Why You Do (And Don’t Do) What You Do (And Don’t Do)

New Years is coming, and that means resolutions. For our church, it means a 3 week fast in January which, for some of us, ends up extending beyond that. It is a time when we tell ourselves we are going to get life RIGHT this time.

As I look at the weight I’ve gained over the past year, I really have been asking myself what went wrong?  I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I did what I WANTED to do, because that’s what we all do.  Therefore, I wanted to eat more than I wanted to keep off or lose weight.  The 64,000 question is “Why?”

I’ve been preparing for a month of sermons I’ll be doing regarding fasting.  I was asking God what He wanted me to share this year, and up popped an article in the corner of my eye that gave me the answer.  It discussed why we have trouble quitting bad habits.

It linked to article after article of related information in multiple disciplines. Some of what I read explained why Celebrate Recovery Step Studies, Life Patterns and Temperament Therapy each work to some degree.  But suddenly I saw the bigger picture – it’s not just one particular 5-Step fix, but a combination of things that allows us to break negative cycles.

These tactics encompass the physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual aspects of our lives.  I believe the reason we normally lose discipline is because we only use tools in a few of these areas instead of all of them, because we want a quicker, easier fix. However, our issues have become more complicated over the years, so there will not be any quick and easy fix.

So, over the next 5 weeks or so, I will be sharing the key elements required for change.  I will be working them right along side of you as I do some literal soul searching about what has and hasn’t “stuck” in my life, and how to change that.  I’ll give you a little bit to think about this week in preparation for starting next week.

Write down the times you have been successful at being disciplined and doing what you believed you wanted to do. 

What were you successful at accomplishing? 

How long were you successful at remaining disciplined? 

What actions replaced the disciplined actions? 

Why do you think you chose to stop and replace the disciplined actions?

I could write down a ton of answers.  For over 2 years, I was extremely disciplined in my eating and exercising – and then I wasn’t. I was very disciplined in my vegan eating and cooking for about a year – and then I wasn’t.  Then there are the many seasons of disciplined exercise, up to 5 hours a week – and then a drop to nothing (normally precipitated by a sickness).

I can talk about my spiritual disciplines, such as successfully spending time alone with God before I went to bed and having better sleep and peace.  How about getting up early to read the scriptures?  What about a dedicated prayer time and prayer list?  All things I have done faithfully – for a season.

Socially, I was determined to be more proactive in my friendships, reaching out more often to people – but I didn’t keep it up.  In other relationships, I wanted to get closer to people and work through my intimacy issues. When upset, I didn’t want to withdraw and isolate, which is my pattern, but wanted to develop healthier responses that could nurture my relationships.

Now, I don’t expect to get everything right all of the time. I have had some successes, like keeping my commitment to visit my parents twice a month, and until my recent sickness, to be constant to minister to those in my groups and sites.  However, I believe God is calling me (and you) to apply ourselves to obtaining the FULLNESS of His Spirit and His Wisdom. 

He wants to teach us more, to empower us more, so we can be more like Him in all areas of our lives. He wants to reveal to us more of who we are, so we can see ourselves as He sees us. He also wants us to be able to love God and love others the way Jesus loves the Father and others, and that, we must admit, will require a lot of change in our lives.

So start with the questions I posed above, if you are serious about change right now.  Walk with me as I learn more about myself and about my God, and by His Spirit be transformed by the renewing of my mind. I want to learn from you and your stories as much as you will learn from me, so please share your answers with me.  Today we embark on a new journey together – to be changed into His likeness.

Deciding Not To Sin With My Mouth

Ps 17:3 I have determined that my mouth will not sin.

Out of the abundance of the heart is what the mouth will speak. That is why it is so important that we take every thought captive, and compare it to Christ, what He has said and what He has done.

Thinking before we speak is a simple concept but not so easy to implement. But we do have the ability to stop, close our mouths, and think about what we are about to say before we actually say it. This gives us time to listen to the Holy Spirit’s leading, to see if He is telling us to be quiet or to proceed.

We must make a conscious decision to determine that we will not sin with our mouths, we will not express a lack of faith in God, we will not express a lack of love to others or ourselves. This is particularly hard when others have spoken harshly to us. We have a tendency to repeat the hurtful things that others have said to us. But we can be free of it as we are healed of these hurtful things.

I challenge you to put a guard over your mouth and not speak anything that does not encourage and edifying others and especially yourself today. You need to build yourself up in the most holy faith, and faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Speak life and faith to yourself today, not negativity. Speak the truth of the situation but counter it with God’s eternal truth.

QUESTION FOR THE DAY:
1) What does determining that your mouth will not sin mean to you and how can you practically accomplish that?

