Category Archives: Faith

Human Trafficking Awareness Fell in My Lap

In a recent post, What’s Next, I wrote about allowing God to guide you step by step to your ‘next.’  An unexpected adventure unfolded after I wrote that post…

One Sunday at church, I saw a video from a ministry partner in India –CICM and Aatma Vikas.  They have a program, The Skipping Stone, that brings freedom to those seeking a new life from human trafficking and extreme poverty.  This particular video told the story of a woman named Rushka who had been forced to work in a brothel at age 15 to support her family. The Skipping Stone teaches marketable skills to women like Rushka, so that they can escape their hopeless situations and live in true freedom.

Rushka’s story wrecked my heart and stirred my soul.  I have a special love for India and the women of that culture, and I left my church that day feeling certain that I was about to hop on the next mission trip flight to India.

A little perplexed, because I’m a hot-mess-of-a-world-traveler, I asked God what all of this stirring and wrecking of my heart meant:  You will one day go to other parts of the world, maybe even India, but right now I have something for you closer to home.  Ok, God.  Let’s do this thing.

I immediately remembered that a friend of an acquaintance had started a local ministry that meets the needs of women who have been rescued from sex trafficking and prostitution.  I couldn’t remember all of the details, but after some searching, I discovered that Catalyst Ministries was indeed up and running…okay God, this IS closer to home.  Is this what you meant?

As fate would have it, Catalyst was in need of (and praying specifically for) someone who could teach health and wellness to the women.  It was a tailor-made assignment for me.  Ironically, I also have a degree in social work (MSW) that had been waiting to be revived –an added gift to share.

I had followed God’s carefully laid breadcrumbs to the doorstep of this ministry, uncertain of what would come.  Suddenly, my passion for making an eternal impact collided with my experience in wellness and social work.  God, you are good…and you are always working.

Today, I’m learning about the horrors of human trafficking in our country and around the world.  It’s a heartbreaking and grotesque reality.  I can’t read the stories, facts and statistics without tears in my eyes and a pit in my stomach.  Here are some facts:

  • An estimated 40 million people (13 million children) worldwide are victims of human trafficking -approximately 80% of cases as sex trafficking and 19% as labor exploitation. This is the 3rd largest international crime behind drugs and weapons trafficking; the three tend to be intertwined.
  • These statistics only scratch the surface –human trafficking is under-reported and difficult to detect due to several aspects: victims’ fear of law enforcement; physical/psychological abuse and resulting fear of retaliation (against victims and/or their families); language barriers and/or lack of knowledge of available resources; and traffickers frequently moving their victims.
  • This is not just an international problem. All 50 states in the US have reported cases of human trafficking.  According to Polaris Project, the most accurate trafficking database, there were 31,569 cases reported (via hotline, text message, or online form) in the US between 2007 and 2016.  There was a 35% increase in reporting from 2015 to 2016.  86% of reported victims were female and 14% were male.
  • The top 5 nationalities represented in these cases: US Citizens, Mexico, China, Philippines, and Guatemala.  The top 5 ethnic groups affected:  Latino, Asian, White, African American, and Multi-Racial.
  • Almost 50% of sex trafficking victims reported that their trafficking began between the ages of 12-17.
  • At-risk groups include runaways. They are typically approached by a trafficker within 48 hours of running away.
  • The top 5 recruitment tactics used by sex traffickers: intimate partner/marriage propositions, familial, posing as a benefactor, false promises/fraud, and job offers.
  • Poverty is a huge driving force, and traffickers use all manner of fraud, abuse, threats, and even confinement to coerce their victims.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and it seemed fitting to share my story with you.  As you can see, the problem is enormous (but God is bigger.)  Initially, I didn’t know about it because I wasn’t looking.  Several months before this experience, I had asked God to give me his eyes and to increase my capacity for compassion.  He grabbed hold of my heart and guided me toward a divine purpose.

It can be scary to pray, “Lord, break my heart with what breaks yours,” but I encourage you to do it sometime.  When you pray this prayer, be prepared to be plucked out of your comfort zone and dropped into something rewarding and eternal.

*For more information on Catalyst Ministries, visit

*Statistics for this post were taken from the 2016 report from Polaris Project.  For more information on Human Trafficking, visit

*National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733)

*ICE Tip line to report suspected trafficking: 1-866-347-2423

*Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Miracles Still Happen

The sunshine peered through the kitchen window as I sat at my table, trying to hold back my exhausted, heartbroken tears.  I can’t do this anymore, I thought.

