June 3, 2017

Saturday Blessings

It is a beautiful day here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. The sun is shining and the skies are clear. The air is warm, but not too warm (yet). The forecasted high today is expected to reach 105, but right now at 8:31 a.m. it is only 86. I popped out the door this morning to pick up one of my newly delivered DVDs, and I have to say the outside air was quite nice, quite nice indeed. I am not looking forward to the week ahead, though. The next 10 days are much the same, highs from 101-107. Welcome to Phoenix in June, eh?

Still, it is a beautiful day nonetheless. My niece, Rebecca, is getting married today. She and her intended live in Peoria, IL, and today is the celebration of their decision to officially get “hooked” together. They have been together for 3-4 years, so this is especially welcomed. He is a great guy, and my niece has never looked happier.

I hoped we all (my parents and me) could have attended, but we had to make a choice of venues, and because my Dad has to visit Indiana in person to deal with the cemetery people, the latter option “won” the vote. I am not disappointed because after seeing the pre-wedding pictures, I realized that the week would not have been that enjoyable for my parents. They simply would not have been able to do much of the “gathering” activities nor would my Mom have handled the confusion. In truth, it is best that we are home, wishing them well from a far, and gearing up for our week in Indiana come a week from Monday. Sigh!

Weddings, though, are a blessed event, and I am so very happy for them both. They share a daughter (my nephew-in-law’s child), who is beyond adorable, and they are a very settled and happy family. I am glad my niece finally found a good man, and that he is honorable and faithful to her. He is a good guy, all around.

Today, therefore, is a good day. It is a good day to be home, and it is a good day to celebrate life’s joys such as weddings. I am praying that my niece and her new husband have a wonderful, blessed, and beautiful day, and that they make memories they will cherish for a life time. Yes, I am a sob about these things.
Walking Away the Weight

Yesterday was a really good day for me. First, I stuck to my diet plan (except for the banana and peanut butter snack at 10 p.m. to curb a deep craving). I haven’t lost any weight yet, well, not that the scale reads, but I do appear smaller around the waist. I measured myself and the tape reads the same dimensions, but I just feel a little smaller, tighter, and well, lighter. I have been sticking to my macronutrients now for four days, and so far so good. I really like this plan I am on, and I think it is doable for me. I have my daily numbers, and I simply enter my food choices into the online tracker. The tracker at MyFitnessPal.com tells me how many carbs, sugars, proteins, etc. I eat per meal, and then it totals them for the day. I am able to see how my choices effect my numbers.

In this way, I can substitute foods depending on my overall total for the day. So for example, yesterday, I did well for breakfast. I had my normal eggs and bacon. For lunch, I stopped at Chik-fi-la and ordered the Market Salad with Grilled Chicken. I had the light vinaigrette dressing on the side (no croutons). I drank water. I ate a really large salad, which left me not very hungry for dinner. I should have had a light snack, but instead I let it slide until around 6 p.m. I finally had an Atkins bar and my coffee, thinking that I would be satisfied for the night, but around 10 p.m., I became so hungry that I needed something to eat. I ended up eating 2 TBSP of Peanut Butter on a banana. Not a perfect ending for the day, by far, but it worked and I was able to settle down to sleep.

My numbers for the day ended up being: 1,322 calories with 83g carbs, 90g protein, and 60g fat. My goal numbers for each day are 1400 calories with 75g carbs, 135g protein, and 40g fat. I’ve got to work on keeping my fat content down, but I felt good overall about my choices. My hidden target for carbs is to stay under 100g per day, more like 50g per day to help boost weight loss. So far, I have landed within the 50-100g per day range for each of the four days of tracking. Keep in mind that those carbs are full carbs and not net carbs. I figure I am eating about half that amount in net carbs, so really I am somewhere between 25-40 net carbs per day, which is Atkins 20 and 40 plans. I am good.

