Put. The Donut. Down. [a first glimpse of self-destruction]

19 Apr

Photo on 2013-04-19 at 10.28 #2Life changes. I don’t deal with that well. At one point, I found one of my names roots to the meaning “graceful one.” Nope. Not me. Not literally. Not figuratively.

At the root was selfishness in the form of a self-centeredness: I held the right to react anyway I wanted or have anything I wanted. What I took out on others as a child introverted when I reached teenage years. “I’m to blame” wasn’t a sudden shift. But I was. Always. For everything. I believed the lie that I would suffer rejection, raised voices, harsh words, if I argued at all. I believed the lie that I was a burden on people and especially family, one they put up with for a holy obligation; I believed I’d been given an invisible value by default by an invisible God that spoke it over the human race.

God found me early though. He found me through childhood moves and growing up and going to new churches and meeting friends, and I knew my God was different than merely invisible and theoretical. I spent every moment broken by sin at my core, and I did not want people to see the true extent of it. I wanted to be fixed but didn’t want people around for “the fixing.” By grace, I cycled out of rebellion and learned to be teachable even if I didn’t invite people to challenge me. I cycled out of the victim mentality because I began to see that God truly was good to me. But somewhere in the midst of teenage insecurity, I picked up a donut and never put it down.

Maybe it’s never been a clinical eating disorder. But it is idolatry which is out of God’s order. Food became my sword because it was easy to hide. It was available. Always available. I oscillated between eating myself sick to eating next to nothing. I wasn’t obsessed with hearing “you look like you’ve lost weight,” otherwise gaining it back again wouldn’t have been such a big deal to me. It wasn’t until Easter 2011 in CO that I realized how out of control I was. Something daily won my affections more than God. Something else mastered me.

Photo on 2013-04-19 at 10.28

I started and never finished Bible studies on this: I know to thank God for food (1 cor. 10:30), to eat and drink and do all things for his glory (1 cor 10:31). Great. I can do that. But I can’t. I can’t stop eating what’s bad for me. Before I know it’s in my hand, it’s in my mouth. And puking ruins your teeth so I can’t let this escalade. It escalated in other ways as my weight would fluctuate noticeably daily and then plateau higher than I wanted. I feared it would catch up with my body more as I got older–that I wouldn’t be able to hide it much longer– more than I feared God.

I don’t mean to be legalistic and say never pick up sugary-creamy-fluffy bliss and only buy organic foods because your body’s a temple for a Holy God. Two of the donuts pictured were promptly consumed by my roommate and I over breakfast and coffee. What I’m saying is that moments that food is a sword (however engrained or fleeting those are), put down the sword and don’t trade it for a pocketknife. When you view food as something so evil you should never touch it, crush the image you have in your head. It’s false.

“It’s not about the weight or the food; it’s about your heart. Your heart towards both needs to change. Jillisa, start here.”

Last fall I stopped eating after 8pm, changing my eating schedule so that I could do so. That’s all I did. One thing at night and do you want to know what happened within a week?  I lost some indulgence for chocolate. I had clarity sooner in the morning as I woke (food comas are a real thing!). My weight stopped fluctuating drastically, and slowly dropped a few pounds. If it went up, the guilt wasn’t heavy at the scale. I became more thankful for the food I had throughout the day. The midnight eating pattern reversed.

Let me show you what I clung to, as life constantly changed around me and my sister moved, and my work had me in a different position daily, and I was gaining friends and meeting new people:

 “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying ‘peace and safety!’ then the destruction will come up on them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with him.” 1 Thes. 5:2-10 NASB

I would often open to that place in my Bible over lunch as a conscience and hope that I wouldn’t feed yesterday’s hunger by compounding calories. “You are not of darkness that day would overtake you like a thief. You are sons of light and sons of day.” I don’t feel like the day is here yet, but I’m learning to wake up, preparing the way for Christ and welcoming the foreshadowing of his coming in my new habits.

Why do I write this now? Well, another change in life took place this week, a first for me. I just broke up with my boyfriend after 3 months together. The worst part is someone else’s heart is involved. I can’t speak into it much, I can’t fix it or solve it. I’m grateful our time together–it was incredible. But now it feels like I’m losing my best friend and when is that not painful to process? Yet I’m processing this whirlwind relationship in a way that reflects my divorce from my erratic eating.

I’m sad but still I’m walking free from wanting to make myself sick because of what is not yet solved. I’m not operating in my flesh which threatens to bury me in guilt or lies (Gal. 5). God has not destined me for wrath or destruction. All that wrath and blame was taken out on Christ at the cross. So I’ll lay my weapons down at his nail-pierced feet and obtain his salvation.

