Tuesday, February 14, 2012

5 Rules for a Happy Valentine's Day

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

I love this Holiday. Love, love, love it. What a great way to remember what being a Christian is all about; LOVE! Loving God, loving ourselves, and loving one another! I realize however, that many people find this holiday depressing, disappointing, or just plain silly. So, I've come up with 5 rules on how to find joy in this day!

1. Don't expect anything from your 'Valentine'.

"If I have the gifts of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and knoweldge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, it benefits me nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:2

I realized early on in my marriage that my husband is not a romantic. Over the years I've also come to terms with the fact that he's also not a mind reader, and if I don't want to be disappointed I simply need to lay my desires out on the table, and then still not expect those desire to be fully met. If he does, wonderful. If he doesn't, then at least I can find his effort to be cute. At first it was a bit disappointing, especially when I heard all these fabulous stories about romantic & creative gifts, and I was given the same generic cards-candy-flower for every holiday. But then I realized that that's just who he was. He wasn't doing it because he didn't love me as much as those romantic guys, he just doesn't even know how to express his love like that. But he does express his love to me everyday in his sense of humor, his security, his loyalty, his love, his patience, and his support of me. And those are the traits that will help you make it through the really, really trying times in your marriage anyways.

2. Accept the fact that he's only doing it because it's Valentine's Day.

"Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and truth."
1 John 3:18

I've heard many times that people don't like the idea of Valentine's day because they don't think that their love should be limited to expression only one day a year. Good for you, go ahead and surprise your lover with flowers & candy & sweet nothings on some random Tuesday for no reason at all. For all the rest of us, what's wrong with a reminder? Quite frankly, I need the reminder too. Our days get so busy & routine that it's nice to have a day to remind ourselves how much we love one another.

3. It's not just for romance.

"Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen." 1 John 4:20

I once read an article on another Mom blog about how Valentine's day has become so kid-centered. This mother was banning all things 'kid' related from the Holiday in order to solely focus on the romantic love she shared with her husband. I get it; you shouldn't be so focused on your children that you spend all your time, effort, & energy into making their day corny & sweet. But who says Valentine's Day has to be a romantic holiday? As a Christian, I've come to realize that it's not so much a Holiday between me and my husband, as it is a holiday re-evaluate the way that I'm loving everyone around me. I love spending the day doing all things corny & heart shaped, and talking about God's love with my children, how we can show love to other's, how much I love them, how much God loves them, how much I love God, how much God wants us to love others. And then I love putting those kids to bed early to have a quiet special dinner with my husband. What a perfect Holiday to remember the most important part of being a Christian!

4. Propose to Jesus

" He answered:'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27

Okay, okay, this one sounds really corny I know. But over and over again I have heard the same advice on having a successful relationship; 'invite Christ to be in the center of your marriage'. So true. But to me this sort of implies a joint decision between husband and wife. But what about those times when you don't feel like your husband is responding like a 'Christian'? I mean, I married a human. He married one too. We're going to disappoint each other, we're not always going to have a loving, Godly reaction to one another. I've learned in those times that putting Christ in the center of my marriage is not a decision my husband and I have to make together, but instead it is a personal decision that God expects of me. No matter what others are doing around me I must remember that my heart is spoken for, it is bound to God. I have to trust that God will work on my husbands heart in our marriage, and I need to keep my focus on my relationship with God. I need to know that my marriage with Christ is the one that will leave me satisfied and that no other relationship will ever feel complete if I can't first be satisfied with having only Jesus. I can't expect my spouse or family or friends to fulfill those deep desires that God intended for Him and Him only to fill. Don't get me wrong, he desires us to be in a marriage that is a loving union between two people so that they can best support, encourage & help one another grow & serve Him. But, that starts with me having a heart that is head over heels in love with God.

6. Celebrate all year long.

"Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." 1 John 13:35

Love is the most important commandment he gives us. It's in the Bible over a dozen times. Love God, love one another. Valentine's Day should only be a reminder of how we are to act all year long.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Weighting on God

We have survived the first month of 2012 already, where did January go? Better question; how are you doing on your New Year's resolutions?

