Jillian Michaels and Eggs for Breakfast

For a couple months now I have been one foot in, one foot out in regards to healthy eating and exercise. I would put together meal plans and make promises to work out at least X number of minutes at the beginning of the week, but I almost always failed to follow through. One excuse or another always led to me not making time enough to exercise consistently or to prep healthy meals which then led to less than stellar eating choices. I reached the point three weeks ago when I saw that pattern, recognized my lack of desire and discipline in doing what I knew was best, and just started praying. I knew that my body needed nutrient-dense nourishment to fuel it and that exercise would be really beneficial in helping me achieve my weight loss goals and be energized. I just didn’t want to do it. To put it plainly, I wanted all the benefits of healthful living without living a healthy life. Over the course of the first two weeks I noticed a subtle shift in my mentality. I was being more conscientious about what I was eating; I was moving more. Last weekend, I knew it was finally time to start doing the acts of obedience in prayerful, expectant hope that God would do the heart-work I needed to follow through. Again, I made a meal plan. Again, I set a goal to work out 5 days out of the week doing my Jillian Michaels DVD for at least 25 minutes each day. Part of me wondered if this was going to be like so many other times, but a louder part of me knew that it wasn’t because this time it was God-inspired and I was tapping into grace.

One week into sticking to “the plan” without much difficulty, I am amazed at how much better I feel! My energy levels are through the roof. I had been needing daily naps before, and literally over night I can’t fall asleep to take a nap, even if I wanted to. The quality of my sleep has improved and I have more energy on less hours of sleep then I was needing before. I have been able to get up at 5 in the morning the past few days, wide-eyed and bushy tailed. Ok, maybe it was more groggy-eyed and bushy-bunned, but the point is that I was able to get up without being tempted to go back to sleep 😉 It has almost seemed to good to be true. I’m not saying there haven’t been any difficult moments, but I certainly haven’t felt like a deprived dieter. It is like my senses were in a haze, and now they are clear and sharp. As I have reflected on this, a couple thoughts came to mind:

  1. Prayer MUST be a prerequisite as well as a continual reality for any goals I set. Apart from grace, goal-setting is just a work of the Law. In order to tap into the wellspring of grace that is given to every believer, I must pray. I will be writing a book review on it later this week so I don’t want to say too much, but A Praying Life by Paul Miller has reminded me of my great need for continual, daily communion with my Abba Father in prayer. I am helpless, cynical, and ineffective apart from Him. I need Him to give me goals, and I need Him to achieve those goals.
  2. God deserves all the glory. I can not even count the number of times this week I either thought or said, “Look at this! Look at what God is doing. He is changing everything. This can’t be me, because I have seen so often the discouraging results of doing things in my own strength! This has to be all Him, I have proven myself to be utterly helpless apart from His aide.” It is truly marvelous that God answers His people’s prayers and changes us from the inside out. Pessimism can often blind me to the many works that God is doing in my life, but in times like these I am overwhelmingly aware that He is in every aspect of my days. Only He can transform my desires. I can know what the “right” thing to do is, but I can’t make myself want to do it. God is the only doctor with access to do surgery on my heart. He is not a stingy giver, and if I ask He WILL give according to His good will and lovingkindess. I can count on His character.
  3. Truths about my physical body communicate deeper realities about my soul. I cannot acknowledge the spirited awakening I have experienced in recent days without acknowledging the physical sluggishness I had previously fallen into. My habits of giving into laziness and poor eating had had a negative effect on how I felt, and it was only once I abandoned those bad patterns that I have begun to be rejuvenated.  This reality has led me to ponder what other habits I have let into my life that have dulled me on a spiritual level. My actions are either feeding my soul, invigorating it with inspiration or they are starving my soul, deadening and dulling it. Patrick and I have begun to converse together about what habits we need to change and what ones we would like to put into practice for this season, in order that we might experience the fullest life that there is for us, in Christ, while we are here on earth.

There is a vulnerability to acknowledging these kind of moments so early. I am very aware that one week is a very short time. Anybody can do almost anything for one week! But I wanted to note that these are the things that God has taught me this week, because I know that He has so much more coming down the line. Also, because I know God is in it, I am not afraid of failure. Through His grace, I have confident faith that He will complete the work that He has started, both in this small area and on my heart as a whole! He isn’t finished with me yet, thank Jesus.