My 9-year old son Brandon sat next to me, staring vacantly at a bowl of chicken noodle soup.  This used to be his favorite meal…but the soup had gotten cold without a single bite taken.  I got up to reheat the soup in the microwave once more.  As I cleared the lump in my throat, Brandon flew into a fury, covering his ears and screaming.  I jumped with a startled reflex, and mentally berated myself for upsetting the quietness that had become my son’s only haven of peace.

I set the soup down in front of him, urging him to try eating again.  Looking at the clock, we had been “trying” for 90 minutes now.  Tears welling, I blinked hard, commanding them to stop as I saw Brandon attempting to reach for his spoon.  His hand wouldn’t cooperate—it stopped and started, in a repetitive, jerking fashion.  With a face full of anguish, Brandon repeated a nonsensical phrase over and over.

“Ok, Brandon, you finally got the spoon. Good job. Now get a bite of soup.  You can do it, honey.”  I tried to stay calm, knowing that any increase in volume or change in tone of my voice could take us back to square one.

Autism was one thing—and had been our reality for 7 years.  However, when Brandon was afflicted with a second neurological condition known as PANDAS, a true test of our faith began.

Earlier that winter, he had contracted a strep infection without any obvious symptoms.  As his body produced antibodies to fight the infection, the antibodies attacked his brain in an autoimmune response (aka PANDAS).  This devastated his neurological functioning.  He began to develop Tourette’s-like “tics,” both vocal and motor, and as anxiety took over his personality, he quickly became a victim to full-blown obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Our once cheerful and happy boy was tormented and riddled with anxiety.  He had become a vacant shell of a child, and we no longer recognized him.

Brandon’s daily functioning was monumentally impaired: simple tasks such as getting dressed, toileting, eating a meal, leaving the house, and going to bed, took hours to complete.  Every moment of his day was dominated by anxiety and intricate rituals, accompanied by an enormous pressure on me to anticipate and minimize the next inevitable meltdown.

We consulted with numerous professionals:  pediatric neurologists, rheumatologists, oncologists, psychologists, behavioral experts, and autism experts.  When we got the diagnosis of PANDAS, our initial excitement to finally have a diagnosis quickly faded as doctors, one by one, told us that there was nothing that they could do to cure our son of this debilitating condition.  This was, as we were repeatedly told, to be our new normal.

During this time, I cried out to God for answers, help, strength to endure, and above all, healing.  There were certainly moments of despair, but I clung to God as the sovereign creator who knew and loved my son monumentally more than I could comprehend.  I trusted, I wept, I prayed –the cycle went on for 18 months.

In desperation, my husband and I held a prayer session at our church.  I remember sitting in a room, arms around Brandon as our friends, pastor, and the church elders surrounded us and offered up faith-filled prayers and petitions for healing (James 5:14-15).  It was an incredible moment of love lived out in the unity of faith.

As we drove home from church that sunny April afternoon, I stared out the window, thinking-while-praying, Ok God, it’s in your hands…I know that you CAN, but WILL you heal my son? Give me the strength to keep going no matter what is ahead.

A moment later, out of blue, Brandon began singing (a rare moment at that time) a phrase over and over:  Nothing is missing. Nothing is broken.  These were lyrics to a song that we had sung earlier that day in church.  As quickly as he had spontaneously and emphatically uttered those words, he fell silent.  And I knew that his words were God’s answer to my prayer.  Heather, trust me.  Brandon is in my hands.  You will soon see that nothing is missing or broken.

Over the coming months, Brandon gradually returned to the child we knew and recognized, and by the summer he was completely healed.  There was no medical explanation for it, but we knew, and all who had joined us on our journey of faith, that we had witnessed a miracle.

Brandon – 8 years after his PANDAS diagnosis

God is so good!  And He’s still in the business of miracles –able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).

Have you experienced a miracle?  I’d love to hear about it.  Please share below!

What’s Next?

