Thursday, April 24, 2014

Seeking out a Healthy Lifestyle

Wholly Devoted.

That was the theme of this year's women's retreat for Brookside Church. 

Let's admit it. There are LOTS of things we can devote ourselves to. And how does one devote themselves to something wholly, with everything, and still be a balanced person? We walked through and chatted about a number of different topics that weekend. One of them being a Healthy Lifestyle. Just thought I'd pass along some thoughts I got to share. I focused on 3 Main Truths from God's word about Healthy Living.

1. The first is God wants us to take care of our bodies.

When we give our lives to Christ, when we decide to be a follower of him, we devote ourselves wholly. And that for sure includes our bodies.

In the Bible it talks about our bodies being sacred temples for God’s Holy Spirit. The verse goes like this:

You realize, don’t you, that you are the temple of God, and God himself is present in you? No one will get by with vandalizing God’s temple, you can be sure of that. God’s temple is sacred—and you, remember, are the temple. I Corinthians 3:16-17

The idea of my body being a sacred temple used to sound so confusing to me and so unhelpful, but as I began to get a bigger picture of the Bible, it began to sink in. See, in the Old Testament, before Jesus walked the Earth, the only access people had to God was through worshiping in the temple. That’s where God’s presence dwelled. So it was a big deal to go to the temple and it took lots of preparation and sacrifices (like, literally sacrificing animals) before one could go into even the outer parts of the temple. Nowadays however, since Jesus came, lived a sinless life and offered himself as a perfect sacrifice for our imperfect lives, we can have God’s Spirit live INSIDE of us. So it’s no longer God working from the outside in, but He can have access to our hearts. We are the temple. God lives in us, if we invite him to. And that is why we are considered sacred temples. That’s one you might need to let sink in and ponder more. In your notes I’ve given you a couple of scriptures you can check out.

I also think that healthy living begins with healthy thinking, which ties right into our verse for the weekend:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
Healthy thinking and caring for our minds opens up a WHOLE other box that we simply can’t get into that right now, but setting your mind on the things we just listed in that verse is a good starting place.
Wrapping up the first truth, I truly believe that more than anything else we’re hungry for God and we need to feed our souls with God’s Word. 
We are created with a deep need and desire for comfort that only Jesus can fill. But sometimes we look to other things, people, food, you-name-it to fill that void or bring us that comfort, instead of letting God fill us. There are 2 scriptures in the book of Matthew below if you want to dig deeper into that, but we need to feed on spiritual food just as much as we need our 3 meals a day.
You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. Matthew 5:6, MSG
People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every word of God. Matthew 4:4b, NLT
2. The second main truth is kind of an obvious one: It takes discipline to be healthy.
Here’s a zinger for you. In 1 Corinthians Paul says:
Everything is permissible for me’ – but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but I will not be mastered by anything… Therefore, Honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:12, 20b
It’s so true isn’t it? There’s no rule or law that says we can’t go around eating Twinkies all day... but is that beneficial? Does indulging show self-control, or are we mastered by our cravings for sweets? I despise the idea of being mastered or controlled by anything, but that’s exactly what happens with chocolate covered pretzels. Or anything salty-sweet really. Food really can master us. Laziness can overcome us. Ug. “Is it beneficial?” is a great question that we can be asking ourselves. And let us not rely on our own power for this, but through the power and the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We can ask God to fill us with the fruit of self-control. His power. Not ours. See Galatians 5:22-23 for more on this. 
It's said that discipline is the road to the good life.
The road to life is a disciplined life; ignore correction and you’re lost for good. Proverbs 10:17, MGS
Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. Proverbs 10:17, NIV
So basically discipline can pave the way to life. Okay, I think that’s worth taking note of.
Hard work pays off; chasing fantasies doesn’t.
Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense. Proverbs 12:11
You know what I thought of immediately? Pinterest. Maybe you can’t relate at all, but when it comes to social media, boy do I chase those fantasies. And I honestly don’t think that there is anything “wrong” with Pinterest or Facebook or whatever, but it’s when I spend my time chasing those things and choosing excessive amounts of screen time over time I could be using to exercise or plan out our meals for the week. We say that we just don’t have the time to workout or cook dinner. But I know for myself that I need to MAKE the time for those things and choose those actions over fantasy land.
Another biggie: We need to put good intentions into action.
All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23
We are all familiar with having good intentions that we didn’t follow through on. And I think there are times or maybe even seasons of life where we need to give ourselves a little bit of grace. Life happens. But the majority of the time, I think we need to push ourselves. Dave Ramsey is a well-known financial advisor who says that getting out of debt is, “20% knowledge, 80% action”. We can know and think about what we should do, but without action, follow-though and consistency, we will not reach our goals.
Moderation is key.
Don’t drink too much wine and get drunk; don’t eat too much food and get fat. Drunks and gluttons will end up on skid row, in a stupor and dressed in rags. Proverbs 23:20-21, MSG

I love this and think it relates to much more than food and wine. The things we are talking about today require BALANCE. How can we make time for exercise without neglecting our children? How do we focus on getting healthy without letting it consume our every thought?

To share a little bit of my personal journey about 8 years ago, I started investigating the hype about organic foods. I was intrigued, but also skeptical. I read books and articles online and started really paying attention to labels and lists of ingredients. I was amazed and a bit troubled. Why were there so many unnecessary and even harmful ingredients in the foods we were eating? Every time I walked into the grocery store I felt like the shelves around me were spinning a little bit. It seemed like the more I knew, the more overwhelmed I felt.

