Q is for Questions


When I was writing the first draft of my book, I asked ‘social media’ for questions. Mainly to help me think of elements of weight loss that I hadn’t thought of. I got more than I bargained for, and I believe they’ve really added to the book. Here is just a small sample of the questions, and my rough answers.

 

How many times did you fail before you succeeded?

I joined Unislim for the first time when I was about 12 I think, maybe 14, but over 30 years ago. I’ve been on and off diets to different degrees all of that time, but how many times I actually properly tried to lose weight???? Let’s see…

In the mid 90s I lost somewhere between 2-3 stone. Got down to just over 17 stone.

Started again in 2001. I was 20 stone, I lost 3 stone.

Started again in 2008, I was 21 stone. Lost just under 3 stone.

Started again in 2012, I was just under 24 stone. Faffed about for a year and a half. Was down 1.5 stone at one point.

Started again in 2015, I was just over 23 stone, as I write I have lost 5 stone and 2lb. My first goal is to get back to where I was in the mid 90s. Just over 17 stone.

So tried and failed 4 times, before succeeding this time.

 

What was the one thing that kept you going?

I’m not one for sticking pictures of ‘fat me’ on the fridge, there was however a photo that shocked me. It was of a particular special moment and I was horrified when I saw it. It was fully side on and I had no idea that I was so big. Really, I didn’t realise. I hadn’t looked at myself for a long time. I tried to crop it, I tried to edit it, I wanted to delete it. It was a precious moment in my life and a significant memory, but all I wanted to do was delete it. Forever.

It has become the photo that keeps me going. But I don’t need to see it. The image is imprinted in my brain. I can’t ever let that happen again. Even if I put on weight again, I can’t shut the door to the discussion. It must be something I can always address if I need to.

What made you decide to lose weight, to begin with? Health?

This time around, it was health, but not because I was ill.  I was worried about dying, but only because I didn’t want to leave Richard alone to do the work he is doing. I believe what the Bible says, that to live is Christ and to die is gain – were I to die, I’d be with Jesus. But I felt that I had more to do, and I wanted to be able to do more. I wanted to be able to support Richard practically and work with him; I knew I couldn’t in the state I was in. I’ve never had trouble with blood sugar or blood pressure. It was only going to be a matter of time though. I’m not sure how I got away with being as healthy as I am, after carrying so much weight for so long.

How do you feel about people who are not overweight but constantly complain that they need to lose weight?

I used to want to throw something at people, who I felt, didn’t need to lose weight. Over time I have come to think a bit differently about that. Mainly because I thought if they weren’t my size, then they didn’t need to lose weight at all. That they were just trying to point out how skinny they were, and compare little old them to big old me.

My short term goal is to lose 6 stone. I’m on my way to that. My goal after that is to lose another 4 stone. I would be 13 stone at that stage. If I did that I would be over the moon. I mean jumping up and down (cos I’d be able to) with great joy and delight.  But I know people who are 13 stone who are desperate to lose weight. Absolutely out of their minds with worry about it. Stressed and feeling fat! At 13 stone I’d be dancing, others are mourning. So, just as much as I would like people to understand where I’m coming from; how hard it is for me… I need to understand where others are at too.

Food became my enemy and my comforter. I still struggle with this at times. I am learning to have a healthy relationship with food. I would love for you to talk about that in the book. What is a healthy relationship with food?

I think it might be slightly different for different people. To use the analogy of an alcoholic – having a bottle of wine in my house wouldn’t cost me a thought, but it would be tempting to an alcoholic and so they should not have it in their homes. I’d be the same with donuts or Haribo candies. I’m best not having them in my home. I can’t resist them.

I treat food now like someone I love but don’t really trust. I ‘eye’ some food with suspicion. Will it do me any good? Will it lead me into temptation? If I can’t only have one of those, I’d be better having none. I wonder if the only way I’ll stay on track will be to maintain a dysfunctional relationship with food. 😊

In short, know your enemy. If you know your downfall is ice cream, don’t buy the big tub that is on offer, then try to kid yourself you’ll be able to have only a teensy bit at a time. If you want to, buy a small one serving tub and enjoy every spoonful. Be honest with yourself, be prepared for the hungry moments and make every meal & snack a choice that you are in control of, then go and enjoy every mouthful of it, guilt free.