The Avalanche Of Emotions

I’m watching the aftermath of our 8″ snowfall here in Atlanta. For 24 hours, it looked like I lived in a snow globe, because you couldn’t see the sky, day or night, only the grayish white of low hanging snow clouds. But once the clouds parted just to expose a small porthole of sunlight, our world changed.

With the first crack of sunlight, the piles of snow that had been perched upon tree limbs immediately started falling off.  With the addition of some unexpected gusts of wind, if a person didn’t know any better, you would have thought a fresh snow storm had started. Snow was blowing everywhere, but it wasn’t coming from the sky. It was fallout from the snow on the tree branches.

I had just finished listening to yet another woman’s story about her broken relationships and how they made her feel so worthless. God said, “I want to show you something.  Do you see the snow falling off of the branches giving the effect of an active snowfall? That is what is happening in these ladies’ lives.”

“Throughout their lives, they have accumulated layers and layers of belief that they are unlovable and unacceptable. They have read past situations as proof of their lack of worth to others. These experiences and the meaning they assign to them pile up in their life. For a while, the piles can remain precariously balanced on thin branches.  While there is no wind and no light to disturb them, they remain unnoticed.”

“But then something happens. A wind blows, the sky opens up, and the environment changes. Suddenly and without warning, the piles are dislodged and create a pseudo snow storm.  There is a haze of snow that makes things hard to see. Heavy clumps come crashing down, and some of the branches break. At this moment, they are not just experiencing the pain of their current situation, but an avalanche of hurtful past emotions that were dislodged by it.

What makes each painful situation in your life unbearable is not necessarily what is happening at that moment. It is often the additional release of past fears and feelings that are triggered by the current issue. If you want to be able to handle what is going on now, you need to deal with what has happened in the past.

Most women only come to see me when their lives have completely unraveled.  Even then, they only see me long enough to relieve their current overwhelming pain, not taking time to shake off all of the piles of their past hurts so they don’t come crashing down at unexpected times in crippling ways.  They are so afraid of reliving painful memories, they avoid them at any cost and only deal with them during crises.

However, if you want to be able to deal with life’s unknowns, the twists and turns, the disappointments and frustrations, in a healthy way, you must dislodge the piles of past emotions tottering on the branches of your life.  You can do this in a more controlled way than during an existing crisis, where the blizzard of falling snow hinders you from seeing things clearly, even things right in front of you.

Don’t wait for a crisis to start dealing with your past.  Start reviewing your personal history during quiet moments and systematically go through the issues you know exist. Let the Holy Spirit guide you, and feel free to use my free Introduction To Life Patterns class as a guideline. Heal each unresolved situation from your past so you are free to problem solve each situation in your present. Don’t wait for an avalanche to bring you to your knees.

Slivers of Truth

Everyone has been in an argument where someone else said something not very nice about you. The knee-jerk reaction is always to bite back and point out what’s wrong with them, as if their negative qualities disqualify them from saying anything negative about you.  It results in hurt feelings, broken relationships, and deep wounds, especially if you are already truly afraid that there is something irreparably wrong with you, and they have just put your worst fears on display for everyone to see.

You see, if you have been taught by people’s actions or words that you are not enough just as you are, that you have to earn people’s love, acceptance and approval, then being “right” and being “all right” at all times will be the most important thing to you.  When someone dares to say that you are not “all right”, that something is amiss in you, it can be like a jagged sword jabbed into your soul.  But those words don’t have to saw you in two as they have in the past. Those words can, instead, bring you closer to Christ and being more like Him.

We do that in 2 ways:

1. We need to accept that we, like everyone else in the world, are flawed. We do not have it all together and never will on this side of heaven. We will never get it all right, say all the right words, or please every person.  We need to be changed if we are to become more like Jesus in this world.

2. We need to accept that, no matter what, God loves us and says we are completely loved, accepted and approved DESPITE any of our character defects.  He knows every single flaw in us due to our flesh, and He took those flaws into account when He created us and His plan for us. He is not disappointed or taken aback by our flaws. He knew about them before we were born, and still had us be born.

But change requires being told that you have done something wrong, have fallen short in some area.  It also requires that, more than anything, you want to please God more than you want to avoid hearing negative things about yourself.  In other words, it requires humility, admitting that we don’t see and accept everything about ourselves and that someone else may see something in us that we need to pay attention to.

The problem is often how people say what is wrong with us. Their words are callous and often said in anger. They may truly intend to hurt you at that moment out of retaliation if they feel hurt.

