It’s hard to believe one month of 2012 is already passed. The beginning of a new year always brings resolutions, goals and pledges to do better. We have all had a month to start, and for some, end those resolutions. I know my annual weight loss resolution has been on-going for about a decade now. Of course I have other goals, such as those for work, and some of those goals I actually do accomplish. This year I didn’t want to set another eat healthy-exercise more-lose weight resolution. I was tired of setting myself up for failure. I really wanted to just focus on doing better…maybe not my best, probably not perfect, but better.
I know that many scrapbookers may be familiar with Ali Edward’s “One Little Word” classes, where focus is kept on one word for the entire year by meditating and reflecting on the word each day, and even scrapping about how the word is impacting your life. I am not participating in this class, but over the last couple months one word kept coming to my mind: Healthier. Of course the word “healthier” easily fits into the repeated resolutions I’ve made each year to lose weight and exercise more. But this year I felt that God was putting something more into that word for me. It’s very evident making that annual weight loss/exercise goal has not been successful for me, and I felt strongly that God was telling me those were shallow goals. God was telling me I needed be become “healthier” in three aspects of my life: physically, spiritually, and mentally.
Toward the middle of November I began feeling very convicted about the abundance around me, especially food. I kept thinking how shamefully easy it is for me to run through a drive-thru any time I want. I thought about the food sitting in our kitchen cabinets and being able to load up our cart at Walmart each week. Now we don’t buy a lot of junk food at our house. You won’t find bags of chips, containers of dips and bottles of sodas in the pantry. The only drinks in our house are water, milk, orange juice and apple juice. We discovered when we bought the junk food, the kids would eat and drink up all the “junk” in a matter of days, so worried that they wouldn’t get their fair share of the treats. To end the overindulgence, my husband and I just stopped buying the soda and chips. But we still have a pantry full of food. The reality is if I had to guess, our family of seven could easily live for a month on the abundance of food in our kitchen. There’s that word again – abundance.
I asked God about this shameful feeling I had of the abundance of food around me. What kept coming back was Made To Crave by Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries, and God telling me, Dolli, you need to read this. A few different times last year I had started reading Made To Crave, but never was able to “get into” the book further. But who am I to argue with God? I began reading the book again before Christmas, with the goal of finishing before the new year. Well that didn’t happen, and I’m just half way through the book now, but God is already beginning to answer the questions I have through Lysa’s words. He is pointing out why I feel guilty about the “abundance” around me. I hear God asking me, Don’t you see how blessed you are, yet what are you doing to honor Me? You abuse the fruitfulness around you. Now I know God does not punish us, but He will ask us tough questions and point out our wrongs.
In 2003 I was faced with a failed marriage. I won’t go in to the details of how it affected me emotionally, but feeling abandoned and alone I began to focus on something I felt I could control…my weight. Between September 2003 and July of 2004 I followed Weight Watchers, exercised, and lost nearly 50 lbs. I was wearing a size 4/6. My divorce was final in June 2004 and I began going out with friends. I enjoyed the attention I was getting with my new skinny body, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking, “I’m the same person I was 50 lbs ago, but no one would have given me a second look or even spoke to me then.” What I see now is how focusing on the number on the scale or the tag in my jeans left me feeling shallow. God was letting me know my goal of being thinner was superficial…the attention I was getting wasn’t because of who I was, it was because of how I looked; and even with all of this attention, I still felt terribly lonely. I couldn’t fill my emptiness with smaller size clothes or attention from people anymore than I could fill it with food. God is the only thing that can fill me.
So fast forward now 8+ years later and I am beginning to understand why God has brought to me the word “healthier”. Yes, God is telling me I need to improve my health physically, but I don’t need to focus on a number on the scale or a clothing size. I know just because the food is there doesn’t mean I have to partake and I need to recognize that even though there is abundance all around me, I need to rely on God to provide me with all I need. Instead of starting a diet plan, I’m going to listen to God, I’m going to make healthy choices to honor this temple, my body, He has given me. I’m going to move – it may not be fast, it may not be pretty, and it probably won’t be every day, but I’m going to add more physical activity to my life. I am fully aware that Satan will do all he can to distract me. I know there will be days when all I will want to eat is cookies or hit the snooze rather than get up and walk on the treadmill. But I also know now that those are the times I will need to draw nearer to God, to lean on Him, ask Him for help, pray, and to recognize I can do anything with His strength, even turn down chips with my sandwich like I did just the other day.