I’m in a “what’s next?” season of life.  If you’ve followed my blog, you know that my husband recently left the field of law enforcement after 18 years (16 as a sworn officer).  Looking back, I have a new understanding for how all-encompassing and intrusive his police occupation was.  It dictated everything in our lives – from the big decisions to the small.  For 18 years, I tailored my schedule to meet the demands of my husband’s job, the responsibility of raising three boys, and the management of my training business.  Finally able to catch my breath after this big transition, I’m getting around to me.

Where are you today?  Are you transitioning to an empty nest, either with young adult children moving out, or with your youngest child heading off to kindergarten?  Perhaps you are facing a transition with your job, or you are relocating your family.

In terms of fitness: with winter coming, you might have finished your last race or other event/competition of the season.  Maybe you finished an exercise program and are looking for new goals.  Or, perhaps you are hoping to get into a regular exercise pattern, get fit, or lose weight.  What’s next for you?

Fall is my favorite season for walking and observing nature.  I was recently on a walk one crisp, cold morning—the fallen leaves crunching under every step.  As I passed a tree that had already lost most of its leaves, I noticed that there were also walnuts (about ping-pong ball-sized) everywhere.  The ground leaves were so thick in some spots that they camouflaged the walnuts.  I was looking ahead while walking (instead of down at my feet) and stepped on the walnuts, rolling my ankle.  In order to make it through that area while avoiding injury, I decided to look down as I stepped.

In that moment, I realized that this experience mirrored my tendency to get antsy in the “what’s next” moments.  I want so badly to project too far down the road, for God to show me the bigger vision of what He is doing in my life.  But in reality, He is only revealing the steps right in front of me…and I had better pay attention, because there might be things that trip me up or throw me off of my path.  I need to shift my gaze from the “horizon,” to what is directly in front of me.  With each faithful step, He will show me what’s next…and next…and next…in doses that I can handle.

With fitness, we can get caught up in the final outcome and forget about all of the steps that it takes to get there.  Yes, goals are important, but set those goals with your steps in mind because they are just as important as the end result.   Some things to consider:  How much time each day will you need in order to commit?  What preparation do you need before starting?  How can you anticipate and plan for things that might trip you up –like holidays or work travel, for instance?  Will you need to enlist support/accountability from others?  What is your body telling you (i.e., do you need more flexibility, or balance, or do you need to modify due to a nagging injury)?  If you’re wanting to increase strength or get better at running, do you have those activities scheduled at least 3 times per week, balanced with plenty of restorative activities on the other days to promote muscle recovery?  Many successful exercise plans contain a sequence of phases that build upon the previous phase, providing a natural progression toward the end goal.  By focusing on each step of your plan, you will be less overwhelmed by the end goal as you move toward it.  Success is more likely, too.

In a broader context, if you are experiencing a major “what’s next” season in your life, I want to encourage you to stop trying to focus on where you’re going to end up –you could miss the crucial steps right in front of you.  Look for your very next step and trust God to show it to you.  He never fails to show us what needs to be seen, with just the right timing.

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)  

Called to Move On

“It has to be a calling.”  I remember hearing those words from my pastor as he spoke to me about his profession.  Several years later, his amazing wife would utter those same words to describe my husband’s 16-year profession as a police officer.  Yeah… she’s right.  God’s calling on our lives takes any number of forms and paths, and is certainly not exclusively reserved for those in full-time ministry.

Without a doubt, law enforcement has been Scott’s calling.  There was a time in our lives when I was absolutely certain that God had placed my husband on this earth for the sole purpose to protect and serve.  He has the heart of a protector, and it has always been in his nature to step into harm’s way, if necessary, to accomplish the task.

The police profession has changed so much in the past decade, even more drastically in the last 5 years.  Men and women in blue are paying very high prices to earn a living today.

Three years ago I began praying a new prayer, in addition to my usual one for Scott’s protection.  We were perplexed and discontent, experiencing many closed doors (professionally), and sensing that we no longer had a clue which direction he should go.  I wanted my husband’s spark back –the one that you have when you are operating within your calling.  So we began to pray for direction, help, and strength, admitting that God’s ways are higher than ours.  And we waited.  More closed doors came and went, often painfully so, as our path was being refined.  Then, the unexpected answer…time to move on.

This was a shocking revelation, as it’s a path rarely traveled in law enforcement.  Historically, veteran police officers don’t leave the job; you “suck it up” until you reach the magic pension age.  But as we evaluated every aspect, our priorities became crystal clear.  With that, the decision to stay became much harder than the decision to leave.

