Before you…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 3, 2011 by Kristen Cox

Before you….

Indian Summer

Posted in Uncategorized on November 4, 2009 by Kristen Cox

Day 47

Days to go: 318

Miles Walked: 51

Miles to go: 949

 

Stop!  Stop right there!

Did you see it?  I mean, did you really look?

51 miles.  5-1 miles!  F-I-F-T-Y-O-N-E miles!

WOOOOOOOOOOOOO  HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

Ok…There’s still more in me. I gotta let it out.

WOOOOoooOOOOOOOOO  HOOOoooOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

51! What a gorgeous number!  I’m back on my feet and back on the pavement. Hopefully the worst of the kidney thing is behind me.  I am feeling good!

I finished my 2 mile walk for today just moments ago.  The sweat is still glistening on my brow, and my now-empty Dasani water bottle is sitting here on my desk in silent testimony of the feat.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous setting out.  Since I’d been sick, it had been several days since I’d walked that distance.  When I tried just one mile on Monday, it wasn’t pretty.  But today’s walk felt great! 

I haven’t timed the two-mile thing in a while. Last time I did, it took me 52 minutes to finish that distance.  I thought I might be slower than that today, since I’ve been under the weather…but I came in at 46 minutes!  I’m getting stronger and faster, step by step!

It was just beautiful outside today…an Oklahoma Indian Summer day. I remembered what I am growing to love about walking. (Wow…did I just say I am growing to love anything about any form of exercise?  Stop the press – this girl is definitely changing!)   I do. I just love being out under that big blue sky, feeling the sun and the breeze on my face.  It wakes me up.  It makes me feel so connected with God and the world He has made.  The coolest part was, as I set out today, I felt like Jesus just couldn’t wait.  I sensed His anticipation – it was as if He’d missed our walks too.  He seemed so ready to hang out – with me! Me!

True confession – I just looked up the term “Indian Summer” to make sure I used it correctly in the paragraph above. I did.  (Whew – that should make me and everyone who shared my concern feel much better!)   As I looked it up, I came across a great alternative definition. Wikipedia, my dubious online source, states “The term ‘Indian summer’ is also used metaphorically to refer to a late-blooming of something, often unexpectedly…” 

I LOVE that!  

I am going through an “Indian Summer” of my own…and it is so wonderfully unexpected.

I thought it was too late for hope. 

I thought it was too late to change.

I thought it was too late to heal.

I thought it was too late to find freedom.

I thought it was too late to learn to give and receive love.  

I thought it was too late to really know Jesus and experience the plans He has for me.

I thought it was too late…

I thought winter had come.

Jesus…my Jesus.  Thank you…for late bloomers, second chances, and Indian Summer days like this one.

My Mashed Potato Jesus…

Posted in Uncategorized on October 25, 2009 by Kristen Cox

Day 37

Days to go: 328

Miles Walked: 42

Miles to go: 958

 

Jesus is a lot like mashed potatoes.

This surprises me. I’ve always thought of Him more like salad.

I love mashed potatoes – and I come by it honestly.  My entire family is head-over-heels for those carb-laden, whipped wonders.  

To give you a glimpse of the depth of our adoration, I should probably explain. At Thanksgiving, the turkey is not the star at our banquet.  No indeed! At the Cox house, the real headliner is the heaping, steaming, mashed and oh-so-creamy mound of tater perfection, complete with that tiny crater of melted butter at the summit, the depths of which we all secretly picture ourselves diving into with uncontained glee. Yes, it is the bowl of mashed potatoes that draws forth the exclamations of praise and wonder at my family’s holiday feasts.

Throughout my life, whenever I have been blessed enough to partake of mashed potatoes at any meal, (and I mean REAL mashed potatoes – gotta keep ‘em real!), I know before I even take a bite that they will satisfy me.  I start with them, eagerly relishing several bites before moving on to other obligatory courses like meat and cooked veggies.  I am careful not to eat through my entire spud ration too quickly.  I pace myself, making sure a bite or two await me at the end, once I have paid necessary homage to the other things on my plate.

At some point during the meal, I usually notice a big bowl of salad somewhere on the table. Once I see it, the internal battle begins.  I tell myself that I should probably eat some salad.  I’ve read in lots of places and heard from lots of folks that green leafy things are good for me.  I’ve been told they’re packed with vitamins. (What are vitamins, anyway? I mean, really?)  I ease my conscience by reaching for the bowl and placing some salad on my plate.  I even go to the trouble to make sure I get a tomato, red onion, and a carrot or two for color and variety.  I feel better about dishing up the salad, and I go right back to my potatoes.  It’s true. I am notorious in my family for dishing up salad for myself that I never eat. 