Photo on 2013-04-19 at 10.32 #3

An Influence of Praise

23 Nov

A few months after I started this blog, I heard of this book, One Thousand Gifts, from my mom (a first influence of praise). Even though it held a story similar to my posts’ [aim], I couldn’t read it–I even attempted it but stopped somewhere in the middle of the second chapter. I thought it was good and wanted to come back to it in the future, but there were things I was figuring out on my own. So I put the book down, hoping that what I wrote would be a genuine, raw and personal journey, coming from my wrestle with contentment, and filled with fewer quotes reflecting my “I-wants.”

Well, I came back to it, and I’m about two chapters from finishing it. Meet the author, Ann Voskamp, another influence of praise. I visit her blog when envy threatens my heart with its death-grip. Envy has complicated my life and hardened my heart with its desire to steal, kill and destroy me, but now I know resurrection. Forgetting is an unfortunate natural habit, hard to reverse, so I enjoy reading the words of someone diligently seeking to remember the same resurrection life. I’ve read her words like a sister’s. I love that Ann is spending her life on an exploration of gratitude, the life it brings, and the message it forms. I rejoice that she’s gone before me; maybe this isn’t so impossible as I think.

A critic may think it overkill, a book then a blog with one focus. In my eyes she’s hardly exhausted the beauty of a morphing heart. It’s refreshing. I’ve heard it said that every preacher has one message, and they spend their time thinking of ways to the same thing over. For Ann it’s Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, in it holds “The Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are” (her book’s subtitle). Her hand has become the preacher; her images have brought perspective. I want to be among the ones who shed light on the hidden, the forgotten–like Ann, to hold a magnifying glass to light’s Source–by thanking the One who allows me to see what I have in front of me and to praise Him from Whom all blessings flow.

Blind me with engaging and rejoicing. Let me read of it; let me live it.


3 Nov

As opportunities increase and my heart for the dyslexic and bored-with-reading also grows, I’ve started another site. It’s geared towards a podcast format at this time, and since I’m primarily a youth leader much of it will be geared towards the teens I love. Eventually I’m looking to combine the 2 sites to that one. Here’s to an increase tech-savvy.


Colors of Fall

16 Oct

It may not last long, but it’s worth each walk to see it while it lasts.

Walking in the Light

15 Sep

1 John 1:7

“But if we really are living and walking in the Light, as He Himself is in the Light, we have true, unbroken fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses [and] removes us from all sin and guilt [and] keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations.” (Amplified)

 Jesus. He Himself is in the light. And only in light do we have unbroken fellowship.

Unbroken. Mmm… That’s good. If there’s a way of life that can be that, I want to live it. And my life lately, what has it been? The shedding of fear and anger and formulary thinking (usually an ugly process), defining friendships, being the object of speculation and gossip, attending counseling, doubting what God has told me, deciding to believe confidently His promises to me, laughing with the people I have hardly been able to talk to for months, and loving life.

A year ago at this time, I didn’t know if I’d be following the Lord today. I planned to but had some serious doubts. Yet God kept speaking to me, so I did listened and kept Him in the back of my mind. I wanted to love Him, but I couldn’t keep a steady gaze. I joined counseling because I realized any fruits of obedience would fade; eventually I would take it all back and I would probably take a few people with me.

Something had to change on my part and God’s. Craziness to say that about a perfect God. Or maybe not. “It takes God to know God,” my friend Matt Manning says. So I don’t think I’m sacrilegious for thinking, praying, God, I need You to show me Yourself; without You doing this for me, I can’t change. There is a strange and paradoxical hope in finding after a life of following Jesus that I still need Him everyday and that I can’t “walk in the light” without Him. There is an unchanging hope in finding that He sees everything, that He has never left me and He never will.

Several hard months later–and I don’t know how He did it, I don’t know how it happened, it was hardly sudden but it almost felt like it–I’m forgetting what lies behind and pressing towards what lies ahead, namely Christ, unbroken fellowship with Jesus, a steady glory.

Like a prism fractures light, I see how our hidden sins divide us from Jesus and His people. In this state no ordinary man can come by us wholly, for we are not whole. Is it true then? Is there really a way to unbroken fellowship? Yes, the blood of Jesus cleanses. Ultimately this is it. The surrounding verses speak of confession, perhaps because it works in hand by bringing to light what we want to keep from Jesus’ blood or don’t think has been washed away by it. If this is the way to heal what’s been fractured, to enter into the unbroken, I’m all in. Confession is the stepping into the light of Jesus’ blood, and His blood is the mechanism to “unite my heart to fear Your name” (Ps. 86:11), to “redeemed,” to the dark becoming lovely.

