A Christmas Letter – 2014

Dearest family and friends,

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain. – CS Lewis

 

It’s with a tender heart that I say farewell to 2014 and move forward into 2015. I could tell you that I still call downtown Minneapolis my home away from home. I could mention that I continue to work at Wells Fargo. I could talk about The Vine or any number of other things. Those things haven’t changed much. But much has.

I don’t recall much from earlier in the year; just the significance of loss and heartache. It amazes me how quickly life can shift. In an instant, you become different. Life becomes different, valuable and precious; a gift. You’re forced into a crisis of faith and it changes you. What do you really believe about life and God? Why do you believe? Can you really trust Him?

I’m not walking through this alone. God is at work, even in this, and His Word has become even more real and precious. Old verses have become new and fresh in ways I never thought possible. They have many faucets and hold deeper meaning and because of that, my relationship with Him has deepened and grown. I am walking day by day with a greater appreciation for each moment and for each relationship in my life and I can’t help but share what I’ve been learning these last few months, mostly the following:

Love: “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

– Jesus, Mark 12:30-31

Each of you reading this Christmas letter is part of the larger body of Christ that continues to extend the loving arms of God. Experiencing and receiving the command to love your neighbor as yourself has been brought to life by all the unconditional generosity and kindness I’ve received and has made God’s love so incredibly tangible to me. There are no words to convey the deep gratitude I have for all of you. God’s goodness shines through each and every single action, thought, prayer and kind word. Even the silence in just sitting with me at times speaks volumes.

Peace: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”. –Paul, Philippians 4:6-7

Peace was one of the very first things I remember asking God for the moment I heard Ashley had gone home. I didn’t know how I was going to get from one moment to the next, but it was because of that peace that God enabled me to make decisions, to start processing and to shelter me from the onslaught of emotions that come during times of crisis. It is that same peace that carries me now.

Grace: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” – Peter, 1 Peter 5:10

God never promised that life would be easy if I chose to follow Him. He promised I wouldn’t walk through those valleys and peaks on my own and I haven’t. Through the grace He bestowed upon us when He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sins, He made a way to restore the relationship He created us for. Nothing is beyond redemption and restoration. Nothing.

Joy: “Count it all joy…hen you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James, James 1:2-4

Joy is more than an emotion. Unlike happiness, joy does not depend upon our circumstances. It does not simply happen to us. Joy is a choice and one we must choose every day. It’s hard to be joyful when facing trials, but through this season of my life, I’ve found that joy leads to gratitude and a fullness of life I never expected.

Hope: Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.” Job 13.15

Faith has found its footing in the assurance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1). I will continue to place my hope and faith in Him, but through His grace, I accept the invitation to wrestle over these matters with God. In finding the answers I seek based on the truth of His Word, hope abounds and is made new.

Ashley was so much more than a sister. She was one of my best friends and there are so many aspects of her character I pray God will bring, not just into my own life, but yours as well: her firm foundation and faith in Christ which she continually shared with others, her selfless acts of thoughtfulness and putting others before herself, her uncanny ability to focus on the truths of God rather than let her physical condition or the harshness of this world keep her down, her ready smile and gentle spirit and the love she had for those around her. She would be pleased to know that her life, even in death, has stirred something within each of us: a longing to know God or grow deeper in relationship with Him. He gave everything so that we could have Him. I do not know what my future holds, but I do know who holds my future. God is good. He always been and always will be and I trust that no matter what comes my way, He has a better plan than what I can currently see. My hope and prayer for you is that as you pursue Jesus, you will not only find the answers you seek, but be redeemed, renewed and restored. Only Jesus can fill the void. Only He knows and nothing is beyond redemption.

And [I] know that in all things [including this] God works for the good of those who love him. Romans 8:28

 

With love and gratitude,

Anita

losing the weight and keeping it off

“Fall in love with the process. The results will come.”

In the last four years, I’ve discovered the secret to permanent weight loss and weight loss success. I’m officially down 50 lbs. and I’ve lost over 100 inches over my entire body. I’ve gone from a close-to-size 22 to a size 16 in that time. That success lies in the decisions you make each and every day. From rising early and downing eight ounces of room-temperature lemon water to getting in that ten-minute, sweat-inducing workout session at the end of your workday before dinner needs to be on the table and the parent-teacher conference that has been on the calendar since the school year started. Life can and does get crazy, but that doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice taking care of ourselves. I stumbled on this list, written by Chris Freytag, this morning and I’ve discovered that these things combined with godly self-care goes a long way in being able to care for others and do the work God has called you to.

I included her list below along with my own comments on what I’ve done myself and what has worked in my life.