However, just because they did not say something nicely does not mean that there isn’t a sliver of truth that God wants you to pay attention to.  He can use even those callous words spoken in anger to get us to where He needs us to be.  The question for you is, will you be humble enough to listen to what they say and ask the Holy Spirit to show you what truth exists in their claims?

It takes bravery to attempt this. It takes a willingness to trust that admitting weakness and failure in areas of our lives doesn’t mean we are a reject. But the payoff is a release from fear of what others say, and becoming that much more like Christ.

I know of several recent situations where women were confronted with their flaws. These women I know were humble and willing to listen to what was said about them and apply it to their lives. I am so incredibly impressed with these women, because they love the Lord and their families more than they love their own pride and need to be “right”. These women look more like Christ today than they did yesterday. But what they don’t realize now is that, from hereon out, other people’s words will not be able to hurt them like they have in the past, because they are no longer afraid of hearing negative things about themselves.

So consider this. The next time someone says something negative about you, think about receiving it as a message from God about an area that you need to work on.  Ignore the way the message is delivered; just ask the Holy Spirit to show you what, if any, slivers of truth are lying within that message.

You can then avoid arguments about it by honestly saying to that person, “You know, you may be right about that. I’m going to pray about it. Thank you for pointing that out.”  What more is there for them to say if you are willing to agree that you may be wrong and have something in your life to work on?

You are loved and accepted completely and totally by the One who knows you best and loves you most.  That means that being told by others may hurt, but it doesn’t disqualify us from being loved.  Allow God to use everything that happens to you to make you more like Him, including unkind words, and every day you will be able to know you pleased God with your humility and submission to Him.  You will make your Daddy so very proud.

 

 

What I Learned This Week: This Too Shall Pass (Keeping Perspective)

I’ve been sick. That always makes everything else more of a burden. Smaller things will shake me and make me despair more easily. The temptation is to say, “Just let the bills sit there and work go on without me. I just want to wrap myself in a blanket with the cat in my lap and watch Netflix.”

I know I’m not the only one. My daughter called me feeling sick, wishing she could temporarily not be in charge of 1 baby and 1 toddler so she could just sleep and have her mommy come take care of her. But life doesn’t allow us to set it aside and take a break from it.  Life and responsibilities keep coming at us, sick or not.

But I realized that my physical feelings from fighting off this virus and trying to fend off an infection of whatever was settling in my chest were affecting how I saw everything else. My daughter mentioned how she was struggling with her emotions more while she was sick, and I realized that I was as well.  My words to her were words meant for myself as well – we have to remember that this too shall pass, and that we cannot take these emotions seriously.  We MUST keep perspective.

I think the one thing that over 6 years of Recovery ministry has done for me (combined with simply getting older and trying to learn life lessons) is give me perspective.  When I was younger and something happened to me for the first time, it felt like life was going to end right then and there. When it happened another time, I would forget my lessons learned from the first time and needlessly go through it as if it was something new. But at some point, after it happened enough times, I could prepare myself for it and realize that it would pass soon enough – we just have to hold on until then. (That time of the month is a good example of this – you knew it was coming, and had to plan around it.  Also, repetitive fights between family members would fall into this category – we respond automatically, without thinking, as if it was the first time we’d had this argument.)

My point is that most of us have been around for a while. We have felt good and we have felt bad, and many of us have survived some very painful things in life. We are still here, some thriving and some just surviving. But we are still here, and we still have a chance to start over right here, right now.  In order to NOT go around that same mountain one more time, we have to learn our life lessons AND apply them to the next thing that happens.

For me, I’ve been sick dozens of times before. I know this sickness is not unto death, and it will pass eventually, and I’ll physically and mentally feel better.  I’ve done our business and personal taxes for decades, but if I’m not careful and keep perspective, I will dread it and ruin all of the months leading up to their due dates.  Perspective tells me that these things are just a part of living, and I need to steel myself to get through them and then move on.

So if you are struggling with anything – sickness, finances, relationships, etc. – you can look back over your life and encourage yourself by seeing how you came through those things and survived.  However, to be victorious, you need to look back over those episodes and decide what you learned from those events.  See what made your life more miserable and avoid those things this time, and what made your life more enjoyable and focus on doing those things again.

Don’t treat whatever you are going through as if it is the first time it has happened. It most likely isn’t, so apply your historical life lessons to this episode and make your life better by it.  By doing this, you will relieve yourself of much of the unnecessary emotional baggage you tend to pick up when things do not go as you had planned or hoped.  You will also be fashioned more into the image of Christ as you practice patient endurance with whatever life throws at you.

RESET QUESTION:

1. What are you dealing with right this moment?  When have you faced this or something similar in the past?

2. What lesson did you (or you can now) learn from that?  How could you have handled it better?  What made the situation worse?