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When You Aren’t Changing Fast Enough {The Moderate Wife}

Have you ever felt like gospel transformation and life change is something that God does in other people’s lives, but when it comes to yourself it just doesn’t seem to be happening? As someone who has known Jesus from a young age, I can often battle a sense that I’m not as far along in my journey as I “should” be. There are so many areas where I am lacking, different sins that I am still struggling with, that I can wind up feeling discouraged because I know better. It can feel like I’m caught in a cyclical pattern with the same battles, taking two steps forward only to take three steps back. When I begin to focus too much on my failures and not enough on the One who redeemed me from my sin, the burden of my own fallenness keeps me from resting under the light yolk of the gospel. Last month, I found myself feeling discouraged and lacking hope that I could have any kind of victory over some specific areas of sin. This sense of failing was increased as I contemplated the weightiness of becoming Emery’s mom six quick months ago. I felt an urgency like never before to figure everything all out and overcome every big sin struggle before she will be able to remember or catch my sinful tendencies through imitation. Yes, rational me knows that is unrealistic, but I’ll be the first to admit I am irrational sometimes;)

 

So I saw myself headed down the wrong path in my heart and immediately put a stop to it, right? I wish. But not this time. Instead of humbling myself and clinging to the cross as my awareness of my weakness increased, my fleshly response was to avoid the Lord instead of running to him. I stopped praying. I didn’t read the Word. My heart resisted every word of encouragement that I heard taught from the pulpit. I was broken inside under the constant barrage of condemnation that was streaming through my mind. My thoughts went something like this: You’re still going to be battling the same sins 20 years from now. You’ll never overcome that sin. You will be a stumbling block to Emery believing in the truth of the Word because she will see your hypocrisy as you don’t live up to what you teach. You want to accomplish great things for the kingdom of God, but you aren’t going to because He doesn’t use broken, messy people like you. Look at so-and-so. They have it together. He will use them. But not you. Because, look at you… I was getting crippled by fear and condemnation. I was believing lies. I was believing them so hard that I didn’t even realize they were lies! Then, as I felt weighed down with my own guilt, doubts, and fears, I began turning that condemnation on others.

My thoughts and attitudes towards my interactions with those closest to me turned harsh, and I began assuming the worst about their motives. Not only was I doubting God’s ability to sanctify and grow me, then I was doubting his work in them as well. This was the tool that the Lord used to reveal what was going on in my heart as I began to realize that edifying relationships were being hindered by my lack of grace. It was easier for me to realize that I was condemning others before I was capable of acknowledging that this was coming from a heart flooded with self-condemnation. As Patrick noticed what was happening, he gently reminded me that a lack of granting love and grace to others is symptomatic of a heart that isn’t walking in Christ’s love and grace itself. My heart needed to be renewed by truth.

After weeks of battling, I finally came to my knees and acknowledged my desperate need for the Lord to lead me and humble my heart. Through the advent devotional I had committed to reading each day at the beginning of December, He brought me the exact truth I needed to hear. John Piper said, “The key that unlocks the treasure chest of God’s peace is faith in the promises of God. So Paul prays, ‘May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing’ (Romans 15:13).” There was peace and joy for me to be found in the promises of God. In case you ever find yourself struggling through similar issues I thought I’d share with you some of the promises of scriptures that took my eyes off of myself and onto sweet hope.

“For it is God who works in you, both to will and work for his good pleasure,” (Philippians 2:13).

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life,” (Romans 6:22).

“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory, O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain,” (1 Corinthians 15:54-58).

God IS working in us, even if He isn’t doing it on our timetable. He promises that He is sanctifying us and that our striving is not in vain. Our battles with sin will not go away until we are in Heaven with Christ, but until that day comes we can hold on to the hope that someday we will indeed be made perfect and live eternally in the presence of our holy, perfect God. Until then, we can entrust ourselves to the Lord and accept his abundant grace over our lives as we fail, and likely fail often. The gospel is made all the more amazing when we are able to look at ourselves, acknowledge our brokenness, and allow it to push us closer to Jesus.

Having walked through that spiritual trial (and knowing that I’ll likely have to walk through it again), I am left overwhelmed and grateful that I am not saved because of my works. I am thankful that God has prepared good works for me to do, but that when I accomplish them it will be through dependence on Him, 100% because of grace, instead of because of my own merits or abilities. Left to my own devices I am just a downright messy, broken individual. But there is healing and hope in the arms of my Savior.

“Come Thou fount of every blessing,

Tune my heart to sing thy grace.”