 

 

fitness_motivational_quotes_(2)

 

Weight Loss Motivation

  1. Set a small, specific goal. Stick it on the fridge or your bathroom mirror. I don’t think I’ve stuck my goals to the fridge or my mirror, but I’ve had them set as a message that displays on my smartphone, which is a great tool to utilize when you’re at the gym. When it comes to weight, I do not set a deadline. I have a goal in mind, yes, but I do not submit myself to a deadline. I am not defined by a number and I’m learning to embrace the truth of who I am in Christ regardless of what the scale says or what others say.
  2. Use your scale a gauge to track your progress and not as a body-shaming device. That number doesn’t define you. It never should. No matter what the scale reads, you are still a joy in the eyes of God. You are His son or daughter. That’s just it…you are His.
  3. Take before and after pictures. You won’t believe how much real proof motivates. I have before and after photos. Many of them, actually, and I barely recognize the girl in the photos prior to December 2010. Sure, I remember her and she is a part of my past, but she doesn’t define who I am today. In fact, she motivates me to keep at it.
  4. Buy a new outfit that you want to rock. Hang it where you can see it daily for a visual reminder to stick to your goals. Or, reward your small wins with new workout gear! I held on to a pair of jeans I wore during my freshman year of college and I can’t even wear them now. I’m smaller! Today, I prefer to get myself new workout gear. Having something new to wear to the gym or owning a new piece of equipment that I can add to my exercise stash at home adds another layer of encouragement. I look forward to trying them out!
  5. Focus only on losing the next two pounds. Whether you want to lose ten pounds or 100 pounds, focusing on micro-goals can you from feeling overwhelmed. Think two pounds at a time. Small goals + persistence = success. Success comes in all sizes, big and small. Focus on the smaller number and you won’t be overwhelmed. Fifty pounds in four years…that’s about 12.5 lbs. a year and…the slower it comes off, the longer it will stay off. Plus, you give your skin and mind a chance to catch up with the rest of you.
  6. Try on your jeans once a week to gauge how you are doing. My go-to is actually a beautiful tank top my mom got me when I was in college. It fits now!
  7. Surround yourself with support. Support can be friends, family, inspirational images, a fitness app, or all of the above.  I’ve been blessed with like-minded friends, encouraging family members, Pinterest boards full of inspirational messages and images and plenty of fitness apps on my phone and online to keep me going. Having that group of friends and family member who cheer you on and support you makes losing weight and keeping off that much more fun.
  8. Make a list of what works for you and keep doing those things. Now you have your own little success list. Not everyone enjoys running. I don’t. I prefer high intensity interval training (HIIT), yoga and Pilates. I like the elliptical. I like to bike. I like strength training. I don’t mind sprinting for 30 seconds at a time or jogging for a minute. Beyond that, I hate it. The goal here is to find out what you like and what works and sticking with it. Note here, finding out what these things are will take time. It’s recommended that you stick with a routine that you like/enjoy doing for 6+ weeks in order to see results. Contrary to popular belief in this microwave society/culture we live in, results will not come overnight. It didn’t take me three days to pack on the weight and be lazy. It took years. It’s the same with losing it and becoming the healthy person you long to be. It’s taken me four years to get to where I am now. I’m not where my goal is, but I’m content with where I am right now. Not satisfied. Content. Two very different things. Satisfaction implies the idea that I don’t have to work anymore. I can just stop. Hopping on the fifty-year-plan band wagon does not allow me to quit. I have to work just as hard or harder to stay where I am at or move forward. Contentment simply means that I am happy here. I can find joy here. But, just as Jesus didn’t leave me where He found me, I won’t leave myself here. I enjoy a good challenge…unfortunately, only when I’m the one throwing myself into it, not when it’s unexpected. Control freak I am…
  9. Visualize the way you want to look. I can only imagine the way I’ll look when all is said and done. Do not compare yourself to fit-looking, thin girl lifting some serious weight in the squat rack. You won’t look like her. You weren’t created to look like her. You look like you. God made you. He loves you as is, but he loves you enough not to leave you there. I’ve dreamt how I would look and it’s not what I see in the mirror today. It’s better.
  10. Cancel negative thoughts and replace with positive thoughts. Practice the positive and build it up over time like a muscle. Only you have control over what you think. Being naturally optimistic, I’ve been able to see the silver lining in many situations. I don’t like the way negative thoughts leave me feeling and by the grace of God, I’ve been able to stifle those with His truth which can only be found in Scripture. Pray for discernment in that area. Ask Him to open your eyes to what He sees when He looks at you…not what this broken world or even your own broken perception sees.
  11. Find someone to be your accountability partner. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. My friend and personal cheerleader has often threatened to beat me with a CrossFit® training class if I don’t make it to the gym at least three times a week. How does she know I’m there? I check-in on Facebook. I tweet about my workout. I log it in my online workout diary. She sees it and encourages it. She holds me accountable with grace, mercy and truth. You have to have all of that and it’s a fine line to balance on, but when it’s done right, it goes far.
  12. Celebrate your small wins and share your progress with a Facebook post, Tweet or Instagram pic. This is why I check in and share what week I’m on or how I’m doing. I also blog about it. Find your out, your own form of encouragement and do it. 
  13. Practice self-compassion. Stop beating yourself up for missing a workout. Stop regretting what you ate. Practice kindness and understanding with yourself and simply make a better choice next time. Guess what? You are human and that’s okay. I couldn’t agree more. Encourage yourself. Tell yourself you will make the better choice next time. I’m not perfect and this health thing has not been easy. It has been worth all the ups and downs and days I’ve wanted to call it quits.

