Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Out with 2014 and in with 2015

Please bare with me. This post may be quite lengthy. By the time I get home in the evenings, I tell myself it is too late to make a blog post. As I begin writing this post, it is 10:45 p.m. I won't finish tonight!

Reflections of 2014
I wanted to start with reflecting on years past, especially 2014. I've tried making resolutions just the opposite of what I really mean in order to motivate myself. "This year, I will gain 20 pounds." Since I don't usually meet the resolutions, maybe I wouldn't meet those. And if I did, I could at least say I finally kept one! But in 2014, things were a little different. I didn't really make a resolution at the beginning. After all, why wait until the beginning of a year to make positive changes? Resolutions can be made at any time of the year, not just January 1.

I knew I wanted to take more photos, improve spiritually and lose some weight. January and February weren't off to a great start for any of them. In mid to late January, I went through somewhat of a dark time, which I didn't really tell anyone about. It was a time of doubt and questioning everything I believed. I went through something like that while I was in college as well, but it wasn't like this time. I found myself sinking into a degree of depression I hadn't experienced since I came to know Christ, as I questioned whether God really existed. How did I know he was the true God? How did I know that Christianity was right and not Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Wicca, etc.? I feared what was to come next. I don't remember the order exactly, but my grandfather passed away March 1, 2014.

In late February or early march I began showing some signs of the flu and had a 103 degree fever. It was a Friday so all I could do was curl up in bed and take tylenol to lower the temperature. Monday evening I went to the doctor -- feeling much better and with only a low grade fever. It turns out it was merely a sinus infection. But something else came out of the doctor visit. The  nurse asked me if my blood pressure was normally that high. I don't remember what it was exactly but it was definitely higher than the last time I had taken it. When I got home and my family asked the diagnosis I told them, "I am officially on a diet now." I did not want to be put on blood pressure medicine at age 25.

Almost a year later, things have gotten a lot better. All of those other religions, including atheism, offer no hope. And I thought back to the life of Jesus and the empty tomb he left behind. If he weren't who he said he was, how did his body disappear from a guarded tomb? Why were there so many witnesses to him walking around before ascending to heaven? Why do so many people still believe today? And if Jesus is who he said, then that is the proof of God and his promises.

In August, I was finally hired at Heifer after a little more than two years as a temporary worker. God answered a prayer. After finally becoming an employee, I was able to get an apartment of my own. I weighed the pros and cons of moving to Little Rock and settled on staying in Sheridan for the time being which lead me to join First Baptist Church which I had been attending for about six months.

In October, I started what we are calling "Central Arkansas Young Adults Bible Study" in Little Rock. We are trying to emulate a group we were a part of in college in which we studied the bible, witnessed and provided each other with accountability. The new bible study group has put me in a place of leadership once more and I have felt God moving in my life through both my church and the bible study.

Faith has also been an important part in losing weight, which I must admit I haven't had the right focus lately and have fallen back into old ways of going back for seconds, eating sweets, etc. I did my best at losing the weight when I focused it on glorifying God. I took encouragement in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, "19 Or do you not know that your body is a [a]temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from [b]God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." The verse isn't talking about weight but I think it is still applicable, and realizing that my body is a temple for the Holy Spirit means I should take care of it -- whether it be exercising, what I eat or what I do.

Looking Forward to 2015
I made excuses about writing this blog for five days now. Oddly enough, one of the things I want to challenge myself to write at least one post every couple of weeks in 2015 on whatever topics come to mind. They may be life lessons or completely random writing prompts I find online. But I want to write more. Not only that, I want to do things I love doing more -- hiking, camping, geocaching, photography, spending time with friends.

I actually spent my first day of the new year at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. And then Sunday, I went back for another guided hike "off the beaten path."

After the #FirstDayHikes, we returned to the pavilion for hot chocolate and a campfire. The ranger had pieces of paper for each participant to write down something from 2014 they wanted to leave behind in the new year. I thought about it and some of the ways God had been moving in my life. I wrote one word on the piece of paper: Fear.

In 2014, I was asked to help at the Fall Carnival at church. There were clipboards going around to sign up for different posts. The one I was going to sign up for never came to me, but the parking attendant came to me three times so I finally signed up. I had no clue what I was doing and was nervous up until the night of the event. I had signed up for a two hour shift and ended up arriving early and leaving late. And nothing went wrong -- no cars had a wreck because of me. God was in control. A few weeks later there was an incident at the gas station which I wrote a note about on Facebook. Fear took over and I didn't do or say what I had wanted. Finally, I received a letter that I was to serve as an usher at church for January and October 2015. Again, I had never done this, don't like getting up in front of people, but knew that it was important and there was a reason God had me there. The first Sunday a rolled around and went just fine. In 2015, I want to be fearless. God began showing me the conflict between faith and fear. I want to have more faith. I want to trust him more.

Prayer is another aspect I want to work on in 2015. I strongly believe in the power of prayer, but so often I fail at actually praying. If I pray in bed, I fall asleep. If I pray at my desk, my mind wanders off to other...squirrel! You see? So most of the time I just fail to pray all together. I have started 2015 with a devotional on prayer and we are beginning an eight week study, "Praying with Paul" in the bible study group. I led the first session yesterday and a couple of things stood out. I think my three biggest take aways were to be intentional/schedule time for prayer, use a prayer list/journal and don't be afraid to ask others for prayer. 

I need prayer that I would get up early in the mornings to pray. I am NOT a morning person. Waking up at 6 a.m., Monday through Friday, to be out the door by 6:30 a.m. and to work by 7:30 a.m. is difficult enough. Now I am attempting to wake up by 5:45 a.m. to allow at least 15 minutes of time with God before I begin my day. If I do not get up by 5:50 a.m. (or at least consciously choose to turn the alarm off), I have to solve 10 difficult math problems to snooze the alarm or one difficult math problem to turn it off. Again, I am not a morning person and do not want to do math problems that early. Hopefully it works! And eventually, I would like to move it back to 5:30 a.m. and maybe 5 a.m. I'm just not sure how I will function on an average of 5-6 hours of sleep per night.

And finally, I want to continue trying to eat healthier, exercise and reach a healthy weight range in 2015. I lost about 40 pounds in 2014 and if I can do the same in 2015 I will meet my goal. I currently need to lose about 35 pounds to reach the upper limit of my target range.

Only seven days into 2015 and it has already been a year of firsts. I hope it will continue to be so and continue to bring improvements.

Happy New Year everyone!





Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Word of God Speak

God still speaks and he isn't always subtle. We started our bible study with this expectation, having little prepared and allowing God to lead us in his word. I earmarked two verses just to jump-start the conversation: 2 Timothy 4:2 and 1 Peter 3:15.

Little did I know that God intended to continue speaking to me, building on the experience I had after last week's bible study. Rather than simply read the individual pieces of scripture we read from a section heading to another section heading to include those verses in order to try to keep them in better context. As I read 1 Peter 3:13-14, I stopped reading for a moment.

"Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. 'Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened."

Wow.

I didn't believe the story I was told last week. But that doesn't change the fact these people need Christ, just like I do. Yet, even starting with the greatest of intentions, a fear set in. And tonight after reading those verses it set in. How am I supposed to serve and love people when I am afraid of them. Fear gets in the way. We hear about all the bad things in the news, but maybe the actions of a few are not representative of a whole. And the stereotypes go both ways. How many times have we as the Church heard people say they don't want to be a part of the church because of hate from groups such as Westboro Baptist Church or abuse by Catholic priests?

I am so thankful that God still chooses to speak to us through his word.