Monthly Archives: February 2014

the way to victory: intentional sacrifice

“…victory isn’t a place we arrive at and then relax. Victory is when we [make the better choice] over something not beneficial to us. And we maintain our victories with each choice…the very next choice is a crucial one….One wise choice can lead to two, can lead to three, can lead to a thousand, can lead to the sweet place of utter dependence on God and lasting discipline.”

– Lysa Terkeurst, Made to Crave, Chapter 17

Finding victory through intentional living…How does one get there?

This is not my first round with the word “intentional”. Although I’ve heard it numerous times throughout my life, the three years since I’ve moved to Minneapolis to help plant a church have been full of circling back to that phrase and what it means to live that way.

Be intentional with your relationship with God.

Be intentional in reaching out to your neighbors and serving in your communities.

Be intentional with the relationships you have with your co-workers.

Be intentional about really asking people how their souls are…don’t be afraid to get deep.

Be intentional about giving.

Be intentional with your relationships. Period.

And now…

Be intentional with your health.

Be intentional with godly self-care.

Prior to going through this study (see here), I knew that with my being a four-part being (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) that all parts are interconnected and that if one suffered, they all suffered. But, I did not know or realize the implications my food and exercise choices (or lack thereof) had on the spiritual portion of myself.

Oh does it ever!

2013 wasn’t the greatest year for me. Yes, it was full of trials and growth, but the latter portion of it: Not. Fun. In reading through Made to Crave these last six weeks, I’ve come to realize and embrace the truth about how and what I crave and what I should be seeking instead.

Crave

To crave means to long for, want greatly, and/or desire eagerly.

By that definition, I came to realize several truths about myself:

I crave love. After all, wasn’t I created to love and be loved? In the past, I’ve sought that out in my relationships with others – with my friends, my pastor, men I’ve dated…or wished I had dated (projecting is not healthy). My worth and feelings of being loved does not stem from those relationships nor should I be placing that expectation on them. We’re human and we’re all incomplete. Only God can validate me and it’s when I embrace that truth, letting it get really deep, that I feel satisfied and deeply loved.

I crave affection. There were so many days where I felt that if I gave another ounce of all I have within me, I’d be wiped from existence (wouldn’t really happen, but that’s how I felt). I used to give, give, and give until I was empty, but I’m learning that I can’t rely on people to keep my love-tank full. When I turn my focus to God, on who He says I am, only then can I continue to give, give, give without nearing the empty side of the tank. It’s a beautiful thing.

I crave feeling as though I matter…to someone…to anyone. I crave being asked how my day was, what my dreams are, what I need to do to achieve them, where I succeeded and where I didn’t. Being single, I rarely get that. Just this last week, a fellow sister in Christ posted a very encouraging blog article regarding the matter and it truly hit home for me. I also realized that God, in His goodness, provided me with a few good friends who do just that. When I’m with them, I’m not left feeling as though something’s missing or that there is something wrong with me. They love me as I am and continue to point me back to Jesus. That, my friends, is what Christian community, accountability and living should be. It’s amazing when the body of Christ works as it should.

I crave companionship. I do not fear being alone as I do enjoy my own company quite a bit, but going home to an empty apartment after a long day at the office and meeting appointments only holds so much appeal at times. Maybe I should get a pet…kidding, slightly. If there’s one thing I’ve come to realize this last year, it’s that I do fear ending up alone. There is a big difference between the two, but I’m learning that whether I have three really close friends or five hundred Facebook friends and Twitter followers at the end of the day, it won’t matter as I am never truly 100% alone. I have Jesus and He is all that matters.

I crave comfort. I’ve chased after so many things in this life, seeking the temporary satisfaction that they would give…that whole tray of Oreos…that pack of soft-shell flour tortillas…those Doritos…that bottle of sparkling cider…that next potential relationship…that movie or book I could get lost in for a couple of hours. I could go on. Ever since that little girl sought comfort that only a father-figure can give and was turned away, due to his own incompleteness, I have sought that comfort in food, entertainment and other things, all in the form of gluttony. I realize that now. That truth dawned on me last week as I was going through the car wash and it’s finally reaching the depths of my heart. Thank you, God!

I crave soul-deep satisfaction. Relationships, food and worldly pleasures can’t give that. I’m done living through if-only’s. I don’t need a man or that donut to be complete or satisfied. When I remain in Christ, I am enough. I am content with where He has me, but not so “content” that I let life just happen to me…that’s playing the victim. I’m done with that.

This study is nearing its end and I’m sure this won’t be the last of God’s work on me in this area. After all, we’re moving forward with the Action Plan portion of this book, taking a look at how to live this out and learning to put that into practice (I’m so excited!). Lysa begins closing this portion of our study with a challenge to live with intentionality.

Intentionality: Actions performed with awareness; done deliberately, consciously, on purpose Intentional11-819x1024(pp_w295_h368)

Intentional living requires sacrifice. It requires making choices that will benefit in the long run. It requires making choices that will not be comfortable. It requires choices that will “unsettle me,” getting my out of my blasted comfort zone and continually stretching and strengthening my spiritual muscles with God’s truth. Intentional living is a process and it’s not going to be an easy one. Anything worth having rarely is. This process and these choices will take a lot of discipline, focus, determination and hard work. It will also take courage.