Moving on is a calling too, when you think about it.  All of Scott’s experiences these past 16 years have intersected to bring us to the beginning of a new chapter.

I’ve been feeling a flood of emotions, with excitement and astonishment being the most dominant.  As I process how all of the upcoming changes will impact my family, I’m anticipating a moment when tears will flow.  These tears will appropriately mark the end of an era along with the beginning of a new chapter, both of which deserve space to process and celebrate.  It’s an odd experience for me, putting aside one of the many hats that I’ve worn for the past 16 years.

You see, this was my chosen “profession” too.  Sure, I didn’t go to the police academy, shoot a gun for qualifying, wrestle weapon-wielding drunk idiots into submission, hold a scared child as they watched their parents succumb to the consequences of their monumentally poor and selfish choices…I didn’t weave together intricate drug conspiracy cases that would ensure successful prosecution…I didn’t drive along the streets at some ridiculous hour searching for a perpetrator who had been burglarizing tax paying citizens’ homes, or have to notify a family of a loved one’s senseless death.  The list goes on.  I didn’t physically do those things, but every single moment, my heart was with the man who did.  With every hit, both physical and mental, I took it on the chin with him.  With every false and baseless citizen complaint filed against him, borne out of some systemic hatred for the men and women in blue, I stood by him and longed for the truth to prevail.  I symbolically held my breath every night as he walked out the door, and didn’t exhale until he returned safe and sound the next morning.  The holidays missed, birthdays, kids’ events, and the general upheaval that his crazy schedules caused…that was on me, too.  But, I was a proud police wife.  It took a strength beyond understanding to do it.  I didn’t have a physical badge, but I wore a badge of honor, intensely proud and protective of my husband and his profession.

As this chapter of our lives comes to a close, I’m thrilled and thankful, but I must acknowledge how it feels to say goodbye to the people we leave behind.  Police officers and their families possess something unique and special.  There is a sisterhood among wives, a brotherhood among officers, that can’t be rivaled… and I will miss it.  We have had the privilege to serve among some of the most hard-working, caring, strong, morally fit officers and their families. To you all, I say thank you for fighting in the trenches with us, and I hope that we can keep in touch.  Keep fighting the Good Fight.  You will be in my prayers, just as you have been for so many years.

Finally, I want to encourage anyone who is struggling with closed doors and NO’s in their life. Scott and I have had so many of them over the past 16 years, and no doubt there will be more.  We have had some low points, times of discouragement and questioning God’s plan.  But, we’ve had some monumental, eternity-impacting, life-changing YES’s too.  Rejections are hard, but believe and trust that God has a bigger opportunity for you on the horizon.  His no’s are merely making room for much bigger yes’s.


When Your Reality Makes You Weary

It was a gift—a relaxing camping trip with my family.  We had unplugged, played, napped, laughed, read books, and connected.  Heavenly, but it couldn’t possibly last forever. Now it was back to reality.

Our family’s “reality” includes my husband returning to his usual midnight shift job, with a Wed-Sun work week.  It was Wednesday evening; in anticipation of his first night back to work, he laid down for his usual nap.  After a hot summer day, the heat still lingered into the evening.  My 3 boys were buzzing around, indoors and out, playing with their neighborhood friends.  Doors were opening and closing loudly, the outside water faucet creaking on…and off…and back on.  I heard muffled squeals of excitement outdoors as I felt the rush of the cool A/C on my bare toes.

Then came a familiar wave of panic.  Like an unwelcome visitor, it plopped itself down in front of me and I was forced to acknowledge it.  I didn’t have to ask what prompted this feeling because I already knew.  It was the dread of being my husband’s “sleep gatekeeper.”  That’s what I call it, anyway.

I’ve always seen myself as the sole person responsible for his sleep quality, quantity, and therefore general health.  In my mind, everything hinges on him getting quality rest, something that evades most midnight-shifters.  When your husband struggles to meet his daily sleep needs, AND you have 3 active boys and a very vocal dog, the struggle to maintain a quiet house is exactly that, a struggle.

