Finding Freedom from Emotional Eating

For most of my life, I wouldn’t have said I had an eating disorder. 

To me, “eating disorders” were things like anorexia and bulemia: big, life-altering struggles that required the intervention of doctors, therapists and pastors. 

I never realized that every time I ran to the fridge for a snack when I felt sad, or cheated on my “vegetarian diet” (again), or couldn’t stop myself with just a few potato chips (cookies, cheese sticks, etc.) … I was essentially stuck in the same place as those women with “eating disorders” with more clinically acceptable eating disorders.

I was using food to cover up a craving inside that couldn’t actually be assuaged with sweets, salty, spicy or sour.

Today, many women comment to me that they wish they could eat vegan like I do now. “But I just can’t seem to give up the meat, eggs and dairy,” they quickly add. Others tell me they want to kick the sugar or the cola habit. Still others want to go gluten free, but the thought of no cookies or cinnamon rolls sends them running for cover. 

If any of those describe you, I’m hear to hug you and say, “It’s okay.”

I was there, too. 

The first biggest step I had to take to be free of my constant need for food, was to realize that I was in bondage in the first place. 

After my powerful full-body opening in July 2017, at which time the Holy Spirit began to speak me more directly, I began to realize all the ways I was carrying trauma and hurt in body. I also began to see how that trauma was driving me to hold on to weight I no longer needed.

Because I needed to feel safe, my brain was keeping me overweight—essentially—“hiding” me under layers of fat. And the easiest way to do that was with an addiction to animal-based, processed and refined foods. Did the drive to eat every time I felt sad, or to overindulge at every opportunity, disappear overnight? 

No, not in the least. Not by half. 

But awareness is the beginning of freedom. 

Once I knew what was going on, I could take steps to change my thinking, which changed my dominant emotional state and enabled me to finally change my behaviors around the fridge. 

So if you’re reading this today, and you know that you eat according to your mood, not according to your nutritional need … first, you are not alone. And second, the fact that you have acknowledged this pattern is a HUGE step toward breaking free. 

Because the truth is: 

  • You CAN stop equating food with emotional comfort, in the deepest level of your mind. 
  • You CAN come to a place where you no longer desire food except when your body is actually hungry.
  • You CAN adopt a vegetarian, vegan, raw foods or other alternative diet—once you are in a mental and emotional place where the first two points are already true.

And that’s the real issue here. 

Most women I know who want to change their eating are trying to do so without first shifting their dominant thought patterns and their everyday emotions. 

Adopting that new diet, losing weight or taking up more exercise simply won’t be successful if you try to “power through it” or make it “one more item on your to-do list.” 

Heart change and mind change must happen first. You won’t be able to shift your thoughts or emotions overnight. It WILL require that you confess your addiction to God and ask Him to heal you. It WILL take work to discipline your mind and body. But when you learn how to do that, and learn how to relax into receiving a smaller body, fewer cravings, and healthier food … it can happen.

Many of my my friends and mentees have experienced shifts in their eating as a natural byproduct of clearing their thoughts and emotions.

That’s how it happened for me, ultimately, as well. 

I didn’t totally set out to change my eating. My freedom from emotional eating patterns came as a byproduct of shift my thoughts to focus on God and His love, and learn how to live at the high, even emotional state that He desires for each of us. 

Eating can be a FLOW, just like love, money and creativity.

Release the struggle, and step into ease.

That Time Spring Hit the Colorado Rockies (And My Life)

I didn’t plan on spending five or six weeks of my spring 2018 in the mountains of Colorado. Not that I’m complaining, mind you: spring in Colorado is gorgeous. Witnessings the transformation into spring is even more of a marvel. But it wasn’t on my plan. (Hello, that’s why I call myself a “recovering control freak.” Because sometimes the control thing still peeks out. 

Anyway, when I arrived in Colorado it didn’t look much like spring at all. In fact as late as April 20th, winter was still in full effect. Consider this photo from my first weekend in Colorado Springs, where I stayed with longtime friends on the Air Force Academy base: 

Yeah, not much spring to be seen there. I despaired that God had brought me out of monochromatically gray Milwaukee, only to drop me into another monochromatic winter landscape. Everyone had been telling me how beautiful the sun would be. How plentiful the wild flowers. Yet I still couldn’t see it, even though May 1st was just around the corner. 

This lingering winter seemed to be a metaphor for my own life. I had believed God for breakthrough: a serious shift in my circumstances that would allow me to quit traveling from place to place and go back home to Milwaukee to settle. I loved traveling, yes. The Holy Spirit had told me to ‘take no money, take no luggage, and go into whatever house will receive you.’ And I had obeyed. 

But I was tired now. Sick of endless weeks on the road with no real purpose or activities to shape my day. Sick of always looking to the horizon for something—anything—to happen. Sick (if we’re being honest) of praying and seeing … absolutely nothing.  

I started taking my friends’ dog, Buddy, for twice daily walks. Every day I kept my eyes peeled for the famous Colorado wildflowers, even while I prayed to Heaven for a glimpse of a single petal pushing above ground in my own life. 

For awhile, it continued to look like this: sunny, but barren. The weather warmed. And yet nothing pushed above the soil.

By the time I left for Milwaukee to lay hold of the place God had given me there, the slopes of the Rockies were carpeted with God’s most beautiful flowers.  

It took a lot longer than I would have wished, yes. But the season of flowering did come in God’s time. 

Be patient through the late springs snows, and continue to watch daily for the first signs of color amid the grass. Your time of breakthrough will come if you do not grow weary. 

I believe the real test of our faith is not what happens in seasons of victory and activity, but what we do in seasons of silence and barrenness.

