Rising to the Challenge

Today was an amazing day.  The Mount Mitchell Challenge and Black Mountain Marathon took place today in my home town.  Although I was unable to see the start of the race I did get to see a few finishers come in to the finish line at our local lake.  It amazes me what the human body is capable of and that these athletes could accomplish such an amazing feat.  These well-seasoned, trim, strong people of ALL ages and from many places ran in the elements on trails for either 26.2 miles or 40 miles.  The ultra runners actually summited Mt. Mitchell (the highest peak east of the Mississippi river).  This is mind numbing to me and I hope next year to be able to spend the day supporting the finishers, maybe even volunteering somehow for the race.  Here is a funny article written by a challenge finisher in 2013.

However, there was another rising to the challenge experience today that I want to share.  My friend Drew and I (lovingly chauffeured by her husband Darrel) participated in the Band-Aid 8K.  This was a really fun race for a great cause.  My friend from college, William Talley and his wife Emily are the band directors at Asheville High School.  So I reconnected with a friend today and supported a great cause.  This was a fun course but had lots of challenging hills.  The temps were cold, but the views spectacular.  I think the best part of this well-organized event was that the band actually positioned themselves into smaller ensembles all along the route and played for the participants as they ran.  From classical to pop music we heard it all.  There were even band parents along the way at every turn with cowbells or drums cheering us on to the finish.  It was well-marked, well attended, well-organized and just a ton of fun.  I should have trained more consistently for this race.  I seriously hadn’t run in 27 days.  I walked on February 8th but hadn’t run since the 1st.  So…my hips are a bit sore due to being asked to run 4.97 miles after that sabbatical.   However, my heart is full.  After the race I was treated to a lovely meal by my precious friends Drew and Darrel.  We went to a yummy Korean restaurant in Asheville and I had my very first stone bowl.  Filled with varieties of seafood, veggies and brown rice and topped with an egg, it was the coolest meal ever.  It was Whole Life Challenge compliant and I enjoyed it tremendously.  So my first 8k, my first time at a new restaurant and eating a new cultural food made for a full day.

So how was this rising to the challenge?  Well…if you remember a few short years ago I couldn’t run AT ALL.  Now I’ve participated in several 5Ks, an 8K, a 10K and a half marathon.  I wasn’t last, even though my time was slower than I would have preferred.  I ROSE to the challenge.  I didn’t quit.  I didn’t avoid running a race.  I tried a new food.  I took a day for myself, felt unhurried and allowed expectation to be erased while I did something for me without feeling guilt, shame or regret.  I talked about the trim, svelte, conditioned athletes that ran the marathon/challenge.  Well today there was a variety of shapes, sizes and ages in the 5K and 8K races.  Yet…looks can be deceiving.

I want to talk about a runner I met today.  She finished last.  I must admit that when I saw her running and lagging behind I wondered if she would finish the race.  Remember I said I wasn’t last…well it was only by two runners.  These women amazed me.  They didn’t drop out of the race.  They were running at a pre-determined, planned pace and enjoying their experience.  After the race (Darrel, Drew and I were some of the only ones that stayed to cheer them on at the finish line) I congratulated them and met them. One woman who I’m sure by medical standards would have been considered obese (as am I actually..still even after a loss of 107 pounds) has run in more races than I have.  She’s completed a full marathon in Nashville and is delighted to be a runner.  I was every bit as inspired by her as by seeing the finishers for the challenge.  Rising to a challenge, any challenge is a gift, an accomplishment, a miracle.  The human body, and spirit is capable of amazing things.  I was encouraged, inspired and challenged today.  I want to keep rising to the challenge.

What is my challenge?  Is it a race, a specific mileage, a PR on a time?  Is it to lose the rest of the weight I desire?  Perhaps it’s to finish other things on my dream list?  Maybe though, just maybe it’s to be the best me I can be with all of the information, knowledge and faith I’ve been given.  I think it’s to love and be loved.  I think my challenge is to live a full, God-honoring life by loving people as Christ does, trying to accomplish more than I ever thought I could through God’s strength and sharing His love with others in the process.  Rising to my challenge means fixing dinner when I’m tired, washing laundry when I’m exhausted, listening to my child perseverate about a topic, doing endless hours of homework (all without being appreciated).  It means listening more than I speak, loving more than being angry, praying more than gossiping, and trying and failing more than being afraid.  My challenge is multi-faceted.  It’s bigger than I am, but it’s not impossible.  There will be many people on the same path that I am (trying to be a good spouse, a good parent, life-long learner etc.) but it’s my race.  It’s not going to look like anyone else’s.  It will be at my pace, my speed and ebb and flow.

