Twenty Fourteen, the Year of Discipline

About halfway through 2012, I dubbed the year my year of “healing.” I was able to escape my soul-sucking job with a company that didn’t care about me and moved over to a place with much better pay and a better environment. I thought that would be the turning point…the magical moment when I started to care about myself and everything that was wrong with me would get better. It didn’t quite work that way.

Last year I dubbed my year of “peace.” While it wasn’t entirely peaceful, I did learn a lot about setting personal boundaries and standing up for myself. I didn’t make the health strides that I wanted to, but I did finally get myself to the place where I was ready to take the steps. The end of the year wasn’t peaceful at all, because of things both within and beyond my control, so I still have a lot to learn.

I’ve noticed that I suck at long lists of resolutions. I fail at one and give the rest up (and then go eat some General Tso’s Chicken). But this one-word-focus thing seems to be at least partially successful.

I noticed a recurring theme in several of my Bible studies at the beginning of the year…The idea that our spiritual (and physical) health lean heavily on personal responsibility and self-discipline. We can’t always do what we want, eat what we want, say what we want….sometimes we have to do things because they are good for us, and we cannot expect to be at our best if we ignore what we should do because it’s not what we want.

You can’t expect to lose weight while eating takeout every night and refusing to exercise. You can’t expect to have a neat, organized home if you’re not willing to clean regularly. You can’t expect to have meaningful relationships if you don’t invest time with people you care about. You can’t expect to be respected if you don’t stand up for yourself. And you can’t expect to have a successful spiritual life if you don’t talk to God and crack open the Good Book.

These are all things I struggle with, and these are all things that I want to improve this year. This is the year of Discipline.

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Depression isn’t Sensational Enough…

Over the last two days, I seem to have developed a very sensitive and tempermental stomach.  I couldn’t enjoy going to Metrolina Expo with my mom yesterday because my stomach was cramping and today, it was all I could do to get out of  bed and go to church.  This feeling isn’t all that foreign to me…my anxiety has always manifested itself in stomach cramping and other unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects.  However, since I’ve been treated for the depression/anxiety, it’s mostly gone away (as evidenced by the expired bottle of generic Pepto that we just found during a particularly panicky search for help).

This recent bout with my mental issues has brought to light a shortcoming in society and, particularly, the Church (capital “C” this time) when confronted with someone battling depression or anxiety.  See, depression isn’t “cool.”  It’s not something that y0u can see; it’s not a broken arm, it’s not a disease, it’s not something that makes you turn yellow, or snot run, or puke.  It’s not a black eye or a gash.  It’s not something that requires surgery.  Because it’s not any of these things, there seems to be this belief, especially in the Church, that it’s not “bad enough” to merit the same level of care/concern as physical problem.  I think it stems from the Church’s tradition of ignoring mental problems and of refusing that they even exist.

“Just love Jesus more and it’ll go away!”  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that, or “just pray about it,” or “just turn it over to God!” like there’s some sort of magical, instant remedy in prayer.  I also can’t *tell* you how many times I prayed for help and for peace.  It just doesn’t happen that way.  And that belief pattern has caused so much pain for Christians battling mood disorders.  I used to feel like there was something horribly wrong with me because I couldn’t just “pray” the depression away…but now that I know better, it simply pisses me off to hear that kind of rhetoric.

You know the real kicker?  The rest of the world is much more supportive to those suffering with mental issues. They’ve somehow managed to realize that depression/anxiety are real conditions, real problems.  As a result, they don’t simply sweep under the rug those who suffer.

My church?  Only one person has checked on me, and she understands because her husband has similar problems.  Otherwise, I get the “I’m praying for you:)” thing, and I’m left to flounder, isolated and alone.  My work friends, however, most of whom aren’t Christian, check on me constantly.  And we wonder why we, as Christians, aren’t affecting the world like we should.  It’s because we ignore people around us whose problems aren’t “cool” enough, or sensational enough. 

 

Ash Wednesday…

So, this Baptist was found today at Saint Gabriel’s church at lunch, together with a friend from work, attending an Ash Wednesday service and receiving ashes.  It’s the first time I’ve ever done it; I’d talked about it last year, how I wished I had gotten ashes, and this year, when Anne came in the office and hadn’t gotten them yet, I told her that I’d like to go along if she went at lunch.

It was really an incredible experience; the much-abbreviated service was beautiful, very Scriptural, and very reverent.  There were four people, two clergy members and two laypeople, giving the ashes.  There was prayer, responses, and we left during the singing. 

Quite honestly, knowing that the ashes were there really kept my mind focused on Christ today…I found myself pausing before getting too aggravated or having a bad attitude.  We could all benefit from a tangible reminder of Christ’s suffering on our behalf every now and then, I think.