Those six weeks of silence, during which I saw almost no flowers pop up on those daily walks, was one of the longest and hardest I have endured. My patience and stamina were nearly at an end. I napped a lot—because there was little else to do.

Still no flowers. Anywhere.

And yet, somehow in the absence of the physical evidence I craved, Spring came. During that time I really re-committed my life to do exactly what God wanted. I heard the call to begin speaking His Name and His Word more intentionally in my relationships. Things that had been “out of order” in my life got placed back into order—none of which would have been possible had I been distracted by other things. 

God even sent me a few rainbows and beautiful sunsets to encourage me that His promises were true, and in the acceptable time, He would shift my circumstances.

There’s a funny thing about praying for God’s “acceptable time,” just as it says in Psalm 69. God’s acceptable time is very rarely ours. His time for flowering often does not match ours. We are impatient. He has infinite patience. We want to run ahead though we can only see in the moment. He sees what’s coming, and acts accordingly.

In God’s acceptable time, breakthrough did come. I got a huge tax refund—several months late—that enabled me to return to Milwaukee and pay the avalanche of bills that were coming due in June. I let go of the last of my old life and got on board with God’s program.  

And yes, the wildflowers did come out. By the time Buddy and I finished our daily routine of walks, the hills were abloom with Colorado’s finest. 

By the time I left for Milwaukee to lay hold of the place God had given me there, the slopes of the Rockies were carpeted with God’s most beautiful flowers.  

It took a lot longer than I would have wished, yes. But the season of flowering did come in God’s time. 

Be patient through the late springs snows, and continue to watch daily for the first signs of color amid the grass. Your time of breakthrough will come if you do not grow weary. 

What to Do When Your Creative Muse Goes AWOL

I wish my muse was better behaved. I really do. But like me, she’s a free spirit—and sometimes she takes the day off without letting me know. 

In the past, if I’m honest, she’s taken more than a day or two. Once, she even took off a whole decade. (That’s another story for another day…) But even when my Muse IS on the job, the “fits of genius” come sporadically at best. So much of the time, showing up for my art or my passion project feels like plain old work.  

What’s a creative woman to do when her deepest creative self seems to run on fumes … and she really just wants to get back in the FLOW?

First, don’t panic. 

Everyone experiences dry spells. It could even be that you are coming back to your creativity after a long dry season, or a busy season serving others, and you wonder if it’s even possible to muster up that mojo again. 

I’ve been in both scenarios, and I can say for sure that it IS indeed possible to get that mojo back. But not by trying so so so hard to make it all happen. 

I like to think about creativity like a small child, or a small animal. She only comes out when she truly feels safe. 

Rush your Muse, pressure her, or make demands—and she’ll likely run the other direction. But if you can create a relaxed, fun environment that invites her to come close without forcing it, you might be surprised how fast the ideas spring up again. 

So perhaps the best advice I can give you is to …

Relax. 

Yes, I know, woman of action: that might not come easily to you. It seems more valuable to just keep piling on the action, trying to get more done, putting yourself under and even bigger load. But the more you sweat and strive, the less far you’ll actually get. 

So put on some music that makes you feel happy. 

Take that overdue bubble bath. 

Have a glass of wine or herbal tea.

Take a hike or do some serious yoga. 

Indulge in the nap you’re craving. 

Have dinner with a friend who makes you laugh. 

Finger paint with your kids for awhile. 

Or maybe … just maybe … pull the covers over your head and try again tomorrow. 

Doing this once or twice isn’t going to change everything, either. You’re going to have to make a new habit of just … having fun. 

Because the more you allow yourself to feel pleasure and joy, the more the ideas will flow.

By releasing the “pressure valve” on your inner need to perform, you will actually create space for your muse to whisper in your ear—and actually be heard. 

All of this, though, points to something much deeper than finding the last lyric for that song or the right color for the last stroke of that painting. 

It’s about learning how to fully and deeply open up to what is happening in the present moment. 

Perhaps what your Muse needs more than anything else is simply for you to accept that feeling “blocked” is where you are right now. 

This iS what is. And it is okay. 

You don’t have to have the idea right now. It can take a little more time to make itself clear. 

Sometimes the best way to get the answer is simply to release the pressure of needing to have it. 

Because after all, your Muse has a mind of her own. Let her be who she is, and you might be surprised what she gives you in return. 

Your creativity may feel AWOL right now. But maybe it’s just around the corner, waiting for you to breathe deeply, loosen your shoulders and dance. 

In the middle of the dance, you’ll know what to do. 

 

 

Get Your Story Straight, and the Rest Will Follow

NOTE: The following is a featured post from 2016 which first appeared on my former creative blog, Scrappy Storyteller. I’m sharing this as a way of embracing my past creative self and sharing ideas she had that, well, still matter today. Enjoy!


Every year I have great plans for February. And every year, they get totally derailed.

Like it or not, for me February seems to be the month when I’m called to hibernate in my own soul, mulling things over. I feel like that bear in a cave, slowly burning off the fat of her last intellectual meal so that when she awakes, she can stretch and crawl out of her cave in search of a good trout and a handful of berries.

The reward for my hibernation, however, is rarely a sense of well-restedness. (I actually slept terribly this month.) 

It’s a sense of renewed understanding and purpose.

As I explored in my last post, there are apparently phases to this thing called the creative life. The early phases are so exciting! You watch concepts you heard and read about unfold before your very eyes. 

But once the excitement and glitter are past, you’ve got a long road of hard work ahead of you.

And as it turns out, that is where our storytelling skills most come in handy.

