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Tasting Truth

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”   Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)

I am reading Taste for Truth and it has been a very enlightening journey.   Instead of using a specific diet plan or digging into the reasons why people overeat, this study focuses on the boundaries we may need and the renewing of the mind in order to gain freedom from the control of food.

I started drinking at age 15.  By age 18, I was using alcohol daily to cope with my home life.  I liked the way alcohol made me feel and how it made me more outgoing.

I continued drinking in my early to mid-20’s, but quit a couple of years before I became a mom.  I didn’t enjoy hangovers and had started to take notice of coworkers, family and friends whose lives were out of control because of alcohol or drug abuse.  I am one of the fortunate rare people who could stop using alcohol without support and have had less than 10 beers over the last 30 years.

Sometime in my late-20’s, I replaced my alcohol usage with food.  Unlike alcohol or drugs, our bodies need food so overeating is the acceptable addiction in our society.  I ate when my stress level went up because I took on too many volunteer positions.  Like many people, I often ate too much at celebrations.  My overeating was the most out of control when I had to deal with stressful family situations.

One particular time was the last time I saw my father.  My siblings and I were were physically, mentally and verbally abused by this man, so visiting him was extremely nerve-racking for me.  I hadn’t seen him in over 20 years, but my sister and I had to visit him before cancer took his life so we could ensure that our grandmother was taken care of.  I had a strong urge to get a drink after leaving his house, but thankfully my sister was doing the driving and wouldn’t allow it (thanks, Little Sis  ❤ ).  Instead of alcohol,  we both self-medicated with pasta and cannoli.   I can look back on that event now and realize that using food wasn’t any different than using booze.

day-23-tft

We have an enemy who wants to use our weaknesses so we are ineffective for the Lord’s work.  Through this study, I realized that I have spent more time overeating than renewing my mind.  By renewing my mind, this was my very first Thanksgiving that I DID NOT overeat and I feel I finally have gained control over food!!  Thank you, Jesus!!! 

If your story is similar and would like to learn how to break free from the stronghold of overeating, I will be leading an online study of Taste for Truth  beginning on January 2nd – February 24, 2017.  There is a companion book, I Deserve a Donut that is available in paperback, a Kindle version, and even an iPhone or android app (I purchased the Kindle version of Taste for Truth and the iPhone app of I Deserve a Donut for under $10).  You can click on the links to the books to look inside them and/or read the reviews.  The online study will take place in a secret Facebook group where only the members will be able to read your posts.  Feel free to email me at plewing@hotmail.com if you have any questions or visit http://barbraveling.com/  for more information on the author and her books.

Keeping My Gaze Forward

My kids have told me that I have adult ADD because I get easily distracted.  I dislike hate how I sometimes allow things of this world or memories of my past draw me away from the things of God.  

 gaze

I desire to honor the LORD with not only my actions, but also with my thoughts.  I often wonder if the Apostle Paul was tormented by his past.  If he did, he didn’t allow his prior persecution of Christians to hinder his serving the LORD.   Philippians 3:12-21 shows how he pressed forward:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.  Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.  For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

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Heavenly Father, thank You for Your grace.  Thank You for loving me even when I sometimes gaze back.  Please forgive how I get distracted with the things of this world and help me to keep my eyes focused on You and Your work here.  Please guide me, Holy Spirit, and correct me when my mind wanders.  In Jesus’ Name I pray, so You will be glorified.  Amen. 

Being a better soldier in 2016

 We’ve had a lot of family turmoil the last few weeks all stemming from a divorce that took place over 8 years ago. There is now a very complicated custody battle. While we refuse to take sides, my husband and I have corrected family members who are not being biblical in their actions. This divorce occurred because a man was unfaithful to his wife and his mistress was unfaithful to her husband. The husband is now seeking full custody of his children from his first marriage and wanting his first wife to pay child support. Family members are saying unkind things about other family members, and frankly, we’re saddened by the un-Christlike attitudes we’re seeing.

In all this, I’ve been studying faithfulness and realized I have not been a “good soldier” in my faithfulness to the LORD.  I am refocusing on my faithfulness in 2016:

 “So then, you, my son, be empowered by the grace that comes from the Messiah Yeshua. And the things you heard from me, which were supported by many witnesses, these things commit to faithful people, such as will be competent to teach others also. Accept your share in suffering disgrace as a good soldier of the Messiah Yeshua.”  2 Timothy 2:1-3 (Complete Jewish Bible)

““But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self control.”
Galatians 5:22-23a (ESV)

fruit of the spirit

I’m dedicating 2016 as my year of faithfulness: faithful in studying His Word, faithful to my husband, faithful to my family, faithful to my church family, faithful in ministry to the ladies I serve at Trades of Hope, and faithful in taking care of my body.