    Exercise

  14. Vary up your workouts. Don’t “Ground-Hog-Day” your workouts. Avoid having each day look the same. It’s important to do something different. I don’t do the same thing two-three days in a row. Your body gets use to doing the same thing when repeated day in and day out. Shake things up. Keep it guessing. Plus, you’ll mitigate your risk of injury by shaking up your workouts.
  15. Incorporate strength training and focus on specific muscle groups. Avoid exercising the same muscle groups two days in a row. I currently do full body strength-training on Tuesdays and Fridays. This gives me at least three days in between to allow them to heal, rest up and get stronger before I have another go at it. Feel the burn, friends. Feel the burn!
  16. Track you exercise. You can use an app like MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, or you can go old school and write it down on a calendar. Logging your workouts gives you an immediate sense of accomplishment. I use FitClick.com to track my workouts. They’ve got an app for the iPhone, but not for Android systems yet.
  17. Warm-up. You will accomplish more and stay injury-free. Note: This does not mean static stretches before you work out. We’re talking arm circles, a brisk walk, marching in place, etc. This will warm your muscles up – hence “warm-up.”
  18. Have a workout DVD ready to go for those days when it’s dark, rainy, snowy or cold and you don’t want to venture out or go to the gym. Now you’ve got your Plan B in place (or you could utilize the small, not-so-great gym in the lower of your apartment complex if you’ve got one).
  19. Download a new fitness app. Here are Chris’s favorite apps.
  20. Aspire to sweat from exercise at least three times a week.  Ideally, I strive for five, but there are some weeks where I only get three to four sessions in.
  21. Don’t over-train. Signs of over-training include irritability, tension, restless sleep, aches and pains and a decline in athletic performance.  Be aware of your body. It will tell you what it needs. Rest when it needs rest.
  22. Do some bodyweight exercises weekly. Planks, squats, lunges and push-ups anyone?
  23. Stretch after your workout when your body is warm. This will go a long way in keeping you injury free.
  24. Sign up to your first 5K to jog or walk and catch the motivation of a crowd. I have yet to do this. Bring it on 2015!
  25. Try a Plank challenge. I have done this and boy…my entire body ached with “deliciousness” when all was said and done.
  26. Master the micro-workout. Even if you only have ten minutes, use those ten minutes wisely.
  27. Use hand weight and resistance bands at home for some bonus strength-training.
  28. Breathe deeply during your workouts. Your muscles and body need oxygen to work effectively.
  29. Schedule exercise like an appointment. You wouldn’t cancel an appointment with your doctor or a friend, would you?
  30. Do something active with your family at least once a week. 
  31. Add intensity to your workouts: add time, speed or effort to your regular workout to take it up a notch.
  32. Put your treadmill on an incline and vigorously move your arms while you walk. I’ve come to think of this as indoor hiking. 
  33. Join a group fitness class.

    Food & Nutrition
  34. Eat fiber rich foods like green beans, broccoli, avocado, bananas, spinach, pears, Brussel sprouts, oranges, apples, beets, almonds, beans, brown rice, flax seeds, bok choy, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower and raspberries. I also keep an eye out for what is in season. It’s winter. Reach for that squash!
  35. Calories are the holy grail of weight loss. Keep your eye on your portions. Use the salad plate, not the big one. And men…go for the recommended serving size or just a few more. Do not double this. Being a “guy” is not an excuse.
  36. Keep a food journal. Tracking keeps you more aware of your choices all day long.  You’ll be amazed at how much more aware you’ll be about what you’re eating.
  37. Eat clean. Stop eating foods that come in a package and try to each more foods that come from the earth. My go-to on this: if you can’t pick it, pluck it, milk it or shoot it, don’t eat it.
  38. Set it and forget it. Make slow cooker meals to eat healthy and keep your life easy-breezy.
  39. Give up soda and diet soda. This was the first thing I did…way back in 2009. This is one decision I have not regretted. Your teeth and body will thank you.
  40. Eat healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, avocado and seeds.
  41. Schedule planned indulgences. You can your favorites without any guilt nonsense. Amen!
  42. Shop the perimeter of your grocery store. Try to reduce the amount of packaged and boxed items in your grocery cart.
  43. Have a prep day. Cut up veggies and have them ready to go in the fridge. Make up a batch of brown rice or cut up a rotisserie chicken for salads or a snack. Make some healthy grab and go snacks. Make eating healthy easier for you to do. I cannot stress these last two points enough. Shopping the perimeter of the store and taking a day to prep your food for the week will enable you to lead a healthier life and make room for the things your enjoy during the week – like spending time with friends and family.
  44. Add more protein to your diet: lentils, beans, quinoa, eggs, fish and lean meats.
  45. Create a fail-safe environment. Make a list of your trigger foods (those you can’t stop eating if they are in the house) and don’t buy them. Why make it harder for yourself? My trigger foods include Oreos. I don’t buy them for that reason.
  46. Try healthier dessert recipes. Just in time for the holidays!
  47. Drink water all day. Start your day with a tall glass of lemon water. Squeeze about half of a lemon into your room temperature water. So simple and yet so good for your body. Read more about lemon water and how it benefits your body.

