Tuesday, January 24, 2012

More Growing

Contentedness:

I can be content with what I should eat and not feel deprived because I “can’t” have everything my eye beholds as delicious. (Like a scotch-a-roo… or a Strawberry Cheesequake Blizzard…or chocolate cake with cool whip frosting...) Attitude is everything. I can choose to view it as “I can’t” or “I can”.

Contented, as in the state of being satisfied with what I have and not desiring more. It doesn’t come naturally; it is a learned trait. And it flows into all areas of my life. This was a great refresher course to re-learn to be content with what I have been given. And it goes hand in hand with thankfulness. Contentedness is a heart condition. It’s difficult to praise God when my heart is occupied with wanting more. (Philippians 4:11, Hebrews 13:5)

Self Denial:

In the first week of our diet, we hosted a birthday party for a friend. There was a lot of talk, laughter… and of course food.  I was dying to have some cheesy hash brown hot dish or some ice cream cake. An intense inner battle was raging as I kept up cheerful conversation. I chose not to indulge - it took a lot of self-coaching, but I did it. I could have cheated on my diet for one evening, sure. It wouldn’t have ended it all. But the character I gained is more valuable than an entire ice cream cake. This view point, of course, came only after the party was over, everyone had left, and I had time to reflect.

Self denial. These two words bring a certain connotation with them. Work. Effort. No fun. Strong’s defines “deny” as “to deny utterly, disown, abstain.” Kind of sounds depressing, like a kill-joy. That’s not it at all. When I received Christ, my old self died. I am not a slave to sin. I don’t have to give in to my sinful desires which lead to death. I am free. But it’s not that easy. I have a responsibility in this. Following Christ includes living for Him, not for me. As I look forward to the blessed hope in Christ who redeemed me from all iniquity, my part is to say “no” to ungodliness, to not even think how to gratify any desires that do not honor God. Abstaining from anything that leads to ungodliness, which, by the way, also keeps me from harmful consequences. God is protecting me in this; it’s not a burden to bear, it is a benefit to enjoy. (Titus 2:12-14, Mark 8:34, Romans 6:6, Romans 13:14)

The Need for Water:

Allowing water to feed my body, letting the fluid nurture me is new. I am accustomed to using food to fill that feeling. Chocolate…fruit…candy…pop…chocolate milk… I get caught up in how yummy food is and forget what my body really needs and the true goal of eating. To allow my body’s need for water to be fulfilled feels clean…my innards (I love that word by the way- it’s so goofy sounding…innards.) feel free and uncluttered.  

This is like letting God’s word fill my soul. Not allowing media like books, TV, movies, music, You Tube, Facebook, Pinterest, (I could go on, but you get the point) to fill the space. It’s so free and uncluttered, so pure. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with media. Too often, it just gets in the way and leaves no space for time with God or mental clarity to focus on things of eternal value. I get all wrapped up in the fun and forget the real reason I’m here. When I’m filled with things of this world, I will feel no need for things of God. God says I will be blessed and satisfied if I hunger and thirst for righteousness. My heart will flow with rivers of living water when I allow my thirst to be quenched by Him. Isn’t that what we are all looking for to begin with? Not letting anything in life quench my thirst except the Living Water will bring the fullness to life I’m searching for. (Matthew 5:6, John 7:37-38)

Attachment to food-

It is true that nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.  On my birthday, in the middle of this diet, I decided I could have brownies and ice cream. When I took a bite, I felt disappointment that the moment was not accompanied by lights and music. It was not the ah-ha moment I had anticipated. Could it be that my attachment to food was gone? My taste buds had moved on to other more healthier preferences. Now that calls for lights and music.

Just as this diet re-directed my eating habits, the kind of things I treasure in my heart can be re-directed as well. I can choose to treasure things of this life, things that perish, or treasure eternal things that endure. Planning is a prerequisite for this. If I don’t plan where my treasure will be, my heart will naturally gravitate to the pleasures of the here and now and miss the there and then. (John 6:27, Matthew 6:19-21)


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Building Strengths

(Continued from last week. See below to read part 1.)