My new rule is to choose foods that are simple versus complex. I am eating protein, veggies, and some fruits along with good fats (oils and real butter). I am staying away from processed foods whenever possible, and I am trying to stick to meals that contain 2-3 items only (like chicken and a green veggie versus chicken, multiple side dishes, bread, etc.). Hopefully, I can stick to this simplified plan and see some real movement in either the scale or the tape measure. For now, I would be happy to see the tape measure decrease as that would effect the way my clothes fit. It is a long process, a journey, and praise be to God, it will turn out successfully in the end. He is good to me, so very good to me!

I mentioned at the top of this post that one of my new DVDs arrived this morning. I received the text alert that Amazon had delivered it this morning; hence, the reason why I went outside at 8 a.m. I received Leslie Sansone’s “Walk It Off in 30 Days” DVD, which I have read really works to help you get in shape quickly. This DVD has two parts, a walking/cardio session followed by a band/weight/mat work session. In short, it has toning and conditioning along with cardio. I heard it was not like her normal DVDs, and the reviews on Amazon were all very solid. Most people said they had lost weight using this DVD, and that they noticed immediate results within just 1-2 weeks.

For now, I am sticking with her “Walk Slim” program. I have made it through two days, and yesterday I kicked butt to get to mile 2. In fact, I probably could have walked through the 3-mile mark, but I didn’t want to overwork my hips. I have hip flexor issues, and I could tell with the workout that I was really feeling soreness right at the front of my hip/thigh groin area. This is something I have to deal with so I will take it slow and walk the 2-miles with Leslie until I feel I can easily and without any soreness move on to mile three. I am content in the fact that I can lose about 100 calories per mile, so once I build some stamina and strength, doing a 4 or 5 mile walk should be all I need to slim down. I mean, if I can burn 400-500 calories per day, and if I can stick to my healthy organic and natural diet plan, I really think I can “walk off the weight” in 10-12 weeks. I would like to be down 2 pant sizes and 20 pounds lighter by the new school year. I will settle for half, if that is all that can be mustered up in the meantime. A 10-pound loss would net me at least one drop in jean size, and perhaps even push me down a little more.

I’ve put off trying to lose weight now for years, simply because I was “too busy” to devote the time to it. I have to say that is a half-lame excuse, but honestly, there is partial truth in it. It is very hard to fit in exercise when you are working so hard and long. More so, it is difficult to eat healthy choices when you don’t have time to plan or prep meals. Now that the summer is here, I am using this downtime to create new habits. I am hoping that with the low-key and low-stress days I can simply develop good habits that will last my lifetime. After all, this is the only life I have, and I intend to be happy in it. I intend to use it well, and to do that, I have to attend to my eating habits and my lifestyle routine. God is good to me, so very good to me!

Feeling More and More Contented

I am feeling more content, in general, about the course of my life. I prayed about some life decisions last night, and I am feeling rested, very well rested, in my interpretation of possibilities and opportunities. I have struggled so with the “plans” the Lord has with my life, with staying put in Phoenix or moving to a new location, and frankly, I ended up “giving in” last week. Yes, I said, “Lord, I just give up!” I mean, I am not giving in and doing nothing, but I made the choice to rest, to really rest, and in that way, I am accepting whatever lot my life brings at this moment in time. For example, right now, I can heartily say that my life is good. I mean, “My life is GOOD!” I have multiple lines for work, and in total, I am earning a very decent and good income. I have plenty — my basket and kneading bowl are full (Deut. 28). More so, I have my education completed, praise be to God, and I am officially now recognized as “Dr. Hepburn.” This is a benefit to my work situation, and it will in time produce a full-time faculty position. Until then, I am good. Like I said, GOOD!

In truth, the place where I am at now is blessed. It is BLESSED. I feel good all over, and I feel that my life has value, purpose, and direction. I have a job I love to do, and I have a settled and calm life (no drama). Moreover, I have a future that is filled with hope. I am spiritually content, emotionally satisfied, and materially well-provided. I am living a blessed and fortunate life this good, good day.

What Does It Mean to Be Blessed?

