Tame the Crave – Flimsy Joy

It’s been three weeks since I weighed in. A trip to the other side of the world and back convinced me to take a hiatus from the more intense aspects of my health journey. Today I’m back at it.

I cringed at the thought of stepping on the scale this morning; I didn’t want to face the potential results of my time away. The number that greeted me was not as dreadful as I had imagined.

After three weeks, I weigh the same. What a relief!

I tried to be sensible while traveling, but I also splurged on a few different things. So this result is very encouraging.

I do wonder why, though, it seems harder to maintain a healthy weight at home than while abroad. Why didn’t I gain weight from my splurges? And I only exercised once the whole trip!

I’ve learned a few things about myself as I ponder these questions:

1. Much of my temptation comes from the fact that I spend significant amounts of time in the kitchen preparing food for my family. Food is always within reach. When I was abroad I was rarely hanging out in the kitchen – someone else prepared the food and I ate at mealtime. If I got hungry I ate a small snack. This always-in-the-kitchen struggle is one I don’t yet know how to overcome. What do the rest of you homemakers do to avoid this temptation?

2. Seafood is good for me and you. I ate more seafood in two weeks in Okinawa than I have eaten in the rest of 2016. And my body and my taste buds love it. It’s too bad seafood is so expensive where I live. However, incorporating a bit more into my diet would be well worth the expense – it’s a healthy splurge :).

3. When I’m on mission and investing in something bigger than myself, my food desires fade. When I’m finding joy and motivation in doing kingdom work, I don’t crave the flimsy joy of food. In Okinawa, I was so focused on the ministry at hand, that I only thought of food when the hunger pangs called.

Providentially, the chapter I’m working through in Made to Crave this week ties in perfectly to this last point. Lysa talks about where we find our ‘happy’ – is it in our pant size or in our Savior? She emphasizes that all of us are incomplete, and it’s hard sometimes to deal with other incomplete people. But when we derive our joy from Jesus instead of junk food or even our successes, we can love other incomplete people.

The bad news is, we’re all incomplete people. The good news is, Jesus loves incomplete people. And He wants us to know we can have complete joy by being secure enough in His love to reach out and love other incomplete people. – Lysa TerKeurst

She goes on to encourage ‘afternoon acts of kindness’ as a way to show love and also avoid the temptation of unhealthy food. She encourages these things in such a warm and loving manner, but there is a stinging truth behind it all that I am beginning to understand.

There is a connection between my overindulgence and my self-centered tendencies. Think about all those excuses we use to give in to unhealthy things, whether food or otherwise. I’ve earned this. I deserve it. It will make me feel better. I am the center of all these excuses. Is it possible that I’m loving myself and my body more than I love Christ and His Body?

Ouch.

Maybe this is partly what Lysa was getting at, maybe not. But it’s what’s getting at me.

Lord,

I want to be so filled with Your love and Your joy, that my own desires and pleasures become light as a feather and float away. I want to be so consumed with Your work that my temptations toward unhealthy indulgence are only whispers, no longer screams. Help me to see that even the little mundane tasks of the day are service to You and service to Your people. Help all that I do be for You only. May Your thoughts become my thoughts. May You increase and I decrease. 

Amen

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Does Celebration Have To Be Synonymous With Food?

My husband’s birthday was on Sunday. With that came food; not just an abundance of food, but an abundance of unhealthy food.

And I ate some. A few more ‘somes’ than I needed.

Apparently, I had a modicum of self-control because I didn’t gain any weight this week. I didn’t lose any either, though.

It’s got me thinking about how we celebrate. And when I say ‘we,’ I mean all of humanity. It’s not just an American or contemporary  tradition. Throughout history and various cultures, feasting has accompanied celebrations of marriage, birth, death, holidays, etc… Add to that the fact that Jesus’ first recorded miracle (water to wine) supplied drinks for a feast. We like to celebrate and we need to celebrate. And food is an integral part of celebration.

But how do we reconcile our need for celebration with the importance of self-control? Because if you’re anything like me, celebration is a license to indulge.

