Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Cake-less Birthday

     Today was my birthday and I didn't have a cake. I can't remember the last time I didn't have frosting on this day in the last 45 years. Did someone forget? Was the dessert overlooked? No. I chose not to have one. My treat was an apple, and I may chomp on some grapes later while enjoying a flick with my bride.
     Many probably can't fathom a cake-less birthday. I never thought I would be going without one, that's for sure. I love sugar. I love frosting, I love CAKE! But I choose not to have it today. If I had a bite of cake and broke my abstinence around my food plan (no sugar, no flour, weighed meals), then my brain would tell me, "Have another piece." And I would, justifiably so because it's my birthday. That thought would take me to a drive thru window later tonight with a pit stop to 7-11 to pick up some candy for after my late night meal, not snack, meal. One bite of cake would put me on a slippery slope and that one bite would not be enough.
     I've always justified my bad choices around food. If I worked hard in the yard all day, I deserved a pizza. If it was Father's Day, I deserved chili dogs and french fries because it was a special day. If it was hot outside, we "needed" a trip to Baskin Robbin's. But you know what I really deserve? I deserve to take care of myself. What I really need is to ensure my health gets me to a ripe old age. A pizza won't serve that purpose.
     Instead of focusing on what I've given up, I'd rather reflect on what I've gained. Since surrendering my eating habits to God, I've lost over 40 pounds. I had the privilege of going through my closet and throwing out every extra large shirt I owned. I went shopping for new clothes. Today I wore a shirt to church that was a medium instead of XL. And I was frustrated this morning because all my belts were too big. I can bend over and tie my shoes without gasping for air. I'm not falling asleep midday because I'm simply sitting still. My knees don't hurt anymore. My blood pressure is lower. I don't shun the mirror or am repulsed by the image I see walking past a store window. I think I've gained a lot more than what I've given up.
     It was a cake-less birthday, but that was my choice. I wasn't losing out because I shunned the dessert, but rather I gave myself the gift of self-care. I've had enough cake for a lifetime (and candy, and fast food, and soda, and pizza...). I've had enough. So let them eat cake, but none for me, thanks.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Anchor Holds


     It was the Fall of '06, and when I say "fall," I mean lots of things fell. That year ushered me into one of the most difficult seasons of my life. I finally faced some inner demons and let my wife in on the secret which led us to recovery. It was hard, humiliating. Close relationships I had began to morph and not for the better. And being in "the ministry" was challenging and lonely.
     A year later, my mom died. Nothing gets you ready for the loss of a parent. Even if they did offer a class on preparing for the death of loved ones, it still wouldn't anesthetize the pain of hearing the dreaded news. So I went into mourning, and two months later found out my dad had stage four lung cancer. He died three weeks later. My grief had been doubled in less than three months (Bear with me, there's a light at the end of this dark tunnel).
     A month after my dad's passing, my wife was diagnosed with a tumor in her head. That was in April, and May found us in San Diego facing a major brain surgery and the rest of the year was focused on her getting better. Three traumas in a five month span.
     By the end of 2008, I was in a low-grade depression, but still trying to fulfill all my duties as a husband of a wife post-surgery, father of three kids 5 years old and under, and youth pastor who's calendar was just as full as before all the surprises of the preceding year.
     In 2009, our house was ransacked and robbed. More loss. In 2010, our cat died suddenly (Pet owners will sympathize). I also resigned from my position at the church that I held for almost 17 years and was facing the unknown. A walk of faith ensued, but it was scary at times. Money was running out. I knew that I knew that God had revealed to me that my time at the church was done, but now what, Lord?
     Even after starting our non-profit ministry, we still needed to build our income back up. Financially, things were lean. But we trusted God to guide us and provide for us. Upon leaving my church, I had begged God if there was any way to let us stay in our home in Santa Clara. We love our house, we love our neighborhood (except when robbers drop in), and we love our school the kids are in. It was a long shot because those in the ministry know once you leave a church, it usually means a move. But God saw fit that we stay put.
     Through it all, we experienced God's faithfulness and provision in abundance. In all the loss, the body of Christ was right by our side. In the uncertainty of our finances, we were still able to survive in the expensive Silicon Valley, and that is miraculous. God was our anchor through it all.
     I paid our bills today. We're taken care of. Financial burdens that were looming for years have been lifted because of God's great provision and in His divine timing. Our ministry is established and we're not wondering what's next for us. It was a seven year season of white-knuckling on to God. We had no choice, but there could not have been a better choice if there were options. Yet, we need Him just as much today as we did yesterday or last month, or seven years ago.
     Seasons are a part of life. And your season will not imitate mine in detail or duration. But what will remain the same is the anchor that is Christ. If your season is bleak, seems unending and unbearable, don't let go. It is for a while only. And when things aren't so heavy, keep a tight grip. We never know what tomorrow may bring, but one thing that is solid, our Anchor holds.