Did you believe that you could do it?

For a long time, no. When I started this time, I decided to believe I could. I could choose the next meal. Choose to go for a walk. I decided to make every next choice a good one. I didn’t really believe in much more than that. It was too difficult to see beyond the next choice. There’s not many silver linings to being almost 24 stone, but one was that I saw a lot of change quite quickly. Now that it has slowed down, I have to remind myself that I can do it.

A telling of Matthew 21


As it is a non AtoZ day, and it’s Palm Sunday, I wanted to share what we heard in church this evening. Our preacher did something a little different and told the story of Matthew 21 from the point of view of one of the pilgrims to Jerusalem. I just had to share it. Hope you enjoy.

Rumours on the way – a telling of Matthew  21

Living in a village on the Jericho Road has its advantages… especially when it’s time for the major festivals in Jerusalem. Our journey into the city was a matter of a few hours unlike our fellow pilgrims who would travel for a few days, or in some instances, a few weeks.

For a couple of days the numbers of pilgrims gradually increased… and we got used to hearing the singing of the psalms of ascent, and soon our voices would be joining theirs. Joining them, we saw that the Jericho road to Jerusalem was teaming with pilgrims. The crowd greeted us warmly… their joy and enthusiasm in anticipation of this great feast at the beginning of our new year was inspiring and infectious. Some expressed feigned jealousy that we lived so close to the city of god; and I received a couple of very tempting offers for my house that I think were serious!

Then as someone began singing, we joined the singing of the ancient psalms that lifted our spirits and confirmed our faith and oneness with God. The voices of the men and women–young and old– and the voices of the children were carried on the warm breezes. When the singing paused, the conversations were not about the latest atrocity committed by the roman soldiers… or the taxes levied the romans and collected by our weasel brothers, who got exorbitantly rich and fat on their profiteering scam… nor was the talk about the recent spate of robberies along this most notorious of all roads… or the political manoeuvrings among the pharisees toward the zealots… No, many were talking about what had happened in Jericho. The name of Jesus was on the lips of the people. His identity was being discussed and debated. All of us had heard tales of miracles and profound teaching, yet none of us would recognize him as we’d never had seen him.

Until today that is…

There were a few in the crowd who claim were just yards away from him when he healed a beggar, known locally us as Blind Bartimaeus. And then they told us about Zacchaeus. There can’t be many who haven’t been fleeced by that apology for a human being; the most despised and disreputable man in all of Jericho. Even in my village, my own family suffered badly because of him! He was so mean he would have taken someone’s last breath. I had more affection for Pilate!

So, you can imagine my amazement when I heard that he had given almost everything he had away after meeting Jesus. Apparently, we were only about an hour behind him. We’d heard that he was in a large group from Jericho including the newly sighted Bartimaeus.

Others by now were joining us, either to listen or to give their own perspective on what had happened. In no time at all we were nearer to Jerusalem, walking up the one side of the Mount of Olives. We knew once we’d reached the top we’d catch out first real glimpse of the city; any aches and pains I had been feeling were disappearing fast. My heart rate was increasing, not out of exertion but excitement. I seemed to be one in a sea of people as we walked through Bethany when our conversation took on another topic…

Why were there palm fronds everywhere? And discarded cloaks scattered on the ground, in doorways and low walls? For the second time today, I was amazed. One of the locals said that Jesus had borrowed his donkey to ride the short distance to the city… adding that in a seemingly spontaneous reaction, the people carpeted the road with whatever was to hand… palm leaves and cloaks, and shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

I came out in a cold sweat.

How often had my father and his father told me that one day, one day, Zechariah’s prophecy would come true. It would happen on a day when no one expected it; but that was no excuse for not anticipating it or longing for it.