Maybe I’m getting this whole celebration business all wrong. Maybe I’m missing the point. Can I find joy in celebration without food? Is my happiness as shallow as that bowl of ice cream?

I didn’t overdo it for my husband’s birthday as badly as I have in the past, but I’m still not sure I can trust myself to have appropriate self-control in these circumstances.

There’s also something about reaching some weight loss milestones that makes me want to celebrate, and the first thing I always think of is food – some sort of treat. But that completely defeats the point of this journey!

So I’ve gathered some ideas on how to celebrate without food.

  1. Go to a movie.
  2. Have a board game night with friends.
  3. Take a bubble bath.
  4. Buy a new outfit.
  5. Get a facial, or pedicure, or manicure.
  6. Go hiking with family or friends.
  7. Gather a group to go volunteer.
  8. Get crafty and creative! Make something with friends.
  9. Throw a tea tasting party (tea is guilt free!).
  10. Run/walk in a race during the holidays.
  11. Take a nap.
  12. Turn up the music and dance!

These are just a few ideas. Do you have more to add to the list? Please share! I think we all would benefit from considering some of these before racing to food as our first source of celebration.

It’s inevitable that we will all continue to attend celebrations where food is involved, though. So what are we to do then?

Those are the difficult moments when we must employ self-control and have a mind focused on the true source of celebration. Often, the point of celebration is to share in the joy of others. I think the key then becomes thinking of others instead of ourselves. Enjoying good conversations with old friends or getting to know someone new, encouraging those who may be downhearted and adding to the joy of the joyful. This is how we can truly add to the celebration!

The holiday which should inspire the abundant joy in our lives is almost here – Easter. Most of us will be celebrating with packed dinner plates. But maybe we will discover that true fullness and satisfaction will come when we spend time praising and thanking God for the tremendous gift of His Son. And bringing glory to His name by sharing Him with others – might that be sweeter to the soul than the most delicious of desserts?

Who’s To Blame?

I could blame ‘that-time-of-the-month.’ Blame it for its intense cravings, for its water retention, for its malaise.

Maybe that’s why I’m only down half a pound this week.

I could also blame my grumpiness on my kids, my anger on my husband, my forgetfulness on too many responsibilities, my lack of sympathy on my personality.

But blame is powerless to solve my problems.

Blame comes from excuses, and excuses come from pride. My pride tells me I should be able to eat whatever I desire and not pay the consequences. It is baffled when the laws of science (calories in vs. calories out) dare apply to me! Yet, when the truth sinks in, pride tries to console me with laments of  ‘it’s not fair.’

It stings to admit that. But I will never know true victory until that sting leads to a changed mind.

Half a pound down. In light of my eating this week, I’m thankful I didn’t gain a pound instead! A wedding, going out to eat with my husband, and making cookies with my kids – all were serious temptations. I splurged some, but in retrospect, I also made a few wise choices. Like not eating after dinner, stopping after one cookie, and filling my plate with lots of veggies.

I guess I’ll call this week a semi-success. But I’m aware I need to proceed with caution!!

My husband and I leave for Japan on April 7th. My goal is to break the 150 lb. barrier by then. Right now I’m at 153.3. So close. I think it’s an attainable goal if I stay the course of responsibility instead of blame.


 

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

(Galatians 5:22-23)

This week I want to hone in on applying love (choosing to love God more than my flesh and its unhealthy desires) and gentleness. Gentleness might not make sense at first, but let me fill you in. The Greek word for gentleness actually implies humility. It’s humility that leads us to  admit our weakness and ask for help. I need God’s help on this journey and I want to be humble enough to ask for it.

I’d love to hear from you – how has your healthy lifestyle journey been going? what are some of your struggles and victories?

