• freedom stories

    The Blessing of Waiting for Healing- Jennie’s Story

    “I wanted my healing to be immediate; He wanted it to be complete.” ⠀

    Goodness, I can relate to Jennie’s words in this week’s Freedom Story. She shares bravely of her heartbreak, walking through divorce, searching for answers from God, and the blessing that happens in the waiting for His healing. Praying her words would speak to you today if you’re in a season of heartache or waiting ❤️

    This is Jennie’s Freedom Story. 

    I know the exact moment my heart broke. It was a cold Friday night in February, and my children were sleeping upstairs. Cozy in their footed pajamas, they had no idea their lives were changing forever below them.

    Their father — my husband — was leaving.

    I could not have understood before that night how everything can change in one moment — that a stable and content life can be ripped from you, leaving indescribable destruction and heartache behind.

    But one moment can change everything. It did for me.

    That moment changed my physical realities — I needed a new place to live and a new job that would provide financially, and I had to learn how to parent my children as a single mother. The new physical realities were nothing compared to the new emotional realities, though.

    In the moment my husband said he was leaving, something shifted in my beliefs about myself and my God, and I fell into a darkness that consumed me for years.

    Satan began whispering to me in that moment of vulnerability that I was profoundly unlovable. He told me I was so deeply flawed I was destined to be alone, so unworthy of acceptance I would always be rejected, and too broken to ever be healed.

    He told me God did not have great plans for my life and that He chose not to protect me from this hurt. The enemy deceived me as He did Eve, asking me, “Did God actually say…?” He led me to doubt the goodness of my God, and I fell for it all.

    I believed him. Everything he spoke to me became the truth I internalized, and I knew I was unworthy, unlovable, and deserving of the rejection I faced.

    I woke each morning with the heavy weight of his lies weighing me down, carrying a burden that was invisible to everyone even though they could see the sadness in my eyes.

    My life moved forward, because it had to. I began a new job, parented my children, and went through the motions of moving on.

    But I was stuck. It was as though my feet were mired in a quicksand that never quite pulled me under but simply kept me tethered where I was.

    I knew Jesus. He had saved me years before, and I continued to try to live for Him. But in reality, I worshiped Him with resentment, served Him with hesitation, and read His Word with the silent questions, “Why would you allow this?” and “Are you really good?” plaguing my mind.

    Daily, I fought the battle of believing God or believing the enemy. More often than not, the enemy won.

    Now, years removed from this experience, I can look back and see truths I was unable to see then, and I can tell you what I’ve learned about how God heals.

    When I was hurting so badly, struggling to understand why God had allowed this to happen, I wanted the hurt to go away. I wanted my circumstances to be fixed, and I simply wanted healing. But because God is good, He wanted more for me.

    He wanted my heart. My trust. My decision to follow Him even when I didn’t understand. He wanted my surrender. My complete reliance on Him. My faith to be real.

    God could have healed my brokenness and fixed my circumstances overnight. He didn’t.

    In Mark 8, people take a blind man to Jesus for healing. Jesus spits on the man’s eyes, and the man begins to see, but with his still-blurry vision, he sees people who look like trees walking. Healing begins, but it is not complete until Jesus lays his hands on the man’s eyes again. Then, the man “saw everything clearly” (25).

    I was the blind man.

    People in my life carried me to Jesus when I couldn’t see Him myself. My family, small groups, acquaintances from high school… They all prayed I would find my way, sent notes of encouragement, and brought coffee to my house when they had nothing else to offer. They knew Jesus would be my healer, and my sorrow did not intimidate them. They were the body of Christ when I felt so alone.

    Jesus could have immediately healed me, but He didn’t. My healing took place slowly, with Jesus coming to me multiple times, giving me what I needed so I could see clearly.

    I wanted my healing to be immediate; He wanted it to be complete.

    I believe that Jesus, in His infinite kindness, knew I needed time to wrestle with Him and my thoughts about Him. He knew it would take me time to finally come to a place of such desperate need that I was willing to surrender everything.

    He allowed my healing to be gradual so it would be true. God is outside our calendars and schedules, and the terms we want to impose on Him are meaningless in His plan.

    For years, Satan held me in bondage to my pain and emotions. But now, because of wrestling and time and continued whispers from Jesus, I am free.

    Freedom always costs something. It cost Jesus His life, and it cost me the right to have ownership of mine. In the surrender, though, He brought freedom. I am no longer bound to the expectations I had for what my life would be, the pain that was debilitating, or an identity based on a relationship other than with Christ.

    I am free to mourn what I lost but still believe the best is ahead. I am free to share my story with the knowledge that others need my hope.

    I am free to enjoy the goodness of God even when life looks different than I imagined.

    God is too good to rush what we’re not ready to accept, and He is too kind to force a healing we’re not in a position to receive. So He waits. And as He waits, we are made ready. Ready to receive a healing that is complete and a God who is good.