You see, in the middle of all my intellectual machinations and internal questioning this month, it occurred to me that our storytelling skills really are so much more important than we think. And not just for the creative endeavors we might be pursuing.

They’re critical to the living of this thing called life.

This month it occurred to me—possibly for the first time ever—that the story truly must come first in any endeavor, not just in art but also in life.

So often we want to rush into action, or see change happen, without getting the story straight first.

Every day, every hour, I’m shaping a narrative inside my own head about how my life is going, whether I’m the hero of a comedy or tragedy, or how close I am to achieving my goals.

The most important story I’ve been telling all of my life isn’t one of my many specific fictional tales. It’s the story I’ve been telling to myself about my life. 

I am my own first (captive) audience. I am also perhaps my own most important audience.

And like the reader of a choose-your-own-adventure novel, I will ultimately decide how the story turns out.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting I have ultimate power over my own life, or some kind of omnipotent edge that can merely think away obstacles and fly to the moon. But I am suggesting that I do have the power over how I react to, respond to or view what happens to me.

That internal narrative is just as important—maybe even more so—than any external one I’ll ever write.

So, yes. 

As I was lying awake many nights this month, thinking over many things, or letting my mind wander as I doodled in my art journal . . . I realized that the creative life really is not about being in the “right place” with the “right people” or the “right work.” 

It’s about telling yourself the right story about yourself, your place, your people and your work.

This is not to say that we should never make changes to our external environment, or pursue new opportunities, or perhaps finally lay that languishing project to rest. But perhaps we’re just too quick to look around us, expecting the change to happen.

We look to the details of the story to change magically on their own, rather than asking the Storyteller to change the plot.

I am the Storyteller. So are you. If we don’t like the story . . . all we have to do is change it.

After all, isn’t that the beauty of a story? It’s not completely random? There IS a Teller out there somewhere, shaping our understand of what’s happening, and helping us to make meaning of the events as they unfold.

In the case of life, we rely on ourselves to make meaning of what’s happening to us. It’s one of the sacred tasks we’ve been given.

So I’ll ask you the question I had to ask myself:

Do you like how you’re shaping the story of your own life?

If not, you always have an opportunity to shift the narrative inside your own head, and in doing so, to transform your reality.

That’s what stories are all about, anyway: the power of transformation. The transmuting of a soul from one state of being to another—whether literally in the physical realm or figuratively in the metaphoric one.

(I didn’t tell you we’d be delving into alchemy today, now did I? Well, every good story has got to have a plot twist anyway . . .)

A story starts off in one place and must alway end up in another. If there’s no shift or movement, there has been no story.

The bottom line for us is: transformation is possible. And it starts in our own heads.

So as we enjoy this unusual extra day in February, and prepare for March (already?!), I hope you’ll remember with me that we really, truly are the story that we tell ourselves. 

If we don’t like the story we’re living, the problem isn’t usually in the story. It’s all about the telling. 

This is why movies go south. Novels flounder. Graphic novels fall flat.

The telling of the story just wasn’t as grand as the original idea.

Our own less-than-effective telling is why the story of our life sometimes turns out as less than we’d hoped, too.

But the problem is never the story itself.

The narrative we spin inside our own heads, about our own lives, is quite possibly the most important narrative we’ll ever write. 

It’s about time we got absolutely clear on who we are, what’s happened to us, and why it matters.

Because when we get our story straight, the rest (of life) will always follow.

Embracing Traditional Femininity in an Alpha Female World

I’m surprised how frequently people refer to me as an “alpha female,” or try to lump me in that category.

Usually, I think it’s meant as a compliment–a recognition that I have leadership qualities and am not afraid to step into roles of authority.

I try to receive the compliment for its intention. But really, as a woman who has invested so much time reconnecting with her innate feminine energy and living within it, the broader meaning of the term bothers me.

Like, a lot.

As I understand it, the term “alpha female” connotes a woman who recognizes and cultivates her power and leadership potential. When it comes to their femininity, alpha woman make all of their choices of how to present their femininity (consciously or subconsciously) based on which self-presentation will extend their power.

In one sense, this is true of me, and I do appreciate the recognition. I believe that femininity is a tremendous form of power God intended women to have, and these days, I like to flaunt my femininity.

But if we’re being honest, I don’t think that’s what many of the women I know mean by “alpha female.”

My observation has been that many gifted, go-getting, big-dreaming women I have known (including myself at times) spend considerable amounts of time de-feminizing ourselves, even in subtle ways, in order to gain more power. A choice which suggests we subconsciously don’t believe femininity is powerful at all.

‘Alpha Female’ is often used as a rationale to excuse competitive, hard-driving, deadline-driven behavior that encourages us as women to stuff down emotions, employ “commanding” male behaviors and even dress like men in the workplace. It may not always be used this way, but in my experience it often is. And when ‘alpha female’ is code for “being feminine is no way to gain respect” …. then no, I’m not on board with it at all.

Especially when it is used as an excuse for a woman to take on the masculine role in the home, for a husband she perceives as “too weak” to do his job … then I’m most definitely, most inexorably not on board. Because as I learned through my own marriage mistakes and my divorce, no wounded marriage will ever heal while one spouse is trying to do the other’s job.

Do I sound like a throw-back from a 1950s edition of Good Housekeeping, or some Victorian magazine like Harper’s Bazaar, with flowery language and sentimental sketches?

Perhaps.

The “me” of ten years ago would have definitely thought so.

Back then, I was an alpha woman according to both definitions above, although perhaps never brazen enough to let her full inner hard-driving “man” come out. I kept an exhausting schedule, did 1000% more than necessary at work, wore cuff links and pantsuits and most definitely made every decision from my analytic mind.