 

The ‘Q’ Word and The ‘E’ Word

I woke in the dark of early morning, forced down a small breakfast, and shimmied into the requisite layers of a Pacific Northwest runner. As the sun sent its light giving rays, I waited, crammed into a mass of humanity, for the starting shot. Bang! The gathered crowds cheered, the lurch of adrenaline propelled me forward, and so began the Seattle Half Marathon. My frenzied first steps soon mellowed into rhythmic pavement poundings. The first mile was exciting and sufficiently warmed my body against the cold November morning. But, the runner’s worst enemy loomed ahead: hills. The road twisted and turned up the climbing elevation and my resolve began to falter. The cheering crowds that lifted us all off the starting line were now only a few small groups or couples spotted here and there along the course. As the adrenaline wore off and difficulty made itself at home, in crept the suggestion of the ‘Q’ word: What if, maybe I should, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, it’s not really that important in the grand scheme of things; what if I just stopped? Is it worth the pain? Maybe I should quit.

It’s been two months since I commenced my health journey – Tame the Crave. And that ‘Q’ word is creeping it’s way into my mind just as it did all those years ago during my race. I’ve enjoyed some initial success and encouraging camaraderie, but the difficulties of the day-in and day-out rhythms of self-denial under the onslaught of such pleasurable temptations leave me asking some of those same questions. It wouldn’t be the end of the world, would it? Is it worth the pain? God loves me not matter what, right? Maybe I should quit.

I find myself wanting what we all want – the gain without the pain. We want the thrill of the last .1 mile of the half marathon without the 13 miles leading up to it. I find this to be true in many aspects of life, not just health. We want stuff now, so we buy the new car-furniture-TV-appliance with ‘no money down and zero interest for a year.’ We envy the fame and success of others but gloss over the laborious hours required to achieve such recognition and reward. Or maybe, and this hits closer to home, we crave intimacy with God, but we don’t invest time in our relationship with Him.

Do you know what my race required of me, and what this health journey is requiring too?

The ‘E’ word – Endurance.

God’s word has plenty to say on the topic.

Hebrews 10:36 reminds us that we, “have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” We all need endurance to reach the finish line of whatever race we are running.

Endurance is also a key ingredient in the process of spiritual maturity. James 1:4 says, “And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” It propels us toward completeness; it fills in our gaps and leads us to holiness. It teaches us diligence, self-control, patience, and perseverance.

Endurance is an identifying characteristic of servants of God. Paul exemplifies endurance; “but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses,” (2 Corinthians 6:4).

But here’s the real kicker – biblically speaking, endurance is connected with happiness and cheerfulness! The Greek word, hupomone, refers to cheerful or hopeful constancy, patience, and waiting. Endurance sees beyond the here and now. It doesn’t get bogged down in the trivial and temporal – it forgoes fleeting pleasure for the sake of eternal rewards. James calls those who have endured blessed, or happy! “We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (James 5:11).

If you’ve read the book of Job lately, you know that in the midst of his trials, Job was anything but happy. But, Job endured and remained obedient, a faithful servant of God, and the end result was magnificent. Not only did God give back to Job abundantly more than what Satan took away, but Job also gained tremendous insight into God’s power, mercy, and compassion.

That’s how endurance becomes a blessing for us too. Endurance teaches us patience in moments of pain and despair, self-control in times of temptation, and true happiness when we’ve reached the end.

But how do we endure?

In her message entitled “The Path of Endurance,” the late Elisabeth Elliot (one of my favorites) makes this bold claim: ‘struggle’ is a nice way of saying ‘delayed obedience.’ OUCH! How often do I ‘struggle’ over decisions or choices, when the truth is that I haven’t yet decided to obey? And honestly, for me delayed obedience often turns in to disobedience. When I ‘struggle’ with unhealthy cravings, I’m actually opening up space in my soul for temptation to take the lead instead of deciding immediately to obey. Obedience has a way of banishing temptation, at least for a time. Enter endurance – the cheerful, hopeful, and patient obedience that promises great rewards. But it’s not a one and done deal. It’s a daily choice, a moment by moment decision.

I didn’t quit the race I began on that frigid November morning. It was hard. My body hurt. But pavement pound by pavement pound I endured. I chose to keep running. And the feeling when I crossed the finish line? Fantastic! I did it!

I haven’t achieved this in my health journey yet. I’m still in those middle miles, putting one foot in front of the other, laboring for the finish line. But I know there will be rejoicing in the end. I’m choosing obedience and wisdom. It’s far from easy, and the excitement that got me started has completely worn off, but these are the defining moments. I’m choosing to Endure, not to Quit.