That’s how I’ve been with Jesus.  I’ve heard He’s good for me. I’ve told myself He’s good for me.  I’ve even kept a Bible nearby, gathering dust in a very prominent spot, so I can reach for it should I experience some sudden desire to actually do something good for me for once.  But in the back of my mind, I’ve thought of Him like salad – so I’ve never reached for Him first, and I seldom get around to tasting Him at all.

Here’s the thing.  Salad doesn’t satisfy me like mashed potatoes do.  I am convinced that I could munch through an entire head of lettuce and still not feel as full and satisfied as I do after a reasonable helping of mashed potatoes. (Mind you, this is theory. I’ve never eaten an entire head of lettuce in one sitting. Come to think of it, I’ve never had a “reasonable” helping of mashed potatoes either.)  

Salad doesn’t comfort me like mashed potatoes do.  That’s why mashed potatoes are called “comfort food.” They find the cracks and crevices in your tummy and in your heart, and fill them with sympathetic warmth. Salad is edgy and abrasive and emotionally distant. 

Mashed potatoes are a hug from your favorite grandma.  Salad is a nod of approval from your high school geometry teacher.  I’ve always put Jesus in the “salad, high-school-math-teacher” category.  I was so wrong about Him!

Psalm 34:8 says to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”  I’ve read that many times, but I’ve always read it a little differently.  My version has always said “Taste and see that the Lord is good for you.”

The truth is, Jesus IS good for me, but that isn’t all He is!  He’s also just so good.

When I’m scared, He gives me peace.

When I am hurt, He comforts and heals.

When I’m lonely, I feel His presence.

When I celebrate, He dances.

When I smile, He smiles too.

I always thought the most I could ever hope for in my relationship with Jesus was dutiful, nutritious obedience that yielded positive, healthful results.  As I walk out my relationship with Him, I’m discovering that the benefits of knowing Him extend far beyond spiritual nutrition and mere duty.

He is my constant companion, my love, and my friend.  He understands me perfectly, corrects me so gently, and loves me, loves me, loves me! 

He satisfies.  Oh, He more than satisfies!

Yes, I had Him pegged all wrong.  Jesus isn’t really like salad after all. 

Jesus is definitely like mashed potatoes…

 

with gravy. 🙂

Broken

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2009 by Kristen Cox

Day 34

Days to go: 331

Miles Walked: 38

Miles to go: 962

Disclaimer:  This posting may not be suitable for children (or for grown-ups seeking mere entertainment.)

 

There’s been some bloodshed. 

Tonight, I went to my Thursday night discipleship group.  I look forward to Thursdays.

It wasn’t always like this. I remember a time when I dreaded Thursday nights.  They were messy.  They undid me – the well-constructed, posed, addictive me.

This group isn’t a church, and it isn’t affiliated with any church – although the leaders encourage us to be a part of a church body of our choosing.  It is a place where a group of broken and seeking people come together. We worship.  Then we hear a teaching about who God really is and who we really are because of Him.  

We usually break up into small groups. Confidentiality is paramount. We even sign a written agreement committing ourselves to it.  This is to provide a safe place where we can be real before God and before other believers.  Confession and cleansing take place. As we gather, we encounter Jesus in places that we have been afraid to let Him near.  

Posing and pretense are hard to maintain on Thursday nights – hence my undoing.

I’ve been attending this group for about a year and a half.  (Actually, I started to attend about 9 years ago, but the honesty I encountered there sent me running for the hills.  A year and a half ago, I timidly returned.)

Thursday nights haven’t changed much, but I have.  More precisely, encountering Jesus has changed me.  Don’t get me wrong.  Thursday nights still undo me.  It’s just that now, I am longing, even begging to be undone.

The Jesus who shows up on Thursday nights isn’t the pastel-hued cartoon I encountered in my Sunday School storybooks growing up.  That Jesus often seemed like a very important but distant relative of Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland. He was pleasant, remote, and tame. 

Thursday night Jesus isn’t like that. No, this Jesus I am coming to know is extremely personal. He is a lover who beckons to me over and over again, asking me to let Him into all of me. Sometimes he woos me , similar to the way you might try to assist a wounded animal, speaking gently and coaxing me to a place of trust. But not always.

I sense a shift in our relationship. It seems He has decided it is time to dispense with the social niceties and benign small talk that I retreat to when I want to keep a safe distance.  These days, Jesus isn’t as polite and predictable and irrelevant as I sometimes wish He would be. He is a renegade, a revolutionary who will never stop pursuing until He gets what He wants – and what He wants is my whole heart and my complete restoration.