In reflecting on God’s call to me to improve my physical health, I also discovered my spiritual health was lacking. In my vain attempts at dieting and exercise, I was relying on my own willpower and strength. The only time I reached out to God was to lament about poor genes and lack of self-control. I wouldn’t say I was blaming God, but I definitely wasn’t asking Him for help. If I was going to become healthier, I recognized that I needed to lean more on Him. It is painfully obvious relying on anything else wasn’t working for me. It has amazed me that once I made this commitment, God has brought many opportunities my way to help me in improving my spiritual health. I am very much an introvert. Sure I can write things in a blog, but sharing openly to a group of people in a class makes me very uncomfortable. The first opportunity sent my way is an online study for Made To Crave. Our church offered a study last fall, but honestly I was too embarrassed to participate. But with an online study I can choose to remain anonymous, or participate as much or as little as I am comfortable with. The second opportunity that presented itself is an online webinar for pastor’s wives from a group whose purpose is to empower, support, and equip pastor’s wives and women in ministry. Most pastor’s wives my age have been participating with their husbands in ministry for 20+ years; I’ve only been doing it for about three years, and I feel very inadequate. I am really looking forward to this webinar in helping me to define my role in my husband’s ministry.
The last area I felt was lacking health was mentally. Now I don’t mean I am crazy, at least in the medical sense. I have discovered I am very “right-brained” – I enjoy music and singing, I love scrapbooking and papercrafting, I like to read fiction, and I just discovered that I like to paint with watercolors and write poems. I do have the opportunity to sing each week with our church choir and praise team. It is something I truly enjoy, and I am blessed that God has brought me these opportunities. When I was younger, I remember writing short stories and being a ferocious reader. I still love to read and I was thrilled to receive a Nook for Mother’s Day. I usually read 6 or more books a year. Since I am right-brained I need to have a creative outlet, and if I don’t I begin to feel very stressed. Right-brained people feel constrained by time limits. If I plan to work on a project such as a scrapbook layout or paint a picture, I want to work on it until it’s complete; therefore, I feel the need to have a large chunk of uninterrupted time for creativity. If I’m reading, I hate stopping once I’m engrossed in the story. The problem is in my life that is next to impossible to have a long stretch of time for any of these endeavors. In order to meet my need to have time to read or create, I knew I had to make some compromises, and resolve to do something creative in a small window of time, whether it’s reading on my lunch hour, selecting embellishments for a scrapbook layout, or checking out Pinterest for painting ideas. Recognizing I am right-brained and how it affects my personality is the first step in working toward being mentally healthier.
I’ll close with something I read in Made To Crave that really stuck with me. Lysa writes about a sermon her pastor once gave about the sin of gluttony, and how our very churches contribute to it. Whenever there is an activity involving food at church what will you find? Deliciousness all smothered, sweetened, fried, creamy, or cheesy. Yes it’s wonderful, yes it’s tempting, yes churches are full of awesome cooks, and yes moderation goes out the window. The fruit of the spirit, self-control, has left the building. We load our plates, we fellowship, we enjoy. And the thought of all this stopped me. We have people in our churches with diabetes, heart conditions, high blood pressure, and a host of other ailments, and what do we do? We tempt them. We tempt them as Satan did to Jesus in the desert. It is not our responsibility of course to judge or control another person’s eating habits, but should we not offer options? Maybe if there were alternatives, God might speak to someone’s heart, and they may chose something better? I felt challenged by this. Twice a year our church has eight weeks of meals followed by classes, and the meals are catered. My husband spent 10 years in the catering business before going into full-time ministry, and I asked him what can we do to improve the “health” of the meals. He was pretty blunt – if it’s healthy people won’t come or they will complain. After quite a discussion, we decided we will purchase some healthier dressings for salads, salt substitute and spray butter. I also reached out to our hospitality coordinator and she is going to plan for more salads and fruits, and learn if there are some substitutions we can make, such as roasted, seasoned red skin potatoes instead of cheesy au gratin, those sorts of things. Yes it’s small, but it’s a start.
So there you have it, my focus this year, and hopefully what will be come a lifestyle. I am relying on God to help me keep my focus on being healthier. I know it won’t be perfect, but it will be better than it was.