 

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1)

Tame the Crave – Lessons Learned from Hunger

Fear, anger, hunger. All can be normal, healthy feelings. If a grizzly bear is chasing me through the forest, fear is absolutely healthy and helpful! If I get angry when I see a child being abused, that is a good and motivating anger. If it’s 9PM and I haven’t eaten all day, I need to listen to those hunger pangs.

But our enemy is all too skilled and practiced in turning these God given feelings into unhealthy and sinful behavior.

If I sit wringing my hands in worry over an event that has precisely .00002 percent chance of happening, my fear pulls me away from my relationship with God and trust in Him. If I lash out when someone unknowingly offends me, that anger has control of me, not the Holy Spirit. If I feed every hunger, even though I know logically I’ve already had enough to eat, then my belly has become my god (Phil 3:19), instead of my Savior. 

In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul recounts the multitude of tremendous trials he has endured for the the love of God and the love of the Body of Christ. He reminds the Corinthians of what He has been through to bring them the gospel and the teaching of Christ. In the middle of his list of difficulties he lists hunger.

Hunger.

Paul went hungry for the sake of others. Where would we be today if Paul had put his own comfort and desires above the will of God? What if he had sought satisfaction for his belly instead of the calling of Christ?

You know who else set this example for us?

Jesus.

Twice accounted.

The first was His temptation in the wilderness. Jesus had been fasting for forty days. Then Satan came and tempted Him with food. Even though He was very hungry, He refused. Why? He was obedient to the Father. If He hadn’t been obedient, He couldn’t have been our Savior. If He hadn’t been obedient, He wouldn’t be our example.

The second was on the cross. In his gospel, John relates how Jesus, hanging on the cross, crown of thorns pressed into His head, waited. He waited until all His Father’s work was done.

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!'” (John 19:28)

Jesus put the will of His Father above the desires of His flesh – even when He was in agony. 

 

We have numerous examples in Scripture of what happens when people serve their cravings rather than God. Most notable are the Israelites. They “willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they crave” (Psalm 78:18). They chose their bellies over God, and that choice had life-changing ramifications. That generation traded God’s abundance for desert wanderings.

I echo Lysa TerKeurst in her book “Made to Crave” –

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wander about in a ‘desert,’ unable to enter into the abundant life God has for me because I willfully put Him to the test over food!”

So I wonder, should we always obey hunger?

Is hunger always a truth requiring action? A truth that I must obey? Obviously I don’t obey my full signals, otherwise I wouldn’t be on this journey. But I usually obey hunger, those momentary pangs trump most everything when they arrive.

But when I obey hunger I makes rationalizations and excuses. When I obey hunger I let it take hold of my emotions – mostly the grumpy one. When I obey hunger I take my mind off of the one who made both my belly and food to fill it.

Sometimes I must ignore hunger if it interferes with my obedience to my God.

 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power. 

1 Corinthians 6:12-14

Please don’t mistake me. I’m in no way condoning starving ourselves and I’m not necessarily encouraging fasting. The challenge I want to present to you and me is this: choose to feed our relationship with God over our relationship with food. To let our Gentle Shepherd lead us rather than our voracious appetites.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for sending Your Son to not only save us from the penalty of our sin, but to also be the perfect example we can look to for help in every area of life. Jesus, and many many who follow Him, have shown us how to truly love You – by obeying Your eternal will instead of our temporary desires.

I am so thankful that You are continuing to refine me and make me more like Your Son. Even in this area of food.

Help me Lord, to replace my hunger for unhealthy treats and overindulgence with hunger and thirst for Your righteousness (Matthew 5:6). I trust You to satisfy in a deeper an more powerful way than any delicious tidbit.

Thank you Lord that obedience in this way brings relatively quick results: weight loss, more energy, better sleep. Help me to also be obedient in areas where results are often delayed for years or even until heaven.

I choose to love You more than food.

Amen

P.S. – It’s Wednesday weigh-in day. My results today were more encouraging than last week’s. Down another 1.8 pounds – I’ll take it!