I often will say that my life is blessed. I know this statement is in vogue all over the Internet these days, and many people say it without really thinking what it means to be “blessed.” So, today, I looked up the definition of “blessed” just to see what it really means and how it is used in proper context. First , the word, “Blessed” can mean different things depending on the situation, but generally it connotes either a spoken verbal blessing like when we say grace or when we pray over another person for healing or comfort. It also can be considered a state of being, and for most of the people who say it regularly (like me), this is what we are saying about our life. Dictionary.com states that the word blessed means “consecrated, sacred, holy, and sanctified” (1 Peter 2:9). The word also means “divinely or supremely favored.” More so, it means “fortunate” as well as “blissfully happy or contented.” In total, the word itself often is used to give praise to God for His provision, whether spiritual or material. One is blessed or favored because of the goodness of God in providing Jesus as sacrifice for their sins. One is blessed or favored because God has chosen to meet material needs. Generally speaking, being blessed is a way of giving praise to God for His direct goodness in a person’s life.

More specifically, from a Christian standpoint, the idea behind these various definitions of the word, “Blessed,” can be used to help us understand that in Christ, our position, is one of favor, blessing, and fortunate standing (Rom. 3:22). It also is an outward manifestation of that positioning, and most often when we say, “Blessed,” we are describing how we feel as a result of our reconciliation with God. We are happy, blissfully happy and content because God has demonstrated His love for us, and made a way for us to be reconciled to Him (Rom. 5:8). Our happiness, thus, is not because we are experiencing a temporary relief of material, physical, or emotional suffering (though it certainly can be said a blessing to be free from pain); rather it is an expression of gratitude to God for His mercy and great care.  Lastly, many people think of “blessed" as more materially oriented. Many people view a blessing like a reward. Scripture says that obedience brings blessing and reward (Deut. 28), and as such, we are blessed because of our faithfulness to God’s word. In sum, blessing is spiritual because we are favored by God (through our identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection), and it is also material (physical) when we walk in obedience to Scripture (God’s commands and statutes).

In my view, I am blessed for these reasons. I feel honored and privileged to do good practical work that I love. I consider it a blessing to teach students how to write well, how to think critically, and how to become better students. My daily practical work is good. It is blessed as well since I have multiple outlets (schools) with which to serve a diverse and large population. I am blessed materially because I possess good health. I live in comfort (modest), and I have my major needs met through God’s provision of work and covering. I have a nice home, a good car, and money in my savings account. I am in a good place materially. But, I am also blessed in the knowledge of the Lord, His will for my life, and the value and purpose He has placed on my life. I know that I have special, set-aside work that I am to do, work that is for His kingdom. Thus, my life is blessed inside and out, and I bear witness to the goodness of God, His character and His faithfulness simply because He is GOOD, and all blessing — material, physical, emotional, and spiritual — comes from His hand of mercy and His throne of grace.

As I consider the blessings of God this good, good day, I am well aware that many people do not see their life in the same way. Many people believe that the only way they will be blessed is if all their problems disappear. This is especially true for people who are suffering emotionally or physically with illness or disease. It is also true for people who are suffering lack. Their needs are not being met materially, and as such, they are on the brink of ruin or failure (in business or at their job). Furthermore, there are people who are spiritually devoid of blessing. They may have confessed faith in Jesus at one point in time, but their life could not be described as blessed because of their circumstances (drug, family, or alienation issues).  

I know that my life is BLESSED, and often I wonder why it is so. My life seems so perfect, but in truth, it is far from perfect. I mean, I have been a Christian for close to 46 years. I don’t have a perfect life by any stretch of the imagination. I would say that the first four decades of my life were filled with despair. I suffered from emotional and mental problems due to post-traumatic stress. I suffered with physical problems that were the result of injury and illness. I also suffered maritally, living with a man who never loved me nor wanted me, and in the end, chose to cast me aside in favor of another woman. In all honesty, my life up to age 47 pretty well “sucked” to use a common term. It was not good. It was not blessed. It was not favored. I cannot say that I was blissfully happy or content.

So what changed for me? 