I’m a blessed woman.  I’m so grateful for lessons learned, experiences shared and challenges accomplished.  I’m looking forward to 40 and beyond.  Maybe if I keep racing I’ll eventually be in an age group where I’ll place ;-).  Thanks for reading.  Share with me something that you’ve accomplished.  How have you risen to YOUR challenge?

~Janelle

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Overpriced Bacon and Undeserved Blessings

Yesterday I traveled to Whole Foods to buy overpriced bacon.  This was an intentional trip.  I wanted bacon without nitrites, nitrates and cured without sugar.  This choice of pork product is because I’m currently participating in the Whole Life Challenge.  In a future post I’ll blog about the process of this journey and how it’s been a wonderful tool.  Anyway…I think it’s so cool that the package literally has less than five ingredients listed.  I love buying things where I can pronounce everything in the ingredient list.  Perhaps you are giggling at my fanatical, legalistic bacon choice for a silly game that I paid money to participate as a player.  Maybe you think it foolish that I would pay $6 for less than a pound of bacon. Although it isn’t the most frugal grocery purchase I’ve made it isn’t one that I would consider wasteful.

Whole Foods seriously makes me happy.  This store is ALIVE.  It is beautiful, organized and a happy place to shop.  It’s brimming with beautiful colors, a variety of exotic smells, products that I can’t pronounce some I’ve never even heard of and certainly haven’t tasted.  This store intrigues me, challenges me and helps me to realize that living in America is a blessing.  I have the privilege of traveling to a store where I can choose any number of products that I want to eat and drink. Clean drinking water is a gift that I dare to say most Americans take for granted.  We shop in stores that have aisles of water to choose from.  You could spend an entire day in Whole Foods.  From coffee to dinner, from meetings to dates, from shopping to learning…it can all take place there.  Live music, classes, fun events, and lively sales take place at this one store.  I wish I could shop there more regularly but I can’t.  One I can’t afford it, two it’s not easy to shop anywhere with five kids in tow and three I simply don’t have the time to make it to Asheville.

Yesterday was a gift.  It didn’t feel like one because I left the house in a tizzy.  A frustrating morning, full of harsh words and unkind actions.  Words that can’t be “unsaid” or “unheard”.  I tell you I’m a worn out woman with a raw and exposed heart.  I’m feeling so overwhelmed and under prepared for this life that is mine. I’ve been told by a friend that she feels I’m fully equipped for the work that God has called me to and I know God’s word says in Eph. 2:10 (ESV) “For we are his workmanship , created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Most days I feel FAR from capable of this task of being Nathan’s wife, mother to my 5 J-s and working on becoming fit, whole and healthier.  It all seems hopeless at times, too much, too grand for me and like I’ll never get off of the hamster wheel.

So there I was in the middle of the gourmet overpriced bacon section, spending time looking at all of the wonderful non-gmo, free trade dark chocolate (I didn’t buy any) and smelling all of the wonderful smelling food on the lunch menu and feeling blessed.  Blessed that I have a husband that allows me to leave the house for a breather.  Blessed that I have a vehicle to take me to the overpriced food warehouse FULL of selections of healthy food that I can use to fuel my body and those of my family.  Blessed that God has forgiven me and even though I certainly don’t understand the season of my life I can trust in his goodness.  The blessing continued into the evening.  Unfortunately so did the harsh words, the moments of silence, the hurt feelings.  It’s a paradox how love and anger can reside within a person at the same time.  So unusual that someone can scream at you and then cry in regret a few minutes later.  Being human is such an experience.  I’m so glad Jesus came to save us from ourselves.

