On June 8, I was at my lowest weight I had been at in a while. That was on purpose.
In 2017, I wanted to get healthier and lose weight before my 50th birthday. Truth be told, my real goal was 135 lbs, but needless to say I didn’t reach it. But, I was feeling better physically, so there’s a positive.
Part of me though was disappointed. I tried not to feel like I failed, but I did. I mean, I gave myself a year to do it and I couldn’t reach my goal. For the perfectionist that still exists in my, it was a massive failure.
As summer 2018 went on, I found myself walking less. I had been walking at least five days a week for 2-5 miles each day. Having not reached my goal, the motivation waned.
There was emptiness to my overall mood. I needed to fill it. I loved walking, but not so much anymore. What could I replace it with?
I love Great British Bake Off (nee Great British Baking Show). Not for the hosts but for the bakes and bakers. I’m still not quite sure when I truly embraced my love of baking, but GBBO is kindle for my baking fire.
I’ve been watching it on Netflix for the past couple of years (I think). Although I dabbled in baking the same bakes as Mary Berry, it was mostly a passing fancy. But, late summer I decided to dig in a bit more.
Breads, cakes, couronnes. You name it, I was attempting to bake it.
Especially the breads.
Oh the deliciousness that comes from a freshly baked bread is baking heaven…if there was such a thing. I was hooked.
And this past Christmas…oh boy! I even made a fruitcake!
I don’t eat desserts, but I made a real, authentic, british-loving, father-in-law-approved fruitcake. I also made a couronne, a cheesecake, a cake and various breads. People ate and were satisfied.
The baking didn’t stop after Christmas. I baked even more breads. Twisting and kneading and proving like I was on a mission. There’s something satisfying and fulfilling in baking.
But, all of my baking since this summer came at a cost.
A couple of months ago I was talking with someone about struggles they were going through. They said, “I’m still drinking”.
I responded with a simple, “I know”. Not with arrogance. Not with shock. It was a simple matter-of-fact, I know.
The words that followed were a shock to me. I mean, they came out of my mouth, but I didn’t realize how much truth they had in them.
“It’s a coping mechanism.”
From that moment, God began revealing something to me, not just about this person, but about me as well.
When stress rises, where do you turn to take the edge off? When you’re struggling to find joy, what brings you happiness? When you can’t see past the moment you’re in, how do you move on? When you’re lonely, where do you find companionship? When the world is closing in, how do you find light in the darkness?
In the case of my friend, drinking was their coping mechanism. It was their way to deal with life. Deal with the struggles. Deal with the challenges, the “failures”, the loneliness, the…whatever was going on in their life.
For some, it’s drugs. Others it’s porn. Or food. Or it’s some other type of addiction. Heck, it’s even spending money when you shouldn’t – Oh there’s a sale going on and I really need those shoes/kicks.
Me? Well, I turned to baking. Which, in turn, turned to food.
I had this need to bake. I had this desire to create. I love doing things for people and baking is one way I knew to do that.
But, when the bakes didn’t turn out like I had hoped, they mostly just sat there, unless I ate them. On the other hand, if they were really good, it was hard for me NOT to eat them before anyone else.
As I began to wrestle with this idea of baking – as if – as my coping mechanism, God revealed to me my coping mechanisms of the past to affirm what He was telling me with baking.
Drinking? Check. Partying? Check. Spending money? Check. Watching TV? Check. Social Media? Oh yeah, check. Workaholic? Double-check.
The list goes on of all the things I did throughout my life to fill the void, the heartbreak, loneliness, depression, frustration, stress and confusion of life. All have left me with scars for various reasons. And in each time of life, I’ve turned to something else for “healing”.
Everywhere else but God.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever shall believe in him should not perish but have eternal life. ~John 3:16
God loves us. God loves me. God loves you.
Throughout the centuries, we Christians, by and large, have made life difficult for ourselves. We forget the basics of what it means to be a Christian.
Okay, maybe not you 🙂 I’m just talking to myself here. I have made life difficult for myself by losing sight of the basics.