    – – –

     

    About Jennie:

    Jennie Scott is a former high school English teacher who now writes, speaks, and serves on staff at a church she helped plant in the upstate of South Carolina. A mom of two, she is an avid runner who also constantly has multiple books to read on her nightstand.
    You can follow Jennie at www.jenniegscott.com.
    – – –
    P.S. Special thanks to John Mark Arnold with the Unsplash community for the photo that accompanies this post. 
  • freedom stories

    Grace Came Dressed as a Friend- Sue’s Story

    Sometimes it’s not a big moment or dramatic time of transformation that changes our lives. It may be the story of un-learning years of our own expectations and desires through parenting. It may be the story of pride breaking down in favor of vulnerability. It may be a story of grace over striving, friendship over isolation, and in Sue’s case, it’s is all of these. I’m so grateful to share the heart of my writer friend Sue with you on this Thanksgiving weekend. Friends, you are welcome here. 

    This is Sue’s Freedom Story. 

    As children we are terrible interpreters of truth, yet we often continue to live out of our childish notions of identity and worth well into our adult years. “My worth is directly proportional to the amount I produce and the image I portray to the world” said the voice in my head throughout most of my life. Maybe this all started when, as a child, I was praised for serving, or felt shame for not bringing home straight A report cards. Or perhaps this became my way of attempting to regain my position of “princess” in the family after my adorable little sister was born. However it began, that inner voice was in control for many years.

    As a result of these lies that kept playing on repeat in my head, I had to keep moving, keep producing and keep pleasing. I believed that I had to work in order to earn anything. I was suspicious of grace. It made no sense to me that God’s pardon and favour were available to me without having to earn it in some way.

    So even though I had committed myself to following Jesus, it was on the condition that I could work to attain God’s love, and serve my way into the Kingdom. So, I planned, strived, worried and became a workaholic in my attempt to earn approval from God and others. Instead of receiving grace, I obtained a very long to-do list.

    Within this belief system I had developed, pride played a starring role. Since I was working so hard to achieve the life I envisioned, I could take the credit and bask in my achievements. This self importance made it almost impossible to let anyone else in for fear they might see the real me and find me lacking. So, I developed strategies of keeping others at a safe distance. I was cut off from experiencing true community. Throughout the years, God provided glimpses of another way of living but I can be slow to learn. He was persistent and finally one particular instance broke through.

    In the midst of my workaholic tendencies, my “super mom” attempts, my obsession with presenting an image of the perfect family, true grace came rushing in.

    Oh, at first it did not look like grace! It looked very much to me like failure; like the crashing down of my carefully constructed house of cards. The image I had worked so hard at lay shattered at my feet.

    In their growth toward independence teenagers often need to push boundaries as they seek to discover their values and place in the world. My first teenager was this type. In challenging my authority and beliefs and experimenting with the “shiny objects” all around her, my child brought about the final dismantling of my carefully constructed life. Choices that grieved me deeply brought shame and a sense of failure. I wanted to hide from my friends, my church, my community because this felt like deep personal disaster. How was I to show my face in public now that my “perfect” life had been revealed for the lie that it was?

    God’s grace came to me dressed as a friend. In this time of heartache and questioning my companion offered me a safe place to be vulnerable and reveal my truest self. I was able to finally remove the mask I had been hiding behind for so long. She listened without judgement as I poured out my heart. Instead of receiving the condemnation that I felt I deserved, understanding and compassion were extended and love was given.

    I knew intellectually the truth of God’s love for me. I had heard many sermons and read scriptures that announced my value as His child, my identity as chosen, dearly loved, His workmanship. But the truth only reached my heart when I experienced it through an actual flesh and blood person. As she reflected His attributes, my friend became God incarnate to me. When she told me that I was a good mother to my children, I heard the voice of God telling me that I was not a failure. As she embraced me as I wept from the grief in my heart, I felt the arms of God enfolding me. When the eyes of my friend looked into mine with compassion and understanding, I knew the loving gaze of my Father in heaven.

    I was ushered into the presence of Jesus where I could experience this same unconditional love and acceptance from Him. I was freed of the burden to perform, to keep up appearances, and I could just be. The vulnerability that I had been running from, fearing most of my life, was what finally brought about a deep compassion and acceptance that my soul so desperately needed. I was finally the recipient of the true grace of the gospel. Relief washed over me and, in the midst of all that was not right in my world, I was filled with joy.

    I am still learning to take the messages of that old inner voice to God, and am allowing Him to restore me and bring greater freedom. I have experienced the healing power of being vulnerable with a safe person. I am realizing this is a gift that I can now give to another. As I share authentically with others, they too are given permission to remove their masks and begin to come out of hiding. I can offer a fellow struggler a listening ear, a hospitality of spirit that welcomes and accepts. I can be the embodiment of the God of all grace to another.

    As we begin to live with greater compassion towards ourselves and others this changes the nature of our relationships. We no longer feel the need to hide from one another. We can link arms, encouraging and supporting each other in the way that God intended. As we experience true community in our relationships our faith communities will become welcoming and nourishing places, feeding those within and without.

    I have also come to claim the truth of Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

    Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

    I am no longer weighed down by a need to perform but I can live freely and lightly, keeping step with Jesus and my sisters in the effortless dance of grace.