There were two very wonderful friends that blessed me and held me up with prayer and some wonderfully encouraging texts full of truth and scripture. Fuzzy pajamas, leftovers, a nice warm bath with goats milk and lemongrass soap and a book helped to make my evening pleasant. My head hit the pillow and there were still unresolved feelings of inadequacy, fear and sadness, but there was a rising Hope within me and a feeling of warmth in my spirit.  I was reminded by my friends last night that suffering is not hopeless.  We suffer with a purpose.  It makes us more like Jesus.  All of the bad stuff that happens seems unfair BUT grace is most assuredly unfair.  I don’t  deserve a second, third or 100th chance. Yet, the work of the cross assured that I am forgiven and will always be forgiven. My life is not unnoticed.  I was also reminded that is a privilege to share our sufferings one with another.   Jesus is not going to let me drown in my grief or the troubles of this life and neither will my support team, my community, my faith family.

The undeserved blessings continue even into this evening as another friend will be blessing me with a facial, some peaceful kid-free time and some health food!!! I’m a blessed woman and tomorrow morning as I eat two slices of my overpriced bacon with my over easy eggs and roasted veggies I’ll think of the high price of scandalous grace and how I’m treasured beyond measure.  Tonight as I’m being pampered I’ll take it all in and pray that I can find ways to extravagantly love those in my world.  I’ll keep praying for eyes to see my children and my husband as Christ sees them.  For God so loved……If He lives within me then I can love.  He can forgive them and I can walk in that forgiveness.

I pray that the scandal of grace will hold me in this season.  It’s 27 days until Spring and I would certainly love to wake up on the first day of Spring and know that the thaw has occurred and that a newness will come to my heart, my life, my family.  Buds of peace will bloom and new attitudes will blossom.  But I’m not going to wish the rest of winter away.  I’m going to rest in the growth that is taking place even though I can’t see it.  I’m trusting in the process of the Sovereign God.  The one that prepared his Son for his journey to Calvary can prepare me for the work of my life.  Change takes time and these growing pains won’t kill me.  Bacon and blessings….two things I’m grateful for during this lenten season.

Lent 2015

Tomorrow starts the 40 day period of Lent.  Lent is honored and celebrated in most evangelical and liturgical faiths.  Although I’m currently worshiping in a Baptist church that will not observe this period, I find it helpful to practice observing Lent.

I am aware that the season of Lent is man-made and is not mentioned in the Bible.  I have many friends who say that alone is a reason not to observe Lent.  I am no theologian, but I do know that I need to be reminded often to love, serve and worship God because I’m a straying sheep.  In the words of the hymn “Prone to wander Lord I feel it.  Prone to leave the God I love.”  For me Lent is a time to focus on the Lord, striving to follow Him and seek His goodness, to crucify my own fleshly desires and to fully enter into the work of the cross.  Lent is about realizing that because of Calvary I am unified with Jesus.

Maybe you’ve never observed Lent because you don’t know what it is and you feel that it’s too mystical, foreign or difficult.  I have a few articles that you might enjoy reading and that could help you decide if Lent is right for you.  Perhaps you are contemplating Lent, but think what should I give up?   I think it’s not so much about what you are giving up, but what you are receiving.  As you intentionally focus on the Lord your perspective changes.  Walking in the truth sets you free. Matthew 6:30-34 (ESV) says “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” So 40 days of focusing on kingdom things prepares your heart to receive God’s goodness.  God truly has your best interest in heart and all of your needs will be provided lovingly.

I believe that Lent is an individual thing.  Perhaps you will fast food every Friday. Maybe you won’t fast food at all. Maybe it’s one nagging thing, persistent habit that you will focus on crucifying during Lent.  Maybe it’s a four things you will give up and work on extinguishing.  Maybe you’ll attend and Ash Wednesday service, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  Maybe you’ll just observe at home and then celebrate the culmination of Lent on Easter Sunday at your regular church.  Whatever is right for you.  I recommend trying it.  It’s been a blessing to me.