Ten years later, I still believe in women’s achievement. I still believe in attaining high positions and making a huge public impact on the world. And I still believe that women are great strategists. But I don’t believe in doing any of this at the expense of my primal, innate feminine self. Because that’s exactly the place I was operating from back then.

Though I wouldn’t have said it out loud, ten years ago I believed deep down that being feminine was part of women’s problem, and that the only way to get past the inferiority I felt and saw among my kind was to behave like “the oppressor” … ie: men.

Today, I’ve come to understand that no one can cage you or subjugate you in your own soul … except you. Slavery begins in the mind. It is an accepted state that is perpetuated in the body when people believe they can’t have anything else.

My femininity will not be subjugated to the slavery of women’s subconscious belief that they cannot have what they want, on their terms, and receive it in a deeply FLOWing, natural, connective and feminine way.

But I could only come to this conclusion once I recognized how my femininity had been wounded–both by un-conscious men acting out their ancestors’ behavior and perpetuating generations of pain toward women, and by women who had decided that the way God intended us to be (nurturing, natural, loving, soft, beautiful, tender, community-oriented, sensual, kind, gentle) was the reason for men’s bad behavior, not the solution.

For years, I didn’t “feel like a woman.” I didn’t “do makeup” or get dressed up in feminine clothes. And whenever I went to a gathering of women at my church or in the community, I felt like an awkward interloper to all that feminine energy I could feel in the room. And didn’t quite know why.

I wore newsboy caps and corduroy jackets. I bought lace-up shoes. If you had looked at me on the street, you might have categorized me as a “lesbian” by some cultural stereotype–which might be someone else’s choice of identity, yes, but certainly wasn’t mine.

Really, deep inside, I was just a very wounded woman at odds with everything that womanhood represents traditionally … because I felt that womanhood itself was the reason my mother and many other women in my life had struggled at the hands of men.

Today, I embrace that struggling, hurting woman I was, and I am so grateful to have been liberated into the realization that when I embrace who God made me to be, He will naturally open doors for me to thrive and rise … without me needing to “get my alpha on.”

I still love to achieve. I still desire to hold positions of power and influence. I still have goals, and I know how to reach them. This is part of the reason people might casually (and accidentally) label me an “alpha female.”

But the difference is: today, I am much closer (more often, at least l!) to relaxing joyfully into the woman God made me to be, and trusting Him to naturally open doors so I can receive my advancement … without the fundamental orientation toward sweat, striving and struggle that defines a masculine (not feminine) way of being.

Since I let go of struggle, and let go of my need to strategize for power, things have been so much different. And better. I still have struggle days, but the struggle is not so much within me.

I’ve been free to embrace long dresses, big earrings and makeup–whether or not they “command respect” in my workplace. I dance when I feel like, love small animals and small babies, and freely indulge my enjoyment of pampering and self-care. I’ve become more connected and community-oriented, even in how I support my coworkers. I revel in being beautiful and sharing that beauty with others, both men and women.

I still have power and am called to leadership–but I see them as a compliment to, not a competition for, my role and identity as a feminine woman.

Ten years ago, I would have never believed I could be that woman. Mostly because I believe that it wasn’t safe to be her.

For me personally, that’s the fundamental concern I have with so much “alpha female” behavior: that it might be coming from a place of fear.

An orientation toward power may feel like strength–but is it possible that the people most obsessed with power might be the ones who secretly believe they can’t really have it?

It’s easier sometimes to identify with the struggle than to simply think, speak and behave as if you deserve what you want, exactly as you are.

I am a woman. God imbued me with unique powers in my feminine essence and energy. Any power or influence I require in the world, He will handle. Doors open now without me pushing them. People hand me what I need or desire without sweat or striving … because God does it for me.

Though I may stand on the fundamental right of the “alpha woman”–the right to power–I do so in a feminine way. And I’m committed to doing so in a way that allows men to lead, as well, in the ways God has destined them to.

Please don’t call me an alpha. Call me a woman. Honor my femininity.

Anything less is a denial of my true strength–and yours, as well

What the “Touch of Jesus” Really Means for Healing

Kochi Beach, India. Photo courtesy of Glynson Bivera

Recently while reading my Bible, I came across the story of a woman’s healing that really gripped me. I’ve read it before, many times, but I never saw it the way I did this time around. It gave me a brand-new way to understand emotional healing that freed me to a whole new level … and I hope it blesses you, too.

“As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone.” – Luke 8:42-42 (ESV)

If you’re read the Gospels, you may recognize this as the story of the woman who had “an issue of blood.” Basically, this means she was plagued with some kind of perpetual bleeding for twelve years that could not be treated effectively by the medical wisdom of that day.

This story appears in three of the four Gospels: Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:24-34, and Luke 8:42-48. Two of three of the writers note that this woman had spent every penny she had on physicians, but nothing seemed to help. In other words: she was desperate.

Immediately I recognized myself in this text—even though I don’t have that woman’s same physical problem, for many years, I was plagued by emotional challenges that never really seemed to improve. I also thought a lot of other women might share my discovery by recognizing themselves in this story, too.

The “issue of blood” doesn’t have to be physical. Think about it in terms of any ongoing physical or emotional condition you may be experiencing: migraines, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal issues, eating disorders, negative self-talk, self-doubt, a tormenting lack of confidence: any condition that has robbed you of time, life and (of course) money going to rounds and rounds of doctors’ or therapists’ visits that never seem to heal to the real issue.

That’s what’s made this story suddenly so compelling for me: its complete hopelessness at the outset. This woman had gone out to experts, seeking solutions for a dozen years, and she’d never been able to get them.

And she’d bankrupted herself in the process.