I began reading more, researching more and praying more. I made discoveries about beauty and household products, medical practices and the list grew beyond my wildest dreams with being pregnant for the first time. Each new finding came with was another crossroads, another decision, another reason to seek the Lord for discernment. I sensed Him making me aware that I could very easily get carried away with this healthy-living scene. That food or healthy-living could even become an idol in my life if I wasn’t careful. I asked him to help guide the decisions I made for my family and myself and to fill me with the trust and faith I’d need for the rest. Moderation. Balance. And faith.

And finally, my third main truth about healthy living.

3. Healthy living happens in community.

We need each other, especially to overcome our weaknesses.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12
Bottom line: We are designed to be in relationship with one another. We are stronger together.
If we confess our struggles to each other and pray together we’ll heal and grow.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16, NIV
There is something powerful about confessing your faults and struggles to another person. It can feel so risky, even scary to really open yourself up and let someone see your weaknesses, but once it’s in the light, there is freedom. There is a group of moms who get together every other Wednesday morning to pray for our children. During that time we confess before the Lord and each other all of the trillions of ways we fall short. While it’s hard and humbling and sometimes even embarrassing, I feel supported and understood. It is so freeing to open up and know others are praying for me and often times going through the very same thing. I really want to encourage you to share with someone a way in which you are struggling with your health. Put yourself out there, ask for prayer and I promise you won’t regret it.
We need loving feedback from others in the body of Christ in order to grow.
Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:15-16
The truth hurts sometimes, doesn’t it? We know our flaws, we know the truth, but when someone else brings it up, it can sting. But when the truth is rooted in love, in our friendship and sisterhood can soften the blow. May we learn the fine art of giving and accepting loving feedback and sharing the truth with one another.

To wrap things up, I think we need a few warnings and encouragements. We need to remember that healthy living happens one day at a time

We all need patience. We may also need warning, encouragement, or tender care.
Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.           1 Thessalonians 5:14, NLT
Be patient with yourself and with others. This is a journey.
Monitor your progress by comparing yourself to your past and not to others.
Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else.  Galatians 6:4
Comparison is a deep, dark trap. Let us focus on ourselves an the story the God has written for our own lives, yet sincerely encourage and celebrate with others. More on comparison here. 
Sometimes we need to wait to sense God’s presence and help.
Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. James 5:7, MSG
Maybe you’re not sure where to start. Pray about it! Ask God to show you. Ask yourself, what am I being mastered by? He WILL show you. And if there is already something on your mind or in your heart, don’t disregard that. It could very well be the Lord brining that to your attention. It’s not just a coincidence.

I know that not much of this is super practical information. And in light of that, I've started a Facebook Page where I'll post periodic updates with some tips and info on things I have found helpful in trying to live a healthy lifestyle and finding the balance of fitness, family and faith. You can check it out here

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Mess of Stress

Stress is a four letter word to me. I try my best to avoid it, prevent it, take a detour around it. When it actually does happen I try not to say it. As if not saying makes me not stressed. I think that's called denial. 

Here's the thing. The last couple of weeks I could see that things in my life were brewing up a perfect storm of stress. So I said it. Out loud a few times. In an email to some friends. I'M STRESSED. But I'm also having conflicting thoughts about embracing stress or banishing it completely. I'm confused on the issue. So here are some fairly random, surely messy thoughts on stress. Any clarity you might have on the issue is welcomed :)

-Admitting I'm stressed or feel stress coming on is helpful. (especially to my dear husband so he can at least mentally prepare for what is to come and maybe even have a chance to run and clothe himself in armor. Sad, but true) But for real, admitting and confiding in others and being supported in prayer is extremely helpful.

-After admitting I'm stressed there's a bit of freedom I feel like I can get carried away with. 
"Well, he/she knows I'm stressed so that totally excuses how I just acted or what came out of my mouth.
I don't want to use it as an excuse. I want to manage stress and work though it appropriately. (Readers- insert advice here ;) 

-I've been pondering if being stressed is, like, sinful. I know that sounds harsh. But I can't help thinking about my stress being rooted in anxiety and lack of trust. If I am faith-filled and really trusting God, would I be stressed out about a situation? Surely all of my deadlines and to-do's wouldn't just vanish, but would I be filled with much more joy and much less tension if I were fully trusting? Ann Voskamp says not to say "I am stressed" but instead, "I am grateful". That is HARD.

-Stress seems selfish. My family now suffers because of how stress can manifest itself in my words, actions, temperament... I walk around thinking, "I'm stressed, I'm stressed, I'm stressed", which basically translates to "Me, Me, Me". I become focused on my stress and how I can make it better and I'm less aware of those around me or what they might be going through themselves.

-Stress takes my already controlling tendencies and puts them on hyper-control. Yikes. While I think it's prudent to plan times to concentrate on things that need to be done, deadlines that need to be met, etc, do I hold those plans with an open hand? Or do I freak out and act like a BABY and get all worked up when my plans that were so carefully thought out fall though? Not that something like that has ever happened. Just a random example... :/ Oh to find the balance of being prudent and responsible yet fulling trusting. I had to remind myself today: God has my back. He is FOR me.

-If I'm stressing about something it is probably because I think I can or should be able to handle something that is ultimately not mine to handle. Let's not flatter yourself here, Sara. God does not need to you to it for Him. He's got this. He might let you, or even ask you to help or join in in some way. But you are not the Savior. Bam. Point taken.