    – – –

    Sue Freedom StorySusan C. Fulmore 

    I like to think of myself as a prospector for beauty.  Treasure can be hidden under many layers and only requires a prospector to bring it to the surface.  I seek to unearth the sometimes-hidden beauty in the garden, home, found treasure, fibre art and the lives of others.  My passion is to reflect God to the world by creating and calling out this beauty, writing is one way I seek to do this.

    I am a wife, a mother of two, a grateful wanderer of places local and far flung.  Cute boots are a particular weakness of mine of which I have a healthy collection!  You can find me on Instagram and Facebook

     

    – – –

    P.S. Thank you so much to Becca Tapert with Unsplash for the great image of sisterhood to accompany this post! 

  • holidays,  intentional living

    8 Tips And A Prayer For You If The Holidays Are Painful

    Cranberry sauce, sparkly centerpieces, parade floats, a full Thanksgiving table, and an ache that something isn’t quite right…

    There are times of the year that tend to accentuate the reminder that I’m a single mom. The holidays are one of those times– I may expect tidings of comfort and joy, but instead am reminded that life didn’t turn out the way I may have hoped or expected. My son is not with me on every holiday, and this year, Thanksgiving is the one where he will be several states away celebrating with other family members.

    Maybe for you, holidays are hard because “family” looks different than you imagined at this point in life. Whether you are single, walking through a divorce, grieving the loss of a family member, or the holidays just bring stressful family dynamics to the surface, I want to tell you you’re not alone. Over the past few years, I have learned a few ways to make the holidays feel a little less achy, and I want to share some practical advice, words of hope, and a prayer for encouragement with you today.

    1. It’s Okay to Grieve

    Holiday movies, commercials, and ads often feature a specific type of family—mom and dad, kids, grandparents, all happy to be together. When I sat through my first Christmas church service without my son, I felt a tangible emptiness in my heart as I looked around at these “whole” families and missed mine. Tears stung in my eyes through “Joy to the World,” because in all honesty I didn’t feel much joy. When sadness rises to the surface at the holidays, I’ve learned not to rush past those feelings or cover it up with festive activities and food, but to let myself grieve. Divorce was heart-breaking and single parenting is hard. The traditional holiday activities and celebrations may accentuate the difficult season you’re walking through, so it’s okay to give yourself permission to feel sad or angry when those waves wash over you.

    2. Choose Gratitude Over Comparison

    At the same time, I’ve learned that comparison is not helpful. When I put unrealistic expectations on the holidays that don’t match up with my current circumstances, I am bound to feel disappointed. If I stare longingly at the families that look different from mine, I lose sight of the good that God has given me right now. Instead of dwelling on the grief or comparison, I find it helpful to celebrate the blessings of this current season. Last year, I paid my good friend Kristin to take family portraits of me and my son. Those photos are an absolute treasure- a remembrance of the family God HAS given me. I thank Him for my support system, the fact that I have a job, for my apartment and our wonderful neighbors, and the mountain sunsets around me. If you can train your eyes and heart to focus on a few good things each day, it’ll be easier to make it through this season with a little more joy and a little less envy.

    3. Chosen Family

    Just as God reminded me that Emmett is my family right now, I also believe there is a gift in widening our definition of family. If you have friends who invite you to take a seat at their table for a holiday meal, it might be helpful to say “yes” and be around other loved ones. If you have a great church or support group, those people can be your chosen family to get you through the hard stuff. Even if your current home or family life isn’t a place that brings comfort, safety, or peace, I encourage you to think about the other places in your life that DO give you a sense of belonging. Cherish the time and memories you can make with those people. You are not a burden– I can guarantee those chosen family members are glad to open their arms and homes to include you.

    4. Remember, Money Can’t Buy Happiness

    One thing I’ve learned over my years of walking through recovery and serving in recovery ministry is just how EASY it is to fill up our empty places with the momentary satisfactions of this world. In a time of aching, we are sometimes tempted to treat ourselves or loved ones to delightful luxuries or creature comforts. But a shopping spree, spoiling our kids to make up for the tough home situation, or over-filling on food and drink will never fully satisfy the ache in our hearts.

    “The LORD will guide you always; HE will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)

    From a practical standpoint related to money at the holidays, we don’t have a lot of money in my one-income household. So each year I intentionally pick one special gift for Emmett. One year it was a beautiful easel and art supplies. Another year, a friend helped me hand-paint small wooden buildings that represent my son’s favorite places around Roanoke to accompany his train set. This past year, I invested in a year-long membership for the two of us to the local transportation museum. The joint membership was less than $40, and we probably went 10 times this year. Every time we visited, it was a reminder of a special Christmas present and created opportunities for new memories together.

    5. Make New Memories

    Speaking of new memories, this may be a good time to establish some new traditions. For us, we make new ornaments by hand and watch lots of Christmas movies with popcorn and hot chocolate. We take drives to see the Christmas lights in local neighborhoods. We bake a lot- even if it’s the cheap slice and bake sugar cookies or banana bread with extra chocolate chips from our leftover bananas that week. While old traditions may bring up bittersweet memories, think of new ways you can celebrate this season with friends or loved ones.