Even then, He won’t stop.

He is God and flesh and blood and sweat. He is beyond my control. He’s an untamed Savior, committed to entering my most painful and sinful cages and encountering me there. He seems so determined to set me free, and half the time I’m not even sure I know what that means.  Strike that – I’m very sure I don’t know what that means. 

But when I look to Him, I see the fiercest, most passionate, most protective love I have ever known, and I find my resistance melting.

Tonight, He encountered me in a place that few have ever visited with me.  Some very important part of me is shattered, there on the dirty floor of this dark and filthy room.  It has been this way for such a long time, I don’t remember what the pieces look like intact.  I have no memory of wholeness in this place.

I don’t often visit this room – but when I do, I desperately begin to try to put the pieces together on my own.  It is a little bit like trying to put together an infinitely large jigsaw puzzle with no picture to look at as a guide.  This puzzle is like broken glass. The more I try to put it together, the more I cut myself on the sharp edges.   

Tonight, I clearly heard Him speaking to my heart, saying “Enough, Kristen. Enough. I love you, and I won’t have this anymore.”  

He asked me to give Him the pieces.  Even as He asked, I felt my grip tighten.  The pieces I clutch most desperately are especially sharp and jagged.  They hurt me, and I bleed – but my instinct still screams at me, telling me to keep them and guard them and find a way to wholeness on my own. 

Oh, Jesus – rid me of this debilitating self-sufficiency.

Tonight, with bloody and trembling hands, I gave the pieces to Jesus.  As I placed them in his nail-scarred hands, I was reminded of the blood He shed when He took my place.

He knows brokenness so well.   He was broken for me.

I may have forgotten what wholeness in this place looks like, but He assures me that He remembers.  He has promised to put me back together. I am going to stay with Him, here in this place, until He does.

Changing

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2009 by Kristen Cox

Day 32

Days to go: 333

Miles Walked: 36

Miles to go: 964

 

Things are changing.

For one thing, I’m now 39 years old – right at the threshold of 40.  

My birthday was Saturday, and it was good.  I spent the day with three good friends doing my favorite things around Oklahoma City, and ended the day with several more friends gathered for fellowship and good conversation.  Days just don’t get much better than that.

Early in the day, I stepped on a scale.  I hadn’t done that along this journey so far, because I don’t want weight loss to be the motivation for This Walk.  My primary desire has to be to know Jesus.  Any weight loss, any improvements to my physical appearance – well, those things just have to be His business, not mine.  I want to experience Him and trust Him first, above all things.

I’ve been pretty transparent in this blog, and I see no reason to change that now.  So I’m going to throw an ugly number at you.  At my highest weight, which was sometime last March, I was at 337 pounds.  That’s big for anyone – but for this 5’4” girl, that number was especially daunting.

Saturday morning, on my 39th birthday, that number had changed.  The scale silently and joyfully proclaimed that I am now at 302 pounds.  35 pounds have disappeared! Some of that weight loss happened before This Walk began. Jesus had already begun to talk to me about my food issues, and I had made some gradual changes.  But much of it has happened along this journey. And I just gotta say, Wow.  Thank you, Jesus.  What an incredible birthday present!

I’ve been over 300 pounds for about half a decade. I’m now so close to the “less than 300” mark, I can almost taste it. I have to admit, it’s been so tempting to weigh again every day since Saturday – but I’m not going to.  

I know myself. It’s way too easy to let the scale dictate how I’m doing on this journey, and to let any ups and downs I see on the scale render a verdict on my value.  I can’t have that.  I don’t believe the Lord wants that either…so I’m just going to keep walking with Him, and I’ll let Him decide when I should take my next peek at the scale.

Another change became apparent as I moved throughout the day on Saturday.  My friends and I went to the Myriad Gardens, to the Oklahoma City National Memorial, to the Oklahoma City Art Museum, and to Lake Hefner.  At various points I was walking along only to find that I was walking alone and the rest of the group was quite a distance behind me.  At one point, a dear friend took a moment alone with me to say, “Ok, Miss Energetic.  You might want to slow down a little so we can all keep up.”

THAT, my friends, is a first.  Normally, in social settings when any walking at all is involved, I am completely anxious and fearful because I have to walk at my quickest pace and that is never fast enough for the group. I find myself huffing and puffing until conversation becomes impossible – and even then I am still lagging way behind.  Inevitably, I end up feeling smothered by shame as I become convinced that the entire group is appalled at my lack of stamina and my terrible physical condition. 