3. What can you do to practically make this situation better today?

What I Learned This Week: Finding Contentment Where I Am

I have been struggling with resentment and jealousy because other people have what I want.  There.  I said it.  I wish I could say it feels good to get it off my chest, but it doesn’t.  However, I’m hoping it will help some of you who are feeling it, too.

Lisa Bevere told a story about how she wanted a particular vehicle and asked God for it.  God didn’t give it to her.  However, her neighbor got one instead.  She was not a happy camper, to say the least.  Looking at that vehicle in their driveway made her resentful and jealous.  She was serving the Lord, working hard for the Kingdom.  Why had the neighbor gotten what she wanted?

Then the Lord told her that she had an inaccurate picture of how He worked and all that He had to offer.  He showed her that she had a picture of a heavenly warehouse with a set amount of items in it, and if someone else got an item she wanted, that meant there was one less for her to get.  But that is not how His gifts work.

Our Father has an unlimited number of gifts in his storehouse.  He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  Just because someone else gets something you want doesn’t mean that you are in danger of not getting yours.  He has more than enough of everything for all of us, so we have no need to be afraid of others being blessed.

This goes for activities, ministries, relationships, gifts and callings as well as stuff. You want to teach that Sunday School class, but someone else gets to do it.  You want to lead that choir, but someone else gets that position.  You want a relationship, but another woman gets into one instead. You want to be in full time ministry, but someone else you know gets to do it while you work full time supporting them.  The last one has been a real struggle for me, unfortunately.

Of course, I would love to be in full time ministry, especially counseling women and families.  Instead, I work 42 hours a week or so supporting my household and doing ministry on the side.  My husband, on the other hand, is running our Men’s Recovery House and our church full time – without pay because we don’t want to take any monies until the ministries are self-supporting.  He is doing what I want to do, and I’m not getting to do it.  Honestly, it eats at me at times.

I feel so incredibly petty and ungrateful.  I am so thankful for the ministries which He has entrusted to us, the people to whom we get to minister, for the opportunities to walk in our callings.  So why do I experience discontent, and sometimes, outright jealousy and resentment?

Because I am in a flesh-suit that acts like a toddler when it doesn’t get what it wants.   Despite my spirit’s desire to please God, my lifelong bent toward selfishness in my soul causes me to get upset when I can’t have what I want.   How quickly and easily I turn from remembering all that I have to focusing on the few things I do not have!

But this has been the enemy’s tactic since the beginning of man’s existence.  “Did God really say you can’t eat of this tree?  Surely you won’t die…”  Adam and Eve could have stayed in the garden in unbroken fellowship enjoying eternal provision forever.  It wasn’t until Satan got their eyes off of all they had and focused it onto the one thing they couldn’t have that they became dissatisfied with what God had given them.

God’s instructions to us when we can’t have what we want are pretty clear and specific:

Phil 4: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

  1. First, we are to rejoice, thankful for being in relationship with the God of the universe and for being the recipients of His continual care and provision.
  2. We are to ask for whatever we want, but it must always be tempered with the remembrance of all He has already provided and an attitude of gratitude for it.
  3. We are to remember that He is a good God, even if we don’t get what we want when and how we want it. We need to trust His knowledge and His timing of what is best for us AND for others in His Kingdom.
  4. Most importantly, we LEARN to remain content by God’s grace – His supernatural empowerment in our lives to obey Him.   If we will remain in Him, He will remain in us, and we will have His peace and His contentment.  Notice that when Paul says God gives Him the necessary strength, it is specifically strength to be content in every situation.

Like a car whose wheels need alignment, our steering wheel repeatedly starts pulling to the right or left, away from dead center.   We continually pursue things that we think will bring us joy and contentment OTHER than simply resting in God’s goodness and provision.  Whether it is money, or stuff, or activities, or relationships, we can fall into depression or anxiety because of our focus on it.   It causes us to wander away from our trust in God and pierce ourselves with grief.

1 Timothy 6: But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

God never ever intended for us to find our enjoyment and happiness in other people or things or activities.  He wants us to find our contentment only in Him, and if we do that, nothing in this world can ever take that contentment away.   If our goal is to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness and trust God to provide whatever we need in His timing and His fashion, we won’t yearn for things we can’t have and make ourselves miserable.

