Fasting {week 13}

This procrastination issue, it has weighed on my mind. I was willing to admit fully I had a problem with it (but didn’t know why until I read this, “Two neurotransmitters put the brain on alert: norepinephrine arouses attention, then dopamine sharpens and focuses it. An imbalance of these neurotransmitters is why some people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) come across as stress junkies. They have to get stressed to focus. It’s one of the primary factors in procrastination. People learn to wait until the Sword of Damocles is ready to fall–it’s only then, when stress unleashes norepinephrine and dopamine, that they can sit down and do the work.”

All of that means that I need to figure out ways to engage my mind before the stress of procrastination comes along.  The next chapters of the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain explained how stress and anxiety burn memory pathways into our brains.  In another book I finished, Mind Over Medicine by Dr. Lissa Rankin, the author explained much of the same thing, just in a different context.  Both of them were essentially saying the same thing–(my summary)–that when your body is stressed (a real event or a made-up worry, it doesn’t matter which, the amygdala in your brain cannot differentiate between a real bear standing in front of you vs. you worrying a bear will show up in your yard) it releases a string of stress hormones and that triggers a whole ‘nother set of chemical reactions in your body. Then your brain starts taking notes for it’s flight or fight journal of survival.

And because all of these hormone, chemical, and physiological events are occurring during the release of stress hormones, the notes the brain is taking become engraved and a ditch is dug, if you will. And every time those stress hormones are released, the ditch gets deeper and deeper and deeper.  And so if you’re like I used to be, and you worry about EVERYfreakingTHING, that stress turns into full blown anxiety and before you know it, you start to freak out over everything and everything is bad and nothing good every happens and why do I even bother because it’s just going to end shitty and I hate my life.

Without knowing it, I broke the anxiety cycle many years ago.  Much of my success I attribute to my husband who says things like, “Why in the hell are you worried about something you don’t know is going to happen?”  Or he’d ask, “What exactly are you worried about?” I’d start to verbalize my worry and then I sounded stupid because I have a headache and I probably have brain cancer now.  (oh you know what I’m talking about.)

So when I started to verbalize things (I’m driving over a river on a bridge and I’m terrified I’m going to drive off of it and drown) I realized how ridiculous I was.

But the fact is, that in my life, bad things did happen. Quite often. Quite severe and traumatizing things. And my brain took notes. And then it started making up risks that weren’t really rational. And because the brain can dig a damn good ditch, I was stuck so deep.

I started filling in the ditch with good thoughts. Gratitude. It really works.

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But another tool I’m learning about is exercise! (you need to read this book!!) So the gist of it is this, when your body releases that onslaught of stress stuff, it raises your heart rate and your mind (like I’ve said) takes notes.  When you exercise, your heart rate increases (and your mind takes notes) and then all kinds of crazy-good hormone stuff is released into your body.

SO–and this is the breakthrough moment– when I am stressing out, if I exercise for a few minutes and raise my heart rate, my body will take notes and will also release the good stuff, which diminishes stress and anxiety. And because I “survive” the bear attack, I start to fill in those ditches even faster!

“Muscle building cannot occur without first tearing down muscle fibers, the main component of muscle tissue. Hypertrophy is the term used to describe an increase in muscle bulk, which occurs when the body repairs torn muscle fibers. Weight lifting, resistance training and long-distance running are among the stressors that initiate the teardown and muscle-building cycle. Building or repairing muscle tissue involves interaction among cells, proteins, the immune system, growth factors, hormones, nutrition, rest and sleep.”

The dots I’m connecting are that much like building muscles, training the brain to react in an appropriate way is going to require me to tear down and rebuild. If I’m stressing and raise my heart rate and then the stress is gone, my brain will learn that not everything in life is an attacking bear.  If I’m starting to worry and I give thanks and redirect, I’m building a new path.

I’ve also been tackling past memories and hurts and treating them with the same prescription. If something triggers a bad memory (like if I see a game of hangman and immediately I think of my uncle’s suicide) I must tear down that old cycle of thinking and rebuild a new one.