This year I’m going to focus on spending time in God’s Word daily for 40 days.  I am going to memorize 5 scriptures (minimum).  I hope to attend an Ash Wednesday service, a Maundy Thursday service, a Good Friday service and celebrate with my family on Easter.  I also would like to engage in an act of kindness weekly (serving at the shelter, sending a note of encouragement etc., fixing a meal for someone etc.).  It’s going to be a time full of worship, love and although it is somber (thinking about the death of Christ) it is going to be full of joy and love as I celebrate my spirit living in union with Christ forever because of Calvary and the Resurrection.

Maybe you’ll join me this year.  I would love to hear about your Lenten celebrations.  40 days of intentional focus on God….not me.  His goodness, not my effort.  Eternity not the temporal.  Grace not shame.  Forgiveness not expectation. Love not anger.  Beauty not evil.  I can’t wait because each day draws me closer to God and following the Shepherd leads to green pastures, still waters and a renewed soul.

Big Dreams

This journey all started with a dream.  A dream that one day I would be living life differently free from guilt and shame that surrounded food.  A dream that my days would simply be filled with sustenance and fuel, not trauma and drama with preparing and eating food.  There was a dream to feel comfortable in my skin and learn to like ME.  These dreams are all coming to pass.

Along the way there has been other dreams.  Lose 50 pounds…CHECK.  Run a 5K…CHECK. Break the “200” mark and find my way back to ONEderland…CHECK. Run a 10K….CHECK.  Run a half marathon….CHECK. Lose 100 pounds…CHECK. Maintain my weight loss for two years…CHECK.  Help others…CHECK!!!  This is so humbling to me that God would allow any of these things to happen and yet He has.  I’ve learned so much as He has carried me and I know He holds me while I journey the rest of the way.

This journey started being about me, but changed very quickly.  As I opened myself to accountability and allowed others to share this part of my life it became something so much larger than me.  I remember inviting a friend to workout with me to prepare for her wedding.  She came to class…and years later she has accomplished more than anyone hoped or dreamed.  She made goal weight, has a beautiful child and now teaches fitness classes.  I’m so proud of my friend Mandy Dunham.  I’ve run alongside people in their very first race. Countless people I’ve invited to their first group fitness class. Training alongside people for their next race has been a privilege.  Listening to others share of their hurts, habits and hangups has been an honor.  God has somehow used my meager words as an encouragement and I’m forever grateful.  The work has been by me but not FOR me.  More accurately the work has been done IN me.  It’s been a miracle, truly.

I have more dreams, big, God-sized dreams that burn within me like holy heartburn.  Oh how I want to share them, but they aren’t mine to do so…YET.  I want to know that these dreams will build and bless and change others lives, and are not just self-serving wishes.  I will share in time but for now here are a few that I CAN share…

  • 40 full push-ups
  • One unassisted pull-up
  • Run a 5K with Jesse and JoyAnn
  • Walk a 5K with Joseph
  • Run a half marathon in the Fall of 2015
  • Run a full marathon before March 31, 2016
  • Get to goal weight (MY goal 142.8) by March 31, 2016
  • Participate in the Pump and Run in the Sourwood 5K this summer

Maybe you have a goal, a dream, something that burns within you.  You want to share???  I’m here to listen and cheer you on, because I KNOW change is possible. If not me…share with someone you trust.  Speaking dreams into reality happens moment by moment.  I want to challenge you that maybe, just maybe this dream is bigger than you for a purpose.  Toby Mac sings a song entitled “Beyond Me” that speaks to just this thing.  Enjoy…soak it up and DREAM AWAY!!!

 

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

I’ve always wanted to be beautiful.  What little girl hasn’t?  I mean from the early days I’ve seen princesses in their gorgeous gowns with their “Prince Charmings”. As I grew I became bombarded with images of magazine models that were airbrushed to perfection.  Voices from without and within told me that I wasn’t up to standard and years of comparing myself to others truly caused me to think of myself as sub standard.  As I’ve continued to grow, change, mature and walk towards health and wholeness I’ve been finding MY beautiful.  It’s amazing how many truths it takes to replace ONE lie.  Accepting compliments and feeling beautiful are much harder than believing that I’m sloppy, lazy, still fat and a hot mess.  Literally I look in the mirror and still see “her” sometimes.  The “her” that only wore jeans with elastic or sweat pants.  The “her” that felt bad physically and emotionally most of her day.  The “her” that had a husband that loved her, but didn’t realize the full potential and safety of that love.  Oh how I long for the day when that image is wiped from my brain and the reflection I see is only one of a “Jesus” girl full of peace, love and joy.