I challenge you, along with myself, to make a gratitude list today of the things you already have, and to speak aloud how thankful you are for them.   I challenge you to consciously change your goals from pursuing other things and people to pursuing God and contentment in Him alone.   When you find yourself focusing on what you don’t have, purposefully take those thoughts captive and rejoice for what God has done, is now doing, and will do for you in His timing and wisdom.  Make that commitment to be grateful and trusting today.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

 

What I Learned This Week: The Only Solution To Anxiety

I heard the loud thud of a body hitting the floor.  I had handled his two trips to the ER like a trooper. I even packed food and drink for the second time.  I did flip out a little when I found out he had fallen over face first into the dirt one day outside, but I figured he’d be ok.

But this was different.  The thud and then the profound, horrible silence was too much for me.  I ran into the bathroom to find my husband on his back on the file floor.  He was alive, and despite me telling him not to move until I got help, he of course did exactly the opposite, claiming he wasn’t hurt.  Then he got up and revised his assessment of the situation. He hurt his hip.

I just clung to him and started crying.  Now, you probably don’t know that I rarely cry.  First, it was because I stuffed my feelings, or rationalized them away for so many years, there was no reason to cry.  Then, when I had received a large measure of healing, I had no need to cry.  But this was anxiety-release crying – it just spurted out, without any deep emotion.  I don’t know if it was relief that he was alive, or if it was a wake-up call that it could have been much worse.  Either way, I was scared, and that’s when the anxiety started creeping back in.

Anxiety is really unbelief in God’s ability and willingness to take care of us.  It starts out like a little pinhole that allows a trickle of nervousness and doubt to start flowing.  It’s so small, you don’t even realize it is there.  It increases so slowly that you don’t realize you could drown until it reaches panic inducing heights.  Only then do we wonder how we even got here and what to do.  What happened to my peace?

If you remember that PEACE is a FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, it becomes clearer.  Peace cannot be manufactured, nor can it be lost like a locket hanging around our neck. It must be borne. We BEAR fruit, we can’t create it. Peace blooms only as the Life flows through the Vine and we remain grafted into that vine.  Therefore, the question should not be “what happened to my peace?”  but more accurately, “when did I separate myself from the PRINCE OF PEACE and try to handle or figure out things on my own?”

I’m going to tell you exactly how real grafting works with grape vines.  Both the receiving and grafted vines must be cut, with the grafted piece tailored to fit into the receiving vine.  Both vines have arteries through which their life-giving sap flows. The most crucial issue is that the grafted bloom’s arteries must be perfectly lined up with and in permanent contact with the vine‘s arteries so there is a continual, uninterrupted flow of the sap from vine to graft.   Then they use a compound or tape to keep them bound and packed together so no infection can seep in through separation.

Jesus is the Vine, we are the branches, and I believe that the compound that keeps us bound together is faith in His Word.  Faith allows us to say that we KNOW who we have believed and are persuaded that He is able to keep everything we have ever committed to Him until we arrive in Heaven.  But faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.  The Holy Spirit can quicken and speak to our spirits what the Father wants us to know as we read those God-breathed scriptures. He can direct and guide us into all truth in the midst of any situation, reminding us of the faithfulness and power of our God.

So if we are anxious, it means that we have lost our tight connection with the Vine – the packing has come loose.  When there is a gap, infection can find a way in and make us sick.  Instead of nestling closer to the vine, we start falling away and living apart from the Vine, but apart from Him we can do nothing – nothing but be anxious.

Isaiah 30 says:

15 This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

In repentance/returning and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength,
    but you would have none of it.
16 You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’
    Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’
    Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
17 A thousand will flee
    at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
    you will all flee away,
till you are left
    like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
    like a banner on a hill.”

You see, our immediate knee-jerk response to danger and fear and anxiety is to flee to our own devices, to what we think will rescue us, NOT to God Himself.   But we must repent of trying to fix things our own way return to Him and quietly wait for Him, which means trusting and resting in Him.  The only true remedy for anxiety is resting in faith in Him, and that only happens when you bolster your faith through the Word of God.

I know that some of you struggle with reading the Word right now because your faith is not as strong as it once was, and the lethargy of your emotional issues has drained you of the energy to even try.  But you must remain in permanent contact with the Vine, and that means being bound to Him through His Word.  You can start small with just a few scriptures a day.  Sign up for a scripture a day service, or you can use my Jesus Text Me service/app.

Every counseling technique is only good if it leads you back to the Source of Peace.  If you are not securely bound to Him, no techniques or medications will cure you.  If you haven’t read my CRAZIFIED & OUT OF CONTROL ebook, or haven’t been using the ABC method, then I suggest you read and start practicing it.  It is what I used to stop the anxiety in its tracks, and what allowed me to return to my Daddy’s lap in quietness and trust.

Fortunately for all of us, Isaiah doesn’t stop there.

18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all who wait for him!