Praying you have a blessed Christmas season and a joyous 2016!!

My New Adventure

In August my daughter and I took our first (and last!) cruise. I had heard from so many how awesome cruising is, so I used my free air travel points and found a half-price special on Royal Caribbean 4-day cruise in the Bahamas. While the staff and service was impeccable, it was our trip to Nassau that opened my eyes. I thought I had done enough research on Nassau, and chose to tour the island using a local taxi service that drove us around for 3 ½ hours. I knew about Haiti’s poverty from the mission trips friends and family members had taken, but all the information I had read about Nassau did NOT prepare me for the poverty there. While one half of the island is filled with gorgeous luxury hotels and giant vacation homes, the other half has small shacks where most Bahamians live.

We chose to NOT drive by Atlantis and also did NOT shop in the designer gift shops that are all within walking distance from the port. We ate conch at a local restaurant and tried to find locally crafted items to purchase to help locals. We found that most of the items being sold were factory made bracelets and bags from China. We purchased some conch shells sold out of a fisherman’s boat.

I came home with a heavy heart wanting to do more to help people get out of poverty. I knew I could save money by doing without things like the occasional manicure and shop more at Goodwill, but I wanted to do more than just donate money.  A friend sold beautiful handmade jewelry made by women from around the world, so I started asking more questions. These items are made by small groups of artisans who are working their way out of poverty and desperate circumstances including slums, sweatshops, and the sex trade. They live all over the world: Haiti, Uganda, Guatemala, Costa Rica, India and Cambodia… even here in the United States! These women don’t want charity, they want opportunity!  I made my first purchase in August and was DELIGHTED with the quality and beauty of my purchases!!

On September 11th I signed up to become a Compassionate Entrepreneur with Trades of Hope.  I am not doing this to make money for myself.  I am giving back ALL my commissions from Trades of Hope. The proceeds from my first Trades of Hope party went towards the travel expenses of a single Army mom so she can see her son graduate from Boot Camp.

My October commissions will go to Organization of Autism Research.
Click here to shop my Trades of Hope party to benefit autism research

Pat's blue

My November  commissions will be used to buy rice and beans for students in Haiti at Christmas.  Click here to shop my Trades of Hope party for rice & beans for Haitian students

haiti riceIf you’ve looked at some of Trades of Hope’s items and are thinking to yourself, “Hey, I could have my own party just by purchasing Christmas gifts”, you CAN do that!! All you need to do is purchase at least $150 to start earning hostess awards — at $150 you’ll get $15 host dollars to spend and then you can also purchase one item at ½ off. If one of your friends or family members confirms another party, you’ll earn another ½ price item!!  Just let me know below if you’d like more information.  Your party will have a triple purpose: helping the artisans, helping autism research or Haitian students, and then helping you with holiday shopping!!

Personal Party

Cruising Isn’t For Everyone

I’ve been home from my first cruise for 2 weeks now.  I needed to process everything that happened and read Scripture before I wrote about it. Be forewarned that this is the longest post I’ve ever written.

Let me begin with how superb the Royal Caribbean staff was. From the moment we went aboard, the entire crew was concerned for our comfort. They seemed genuinely worried about me when I became seasick, and our waiter sent up green apples and crackers when I was unable to finish my dinner. Our stateroom attendant, Pat, kept asking my daughter how I was doing because I slept 12 hours straight. Each and every RCC staff member was extremely helpful and polite.

Our stateroom attendant worked meticulously to keep our room clean; she must have gone in there at least 4 times a day. Each time we saw Pat, she would inquire how our meal was or how our day was going.  Not only did Pat clean and straighten our room, but she also put fresh towels in our room while we were at dinner — I honestly believe Pat made it her mission to ensure that we never had to use a towel more than once!  On our last cruise night I could see that she and the other stateroom attendants were all extremely busy preparing for our disembarkment and getting things ready for a fresh batch of cruisers, so I told Pat that we didn’t need anything and she didn’t have to go in our room.  She nodded, but that sweet, hardworking lady still went in and changed out our towels! Besides fresh towels, each evening she would turn on the reading lights over our beds and store away our bed coverlets. Her towel animals were adorable.

swan

 I had researched from 3 different sources about the sights to see on Nassau and found a highly rated taxi service to take us around the entire island. None of my reading prepared me for the extreme poverty on one half of island with the other half filled with designer stores, restaurants and bars to pull in tourists.  The mansions and lavish hotels such as Atlantis were too difficult to admire after we had seen tiny, rundown shacks of the poor. We learned that the big attraction to Nassau is the shopping, which is strategically placed within walking distance from where passengers get off the ships (I believe there were 4 ships docked the day we were there).  After our 3 1/2 hour taxi tour, my daughter and I only shopped for a few simple gifts, and chose to spend most of our money on conch shells sold out of a boat by a local fisherman and eating delicious fried conch at a small local restaurant.

