Maybe the Daniel Fast will fix my problems

Last year I spent my life unbecoming who I was. Several realizations in 2017 led me to face my problems and issues instead of pretending they didn’t exist. I wanted to stop balancing between God and the world and find sure footing with my Savior. I couldn’t pretend to be the same person anymore.

The process of unbecoming broke me.

No longer could I hold to my safeguards. My soul was laid bare in counseling sessions and I was forced to face my biggest demons and anxieties. Through small groups I let go of the shame I’ve lived with and finally found freedom. For someone who claims to be an open book, I’d never felt more exposed.

Now, more than a year into this process, I realized I broke down a lot of the pieces of who I used to be without building up anything new. I’ve left things go and now in my life is silence. Sometimes I just feel like a shell who remembers the human experience but can’t quite feel it herself.

Now, don’t be alarmed. That isn’t a statement of depression, just realization. My life was filled with facades and stripping them away left me here. At first, I blamed the medicine I had to help with anxiety. Surely it was why I felt so bland. Until I intelligently quit essentially cold turkey and after two weeks of dizziness realized it went deeper than a substance altering my brain chemistry. I had changed, I knew this, but I didn’t know where to go.

I’m reading a leadership book with a group at my church and the one question asked us to write out our goals and plans for five years. I realized I didn’t have any. It was hard enough to formulate resolutions for this year, let alone decide where my life is going.

You could argue this is a good thing. I’m learning to follow God one day at a time and trusting He is my way. It’s a nice argument, but it’s wrong.

It’s harder now more than ever to cede what little control I feel over my life, even though I know it’s destroying me. My anxiety has been so high this month I’ve spent most of the time trying to release the tension in my shoulders and breathe so the chest pain stops.

It’s like this. Imagine it’s the apocalypse and literally everything is falling apart in society. Fires are blazing, people are becoming cannibals, and gangs run rampant through the streets. One person realizes he can’t do anything, so he sits inside spraying a plastic plant with water, acting like he’s in control of at least one destiny.

It’s pointless, right? That’s me.

I’ve realized how little I can control so I’ve let the small things blow up inside of me. Growing my relationship with God has been wonderful, but it’s opened me up to so much spiritual warfare and strife that I know is part of the territory. I just hate it and want to keep watering my plastic plant.

This morning my emotions finally reached their breaking point when the scale told me once again, despite being more active and careful about what I eat, I’m still 20 pounds heavier than I’d like. This weighing followed the first day of the Experiencing God study and realizing I want to follow God, but I just can’t do it one day at a time.

Literally every part of me is standing still.

I don’t want to be here. I want spending time with God to be full of excitement and expectancy. I want to be filled with joy and look forward to things and not be so blasé about everything. I want to be a person who managers her anxiety and doesn’t let it rule her. Really I just want to enjoy my life again. And that’s when it hit me.

The Daniel Fast.

Here are three important things to know about me: 1. I’ve never successfully completed any food fast in my life. 2. I buy so many processed foods I’m practically made out of preservatives and 3. My meal prepping involves making a sandwich with white bread, meat, and American cheese, or cooking something frozen. I am not equipped to do this fast.

When I look at all my problems, I know there’s a common solution, and it’s my faith. I need to turn to God every single day, beyond just my daily reading in the Bible, and learn to depend completely on Him. Not ask Him for the big picture, but just have Him lead me today. With the Daniel Fast, I’ll need Him more than ever to give me a strength and perseverance I don’t possess. I won’t be able to do it on my own.

More than just relying on Him to sustain me, I’ll have to have faith in my financial situation. One of my biggest excuses for the way I eat is that I can’t afford to eat better, but I honestly don’t know if that’s true. I’m too afraid to change my life and try. With this, I have to rely that God will make a way even when my bank account is like whattttt.

Plus, part of being a disciplined Jesus Follower involves taking care of our bodies and I know I’m not treating mine as well as I could. Beyond the weight I want to lose, I know there are systematic issues I need to address, like the way I fuel myself.

Now, I don’t plan to do this and then never eat sugar or meat or French bread pizza again. God gave us food to enjoy, right? Physically, it will be like a reset and a way to show myself I can do better because right now it would be hard to do worse.

My goal is for this to be one big kickstart to my life before it’s too late. I don’t want to accept that this is how I’ll always feel and let complacency convince me solitude is best. I want to find joy in my relationships and have dreams again. I want to wake up every morning (or at least most mornings) excited to see what God is going to do with me that day. I want to stop trying to do everything by myself.