    Lifestyle

  48. Love your music playlist. Music motivates. Music YOU love motivates YOU even more.
  49. Sleep 7-8 hours each night.
  50. Stand up more than your sit down. If your job doesn’t allow for that, stand up once an hour and try to sit less when you aren’t at work. I got a sit-stand station at work in April of this year. I sit less than 20% of my day. The rest of the time, I’m either standing, moving or sleeping.
  51. Quiet your mind. Use blocks of your time to unplug, enjoy the silence, recharge and organize your thoughts.
  52. Switch from diets to lifestyle change. Diets are temporary and something you on or off, lifestyle is permanent. I’ve seen first-hand what living on a diet plan does to people and I’ve experienced it myself once. I tried NutriSystem back in 2007 and while the scale moved down, I didn’t feel any better. Plus, it was expensive living on that processed food plan. I now make healthier food choices and prefer to have homemade soups or salads and fresh meat verses any of that. These choices are things I can live with and change up if needed during the rest of my life.
  53. Get regular health screenings for blood pressure and cholesterol. If your numbers are good you will want to
    keep doing what you’re doing. If they aren’t so good, your numbers will motivate you to change some habits.
  54. Spend time in nature to clear space for your mind and stay focused on your goals. I enjoy taking long walks. I may live in the city, but Minneapolis and St. Paul (and the surrounding metro area) have an entire trail system and lakes to enjoy…not to mention the Mississippi River, which is my go-to spot since I live about a mile (12 blocks) away. I’ve even gotten into the habit of layering up to get in my seven-mile walk around the river in the winter. The cold will not kill you or make you sick. Just be mindful of the weather and take extra precautions as needed.
  55. Follow some fitness enthusiasts on social media. Are we connected on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram or even here? I’m here for you!

I’ve done most, if not all, of the above and have found that they do indeed work. Don’t be too rigid with yourself. Set small goals and reward yourself for meeting them (not with food). Living on the 50-year plan is about patience and positivity. Tweak your lifestyle one little piece at a time and you’ll soon discover that you’ve completely remade how you were living a few years ago.

If you’re in need of accountability, support, tips or just looking for a cheerleader, connect with me or any other fitness enthusiast. I would also love to hear from you. Please share in the comments below.

fitness-motivation

Bulletin: Musicians Needed – Twin Cities Metro Area

Good morning world! Just a quick note — we (my church) are in need of musicians/a band in the Twin Cities metro area. Know of anyone interested in playing regularly?  Needs include guitar players, bass players, vocalists, keyboard plays – we have one – and drummers. If you know of anyone who would be interested in playing, please connect them with me or send them to this link for my church for my information. We are great group of people and have awesome community, we’re just missing musicially inclined artists.

We are also looking for people who want to serve in our children’s ministry, preferably those with some experience. Background checks will also be completed prior to putting them in the rotation for our children’s ministry.

With much gratitude,
Me

Book Review: a good reminder: i am His

425975  Spoken For: Embracing Who You Are and Whose You Are

When I first saw the cover of this book, I couldn’t help but think about how simple it looked. Would it be another dull read? An easy one that I would breeze right through? I also assumed that it would be meant for a younger audience.

Nope. I couldn’t have been more off base.

While I was waiting for that book to come in the mail, I had picked up another book by Robin Jones Gunn. The name sounded familiar and upon reading those initial pages, I fell in love with this author. Alyssa Bethke has also become one of my favorites through reading this book. It’s not just for teens or young adults…it’s for all of us. Spoken For has a message every woman can relate to. We were created to love and we have this deep need to be loved back.

Who doesn’t love a good romance? This girl definitely does! But in our search for romance in this world, we often miss the beating heart behind the greatest romance of all time: one that we all get to choose to have with our Savior.

The message in this book is one that I desperately needed to hear and it left my heart on its knees more often than not. These gifted writers helped me understand that God’s love is so much deeper and fuller than anything we could experience in this world. No matter what season you’re in, you will walk away from this book with a bigger and better outlook on life, the world we live in and who you are. We are not defined by our circumstances. My name is not “broken,” “beaten,” or “bruised.” I’m not considered “trash.” I am Beloved. I am a daughter of the King….a daughter of the Almighty God. You are, too, if you choose to accept the truth He pours over us every moment of every day.

(I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.)

the things that heal, part I

There are quite a several anointed artists who come to my mind when I think of those God has gifted with the extraordinary talent of putting His Word, the Scriptures, to music: Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Christy Nockels, Kim Walker-Smith, Tim Neufield and countless others. And in those first moments of processing my sister’s death and the days and weeks since, I have found great comfort in their gift and will be forever grateful to God for those talents and to them for answering His call on their lives.  And, for some reason, I felt driven to share the following with you:

A sweet melody began the day my sister died and hasn’t ended since.

The first thing I did the moment I disconnected the call with my mom was turn on my music.

My broken hallelujah…

He lives…I can face tomorrow [..the next moment…the next breath…the next step]

The last thing I could do (or wanted to do) in those critical, early moments when shock and denial set in was sit down, pick up my Bible and search the Scriptures for answers to the emerging questions. I didn’t have the time nor did I have the energy. One thought surfaced in my mind: I need to get home. Now. Tonight. I also needed to focus on and do the next thing and the thing after that, until I got to a point where I could finally meet the ultimate goal of going home. I needed to be with family. To be near them. To touch them…I couldn’t do that from over 250 miles away.

More than ever before, I needed to hear God’s voice and wanted to be comforted.