So now.  (there’s more)

I went back to my original entry in my fasting journal because God gave me a verse I didn’t understand.  Are you ready?

“Your job is to pull up and tear down,
take apart and demolish,
And then start over,
building and planting.”

–Jeremiah 1:10

yes. my mind is completely and totally blown.

Fasting {Weeks 11-12}

I have learned SO much in the last couple of weeks about my mind/body/spirit healing.

The assimilation of knowledge is at a breakthrough level for me. In a way it seems like I should have already known this stuff, but then I’m not sure I could have.  I think we’ve all been programmed to believe that the mind is separate from the body which is separate from the spirit and the ways I’ve been trying to go about healing have been based on systems that propagate that belief. I *think* I’m learning that a new system needs to be created. And since my strength in life is to create efficient systems, I’m on task and challenged enough to be consumed with this.

I don’t know if I can rightly regurgitate the things I’ve been putting together, but I’m going to try.

May 15th, I had this dream:

I was at a conference and there was a sign for free hair styling. I FB’d the company and got an appointment. When I got there, they was also some kind of newly discovered stone therapy for relaxing. It looked a lot like the hot stone thing at spas but the stone was special, supposed to draw negative energy out. The lady put me in the chair and told me how to put my hands and it was so uncomfortable. She left the room to get the stones and the chair folded up on me! She came running in apologizing and fixed it. She put hot stones on my lower back but they weren’t hot enough for me.

When finished, I was supposed to walk down the street for some reason. I had a huge tub full of art supplies and also rocks in a back pack. It was so heavy and I was really upset that it was not relieving my stress. I stopped and used blue watercolors to write something on a wall. I don’t remember what I wrote. Dr. House said that I didn’t have to lug all that stuff around. He told me to take one rock and 2 or 3 of the art things. So I did. First I pulled out a Spongebob foam character and thought, “No way am I taking this with me, and threw it back!” I picked 3 things (don’t know what) and I was just ecstatic and hugged him and them got on a bus.

Found a pair of Con-way (where Phil works in waking life) pants like Phil‘s hung nicely across the entryway of the bus. I picked them up so I could text Phil and probably take them to him. They weren’t his though. And they had a pair of long johns still inside.

I took my seat and texted Phil then tried to figure out what stop I needed. I asked a girl who was about to exit on the next stop and she looked at my ticket and said I probably had 10-12 more stops and the last one was the one I needed. She pointed to the last three letter abbreviated stop: JOP and said “Joplin is your stop.”

I know the Spongebob meaning: my friend and I joke a lot about a Spongebob episode where he procrastinates by doing ALL kinds of things other than what he’s supposed to do. So when we’re procrastinating we call it Spongebob Syndrome and joke about sharpening pencils. So I’m thinking that I need to get rid of my tendency to procrastinate and quit lugging that around!

I’ve also had other dreams about House characters. I think House represents my intellect and/or common sense. He’s bold, to the point, and says things I should already know.

Spongebob-Procrastination

Since my adrenal system is a wreck (adrenal failure is the diagnosis–stemming from chronic inflammation–stemming from gluten intolerance) I’ve been working (hard!) on doing the right things for my body in order to heal.  Under stress (not just external stress, but also internal stress, like fighting off gluten) my body releases stress hormones constantly which destroys a body. Eliminating gluten was just one step towards helping. It has stopped the main cause of the stress. But in order to heal, my body needs the relaxation hormones released. And I’ve been working towards being aware of what I’m doing to harm that process.

The dream said get rid of procrastination. I was like, ok sure. But really, is it that big of a deal?

Well. I learned, indeed, it is.

As an assignment from my endocrinologist, I’m reading Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. I read this and nearly fell over.

Two neurotransmitters put the brain on alert: norepinephrine arouses attention, then dopamine sharpens and focuses it. An imbalance of these neurotransmitters is why some people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHA) come across as stress junkies. They have to get stressed to focus. It’s one of the primary factors in procrastination. People learn to wait until the Sword of Damocles is ready to fall–it’s only then, when stress unleashes norepinephrine and dopamine, that they can sit down and do the work.