I want to rejoin the human experience and I hope the Daniel Fast will get me there.

[Apologies if none of this makes sense and there are typos galore. Sometimes you need to get a thought out of your head without worrying about if everything is correct.]

Insecurity

I didn’t miss last week’s email. I actually had three pieces lined up, including a riveting review of Netflix’s most recent foray into cheesy Christmas movies. Everything was ready to send, I just needed to add in the link for the devotional when it published Sunday.

Before I could finish it and hit send, insecurity snuck in.

Writing about myself isn’t anything new, but my typical style was be so compelled to spew my feelings I typed everything out and shared without a second thought. Because I would write and share so infrequently, I never worried about people getting sick of me. But now I’ve been doing this for two months and (if you’ve subscribed to my emails) you’ve received nine emails full of me and my never-ending emotions.

I began to wonder if it was sustainable, if I was sustainable. It’s not like I don’t have more to say; I have lists of essays to write and I’m constantly processing emotions that need to be discussed. What happens when I have more to say and no one wants to listen anymore? How often can I talk about my anxiety, my dad, and my faith before you tire of my opinion?

Before I continue, I’m not writing this so my three faithful readers send me encouragement to keep up the good fight. I know I have people who believe in me and that’s powerful.

Writing like I do also makes me feel like a hypocrite. One week I write about weight and finding peace in the struggle and the next week I’m crying on my living room floor because I can’t lose weight. I detail my financial plans and realizations only to fall back into credit card trouble. I tell people they’re loved only to feel worthless the next day.

I know that this makes me human, but it’s hard to bare and share your soul when you want to keep readers. If I truly was honest each week, you’d be in the exhaustive struggle I face between my two sides: the one who wakes up every day determined to make this the best day of her life and the one who doesn’t want to get off the couch. It’s a rollercoaster I want people to avoid because selfishly I know eventually people would get tired of what I had to say.

When I try to vary my writing, it feels forced and I second guess myself. This is because I’m not really a trained writer and it shows. I don’t have a plan, so I rely on my emotions to feed me with quality content. Frequently they let me down.

In the past, writing in the heat of the moment and throwing it on Facebook made it easy. I wasn’t sending it to anyone in particular so any feedback was good. Now, I’m reaching a group of people who want to hear from me (or at least support me because they’re kind). I don’t want to write just to send an email every week, but I also don’t want to hide behind that excuse.

For the past week, I’ve gone over what I wanted to say in this post in my head repeatedly and clearly I didn’t come up with a cohesive way to hash everything out. What I know is I want to write and I want my writing to reach people. Not reaching as in a large number, but creating a meaningful experience.

Most importantly, I believe in my own writing. God gave me a gift and for a long time I’ve felt a need to share. I don’t have all the answers, but I know there’s a reason I do this and I want to keep pursuing this path. But right now I need to take a break.

One of my goals for December is to take away the things the add stress so I can enjoy the Christmas season. My fast for the month is no lists or diets, so it’s already going to be a doozy. Instead of worrying about having to send an email and what to write, I’m going to chill and pray about where this is going. I might actually make a plan. I guess we’ll see what happens in 2019.

Merry Christmas, everyone, and Happy New Year!

 

 

You need to stop

This week I received my first speeding ticket. I didn’t realize I was speeding, but suddenly the officer was behind me, flashing his accusatory lights while I began praying I had a light out. When he reached my window, the panic set in and I was like a robot, unable to say anything other than sorry while I fumbled for all my information.
I had just left a park where I was scouting a location for my next Bible study. I stayed with traffic, not watching my speed and thinking about getting to work and the never ending list of things on my to do list.

Recently I’ve been paying more attention to my speed, not because I planned to slow down, but it occurred to me I was probably on the verge of a ticket. When driving the same road post ticket, I felt like I was crawling to my destination as I obeyed the posted law.

Go go go is the voice in my head, urging me past the other vehicles. 

Today I went out for a run, but my legs gave up before I made it a half mile. Frustrated, I tried again, confused because I had done this same thing the past two days without issue. A second time my body just stopped.

Instantly I began my attack. What’s wrong with you, Chelsea? It’s not hard. Why can’t you do this? Why can’t you finish anything? Get it together. Be better. Push harder.

And then I looked up. 

