I remember when I lost my mind

It was the day after Valentine’s. I sat in my car with my earbuds in, music playing – urging me to get out of the car… The words got to me:

I remember when,
I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so special about that place
Even your emotions have an echo in so much space

In 26 degree F, 16 F windchill type of weather, I got up and out of the car and its lovely heated seats and went for a run.  See, I’m working on this training plan to run a 10K later this spring.  Weeks ago I committed to stick with it, I couldn’t give up already.  Back then I didn’t know the frigid temps would dive so low.  But, that’s not the point; the running must go on.   I had decided that I wasn’t just a runner because I said I was – I’m a runner because I  run, even if it is difficult.

That day I was the only one there; usually there are quite a few exercising.  As my feet hit the pavement for 2 miles, my lungs burning, I kept thinking, “I have lost my ever-loving mind!”

I can’t help but compare this to following Jesus.

You can start out, as a believer, with verbal confirmation- telling others the choice you’ve made – and that is a good place to start.  But the truth is this:  As I exchange my mind for His, my thoughts and desires lost in His will, it changes my actions.  Oh, it isn’t easy.  It takes real commitment.   But, when I begin to follow Him, humbly and sacrificially – I become a true believer.  Not just because I say I am, but because I’m truly following.   even if no one else is.

from Philippians 2:5-12

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ isLord, to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

What good news!  It is an extraordinary gift from God. There is such comfort in the knowledge that I can have the mind of Christ as His follower.  He will work in me, to transform my mind and my life.  As a child of God I’m thankful for His word, and the new life He freely gives.

Oh the words to this hymn! Such truth as I seek to lose my own mind in exchange for His!

May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.

food rebellion (and a Monday morning recipe)

I can be honest with you, here, can’t I?  I’ve been in a bit of a funk, and I’m not talking about an uptown funk.  It has been a full-scale rebellion.  That’s the only word I can think of to describe it…

A month or so ago, after Christmas, I had a visit with my nutritionist.  At that appointment, he told me it would be best if I could try to avoid dairy and processed white sugar.  He proceeded to tell me about a few studies that he had read, which indicate that those foods in the dairy and sugar categories can lead to some cell inflammation.  Cell inflammation is not good for someone with my diagnosis of t-cell lymphoma.

If you know me at all, you know I love to bake.  I don’t always bake for my own self gratification – I most often find myself baking to give away to others.  It is how I know to show love, especially to my family.  cookies, cakes, pies, bread, cupcakes, brownies – It is an extensive list of favorites.  And guess what?  No dairy and no sugar takes a lot of these items off the table.

And so, I’ve been pouting.

When I left my nutritionist’s office, I felt a nudge that it was okay. I could learn to bake differently in order to improve and maintain my health.  But, instead of embracing those thoughts, I scorned them.  And I refused. Because I love my baking, with all of the butter and sugar I can possibly find in my kitchen, I didn’t want to learn new.  I wanted my life to be the old way – no diagnosis.  no need for change.  no need for different.

pout. pout. pout.

Well, on this cold, sleety, “the-snow-storm’s-a-coming,” kind of Monday morning, I felt myself cave and repent of my terrible attitude.  This is my life – and I need to deal with it, the healthiest way I can. Okay, maybe no dairy or sugar.  But, I can find a way to bake for my people.  And so, I began this journey – weird and strange as it is. I looked up a recipe for Oatmeal bake, and made it my own.

Now my kids, based on our history, are used to yumminess coming out of my oven.  So, I didn’t tell them I was baking anything – because I didn’t want to disappoint them.  Guess what?  They loved it!  And I did too!  I believe it is a miracle.  A snow-day miracle!

It is true – even in the simplest, every day, sense – that with God all things are possible.  When he hands us circumstances, He also makes a way through what seems hard or complicated.  Listen, I know that there are  much more difficult and terrible things happening around the world than this.  I get that.  But, I also believe that He ministers to each of us in our individual struggles no matter what they are.  He is so merciful!