The silence was deafening. I never really understood that phrase until then. Have you ever heard a loud roar that drowned your thoughts and set your soul into a panic, knowing you were the only person who could hear it?

My chest ached, my heart felt as if this huge hole had been blown into it and the silence was so loud, my mind screamed for relief.

I turned the radio on. As the last refrain of In Christ Alone flooded the room, my soul stilled, ever so slightly. I felt the arms of the Almighty envelop my heart and calm my mind, helping me to focus on what needed to be done next.

I needed to contact my boss to get work in order.
I needed to call the friend I had the opportunity to love on that night; to let her know what had happened and to cancel any plans for the foreseeable future.
I needed to reach out to my pastor and friend and humbly ask that he make the rest of those calls for me. I couldn’t relive the nightmare in telling one person after another. God gave me the sense to request that only a select few contact me…the rest could wait…and even though my mind was tempted to focus on what they would think, God stilled my thoughts in one short phrase.

Focus on Me.

The words to I’d Rather Have Jesus floated through the room. Strange how I remember the song, the wording, the verbiage that God used during those early moments upon my entering the “valley of the shadow,” this place that seems so dark and empty. I’m just beginning to understand what David talks about in Psalm 23.

God continued to use that music to take those next steps, to pack and load up the car, to reach out to my grandmother to see if she wanted to carpool down with me as I really wasn’t in the best shape to drive alone and so much more.

Music poured from the car speakers on the drive down. I may not remember much of that drive, but I do remember hearing

Fear not, He is with us, oh be not dismayed
For He is our God, our Sustainer and Strength…
Upheld in His merciful, almighty hand…
How sure our salvation
The soul that is trusting in Jesus as Lord
Will press on enduring the darkest of storms
…and telling my Grandma how strange it was that these songs had taken on a whole new meaning.

When sorrows like sea billows roll
…It is well with my soul

Truth. A gift from the very heart of God set to instrumental movement.

A balm to my already-battered soul.

Even after I arrived home and the days and weeks that have followed, music has been a constant in our lives. My mom listens to KNWC 96.5 without fail. We had the Sirius Message station playing on the TV, if it was even on. There were moments of needed silence, but otherwise the radio or someone’s MP3 player have been on. Constant. And God has used it.

It’s been over seven weeks since those early days and music continues to play a role in my healing. Many songs carry a new, deeper meaning to me now, different than it was before. Then again, I’m discovering I’m not the girl I was in July…or even August 3rd. I’ve changed and am changing. Aren’t we all?

While I’ve begun to maintain a consistent conversation with God throughout the day and learning to patiently wait in the silence as I continue to seek Him, music has been a buffer.

A buffer between the moments of deafening silence I still experience at times.
A buffer between calls at work.
A buffer when I’m at the gym.
A buffer when I’m doing regular household chords like washing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom.

A comfort in this land in-between.

Now — I’m not saying that I listen to “tunage” all day long. I allow myself those initial moments of silence in the morning, when I find myself sitting at the feet of Jesus, knowing that I won’t make it through the day without Him and humbly asking that He join me. As I question Him and life in this crisis of faith. Hold me as needed. Walk with me. Carry me when I can’t take another step and help me be still in the midst of the tumultuous waves. Music isn’t my end all or be all. It’s simply one of the many ways God speaks to me.

Just this morning, a series of songs have spoken to me. My desk radio has been playing quietly in the background. It’s been a week full of both good days and tough days. I used tumultuous earlier and I think I’ll stick with that one. But in the midst of this storm, the following words wash over me and lift me up, God speaking through each and every single one. He’s even gifted me with some Scripture to lean on and I find myself falling in love with Him all over again.

I lay me down
I am not my own
I belong to You alone…
There’s no life apart from You
It will be my joy to say
Your will, Your way
Always    — Chris Tomlin

“Surrender”

Surrender to me. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7, paraphrase

Remain in me and I will remain in you. You cannot face this apart from me. John 15:4, paraphrase

Give me your heart and let yourself see my ways. Proverbs 23:26, paraphrase

…there’s an empty cross
There’s an empty tomb…
There’s a hungry world
There’s a risen King…
We will sing this song to make Your Name live on
Till every heart hears of the way You rescued us… — Matt Hammit, Nichole Nordeman

“What will you do with this message? What are you going to do with what you know? What are you going to do with what you’ve heard, seen and lived? What are you going to do with Me?”

“He is not here, for He has risen.” Matthew 28:6

Anything good in life’s
Gonna take a sacrifice
Don’t ever let up when it’s tough
Don’t ever give up the fight
Everything you need in life
Was given by His sacrifice…
I will give it all to Christ…
He’s not safe at all
He might let [me] fall
He’s not easy
But He is good
He will take your time
He might feel unkind
He will break you
But He’s good — Sidewalk Prophets

“Do you trust Me? Do you trust that I am who I say I AM?”

“If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts…how much more will your Father give to those who ask?” Matthew 7:11, paraphrase

“The Lord! A God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keep steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” Exodus 34:6

“I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you My name…and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” Exodus 33:19

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil
,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me
.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.
Psalm 23, emphasis mine

All the poor and powerless…
Will know that You are holy…
All who hurt with nothing left…
Will know that You are holy…
All will sing out, Hallelujah
We will cry out, Hallelujah — All Sons and Daughters

“Do you know that I am holy?”