While following this strict (and I mean strict in the strictest form of the word) diet regime, I was reminded of the good eating habits I once had.  It is a very freeing feeling. Some foods I like had gotten lost in the sea of junk food. Take rice cakes for instance. I actually like them. They have lots of munchiness packed into a handy and tasty little low calorie treat. I hadn’t eaten one in years. And veggies. Veggies rock. They are delicious and nutritious. But when was the last time I had reached past the Doritos for the relish tray?

A Snickers bar used to be too much for me to handle and I would take two or even three days to nibble my way through it. I would eat a portion of it, then tuck it away in my chocolate stash to be finished another day. I used to pour out the last half of a can of pop because my stomach just couldn’t handle the whole thing. Seconds at dinner was not even a thought. 

So when exactly did I change? Since when am I able to handle not only a candy bar but also a pop in the same day? When did I start loading my plate with seconds? When did I give up the ice cream once a week rule and head to Dairy Queen whenever I feel like it (which is often)?  When did I start eating junk whenever I am with someone else who is?

At first, I want to say “Never mind when you started this bad habit stuff, lets get it changed now.” But one must look where they have been to more carefully plan where they are going. By looking back and evaluating the mistakes and bad decisions, we can avoid the same blunders in the journey ahead. Gradually, little by little and nibble by nibble I have let my guard down. Living by desires instead of wisdom has been my downfall.

 As I begin the journey of this new year, the things I gained while losing on this diet give me a renewed sense of direction and inner growth to build upon.  Strengths that can be applied to my walk in daily life. Yes, it is important to be healthy, but it is even more important to walk worthy of the calling we have received. Though each strength was learned from a health point of view, the lessons do not stop there, their true value is eternal.  This is good, since I sometimes need reminded of the goal of my life - to please and glorify God.

I will share a few:

Self Discipline:

The sheer discipline required to hang in there on this diet has produced an inner strength in me. Immediate gratification does not have the hold on me that it had pre-diet.

The grace of God, growing self-discipline in me, teaches me to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions. Adding this quality to my faith will keep me from becoming ineffective and unfruitful in my walk and can help me prepare my mind for action so I am ready for the spiritual war waging around me. (Titus 2:11-13, 2 Peter 1:5, 1 Peter 1:13, 1 Peter 5:8)

Patience:

5 homeopathic drops 5 times a day with nothing to eat or drink for 15 min before or after….. When was the last time I purposely went 30 minutes without putting something in my mouth? The first few days this 30 minutes seemed so long, I actually needed a timer!

Patience doesn’t come naturally to me, or to most of us for that matter. It is so difficult to wait for what we want, to kindly wait for others, to slow down and wait for the Lord’s timing. An essential element of faith is learning to wait on God’s timing, not my own. As we put off the old self, patience is part of putting on the new self. God calls us to be patient with others as well as patient for His coming. (Colossians 3:9-12, James 5:7-8)

Endurance:

For the first couple of weeks, the calories are restricted to a bare minimum. As my stomach and body learn to adjust, I must endure hunger pangs, especially the first few days….. I have to pull myself into an inner strength and quietness to make it. I can feel the character building here.

Endurance is among the list of things we are to pursue, to seek to build in our lives. It is the ability to keep going even when the going seems monotonous or difficult. Where we get the inspiration to endure is key; it is to be inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. In this life we will have trials. Those trials come from many sources; endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures will give us the hope we need to make it through. (1 Timothy 6:11, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, Romans 5:14)

Appreciation for food:

When calories are far and few between, each bite is savored…enjoyed…truly appreciated. I eat slower. I fully taste each morsel and sense each texture. I do not overeat in my gusto to get more. I am thankful for the food. When was the last time we Americans living in the land of plenty were truly thankful for our food?  It’s a good feeling.