Walking on, I racked my brain to remember what they’d said, while at the same time pushing away any regret and self-recrimination. I know they had discussed it with others in the temple courts here in Jerusalem, and I seem to recall the names Simeon and Anna. But that was more than 30 years ago. They like my father and grandfather have long since died so I can’t confirm what they’d said. I was annoyed with myself that I hadn’t listened more carefully. I’d thought them senile old men who in their dotage who were losing the plot, but hadn’t my father said that Simeon claimed to have nursed the messiah… and had told his friends that his time to die was near as he had seen the salvation of god as God had promised he would?

My mind was lost in the past that I don’t remember anything of the walk through the city gates and into the temple courts. It was only when I almost fell over one of the money-chargers who was on all fours picking up the temple coins and roman pennies that I came back to my senses. I couldn’t believe my eyes… for the third time today I was amazed.

The busyness of the temple had been replaced with hostility and resentment. Sacrifices seemed to have slowed to an almost stand-still as priests and worshippers, traders and money-changers discussed the events of the afternoon with raised and angry voices. Jesus had turned over the tables of the sellers of doves and the money changers in what some were calling a fit of pique! He had quoted Jeremiah at them accusing them of making God’s house of prayer into a den of robbers. They said that the authorities either would not or could not stop him. The priests were utterly scathing of him, totally unimpressed by him, summed up by one who said…

“As cool as you like he healed the lame and blind while accepting the praises of some children who were shouting ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ “

I’m writing this at my cousin Malachi’s who I’m staying with during Passover Week, he lives on the Via Dolorosa. Like many others, we’ve discussed all this at length. He’s of the opinion, based on unsubstantiated rumours, that this Jesus well known to the Pharisees and chief priests and hated by them with a passion, is heading for big, big trouble. I was with him when he pointed out Jesus, heading out of the city toward Bethany, where we think he has some very close friends and supporters. He looked composed and calm; tranquil, despite everything that’s gone on. Yet I just sensed he had something on his mind. Something significant, I’ve no idea what it might be, but what could be more significant for him this year than celebrating Passover with his disciples?

Written by Rev Howard Jones

 

pic 1 – photo credit: Our Big Escape Jerusalem Panorama from Citadel via photopin (license)

pic 2 – photo credit: Leonard J Matthews palm sunday via photopin (license)

H is for Have Mercy


I mentioned in my opening AtoZ post some of the changes that led to my five stone weightloss. Since then I have put on a little, lost a little, put on a little, lost a little… I am still five stone down. In some ways that is frustrating as I feel I could do with losing another five, but I can’t seem to get any further. In other ways, it is amazingly wonderful. For the first time in my long history of dieting, I have kept my weight off.

In the olden days, after a stall or a carbhorrific weekend, I would throw in the towel, pretending to still be trying for a while but in my head it would all be over. Bit by bit I would put all the weight back on and then some. So although I am not any further than that first year, I am still rejoicing and celebrating staying five stone down.

It’s almost three years since I started that journey. Within the first few weeks I really struggled, I grieved for sugar and sugary foods; truth was they made me feel better. I’ve shared about it back in 2016 (click here to read it). I knew I had to change, I knew that I was eating myself to an early grave. As I progressed, I was so happy to see those changes inside and out, but I was conscious I’d never really dealt with the why and  how of my weight gain.

In November 2017, I used the NaNoWriMo challenge, to write the story of being an overweight Christian. You might wonder how that differs from being an overweight person, but I was wrapped up in guilt and shame and I was lacking in trust of my God to help me out of the prison I was in. My faith had to be part of the story.

So I wrote it. With many tears I raked though painful memories and regrets, I fought the urge to leave out the ugly stuff and just poured it all out. By the end of it I felt like I’d been skinned. I was raw, embarrassed, ashamed, afraid and relieved. It reminded me of reading about Eustace in C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when Eustace had been turned into a dragon, and only Aslan could remove the gnarly dragon skin from his body. Eustace describes the pain of having the skin removed as the worse thing he had ever felt. He was only able to bear it, because the removal of the rough skin brought pleasure and relief.

