I am a blessed woman. I know this because my life has included a family that loves me, the ability to have done most of what I set out to do in life, and friends that have been sent to remind me that God loves me too. My family pretty much has to love, like or tolerate me. My friends chose to...which, of course, totally rocks.
God adopted me into the family of faith when I was ten years old at a Pat Terry concert at the First United Methodist Church in Thomaston, Georgia. I begged my mother for the money to pay for an album and she gave it to me. I played it often and remembered that night. I don't remember the exact day, unfortunately. Getting the album was actually a big deal because I didn't ask for a whole lot except at my birthday and Christmas...but this was different. I was different. I went home and said my prayers on my knees outside my bed for the first time although I'd said "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep..." for years. My mother didn't know what had gotten into me and told me to get up and get into bed. I did. And over time, not really having a clue what to do with what was going on on the inside and being completely unable to understand much in my King James Version Bible (although I realize that it is the preference of others...and no judgment here...) I pretty much rocked along.
Then the teen years hit. And the narrow road became an interstate. In Atlanta. At rush hour. But when I look back on now...God kept me out of some serious trouble...but gave me enough of it to realize just how close to the ledge I was when I look back on it.
I'm eternally grateful that I didn't jump. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
When I was 22, Big Dave and I married and we were still about as clueless as two young people could be. Of course, Dave was 27 at the time, and I figured he had more of a clue than I did. He thought the same thing. We did have the good sense to go to Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church because Keith Waldrop (now a pastor at another successful local church) went to the same gym and kept telling him, "see you at church!" Dr. John Ed Mathison was also doing a devotional minute on a local radio station, and Dave liked that. The only input I had was that I grew up Methodist (as did Dave)...so we thought a Methodist church was where we'd end up...eventually.
So, we started going. Sporadically. We were both in school at night and sometimes we made it...and sometimes we didn't. We finally graduated and saved up a down payment, and ended up in a neighborhood of young couples (Deerfield) in Montgomery, Alabama. Our next door neighbors were the Hands, and they also went to Frazer. We finally joined when I was pregnant with Jill in August 1989. I'm sure that I was a vision of loveliness up there in front of the congregation all massively pregnant and all.
Naturally, we went to Sunday School with the Hands, and ended up in a wonderful class taught by Bill and Joy Todd. From this class, a ladies' bible study started...and I started growing spiritually through Sunday School and the bible study. I started reading everything I could get my hands on (including the NIV version of the Bible) and watched God do miracles such as increasing my understanding and providing us with money to pay off a debt and increasing either mine or Dave's salary just before both of our children were born.
I learned that it was okay to be bold about your faith and even got over my initial difficulty of singing in Sunday School and holding hands to sing "Bind Us Together" in church. My home church was friendly...but they didn't do things like applaud or hold hands. Frazer did. It took a little while for me to adjust. Some of the confidence in the Lord that I have was developed during those years when Joy gave her testimony, sweet Jean opened her home, and Julie kept encouraging me to be more of a Proverbs 31 woman. In addition to them, friends like Jo, Wendy, Kim, Nancy, and Debbie fed me spiritually by just being who they were. I doubt that they really understand the impact that they had. They were just being godly women.
But it mattered. To me.
The Todds moved back to Birmingham, and we ended up attending a class or two before ending up in a huge class and had the privilege of learning from John Schmidt both in Sunday School and in Contemporary Worship. After John Ed retired, we had difficulty adjusting to his replacement, and even thought that we might need to make a change. But Big Dave said, "No...we're going to stick this out. We have friends and commitments here." So we did.
And then Patrick Quinn and Tim Thompson were hired.
They have been such a blessing. We're so glad we stayed.
We've ended up back in regular worship listening to Pastor Tim but we enjoy hearing Patrick preach as well. And about six months ago, two friends invited us to Sunday School...something we had not done in years. I'd kept up my reading, but we really needed some Christian fellowship in the worst way.
It took us two weeks to join. Talk about a blessing!
We are in Tom and Marcia Calendar's class now, and we have a group of committed Christians in there that are loving us and giving us the confidence to grow again.
About that growing thing...
I've been spiritually growing...but I've also been physically growing for the past ten...okay...almost twenty-three years. Out...not up. I've let misunderstandings, stress, unhappiness, and fear build a stronghold that has become quite the devil's playground.
I've been through every weight loss program that I felt decent about (Weight Watchers, First Place, and even a few visits to a doctor), exercised religiously (on at least three long term occasions) and even had some success a year ago. Unfortunately, I began to get caught up in MY success, and MY goals, and MY weight loss number. As if I could break that stronghold on MY own.
I have had weight issues for most of my life. It started with binge eating at age 8. Fortunately, I was so active that it didn't show much until I was in high school. A bout with an eating disorder through college kept it down, but after I got pregnant with Jill (a pregnancy that included preeclampsia and a 95 pound weight gain)...I've struggled.
First I gave up bathing suits, then shorts, sleeveless blouses, anything that had to be tucked in, the regular ladies' department, high heels, lingerie, bras with any shape whatsoever, dresses, capris, jeans, clothes that fit, suits, formalwear, and pretty much everything but stretch pants, tops that cover my hips, flat shoes and a sweater that I'm about as attached to as Linus was to his blanket.
I refuse to give up anything else. And I'm not going to scare people by being all "WalMartian" and wearing it anyway.
I don't feel good. I don't look good. And God created something for me to do in this life (because I'm still here) that I worry might be negatively impacted by the message this stronghold I've allowed in my life is screaming at every person who comes in contact with me.
Because we all know it isn't polite to mention someone's weight. Even if it is obvious that they need help.
So, I'm going back to a Kay Arthur study that that ladies' bible study group did all of those years ago about the armor of God. I'm using a visual that a Facebook friend, Lori, put on her page. Actually, I really like to see myself this way. Maybe with a little more pink, but whatever.
You see...I want God to be glorified by the demolishing of this stronghold in my life. I don't care how many pounds I lose...I care about how obedient I am being. I don't mind it being difficult...I just don't want to let Him down. I also don't care how long it takes. All of "this" didn't just jump on there overnight.
Right now, I want to honor the 10 year old girl in me who heard the truth and who has been chasing it ever since. I want to forgive the 18 year old girl who was trying on different personalities because she didn't believe the one God gave her was enough. I want to encourage the 27 year old new mother who was learning and growing with a group of women who were doing exactly the same thing. I want to love the 48 year old me who is tired of being tired, overweight, and insecure about it.
So, here we are.
I just hope that those of you who actually read this will pray for me. Not that I will be glorified...but that my obedience will glorify God. I need to be public about this struggle, because I don't think you can tear down a stronghold in your life without help. God has allowed this in my life to grow my faith...and I am taking that challenge. But you know that we have a formidable enemy that has been prowling around in my life...and I need help.
However, I also know already that God will be glorified through this struggle of mine. Every day that I stay on track is one less day that I am failing to be all that God intends. I know that He loves me...and I'm ready for the adventure that I am undertaking.
Please pray. And as my sweet friend Bonnie's cup (she brought it to me today to encourage me) says..."Friends love at all times" (Proverbs 17:17)...I am asking for you to help me through this as my friends.