“Be holy for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16, Leviticus 19:2 paraphrase

“There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides You; there is no Rock like our God.” 1 Samuel 2:2

Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives — Crowder

“Do you believe that I live? Be still. Do not be afraid. Do not worry about tomorrow.”
“What will you do with what I’m giving you?”

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10a

“I will fight for you, be still.” Exodus 14:14, paraphrase

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not worry over those who [grieve different that you] or [what others may think.] Psalm 37.7, paraphrase

Be still my soul – my hope is from Him. Psalm 62.5, paraphrase

Seems like all I can see [is] the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that live in my past
…then I remember, Oh God, You’re not done with me yet
I am redeemed
You set me free
So I’ll shake off these heavy chains
Wipe away every stain
Cause I’m not who I used to be
I am redeemed — Big Daddy Weave

“You are free. Live like it.”

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm and do not return to who you once were. Galatians 5:1, paraphrase

Live like you are free. Live as a servant of God. 1 Peter 2:16, paraphrase

“Where I am, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17, paraphrase

“…know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

The statements God has spoken into my heart this morning have stripped me bare. Have I found myself uncomfortable in this vulnerable state? You bet. But there is so much comfort in knowing that He knows everything about me. He created me. Many other questions, my own, have filled my mind — what do You want me to do with this? What are You doing with this? Can I really trust you? Help my unbelief.

It all boils down to making a choice. I get those same choices and questions every day (they do change, but are around the same idea — do I really trust in God’s goodness? Do I trust Him with me?).

Today, I’m choosing to believe, at least with my head, that He really is that good. I’m choosing to trust that He knows what He is doing; to trust that what He is doing is ultimately and infinitely better than anything I could have ever planned on my own. I don’t know what the next moment holds, but I do know Who holds my next moment and for that, I’m and will continue to be eternally grateful.

I am His. He is mine. Song of Solomon 6:4

my health journey: the road less traveled

It’s been over a week since I posted my recent and ever-continuing health accomplishments and many of my close friends (and distant acquaintances) have asked how on earth I did it or am doing it.

My advice on this? It was and is a choice.

It’s a simple one, but the journey is not easy.

In looking back over the last four years, I was able to come up with eight “what it takes” statements that helped me get here. There were and are many more tips and tricks, which I will write on later, but for the sake of time….here goes:

  1. It takes dedication. If you want it bad enough, you will make time for it and find a way to make that happen.

    I wanted this. After viewing our family photo from Thanksgiving in 2010, I had enough. I was at a size that made me look larger than my dad. I felt lethargic, exhausted and sick all the time. I caught the common cold or some other virus easily. I felt and looked older than 25. It sucked. And it was that day, after seeing that photo, that I had enough.
    Many of the women in my family suffer from diabetes and I wanted to do everything within my God-given abilities to stop it (it ends with me) or delay it as long as possible in my life.
    My dad also has high blood pressure and according to the most recent doctor’s appointment at that time, I was dealing with it too.
    I was serious.
    It was time to make a change.
    I was ready. So, I made a plan.
    Being a learner by nature, I started reading anything and everything about weight loss, fitness, exercise and health. Basically, anything I could get my hands on – books from the local library, online blogs, health magazines, literature at the doctor’s office, etc. I eventually looked to Pinterest® for ideas.
    I highly recommend educating yourself and finding what may work for you.

 

  1. It takes courage to take those first steps and to make a change.

    My first decision was to cut out all soda and stop making bad food choices.
    That meant no more Diet Coke. No more runs to Arby’s. No more Taco-John-food-stops after work.
    No more excuses.
    Was it easy? No. It was hard, incredibly hard, but so worth it.
    Giving up fast food was easy after experiencing a bout with food poisoning. I will never look at a potato oles the same again.
    Giving up chips was easy due to the fact that the seasonings and salt have a tendency to make my tongue do crazy things. Ever hear of geographic tongue? I have it. It doesn’t hurt. Never has. It just feels uncomfortable. Why sacrifice that? The price wasn’t and isn’t worth it to me.
    Soda, on the other hand, was harder. Have you ever had one of those caffeine headaches? You know…the ones that come up when you haven’t had caffeine for days? The constant ones that seem to lag on, long after you’ve taken ibuprofen?
    Those headaches lasted the better part of two weeks before finally going away. By that time, I discovered the joy of treating myself to one small piece of dark chocolate a day and had learned how to doctor up my coffee until I got used to drinking it black. I even fell in love with green tea. All of those alternatives have caffeine without the horrifying effects of sodas. I can’t even stomach the stuff any more. Praise God!