Midnight shift is counter-intuitive to human nature, offering up persistent fatigue, absent-mindedness (we call it “third shift brain”), and low vitamin D levels.  Those who work these hours take on an increased risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, and cognitive decline.  As a wife, I’m keenly aware of the fact that the most dangerous part of my husband’s work day (despite being a police officer) is his drowsy drive home after shift.  To keep the house quiet during the day, I alter my laundry and vacuuming schedules, whether I park my car in the garage or out, and ration my trips in and out of my bedroom while he’s sleeping.  I pack what I need each day, and live out of our guest bathroom to avoid waking him.  (Many times I’ve forgotten crucial “items” and have had to improvise.)  It isn’t easy, or normal, but it’s how we’ve done life for over half of his 16-year career.

This particular Wednesday evening as the noise ensued and the panic came knocking, I realized that my physical response to our reality was second-nature, and had been for quite some time.  I felt the anxiety wash over me; choking back tears, I felt hopeless and stuck.  I didn’t want to do this anymore; I longed for the blissful normalcy that we had tasted on vacation!  I was weary.

Do you have weary moments?  The kind where there is no end in sight and you don’t have it in you anymore to endure?

I asked God for comfort and a Word.  Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28.  When I studied this verse in Greek, I learned that weary means “exhausted (with toil or burdens or grief)” and rest means “to refresh; to cause one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect his strength; and to keep quiet, of calm and patient expectation.”  This kind of rest can only refresh when it is given from above.  I can’t achieve the full measure on my own.  Anything I try to do for myself is temporary, at best.

When there is no light at the end of the tunnel, it can feel impossible.  Enduring for as long as we must requires trust.  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7.  We can trust Him to take our burdens and lighten our loads and we can trust Him to strengthen us to endure anything that we face.  In this verse we also have the promise that it won’t last forever!  That summer evening, I needed to rest in these reminders.

I don’t have all of the answers, and I have my share of tears and fears.  All I know is that when I go to Jesus and cast my anxieties, somehow miraculously, I’m able to get up the next day and do it all again.  The same can be true for you.  Hang in there…think action verbs: come, trust, and cast.  You will find rest for your weary soul.

Heavenly Hugs

Have you ever given or received a “heavenly” hug?  It’s a really cool experience…

I used to think that God couldn’t possibly be interested in the mundane details of my life. He has better things to do, right?

It’s easy to go about our day and forget that he is watching and waiting, eager to break into our reality. He has assignments for us, but he won’t force them. He’s simply waiting for us to take notice and say yes.

My schedule can be crazy at times.  I find myself thinking: If I could first make some headway on my to-do list, then I can press pause and cooperate with God. Recently, I learned a lesson about my choices: I can either stick to my own agenda at all costs, or I can see the unexpected curve balls in life as an opportunity to focus on others and to say yes to God’s leading.

One gray, forgettable December morning, I was running errands with my husband. We had scheduled a host of quick stops, with the intention that we wouldn’t be out very long. As the morning unfolded, I noticed that my well-laid plan to have us home in time for lunch was beyond reach. We met an obstacle at every stop: a salesperson went to check on a request of ours and forgot about us, the self-checkout station couldn’t process our coupons, and a cashier realized that she had given me too much change after I had already crammed the money into my bottomless-pit-of-a-purse. These weren’t major annoyances, but something happened to slow me down at every single stop.

In an attempt to speed things along, my husband dropped me off to get groceries while he ran a few more “should be quick” errands. Strolling through the store, I noticed a mother and her young daughter, a cheerful toddler who was engaging anyone who would notice. She was singing to herself in the grocery cart when our eyes met. I smiled and said hello and she beamed. Her electric personality drew me in, and I soon noticed that she had Down Syndrome.  As a mom of a special needs child, I gravitate toward children and families who share similar life experiences.

I checked out, bagged my groceries, and walked out of the store, noticing that my husband hadn’t returned.  I usually opt to wait inside for warmth, but for some reason I chose to stand outside.  Trying to steer clear of people bustling in and out of the store, I noticed the sweet little girl and her mother walking to their van.  I smiled and waved good-bye to my new friend.

My husband was still nowhere in sight. Where is this man of mine? I recounted the numerous delays of the morning while resisting the instinct to succumb to frustration.  A thought popped into my head: maybe I have been delayed for such a time as this. What if I’m right where God needs me to be, this very moment? PERHAPS he has something for me to do, a special assignment. Ok, what do you have for me, God?