So what is my beautiful?  I’ve been wrestling with this lately.  The numbers are changing again but I’m still not in clothes that I wore while living in Washington. I’m weaker in terms of lifting, physical endurance and stamina.  I’m still making up ground and it is a very slow process.  Also I’ve been thinking about what people see versus what I see.  Not only in the physical realm but can people tell I’m set apart, different, loving and looking more and more like Jesus daily? That’s more important than achieving a number, a PR in a race, or any of the dreams I have.  I want to leave a legacy of love, trust, service and beauty.  I want the world to be a better place because I was in it and I want my kids to know how special they are.  It’s my heart’s cry that I can lead them to an understanding that Jesus loves them and that they can have a relationship with him. To know and be known.  To lay my head to the pillow at night knowing I’ve honored God, myself and others…that’s beautiful.

My friends and pastors Tim Moore and Joe Chambers helped me train for a half marathon in March-July 2013. While on a run in 2013 Tim asked if I could realize emotionally, spiritually or physically the transformation I have undergone.  He mentioned how the change is very evident to other people.  He said that almost weekly he and his wife Melissa could see a difference.  I’ve often thought about this since.   It causes me to grapple with and honestly inspect my thoughts and feelings.  I’ve been wondering what might be clogging my continued progress. I’ve blogged about my thoughts as to why I gained some weight back and could not achieve my goal at the original time.  The finish line is in sight and if I want to cross it, I’ve got to regain focus.  A new sense of passion and purpose is coming from celebrating successes and making small, realistic goals. I think even after 4 years there are days this changes feels like a dream.

In terms of spiritual and emotional progress I do believe there has been growth as well.   I know that I am a much different woman in the areas of my thinking, habits, approach to food, realization of my food addiction, etc. than I was in Oct. of 2010.  I don’t say that lightly.  I still struggle and there are days that I want to overeat.  However, the conviction/realization of my error comes so quickly and I am able to slow down and realize that the food didn’t taste as good as success feels. My body is NOT my own.  I’ve been bought with a price and for me to just mindlessly eat food, or even worse, to make a purposeful choice to overeat or eat unhealthy foods is an issue to me now.  Yes, I’m aware that this sounds crazy, legalistic and super spiritual to some of you.  For me…it’s part of my faith.  It’s part of my daily living out my love and honor for the One who saved me, redeemed me and changed my life forever!!!  If I don’t focus on clean eating, portion size and using moderation I will derail.  I still have trigger foods and I avoid buffets at all costs. It’s about dying to myself and submitting to God’s will and not my own.  Putting my desires aside to do the right thing not the easy thing.

Over the course of the last year I have been faced with circumstances that have deepened my faith.  Truly pressing in to a life that is not my own has been difficult but so freeing.  I’m finding more and more consistently that my responses are gentle, kind and purposeful.  Yes, I still get angry and unfortunately act on that.  I’m far from perfect but I’m progressing. I’m spending more time being mindful of who I am and who I want to become.  Eliminating negative influences and renewing my mind through God’s word is a form of soul care that I’m adopting.  Guarding my time and making living a full life a priority is important.  Daily I’m looking for the good in people and praying to love them just as they are, and if called upon to serve them without expectation.

I still struggle with seeing myself as I am currently.  I realize I’m smaller because I remember the sizes I used to wear.  However, there are times I still don’t really “get it”.  Once JoyAnn and I were shopping at Target.  I kept holding up these clothes and thinking “these must be for really skinny people”.  I brought some things into the dressing room and some of them were the right size and some of them weren’t.  It was surprising to find out that I’m somewhere between a large and a medium.  Although women’s clothing sizing is ridiculous.  I have everything from a medium to an XL in my closet.  It’s just hard to know what will fit and I don’t always have the time to try everything on before I leave the store.  It was nice to know that I can fit into different things.  I’m not pleased that most medium/large shirts are sleeveless or have very short sleeves.  My arms will NEVER be what I want them to be (without skin removal surgery).  My son James says they are “flappy dough arms”.  I’m not interested in “skinny jeans” EVER.  I don’t even want to try anything that says “mid rise”.  The scales and/or tag might say a certain number but my body tells a VERY different story.  Years of obesity, five children, two sets of twins, shame, guilt, up and down weight fluctuations really take a toll or your physique.