    My second decision was to find and join a gym that I could afford.
    I got a deal at a local, full-on spa/gym for three months. I enjoyed having a locker I could keep things in and being able to go swimming after a long sweat session to cool off.
    After those three months were up, I couldn’t afford the full monthly payment and stumbled on Planet Fitness. If you have one near you, I recommend it. It’s affordable without all the hassle. At $10.00 per month, it’s good stuff.
    I was there for almost a year before God called me to Minneapolis.
    Once I got there, I joined LifeTime Fitness, where I took advantage of yoga classes, Pilates, free personal training sessions, and more.
    And nearly a year ago, I changed gyms again and now go to Snap Fitness which is closer to where I live. I make it point to crash the gym on my way home from work every day.
    By the way, if you get a free session (or a number of sessions) offered for free, take them up on it. Before going into the first one, you’ll get a chance to talk with the personal trainer about what your goals are. Mine were simple: to be healthy and get under 200 lbs.
    Most of us can’t afford trainers. They range anywhere from $40 per session/hour and up. It sucks.
    But, there’s a way you can work this to your advantage.
    During those free sessions, I asked for workout layouts and/or tips that I could run with.
    I’m naturally a self-motivator, which means I can do almost anything I set my mind to do. I think it’s a common thing for us optimists and it’s quite a nice perk. All I might need is a little direction and off I go.

    *Please note that this may not work for you. I’m simply stating what has worked for me.

 

  1. It takes self-discipline, which has to be learned.

    I didn’t get here overnight. It’s been almost four years since that Thanksgiving photo was taken. The road hasn’t been easy. A person doesn’t really understand how all parts of us – the spiritual, the physical, the mental and the emotional – are connected until they embark on a journey like this.
    I’ve read once that it takes 21 days to break a habit or create a new one.
    I disagree.
    I think it depends on the person.
    For me, it was the three-month mark when I realized that I felt off if I missed a workout or ate something I shouldn’t have (note on this…I ate more of something that I should not have had rather than the recommended serving size). I actually missed going to the gym if I didn’t go. It was amazing to have that revelation.

 

  1. It takes patience.

    Getting to the weight and size I was at did not happen overnight.
    Getting under 200 lbs. wasn’t going to happen overnight either.
    We live in a microwave, I-want-it-now society that hasn’t done us any good.
    We’ve lost the point of what it means to wait.
    The sooner we come to grips with that, the easier and better life will be.
    Learning patience isn’t easy and it takes time. There will be days when you’ll be tempted to throw in the towel.
    One word of advice on that one: don’t.
    Don’t give in.
    Keep going. Push yourself to get over that hurdle.
    Take the time to figure out what works for you. I’ve discovered that leading a healthy life doesn’t come in pretty, cookie-cutter packaging. What worked for me won’t necessarily work for you or the next person.
    I wasn’t in a rush. I had learned that if I was going to make this a lifelong goal and habit, I needed to take my time getting there.
    I’ve also learned that losing the weight I have at this rate is better for my health in the long run and the weight won’t come back.
    And if you fall off track, don’t be too hard on yourself.
    I allowed myself those days where I could splurge, just a little. I still do.
    For instance, I like Oreos™.
    Does that mean I avoid them like the plague?
    No.
    I allow myself one serving every so often. Not several days in a row nor do I eat an entire tray in one sitting. That never did me any good.
    Actually, stuffing our faces outside the recommended serving size hasn’t done any of us any good. Nor does mindlessly eating in front of the TV.
    Days where we’re feeling off on all levels come to my mind as well. I went through a season of mild depression in 2013 and I will admit that there were several weeks where I didn’t go to the gym. I slept all the time and ate very little. It was a blessing that the scale barely moved during that time.
    I refused to be hard on myself during that time. I was and am still beautiful in God’s eyes and His opinion of me is the only one that matters. I needed to take that time to heal and I had to learn to live by a standard of grace in my own life. No more being hard on myself. No more negative self-talk. Tell yourself a lie often enough and you’ll start to believe it and, in believing it, you’ll start to live that lie out.
    The negative self-talk needs to stop here.

    You are beautiful.

    You are strong.

    You can do this.

    You are loved more than you’ll ever know.

 

  1. It takes being open to being outside your comfort zone and thinking outside the box.

    I cannot emphasize this one enough. If you want change, you have to be willing to step outside the box you’ve been living in. Tips on that:

  • Be willing to be drenched in sweat. Being beautiful at the gym really doesn’t matter.
  • Challenge yourself. Change things up. All. The. Time.
    I don’t think I’ve done the same routine for weeks on end since 2011. I discovered the hard way that it works for a bit and then stops. I hit a plateau. I like to mix things up. It keeps my body guessing.
  • Ladies, don’t be afraid of lifting weights. You won’t bulk up like men do, but you will build muscle mass, which burns more calories when you’re not working out. Lifting heavy weights will work in your favor. Trust me on that one.
  • One word: Intervals. Interval training has been found to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time than going for a 45-minute run. You’ll also be burning calories long after your workout.
  • Be open to doing moves during commercial breaks or when you’re doing daily tasks (like folding the laundry or brushing your teeth). I do squats, calf raises, bicep curls with light weights and tricep-dips at my desk in between calls.
  • If the term “exercise” has a negative connotation for you, call it something else. I call it “Me Time” and I don’t cancel the appointments I’ve made with myself. 🙂

                 Find out what works for you.