What does that look like for me? And is it possible?

For me, it means

  • Choosing to sacrifice “sleeping in” to get my workout in before work in the morning. I discovered that I prefer to be up early. It’s quiet. No one else is at the gym. It’s just me and God, having a heart to heart in the secret places of my heart and mind, a place my imagination created as a child (it’s fun being able to return to that beautiful place on a daily basis). I listen to podcasts (usually past sermons or Christian talk shows) or Christian music (Jamie Grace, Kerri Roberts and Mandisa – music that really gets a girl moving). Sometimes, I’ll do my workout in silence and let God touch my heart any way He wants to as I listen to the hum of the treadmill and feel my heart beat to the rhythm of my shoes hitting the pavement/belt. If I crave sleep as much as I do, I can go to bed earlier. It requires choices, compromises and sacrifice.
  • Choosing a healthier diet. My current diet consists of lean protein, vegetables and fruits and eating three meals with a snack in between if I am hungry each day. Minimal on the grains as I’m staying away from those floured tortillas I mentioned earlier and most breads. I’ve also given up sugar where I’m aware of its presence (candy, cookies, pies, cakes, etc…frosting is a huge weakness!). The only exception to that rule: the two small pieces of dark chocolate I allow myself when I’m craving it.
  • Choosing to actually read the nutrition labels on products I pick up. If it doesn’t fit my diet, I put it back.
  • Choosing a workout regimen that works for me. I’ve always tried to cram it all in on one day…cardio three days a week, full body the other two. No results. I’m going to be taking a different approach with the help of a trainer (free perks courtesy of my gym) and will now be focusing on upper body, lower body and core on different days mixed in with adequate cardio every day. Here goes!
  • Choosing to have an accountability partner/partners who will get in my face. I know there will be moments of being uncomfortable because I’m being convicted by the truth she has/they have set before me. This also comes down to choosing to not allow that type of honesty to ruin those relationships, but rather deepen them. Guys and girls, you know who you are and I am so thankful for each of you (Philippians 1.3-6).
  • Choosing to have a plan. I like Lysa’s idea of planning out meals after breakfast, once you have a full stomach, being intentional about what you’re going to have the rest of the day. I also want to pre-plan before I go to the grocery store. That way, I’ll have on hand what I need for each day.
  • Choosing to get outside and move rather than go straight home to sit on the couch for another four hours, filling up that time with mindless TV watching or surfing the internet, after I get off work. I picked up a couple of books from my local library that cover different hiking trails or city walks in my area. The plan is to do each of them. Date-night walks with Jesus anyone? The more I think about that concept, the more excited I am about doing these. If only the deep freeze would end…soon.
  • Choosing to take any dating profile(s) I currently have up down and live my life pursing only one Man, Jesus. Would I like to date again? Sure. But I won’t do it at the cost of my relationship with God. After all, He is the only one worth pursuing. I could go on with this one, but that’s a topic for another day. Ladies, any man you have to chase isn’t worth your time. Pursue God and if you’re meant to be with someone, He will bring the two of you together in His time. You are not less of a person or less capable of doing good work for His Kingdom if you’re single. That is a truth I’m learning to embrace, no matter what our culture says about the matter.
  • Choosing to pray when I’m tempted; to allow the Word of God, scripture He has etched upon my heart, to roll through my mind and spirit when I’m facing a particularly tough situation (like the donuts a co-worker brought in to work on Monday or feeling tempted to browse Match.com just one last time).
  • Choosing to be intentional with my thoughts. Not allowing them to wallow in my own incompleteness, but choosing to focus on the things of God; choosing to “park my mind” on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4.8).
  • Choosing to look beyond hurtful words rather than respond out of my own incompleteness.
  • Choosing to really ask “how goes it with your soul?,” being prepared to patiently listen to that response, no matter what it is, without inserting my own agenda, and seeking out ways to serve that person.
  • In all, choosing to live my life in such a way that honors and pleases God and ultimately brings Him the glory He deserves.

    Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the patter of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12.1
    -2

Is this possible? Yes. Not on my own strength or willpower, but on God’s. I know I won’t get there overnight. This process is one God wants me to venture on through with Him at my side. Intentionally pursuing holiness means God is the only One we should long for, want greatly, and desire eagerly.  He is the only one I should crave. I want that. Boy-o-boy, do I want that.

I am still confident I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord…be strong and take heart and wait on the Lord. Psalm 27.13-14

I’m intentionally choosing to wait on Him and there I will find victory.

How about you? What is it that you crave most? What does it mean to you to live with intention? What sacrifice would it require? Is it possible for you to live that out?

 

© Anita J. Brands. 2014. Website: https://authentictruthseeker.wordpress.com/

Shared Post – Seeking Solace in God

As I was browsing through my usual reads at the office today, I stumbled on this and couldn’t agree more. Today, I’m choosing #6. Lent is just around the corner (wait for that post to be uploaded — I’m calling for acountability and community here). Here’s to living life to its fullest!