Writing an honest book about being fat was extremely painful. It turns out that editing a book about being fat is no less so! But it is a relief to say some of the stuff out loud. The working title is “Have Mercy Upon Me O Lord, a Slimmer.” I’m praying that when my story gets out there, as painfully revealing as it will be, it will help people who feel the shame and embarrassment of overeating.

If you think it’s something that might help you or someone you know. Keep an eye out here for updates 🙂

A funny thing happened on the way to Isaiah 30


Before we jump in, make sure to pop back on Friday when I’ll be starting the blog tour for the 2018 Chaiya Art Awards compilation, ‘Where is God in our 21st century world?’ I’ll be interviewing one of the finalists and sharing some images from the book.

For now, back to Isaiah…

I look back at the notes I made when reading Isaiah 29 and 30 and wonder why on earth I decided to share this stuff! I remember feeling challenged and chastised after 29, then after reading 30, going back to it again and again, I was burning with a desire to grow up and be humble in the church work I’m involved in. To rid my self of the attitude I had when reading 29.

I now want to qualify and quantify some of the things I wrote, cos I’m a bit embarrassed by them. But… I’m going to go ahead share my ponderings with you anyway. This would probably be a good time to remember what I said in, ‘The Isaiah Disclaimer‘ about you being gentle on me etc… 😀

Some verses really stood out to me in Isaiah 29

v.13 “These people come near to me with their mouth and  honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”

v.15 [They] hide their plans from the Lordwho do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?”

vv 23, 24  When they see among them their children, the work of my hands,
they will keep my name holy; they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding; those who complain will accept instruction.”

I started thinking about all the people who could benefit from reading these verses. People (I feel) honour God with their lips, but not with their lives.  People who (I feel) live as if the Lord can’t see them, and how foolish it is.

I made a little list in my head. A list of the wayward and complainers I know, wondering how long it will take them to recognise the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob!

I started to pray for those people and when it came to naming them individually the first name that came out of my mouth was my own. I realised how arrogant I was! I spent some time asking God for forgiveness and prayed more generously for my list of people. I felt quite sheepish after that.

Then it was Chapter 30’s turn to challenge me!

Once again, my ‘squishy’ view of God and my instinct to shy away from the image of an angry wrathful God was brought into focus here. There is no condemnation for those of us in Jesus, but God always has, does, and will, hate disobedience.

And he shows it in chapter 30. The accusations against his people are ones he could make about me too…
Going places I’m not supposed to go
Making plans without consulting him
Forming alliances that are not for my spiritual benefit
Wanting only to hear nice, pleasant things – and rejecting His correction

And though consequences of these actions are promised, verses 15 and 18 show that more grace follows…
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it…Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”

I prayed a lot after this chapter. I felt like a weak and arrogant ‘leader’ after 29, but chapter 30 called me to sit up and suit up. Here’s the prayer I wrote down..

“Father God, please help me. Develop my service to you in the right way. Keep me humble. Make me like you – a hater of sin, a lover of repentance – and this nowhere more than in my own life. Help me be more gracious as a leader. Please guide me Give me confidence and let my confidence in you encourage others.
Lead me Lord I pray, in Jesus Name, Amen.”

Please pray it with me, or if you don’t need too, pray for me.
Sorry this was a long post. 🙂 xx

See you Friday when I kick off the 2018 Chaiya Art Awards blog tour…

Photo credit: Jonny Back
Photo credit: Jonny Back

 

 

Isaiah in the early 20s


I was all ready to give up by the time I got to Isaiah 24! 

It was verse after verse of warnings and terrible prophecy. Egypt (chp 19), Egypt and Cush (chp 20), Babylon (chp 21) , Jerusalem (chp 22) , Tyre (chp 23) , then the whole earth (chp 24) .

I should have been prepared for it, I should have known this is how it would be. The book of Isaiah is made up of two major sections. Chapters 1-39 are collectively known, by some commentators, as ‘the judgement book’. If you know Isaiah then you’ll know that the ‘comforting’ stuff doesn’t appear until 40:1. I knew that, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised by the tough stuff. But I was.
And as I mentioned, by chapter 24 I’d had enough.