Saturday, I just felt joy. Pure, unbridled, head-to-toe joy.  As we ate lunch, I hardly gave the food on my plate a thought – I was caught up in conversation, so aware of the love and friendship that was around that table.  As we walked, I was taking in my surroundings and the fantastic company.  Ahh…could this be early glimpses of the freedom He has promised?

Yes, things are changing.

As wonderful as it is, it isn’t enough. Frankly, there are so many things I want to change right now.  I want to improve and deepen the relationships I have with my immediate and extended family.  I want to forge new friendships and trust the ones I have more fully. I want to love better.

I want to know more about the Lord, about what He is up to. I want to find new ways to be a part of what He is doing in the world.

I want to leave the world of self employment and find a traditional job that will give me a steady and sufficient income. I’m hopeful that job will include writing in some capacity. I love to string sentences together.

Yes, there are a lot of things that still need to change.  But more than anything, I have to keep my eyes on Jesus. I have to know Him.  He knows how to take this broken life and put it back together again. The best part of all of this is…He is doing just that. 

36 miles are behind me now.  There are a lot more ahead.  But This Walk is so good, and no matter what the coming miles bring, I am learning that walking with Jesus is bringing me to life in ways I could never have predicted or hoped for.

It makes me think of my favorite moment from a favorite movie, “Dreamgirls”.  Disregard the Spanish subtitles – it’s the only video I could post here.

Sing it, Effie!

Yes, things are definitely changing!

Paul vs. Superman

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2009 by Kristen Cox

Day 31

Days to go: 334

Miles Walked: 34

Miles to go: 966

 

Nobody Panic!

Everyone remain calm!

(Ok, that was more for me than it was for you.  I feel much better now.)

I have been thinking over the past few days about weakness – about mine in particular.  It became a real obsession today as I battled the impulse to go to my favorite Chinese buffet and dive headfirst into a vat of Sesame Chicken. It felt like my blood cells were howling for a carb fix that only a wagonload of fried rice could satisfy.

I didn’t panic. I didn’t give in. I didn’t go.  That should make me feel strong and victorious, right?  Then why do I feel so weak?

That question rattled around in my heart and mind and eventually led me to Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

What a great verse.  I’m a word junkie.  I recognize beautiful syntax when I see it – and those words are indeed lovely.  But truthfully…I have never understood them.

To me, strength has always been marked either by athletic prowess – by the Michael Jordans and Joe Montanas and Mary Lou Rettons of this world – or by superior intellect and passion that led to great and heroic feats – like William Wallace in the movie Braveheart, never backing down, never showing weakness, his passionate heart and able, Mel Gibson-like body leading him to fight against tyranny in his beloved homeland of Scotland.  

Closer to home, I think of Thomas Paine, who had the strength and vision to self-publish the pamphlet “Common Sense” with a passion that would eventually ignite a revolution.

And the leaders of that revolution – Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Ben Franklin – who had an amazing combination of intellect, inner fire, and fortitude to put everything on the line for an unlikely revolt on the slim hope of freedom, knowing that it was more likely that their revolt would fail and they would all hang for treason.  (Can you tell I’m a patriotic gal?)

And then there’s Thomas Edison, the inventor who wouldn’t quit, whose harnessing of electricity was an early step toward all of the advancements that led up to my incredible opportunity to type these words on my laptop so you can see them on your computer monitor in all of their dubious glory…

Or Superman – the man of steel. Faster than a speeding bullet. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  Yes, he’s a cartoon – but he’s a strong cartoon.

Ok…I’ve regressed to comics.  I should probably stop there.

But I can’t stop there… because there’s Paul, the man who penned those words in 2 Corinthians, spoken to Him by the Lord in the face of his own weakness.  I don’t think of Paul as a weak man. I think of him as one of a few brave men who carried the Good News of Jesus to the entire known world – a world that was often hostile to him and his message.  But just before the verse I quoted, beginning in verse 7, Paul admits that he has a weakness, a “thorn in his flesh”, a “messenger of Satan” that plagues him.  He cried out to God again and again and yet again, begging for it to be taken away.  

I have cried out to the Lord in much the same way – with every step of this journey and in the months and years that led up to it.  And the Lord is speaking the same thing to me.  “Kristen, you have my grace, and it is enough.  My power is most fully experienced when there is no other support.”  

Is it possible to take heart in hearing those words, even though I’m still shaking?  