6 options for godly single women wanting to marry

I am currently preaching through Malachi and talking about Living for a Legacy. While the book does say that God is a Father seeking “godly offspring” through his people, my concern is that singles will feel isolated or overlooked in this series. So, I wanted to supplement the sermons with some additional thoughts for singles.

“Daughters . . . Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.”

–Song of Songs 2:7 (NIV)

These are tough times for godly single women who want to marry.

There are some single women who remain single for no good reason. I know plenty of them. Some have never married. Some married only to have their husband die. Others have been divorced by a guy who did not appreciate what he had and did not want to invest the energy it takes to make a great marriage. These are women who are friends of Grace and I, people we know well, women who are very godly, actively serving others, and well known in their church community. Of course, the world is also filled with singles who are not mature, godly, or stable, but I’m not talking about them.

As for the godly single women wanting to marry, however, I’m meeting more and more women like this recently. They often ask me for advice on what they should do. Those who are over thirty are sometimes beginning to wonder if their hopes to marry and become a mother will be fulfilled. For some, this leads to near panic. For others, a constant despair with seasons of dark depression lingers like a chronic ache.

Admittedly, I am not the best person to give advice to a single woman about specific ways to navigate the path of holding out hope while being realistic regarding planning for one’s future. But, I am a pastor and a dad. I do love the women in our church, and I love them like a spiritual father. Also, I am the father of two girls whom I absolutely enjoy and adore, the oldest of which is sixteen. So I think about this a lot.

For the godly single ladies reading this blog post, I know that sometimes the drama and details of relationships (or the lack thereof) can become confusing, cloudy, and cold. Sometimes, pulling back from a situation, particularly one that is emotionally expensive for you, helps you see that even though the specific choices you are making are not what you would want, they are the best in light of the options you have. This dawned on me recently while talking with a woman at an event where I was teaching. In that conversation, I told her she really only had six options.

Option #1: Sin

You can decide that God has not come through for you, so you take matters into your own hands. You decide to be a gal who parties a lot, casually dates a bunch of guys you’d never marry, sleeps around, moves in with a guy, or does other things that will really hurt the one relationship you have with a great man: Jesus Christ. If you take this path, you will eventually come to feel horrible for what you have done and miserable in the world you live.

Option #2: Surrender

You can give up on ever meeting someone worth marrying. You can just stop taking any risks, meeting any people, or trying in any way. Often this is because you are sick of getting your heart broken and would rather lock it away in a vault than take another risk. But when you shut down your heart to life in general, you are not just foregoing marriage but also hope and joy.

Option #3: Settle

You can lower your standards to the point that nearly any guy can meet them. Single men and women are prone to have a list of what they want in a spouse that is way too detailed, long, and unreasonable. But, it is also possible to keep editing your list to the point where “godly man” eventually becomes “believes in a higher power of some sort,” and “I respect him” becomes “I think I can put up with him.” This may get you a man, but not a long-term, joy-filled, God-honoring marriage.

Option #4: Suffer

You can allow your singleness to become the devastating, discouraging, and defining aspect of your life. You can let it make you feel unwanted, unloved, and unworthy. You can allow it to haunt you, pushing you into shame, isolation, and despair. You can let your singleness be a club for Satan to beat you with over, and over, and over, and over . . .

Option #5: Strive

You can start to obsess over doing literally everything you can to land a husband. You never leave the house without looking like you are ready for a pageant. You count every calorie and spend more time at the gym than the treadmill does. You start an account for every Christian dating site that exists. You attend every church with a decent number of single men, and never miss a singles ministry event at any megachurch within a two-hour drive of your home. The center of your life is no longer Jesus, but some guy you are determined to attract to fill his place.

Option #6: Solace

You can take comfort in God’s love for you and that Jesus is the Man in your life who sympathizes with your singleness. You can allow your singleness to explain you but not identify you. You can allow your singleness to be an aspect of your life but not the essence of your life. You can remind yourself that you worship a God who was single, and that the early church was nearly the polar opposite of today’s: singleness was considered a virtuous, preferable life by many in service to God. You can live your life without waiting for someone else to show up and make it worthwhile. You can retain your desire for marriage without drifting into desperation. You can be open to a relationship without putting your entire life on hold until one occurs. You can pour your desires for a family into your extended family and/or church family.

To my single sisters wanting to marry, I do not want to discourage you in any way. But, the truth is that it is harder to be a single woman than a single man as a Christian. Every poll I have ever seen says that single women are generally more mature and responsible than single men. Men are waiting until around 30 years old to marry for the first time, if they ever do. And, they are going for younger women, according to the statistics. Across Christianity, there are far more single women than single men, which means that the odds are not in the favor of godly single women. In addition, for theological reasons, many Christian women do not want to be the dating initiator, asking guys out and taking the lead in the relationship.

All of this together means that godly single women live in a complex world that is increasingly more difficult for those who want to marry and have children with a godly man. Love, prayer, friendship, support, counsel, and community are needed more than ever.

Being single is not easy. But neither is being married. They are just difficult in different ways as God uses everything in our life to make us more like Jesus, who happened to live a perfect life while single.