There’s nothing more frustrating or disempowering than having a problem—any kind of physical or emotional pain—that turns into an endless prison you can never get free from. You go to “expert” after “expert,” walking away from each hopeful appointment with a progressively lighter wallet and heavier heart.

Can you relate? Does this resonate with you? It certainly does with me.

When I was struggling with the worst of my physical, emotional and spiritual pain following my divorce—which was really just the crescendo that woke me up to a lifetime of un-addressed trauma—I felt like all I did was try solutions that didn’t solve anything. I lost a ton of money in the process. And though I now walk now in total financial victory and freedom with God as my Provider, part of what He’s providing for right now is for me to pay off some residual debt associated with all those rounds of “treatment.”

In this state of poverty and hopelessness, the woman finally came to see Jesus.

“She came up behind [Jesus] and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.” – Luke 8:44 (ESV)

Such a simple recounting of a monumental event! The Mark version says, “She felt in her body that she was healed of the disease.” Our woman friend came to see Jesus. She touched nothing more than His garment. And instantly, she was whole.

Can you imagine? Actually sensing with your physical body the moment of release from your prison of pain?

Here we have this woman, who experienced the two-thousand-years-ago version of our modern treatment marathon. The text doesn’t say what her emotional state was, but she must have been desperate, because the Matthew version records her saying to herself, “If I can just get to Jesus, and touch the hem of his garment, I will be healed.”

If that’s not desperation, I don’t know what is. Other versions record that there was a huge crowd thronging Jesus the day He passed by the woman. She had to fight with the noise and the press of bodies. I doubt she was the strongest woman there that day, especially given her health issues, and yet, somehow, her desperation gave her determination. She strong-armed her way through the crowd and made it to the place where she could just touch the hem of Jesus’ garment as He passed by.

Think about that for a second.

She must have crouched down and reached between the ankles of people at the front of the crowd, just to touch a few threads of Jesus’ garment as he passed. Maybe it had a fringe, or tassels or some other kind of embroidery at the hem. Maybe that’s all her straining fingers could manage to brush.

Yet somehow, she made contact. And that single instant of contact changed her future.

Desperation also led her to take the most efficient action. She didn’t have money this time for more treatments. She wasn’t looking for a physical or psychological explanation for her pain. She just wanted the healing. Straight-up wellness, with no more hooplah, no more ten-step plans and no more excuses.

She just wanted to be well. And it shows … in the desperate measures she took to reach the last person she thought could help her.

I think that’s fascinating, actually, because I noticed in my own healing journey that there were times when I wasn’t really ready for 100% healing. I was ready for an explanation of my pain. I was ready for a treatment plan. I was ready to “do the work.” But I wasn’t really, truly, ready to be completely RELEASED of the weight I had been carrying around. Mostly because I had no idea what life would look like on the other side of my pain.

You might say, “Lisa, that’s crazy. I just want to be free of what I’m suffering in my body, mind and heart.”

I get that. But do you want it, really? Are you fully prepared for what your life will be like when you actually get free?

Sometimes the reason pain prolongs in our lives is because we’re holding on to it. We “get” something out of remaining in the situation we’re in. For me, I “got” a sense of comfort and identity from my pain. I got a twisted sense of safety. It was all I knew.

Inside my pain, somehow, I felt in control of my circumstances. The cage was comfortable and know-able. Everything on the other side was not.

The idea of living in total victory on the other side of anxiety, shame, low self-confidence, gastrointestinal disorders, weight fluctuation and everything else sounded good, yes. But in reality I was terribly afraid of a world where I didn’t face these things. It was the only world I knew.

The rounds and rounds and rounds of treatment—whether provided by a professional or undertaken by me in the form of self-help courses, support groups and hours of experimentation—kept me busy and feeling like I was moving forward. But in reality, they weren’t fixing the issue.

Can you relate?

“And Jesus said, ‘Who was it that touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.’” – Luke 8:45-46 (ESV)

So our woman friend is desperate. She goes to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and somehow succeeds. The text says, “And Jesus perceived that power had gone out of Him.” Some of the versions also say that He looked around and asked, “Who touched Me?”

His disciples thought He was crazy—because so many people were touching Him in the throng that day. How could it possibly be clear, who had touched the hem of His garment?

This desperate woman finally abandoned all the treatment plans and went straight to the Source of physical, emotional and spiritually healing. And Jesus, the Son of God, knew immediately when she had tapped into His power.

He was busy, but not too busy to notice her need and deliver the answer she sought.

Wow. That really hit me hard.

When we abandon our reliance on “treatment plans” and go straight to the Source of healing, He will know. Instantly. He’s not too busy to notice we’ve reached out to touch the hem of His garment. And today, with “instant access” to Jesus through prayer, we don’t have to push through a crowd to do it.

Please understand, I’m not saying you quit your doctor-approved treatment or stop going to your support group. I repeat: I am not encouraging you to go cold-turkey on your healing activities. I believe 100% in many healing practices, share them here and practice then myself.

But I am asking you to examine your heart and question whether, deep down, you truly believe that Jesus can free you from everything you’re facing, to the point that you will no longer need those healing practices or treatment plans in your life at some point? And whether you’re ready to let go of that pain so your hand is empty enough to reach out and touch Him?

So much of our physical pain has a root cause in our dis-ease of mind, emotions and spirit. As we allow Jesus to heal those root causes, many, many physical symptoms will ease or disappear completely. It happened to me, and it’s happened to many other women I know!

It might not happen instantly as it did for this woman. But by reaching out for the touch of Jesus, we ignite something powerful that will ultimately result in our healing if we submit to the process. And eventually we’ll feel the healing that’s happened deep inside.