Starting to shiver, my eyes wandered to my right; I noticed the mother in the parking lot with her overflowing grocery cart.  She was bagging groceries outside her van in the cold, while her daughter fidgeted in her car seat. My mind flashed back to shopping trips with my son who has autism –where having a root canal was more appealing than embarking on the exhausting task of taking him into a store.  I too had bagged groceries at my car when he was young, rather than risk a meltdown in front of an audience.

Is this my assignment, God?  Does she need encouragement today?

I walked up to her and said, “I hope this doesn’t sound too weird, but I’d really like to help you with your groceries.  I saw you and your daughter inside and she touched my heart.”

With tears welling up, she graciously accepted.  I grabbed some bags and got to work.  We jabbered while we loaded, spending the next few minutes talking about our special needs children and the daily challenges we face.  I offered her encouragement and an understanding heart. In that moment, we were bonded in a spontaneous sisterhood.

Before we parted ways, she hugged me and said, “I was praying this morning, asking God to show me how to bless someone today—and then he decided to send you to bless me.  You really made my day!”

In a heartfelt response I said, “It wasn’t me, it was God…he just gave you what I call a heavenly hug!”

I was just a messenger on that December day. My heart was full of gratitude that God broke into the mundane, using me to answer another mother’s simple prayer. I’m so glad that I chose to see my schedule detour as an opportunity rather than a nuisance.


umbrellaIt was what I call an “of course” moment.  Many refer to it as Murphy’s Law.  On a dreary morning with a driving rain storm, I was tasked with getting my youngest son to his bus stop with minimal drenching.  The ‘of course’ piece came when I realized that my husband was gone with our only running vehicle…containing all of our umbrellas.

My son and I stood in our garage watching the deluge, when I said a prayer out loud, “Could you please just cause the rain to let up long enough for him to get on the bus?  Please?”  I even thought to myself, Gee God, this would be a great moment to make yourself more real to my son, ya know?  I pray and you answer?  At that moment, the rain began to fall harder and faster.  Of course.

Something prompted me to do a final, desperate scan of our garage before making a run for it.  Maybe there is an umbrella here that I forgot we had.  Sure enough, I spotted one hanging on the wall next to the door that leads into the house.  I chuckled to myself, and whispered, “Thank you!”

My son made it mostly dry to the bus that morning and as I walked back to my house, I couldn’t help but think about the storms of life.  When we are in the midst of our storms, we often ask God to take them away.  Sometimes He does; other times He doesn’t.  But every time He provides us shelter.  All we need to do is look.

Life Lessons from a Cake Walk

cake-walkI attended an indoor carnival at my kids’ school this past spring.  Giving in to my 6-year-old son’s relentless urging, I accompanied him to the room where they held the obligatory “cake walk.”  What’s a carnival without a cake walk, right?  As I helped my son select a spot in the circle to begin walking, I couldn’t help but notice the two very long tables, one on either side of the small room, overflowing with every possible version of a dessert.  There were pies, cakes, cupcakes, cookies, muffins, and cinnamon rolls with various combinations of frostings and toppings.  No matter where I looked, my eyes locked onto the sweet goodness.  The room filled with people and the game began; I was trapped in a sugar vault!

Hello, my name is Heather, and I am a recovering sugar addict.  People closest to me know how much I have loved chocolate over the years…Yes, I’ll take the chocolate brownie with the chocolate ice cream and can we put some hot fudge on top?  What about chocolate shavings too?  For many years, I struggled to tame the sugar beast.  However, more recently I had enjoyed riding a wave of success, celebrating the fact that I hadn’t craved sugar in months.

Then I found myself in a room filled with temptation that was encircling me and closing in fast.  I chuckled at the irony, yet felt emotional pangs as I saw some old, familiar friends on those tables.  I tried not to make eye contact (with the cakes) but it was nearly impossible.  Eyes forward, girl.  You can do this.  I secretly prayed that my son would win nothing, and as luck would have it, he didn’t win.  However, the loss prompted multiple visits back to that room over the course of the evening as my son desperately tried to win a sweet treasure.  Each time I set foot in that place, I was confronted with the delectable desserts, and mystified that the cake supply didn’t seem to be dwindling!  Each time we left, I was secretly relieved that my son hadn’t won.