Too often, I forget to slow down and just be thankful. Thankful for a Savior. Thankful for His love. Thankful that He chose to reach down for me. Thankful my debt has been stamped “Paid in Full”. Thankful for each and every blessing. We are told to continue to live in Him, and end up overflowing with thankfulness. Overflowing with thankfulness. I’m not sure anyone would describe me with those words, but that is what I am called to be. Overflowing. That’s a lot of thankfulness. But but if I never stop to reflect on who God is and what He has done and worship Him, there is no way I will overflow with thankfulness. This brings so much of life into perspective. There is so much room to grow here. (Colossians 2:6-7, Hebrews 12:28)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Growing Through Losing

Ugh! I had noticed a few extra pounds. You know what I’m talking about… Baggage that left no bag in my jeans. Clearly, my eating habits had changed. I used to mentally gauge my food choices. I only ate when I was hungry and chose wisely. I employed the give and take principle. A balance between calories, flavor, serving size and cravings. Somehow, this morphed into eating what I wanted when I wanted – which was a lot and often.

Case in point: Jeff and I were out and about running errands and picked up donuts and strawberries for our lunch. Next we headed get some coffee to go with them. On the way, I wrestled with myself. Just get a black coffee, it will balance the calories in the donuts…but I really want an iced coffee… they’re so good… but black coffee has no calories and will be good with donuts… but the iced coffee is so good…you’re already eating a ton of calories and fat…black coffee it is…end of discussion.

Still wavering as we approached the cashier, I changed my mind to milk, arguing with myself that it would provide some protein and fill me, rationalizing that I would then consume less donuts. Ok, I would order milk, then when I heard Jeff order a Frappe, the “me, me, me” piped up…But what I really really want is a vanilla iced coffee…

I returned to the car carrying a milk…and an iced coffee. And once again I had given in to desires and ended up with too many calories. (By the way, my idea that I would eat less donuts with the milk proved a theory…I gobbled 3 donuts, strawberries, the milk and the iced coffee…It did not amount to less in any way.)

Enter the diet. As in THE diet. Let’s admit it, no one truly enjoys diets. No one is really eager to start a diet. Until you come across someone for whom a diet has truly worked. Then you pick their brain and get website info. And so it was for us as we visited with some friends who were staying in our home this past June. 

Suddenly my husband, Mr. Anti-Diet himself, was encouraging, even pushing me to learn more about the diet so I could put him on it. Shocking, I know, if you know him at all. I didn’t even know that the word diet was in his vocabulary. Hostess Ho-Ho’s and Coke Cola, yes, but diet? It seemed so strange. But alas, he had decided it was time to make some changes. (Apparently he had noticed some extra baggage on himself as well.)

Dragging my feet at first, I reluctantly researched this diet of diets and pressed “confirm order” on the website.  I’m not really the diet sort of person, instead, I strongly believe in moderation. “Moderation in all things” could be my life motto for eating. And when I say all things, I mean all…. As in cheesecake, brownies, ice cream…. Nothing is off limits, just consumed in moderation.  I have done ok with this method for years, except for the times I have thrown moderation out the window and adopted the “eat whatever I feel like” plan (as of late), which has brought on this nice package of excess I’ve been carrying around with me.

This new diet is strict. Instead of being Miss Moderate, I have to be Miss Extreme. I’ve got to be tough. It’s trying me. I can’t make any excuses or rationalize. There is no room for situational ethics of the munching kind. Not even the famous “just one little bite of brownie won’t hurt…”  It is working, though. And it is working in places that have been difficult to lose it before (Girls, you know what I’m talking about.) Despite the difficulty, it is worth it.

The same principle applies to my faith walk. This is how we should live our lives as followers of Christ. Excuses don’t cut it. Rationalizing doesn’t hold up. Situational ethics just doesn’t fit. He doesn’t want wimpy moderation-ists. He wants extremists. Followers who are done with excuses. Who will give up the triple latte comfy life to fully obey and follow no matter the discomfort. Being a follower of Christ requires us to follow instead of sitting on the sidelines eating donuts and wearing WWJD bracelets.

This has been good for my walk. Just like my eating habits, I tend to give myself an inch and take a mile where my walk is concerned. I get lazy, I rationalize, or make excuses where I know I shouldn’t. I replace the goal of pleasing God with pleasing self. I know that living for self gets me where I do not want to be, but still I give in to indulgence. Getting back on track, radically following my Savior feels good because I know its right. Its what I was made for.

More on this next week…..