Category Archives: Made to Crave – Journey to a Healthier Me

“I’m not lazy. I am courageous.”

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taste and see…

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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/

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.

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/

my identity

Earlier this week, I was given a writing challenge to write out a list of statements about my identity in Christ and how God sees me. Note: This is not how the world sees me, how my friends see me or even how I see myself, although the way I view myself is slowly being transformed. Here goes.

I am a daughter of the Most High God. John 1.12; Romans 8.2, 16.17; Colossians 2.10

One who is…

  • Anointed and owned by God; she is home to his Spirit, dwelling within her. 2 Corinthians 1.21b-22, 1 Corinthians 6.19
  • An heir with Christ and free from all condemnation because of what Jesus did for her. Galatians 3.29, Romans 1.8, 8.17, John 8.11
  • A new creation. The old is gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5.17
  • God’s handiwork, His masterpiece; she was created to do good works, which were prepared in advance for her to do. She has a purpose. Ephesians 1.9, 2.10, 3.11
  • Alive because of God’s great love for her. Ephesians 2.4-5
  • The righteousness of God in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5-21
  • The apple of his eye. Zechariah 2.8
  • An ambassador for Christ. 2 Corinthians 5.20
  • More than a conqueror. Romans 8.17
  • The salt of the earth and the light of the world. Matthew 5.13-14; Ephesians 5.8
  • A member of the household of faith. Galatians 6.10
  • A branch of the True Vine. John 15.5
  • Covered by the shadow of God’s hand; upheld in his hand. Isaiah 51.6, Psalm 63.8
  • Immensely, deeply and completely loved. John 17.23; Romans 8.39-39
  • Delivered. Romans 6.7; Colossians 1.13
  • Victorious. 1 John 5.4, 1 Corinthians 15.57
  • His prized possession. James 1.18
  • Accepted. Romans 15.7; Ephesians 1.6
  • Made complete and secure. Psalm 20.1, 112.7-8; Proverbs 3.26; Colossians 2.10; Ephesians 2.20, 3.19; James 1.4
  • Alive in Christ. Romans 6.11; Ephesians 2.6
  • Forgiven, justified and redeemed. Romans 3.24, Galatians 3.13, Ephesians 1.7-8; Colossians 1.14
  • In Christ. 1 Corinthians 1.30
  • Called friend. John 15.15
  • Set free. Romans 6.6, 8.2; Galatians 5.1
  • Healed. Isaiah 53.5
  • Belongs to God. 1 Corinthians 6.20
  • Beautiful. Song of Songs 4.1
  • Not alone and never will be. Hebrews 13.5
  • A member of Christ’s body; of God’s household. She is included.1 Corinthians 12.27; Ephesians 1.13
  • Confident that God will complete and perfect the work he began in her. Philippians 1.6
  • A saint. 1 Corinthians 1.2; Ephesians 1.1; Philippians 1.1; Colossians 1.2
  • Chosen, holy and blameless. Jon 15.16; Romans 8.29; Ephesians 1.4
  • Made righteous and holy. Ephesians 4.24
  • Means the world to him. John 3.16
  • Holy and beloved. Ephesians 1.14, 11; Colossians 3.12; 1 Thessalonians 1.4; Song of Songs 6.4, 7.10

That is who I am. Christ is my identity. I know Whose I am.

Who are you?