I realized it was a beautiful morning. The birds were chirping and people were beginning their days. The houses on the street were old and ornate. I had run down this road the last two days, but I didn’t look up to notice. I just kept pushing pushing pushing

It was in this moment I heard God. His words weren’t spoken aloud, but I felt them in my heart.

You need to stop.  

Even when I’m lying down, I’m in a constant state of rushing. Everything I need to do and want to happen is swirling in my brain, rarely allowing for peace. The end of the day is a reminder of all the things I have left to do that I’ll add to tomorrow’s list.

Amidst this chaos, I find myself wishing to fast forward past this phase. I want my life to be like a movie trailer. I want to see all the good parts, stumble over the darkness and then emerge victorious as the end to the beat of a catchy song. I don’t want the day to day monotony that I have to drag myself through. But I do, always wishing for that happy ending.

I want to make money fast to get out of debt. I want to find my calling fast so I can stop fumbling around. I want to meet my husband fast so I can stop being alone. I want my life to happen fast because this slow track I’m on is crushing my soul. 

Because everything is slow, I try to push faster. If I keep going, it won’t catch me. I don’t want to be here now, I want to be there, dreaming about a time where I’m not always tired and always working and always busy. Say yes to this, this and this and don’t you dare stop.

You need to stop.

Part of me tries to argue with God. Sorry, but You know my schedule. If I stop, I don’t make money. I can’t pay my bills. I can’t pay my rent. I have to keep going, God. My schedule demands it. I have things to do and accomplish and if I breathe, I might miss something. Together we picture my planner and I aggressively point out the level of busy I need to maintain and look away when He reminds me He has the small job of maintaining everyone and everything.

I didn’t try to start running again. When I hit my standard turnaround point, I kept going. I didn’t have a plan. I just knew I had to keep walking. I started to think of everything I had to do today. How I was going to spend my morning. And God just kept saying stop stop stop

Instead of worrying about getting back or checking my pace, I just wandered for a few miles until I found my way back home. I sat down to read my Bible and jump into the list I graciously set aside so God could distract me, only to be disrupted once more. It was my wonderful sister and nieces coming to pick me up for brunch. 

Most people would feel this was a kind gesture, but for me it was torture. I had so much to do! I just can’t leave. I’m in the middle of reading my Bible. I have to check my email. I have to send some emails. Why doesn’t anyone appreciate how valuable my time is! 

 You need to stop. 

I’m always running and pushing and speeding to the next thing. What does ‘experience the moment’ even mean? My moments are spent mentally preparing the next part of my schedule. I’m focused on when something ends so I know how much time I have to be here before I have to be somewhere else. How much time is left until I can go home and sleep. How much time until I have to wake up.

I tell myself hustling is the way to prove myself to God. Maybe if He sees how hard I’m working, I can rest. Maybe that rest won’t come before Heaven, but I can earn it. Maybe He will give me what I want if He sees how hard I’m trying. Yes. Just keep pushing and your Heavenly Father will give you rest and what you want because you deserve it.

I write that, and I hear His plea for me echoing in my soul. I don’t deserve anything and I can’t earn anything. Why do I keep trying? He wants me to stop and I want to go to prove myself as worthy. He wants me still and I worry I’ll get stuck. 

I’m like a child running to my parents, desperate to get to them, and while I hear the words that I need to slow down, I think I can handle the speed. That’s when I fall. That’s when I fall every single time. 

You need to stop.  

Running is a popular image in the Bible. We’re told to run to win (1 Corinthians 9:24), persevere to the end of race to win the prize (Philippians 3:14) and hope in God so we can run and not grow weary (Isaiah 40:31). If that’s the case, why is God telling me to stop?

Because I’m not running for Him. I’m running for me. I’m running for my pride and ego.

I’m running in vain (Philippians 2:16). I don’t have the endurance promised by God (Hebrews 12:1) because I’m listening to my sins of pride, arrogance and worry as they trip me up again and again and again.

If I go fast enough, I can make it out of this. I can find the end that justifies the means and live restful and peaceful and maybe even be present in the moment.

I need to stop.

This much is clear, but the question of how remains. This is my life. Going going going. But I don’t want it anymore. I want to feel each joyful moment in every miserable day. I don’t want to miss this because I want what I imagine is there.

I have to enjoy the drive and not try to cut as many seconds from my commute as possible. I need to see the world around me instead of keeping my head down so I can finish my route faster.