I’m proud of how far I’ve come.  I KNOW that it is worth every tear, every drop of sweat, every run, jog, walk, lifting session.  However, I don’t want to become prideful, obsessed or “miss the mark” when it comes to the true point/depth of this transformation process.  Skin removal surgery would be helpful in terms of cosmetic, but is it the right thing for me?  Nathan loves me, even though I look like a Shar Pei.  He is the only one (minus a doctor or physician) that will ever have to see the not so pretty, complete picture of who I am physically.  It is a gift to have a spouse such as Nathan that sees me physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally and loves me unconditionally.  On the other hand after YEARS of hard work, wouldn’t it be worth the pain of the surgeries to finally realize my goal and SEE it with my own eyes?  We don’t have insurance, so is the cost worth it?  Are the scars worth it?  Should I endure pain and long recovery times just to fit into a certain size or wear a sleeveless shirt and not be ashamed?  Maybe, JUST maybe the issue isn’t my sags and bags…it’s still a wounded heart???  I’m not sure.  I’m praying through all of this.  I know MY beautiful is in there.  Just typing these words seems prideful, selfish and brings a twinge of guilt.  This journey is about so much more that the way I look.  I want people to know that.

I need to update my site with more recent pictures.  I need to keep the transformation ever before me so I don’t lose sight of who I am and who I was.   Beauty is really in the eye of the beholder and I pray that can see the beauty the wonder, the joy and progress all around me.  I pray that I can see me as Jesus sees me and that I can honor the compliments others give.  Also I pray that I can see the beauty, joy and grace in others and help to cultivate change, growth and love all around me. I’ve been forever changed by this process and the outpouring of love, service, help and support I’ve received.  If change is possible for me….I KNOW it’s available for you.  May we all realize the beauty that is possible.  We are all fearfully and wonderfully made.  I was at 285.6 and I am at….whatever I am today!!!

Hide and Seek

How can a morbidly obese person hide?  Being so large makes a person very visible.  When I was obese people would stare, make comments and I was laughed at many times throughout my young adult and adult life.  I have very few memories of childhood that involved feeling beautiful physically.  I always knew I was loved by my family, but I really don’t remember loving myself.

I want to share with you about my day of reckoning.  To tell you about one of many experiences that formed me, shaped me.  This one however, started my path in a different direction and I’m grateful for the pain of that day.  It motivated me.   There was one time in July 2010 that I was mortified by an experience at an amusement park called Carowinds.  I couldn’t fit into a seat on a roller coaster.  There was a “test” seat at the end of the line.  This was there to expedite the loading process and to avoid confusion at the onset of the ride. However, I was decimated as I tried to fit my hips and stomach into this seat.  My husband, and friends Jamie and Mandy watched with kindness in their eyes as I tried several times to get the bar to latch.  They offered not to ride, but I through tears assured them that they needed to go ahead and have fun.  So I waited in 100+degree heat for over an hour while they rode the ride.  Then to console my wounded pride we went to ride another ride.  Guess what?  I couldn’t really fit on that one either, but they put me in a “special” seat. After making me move away from my party, struggling to strap me in with the double belts, and wishing me a good ride I was undone.  I cried the entire time and felt completely worthless as this display had taken place in front of hundreds of people.

August, September, and October went by as usual.  Although my heart had been broken I didn’t know what to do about it.  Then the day…..October 31, 2010 I woke up and simply….I had had enough.  I said to myself that I no longer wanted to be fat.  I hated who I was, who I had become and where I was headed.  The words of the 12-steps and 8 recovery principles were ringing in my heart and head and I said to the Lord “I’m powerless to change.  I’m out of control.  You have to help me.”  I wrote down some goals.  Took a picture, went for a walk (as long as I could…which wasn’t long) and cried one GOOD cry.  It was the beginning of the end.  The death of the victim.  The dying off of a woman who felt trapped and captive to addiction, fear, pain, sadness and a destiny of health problems, isolation, half-hearted relationships, and failure.