In reality, I’ve wondered often if I have ADHD but didn’t pursue an official diagnosis. I can’t say for sure why. But after the dream and then reading this I started to pay attention and I’m fairly certain I do have ADHD and I think my body is saying that I need to learn to deal with that in order for the healing to continue.

That is a breakthrough.

And yet, there’s more. But I think I should break up the posts so they don’t get too long and technical. So for today, I feel amazing that I asked God to reveal to me what is hindering my healing and (at least part of it) has been revealed.

I don’t know the best way to fix it yet. I think I’m on the path to discovering something and I’ll get into that in my next post. I learned all of this and immediately learned that the verse God gave me at the very beginning of this fast is now coming to play and I would’ve never in a million years guessed it related to the healing of my adrenal system.

Fasting {Weeks 4-10}

Sometimes I can’t even comprehend the passage of time. I wrote about weeks 1, 2, and 3 of this 24 week fast but somehow totally glazed over weeks 4-10.

I have been on a path of healing, but what exactly does that look like? Weird.  It’s a physical, mental, and spiritual healing and they’re are intertwined and knotted together.  I pull on one string and think I’m getting somewhere only to find it leads to another knot that must be tugged and loosened and finally unbound. Then it happens again.

I’m currently reading a book called Mind Over Medicine by Dr. Lissa Rankin and everything in it rings true. For the last 20 years I’ve been trying to redirect my negative thoughts and actions, weeding out toxic people from my life, seeking whole healing. It started with a book called Happiness is a Choice. I read that one at 19 when my first husband left me. I haven’t always been diligent in seeking this healing (meaning I haven’t focused on it daily for two decades) but it has always been a goal.  More of a pipe-dream, maybe, because I’m not sure I fully believed it could ever happen. Add to that the constant message from the church that says we’re broken people, we sin, we can’t help it, we won’t be whole until we get to heaven.  Thanks church, for that uplifting message.  Or this one Christ heals, but not like He did in the New Testament. That’s over. But hey, you go ahead and pray for healing, see how that works out for ya.
I’m not saying we’re not broken, or we’re not sinners–but really, this message is *not* the Good News message that Christ came to this earth to teach.

I’ve been struggling lately with this idea of going back to church. There hasn’t been a Christian thus far who hasn’t tried to say that being with a congregation-at-a-local-building is better than being without one. They site the same passage, the only one I think there is.  And while I believe that a community of like-minded believers IS important, I do not believe that I have to find it at the local church building. I’m just not convinced God has called me to the cookie-cutter ways of what passes for “church.”  If it works for you, great! Keep it up and do your thing. It’s not working for me. It has never worked for me. It has been horrible and unloving (except one family) and negative. On the other hand, the people God brings into my life for me to mentor, the ones he has brought alongside of me to hold me up and encourage me, pray for me, and point out truths–those people have brought me undeniable joy (even in the hard times and hard lessons.)

I am more and more convinced that in this season of my life, at least, I am not supposed to be involved with a local congregation. I’m sorry if you think that’s a sin. I have discussed this at length with God and I’m positive He is not calling me to find a local, weekly meeting place to be a part of.

I think He’s got me on a journey, one I can’t yet explain, but one that has me closer to Him than I’ve ever been before. And sometimes He does things that others deem wrong. (y’know, like when Jesus healed on the Sabbath.) There were times Jesus was called away from people and if I’m to live following His example, it makes sense that God could (and would) call me away for a season.

I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned thus far in this fast (along with the other fasts I’ve done) is that obeying God above people is hard. In one ear people are shouting endlessly who God is and what He does (and does not do) and when I shut them out, God is there saying the same thing over and over, “I AM.”

I’m choosing to trust Him and not what people say about Him.  That’s a pretty desolate road, but one I’m sure is the right one.

Fasting {week 3}

I’m finding it difficult to put into words the events of this week. It never crossed my mind that what happened was related to fasting, but a good friend said something along the lines of: hey! Your fast is really working!! And that kinda rocked my world (that had already been rocked by this situation I’m going to talk about.)