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So – I thought I’d share my half made up recipe for Healthy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bake.   Its worth the time and ingredients!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup apple sauce
1 egg
1 1/4 cup oatmeal
1/3 oatbran
mini semi sweet chips sprinkled on top, or mixed in – optional

Instructions:

Beat egg, then mix together all ingredients but the oatmeal and oat bran.  Stir in oatmeal, oat bran and mini chocolate chips.  Pour batter into greased 8×8 pan.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Admittedly there was a tiny bit of sugar – but not near what I would have baked with in the past. and no dairy at all! I’m fairly proud of this first attempt  – especially since my kiddos loved it and begged me to make it again tomorrow!  :)

Thankfully, the baking rebellion is over.

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(This recipe is from Gooseberry Patch, but edited significantly for my purposes. )

truly, madly, deeply

Four days after Valentine’s Day in 2006, my best friend’s husband died.  At the time I was pregnant with my sweet boy Isaac.  I remember sitting on my bed in disbelief.  Heartbroken on her behalf, my tears continued for days.

She and I have walked a lot of life’s roads together.  At best, her marriage was a bumpy part of the road that we traveled,  but she loved her husband – and this unexpected event was terribly difficult to navigate.  Through stress, emotional ups and downs, mental illness, physical illness, and financial difficulties, my friend had remained dedicated and faithful to her marriage, and to her husband.

Because…  true love.

Nine years later the pain is still very real when Valentine’s Day approaches.

One of the things I learned from watching my friend is this:  True love is not what you think.  While many in our culture believe love is romance, and some equate it with a strong attraction, or even lust – I realized that none of that equals love.    In fact, love can exist without those things.

You know what else I realized?  When love is true, enough to survive the deep, hard, almost impossible stuff, it will make some people (who might not understand love) think you’re absolutely mad.  True love is the opposite of what is humanly expected.  

And what is love?  That’s what I asked myself today when I thought of my friend attempting to survive this Valentine’s Day.

from 1 Corinthians 13, the message:

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

I know there are a lot of other thoughts and factors when it comes to love; but this description of authentic, deep love is a really good place to start.  It is the exact opposite of how I want to act most of the time.  I’m a selfish sinner.  I’m terribly human.  My life could be an example of the antithesis of love.   But, there’s hope for me :  Jesus is the truest example of LOVE.  

What I’m still learning is: I love best, when I receive and remember His love.  I won’t love well unless I continually remember and live with His love at the center of my whole life.

He is unexpected.  supernatural. sacrificial.  He is LOVE.

 

 

 

 

trust your training

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On the eve of my most recent 5-k, I found myself on the phone with my sister.  She’s a seasoned runner, and gives good advice, which I needed.  I was in a panic.

Well, not a panic – just nervous.  terribly nervous.  I’d completed my couch to 5k training plan and knew in theory that I could run the distance.  But – what if I couldn’t in the morning.  So many unknowns – and running such a new thing for me – I was very unsure of myself.

Over the course of our conversation, she said to me several times, “Melody, trust your training.”  What did she mean?  You’ve done what’s necessary and that work will carry you through the race.  Because of her good and true words, I was able to put things in perspective and run with confidence.   And that was run, uphill for at least half a mile.

Since then, I’ve remembered her words many, many times.

Trust…

In my life over the last couple of months there have been a lot of instances where I’ve felt insecure and unsure, emotionally and physically.  Things happen, uncomfortable, unhappy things; I feel completely uneasy.    And I truly don’t understand the purpose at all.   Sometimes I think I’ve missed the mark and I’m headed in the wrong direction – maybe I’ve made a mistake.

But, in these moments,  I’ve also had the opportunity to remember a truth from Scripture:  All things work together for good. Because I know these words to be true, I find myself knowing one thing for sure.  Not only do I have to trust the training I’m going thru spiritually.  But, because of these difficult times, I have to trust the Trainer Himself.