Well, I’ve blogged about my transformational experience already, but suffice to say, what changed for me was my relationship with the Lord, and my understanding of the totality of His sacrifice for me. Yes, as a longtime born again believer, I spent years living with misunderstanding of scripture, and a misguided sense of legalism and justice. I lived a hard life, without plenty, and that hard life produced a hardness of both heart and spirit. Then, miraculously, I confessed my hardness of heart, mind and spirit, and I began to be transformed through the washing of His word (Eph. 5:26). I came to experience the Goodness of God through committed study to His word. I read, I studied, and I applied scripture to my life. I also committed my way, my day, and my life to the Lord in complete surrender. I gave Him my worthless, pitiful, and unpleasant life, and in return, He gave me His presence. Yes, He gave me Himself. I came to know the Lord in deeper and more intimate ways, and through that experience, I came to experience the goodness of God in and through the damaged, destroyed, and depressed areas of my life. In short, in all the blackness of my life, I began to see the light.

Overtime, and with many, many lessons in trust, I came to place my entire faith in the Lord. I came to  where I realized the damaged me, the person who had been abused as a child, imprisoned as an adult, and criticized so harshly as a Christian, was not the person God designed nor wanted me to be. I came to see that He had a plan for my life, and that His plan was to release the “me” He created, and to let the “Me” flourish and be founded in Christ alone. Yes, my life turned around when the real “Me” became the only “Me” to exist. The real “Me” is the person Christ died for, and not the manufactured me that was formed through hardship, trial and abuse. In sum, I found my identity in Christ alone, and in doing so, my entire being was transformed from the inside out. I became NEW, and in this way, everything changed for me.

Therefore, the person I am today is not the result of the almost 54 years of life; rather, the person I am today is the result of a 7-year walk of faith, an intimate and personal walk of faith, with my Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. In seven years, the Lord turned my ratted and horrid life into something beautiful. It required everything — my entire reliance on Him — but it was so worth it. I gave up everything, and in return, He blessed me (favored me) and provided a new way to go, a new life, and a new vision for that life.

Walking In Your Blessing

What does it mean to walk in your blessing? I hear this phrase “walk in your blessing” bandied about by preachers and teachers on TV mostly. In my view, walking in your blessing simply means to accept what God has done for you (the cross), and to understand that your life, your present circumstances and your future destination are fully under His control. Your present life is not always God-ordained as some Christian’s believe. Most often, your present life is the result of mistakes, errors, and really, really bad decisions you made (without consulting the Lord). Sometimes the Lord rescues us from those really bad decisions and sometimes He leaves us in them as life lessons. This present world, for good or for bad, is often the result of our own failure to surrender our life or aspects of our life to the Lord. The eternal destination is summed up in Christ alone, and as a Christ follower, a believer in Jesus, that position is non-negotiable. You either are in Christ or you are not. The rub here is that you know the difference, and you know whether you are in or out of His blessed favor.

In this way, walking in your blessing means that you recognize that where you are today is the result of three things:
  • Your favored position in Christ Jesus (eternal)
  • Your faithful obedience to God’s Word (material)
  • Your fitting decisions made as a result of your relationship with the Lord (temporal)
Once you know you are favored in Christ (have your eternal destination set) and you read, study and obey God’s word (daily transformation of heart and mind), you will find that the decisions you make regarding your direction in life (work, marriage, home, location, school, etc.) are more aligned with God’s purpose and outcome. In this way, these decisions will produce good results, they will demonstrate God’s goodness toward you, and you will receive the reward of positive experience, goodwill, and yes, contentment (satisfaction).

I think the reason most Christians are dissatisfied in life is due to the poor decisions that have made. A man or woman may have entered into a marriage hastily or for the wrong reasons, and as a result, their life is filled with constant strife, pain, and sorrow. A poor decision on where to live or work could result in hardship and financial burden. It is easy to say, “This is the Lord’s will for me to suffer,” when in truth, the only reason you are suffering financially is because you made a really bad investment, purchased a house in a poor area, or are working in a hostile environment whereby your coworkers are seeking to destroy you rather than affirm you (they work for the enemy instead of the Lord). Now, I know that my rationale above is simplified because there are so many reasons for heartache, sorrow and suffering, and sometimes the reasons have nothing to do with choices we have made; rather, they are the result of choices others have made that changed the trajectory of our life. 