The Lord wants to be gracious and compassionate to you.  He wants to fill you with His supernatural  power and with His loving kindness. He doesn’t expect you to do anything to earn it either.  He just wants you to return to Him in trust and wait for Him to take care of all the situations that you can’t fix anyway.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

 

 

What I Learned This Week: When Your Love Tank Is Empty

You don’t have to be single to have your love tank be empty.  You can even be surrounded by people and have no one ministering to you in a way that makes you feel loved.  An empty love tank is actually the driving force in Codependency, when parents are too broken or busy or simply uninterested to make a child feel safe, secure, loved and important, and the child grows up always on the hunt for that love they never knew.

An empty love tank leads to all sorts of coping mechanisms.  Every addiction is trying to fill a hole inside of them.  Every compulsion is simply a way to feel or think about something other than the emptiness that comes with rejection and abandonment.    It might be food, drugs, sex, shopping, depression, working, zoning out watching Netflix, but the result is always the same. We want to permanently feel loved and secure, but when we are not, we accept the consolation prize of temporarily feeling pleasure, or feeling nothing at all.

Empty love tanks are very common, especially when you are in relationships where others continually expect you to give.  Whether out of duty or pride or fear of being rejected, you keep trying to give – even when you have nothing left to give.  However, we were never meant to be empty, nor to try to give what we don’t have.

God always intended for us to be filled with love, having more than enough to spare that it spills over onto other people generously.  However, He never intended us to try and get that tank filled by other people.  We were designed to have our love tanks filled by Him continually.

The problem is that, once we have been rejected or ignored by parents or significant others, we feel we need someone with flesh on to prove that we are lovable, since others communicated to us that we weren’t.   We are so sold on the idea that if you are not adored by another person, you aren’t worthy to live.  In high school, I told myself that if no one kissed me by the time I was 23, I would commit suicide.   It is that type of mentality that I am talking about.

While I was still married to my first husband, I was so desperate to feel loved by and significant to someone that I got emotionally involved with someone over the internet.  I knew it was wrong, and that God should be all I need, but He wasn’t. That became a pattern throughout my adult life – wanting love, thinking I’d found love, then feeling rejected by a man, and then needing to prove my self-worth by finding another man to stamp his approval on me. Being wanted by a man was all that mattered – without it, I was worthless.

I always wondered why God’s love for me wasn’t enough to make me feel loved.  Intellectually, I knew He loved me and should be enough for me, but honestly, He never was.   It was like having a crush on one boy at school, and feeling ugly and rejected because he didn’t like me.  However, if another boy (that I wasn’t attracted to) liked me, that didn’t matter.  Only if the boy I liked requited my attraction did it matter.

I didn’t think God’s love could ever meet my need because I was always taught that other people had to approve of you and want you.  What God thought about and toward me didn’t matter in this case. It was like your parents telling you that you are beautiful – it just didn’t count unless a boy said it.

Because I believed the lie that “real love” could only come from a boy who chose me over other girls, I was never even interested in feeling loved by God.  He was never even a contender for my affection, not even as an adult.  I was missing out on the One true love who knew me best and would still love and adore me and never leave or forsake me.

Only recently have I come to understand the power of feeling God’s never failing love for me, not as God but as my Father who adores  and is so proud of me.  I have recognized in Jesus the love of a beloved fiancé who is waiting for our wedding day.  I read the words He says to me and realize He is so very much in love with me.  I have allowed the Holy Spirit to wrap His arms around me to comfort me just as a human with flesh would do, and the results have been the same as with another person.

If you have ever had a long distance relationship, you know how a text message, email, letter or voice mail can radically change your day for the better.  Your lover doesn’t have to be physically present with you for you to feel loved and important.  It is just the knowledge of how they feel about you, how special you are to them, that makes you walk on thin air.  We can feel loved and important and chosen from God in the same way without Him being physically present.

An empty love tank spells disaster in anyone’s life. We will do very stupid things to get it filled back up, or we will give up hope and become hopelessly depressed.  Keeping your love tank filled doesn’t have to depend on who is in your life, either, if you will accept what God says about you as letters from a long distance admirer.

Search for scriptures that speak of his undying love for you and read them as if from a long distance lover, which Jesus truly is.  I’m actually in the process of writing a devotional book with 365 scriptural messages from Him. I’ll share with you my favorite from Song of Solomon 4:7 –

You are altogether beautiful, my love;
    there is no flaw in you.

How can you not feel loved when you hear this?

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

What I Learned This Week: When The Father Sat Down And Ate Spaghetti With Me

I’ve been in recovery for 6 years now, and therapy throughout my life, and just recently God brought me an answer to a life long conundrum.  Where did my eating disorder really begin?  What makes me afraid of food and ashamed of eating, so much so that I hide it? Why do I feel like I’m not allowed to eat pleasurable foods, and that people are watching and judging me for it because I am overweight?