That’s what happened to our friend, the woman. She felt that the disease (or dis-ease, as I prefer!) had gone out of her body.

Think about that.

Rarely in the Bible is it recorded that someone felt the healing. We hear that they got up and walked. Or that they could suddenly see. Or they could speak and praised God. But the feeling level is not often recorded. Not in the way it is here. As women we are so much more attuned to our feelings, and I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that this woman’s story is one of the few in Scripture where we read that she felt the healing.

Jesus felt the power go out of His body. The woman felt the healing come into hers. And it was that feeling, that sense, that encounter-from-a-distance that finally brought them face to face.

“And when the woman perceived that she was not hidden, she came trebling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And [Jesus] said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’” – Luke 8 :47-48 (ESV)

The Scripture records that Jesus stopped and asked who had touched him. In this environment, the woman was quickly forced to come out of hiding in the crowd and fall down at Jesus’ feet and confess what she had done. To me, the way the text is written, it suggests that the woman wanted to remain hiddden. Perhaps she was ashamed of her condition, or she was fearful He might reprimand or punish her for “stealing” a bit of His power.

Ultimately, however, she could not remain hidden. She had to ‘fess up in front of everyone. And when she does, Jesus treats her with compassion and even honor. Instead of reprimanding or embarrassing her, He blesses her for her faith.

“Go in peace, Daughter, your faith has made you whole.”

Your faith has made you whole.

Interestingly, Jesus never says, “My power made you whole.” Or “Your faith and my power, working together, made you whole.” He says, “Your faith has made you whole.”

What if the only thing standing between us and the healing we seek—for our minds, our emotions, our spirits and our bodies—is the faith to believe it’s truly possible?

What if we’re going everywhere else for answer, because deep down, we don’t really believe Jesus can provide the healing that we seek? And direct us to the exact people and resources that can help us heal?

I didn’t truly believe that for a long time. I intellectually knew Jesus as Healer. But I ran everywhere else for the treatment I needed instead of going straight to Him. This is strange, because there’s no crowd between me and Jesus, as there was for the woman. I can go directly to Him. And yet I didn’t.

I let all the other “healing stuff” stand the way–not as tools to be used by Jesus in my life, but as substitutes for Him as the Source.

As I said, today I believe wholeheartedly in many different methods of healing, and I teach them here on my blog and in my private counseling and coaching. But if it isn’t all coming from Jesus as the Source … it’s just not going to have long-term transformative effective.

This spring, even as I’ve experienced a tremendous season of shedding in my life, I’ve also taken huge leaps forward. I’ve opened my heart back up to life and to really, truly, fully living in a place beyond fear. And this story means more than ever to me now.

Despite the continual uncertainties I live with as a single expat woman in an expensive Gulf country, where I’m dependent on my employer for my visa and have a lot of needs to meet with one paycheck each month, and a lot of other challenging circumstances in my life … I have total peace.

Why? Because Jesus is my Source. It’s touching His garment in faith that delivers everything I need …. physical, emotional and spiritual.

So ask yourself today, “Where is my dependence?”

Is it in the doctors and the treatment plan? Or the next ten-step healing program? Have you gotten so caught up in healing modalities and all the things you need to “do” to heal, that you’ve forgotten to go straight to the One Who wants to heal you from the inside-out, with complete victory and no residual “side effects?”

Perhaps at the most basic level, do you really, truly believe you can be healed at all?

That’s perhaps the most powerful thing about the woman’s story. Despite everything she had been through with doctors and treatment-induced poverty, she still believed it was possible to live completely free of the condition that was literally leeching her life source–her blood–out of her.

If she didn’t, she wouldn’t have gone through all that trouble to get to Jesus.

Healing from any condition only becomes possible on the day we take the limits off. And we do that by having faith in the Only One who truly Iives beyond the limits of this world.

When you do, you may not experience instaneous healing in your body, but you will begin an amazing process of healing that will lead you, step by step into a life beyond your “label” and a calling that overpowers your “condition.”

Touch the garment of Jesus. Let Him call out to you face-to-face, and you most certainly will find more freedom in your body, mind and emotions than you ever thought possible.

I know, because it happened to me.

When I let go of all he treatment plans, and decided I did really want to live beyond my condition, and that I believed Jesus could do it … things changed. Radically. My flow of pain became a flow of healing and power.

So can yours. The flow of blood …. or negative thoughts, or gastrointestinal pain, or emotional heartache … or whatever “issue” is robbing you of your life force today …. can become a flow of health, healing and purpose beyond your wildest dreams.

Jesus is passing by today, beautiful woman. Will you reach out to Him?

Where Souls Cry: Walking the Berlin Wall

My entire life, I’ve heard about the Berlin Wall.

I was just six years old when it fell. Before 1989, it was something the newscaster spoke about on my mom’s radio programs. After 1989, it was something everyone looked back on. I vaguely remember my parents reading voraciously about the circumstances around this historic event which led to the reunification of Germany. 

Twenty-eight years later, I got a chance to see and touch it for myself. 

On a blustery day in December I bundled up myself and leashed Sam the dog—the Aussie shepherd I was pet sitting, who already had a bundle of fur to keep him warm. It took us about twenty minutes to walk to the Wall Memorial from Sam’s owners’ flat.

Later, I found another Wall guard tower right in our neighborhood an learned the Wall ran almost literally under the flat itself. But I didn’t know that yet. So I took Sam for a walk in the park where parts of the Wall are now preserved for posterity, along with gravestones and various sculptural pieces. Nearby also stood the Wall Memorial Museum, a chapel dedicated to the memory of victims, and other sites of interest.  