We were disgusted how tourists of all nationalities pushed and shoved their way on lines for excursions, to get back on the ships, and then again when we went through customs. And not just Americans — two who really stood out to me were a Chinese lady who deliberately cut in front of me and an Australian lady who pushed her way in front of me.  When the Australian lady got in front of me she had left her children behind her, so I motioned to her teenagers to go on up with their mother. I then realized she that had also left her husband behind so I said, “Sir, you can get in front of us so you can wait with your family”. His teenage son replied, “He can stay back there.” After a few minutes he finally moved up with his family, probably embarrassed of his wife and son’s rudeness. Many more cut in front of us and I knew God was teaching me a lesson.

Luxury can create selfish, nasty human beings. Adults and children left their empty glasses and dirty plates all over the ship for the staff to pick up. I witnessed people eating food in the Jacuzzi and then the staff had to pick up their dishes left on the ledges of the Jacuzzi. Parents overindulged their children, leaving their teenagers to roam in an area designed specifically for teens and signing their younger children over to attendants in a special babysitting area to be entertained all day. Many of the children spoke rudely, too. As we were preparing to head to our cruise ship I saw a family all decked out in cute Disney swim trunks and tee shirts. When I told the oldest little boy (about 4 or 5 years old), “It sure looks like you all are in for some fun”, he replied to me in a very nasty tone, “Well, we are going on a Disney cruise.” Yes, that little boy did indeed put emphasis on “are”.

I will always treasure the time I got to spend with my daughter. We both enjoyed the delicious and beautifully prepared food — which, thankfully, I could not eat a lot of because I was dizzy and nauseous the entire time cruising and then 5 days after. The food was abundant, but we were pretty good about choosing to eat healthy fruit instead of the rich desserts. 😉 Besides spending time and relaxing with my dear daughter, my favorite part was watching the sunrise and sunset from the very top of the ship — the indescribable beauty of our Creator was breathtaking.

sunset

2nd day

Our time on the cruise line’s private cay was also wonderful. We got up super early to go kayaking where we were able to see live conch, sting ray, and barracuda. Afterward, we trekked to the other side of the cay where there was only a handful of people and lounged under a palm tree that we got to call our own for a few hours. I could have spent days enjoying the sunshine, walking on soft sands, picking up shells, admiring the gorgeous blue/green ocean and watching the tiny hermit crabs scurry along the beach.

palm treeThe desire to go on a cruise came from listening to many Christians who have gone on cruises, some who even go on them a few times a year. I honestly do not understand the draw. I know part of the reason I don’t understand is because I am not an extravagant person — I prefer to find my clothing on sale or at a thrift store. I don’t wear expensive jewelry, and wear a simple gold band and a silver ring with ichthus (Christian fish) on my ring finger instead of my diamond wedding ring. We rarely go out eat and it’s usually Chili’s or a salad from Wendy’s. Even though one of our airfares was paid for with points and one cruise fare was half-off, I realized cruising is just too much of a luxury for me.

The rudeness of the passengers on our ship and the other ships left a bitter taste in my mouth for cruising. I was also disappointed when passengers wouldn’t make small talk with me. When my daughter and I discussed all that had transpired on our cruise, my heart broke as she shared how no one would even speak to her when she explored the ship by herself the first night that I was so sick.  The only person who started a conversation with me occurred on the third morning as I was watching the sunrise. I was enjoying my coffee and taking it all in, marveling at God’s beauty and thanking Him for allowing me to see it ( I am a former Long Islander living in Missouri now and I miss the ocean so much). This beautiful, white-haired lady walking by said to me, “Isn’t it gorgeous? We just don’t have sunrises like this in Missouri.” I chuckled and we talked a bit, and we found out we lived only an hour and half from each other. God’s provision always amazes me.

At first I thought I smelled (yes, I actually checked because I sweated profusely when I became seasick on the first night). It was definitely something about the cruise because I was able to make small talk with people in the airport, with passengers on the plane, and with the customs people. Maybe people were so unfriendly and rude because they were on expensive vacation and just wanted to be left alone? Maybe it was the type of people on the cruise?

As I shared my experience with an older lady from church, she asked me what I learned spiritually. Scripture says we are not to live life so lavishly. I am a servant first, and that was why I was so uncomfortable with the impeccable service. We are to serve others, not be served.

“You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence.” James 5:5a (ESV)

“but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives” 1 Timothy 5:6 (ESV)

“But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” 1 Timothy 6:8-10 (ESV)


So my question to Christians who cruise: Why do you enjoy cruises?