After all this time, He brought me back to a large plate of spaghetti from my teens that I had totally forgotten about.  He walked me through the memory of being shamed for eating that much spaghetti, “more than a grown man would eat”.  He showed me where the shame started, but He also showed me the fallacy that I learned from that situation – that I SHOULD be ashamed of myself for eating what I eat.

I am bad, I am wrong, I am unacceptable because of my eating (and my weight).  If I want to eat, I have to hide it, do it at night, sneak it to escape the shame of being seen eating by others who will judge me as unacceptable and disgusting.  The only problem is that the shame went with me into the dark places I indulged, like a ball and chain attached to my leg. I had swallowed whole the “truth” that I should be ashamed of myself.  I had no idea that the eating and the food and the secrets were not the source of my shame – what others had said to me was the source of my shame.

In my memory, God the Father entered into the room and sat at the table with me. He asked me why I liked spaghetti.  I said because it was sweet and tasted good and made me feel good.  He said that is why it is called “comfort food”.  Normally, people eat comfort food when something is bothering them.  Is something bothering you?

Yes, I answered.  I’m sure I always felt bothered by something.  Kids at schools had ignored or bullied me, so there was always that.  There were things I just didn’t understand about life or myself.  There were family issues. And then there was simply the feeling that I was different from everyone else and would never fit in.

But God the Father recognized that my eating all that spaghetti simply meant that I was having problems and didn’t know how to deal with them or my emotions.  He didn’t judge me or say there was anything wrong with me or what I was doing. Instead, He dealt with the underlying problem without shaming me about my food or my eating.

He said, let’s finish our spaghetti and go walking outside and talk about what’s bothering you.  You can ask me questions and I’ll help you figure things out.  And that’s just what we did.  His actions and words said there was nothing inexplicably wrong with me, that He understood me, and then offered to help me figure life out.

So many of us were left to our own devices when it came to figuring out life.  No one taught us what to do with our emotions in a healthy way.  No one helped us learn how to maneuver life situations.  Comments like, “Keep on crying and I’ll give you something to cry about!”  Or “Don’t talk to me with that tone of voice!”  Or “If you can’t act right, just go to your room.” teach us what NOT to do, but not WHAT to do.

It’s not because our parents didn’t love us or want to help us.  It’s just that they had no clue what to do.  They just did what their parents did, said what their parents said.  They passed on their parents’ values to us.  They were left to just figure it out for themselves.  So we were just supposed to figure it out for ourselves.

But children and teens don’t have adult brains, and CAN’T figure out healthy solutions to life’s complicated problems unless they stumble upon it accidentally.  So we drank, had sex, did drugs, spent money, or ate large plates of spaghetti to try and feel better. The irony is that we chose coping mechanisms which we either learned from our parents or from kids around us. We did as they did, not as they said.

But God knows why we do what we do and doesn’t judge us or shame us for it.  He knows we still have no clue how to process emotions and hard situations, and that our unhealthy coping mechanisms were most likely passed down to us from our parents.  He is not concerned with our outer appearance (except where it has to do with our health), but with our willingness to let Him come in and undo the effect that we and others have had on our lives. He wants to hear what’s bothering us and teach us what to do and how to process our emotions about it.

Whatever your coping mechanisms are that make you feel ashamed, He is not ashamed of you.  He loves you and wants to re-parent you, teach you what you’ve never learned and love you like you’ve never been loved – unconditionally, no perfection (inward or outward) required.  Then you can learn to love yourself, despite your mess-ups and flaws, and see yourself as He does – as a child who is doing the best they can with what they were given, still fully accepted and adored by their Father.

Your Sister In Christ,

Penny

What I Learned This Week: Dealing with Self-Hatred That You Didn’t Know Was There

God has been trying to reveal to me exactly how I see myself, and in order to do that, He has to let me fail.  He lets me do things my own way instead of the right way that He has shown me. He never forces me to learn my lesson – He just lets me live with the consequences of my disobedience, or sometimes sheer laziness.

I started out on a journey over 3 years ago to get victory over my eating disorder, which I believe I have.  I don’t binge and purge any more, I am relatively moderate in my eating and exercise. I don’t eat for every emotion I have.

However, I have been losing my victory over weight loss.  I lost 55 pounds at one point over 2.5 years, but I have regained 35 of it.  The problem this time is not eating too much, it is eating the wrong things.  I know full well how to eat – I ate Vegan for 2 years and it worked wonders.