    6. Take Care of Your Heart

    Take a walk, have a peppermint latte with a friend, or sing Christmas hymns with a local choir. Stop to breathe in the crisp winter air and look up at the sunsets over the bare trees. Pay attention to what you need, and don’t be afraid to take care of yourself too. If you’re like me and you are quick to make sure everyone else is okay, now is a great time to check in with your heart and make sure you’re getting the space, time, and love that brings YOU some health and joy in this season too.

    7. Remember Those Who Are Hurting

    One of my favorite recent holiday memories was from a Christmas that Emmett was not with me. Instead of staying at home and feeling sad, I chose to get up early on Christmas morning to serve breakfast with my church for a few local shelters. We sang songs, ate lots of bacon, and the kids had an indoor snowball fight with big white cotton snowballs. It took my mind off of my sadness and reminded me of the bigger picture of this holiday season. Think about ways you might be able to bring encouragement to others in your life or community this year (joining a Thanksgiving 5K for a good cause, baking cookies for an older person in your neighborhood, offering to watch a single parent’s kids so that they can shop, or serving at a local animal shelter or rescue mission on one of your Saturdays off).

    8. Think About the “Reason for the Season”

    While Thanksgiving prep takes hours or days of time, the meal is often over within 45 minutes. While the weeks leading up to Christmas can bring a flurry of shopping carts, gift wrap, parties, and high expectations, it can be really good to remember that Christmas itself is only 24 hours of the whole year. It also helps me keep things in perspective to remember the “reason for the season,” by dwelling on the season of Advent. Advent begins shortly after Thanksgiving and carries us through the month of December, by preparing our hearts for the coming of our King. I remember that while my holiday seasons are sometimes filled with sadness or longing, the Israelites waited expectantly for the Messiah to come for thousands of years. There are some wonderful devotionals that can lead you through simple Scripture or prayer prompts, with the reminders that ultimately this time of the year is a time of expectant waiting and celebration.

    Last year I worked through Ann Voskamp’s Advent book, The Greatest Gift. This year I’ll be using my friend Jessica’s Christmas devotional Wonderful. Another activity that could involve kids would be a Jesse Tree series of ornaments which include one ornament and a verse to symbolize different parts of the Christmas season for each day leading up to Christmas. Emmett and I have a set of handmade ornaments from our church, but you could easily find a set online (a quick Amazon search pulled up this set for less than $10).

    No matter what it is that makes your breath catch in your throat when you think of the holidays, I am praying for you. Sweet friend, here is a prayer just for you:

    Dear God, We believe that your Word is true. We thank you that you are close to the broken-hearted. That you are redeemer, a perfect Father, and a great comforter. Father, I pray for my sister or brother that is reading this prayer right now. Embrace them closely within your loving arms. Remind them that you are right there with them in this hard season. Father, give us wisdom in how to handle our time, finances, and emotions in the coming days and weeks. Remind us Lord where we can show others, you, and ourselves love during this season. As we remember the period of longing for Christ, remind us Lord that YOU fully understand longing, suffering, and most of all, redemption. Fill us with hope, Lord, that all will be well. We love you Lord, and we thank you for the true reason for this holiday season- the birth of our Savior and our rescuer. In my season of longing, grief, or sadness, I thank you that you are right there with me. Amen.

    – – –

    P.S. Special thanks to Kristin Dunker Photography for my favorite pictures ever of me and my family! 🙂

  • freedom stories

    When the battle stands for more than food – Jana’s Story

    One of my favorite things about the Freedom Stories series is getting to know the hearts of sisters in Christ from all over the country (and a few from Canada!). I’m recognizing that no two stories are the same, but something amazing happens when we open up vulnerably and share about how Christ transforms our lives.  Even though Jana is from Kansas, we’ve never met in real life and our struggles look different, I’m so thankful that I connected with her through this project. I think you’ll love her transparency and the chance to cheer her on in what God is doing in her life.

    Here is Jana’s Freedom Story.

    – – –

    Jana! I’m so glad to have you here. Before we get into your story, I want to know some of the fun stuff! Tell me about where you’re from, what you love to do, and anything else that will give us a little slice into your life!
    I’ve lived in Kansas my entire life, and I grew up a part-time farm girl. We lived in town, but spent Sunday afternoons and much of the summer on my grandparents farm. It’s where I learned to love being outdoors, food as God made it, spending time with family, and barnyard kittens.

    I have book ADD. So many books I start! But I’ve actually finished 44 so far this year.

    For 30 years, I was a graphic designer, and the last 10 or so, a web designer. I loved it, for most of that time. Now, I’m teaching a class about finding your food freedom, based on a workbook I’m writing week by week as we go. I love it — I found what I want to be when I grow up!

    I love that! I’m so impressed by your 44 books and the career path you’ve found. So, Galatians 5:1 is a key verse for our FREEDOM STORIES. It says “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Therefore, do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” What was the old yoke you were living under? What was that slavery like for you?

    That was the first verse I had students memorize in the class I’m teaching!

    At first I thought my enslavement was to food, but I realized that, really, the yoke I was under was giving in to discouragement, and letting that keep me stuck. This particular discouragement was about being at an unhealthy weight, and looking at my past failures at any lasting success, thinking that the future could only hold more of the same. (But I experienced a similar hopelessness in other areas, too, unwilling to try things that seemed too hard or scary, like speaking in public, or sharing my writing where it might be criticized.)