6 Ways to Love Single Women in Your Church

Special thanks to my friend, Debbie, for posting this ad on Facebook this morning. It was an encouraging read and I am, because of it, thankful for those who have lit up my life in this way.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” -I Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)
Contentment does not entitle you to blessings…what is more helpful: to lovingly encourage a single woman in her relationship with Christ because He is worthy of being pursued himself…she has great value just as she is…and #3: wow – asking a person, “how was work?” can go a long way….and delight in the beauty of the single woman in your life…”show her through words that he beauty reminds you of the beauty of Jesus. Single women are a part of the bride of Christ. Celebrate them as you would celebrate a woman on her wedding day…”

emotional triggers and soul-filling satisfaction – #CraveGod

Ever have one of those no-good, rotten, horrible days?

You know.

The ones where you trip on a raised piece of sidewalk that you swear wasn’t there yesterday and proceed to run into a number of inanimate things through the day.

The ones where every call at the office seems to set you on edge after you made the mistake of taking the first frustrated caller personally.

The ones where that friend cancels again and you could kick yourself for making the situation all about you when you don’t even know what’s going on in her life in the first place.

The moments when the day a father figured told a little girl she wouldn’t have friends or amount to anything if she continued to [fill in the blank] comes back to haunt her, even though she knows she’s forgiven him and moved on…

Those days frustrate me.

I get angry at that friend, at myself and at the world.

I hurt.

Life doesn’t seem fair.

I bark at my co-worker or my neighbor as I head back to my apartment, bringing her down with me (misery does love company, doesn’t it?).

And, oh, that chocolate cake in the display case at the bakery I walk by on my way home looks so good…even though I’m not physically hungry.

My heart is empty.

My emotional tank is empty.

I’m struggling to focus and that thick piece of cake…

that tray of Oreos…

that movie…

spending time flirting with that guy…

sounds like a tempting quick fix.

And more often than not, I give in, more so to the areas of food or the pleasure I can get from Hollywood’s form of entertainment.

And yet…

Yet….

God, in his amazing goodness and grace, has been teaching me to turn to him during those moments when my emotions are triggered by those past events, by those incomplete and hurting people, or by my own clumsiness (although I’ve found myself laughing more on that last one). Through his love and the words of Lysa Terkheurst and the rest of the ladies at Proverbs 31 Ministries and those doing this online study with me, he’s showing me that I can get the satisfaction, that deep-soul satisfaction that lasts forever, from him and him alone.

I’m made to crave.

And, boy, do I ever!

I crave to fulfillment on all levels. I crave love (I do like having a full love tank…I’m more able to reach out and pour into others when I do). I crave peace. I crave relationship. I crave companionship. I crave so many things and God is the only One who can do fill and satisfy all.

If only my stubborn heart would believe it as truth! I’m learning…

To seek him out before that chocolate cake; it will only satisfy me in the moment and leave me feeling off the rest of the day.

He promises this throughout his Word:

“For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” Psalm 107.9

What a promise! Good things – love, life, joy, peace, patience, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control ( this applies so much with this study…all of it!), and so much more.

If I could ask him for any of those things right this second, it would be self-control, love, and an abundance of grace for those who trigger my emotions and discernment to know where to turn to and when rather than making that pit-stop at the bakery on my way home.

I’m learning. We all are.

Today, I choose him. It doesn’t matter if the first person I talked to today took out their bad morning on me. They’re incomplete. So am I, but I have Jesus. Maybe they don’t. How can I take that personally when he asks me to love them instead?

Now to you: what triggers set of you on any given day? Do you believe that God is good enough to meet those needs when you’re emotionally empty? Seek him out. Let him love you. Make that choice.

why I stopped eating sugar

From my health blog: Journey to a Healthier Me:

Sugar.

I love it. My friends love it. My family loves it.

And I’m pretty sure my dog loves it.

We sprinkle it in our coffee. You can find it in pretty much anything you consume. Valentine’s Day was last week and chocolate sales went through the roof, so to speak.

And when I was ten years old, sugar became my best friend.

Growing up, I didn’t really fit in. Having been blessed with red hair felt like a disease and viewing the God of the Bible differently than what they taught at the church I grew up in set me apart. On one particularly bad day, I  felt the need to seek out comfort from a parent only to be turned away.

That same year, Little Debbies treats, donut holes  and chips filled the pantry and sugar sang me to sleep on the nights I felt the most lost. I didn’t feel safe reaching out to anyone, so I saught comfort in the next best thing. That led to a battle with my weight, self-image and, well, gluttony (as the Bible puts it). I would over-indulge just so I could feel full, even though it wasn’t my stomach that was empty. It was my heart.

That battle with my weight and health still wages today, but I made a choice in four years ago to do something about it.

In 2010, soda, especially Mt. Dew, began affecting my stomach in weird ways and made me feel sick, all the time. So…I gave it up. Although it was hard at first, but the benefits of not putting that into my system have definitely outweighed the short-lived satisfaction I once got. I feel better. I’ve had less cavities, so my teeth are definitely thanking me. I also have more energy to get through my day rather than facing that 2:00 PM  sleepy lull that hit every afternoon, during which I used to grab a 20 oz. Coke from the break room.