We weren’t home very long when I started craving something sweet for the first time in months.  I began systematically tearing my pantry apart in search for something, anything sweet.  Where is this coming from?  I’m behaving like an animal!  I was naïve for only a moment, before realizing that I was responding to what my eyes had repeatedly seen just hours before.  Even though my body hadn’t ingested any sugar at all—and hadn’t for months—the simple viewing of desserts had the ability to produce these cravings.  Our eyes are very powerful!

My cake walk experience is a great illustration of how what we see can influence our thoughts, motives, and behaviors.  I’m reminded of what Jesus said in the book of Matthew (6:22):  The eye is the lamp of the body.  In Bible times, it was understood that the eye was similar to the heart.  The eyes (heart) serve as a lamp, illuminating where the body will go, and determining what its priorities will be.  In Psalm 119, phrases such as fix my eyes (v. 15), open my eyes (v. 18), and turn my eyes from looking at worthless things (v. 37) reinforce the idea that the eyes are an influential avenue to our hearts and minds.

What are your eyes spending time with today?  Are they taking in things that are life-giving or life-squelching?  Sometimes it’s obvious how our eyes affect our thoughts.  We see sugar, and then we crave it.  Other things are more subtle:  I see everyone else’s “perfect” lives, bodies, jobs, families, (fill in the blank), and then I make negative value statements about myself as a woman, professional, or mom.  Whether obvious or subtle, what we focus on causes a cascade of thoughts, behaviors, and motivations.  This produces life-squelching results.

The encouraging news is that this natural progression can work in the opposite direction.  Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

The next time you find yourself in a “cake walk” situation—whether obvious or subtle—just remember to shift your gaze.  Be intentional about focusing our eyes (and heart) on things that produce life-giving results.

Hope is a 4-Letter Word

hopeRecently, I saw a documentary film that followed women with eating disorders who were in an inpatient treatment facility.  It deeply impacted me.  I was stunned to discover that 1 in 7 women with anorexia will actually die from the illness.

As I watched these women wrestle with their issues, I could relate on a less intense level:  the anxiety over eating certain foods, the compulsion to “undo” whatever was eaten, viewing their body as the enemy, the paradoxical (though false) comfort and security that they felt when they were entrenched in their rituals, the addiction to the cycle and its emotions, the desperate desire to be free, and the fear of giving up control.  It became apparent to me that I was rescued LONG before my eating disorder was able to get such a strong hold on me.

When I finished watching the film, my heart cried out to God in a prayer of thanksgiving for my rescue, yet I was utterly devastated for these women.  They had been pushed beyond their tipping points.  Some didn’t even want to be there, didn’t want to get better.  There were other women who desperately wanted to get better, while others systematically sabotaged their own success time and time again.  What a sad existence.  This might have been me.  I am grateful that I didn’t get to a point where I was in the dance of extremes between wanting to recover and sabotaging my recovery.  I believe that I stopped short of this stage because I still had a working knowledge that I was a child of God, and still somewhere deep down I had a love and respect for my body.  Though it was hidden under the surface, I still wanted to be a good steward of God’s temple:  my body.  That wasn’t lost…yet.  There was still a glimmer of hope for me.

What breaks my heart is that these women had no hope.  At the end of the film, none of them had found recovery, and one woman died.  Did she know Christ?  He sure wasn’t included in the womens’ treatment plans.  My sorrow gave way to anger when I saw that these women were given no tangible hope.  They had nothing to stand on apart from their own strength which, I can say from experience, is guaranteed to fail.  I would still be in bondage today and on the path to the fates of the women in this documentary if it weren’t for my faith.

Is there something in your life that you have tried to overcome on your own?  Maybe it’s worry, envy, anger, or selfishness.  Or perhaps you struggle with insecurity, depression, anxiety, or addiction.  No matter what “stuff” you have—and everyone has some—in Jesus we can overcome it all.

One of my favorite verses of the Bible is John 16:33; Jesus says:  In this world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.  Because I have put my faith in Jesus, I share in this victory!  Another verse, 1 John 5:4-5, was a lifeline for me:  For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world –our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  The world, and every difficult thing that comes with it, CAN be overcome.  Wow, I needed that kind of hope in my darkest, bleakest moments.  And perhaps you need it today.

Many things in this world promise us healing and hope, but I have found that HOPE is merely a 4-letter word, unless you have Jesus.