    The weight discouragement included not feeling like it was “me” I saw in the mirror, or in pictures of myself. It included struggling to keep up with family and friends on a very easy hike through Colorado fields — something I love to do! And behind all that was the fear that I might end up like my mom: with type 2 diabetes and, eventually, Alzheimer’s. (Having type 2 diabetes, which can be controlled by diet, greatly increases the risk of Alzheimer’s.)

    What were some of the old narratives you absorbed when you were in that place?
    It’s hopeless. You’ve always failed in the past, so you’ll just keep on failing. You’re too weak and lazy to change.

    I can relate to so many of those, Jana. What was the turning point for you? Was there a rock bottom or a point that you realized that you couldn’t live like that any longer?
    Looking at pictures of myself in my sister’s wedding, which took place on my 50th birthday. I thought, “I’m too young to look that old and tired.” Plus, I was wearing a maternity top — and I hadn’t been pregnant for 20 years.

    So what happened next? What actions did you take? Did you connect with community or find new Truths that helped you find freedom?
    It took another year and a half for me to make concrete steps. I think I instinctively knew I couldn’t do it on my own, and that I would probably need some kind of professional help, but I felt both ashamed to ask for help, and like I wasn’t worth the money it would cost to hire that kind of help.

    The gift that propelled me to action was my daughter getting engaged. I thought, “I don’t want to look old and tired in another set of wedding pics!” — and I also felt like I could justify the expense of a personal trainer, if I called it “wedding expenses.” Understand: this wasn’t my husband saying we couldn’t spend money on that — it was all me and my not valuing my self care.

    I found a personal trainer who specialized in treating middle-aged people who just wanted to get healthy. (What I did not need was someone pressuring me to run a marathon!) I remember the night I found his website, with people whose “before” pictures looked just like me. I cried from relief, released by the spark of hope I was feeling for the first time in ages.

    It wasn’t the personal trainer who brought me food freedom, but the success I had there — the discovery that I could do things beyond what I imagined my limits to be, and finding joy in my newfound strength and energy. This propelled me to change in other ways, too.

    During one particularly challenging session, my trainer taught me some lessons about weight training. “In order for your muscles to grow,” he explained, “you have to push them to the point of failure. But I’ll be right here to catch the weight when it falls.”

    I immediately saw the spiritual parallel. Pushing myself to try things I know are beyond my own strength in other areas of life is exactly what grows my faith! If I only work within what I already know I can do, where is the room for growth, and dependence on God? And God is my “spotter:” He’s always there to pick up what I can’t carry.

    I love that spiritual parallel and the analogy of God as our “spotter.” That’s so helpful! Will you tell me about your life of freedom? What does it look like for you now?
    My weight loss eventually led me to find a way of eating that greatly diminished the cravings I battled, and increased my overall health and energy. Because I know this is what keeps me feeling great, I eat really healthy all the time — with small, thought-through splurges from time to time. I don’t feel deprived at all. I’m freed from foods that enslave me, and freed to enjoy lots of really delicious food, guilt-free.

    I now know that it’s okay to be weak, as long as I bring it to God and ask for His strength. I no longer talk to myself in demeaning terms like “lazy” and “weak.” Well, almost never!
    Also, now I get to teach other women about what I’ve learned! I love watching God use my words to help them see all the ways they don’t realize they’re stuck: how certain foods keep them addicted; how they talk to themselves in hopeless, demeaning ways; how much God loves them as they are, but how He desires to fill them and their lives with good, healthy, enjoyable food and experiences!

    Do you still wrestle with those old struggles? What do you do on those days to fight for your freedom?
    While I feel the food battle is 99% won, I still struggle with the exercise side of the equation. I had experienced a major overhaul in my attitude and habits regarding exercise that was unbroken from 2014 through 2016. Then, in 2017, I suffered a series of illnesses that forced me to quit all exercise for several months in order to allow my body to recover and heal. I’m still struggling with getting that rebooted. But the difference now is that I don’t consider giving up an option. I’m going to keep getting back up on that horse.

    And writing this has made me realize that I may be trying to do too much on my own power, and probably need to start leaning on God more heavily here. So, yeah: I’m still fully human!

    Haha! It’s good when we can see that in ourselves! Keeps us humble 😉 Are there any key scriptures, quotes, books or other resources that have been helpful for you on your journey into freedom?
    A key scripture for me is Psalm 107:8 & 9 which says, “Give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love… for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (NIV) I needed to replace my old idea that, if I gave up my comfort foods, I would be giving up comfort: I would be living a deprived life. What I learned is that God wants me to be comforted, but He wants to give me comfort Himself! And He has lots of ways to do that. It’s okay to enjoy food, when it has the proper place and boundaries.

    I collect quotes, so it’s dangerous to ask me that! (I have a closet for them.) But a couple favorites are…

    “Feelings of failure are based on the assumption that now is the only time that counts.” – I’ve lost the author’s name.

