s what I know: God is so unbelievably good. (I’ll save the story of how I got there for another time.)

I am so overwhelmed and in awe of Him and His unfailing love. I am so grateful that I can look back and see Him at work. He is masterfully weaving all the strands of my life together into something beautiful and good. It may not be beautiful to people who walk past me in the grocery store or drive past me in the carpool line, but it is beautiful to Him. To me. I am so thankful that He uses all things — every moment, every tragedy, every tear, every failure, every success. It’s true, nothing is wasted. All things work for good and for His purpose, because I love Him and He loves me. That’s His promise. I am so thankful that I belong to Him.

Take heart, sweet friends. Be patient in suffering. Be full of hope. He sees you. He loves You. He holds you in the palm of His very strong hand.

18 Years Later

11/27/13
It has been eighteen years. So much time has passed and so many things have happened. But, this day, eighteen years ago, was one of the most difficult days of my life. Hands down.

I still remember where I was standing when a woman on the other end of the phone told me that I needed to get to the hospital because my son was there. Despite my repeatedly asking her to tell me why, she made it clear that she would not be answering any of my questions. Someone drove me to the hospital. A feeling of dread settled on me and it was like nothing I had ever felt before. I arrived and walked into the room to which I had been directed. It was full of family and friends. “Where’s Tyler?” I asked. “He didn’t make it.” was the reply. Dread turned to full-fledge panic.

As the reality of the moment began to sink in, it seemed as if someone had knocked all the breath out of me.My world crumbled. In an instant. My heart had been crushed in to a million pieces. As I walked into the emergency room and saw my almost 8-month old son lying lifeless the pain pierced my already aching heart. It was pure anguish. I wept. I begged God to fix it as I held him tightly. Walking away from that hospital without my baby was more difficult than I can begin to explain. I do not know how I put one foot in front of the other. Pure anguish.

I would love to tell you that I responded by believing and doing all the right things in my grief. But, I didn’t. Not really. I wanted to die. I was angry. I was confused. I wrote in a journal almost one year later, “I really don’t think it’s fair that God separated us. I really try hard to understand. I continue asking why? People keep saying God has a purpose, but no one has been able to explain it to me yet. So, needless to say I am finding that hard to believe.”

Fast-forward 18 years.

There was purpose in my pain.

I knew all about God. But I didn’t know him. Now, I do. Intimately. Deeply. He is sovereign. Loving. Full of compassion. Unfailing. Unchanging. Faithful. And he knows me.

I didn’t really believe God. My perspective was skewed. Now, I know that God is who He says He is. Proper perspective of God (knowing who He is) enables proper perspective of everything else.

I didn’t really understand the depth of God’s love for me. I was just like all the other church kids. I grew up hearing a story, believing it, but not really getting it. For God so loved the world . . . He gave his son. Having lost a son of my own, I cannot imagine what would compel anyone to willingly give their son, their only son, to die. That was the depth of God’s love. Wow. Now, I know. He loves us so.

I am so unspeakably grateful for his unfathomable grace and unfailing love. Really.
I am so thankful that I can remember the anguish because it reminds me of God’s lavish love.

Yes. That’s right. God used one of the most difficult days of my life (even years later) to remind me of His great love. Even as I write through my tears, I am overwhelmed by his sweet love and remarkable grace. And that’s how he does it — that’s how he turns tears of mourning into sweet joy and gives beauty for ashes. He heals and restores and redeems. I love Him so.

Be encouraged today. He loves you, too.