I also went out and purchased a gym membership that I could afford. (Go me!…lol). I got tips from a trainer and started working out on a regular basis.

In 2011, I moved to Minneapolis and my health journey continued. New gym. I also now lived in a city where most people walked or rode their bikes. There were trails right in my yard (well, almost)! My friends also were making healthier choices when it came to food and because of that accountability, paired with my gym regimen, the weight started falling off and stayed off.

It hasn’t always been easy. For instance, this last year I was saddened by the end of a relationship that had come to mean more to me than it probably ever should have and because of that sadness/depression, I didn’t have the energy to workout or the desire to make healthy choices. There were many days where I ate what I felt like eating. And then came Thanksgiving, followed by Christmas and I believe the food minions were out to get me last year. It was a series of stinkin’, rotten, horrible, no good days (I’m referencing a little Lysa Terkhuerst here) and there didn’t seem to be a light at the end of that tunnel.

2014 is here…has been for the last fifty days and the light is there. I can see it and it’s all due to God in his unending love and goodness (not to mention his grace). He has reached my aching heart through this online Bible study I’ve been doing with Proverbs 31 Ministries and the words of Lysa in her book Made to Crave.

I’ve gotten up again. I’m working out again…at 4:30 AM of all times. I’m making healthy choice again. But…

None of this has been by my own power; it has been by God’s.

This time will be different.

This time will last the rest of my life whether I experience another series of stinkin’, rotten, horrible, no good days or not.

This time, I will succeed; for his glory, not mine.

This time, I’ve got accountability on my side. I’ve got a couple of friends who text me or reach out to me via Facebook every day to see how I’m doing. If I’m not being truthful, they know it and call me on it. Besides, why on earth would I want to lie to my friends? Another perk to this: I have a couple of workout buddies…especially when the weather turns nice. Anyone up for a walk around the river or the Chain of Lakes?

This time…

I’m doing more than buying healthier food. I’m skimping out on MSG all together and putting sugar back on the shelf. I recently found out that I have a sensitivity to the former and have been advised by my doctor not to eat that junk; that latter is simply a choice. Neither of these have a purpose in my body. I prayer that God will be honored through my journey to taking godly care of my body (his temple).

I’m giving up sugar (with the exception of dark chocolate). You should too.

Here’s why:

  1. Sugar is addictive. Did you know that in a 2007 study by James Cook University, researchers discovered cocaine-addicted mice actually preferred sugar-water as a reward over cocaine? Put that box of Lucky Charms back on the shelf. I don’t care if the label says they’ve added more protein or if they claim there are now more whole grains in your choice of cereal or that those marshmallows rock your world. Put it back.
  2. Sugar makes you fat. This so true. Remember those food minions from earlier? They came in the form of chocolates, cakes, Christmas goodies, cookies, candy canes, turkey and stuffing. Even the canned cranberry sauce was screaming my name. In that short amount of time, I gained some of the weight I had lost back and added a few inches to my waistline, making me feel incredibly uncomfortable. An over abundance of sugar puts your live into overdrive, working frantically to re-balance your system, and stores sugar as fat so your blood sugar and insulin levels can stabilize. Eating it every day and at every meal, your body will end up with an excess of belly fat over time…and that’s right about where mine is sitting right now. Makes sense not to eat it and thus, one of the reasons I’m giving it up.
  3. Sugar keeps you from making healthy choices. Remember that cocaine statement from #1? Sugar is just as addictive and when your body has felt that high, you’ll keep coming back for more. Not to mention, when you fill up on sugar, you’re less likely to eat the nutrients you body really needs, causing systems to shut down.
  4. Sugar is altering our children’s culture. While I don’t have kids, I remember quite well how it changed my childhood. Having that over-abundance of sugar as a kid could lead to early death or illness for life. My kids, if God chooses to bless me in that department, will only see sugar at special occasions…even that seems less of a probability. Healthy cake anyone?
  5. Sugar keeps you hungry. Sugar doesn’t satiate. Many of us get our sugar from liquids (pop, energy drinks, etc.) and when you consume it in liquid form, you’re getting empty calories that never satisfy and in turn, you’re inviting constant hunger into your life.
  6. Sugar is everywhere. Check the sugar content on the healthy foods you purchase and you’ll be surprised.
  7. Sugar feed cancer. Scientists have long noted sugar molecules are present in high numbers near cancer cells. Just this last year, a study by the University of Copenhagen showed that sugar actually aids the growth of malignant cells. No thanks — bring on the mushrooms!
  8. Sugar accompanies other things you don’t want in your body. Enter in MSG and other additives added to preserve many of the foods people purchase today. Ugh…
  9. Sugar is making us sick. This is true. Eating all the sugary foods I chose to eat during my season of sadness left me feeling like crap. Not just on the days I splurged on it. This happened every day. I was tired all the time. I was in a perpetual state of feeling like I was coming down with something. Sugar can actually suppress your immune system, causing your body to get common sicknesses more often.
  10. Sugar costs money. Getting sick often and feeding your constant hunger can add up over time. Think about it. Your grocery bill and the number of doctor visits…neither come cheap.
  11. Sugar turns into belly fat. See reason #2. When sugar is processed by your liver, the excess that you don’t need gets turned into fat; belly fat. This can lead to type 2 diabetes and heart disease, the former of which runs in my family. I can make choices now to keep that at bay, then I’m on board.
  12. Sugar is causing your cravings. See #5. When you eat sugar, you’re always craving more.
  13. Sugar is sneaky. It’s listed under many names and although it may not be listed on the nutrition label of your Nutrigrain bars, it’s there: Agave nectar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweeter, corn syrup, crystalline fructose, dextrose, evaporated can juice, fructose, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, sucrose, and syrup.
  14. You’re eating way too much. Recommended amount: 6 teaspoons per day. Not tablespoons.
  15. Sugar hides in your drinks. Choose water (I also heard that they were debating on whether to add sugar to milk…no).
  16. Sugar is ruining your teeth.
  17. Sugar contains no nutritional value…whatsoever. It contains only calories.
  18. Sugar withdrawals are real. Explains why going through pop withdrawal brings on headaches…it’s not the lack of caffeine. It’s the lack of sugar.
  19. Sugar may be making your moods swing. No kidding.
  20. We use sugar as a reward. Turning another year older? Let me buy you a cake with lots of frosting! Aced that exam? Have a cookie. Dropped 50 lbs? Here’s a tray of Oreos. No more.
  21. Sugar isn’t helping your skin. Unless you’re using it in the form of a sugar scrub.
  22. Sugar is affecting our kids…didn’t they say this already?
  23. You don’t actually need any calories from sugar. Fruit and starchy vegetables provide more than enough calories for a healthy adult diet.
  24. Sugar is connected to more health concerns than we once imagined.  Check this out.
  25. Sugar affects your brain. Feeling tired or hungry all the time? High blood sugar has been linked to memory loss and cognitive decline. In other words, sugar consumption can lead to a domino effect in the body which can prematurely age the brain.