Nothing in life that happens is futile.  He promises there is reason behind each leg of the race I run.  He doesn’t promise happiness and a comfortable life.  No.  However, on these long, sometimes painful parts of the journey, I am conformed to His image, for His glory.   Regardless –  good is the outcome and His glory.    No matter what, I must keep running, trusting the Trainer and His training plan.  It may be rough.  It may be heart-breaking.  I may not understand.  But, I can keep running, knowing He is in charge and His roadmap is the best for my life.

So, feet to pavement, I’ll keep going.  And believe I can, because of His promises.  As I follow Him, He will give the strength to carry on.  And that is really all I need to know.

from Romans 8:

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Aldi’s pride

It was only a few weeks ago that I went for the first time to Aldi’s, that is, for my groceries.  We had only been home from our Christmas trip for a day, and I needed to stalk up after being away for twelve days.

In a moment of sanity, I thought, you know, I should try Aldi : I have extra time, I need to save back some cash in the budget, and it seems like now would be a good time.

So I did it.

I’d heard from the experts to go slowly so that I could find what I needed – Aldi’s has a lot of their own store brand, which doesn’t always look familiar at first glance.  There were plenty of produce selections and other options that I normally would buy – just not in the popular brands you see in commercials.

I left the store with twice the groceries for half the price.  My cart filled to the brim, and my heart a little happy, I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I do this sooner!?  What a great way to save money!  I’m such a good housewife.”

After loading up my car, I walked my cart back to the store front:  I even left the quarter behind in the cart’s slot for someone else to use.  My step was light walking thru the parking lot, my ego just a little swollen from all the good deeds of the day.

As I drove away, I heard a voice chiding me quietly.  I turned up my worship music and sang along so I didn’t have to listen, but it didn’t matter.  I knew what it was saying.

Of course I knew WHY I hadn’t gone to Aldi’s before.

You know, I have loved going to Publix for groceries… the store is shiny, spotless, clean.  The produce is sparkly and the selection is enormous.  The store clerks are super friendly and help you to your car.    They know how to make you feel fantastic, even slightly spoiled!    But those aren’t the only reasons I went to Publix and not Aldi…

The truth is, I wanted to buy what I wanted without counting the cost.  I wanted to shop somewhere that made me feel important.  and I wanted everyone to think that we had enough money that saving cash at the grocery store wasn’t necessary.

(As I type this, my thought processes seem a bit foolish and terribly immature… )

Over the last year, as groceries sky-rocketed in cost, I came to realize my idealism (*read pride*) had to end.  I needed to be humble ; I had to stop blowing up my grocery budget every week!  Do you know what I found?  Humility is REALLY HARD when pride is in the way.

So, that’s WHY it took so long for me to start shopping at Aldi’s.

After that first afternoon of bargain shopping, I realized something important ; It is really freeing to not be held hostage by what people think, or what you believe they might think.

Pride is a terrible sin that manipulates our hearts.   It might be about trivial things like clothes, body weight or shape, education, workouts, success, performance at work, a well decorated home, – or any other number of important things like our marriage, or our children, spirituality or in my case, where you grocery shop… actions with pride as a motivator – continuing for the sake of what other people think, is a trap.   a sinful trap.

There is good news.  His name is Jesus.  With great love He came to earth, lived and died – and claimed victory over sin and death. That includes victory over one of the most sins to deal with: pride.  But His love is strong enough to convince the most prideful, (that would be me) for my need of Him. And his grace extends to forgive me of the ugliest sins.

And guess what?!? Even more good news! This same Jesus frees me from pride by promising that I don’t have to contend with “others”- no matter who that might be! My need to please others or “keep up appearances” can be set aside- and I can do that when I realize just how much He loves me.

Thank you Heavenly Father for being a God who frees me by the power of your Love!  Give me grace to live humbly before you because of that love.  amen.

10,000 is a lot…

Its about two years ago now that things got a little rough.  2013 felt like a long and winding road.   There was a doctor’s office involved, an unhappy diagnosis and treatment to follow.

Most people have their own version of rough.  Life is not without affliction.