I wrote a guest post for a conference I’m presenting at next month. The theme is The Mind and Spirit of the Artist. All of the guest posts have been discussing the mental health of the artist: depression, suicide, anxiety, etc… I felt a strong urge to share a story I’d never told anyone. Not Phil. Not my longest, dearest friend.

no one.

I kept it secret mostly because I was ashamed of my behavior. Partly because it was so long ago and why dig up bones buried long so long ago?

A Time to Heal

Two things converged and led to me telling the story. One is the piece I wrote for the Listen to Your Mother show–all about my mom. That piece really brought up some issues I hadn’t dealt with since her death.  And that brought up memories, including this one I’d never talked about nor shared. Then, after reading a few of the other guest posts concerning The Mind and Spirit of the Artist, I knew I had to do it. I had to dig it out of the suitcase of baggage I carry and throw it out to the wind.

and it was scary.

The post went live on Monday morning, a week before I’d expected, so I was caught off guard when I saw the link shared on Facebook. I took a deep breath and prayed.

 In fact, you ever run across one of those stories and your reaction is “wow, even them?”  That was my reaction when Michelle Pendergrass sent me her guest blog.

That was from Maurice, long time friend, founder of the conference I’m doing the Visual Prayer workshop at, and like many others, someone who didn’t know my past.

I shared the link in the morning and evening, like I do with all my posts. At around ten in the evening, Maurice messaged me. “Did you see who commented? You might want to go take a look.”

and yeah.

shock might be a grand understatement.

Tuesday and Wednesday were a bit of a tornado of chat messages, phone calls, and texts. Most everyone wanted to know how it made me feel. For me, the bottom line is this: I offered up a piece of myself to God that I had been hiding from the rest of the world. He knew it was there. I was the one who hadn’t released it. A man I haven’t seen nor spoken to in nearly twenty years somehow found that story the same day I posted it and apologized.

To me that means God took that offering and transformed it. Just as He has time and time again.

I pray that it gives others the courage to unload their baggage. I’m a writer, God made me that way…I don’t think everyone is called to share in such a public forum, that would terrify some into an emotional paralysis. Telling stories is one of the outlets God gave me. I think He gives each of us what we need. Maybe you have a trusted friend or a mentor, a parent, a sibling. We are called to bear each other’s burdens. I pray that if you’re hiding something, you ask God to lead you to your outlet and offer it up.  These secrets have no hold on us when we hand them over to Him. We give them power, we feed them with our fears and anxieties.

We all have secrets.

The one you’re thinking about right this second–that’s the one you need to hand over. Quit hoarding it.

Fasting {week 2}

Wednesday during the day was another physically rough day for me. I didn’t expect to be down two weeks in a row on the same day. Not only was my body hurting, but my emotions were that of a very hormonal teenager :/  I was crying and angry over something so very stupid. I was tired and my head hurt and I cried more. I could not stop crying (and I’m just *not* a crier!)

Phil left early for work and I tried to make my attitude better. By evening when it was time to log off, I felt much better emotionally, but physically, I was still drained so I went to bed super early.

Thursday was a much better day. I woke feeling great and that lasted all day! I spent the majority of my day finishing word sketches while listening to sermons from Adrian Rogers and John Piper. My soul was full. I prayed for many people.

I didn’t log on to social media. I didn’t take a bite of meat. I did ok this week!!

I did however, feel heavy over a particular thing…

Yesterday was Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday which commemorates The Last Supper. I was thinking on Jesus’ words to his disciples:

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying,“Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

 

I cannot eat bread.

I cannot drink wine.

And my heart was so heavy. So very heavy.

My body is in such a state of illness that the two symbolic acts of remembrance that Jesus gave, I cannot partake of. I thank God that we are in an age of grace and this reality will not hurt my relationship with Christ. Symbolically, though, the fact that my body will reject bread and wine weighs on me. the traditional unleavened wheat bread of communion will cause swift and severe allergic reaction, it will leave me sick for days on end. It will bring the healing to a screeching halt. The wine, I’ve just learned, is basically poison to my system for as long as my adrenal system is in failure.

Both the bread and wine are poison to me right now.

I can’t get over that.