I’m chosing to cut sugar from my diet. Will it be easy? No. It will probably be one of the hardest things I ever do, but I do know that my future self will thank me.

Most of this fascinating infomration was found here.

Journey to a Healthier Me

Sugar.

I love it. My friends love it. My family loves it.

And I’m pretty sure my dog loves it.

We sprinkle it in our coffee. You can find it in pretty much anything you consume. Valentine’s Day was last week and chocolate sales went through the roof, so to speak.

And when I was ten years old, sugar became my best friend.

Growing up, I didn’t really fit in. Having been blessed with red hair felt like a disease and viewing the God of the Bible differently than what they taught at the church I grew up in set me apart. On one particularly bad day, I  felt the need to seek out comfort from a parent only to be turned away.

That same year, Little Debbies treats, donut holes  and chips filled the pantry and sugar sang me to sleep on the nights I felt the most lost. I didn’t feel safe reaching out to…

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acts of kindness

 

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4.32

Did you know that this week, February 10-16, is Random Acts of Kindness Week? That little fact had slipped my mind until a radio broadcast I had been listening to at work reminded me.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” –William James

When given this week’s Blog Roll assignment for the M2C (Made to Crave) online Bible study I’ve been working through, I laughed out loud. What a coincidence option four was. Let me tell you why…

One year ago, I got this crazy idea to compile a list of acts of kindness on my birthday; the number of acts equating my age that particular year. So I did and, in doing so, God stretched my heart a little bit more than I expected Him to.

You see, I wasn’t focused on me as some of us usually are on our birthdays. After all, it’s my day, right?

Wrong.

It’s God’s day.

“This is the day the Lord has made. [I] will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118.24 NLT

It’s His. He owns it. I’m just one of the many stewards of it.

The way I saw it, I could either do the same thing and do what I wanted all day long, feeling just as empty by day’s end as I did when it started

or

I could make it make about Him and about others.

Today is February 13.

Twenty-nine years ago, I came into this world.

Twenty-nine

That can seem like a lot when writing out a list

and, like last year, I’ve committed myself to one of those lists.

Acts of kindness

I can’t call them random because each one is planned out in advance:

Appointments have been made

Letters were written and mailed off prior to today

Clothes donated

A stranger’s coffee paid for

Flowers delivered to a local nursing home

Notes of encouragement were written beforehand and left on random, public bathroom mirrors:

“You’ve got this!”

“Good morning, beautiful!”

“You…yes, you…are loved.”

Forgiveness given and the words “I love you” said and meant…

And best of all, I get to spend all of it with Him.

One act can go a long way.

Jesus created kindness; He’s the Author and Master of it. He greeted a Samaritan women in the middle of the day, something a Jewish man in that culture would never have done. He saw her sin, met her deepest need and loved her anyway. He healed the sick and the lame. Restored sight to the blind and rose the dead. He taught by living the two greatest commandments:

“To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”

and

“To love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

He expects us to do the same and if I am (if you are) a true follower of Jesus Christ, you will, naturally. In this, we can make a difference. We can share His love with those our lives touch.

Acts of kindness don’t have to big. They don’t have to be expensive; I didn’t break the bank with mine.