As I posted a while back, my one and only New Year's resolution is to allow more of God and less of me, in any and every area of my life, and that includes my health. Every single New Year's, for as long as I can remember, my New Year's resolution has been to lose weight. I'm crying for my Middle school self as I type that, because I have had a life-long struggle with my weight. I was a chubby little girl who thinned out enough to fit in as I got older, but I have been on a 30lb roller coaster since high school that left me feeling so very defeated.

And then, almost one year ago I began a food journey with God. My women's Bible study group began a study called "Made to Crave" by Lysa Terkeurst. This is a must-read for anybody that has ever struggled with food. I went into the study somewhat reluctantly. I didn't really think I had 'issues' that surrounded my weight, meaning there wasn't any deep-rooted sadness or hole I was trying to fill. I simply LOVED food, ate too much of it, and it showed a little. I married a man that loves food as much as I do, which is a dangerous combination. I remember the first time we saw a commercial for the mini blizzard and we both looked at each other at the same time and said "Well THAT is stupid! Who in the world wants a smaller Blizzard?!" I was a self-admitted foodie, but I didn't really feel the need to do a Bible study about it, but I loved the group of women so I signed up.

The first session in, I was hooked. I felt like God had brought that study to our church just for me. I realized that night that God wanted 100% of me, and that included my food. You see, 90% of the time I made healthy choices, ate healthy foods, and exercised. But 10% of the time I was out of control. I couldn't stop at just one brownie, or two, or even three. I rarely kept sweets in the house because I would literally eat half the pan, and then throw the other half away just to stop myself. Most of you probably never would have guessed by looking at me that I struggled with food, probably because I was able to exercise enough to keep a healthy weight. But I knew deep down that I was just one injury away from weighing 200 lbs. I knew that if anything ever prevented me from running 6 miles a day my secret would be out. And yes, I am embarrassed to say that, but it's where I was at. And that's the 10% of me that God so desperately wanted. Not because He wanted me to be thin & beautiful and healthy (although he does desire us to be healthy), but mainly because He didn't want me to be controlled by anything other than Him, and he certainly didn't want me to feel defeated about anything. One of my favorite verses I learned during the study is one that I still keep in my kitchen today:

"Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food." Romans 14:20

Now I know, this is taken somewhat out of context. In the text they are referring to respecting other's convictions & not causing one another to sin. But still, I can't help but feel like God gave that verse to me. He doesn't want food to be a stumbling block for us, period. He doesn't want anything to be a stumbling block. He made me perfect & beautiful and that's the way He saw me, and he wanted me to feel that way as well.

There was a study guide that we completed along with reading Lysa's book, and many of the questions asked things like how I felt about my weight, or about my ability to control my eating, or how I felt after I over-ate. I went back and re-read the Study guide after I completed it and I couldn't believe the words I chose. They were things like "out of control, guilty, defeated, fat, ugly..." Wow. Those are most definitely not the way that Jesus wants us to feel. You see, he not only offers us victory from death (Heaven) but he offers us victory from our flesh. He wants us to taste victory before we get to heaven, victory from our earthly desires & sins, and for me that means victory from food.

Many of you are reading this and thinking "I don't get it, how is food so bad? God gave us food, isn't food good?" Yes, of course it is. But remember, God never intended our food to be over-processed, deep fried & sugar coated, and those kinds of food choices are nothing short of addictive & deadly. And, as Lysa points out, anything is a sin if you love it more than God, and this girl loved her food. It may not be food for you- it might be shopping, clothing, sex, drugs, alcohol, anything that has the ability to consume or control you. But for me, and I think a lot of women, it's food. Still not convinced that food can be a big deal to God? Consider this; self-control is one of the fruits of the spirit, and time and time again in the Bible he calls us to be self-controlled and submissive to the Holy Spirit. "Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert." (1 Peter 5:7-8)