- God loves us.
- He gave because he loves.
I overcomplicate things sometimes. I think we, who call ourselves Christians, do similar.
I still forget this sometimes.
God loves me. He is there for me. No matter what I’ve done or how many times I have rejected Him…and Christianity…He still loves me.
It’s not a human feeling kind of love that we think of and that’s where so many of us get messed up. We think we have to meet some sort of expectations to gain God’s love.
We can’t gain it.
It just is.
What does that have to do with coping mechanisms?
When we lose sight of God’s love for us – the unconditional, never wavering, always there for us kind of love – we begin to feel empty, depressed, flailing, lost, confused, angry, frustrated, hurt, bitter, overwhelmed, stressed and, quite simply, alone.
Coming face-to-face with those feelings, we try to look for ways to help us cope. In some cases, we need help getting through the day or even the next hour.
We look to something, anything to – like my friend – take the edge off. In other words, to help us “cope” with whatever we are feeling at that moment.
I believe what God is telling me – and maybe you too – is that HE wants to be my coping mechanism. If I’m frustrated or angry, tell Him about it. I mean, He already knows all and sees all anyway, so might as well talk to Him about my feelings, right?
Feeling lonely, lost or empty? There is a place – God’s presence – that surpasses all human understanding. It gives us peace when it doesn’t make sense to our brains to have peace.
In my case, my baking motivation – and eating – can sometimes occur because I’m stressed or unsure. I emphasize “sometimes” because my reasons for baking are mostly because I like making something that brings people joy or brings a smile to their face. It’s fun and…a stress reliever.
Why am I so stressed? Why is anyone stressed?
There’s an issue, a problem, a challenge that needs fixing (figuring out). I tend to overanalyze, so when I’m stressed…look out. If I can’t figure out how to fix it, the brain is in overdrive. A 100 mph brain turns into 200 mph.
Outside looking in, that makes no sense.
I can’t figure out how to make it better, but I’m going to think about it anyway to try to figure it out.
To refocus the mind…and cope…I bake (or cook).
Me: Wait a minute, God. I have to finish kneading this dough.
God: I’m here, my daughter.
Me: Then, I have to make my filling.
God: Let’s talk about the stress you’re dealing with.
Me: Stressed? Me, God?
God: Yes you.
Me: Did you see the Chelsea Buns I made today? Oh wow, oh wow. They came out pretty good, huh, God?
God: I love you and I am here for you when you’re ready to talk.
Maybe your conversations with God don’t go like that, but mine do.
He’s not accusatory or frustrated or upset with me. He understands I will have bouts of doubts about everything. But, the voice I hear – no, not audibly – is a soft, loving, yet firm voice calling me back to Him.
God’s not pushy. He waits for me to come spend time with Him. He is in it for the long haul.
Coping mechanisms, on the other hand, are short-term replacements. They can last for a moment or even years if we’re talking addictions. The feeling they leave us with is relief or even empowerment.
But, the feeling is only temporary.
A stress reliever like baking, in and of itself, isn’t bad, per se. However, the issues/challenges/problems remain. What then?
The coping cycle starts all over again.
I don’t know what you’re going through today, but I know this post was for someone else out there as much as it was for me. If it made you angry, I’m sorry it generated those feelings in you. But, I would encourage you to ask the why.
Why the anger?
Turns out that’s a good question for any coping mechanism. “Why am I doing this?”
Why do we drink? Why do we do drugs? Why do we work so much? Why am I eating this (food) right now? Why am I baking when I don’t need to be baking?
I don’t have all the answers. I’m still trying to figure it all out myself. But, I know God does. He has the answers when I’m trying to cope with whatever life has thrown at me. Question is, am I willing to turn to Him or my coping mechanism?
Me: Hey God.
God: How are you today? (as if He didn’t already know!)
Me: I’ve been better, God.
God: Tell me about it.
Me: Got a few hours, days, week, months, years?
God: I have all the time you need. Let’s talk.
Knees Down, Prayers Up