I’m glad I took Sam with me. I cannot now imagine having done the Wall Memorial without his gentle, steady canine presence.  

Mostly because for the first time in my life, I could hear the spirits screaming.  

Let’s face it: the ground of Berlin is soaked in blood. 

It’s not just the blood of Jews. It’s also the blood of Germans trying to cross from East to West. The blood of the Roma people who were slaughtered en masse, and other nationalities too. I told someone later that Berlin, to me, seemed like a giant collection of “apology monuments”—places now dedicated to memorial, for atrocities committed against some internal group who had once found shelter on that ground.  

The Berlin Wall Memorial just happens to be the most famous.  

I found it particularly moving to walk past the names and photos of individuals killed while trying to cross the Wall. As I viewed each face, I wondered, “Whose son is that? Whose sister? Did their families ever know what happened to them, or did they simply leave—and never return?” 

The atmosphere in the park was appropriately subdued. People walked from place to place, murmuring to one another. Taking discrete photos that seemed less voyeuristic and more commemorative. Over it all, a weak European winter sun shone down, its diffuse light softening the harsh contraption of concrete-and-wire that was all now left of the wall. 

I think perhaps the most bearable part of the whole experience was the chapel.  

Somehow, in the middle of a space where the spirits of the dead still cry out for full justice, that place was a refuge. I could not take Sam inside, so we only stood at the threshold. But even as we stood there I drank in the serenity of that faith-designated ground.  

In the middle of despair and chaos, the church represented hope and peace.  

In the middle of loss, the church represented eternal rest. 

In the middle of pain, the church was a balm for the soul.  

Though what happened in Germany during those terrible years cannot be altered, the future still remains to be written. It would have been easy for me to avoid the Wall Memorial altogether during my time in Berlin. But I’m glad I went. The chance to pay my respects. To understand more of what happened and gain greater perspective. The opportunity to hear those souls crying out from the ground and know that spiritual warfare is real. 

Sometimes the most uncomfortable places are the most important ones for us to visit.  

Just … take a big, empathic Aussie Shepherd with you if you can.  

I promise, it makes all the difference. 

On Emigrating in the 21st Century

Me, my first week in Dubai — August 2018

At the turn of the 20th century, a young Polish woman got on a boat bound for America. She was a land-owner’s daughter, likely accustomed to some amount of privilege, and even possibly to an ancient title of minor nobility. Yet she left it all behind to join her sister—who was already settled in a far-off place called Ohio.

The reason? An intolerable home situation. Her mother had passed away, and when her father remarried, he chose a woman not much older than his younger daughter. The two women, it turns out, didn’t get along so well.

I think I’d get a boat for the same reason. Probably more so because I’m related to that young Polish woman—as her great-great granddaughter.

Fast-forward one hundred years, and I got on a plane in Chicago this past August with the same intention my ancestor had when she said goodbye to her native land. Except that instead of going to the “land of promise,” as America was then known, I flew east, past Great-Great Grandma’s native land to a place that, back when she lived, hadn’t even yet met Lawrence of Arabia.

I doubt Great-Great Grandma ever thought much about Arabia, except perhaps to see an old lithograph or two in a Polish geography book in school. But here I am, also an emigre, just for different reasons.

Perhaps some things really do “run in the family.”

I should probably clarify at this point that no one really immigrates to the United Arab Emirates. You come here to work. Or you come with someone who’s been hired to work. And when you don’t work anymore—or your sponsor doesn’t—you leave. Period. This country doesn’t give permanent residence visas, unless you’re a property investor or a retiree with more than $300,000 US in the bank that you strictly don’t touch.

Still, every day, this dusty jungle of sand and steel welcomes the world’s misfits, from West and East alike, with open arms. And we embrace this once-forgotten, now-flourishing desert as our own, for as long as the strength of our hands and the economy will allow. Or in my case, as long as God chooses to keep me here.

I’ve thought a lot about Great-Great Grandma since I arrived here. I honestly don’t know her name, other than that her last name was (oddly enough) “Organic.” Probably a butchering of some beautiful Polish name an Ellis Island officer couldn’t spell, yo. But I now understand with much more empathy how much courage she must have had, and the dreams she must have entertained coming to the U.S.

My mother has a few memories of her great-grandmother, caring for my mom when she (mom) was very very young, at her Ohio home. Great-great Grandma married and built a life for herself in the U.S., yes. But she never learned much English. To this day, occasionally my mom uses a Polish word (like “yaitsa” for “egg”) which she learned at Great-Great Grandma’s house.

I, by contrast, landed in a country that favors Arabic as a political policy, but where in practice English is the national language. I could talk to almost anyone upon arrival. (Of course, understanding their accents has been another exercise in itself.)

Like Great-Great Grandma, however, I rub shoulders every day with people who came from vastly different places than me. And we’re all here for one reason only:

Opportunity.

(Or for some of us oddballs, the call of God. But that’s another story for another day.)

It’s a strange day in the world when a girl with an American passport leaves home to seek opportunities elsewhere. I’m sure Great-Great Grandma never thought she’d see such a day come when America was not the only real center of opportunity. For many it still is, but for me, in God’s good plan for my life, it was a worn-out door swinging shut on rusty hinges.

I don’t regret coming to the United Arab Emirates at all. The pace of life in Dubai is insane—let’s just get that out there—but it’s also an amazing place. I’ve made incredible friends from all over the world, traveled easily to places that take forever to reach from America, and been blessed with a new measure of financial stability after several years of relying solely, like Elijah, on the ravens of God for food.