Then… like a little oasis in the desert there was some refreshing cool. 

“So will it be on the earth and among the nations, 
as when an olive tree is beaten, 
or as when gleanings are left after the grape harvest.

They raise their voices, they shout for joy; 
from the west they acclaim the Lord’s majesty. 
Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord;

exalt the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, 
in the islands of the sea.

From the ends of the earth we hear singing:
“Glory to the Righteous One.”” Isaiah 24:13-16a

Look closely in these ‘judgement’ chapters and you still find the faithful promises. As angry as he is, God regularly drops in the promises to the remnant of believers. Our faith will be beaten, shaken and we may feel like a combine harvester has actually run over our souls. But there will be ‘gleanings.’

The Church might well look like an empty harvest field with just a few olives lying around here and there. Or a vineyard with just the odd grape remaining.
But we few who are left “raise our voices and shout for joy.”

Continue on in Chapter 24 and Isaiah returns to words of woe. The tough stuff is not over yet. But there is always a reason and an opportunity to stop and give glory to the Righteous One. We had our Harvest Services yesterday and we thanked God for all he has given us, and will continue to provide for us.

We’re a small church but few as we are,
                                           we gave glory to the Righteous One.

So tell me… which end of the earth do you live in? Were you in church yesterday? What did you shout? What did you sing?

Godly Gory Stories – Isaiah 14, 15, 16


It took me to chapter 13 to really dig in and commit to seeking God in this Book. I wanted to know how these ancient words could speak in to the things hanging on my heart. So I began to pray about specific issues I’m facing, not having much confidence that there would be any connection.

One of the things troubling me lately is how different my writing became after experiencing tragic and sad loss late 2013/early 2014.

I’ve always said, ‘unless the Lord builds the house’, I write in vain; that includes the devotional and fiction work. The short stories have changed because I have changed. Mixed in with the regular light-hearted fun stuff, is murder, death, loss and mental confusion.

As I prepare to publish the collection – the question won’t leave me… Can a story about murder please God?

Chapters  14, 15 and 16 of Isaiah talk of terrible destruction. Murder, rape and devastation. I find it hard to see how the narrating of those actions are glorifying to Him. Yet – He commanded Isaiah to say those things. No wonder Isaiah didn’t want the job . Did he know what God would ask him to say?

When meditating on those chapters, I dared to wonder if this answered the question  of my altered writing voice?

I still want to reflect redemption, forgiveness and second chances, as these are God’s gifts to his people. But Isaiah has shown me, sometimes there is murder. Sometimes there is destruction; devastation that no one can make sense of.

I’ve experienced loss. Senseless, pointless, faith-bruising grief. It came out in the stories I wrote afterwards. I don’t think there was much of that the first time around. I’ve changed as a writer.

Until reading those chapters in Isaiah, I wasn’t sure if those stories were from God, or even ok with Him. But I dare to think they are. Sometimes the hard story needs to be told. It has to come out to begin the journey back from it. The words need to be allowed to come out. Ugly, scary, uncomfortable as they are.

Just cos the story is gory, does it mean it’s Godless?

I hope God is ok with the new voice. I’ve always wanted him to lead my storytelling. I pray he continues to do so.

So… how do you feel about some of the horrible stories in the Bible? Do you find it hard to reconcile some of Scripture’s more gory stories?

photo credit: Art DiNo Ocaso / Sunset via photopin (license)

The Isaiah Disclaimer


No, this is not a post about a new Dan Brown novel. Or an episode of The Big Bang Theory!

Read the title again — it totally could be though, right?

Anyway, you’ll be glad (or disappointed) to know it is just my preamble to sharing my thoughts on my recent studies in the Book of Isaiah.

I’ve had messages saying that some of you lovely folk are looking forward to it. That is wonderful, and a bit scary. One of those #nopressure moments!

So I thought I should introduce the series by giving caveat in advance 🙂

I’m no expert in the Book of Isaiah, and though I’ll check my conclusions against commentaries as I go, it’ll be a very personal take on what I’ve read. I’ve been praying about specific things in my readings, and I believe God has spoken through His Word. You may read one of the posts and think “that verse DOESN’T say THAT.” By all means you are free to challenge me and question my ponderings.