We started the bible study right before Easter, during the Lent season, and I have always loved the idea of fasting from something during Lent to prepare your heart for the resurrection of our King. During this study I gave up 2 things; sweets & my scale. Now, you're probably thinking- your scale? Nice one, that must have been really easy for you. But for me, it was the ultimate act of submission to God. It was me showing him that my weight was not important. What was important was that I found a way to co-exist with food peacefully; by using His power to overcome my temptations & make healthy food choices. You see, I'm a numbers girl, no matter how my pants fit or feel, if the number on the scale doesn't say what I want it to say, I'm not happy. And I weighed myself at least 3 times a day, anytime I was in the bathroom I stepped on the scale. So for me, it was huge to give that up. And you know what? Not being able to 'control' myself by seeing that number several times a day actually caused me to lose weight. I lost 13 lbs. throughout the 6 or 8 week study. But what I gained was a sense of control. I learned that even though I wasn't bigger than that pan of brownies, God was. I learned that it was a sin to over-eat the way I wanted to, and that I needed to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide me in making healthier choices. Many times I still want to eat a handful of crackers (okay, maybe 2 handfuls) for a snack but I remember that anytime you feel prompted by the Holy spirit about anything and you don't listen, it's a sin. It was like I could see God reaching down at me with an apple saying 'Look what I made! Eat this- not that! I made this, this beautiful perfect apple for you!" That sounds corny, but it's the way I look at healthy 'whole' foods now; it's food the way God intended for us to eat it, because it's what's best for us. And He always wants what's best for us. And I want to give my best to Him. I want to treat my body as a a temple, I want my kitchen to be my sanctuary to God.

I'm not going to go into the details of the book because I strongly urge you to read it for yourself. And I realize this is an extremely odd time in my life to be blogging about my weight, as I sit here 6 months pregnant and watching my weight climb a little every week. But for me, it's perfect timing. Through recent events in my life my eyes have been opened even more to the hopelessness & desperation that surrounds me in this world. I felt Jesus saying "step it up sister! Be a light, walk the walk!" It was just the encouragement that I needed. How could I be so bold as to confess to know a God that is bigger than addictions, drugs, alcohol & depression, but wasn't big enough to help me put down that bag of Peanut Butter M&M's? He is, and he has called me to be a Jesus girl that can stand up & prove it. And personally, I am watching my body change & get bigger and have absolutely no control over it. I can't even exercise the way I want because my doctor has me on low-impact only for medical reasons. And I have to embrace it. To realize that the number on the scale is NOT what is important. It's about not being controlled by food, period. Whether that means I gain 20 lbs or 40lbs this pregnancy, as long as I can look in the mirror and see a woman who is at peace with food, then I win. As long as I don't feel the need to weigh myself 10 times a day, and obsess about my size, then I win. As long as I don't feel controlled by food and overwhelmed with temptation from it, I win. "

So, here I am one year into my food-journey with God. I wish I could say I've officially stepped off the roller coaster and walked victoriously for the past year, but there is a reason it took me an entire year to write this blog. Because I've failed, I've fallen, I've struggled with temptation & still do. And I've realized I probably always will. It's not like drugs or alcohol, I can't just leave food at the grocery store and walk away, and no matter how many times I pray for him to take away my sweet tooth- it's still there. Food is everywhere. But I'm learning that everyday is a new day. Everyday is a new opportunity to show my love for God by my surrender with food. And I may not be exactly where I want to be in this journey with food, but I'm so much closer than where I started. . My pastor said something a few months back that I've kept with me always, as a reminder to never stop fighting for my victory with food "Sometimes we don't have the victory because we aren't willing to fight the battle." So many times we feel powerless because we don't want to fight for our victory. We want God to just defeat our giants & hand the victory to us. But he would much rather give us His power, and fight through us. Let him be your strength. I pray that if you are reading this in the middle of your own struggle with food & weight, that you make the decision to allow Jesus to guide you on your journey. I pray that you realize that you were made for more than a life long struggle with food, and you serve a God who cares about every aspect of your life and desires you to know that vicotry is sweeter than any chocolate covered lie.