    “That which is denied cannot be healed.” – Brennan Manning

    Barb Raveling’s The Renewing of the Mind Project was instrumental in helping me change the way I thought about not just eating, but self-discipline and self-talk in general. She also has a book called I Deserve a Donut, focused specifically on food, but in both books, she provides the reader with a list of questions to journal about, and scripture to meditate on, on a variety of topics that keep us stuck in bad habits or prevent us from starting good ones.

    Also key for me: not trying to be a lone ranger. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. But also: that helping others is a great way to keep my lessons fresh and important to me.

    And last, because I’m a big believer that gratitude lists help us remain present and fight our battles, tell me 3 things you’re grateful for right now. 🙂
    I’m thankful for my present health. (Nothing like being stuck on a couch for months to make you appreciate being able to walk through the neighborhood.)

    I’m thankful that my mom’s battle with Alzheimer’s is over, and she’s healed and Home. (Three years now.)

    I’m thankful for bacon! 🙂

    – – –

    Jana Snyder is a teacher, encourager, and food freedom guru.

    She says, “I’m just a real person looking for real answers.” In 2007, seeking hope for her own health issues and that of family members, Jana began a deep dive into medical literature regarding food and health. What she learned revealed a connection between Alzheimer’s and diabetes, between diabetes and processed food, and between processed food and why food has such a hold over us. This knowledge lit a fire in her: a passion to help others find food freedom from the addictive foods that jeopardize their health, and steal away time with their loved ones.

    She microblogs frequently in two places on Instagram: @jana.reallife and @jana.realfood. She also publishes easy, healthy recipes — as well as info about what to eat and why we eat — at ohthatstasty.com

    She lives in Wichita KS with her husband of 35 years, and a big dog in a small package. She can be found teaching at her church; encouraging women online and over tea; and in her kitchen, doing dishes.

  • control,  faith in action,  intentional living,  weekly prayers

    When we just don’t know how to “be still”

    Recently, God has been placing reminders on my heart to slow down.

    This summer, I finally recognized my own addiction to busyness but my schedule still looks quite the same.

    This fall, He whispered to my heart that in order to heal through grief and forgiveness, I need to make space for my body to breathe. I haven’t quite found that space in full. 

    I continue to try to make room in my week to celebrate the Sabbath, but I still struggle with giving Him my time and my rest, uninterrupted from other focuses and commitments. 

    The truth is, I struggle to “be still” because I still try to be god of my own life.

    I scramble and manage and run and burn-out. I am busy and hectic and live my life in chaos, with momentary glimpses of rest before I’m back to the hustle and grind again. 

    I wrestle my schedule into place and worry about money. When my life feels out of control and I am at my worst with anxiety, I try to control the people and circumstances around me. 

    None of these things bring stillness.

    Because none of these actions or patterns recognize that God is sovereign.

    “Be still and know that I am God.” -Psalm 46:10

    So I am learning. Slowly.

    That I am not God.

    That a knowledge of this fact requires deeper knowledge of my Savior.

    That being still is not a to-do list item but a matter of stilling my being before the Sovereign Lord. 

    If you also struggle with being still, I wrote this prayer for us. Feel free to list your own reminders and gratitude of God’s goodness at the bullet points. 

    “Be Still”

    Lord, I praise you because You are mighty. You are sovereign. You hold this world and my world in Your hands.

    I ask for Your help because I cannot do this on my own.

    Father, help me to view this world through wide-eyed observance, wonder and awe instead of the narrow lens of a cell phone camera and my crowded calendar. 

    To start my day savoring the Word instead of consuming the words and images of strangers in my incessant scrolling.

    To stop clinging to control of my schedule, money, relationships, so that I can open my hands to receive simple joys…

    • A small red leaf in my path in the midst of the yellows and browns
    • The warm sun splashed across the pillow on a Sunday afternoon
    • The autumn breeze rustling the ground
    • The smell of muffins baking in the oven
    • An acorn that reminds me of my Grandmother
    • A warm mug of cinnamon tea shared with a friend while our children play with wooden trains
    • The plant on my doorstep from a sweet friend to encourage my blossoming creativity
    • An enveloping hug from the person who loves my whole heart
    • The laughter of my son
    • A glorious sunset of peach and orange, with a hint of winter in the air

    Lord, my heart longs to be still rather than running through my week without stopping. Lord, I desire to be still and breathe rather than gasping for air. Lord, I’m ready to be still and surrender control.

    Father, I trust you to lead.

    Help me to follow

    unrushed

    steady

    calm

    ready to listen and receive Your truth

    ready to give, with Your guidance

    ready to be

    still

     

    – – –

    What are the things you notice when you slow down? What would you add to the prayer? Is this a struggle for you too?

     

    P.S. Thank you so much, Leah Kelley, for offering this handful of acorns to the public domain via Pexels. It was the perfect fit for this post.

  • freedom stories

    Uncharted Freedom- Jena’s Story

    Have you ever had a plan in mind that didn’t quite go exactly as you’d hoped? Sometimes the greatest adventure in trust comes when God leads to uncharted territory. Jena’s story is a beautiful picture of learning to trust an unchanging God in the midst of uncertain circumstances. Her words remind me to ask the questions, “Do I really trust that God knows what’s best for me? Will I let Him lead?”

    Here is Jena’s Freedom Story. 