But I still can’t help feeling a pang of homesickness every now and then. The people, the places, the food. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with a vivid vision of some place in Milwaukee—the verdant slopes of South Shore Park, for example, on the beach of Lake Michigan—that I deeply love. The last summer I spent in Milwaukee was a glorious finale to ten years of loving that place very deeply and experiencing the very best of it.

Then, one day it was gone. I took off on a plane and, three planes later, got off in Ellis Island, which for me was the glittering marble and chrome of Dubai International Airport, where I was suddenly in line behind Indian women in colorful kurtas and Arab women, their whole bodies covered in black.

Life is strange, isn’t it?

Perhaps wanderlust is just in the family genes. Or perhaps God really does allow us to play out experiences of our ancestors, all over again, redeeming them for His purposes. I don’t know anything about my great-great grandmother’s spiritual life or beliefs. I don’t know if there were any other God-fearing prophetic women in my lineage.

But out of their experiences, God birthed me. And though I traveled here for Him—and not as an escape for an intolerable home situation—I still send love and respect to the memory of Great-Great Grandma.

Her courage was an example for me, long before I knew I’d even need that same courage myself.

Turn of the 20th century. Turn of the 21st …

The cycles of life continue.

The Water Is Within: Why Everything You’re Looking for, You Already Have

“If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The high-rises of Dubai Marina (my neighborhood), as reflected in the Arabian Gulf

Have you ever looked really hard for something you were sure must be available, only to give up your search? Perhaps it was a last-minute Christmas gift when all the racks are picked over. Or the perfect dress you needed—but couldn’t find—for an upcoming gala. Nothing’s worse than a search undertaken under pressure. The clock is ticking. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, it will soon be too late.

Life can feel like that sometimes. I don’t know about you, but I am often in a frantic search for purpose, significance, creative inspiration and (yes, let’s be honest) more money. I’m keeping my eyes peeled everywhere I go for that one “magic thing” I want. My search for a marriage partner was like this for many years. Can you relate?

It’s like keeping your eyes peeled for an oasis on a torturous trek through the desert.

If only we can find that thing “out there,” we’ll survive the heat.

Or so we think.

Lately I’ve come to realize more than ever that the search for all of this is never outside of ourselves. It’s always within. The next book, the next course, the next man, even the next gathering at church—all these are good things that can become our own personal definition of a mirage because they won’t slake the thirst we feel.

What if you’re wasting your time wandering around like that, looking for something you’re never going to find outside yourself? If you are a believer, God has already provided everything you need to feel significant, purposeful, loved, creative and financially free. And what if, as a believer in Jesus, you already have all that inside you through the Holy Spirit?

It would be a shame to keep searching for the mirage, growing fainter by the moment, when you’ve got a freely-flowing fountain deep within (Psalm 36:8-9).

And yet, that’s what we do with God. We forget the Holy Spirit is always with us, ready to guide us into all truth, if we’ll just ask (John 16:13). It’s so much easier, after all, to focus on what’s in front of our faces. And if we’re being honest, searching for the answer is addictive in itself.

You can be so hooked on searching that deep down, you’ll do anything to keep yourself from really, truly finding. So what if you bought one less course, went on one less date and cancelled, yes, even that church bowling event—just so you could spend time drinking at the well that is already within you?

In my own search to assuage the pain inside and make sense of the chaos of my life, the running only stopped when I decided to stand still.

The less I did to solve my problems, the more God presented the solutions I needed.

The less I chased people or opportunities, the more God put the right ones in front of me.

The more time I spent with God, the better my experiences became in the outside world, and the more creative I began to feel.

When my inside “woke up” to the reality of the authority, power and provision God had already planted deep within me by His Spirit, my outer world began to take care of itself.

This was most evident in my search for love following my divorce, which was really a three-year journey to heal my own love wounds from childhood through adulthood, and become a clean channel, able to receive the full flow of God’s love to me and give it back to others. (Still a work in progress, but I’m happy to say I’ve come a very long way!)

In this journey, I was convinced once I had successfully created another union with healthier patterns than the last one, I would arrive at the oasis. As a girlfriend, fiancée or wife again, I would have a chance to rewrite my story and change the future for myself, my new husband and my eventual children.

But you know what?

None of those efforts worked out.

No matter how much I changed myself, refined my thoughts and behaviors or stepped outside my comfort zone to embrace healing … all of which was amazing and helpful, by the way … I still didn’t get the results I was looking for.

Then one day, I realized: there was nothing to fix. Jesus took the penalty for all my mistakes on the cross. And He would carry the wounds from my childhood if I asked, so I didn’t have to anymore. I was already loved unconditionally, accepted fully in the beloved; I just wasn’t living my life as a loved, accepted woman (Ephesians 1:6).

And the real reason none of those relationships (including my marriage, I believe) lasted?

Because God loved me so much, He did whatever it took to bring me to the point where I was dependent on Him for love, and not on another human being. Even if it meant allowing the dissolution of relationships I had cherished—even ones that are supposed to last a lifetime.

What felt like pain was really the most amazing form of “tough love” designed to bring me into greater levels of life. The day I recognized my true worth, and the level of love and acceptance God already has for me, was the day I found my freedom from the past and finally stepped beyond the limits of my own need for companionship. My three-year journey to learn how to love culminated in the reality that I was loved already. There was nothing to find, improve or create (Psalm 136:26).

Would I still love to be in an amazing partnership? Absolutely. I still pray and believe for this outcome in my future. But I don’t “need” to be in a relationship to slake the thirst inside, or to heal my past love wounds.

I am God’s amazing daughter, and I walk right now in more radical love, acceptance and provision than any human could deliver me. And I always will, from now until the end of time.

I’m not waiting for the oasis to show up on the horizon.

The fountain lies within.