I need to trust that when God tells me to stop, He will still be here, and here is the only place I need to be.  

Small victories

I’m a big picture person. I want to get to the epic finale but I don’t want to put in the day to day work. I see my goals, but the thought of working every day exhausts me. Because of this, I simply don’t. 

I don’t listen to my logical side

I don’t try to get better

I don’t try to reason with myself

Etc

Weight loss is a major part of this. I am by no means fat and I’m actually becoming more friendly toward my physical appearance (most days). The problem isn’t my size; it’s how I treat my body. 

I know I want to be healthy. I know I want to listen to my body and eat better and workout more. But I don’t. 

I can picture a healthier me, a girl who isn’t riddled with guilt every time she eats a bowl of cereal and then another and then another. I believe I can someday eat when I’m hungry and enjoy delicious food occasionally when I’m not. I have hope I can turn down cake in the break room. But I’m not there yet. 

My eating is mainly an emotional thing. When I’m good and emotionally stable, it’s much easier for me to make the right choice. Current Chelsea making sure I take care of myself. When the depression creeps in, it becomes a crutch. 

I can’t change anything in my life. I can’t make my debt go away or magically make more money appear. But by God and I can get lo mein, General Tso’s and an eggroll followed by a Blizzard and for 20 minutes believe everything is ok. 

Food is my constant and my comfort. I know a ham hoagie with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and Italian dressing will be yummy in my tummy. I know that spicy chicken meal and Frosty from Wendy’s will hit the spot. Taco Bell is the best bae I know. 

This also makes shame and hatred my old friend. 

You want to hear something painfully honest and a little pathetic? I get sad when I’m almost done with my food. If I can, I add more because finishing means returning to my life away from the comfort. It doesn’t matter if my stomach hurts and my brain is telling me know, my poor, sad heart is begging for just a little bit more to dull the pain. 

I eat and then I mentally tear myself apart. Not because of what I’m eating, but because I know why I’m doing it. 

I will never stop loving the greasy and fattening, but I need to learn it can’t save me. 

Today was a small victory and something rare for me. I’m alone in Buffalo for Thanksgiving and already feeling low. To cheer myself up, I planned all day to get a ham hoagie after work. I looked forward to to. I could taste the mayo saturated lettuce.

When I got to my second job, I had a snack and some candy and by some candy I mean too much candy. I’ve been in tights for 12+ hours and my stomach is feeling it. I still planned to go along with my plan because this week has been garbage and I’m sad and it will give me a momentary relief. Plus, I had a few extra dollars before pay day and the law of my life States I must spend it or lose it before I receive new money. 

Maybe it was because I was so tired or maybe it was because I knew I’d regret it as soon as I finished. On some level, I think I realized it wouldn’t fix me. 

I know saying no today doesn’t mean I’m all better. I’m sure some people might think this victory is silly. That’s fine. It’s not about you. 

For me, it was a moment of looking past how I was feeling in this exact moment and realizing it wasn’t going to solve anything. It wouldn’t even make me feel better. Comfort food is one thing, but eating to be comforted when you’re hungry is something else altogether. 

Food will always be an issue for me. I will always crave it above all else, even God for comfort. It will rule me at times and make me hate myself. But small victories like tonight remind me food won’t beat me. 

I just want you to know

Sometimes I get depressed. I go through seasons where I’m unstoppable and then I hit valleys where I’m apathetic and filled with hopelessness. Because my family is no stranger to mental illness, this terrifies me.

I manage to wake up every day and go about my business, but the passion I have for life lives so far down I can barely access it. The things I love seem pointless. Today was a particularly bad day, coupled with a loss in our family.

I left work early, numb to everything. I came home, put on my pajamas and got into bed. I didn’t want to eat, but I did. I didn’t want to watch TV, but I did. I didn’t want to sleep, but I did. This is what happens. It’s like I lose my appetite for everything.

Eventually I reemerge just as bright as ever, but until then I deal with the constant feelings of inadequacy. Like I’ll never be a good writer or good at makeup or get my eating under control. I know what I need to do to get better but I can’t, like there’s a block or something.

Tonight I watched Brooklyn, practiced doing my makeup and listened to some music and felt more like myself. Sometimes it’s little things like this that remind me life is still beautiful.

Plus it’s snowing and I have a new coat. I love new seasons and the opportunities presented. I have hope for the good things that will happen in my life. I know God is in control.

I can get through this. I can and I will.