Darkness tempts us to believe that confession would decrease as we are being “perfected in Christ.” What planet are we on again? Yes, the heavens exist in more than a parallel universe kind of way, but as long as there is this earth, there is weakness in our flesh.  There is the mystery of shedding our flesh, of seeing things perfectly at the second coming of Jesus. It will surely come. In the meantime “perfected” comes by bringing to the light who we are in Jesus and naming the darkness that tries to shape or hide us, This is neither effortless or instantaneous perfection; however, confession is the avenue of hope that Jesus already sees us wholly, the broken us and the unbroken us beyond, teaching us in turn to see others wholly.

So here is our hope, a confession that makes way to profession, that Jesus brings me closer in fellowship–not the fake kind, the kind with undertones of anger or resentment or hesitation–but to the “mingling of souls,” as Matt Chandler describes. It opens the door to laughter and authenticity, maybe to tears but also understanding. Confession: an act of acts in faith to end a chapter of sin for the pursuit of Jesus, just as He is, in the Light. His blood cleanses us and continues its redemptive work by binding us together. Together with Jesus. Together with His people.


18 Jul

I do not rest well. I have seasons where even though things may not be effortless or immediately rewarding, every part has been satisfying. However, for the most part I know rest is good from the side of insomnia and discontentment. I have had seasons of sleeping well though not implicitly for long hours within them. No, I do not rest well.

Hebrews 4:11 says to strive to enter into the rest. Hmm… what a paradox.

When you rise in the morning, strive for rest. Turn from your sin and turn your eyes upon Jesus. Wrestle with grace, being covered in blood that’s not yours (Hebrews 9:12). Wrestle with being loved no less when caught in the act of sin (John 8). Wrestle with being seen as though in a mirror with a glory you can’t even mimic (2 Corinthians 3:18). Wrestle with the passivity of your role in the accomplishment of the new covenant (Genesis 15, each Gospel). Wrestle with the God who is in heaven and does all that pleases Him (Psalm 115:3). It pleased Him to crush Jesus for your peace with Him (Isaiah 53). For your peace–not an inconsistent understanding of Him, but true reconciliation to Him and full experience of Him.

Before you work, strive for rest. Even though the laborers are few, whether your ministry is local, national or global, does Christ not speak to those in the field too when He says that His is burden light (Matthew 11:25-30)? Lighter than a billion lost souls, millions of aborted babies and neglected orphans? Lighter than sickness and medication and lack of time? Lighter than the prodigal and the rebel? Lighter than instilling good morals in a child? Lighter than the complexities of terrorist attacks or a corrupted government or religion? Lighter than entanglements of sexual sin, of lust, of greed, of defilement, of hatred, murder or suicide? Lighter than the worries of the future, the shame, the unanswered questions of the past? Lighter than loneliness and self-reliance?

At night, strive for rest. Yesterday I was putting Luci to sleep for a nap. It didn’t hit until late last night how how similar we are when we are tired. Her eyes can be red and her head can be bobbing, but she puts her hands out against you and starts talking or crying as loud as her energy will allow. Do I have this attitude when I need to rest? Not intentionally when my body wakes up in the middle of the night or well before my alarm without so much as needing to go to the bathroom. Still the message is clear: Give up any illusion of control and strive to give into the rhythms of a parent who bounces and gently rocks because he loves you. Strive to find comfort in the warmth of a bare chest. Strive to give into the calmness of a lullaby. Strive to lose yourself in the familiarity of white noise. It’s not monotony. It’s mercy. It’s confidence in the arms that are strong enough to hold you, never drop you or loosen His grip on you. It’s letting your head fall on skin and not shy from its intimacy. It’s letting yourself be unwound by the truth. It’s letting go of outward unimportant judgement and criticism until fades into silence. It’s following where God leads when He leads.

Rest is mercy that must become habit.

(This picture of Luci was taken by my friend and brown-eyed Nicole McIntosh of Modern Nations Apparel and Photography)


17 Jul

I’ve lost track of what number I’m on in my list of 1000. Laughter is woven in and out of so many previous posts though, and I’m sure  future posts will be ignited by it.

Mmm… the joy that is found in touching a waterfall for the first time with a three-year-old, sharing first-time experiences with great friends, making new friends, sharing snacks and hikes and conversation.

I’ve found happiness in dance parties with precious sisters (and brothers), singing loudly and making faces, being jealous of Grace’s interpretive dance moves and creativity, all things new, worshipping at sunset on a hill with a notebook and pen and a fabulous view and an eternal God, a good theme song, the opening of a heart and unfolding of a soul, picking wild raspberries with Marissa, and in knowing who I am and where I’m going and The One Who is taking me there.