Up to this point most days  I felt like I had the ability to hide.  I felt insulated by my fat.  I felt that if you really wanted to love me, to be in my world that you would embrace me despite my physical size.  I used my fat as a shield and put up a barrier of false humility.  It wasn’t because of my past I was fat.  It wasn’t because I had carried five children, two sets of twins on a 5 foot 2 inch frame.  It was because I made choice, after choice, after choice.  I kept my heart concealed and the truth at bay. I concealed my hurt, pain, shame and guilt with humor, charisma and whatever talents I could (singing, playing, acting etc.) People appeared to like me even when I didn’t.

I went years without liking myself.  High school brought a reprieve from the voices in my head that bombarded me with negativity.  Although there were still unkind words spoken to me, and hurtful stares I succeeded in many areas.  I was on prom court my junior and senior years.  I had a boyfriend and I was drum major my senior year.  I appeared to be well liked and did well in my studies.  College was a mixed bag of emotion, fear, pain and disappointment.  Yes, it brought me a wonderful husband, but it also brought more weight, more pain and more sadness.  Years went by of trying, failing, trying again to lose weight and become the woman I wanted to be since childhood.  You see I was still equating beauty with being a certain size/look.  However, there was also this knowledge deep in my core that I was made for more than this cycle of guilt, sadness and shame.

In 1999 after graduating from WCU I started at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove.  I had a great experience there and I was able to lose approximately 30 pounds by portion control, following Weight Watchers principles and walking 3 miles daily with a friend, Shannon.  It didn’t stay off long as I became pregnant in 2001.  I never lost the weight I gained with that pregnancy and my weight just kept rising and rising after that.  Basically from 21-33 I was on a roller coaster of living a dual living (acting like I wasn’t hurting but being devastated), trying to ignore my ever-increasing sickness, smiling through the pain and living a world of performance for everyone else.  Mixed motives.  Mixed emotions.  Joy and sorrow mingling constantly.  I didn’t like who I was.

2005 brought a bit of hope.  Nathan and I started participating in a ministry called Celebrate Recovery.  Through the work of a 12-step study I was able to release a lot of shame, guilt, fear and could process hurt, pain and betrayal.  I really begin to forgive people who had harmed me AND I began the work of forgiving myself.  In 2008 as I shared my testimony on stage at Mountain View Church I said the words “I like myself”.  It was the first time I could remember saying them in almost twenty years.  Chains broke that day.  It was the start of something grand.  2009 brought two more amazing Flint kiddos and the journey of realizing wholeness and balance continued.  In the midst of all of this though…more weight, more using food to cope.

Years of my life playing hide and seek.  Hiding behind my faith instead of using it as strength or to walk in the fullness of victory. Manipulating my world with my family, my smile, my fat, my personality, my humor.  All the while seeking true identity, true love and acceptance.  I was longing to be loved unconditionally and to be able to feel comfortable in my own skin…no matter what size it was.  I wanted to change, to have some sort of control and to eat one meal, one bite, one type of food without feeling destroyed.  I mean really, aren’t they just french fries, pizza, donuts……….???!!!  The seeking began and is continuing.  Seeking God’s truth.  Memorizing scripture, reading His word, reading books that are positive and uplifting.  Seeking new ways to cope, to move, to eat, to live, to pray, to train, to laugh, to love, to play, to think. to BE.  Releasing guilt, shame, fear, pain, hurt, sadness, anxiety and disappointment.

Today I’m visible and it’s okay.  It’s perfectly acceptable for you to like me or not.  I like me.  No.  I’m not at “goal”, but the great part is that my goals have changed.  Numbers are simply that…numbers.  Most importantly I know that I’m the beloved daughter of God.  I’m treasured beyond measure and I’m wanted, accepted and liked.  I’ve been redeemed and it’s good to be out of hiding.