    – – –

     

    Going back home never felt like the right choice, but how could that be possible when every commonsense reason to return home stared at me in the face? We’d been up in Vancouver, British Columbia for five weeks living out of carry-on suitcases. Schools would be starting back up soon in Kansas City and my three daughters would have desks with their names on them. Our home and belongings sat untouched and I dearly missed my own bed. Our extended family and community inquired about our plans to come home weekly if not daily, and we missed them fiercely. When my husband came to me with the news that his company was extending his temporary assignment for at least three more months, we had a hard decision to make. Packing up, saying goodbye to him, and going home made all the sense in the world on paper, except for one factor: it felt like God wanted us to stay there.

    What kept me from booking plane tickets on the next flight home to Kansas City was the belief that for some unforeseeable reason, God sent us to Vancouver. I knew from reading the Bible that God often sent his people adrift for reasons he didn’t always reveal right away, but they consistently led to a greater understanding of his holiness and purposeful plans. Adam, Eve, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Ruth, Mary, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and even Jesus himself left comfort zones trusting God was the one doing the sending. I’m not saying me, or our situation, was in biblical proportions, but only that we serve an unchanging God who has been known to shake up comfort zones for good reasons. In biblical examples, security and familiarity were traded in for something greater; a secure place of dwelling in the presence of God in the places he calls us to.

    If God was the captain of this crazy, unexpected voyage we were on through uncharted waters then I could use the faith that’s been gifted to me to lower the anchor of my hope right into the steadfast love and presence of Jesus. Our family could live out of carry-on luggage with minimal possessions for an unknown season if it meant seeing God move in our lives. We could walk out the harder choice of being strangers in a city where we were living with our three daughters (ages 6, 7, and 13) in an urban, corporately furnished apartment and homeschool, but only if God was doing the sending. Just because we felt it was right to stay didn’t make it easy.

    One morning I sat on the floor of our apartment kitchen away from my kids’ view and quietly cried. If souls can be squeezed, mine was wrung dry. I told God it was too hard to do life with so much uncertainty and prayed for some type of approval or green light to take my daughters and myself home. Our work assignment had been extended another 4 months, which meant my husband would have to remain in Vancouver or search for a new job. My heart was crushed for my middle schooler missing out on a normal teenage life; my younger daughters were tired of homeschooling and playing in close-knit spaces; we were lonely for belonging, and Vancouver’s winter rains soaked my faith into a puddle of weariness. In that moment on my kitchen floor, I desired more than anything to return to the comforts of home. I knew what we had there and I longed to grasp hold of something with perceived predictability and control. Like a daughter begging her father to let her do the easy thing, He lovingly assured me he was doing what was best for us. I knew going home wouldn’t lessen God’s love for me at all and we’d make it work as a family, but something deeper spoke peace in my soul that day; I realized I trusted God more than I trusted my own feelings, so we stayed.

    Homeschooling from an apartment in the middle of a city continued to be difficult, but our quantity and quality time together was a priceless treasure. My daughters’ bonds deepened through their shared awkward and new experiences. Meeting new people and encountering cultures so different from our own transformed how we viewed our place in the world. My husband’s work proved challenging yet rewarding, and he thrived in his new role. Our marriage of 17 years grew stronger as we communicated and leaned on each other for support. As a family we grew roots together in ways we’d never done in our easily distracted, suburban lifestyle. Our life back in Kansas City was truly blessed, yet it was time for us to carry the lessons and memories of those blessings into a new way of doing home. Being free from so many of the pressures of a family active in multiple sports, church activities, school functions, demanding careers, and packed social schedules (all good things in and of themselves!) meant we were free to dream about our family’s mission and goals going forward. If we wanted to raise daughters who will be women of influence for the kingdom of God then experiences like this were faith builders to that end.

    One year later, we returned to our home in Kansas City one last time so we could place it on the market to sell. After a year of living a slightly nomadic, corporate life in Vancouver, BC my husband had been offered a new position in his company that seemed to be a perfect fit, so we accepted and planned a ‘permanent’ move to the Seattle, WA area. Walking back into the home we’d left a year before brought me to a full circle moment. I could’ve laugh-cried at the relief of knowing we’d done the hard, best thing. We imperfectly followed God through dark days and clumsily threw out our anchors of hope to Jesus. There were countless tears, worries, doubts, and fears but we locked up our home in Kansas City for the last time confident that God had sent us and continues to call us into new adventures. That kind of freedom can’t be found anywhere in our attempts to stay in life’s steady pond. Getting out in the open sea, tossing our anchor of hope to Jesus, and trusting him to be our guide is faith in action. Our deepest freedom was found in experiencing his faithful presence and purpose in uncharted waters of life, and we overflow in gratitude to our Heavenly Father who knew exactly what we needed all along.

    – – –

     

     

    Jena Meyerpeter fell in love with words as a little girl tucked away in the aisles of her father’s used bookstores. Today, Jena’s love of words continues as she writes and speaks on all topics faith and family. You can find more of Jena’s writings at JenaMeyerpeter.com and follow her and her family’s adventures on Instagram

     

     

     

    – – –

    Special thanks to Andrew Neel of Unsplash for the pictures to accompany this post. 