I do take heart in those words tonight, because I have begun to experience the truth of them.  I am experiencing His power in new and profound ways as I learn to stop reaching for food and cigarettes and all of the other things I have used for support instead of Him.

I am reminded that God’s ways are so different than mine, and He tends to use the most unlikely of us to do amazing things.  Since childhood, I have heard the stories scattered all through the Bible – the odd mix of men and women who at times showed palpable weakness, most of whom could never have done much on their own:  Abraham fathering a nation with little more than wonder and faith in God’s promises; Moses stammering his way into leading a people out of their slavery and to the land of promise; Elijah versus a dark queen and a multitude of false priests, Daniel versus a hungry lion; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego versus a furnace of fire; the prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah and others -standing alone, facing a nation with messages straight from the mouth of God…

And finally, there was a young Jewish carpenter on a wooden cross. 

If I had been there, at the foot of the cross, would I have seen strength, or would I have seen a weak and broken man? And yet, in those moments, God was using what I would have perceived as great weakness to save the world  – to save ME!  To redeem me, to cleanse and hold and recreate in me all my soul was made for.

So it seems that God really can do amazing things with weakness – or more specifically, with those who see His strength in the face of weakness and who choose to cling to that strength and trust and never give up. With that kind of weakness, He can write a Bible, and even save the world!  

I don’t really know, but I think the thorn in the flesh Paul spoke of was something that so humiliated and taunted him at the depths of his soul, it threatened to undo his fondest hopes. I think he prayed to God the way he did, three times, because he was longing for some self-sufficiency, a foothold of wholeness that he could plant his feet and stand upon as a man.

Maybe I feel that way because that is what I have longed for – a relief from this brokenness that has seemed to render me so much less than a woman – less than the woman I have longed to be, at any rate.   

In the wake of Paul’s cry, as he got up off of his knees, he seemed to find that in his weakness, he had God to stand on – and here I am, all these years later, taking heart in Paul’s words and finding in them the courage to stand too.

I’m not a scholar, and in the interest of full disclosure, I won’t pretend that I’m an expert on anything I’ve written here.  That’s really ok with me. I don’t need to be an expert. I just need to know Him more.

Jesus.  Thank you. Thank you for this weakness that allows me to know Your strength in such a deep and personal way.  

Oh, and Jesus?  I know I’m hard-headed much of the time. Thank you for teaching me so patiently as we walk this road together.  

I’m learning step by step that your grace really is enough, even for those of us with quivering hands and wobbly knees. Your strength really is made perfect in weakness.

Egypt

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2009 by Kristen Cox

Day 21

Days to go: 344

Miles Walked: 26

Miles to go: 974

Fall has officially settled in and made a home for itself here in central Oklahoma.  It’s been hinting at its arrival for awhile now. Today, it arrived in full force, and brrrr – it was cold!

I am a part of a discipleship group on Thursday nights.  I love it.  It’s an amazing place where knowing Jesus is the constant pursuit.  A good friend is also a part of this group, and last night, he pointed out that our study material defined sin as a “fundamental lack of trust and reliance upon God to meet our needs.” 

Being a less than model student, I had not done my homework – so that definition was new to me.  It struck me, because it is so different from the definitions of sin I have heard before.  So often, what we hear described as “sin” is actually the outward symptom of the sin that has already taken place in our hearts.  Lust, greed, deceit, adultery, addiction – all of those things stem from the definition outlined in our study material – that “fundamental lack of trust and reliance upon God to meet our needs.”

This morning, I spent some time with two good friends.  I explained to them how the food addiction has been very difficult over the past couple of days.  One of them surmised it is probably because I have not yet learned to fully trust Jesus in this place.  Trusting Him instead of running to my addictions is still a very new behavior.  As I look ahead, it is scary to think of letting go and never returning to my old places of false security.   Hearing that made me think of the definition of sin outlined in my Thursday night study material.

I heard great hope in what she shared with me.  She is right. I have not learned to really trust Him yet – but I am getting there.  As I keep putting one foot in front of the other, and as I keep crying out to Him, I believe that trust will continue to grow.   I want to trust Him more.  

Oh, Jesus – help me trust You more.  Hmmm…that reminds me of a hymn I sang in church growing up:

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Him,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that He is with me,
Will be with me to the end.

(Refrain)
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

You may have already picked up on the fact that I’m a music gal. I believe there is a song for just about every circumstance.  Wouldn’t you know, there is a song for what I’m experiencing right now?  It describes the Israelites after they left their bondage in Egypt, before they entered the promised land.

Enjoy!  I’ll see you on the other side of mile 28!