And it doesn’t have to end today.

God taught me that last year and I can’t wait to see what He brings about today. I’m sure I’ll still be processing a month from now.

So yes, these acts of kindness have helped me immensely in becoming others-focused. One act can lead to thousands of lives being touched. That person who’s coffee was paid for may have paid for the person behind him or her and so on.

Blessings abound. For instance, just last night, a clerk at my local Trader Joe’s asked what all the2014-02-12_18-51-34_3_1.2_2 flowers were for. I told him and, in turn, he stopped me before I left the building, disappeared for a moment and returned with a bunch of yellow roses (my favorite), on the house. In that brief moment, I saw Jesus staring back at me with a big smile on His face and I felt incredibly and deeply loved.

We don’t realize how many people walk among us every day who are lonely, insecure, insignificant and are not accustomed to getting anything “free” or receiving anything they have not earned or deserved. Doing things for people just to be a blessing and not expect anything in return is an amazing way to show God’s love.

What’s on your list? Or what could be?

Make one. Or don’t.  Just do it, as Nike would say.

Act now.

finding #peace with my hair: transformational thoughts based on God’s truth

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made!” Psalm 139.14

Psalm 139 is by far one of my most favorite Psalms and one of the most convicting.

You see, growing up, I hated my hair (among other things, but let’s start there). It was the bane of my existence.

Red.

Auburn.

It was wild and there were many days I feared it would never be tamed.

Blessed with natural volume, wave and curl…

Cursed with frizz, no thanks to humid Minnesota summers. I didn’t like summer either, but that’s beside the point.

My hair set me apart. It made me different.

And because I was different, I didn’t fit in.

I hated it and cursed it, every day.

Learning to genuinely like yourself is possible. Learning to have peace with yourself is possible.

In fact, the best foundation for changing something you don’t like about your body is accomplished when you learn to like yourself first. I’m not talking about just loving yourself. I’m talking about liking yourself.

Most of us get it backwards. We think, “If I can only change this one thing about my body/personality/looks/etc., then I will finally feel good about myself.” The problem with that is, even after you’ve lost the weight, get the nose job, get breast implants or liposuction, etc… the body hate does not go away. You move from that focal point to another and obsess over something else.

But how do we journey from body-hate to body-acceptance?

You first need to recognize the destructive power disliking your bodies has on your life.

Ask yourself questions like: “Do I avoid certain activities I am ashamed of my body/my hair/my face/etc.?” Think about what you spend on cosmetics, cosmetic surgery, personal trainers, diet plans, exercise equipment, etc. Are you afraid to go out in public without makeup? How many diets have you been on in the last year?

The solution isn’t found in fixing your body. It is found in fixing your mind.

“Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Romans 12.2a

Hollywood and the fashion industry spin lies about what we should look like, how we should dress, act, etc., but they’re wrong.

That redheaded, freckle-covered girl from childhood was surrounded by lies and her mind was filled with thoughts like:

American Girl didn’t have a redheaded doll so that must mean that I’m not normal.

No one in my class has curly, red hair. I’m a freak.

My teacher doesn’t know what to do with my differences. Why?

And those lies eventually wormed their way into my heart to the point that I believed them. I couldn’t wait until I was a teenager and could make decisions on my own about maybe dying my hair a different color or maybe even straighten it.

But, in the fall of 1996, God used an illness and the events that followed to change the way I saw myself.

but come the fall of 1996, God used an illness and the events that followed to change the way I saw my hair.

Prior to Halloween, the last of which I would be allowed to go trick-or-treating, I became ill with flu-like symptoms. Those symptoms lasted the better part of 14 days. The doctors couldn’t diagnose what was wrong. Dehydration set in and I understood the meaning of real thirst for the first time. At one point, I couldn’t muster up the strength to move from the recliner I’d been “chained” to during that time and I really thought I wouldn’t live to see the next day.  

Miraculously, I woke up one Saturday feeling better and very hungry. I ravaged an entire bag of Nacho Cheesier Doritos and felt no shame. I was twelve.

But it was the events that followed that illness (which they’ve now copped up to salmonella poisoning) that God used to give my adolescent self a huge wake-up call.

I had lost over 40 lbs. during my bout with that illness, leaving me incredibly weak, and since my body had been fighting that illness, my immune system didn’t know what to do with itself once I got better and, in turn, attacked my hair…much like chemo does to a cancer patient. I lost all of it.

Gone

As an adolescent walking around with a shaved head and wearing baseball caps because my parents couldn’t afford a nice wig, I was angry with God; I cried out him: Why?!

With the passing months, my hair slowly grew back – a shade darker and a lot more curlier.

Hello afro!

And I hated it even more than I did prior to my illness.

I was met with silence during many of my why-moments, but there was one particular Saturday afternoon that I remember his still voice entering the quiet corners of my heart:

I gave you your hair, didn’t I?

Yes…

Doesn’t it keep you warm during the long winter months in Minnesota?