But when my dreams of what my life would be like after losing weight didn’t come to pass, and my life was just the same, I fell back on my self-comforting foods, and the result has been my weight gain.  In other words, I still had the same hurts and debilitating beliefs in my life, and the weight loss didn’t fix those.  Now, God is making me face those horrible thoughts and feelings, bringing me face to face with the realization that I bring those with me wherever I go, at whatever weight I am.  THOSE are the real problems, NOT my weight.

I am dealing with a combination of regret, fear and self-hatred right now.  “Why did I allow myself to get to this place?  What if I cannot break out of this pattern and change myself?  What if I am always this way?  If you could only control yourself, you wouldn’t be this way!” These are the thoughts that plague me today.  I look at myself with disgust and I can feel the self-hatred.

Then I hear God saying, “This is what I wanted you to see – your self-hatred rises up when you don’t like what you look like.  I don’t want there to be a shred of self-hatred in you, regardless of your appearance.  I want you to see why you hate yourself and be healed of that, not hide behind a false reason not to hate yourself.  You know that I don’t judge you on your looks.  I love you because you are my spirit-child, so you are not judging yourself based on my standards.  Whose standards are you judging yourself by?”

I hear in my spirit, “Oh, foolish Galatians, who is it that bewitched you?  Why, when you started with the truth, are you now following after a lie?”  Holy Spirit whispers, “What does the Father say about you?  What do you know to be TRUE? What have we taught you?”

So, deep in my soul still lurk the roots of self-hatred, borne of seeds of judgment sown in my life by others. I swallowed those seeds thrown at me by others, by society and by people I knew personally.  And I have let those roots grow deep in me, and now they are like the roots of California redwoods – massive and seemingly indestructible.

But my Father will not allow those roots to remain. He is determined to rid me of them, but I will have to do the digging to pull them up and destroy them. That means I have to feel when I stumble over one through painful or uncomfortable emotions.  Then I have to dig down to see where it comes from and spend time getting at it and cutting it out.  These roots have been there for decades, they are not coming out quickly, nor necessarily all at one time.  I will have to chip away at them over time.

So in the meanwhile, I’m going to share with you the ways I am fortifying my mind to believe the truth of God so I can continue digging up my roots and pursuing my healing. These are my ABCs for today, and they soothe my soul and help me return to faith in God, that He will complete the work which He has started in me, and that my past does not determine my future.  He loves me, and I am to love myself, not hate myself, and treat myself with loving-kindness and tenderness.  I hope these will help you to love and treat yourself with tenderness as well, while simultaneously transforming you by the renewing of your mind.


I feel like I’ll never conquer my problems because I haven’t succeeded in the past, BUT GOD SAYS that even though Penny hasn’t achieved it yet, Penny is to focus on one thing, forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.  Phil 3:13

I feel so ugly and ashamed of my appearance, BUT GOD SAYS that He does not look at Penny’s outward appearance. He looks at Penny’s heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

I just don’t see myself ever changing, BUT GOD SAYS that He is faithful. He’ll complete the good work that he has begun in Penny. Philippians 1:6

I want to comfort myself with food right now, BUT GOD SAYS Penny’s stomach cannot be her God. (Phil 3:19)

I really want to eat things that are bad for me, BUT GOD SAYS that Penny does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4

No matter how much I consume, I still desire more, BUT GOD SAYS that He quiets Penny’s deep inner hunger because Penny is cherished by him. Psalm 17:14

I just can’t seem to get it all right, BUT GOD SAYS that Penny is to continue to work out Penny’s full salvation as God works in Penny according to His good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13

I just want to do something for myself to feel better, regardless of the consequences, BUT GOD SAYS that Penny experiences true life when Penny denies herself, turns from Penny’s selfish ways and follows Jesus. Matthew 16:24-25

Sometimes I speak or act without thinking, BUT GOD SAYS that Penny is not to act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants Penny to do. Ephesians 5:17

I don’t feel loved or lovable, BUT GOD SAYS that He continually pours out his love into Penny’s heart by the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:5

I feel so weak, like I’ll just keep giving in to temptation, BUT GOD SAYS that His power works best in Penny’s weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I don’t know if I’m strong enough to do this, BUT GOD SAYS that God is Penny’s refuge and strength, always with Penny and ready to help Penny in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1

I am so tired and weak right now, BUT GOD SAYS that He gives Penny strength when Penny is weary and increases Penny’s power when Penny is weak. Isaiah 40:29

I can’t see myself having victory in the long run, BUT GOD SAYS that because Penny places Penny’s hope in Him, Penny can soar like an eagle, run and not grow weary, walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Your sister in Christ,

Penny