For example, when I married my husband, I honestly believed we were meant to be together for life. I believed that he was the right person for me, despite so many red flags telling me otherwise. I went into the marriage thinking he was my knight in shining armor, when in truth, he was nothing of the sort. I gave 30 years to a very difficult, frustrating, and at times, unhealthy relationship. I didn’t quit. He did. He chose to seek the companionship of other women, and in doing so, he made the decision to end the marriage. I had to choose: either allow him to have women on the side or walk away. I chose to walk away, trust the Lord, and I have never looked back. I blame myself for that faulty decision 33 years ago. I should have listened and obeyed the Lord when He clearly told me “NO” to marrying this man. I didn’t listen, and I suffered spiritually for years. I made the best of a really bad situation. I lost myself in that marriage. I lost everything that was “ME” because I had to conform to desires and wishes that were outside the parameters of God’s design for me. In the end, I walked away and I embraced myself — the real ME — the ME that God originally intended me to be.

Today, I am that new person. I am doing the work I love. I have the education I desired for years. I have a good plan, a good future, but I also learned very hard lessons that produced strength, determination, and yes, commitment. I learned to survive. I learned to let go. And, I learned to surrender to the Lord in order to be restored to health, vitality, and wholeness. Please note that the Lord didn’t save my marriage. He didn’t change my husband’s heart, make him confess his sinful behavior or seek reconciliation. No, not at all. The Lord allowed my husband to abandon me and our son in favor of lustful and sinful relationships with other women. I was the abandoned and unloved woman of Scripture. I had to stand there, betrayed, all alone, while my husband told me that he never loved me nor wanted to marry me. I was nothing to him. I was cast aside.

Through that experience, however, I was reborn. I was given my freedom with a “stigma” attached to it. I was like Hester Prine in “The Scarlet Letter.” I had to wear a letter on my breast. In Hawthorne’s magnificent novella, Hester is caught in adultery, and as a result, she must wear the letter “A” on her clothing as punishment for her crime. In my case, I wear the letter “D” on my breast. The letter, “D” stands for divorced. I neither sought divorce or wanted it. To this day, I feel that I was made to accept this status, and as such, I wear the stigma of a woman that kept her vow to her husband and to her Lord. I wear the “D” on my breast to show that this is my life. Now, granted, I don’t actually wear a “D,” but metaphorically speaking, there isn’t a day that passes that I do not suffer from the hurt of that process, that fact. I am divorced. I never wanted to be divorced, and as I have said it, I never sought it. It is a fact of life.

The good news is that despite that stigma, the Lord has provided rich and rewarding opportunities for me. He has made a new life for me, and I am the recipient of His good, good favor. Every day I wake up and I give thanks to the Lord for His goodness. He has made my life good. He has given me a second start, a second chance, and I am committed to making good decisions, good choices from this point forward. Every single choice, every single decision is washed through the Word, prayed over, and committed to the Lord. I do not go anywhere, do anything, consider anything unless the Lord gives me His okay. He says “it is good” or “yes” and I do whatever He asks. It works well — this reliance on the Lord. It works really, really well for me. I desire nothing but the Lord’s will to wash over me, to change me, to prepare me, and to make me into a vessel of His choosing. I am His to do with as He pleases, and in response to His good favor and blessing, I give Him thanks. I worship and adore Him, and I confess His holy name. He is good to me, so very good to me!
In Closing

I feel so richly blessed this good, good day. I feel as if the whole world is spinning, and I am sitting on it, enjoying the twirl like a child on a circus ride. I am filled with excitement, anticipation, and joy as the Lord moves people in and out of my life, makes doors open for me (and closes some), and prepares my steps forward. Whether I go or stay this good day, I give Him thanks, praise, and I honor His holy and good name. He is good to me, so very good to me. #RichlyFavored #RoyallyBlessed!
































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