 

Made to Crave

Lysa TerKeurst, the president of Proverbs 31 ministries, wrote a book entitled Made to Crave in 2010.  I’ve read it three separate times, but decided I needed to read it again and prayerfully, slowly answer the questions at the end of each chapter.  It is a jewel of a book, filled with humor, personal anecdotes, tips, challenging thoughts and inspirational Scripture.  It’s an easy read in terms of difficulty, but can be a bit convicting at times.  You see I never thought I wanted anything more than God, and certainly not food.  I’m a good American girl that doesn’t believe in idolatry.  I put my God and family first.  It wasn’t until I really begin to take a look at myself and dive into thoughts, patterns and behaviors while looking back at my past, and praying about my present that I saw the truth. Until I was ready to share openly in Celebrate Recovery about my food addiction and emotional and compulsive eating my weight loss efforts had been in vain. You see Weight Watchers only helped temporarily.  Walking daily and portion control helped with a bit, but then when I stopped that program the weight packed on again with some extra pounds in the mix.  I had to find the root of the issue.  Pride, unforgiveness, and idolatry were all at the heart of the matter.  I was allowing food to comfort me in a way that it was never intended to and I was selfishly thinking that I could control my body and make wise decisions apart from boundaries, healthy rules and God’s guidance.

Apart from recommending the book I wanted to share a bit of info that I think will be helpful to anyone on a weight loss journey.  I’m also sharing it so I can refer back to this post myself.  I’ve written before about my struggle with the scale and how the numbers can affect me.  Those posts are entitled “One Size Fits All” and Crunching Numbers. Chapters 7 and 8 have resonated with me in a profound way and there is a quote from chapter 7 that I want to share with you.  “I’m a Jesus girl who can step on the scale and see the numbers as an indication of how much my body weighs and not as an indication of my worth.  WOWZERS!  Doesn’t that sound awesomely liberating?  Some days I’m there.  Some days I’m NOT, but I’m praying to be there more consistently.  See people look at me and see a woman who has lost 100 pounds.  I’m grateful for every ounce.  However, my lens is still blurry.  Sometimes I see through the viewpoint of a morbidly obese woman, struggling with perception and a victim mentality.  Sometimes I see the past rising up and I view myself in an unhealthy way.  I still see the OLD me, and it can be debilitating.  I still see the numbers that I want to see.  I have a dream, a goal and sometimes I allow it instead of motivating me, to consume me.  I’m praying for balance and the eyes of Christ to see myself as HE does.  As this internal dialogue ensues I need to apply 2 Cor. 10:5 that states “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  Lysa says “We can literally say to a thought that presents itself to us, ‘Are you true?  Are you beneficial? Are you necessary?’ and if the answer is no, then we don’t open the door of our heart.  We make the choice to walk away from the negative thought that could harvest if we let it in.”

So what can you and I do when the numbers on the scale aren’t budging?  Maybe worse, they are moving in the wrong direction.  What about when the tag in the back of our jeans says a number that is different from the one you’ve imagined? Perhaps someone you love said something hurtful to you.  How do you manage all that in the midst of trying your hardest and making consistent, healthy choices?  Chapter 8 deals with this very thing “Making Peace with the Realities of My Body” has a clue that might be helpful.  Make the shift from accomplishment to motive .  Are the numbers important or is delighting the Lord the ultimate goal?  I can define my days, my weeks by obedience and not the numbers.  What a better, more accurate gauge. Here is a list of six questions that Lysa gives to stop and ask yourself when you are in a place of plateau or struggle.

  1. Did I overeat this week on any day?
  2. Did I move more and exercise regularly?
  3. Do I feel lighter than I did at this time last week?
  4. Did I eat in secret or out of anger or frustration?
  5. Did I feel that, at any time, I ran to food instead of to God?
  6. BEFORE I hopped on the scale, did I think I had a successful, God-pleasing week?

If I can remember to use this checklist I know I will be a much more fulfilled, peaceful God’s girl.  Yes I’m going to continue to work towards goal weight and I have some BIG dreams, but the most important motive is obedience.  I want to live a life, resting in reality of who I am in Christ, not the parts of me that I want to change.  May I view my body as a good gift from God and use it to bring him honor.  As I share my heart and vulnerable struggles with you, may He receive the glory and may our good come to pass.  I’m finding my beautiful a little more everyday and I’m grateful….so grateful.