 

  1. It takes strength and determination.

    I’ve been surrounded by both supporters and haters, making this journey an interesting and difficult one.
    You will be too.
    Take encouragement from those cheering you on, but do not let those positive comments consume you. That gets to be dangerous territory.
    Let the comments of those who say you’ve done enough or that you’ve taken it too far fall by the wayside.
    Those comments do not define you and that person may not understand.
    If the person telling you this is a friend or a family member, take the time to have a heart-to-heart conversation with them. Tell them why you’re doing this. Explain that this isn’t a seasonal choice. It’s a lifestyle choice. If they’re still against the changes you’ve made and are making, agree to disagree and move on. Don’t let it ruin or break that relationship. 

    I’ve explained that I don’t live my life or make my health decisions based on what the BMI chart says. I grew up on a farm and have more muscle mass than the average woman. Anyone can see that. I stand just under 5’9″ and I will never weigh 145-165. I’d have to be a walking stick for that to be a reality in my life and that’s just not a healthy goal for me. I happen to love my curves, thank you very much.
    It also helps to have your doctor on your side.
    I’m on a 50-year plan. It’ll change as I age and as the needs of my body change and I’ll make those adjustments as I go. I actually do not have a set number in mind as a goal. If God takes me there, then that’s fine. If He stops it here, that’s okay too.Does that mean that I’m not satisfied with where I am now?
    Definitely not.
    I’m more than content with where God has me…well, I’m dealing, but that’s better than fighting it or believing the lie that I need to be a certain weight or size in order to be happy. I am happy. I’m healthy. I have energy to spare. I feel great. I know that I’m loved by the King of kings. That’s what matters.
    I’m content here. I’m okay with where I’m at. Not complacent. Not dissatisfied. Not attaining for some goal that is my be-all and end-all.
    Health living is not an obsession, although it can become one. It’s a necessity.
    Healthy living is not a means to an end. It’s a means to thrive; a means to live life more fully.

 

  1. It takes accountability.

    We can only do so much on our own, but we can go further when we’re surrounded by community and held accountable.
    That is true for any aspect of life – spiritual growth, dealing with the crises of life, emotional well-being, mental stability and physical health.
    I have a friend who I met just over a year ago. She’s been on her own weight loss journey (started after mine and experienced a significant change in a short amount of time) and she knows when I’m at the gym, what my workouts consist of and is always asking me how I’m doing. She’s even threatened to drag me to a CrossFit class if I don’t make it to the gym three times a week. Scary. Kidding.
    Accountability can go a long way and it’s definitely not one-sided. We challenge each other and are not afraid to be bluntly honest (truth spoken in love and grace of course) about where we may be wrong. It’s good and it’s healthy.
    If you don’t have at least one accountability partner, consider your close group of friends.

    Is there one person you’re more comfortable sharing everything with?
    Is there one person who seems to get you or is at least willing to try?
    Is there one person that you would be okay with them getting up in your grill?

    Accountability isn’t a half-assed process (pardon the French). You can’t ride the fence on this one.
    You’re either in or you’re out. Not both. Don’t be afraid of being challenged or getting uncomfortable. Change occurs outside of your comfort zone.

    Perhaps you’re the type that needs a workout partner, someone who will meet you at the gym. For some, this helps in getting them there. You wouldn’t cancel a coffee date with a friend, would you? 
    I actually prefer to workout alone. I get most of my thinking done during that time. I converse with God — most of the time it’s one-sided, but there is comfort in knowing that He hears me. I could share any number of truths that have been revealed to me during that time. It’s also one way I can worship my Savior, using the body He gave me in this way. This is simply my preference, not the rule .

 

  1. It’s a commitment made to God, not just to yourself.

    It wasn’t until I read through and did a study on Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst. The book isn’t just for those who struggle with emotional eating or weight loss. It’s for anyone who needs a heart change on a deeper level, What do you run to when life gets hard? Or when it doesn’t go the way your planned? For me, that was watching any number of movies to numb out the rest of the world and choosing to be lazy so I wouldn’t have to do anything. I’m learning to lean on God and run to Him when the going gets tough.
    I mentioned earlier how this choice isn’t cookie-cutter nor is there a magic formula that will instantly change how you look and feel. How true it is. Finding out what works for you is a lot like looking at your fingerprints. You were made by a God who cares deeply for you. He knows how your body works and what will make an impact on your health for the better and what won’t.
    Invite Him along on your journey. He’ll enable you to do more than you ever could on your own power and He’ll carry you through any obstacle you face, even on your toughest days. Trust Him. Lean into that truth.
    I’ve discovered a huge change in how I approach my health since I invited Him along on my journey and boy, has it been epic!

Let me be clear: Jesus isn’t a magic formula or a wish-granting factory. He’s a Person. He is Love and it’s a relationship with Him that will get you through life if you believe He is who He says He is and make the choice to follow Him. If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus or are curious as to what that even means, all I can say is “Come and see.” My words and personal experience should only serve as an encouragement and are proof of what He’s done and is doing in my life, but the decision to follow Him is ultimately yours to make. We get the choice. There is so much beauty in that.

If you have any questions, send me a message. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or express doubts. It’s okay to have them. You can find out more here, here and here. He won’t leave you where you are. He loves you too much to do that and He won’t allow you won’t walk this road alone. His body, the church, will surround you, support you and walk with you. I’m personally dedicated to discipleship, accountability, spiritual growth, pursuing God with all that I am, loving others, health, godly self-care and living life to its fullest.

Until next time…