Yes, but…

Every good and perfect gift comes from me, Anita…remember that. I blessed you with this hair, the color and the curl…all of it, because I love you. So much. I have set you apart for myself. Before I formed you in the womb, before you were even born, I set you apart. You were never meant to look like anyone else. That was never my intention. You have been called by grace for so much more…

He gently nudged my heart with the truth and began to transform the way I saw myself.

No matter what the kids whispered at school…

No matter what the models on TV proclaimed…

I chose to not let those words bring me down. I knew what God thought of me. That was all that mattered.

God says that you can have peace in your soul no matter what your body, or your hair, looks like.

We need to choose to let his truth sink in and confront the lies that bombard us every day and once your mind is focused on his truth, your feelings about your body, your hair, your face, will change.

The day God shined his light on the lies I had believed, I slowly began to find and embrace my beautiful in when it came to my hair. It’s what I like and love most about the physical attributes I was given today.

And when it comes to the things I struggle with about myself now, I trust that God, in his goodness and in his timing, I will come to a place where I will find peace just as I did with my hair. I’ll find my beautiful and I will embrace it in such a way that it will ultimately give him glory.

© Anita J. Brands. 2014. Website: https://authentictruthseeker.wordpress.com/

Shared Post: 3 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was Single by Debra K. Fileta, shared at RelevantMagazine

It’s not every day that you stumble on something that makes you pause and go, “Huh…I hadn’t thought of it that way.” Thank you to Debra K. Fileta for shining light on a time in a person’s life when we tend to forget the greater purpose.

————————————————————————————————————-

I dusted off one of my old journals the other day. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t such a good idea.

I half-laughed/half-cringed while reading through the pages, listening to my 20-year-old self talk about life and dream about the future. I had a pretty good head on my shoulders (or at least I thought so), but even so, looking back I realize I had so many things wrong in my mentality as a single person.

There are so many things I know now that I wish I knew then—so many things that would have spared me heartache, grief and straight-up saved me time! I spent so much time dreaming, worrying and thinking about things that would never actually happen. I invested my energy in the wrong places and my emotions in the wrong people.

I get that some life-lessons have to be experienced in order to be learned, but I don’t always think that’s the case. Sometimes, I think someone who’s “been there, done that and learned from it” can give us some perspective and steer us in the right direction. As I reflect on my time as a single, here are some things I wish someone would have told me:

The most important person you could ever get to know is yourself

Sound obvious to you? Than you’re better off than I was. Back then, I probably would have told you that I “knew who I was,” but I really didn’t. The truth is, I didn’t take the time to get to know myself until far too late in my life as a single. And I don’t think I’m alone in that.

We can spend so much time trying to find the right person, that we actually lose ourselves in the process.

So many times, our years of singleness are spent focusing on who we’re going to be with, rather than who we are. Countless hours and limitless energy are poured into getting to know the person standing before us, many times, at the neglect of ourselves. We can spend so much time trying to find the right person, that we actually lose ourselves in the process.

I wish someone would have clued me in on the fact that getting my stuff together was a huge piece to the puzzle of a nourished relationship. Instead of fixating on relationships, I wish I would have invested more time in developing interests, understanding my personality, working through my past and wrapping my brain around my identity in Christ. Because at the end of the day, you can’t really know what you want in a relationship until you know who you are.

You will always attract the kind of person you believe you deserve

The truth is that we all come with some sort of a price tag. We rely on so many superficial things to measure our value and our worth by: appearance, intelligence, success. But no matter how you choose to calculate it, your price tag is determined by one thing and one thing alone: Yourself.I wish someone could have told me that you get to determine the price that you will place upon yourself. But more so, I wish I would have known the reality that the price I choose is also the price at which I’ll be purchased. I spent so much of my life undervaluing my worth, thinking I wasn’t good enough, smart enough or cute enough. I made decisions based on what I believed I deserved, and my inability to see my true worth took me down some roads I wish I never would have traveled.

It’s important to get real with the price we place on ourselves and realize how valuable we are, because we have been made by a God who said so. A God who saw we were worth so much and paid a high cost just to prove it. One thing I wish someone would have told me is that if you want to attract someone who values you, you’ve first got to value yourself.

Your story has far more to do with who you are, than who you’re with

It’s hard not to be single-minded when you’re on the search for love (no pun intended). It’s easy to focus in on your desires in the here and now. But the truth is, finding a relationship is just part of God’s bigger story for your life. I think the most foundational truth that I’ve learned now that I’m a married woman is that my life has far more to do with finding my purpose than it ever did with finding someone to marry.

Seek to find your purpose and pursue your God-given passions while standing alone.

I love my husband, and I’m blessed by the marriage we have, but I realize that this relationship is just part of the bigger picture God has for my life. My purpose, my security, and my value weren’t resolved in the arms of my spouse. There is so much more that God has made me to do and to be, and so much more that I want to become.

Finding love is just part of the equation of my story, and it’s only part of yours, as well. Seek to find your purpose and pursue your God-given passions while standing alone. Because one thing I wish I would have known is that you’ll never regret investing in God’s bigger picture.

No matter who you are or what you’ve been through, my prayer is that you learn from my mistakes, because sometimesa simple perspective change can make all the difference in your life—and in your relationships.

An earlier version of this article appeared at truelovedates.com

And can be found here.