  • freedom stories

    Free to be Carried in Grief- Rachel’s Story

    Y’all. Rachel’s heart is beautiful. She is one of those people I feel like I know already, even though we’ve never met in real life. The way she invites us into her journey is so warm, gentle, and compassionate. She creates space through her words to let others know that their stories matter too, and her approach to grief reminds us that we are not alone in whatever hard things we are facing.

    Here is Rachel’s Freedom Story. 

    Self-help, independence, and productivity are the values our culture esteems, but what if I told you interdependence, vulnerability, and rest were more powerful?  We’re not made to do this alone. We need one another. God has designed us to live in community with one another. There is power and freedom in authentic community, and my own grief journey has revealed this to me in surprising ways.    

    We never thought it could happen to us again.  After losing a baby in early miscarriage, then burying our sweet son Clive, we never anticipated that we could lose another newborn.  We welcomed a new pregnancy with joy and fears, holding fast to God.

    Our darling Winnie was in our arms for 9 days before she unexpectedly died.  We were thrown into the pit of grief again, and it was even deeper this time.  How could we go on? Was this to be our life now—endless grief?

    Somehow we survived, day by day, taking the manna as it came to sustain.  We sat in the darkness, numb and broken, for a long, long time. We wrestled with faith, purpose, pain, and trauma.  We processed.

    I’d learned a lot from our previous losses, and I’d found a surprising freedom in my grief journey.  I’d seen the power of authenticity and vulnerability and how it connected me to others, and I knew that it was worth the pain to share my pain. It wasn’t easy to press into this pain.  It still isn’t easy to share my burden and pain with others, but I am seeing the reward of it beginning to unfold in my life. Through my faith and community, I found freedom in my grief.    

    I found freedom to stay in the darkness a long while, recognizing and allowing the broken world to just be. There is hurt all around us, but instead of granting time for lament we often believe we need to push through into joy, worship, and gratitude.  God grants us freedom to lament. I found freedom to feel my emotions—not becoming controlled by them but by validating their place in my life. The Psalms and Job are full of honest lament that is disoriented and dark.  With the outpouring of lament and a heart willing to feel pain, God meets us in our deepest hurt. He doesn’t push us past it, but sits with us.

    I found freedom in not rushing into finding a lesson, a learning, or a purpose in the pain.  If that was to be revealed, I would allow it to unfold with time.  Some questions will never be answered on this side of heaven. Journals piled up, filled with prayers and questions.  I wanted to find an answer to my pain, but I realized that put an undue pressure of performance into a sacred time of grief.  My efficient and introspective bent had to rest and allow myself to learn slowly as God revealed truth in my grief.

    I found freedom in being incapable.  The Message’s paraphrase of Job 6:13 says, “Do you think I can pull myself up by my bootstraps? Why, I don’t even have any boots!”  I laughed aloud when I first read this, but felt so validated. Self-help, productivity, and independence didn’t have a place in my grief.  I couldn’t be on the giving side of relationships. I had to allow others to help me. I had to see my own brokenness and inability, and believe that God had granted me community to be His hands and feet to me.   

    In many ways, it’s hard to be on the receiving end of relationships.  It’s easier to help others than allow others to help me. But I absolutely cannot do life alone, and I know we weren’t designed to.  We all need friends and family. We need to be the ones to throw our arms around those that are hurting and we also need to be the ones to have arms thrown around us as we hurt.  We need to recognize needs in others and we need to make our needs known so others can recognize our needs.  

    I found freedom in sharing my honest doubts and wavering faith.  I was met with understanding and grace by my friends and family.  I’d like to share one of the most powerful prayers prayed over me in my deep grief.  

    “We believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.   I say WE, because we know that sometimes you can’t believe alone.  We carry you.  Even when you can’t believe, we believe for you.”

    This is the power of community.  This is the freedom that community grants us.  We learn from one another. We carry one another, sharing burdens and joys.  We experience the heights and depths together, and we do not rush quickly into what feels comfortable but linger in the confusion together.  

    Recently, I had an image of someone running a race and becoming injured.  As she stumbled along and fell, the other athletes ran by. Two paused, looked upon her with compassion, and lifted her arms upon their shoulders.  They carried her, allowing her weight to lean upon them. She was a hindrance. She was hurting and broken. She was unable. But, they saw her and carried her.  

    As a community, we can do the same.  We can look to those who are hurting and see what they have to offer—although it is not much in the way of practical help, it is much in the way of soul lessons.  Their grief isn’t a burden, but a shared experience. Suffering connects us to one another and to the suffering of Jesus. It helps reframe our minds, fixing them on things unseen and eternal.  It gives freedom to live connected in community, as God intended.

    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

    2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

    – – –

     

     

    Rachel George writes at samandrachelgeorge.com, sharing about hope in the midst of life’s darkest moments.  She believes in the power of stories and community, loves being outside, and is thrilled to own a coffee shop in her little Midwestern town.   She’s working on her first book about creatively processing through grief with eyes fixed on Jesus, and views her life journey as an opportunity to help others through their grief.  You can find her on Instagram @rachelgeorgewrites or on Facebook at Sam & Rachel George.