At the time, I walked the road in front of me and held on tightly to Jesus, because there was no other choice.   The experience left me with new knowledge of trust and peace from Him that I would never have experienced any other way.   Looking back I wouldn’t trade it.

Today, while I was playing in worship, I took a minute to remember…

It is kind of funny, because when you’re in the middle of something emotionally and physically difficult, you don’t always see very clearly.  Back then, it was a moment to moment kind of living; many “one foot in front of the other” kind of days.   Anyway, In 2013 I was leading worship every Sunday morning at a church, and there was one song that we sang together pretty regularly.  You’ve probably heard it before.    The words are poignant, but were especially meaningful to me back then.

Well, the Sunday after my diagnosis, I remember arriving at church and looking over my notes for the service – and I had chosen that song.    Ten Thousand Reasons.    I almost choked.  How in the world had I planned to sing that song on a day when I didn’t know if I’d be able to sing at all without crying?

Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could give glory to God in the middle of this crisis.  Faced with my own mortality and all of the unknowns ahead, I didn’t really want to sing this song.  But, I did.   Through tears I sang these words with the congregation, and as I did, my heart swelled full of unspeakable joy and newly strengthened faith.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul
Worship His holy name, Sing like never before
O my soul, I’ll worship Your holy name

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

10,000. (Seriously – that is more than I can number right now. ) It isn’t 10,000 things, or stuff.  It isn’t necessarily tangible or material. or my happy life events.    Although all of that is from Him and deserves my gratefulness.  But that 10,000?  It is HIM and who He is, 10,000 different ways.  I can’t really fathom it.

Two years ago I struggled to praise Him.  But today, as I played this same song I knew in my heart :  I am thankful for the promise of eternity.  When that final day comes and eternity arrives, I will never run out of time or reason for worshiping Him.

annual pilgrimage

Tomorrow’s the day we drive to Vanderbilt.  Just like last year.  I suppose we’ll go again next year too. It’s time for a check up.

My attitude towards “my lymphoma” (I call it that in order to own it, I guess) has changed a lot since I was diagnosed two years ago.  Initially I felt like it was consuming me, maybe like it was going to swallow me whole.  But, once I finished the previous round of treatment last spring, I let it all sort of drift into oblivion.  I didn’t think about it very often, except to try to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which is beneficial for my immune system. Even after switching to a new physician and seeing him as well as a nutritionist regularly to help me with getting healthy, “my lymphoma” was really in my periphery.  Nothing to think over too much.

Except now.

I will visit the physician at Vanderbilt who specializes in the kind of lymphoma I have.  We’ll chat.  He’ll do a body scan under this special light probably and all the interns will come in and ooh and aahh over me and the fact that I’m an anomaly.   Yep.  freak show.

And at the end of the appointment I find out what’s next.

Except I already know.

Well, not in a medical sense.  In fact, I’m a tiny bit concerned that there is a new lesion forming.  So, who knows what will happen?  But, I can tell you what will happen once I leave.

I’ll shed a few tears for the sheer emotion of it all, relieved that it is over, and content that I can mostly go back to my normal, maybe a few weeks of treatment, or maybe not.  

But, I will choose to acknowledge what a gift this appointment is.

You see, every year I have the privilege to examine my life by means of this trip to Vanderbilt. I have the opportunity to view my life thru a different lens.  When I come to grips with the reality that my tomorrows are truly counted out by His hand, it changes how I take on the day.  He is in control, and I am not. I can be fully at rest in His hand, relying on his supreme goodness.

But next to this knowledge, there’s this: Each year I get to recalibrate. This trip helps me focus- deciding what in my life is a priority and what is not. I’m faced with the fact that I don’t know how many more years there are in my journey. The reminder is invaluable.

But truly,  isn’t that the reality for all of us?  I suppose the only difference is that I’m reminded more poignantly than some.

Heavenly Father, I’m grateful for this yearly adjustment.  Keep my heart and mind focused on You and your Goodness.  Let me praise you more and more all year long! amen.