I’m giving up TRU TV for Lent.  For the three of you who are regular readers;)…you know how often we watch that channel; in fact, it’s just about always on when we’re in the house.  So, my reasons for choosing it as my “sacrifice” are twofold:  First, because we love it so much, it really will be a sacrifice for me, so I know that it will often be a reminder to me of  the price that was paid for our salvation…Second, because I know that I’ve been a very poor steward of my time in general, and TV plays a huge part in that.  I’m hoping, not to just give it up for this forty days, but to lose my attachment and to be able to let go of television so that I can focus on better pursuit (schoolwork, cooking from scratch, clearing the clutter in the house, etc). 

I’ve been feeling convicted lately about my own laziness…how I’ll come home, skip the gym, collapse in the recliner and watch TV for the rest of the night.  I’ve been given the opportunity to finish my Master’s while going to work, and rather than take the time that I have to get ahead with reading, I’ll wait until the last minute for no good reason.  I want us to eat a better diet (and we’ve improved here in the last two months), but I don’t take the time that I should take to prepare good foods.

In addition to my Lenten sacrifice, I want to focus on simpler foods to remind us of the poor and suffering people in the world.  Part of the Lenten Diet is abstaining from meat and dairy.  Since I already abstain from meat, I don’t have any changes to make there.  I don’t intend for us to abstain from dairy, but I do intend to abstain from our routine takeout and to eat more simple, bare-bones meals.

Anyway, I think I’ve probably droned on for a little too long.  I’ve just got so much running through my head right now;)

Here’s a Kins for you…distracted by the “Dirty Bug”…

On a tangential note, I had Joey take a pic of me with my ashes, but I have some zits on my chin that scabbed over and are unflattering, and the picture seemed to make THEM the focus rather than the rest of my face, so they are not included;).

Thoughts on my Vegeversary…

It was actually yesterday, but I was caught up in the Opening Ceremony, so I didn’t think to blog.  Two days ago was the year anniversary of Lady’s death.  She’d had such a hard life with multiple allergies and near-constant UTIs, and the steroids that she took to keep those items under control eventually took her life.  I was sad, but also deeply convicted at the realization at what our sin really caused.  We didn’t just separate ourselves from God; we separated all of Creation.  Because of our sin, we live in conention with nature; because of our sin, animals must prey on each other.  Because of our sin, Lady was afflicted with such crippling diseases.  And it wasn’t their fault.  I have an easy time accepting humanity’s unworthiness in the face of God’s grace.  We definitely don’t deserve it; we removed ourselves from God’s presence.  But Creation was an unwilling bystander that was punished for our sins.

That conviction led me to realize that I could no longer eat animals.  In the Garden of Eden, animals and humans were vegetarian (Genesis 1:29-30).  In fact, the first death in the Bible is the animal God must use to make clothes for Adam and Eve after they have sinned.  Our contentious relationship with animals was not how God intended it to be, and as such, I just didn’t feel right perpetuating it further.  So, February 12th, 2009 was my first day without meat, and I’ve remained vegetarian since.

I don’t think that it’s a requirement to be a good Christian to be a vegetarian; I also recognize that I’m still imperfect and that I am hypocritical in a hundred other ways.  This is just one of the ways that I’ve found that I can be a light, that I can seek to be consistent in my faith as I continue to try to strive to be more like Christ.

I am also not a vegan.  I do not believe that bees would begrudge us honey or cows would begrudge us milk or chickens, eggs…although I do believe that locking them in cages so that they can’t move to exhaust their physical capabilities until they are useless and then slaughtered is completely and totally wrong.  My decision is partly about animal rights, yes, but in the way in which they relate to God’s will for our lives and how precious they are to God, just as we are.

I’ve been outright laughed at by people at church.  I’ve had the people who make fun of what I cook and tell me to “slap a steak on top of it” for it to be good.  I’ve been called a tree-hugger and a hippie.  I’ve dealt with the eye-roll.  It’s funny to me, because I’ve never been preachy, and I’ve never made anyone feel like I’m better than them because of my decision.  I’ve had people tell me that “God put them here for us to eat.”  No, He didn’t, and I’m firmly grounded in Scripture there.  He allowed us to eat them after we screwed everything up.

Likewise, though, I’ve gotten support, from my parents, from Joey’s parents, from some coworkers.  It’s actually been an amazing witnessing tool, and it’s really allowed me to live more freely in Christ.

On a hands-to-the-plough level, I’ve cooked more, tried foods I would never have tried before, and I’ve learned how wonderfully other foods were designed to meet our nutritional needs.  Tempeh?  Seitan?  Falafel? Hummus?  All incredible foods that I hadn’t bothered with much before my change to a vegetarian lifestyle.

Sorry, I intended a light-hearted “list” post about this, but I felt pretty overwhelmed to give my reasons for doing it and my experiences in the last year.  Thanks for listening.