It feels very much like the Easter story, the very gospel message: Jesus became sin. His body became the very thing it rejected. As my body is rejecting His symbols of ultimate love and sacrifice, I am in mourning for I want nothing more than to be able to share in His communion. But I can’t. Not if healing is to occur.

His body took on all of the ugliness of this world in order that He might heal us all and reconcile us to eternity and He mourned and grieved to the point of sweating blood. He wanted nothing more than to be able to be in communion with His Father. But he couldn’t. Not if healing was to occur.

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

My minuscule health problems do not compare to Christ’s sacrifice in even the slightest way. I know that. But I also have a deeper, a much deeper, understanding of healing right now–in this moment–when I cannot be in true communion with Jesus.

Fasting {week 1}

Last week was my first 24 hours of this 24 week fast. As I stated in my first post, things started off really rough.

So as I prepared to eat meatless and log off of social media, things started happening. First, I was in such an extreme state of physical paint, I woke crying and it just continued through the day.  I read quite a lot about “retracing” and “healing crisis” where, when given the right nutrition, a body in adrenal failure/fatigue as mine is will release toxins that have built up.  While painful, thankfully, it doesn’t normally last long.  Then, a tiff with my husband. Then, twice within the span of a few hours, texts from two different people bringing up the same name. A person and situation God had me fast about last year. The same person that made many, many false accusations about me–I thought I was done with the person and situation until last year when he was hired on at the church we were attending and we chose to leave that congregation.  But before I knew it was coming, God led me to fast for 6 weeks. Within days of the fast ending, I’d been thrown into this situation with this person coming back into my life. I felt the fast, while unknown to me, was to prepare me to fight this battle. The lessons were many. I recognized all of this as a spiritual attack of the enemy after receiving the second text. I prayed for strength, wisdom, knowledge, and discernment for the duration of the fast.  And I unplugged.

I logged off and grabbed a book I’ve been wanting to read for years. I took a nice, hot Epsom salt bath and went to bed early. Thursday morning, I was still feeling very exhausted, drained, and my body was in pain. So I rested and tried to feed my body healing things: bone broth, extra protein, extra Vitamin C, and prayed that the healing of this adrenal failure was beginning.

I also found an amazing book I’d started to read before we moved. I’d began to read it and journal my progress through it in the same journal I’ve been using for my fasting journal.  When I opened the journal to write about this new fast, I found (from the chapter one questions of this book) that I’d notated a verse that screamed out to me and was in direct correlation to my mosaic vision and *this* fast!

Your job is to pull up and tear down,
take apart and demolish,
And then start over,
building and planting.

Jeremiah 1:10

When I saw that verse I knew I had to search for the book in my mess of unpacking and thank God I found it!

I met Michele at a conference a couple years ago. I don’t know if the book was in the works at that time or not. Reading it during this time of quiet, I also found there were a few chapters I read that spoke directly to a project a friend and I are involved in (that’s on the back burner for many reasons) but it seems that the words in these chapters have opened up a whole new chapter on our project that will require much prayer and study!  (and you know the nerd in me loves to research!)

I still haven’t finished it book, and because I started it months ago, I’d really like to re-start it.

 

And then, I picked up my phone and touched the Facebook app and it opened and I answered some private messages and then I was like OHHHHH MAN!!! I’m on a social media fast! What did I just do??  (ugh. for real.)  I asked forgiveness (and of course, He granted it.) and I hid my phone.

I started feeling better physically throughout the day. I relaxed, prayed, read, and tried to be faithful and obedient.  I commented to Phil that I was doing far better with the abstaining from meat than I was staying off of social media!

Toward evening on Thursday, I needed to get dinner in the oven (a ham, for after the fast was over.) It was one of those bone-in, whole hams that are already cooked. I tasted it. Chewed up that scrumptious morsel. And promptly kicked myself because this was also supposed to be a meatless fast.   Fail. again. (for real.) sigh.

So there’s my first 24 hours of my first week of the 24 week fast. I blew it, but I’m forgiven. And that is my lesson for this week. I suck but Jesus loves me anyway <3