But be gentle.

I have a BTh and a Post Grad Dip in Applied Theology, but the more I study, all I know is I know very little.  I have prayed and read, and been blessed. I’m eager to share the blessing.

This blog has been going for about 6 years and as far as I can remember, this is my first efforts towards a series of Bible study posts.  Like I said, I’m all for interactive Bible study, so do chip in 🙂

1st post will be this week. See you then 🙂
A x

Isaiah and me


I’ve been spending time in the Book of Isaiah. Some of it has been hard going, but ultimately inspiring and challenging. So much so that I’m going to do a short series of blog posts during September and October – sharing some of the blessings I’ve received 🙂

I hope you enjoy it, and would love to hear your thoughts on the posts.

In the mean time, I’m over on the UK Association of Christian Writers blog today. Click here to read the article.  See you in September. x

The problem with weeds


I have been trying to come up with a recipe for living with weeds.

The back of our place is mostly paved, but there is a line of weeds running along the side of the building and it drives me nuts.

I wrote a piece for the ACW Lent anthology, a reflection on the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13. I came to the conclusion that, for now, God wants us to live with them.

It gave me an idea for a cool new devotional series called… wait for it…

Nettle Soup for the Soul!

What a nifty idea eh? 😀 A book of devotional pieces that don’t remove the sting, they just help you live with it.

Here’s the other tricky thing. Opposite our line of weeds, is a wall that has all sorts of things growing out of it and behind it. I was pulling them out when a friend told me I was pulling away at perfectly lovely… flowers. Can’t remember what she called them. So how am I supposed to know the difference? How am I supposed to recognise the bits of scraggy growth that have potential to bloom?

Only God knows what are pointless weeds and what will blossom, in the mean time, there’s mercy available until it’s time to get rid of them.

Anyone for nettle soup?

photo credit: nesson-marshall april-2018 – 30 via photopin (license)

Not much but more than enough


Have you ever read the story of the widow and the small jar of oil? You’ll find it at the beginning of 2 Kings 4. A woman whose husband had died, was left to deal with his debt. In that place and time, debt that could not be repaid, was dealt with in human life. The woman was awaiting the debt collector, who was on their way to take her two sons away, as payment. She cried out to Elisha, and his response was to ask her what she had. Her answer… a small amount of oil.

I worry that I’m spreading myself to thin these days. I’m just so busy all the time and my to-do list is endless. There just isn’t enough of me to go around. I worry that I’m not putting my heart and soul in to anything, cos I feel I can’t put it fully into everything. They say you should do 1 or 2 tasks to completion, rather than have  10 tasks on the go, but my life at the moment is not so straightforward. There isn’t much I can put down.

So I’m praying for some oil. Not just any old oil, a portion of oil that looks small and is worth little, but that will last; the way it lasted for the woman in the Bible story. Elisha sent out for jars. As they kept coming the oil kept coming; jar after jar. When there were no more jars, there was no more oil. The amount of oil was not endless, it was enough.

I used to think I needed endless supplies of everything to be happy. Loads of money, loads of time, loads of food, loads of technology, loads of ‘contacts’, loads of people and activity around me all the time. I’m working on changing my mindset and remembering that I just need enough.

At the moment, my severe shortage is time. I’ve been challenged recently by a friend’s use of hers. She is so super organised, and after reading about how she plans her day, I actually felt like half a person for a couple of days. In no way did she set out to make me feel like that. I was intrigued and asked her to tell me more about her daily planning. (You know that thing about being careful what you ask for…) I doubt I’d ever be able to get to where she is, but her system has challenged me to make better use of my time.

As part of that, I’m going to ask God to keep stretching my portion of oil for as long as I have jars to fill it. I DO NOT have enough time to get it all done, so I’m going to need some help while I try to get organised.

I don’t need tons. I just need enough.
I just need what I have to stretch a bit, until the jars stop coming!

photo credit: Symic BerryWhite via photopin (license)