Posted in Blog, Encouragement/Motivation, Faith & Religion, Health & Wellness

Getting Back on the Wagon

As I slowly work my way out of the pit I had gotten myself into during the Covid crisis, which you can read about here, I find that my life has become a series of change. Being cooped up for two months without being able to see my oldest daughter or elderly grandparents spun me right into a depression.  (The fact that I spent my days in pajamas, because I didn’t have to go anywhere, didn’t help.)  When I returned to work and realized that most of my pants no longer fit comfortably, I had a come-to-Jesus meeting and realized I had to get back on the wagon, and fast!

Before now, I always thought I would leave all of my journals to my three daughters.  I imagined that having something so personal, and in my own handwriting, might become something they would cherish someday.  I’ve been keeping journals for longer than I can remember.  From the beginning stages of my marriage when I first learned of my horrifying childhood experiences, to my battle with food addiction, to the long and painful medical journey we took with our oldest daughter, to my battle with food addiction, to our financial stresses, to my battle with food addiction, to the devastating venture with our middle daughter when she suffered a traumatic event at college, to my battle with food addiction…  you see where I’m going with this right?

I have since decided that I am not leaving all of my journals to my girls, after all.  I am going to be throwing most of them into the burn barrel, because they all contain the same thing.  “I did it again, Lord.”  “What is wrong with me, Lord?”  “Maybe this time will be different, Lord!”  Well, my current journal entries are no different.  I fell off the wagon yet again.  I gained back all of the weight I’d lost since I began my healthy lifestyle journey four years ago, and I am completely and utterly back at Square One.

I’d like to blame the whole thing on Covid-19, because I fully admit that I completely let myself go during the time I was cooped up in the house, but if I’m being totally honest, I had started to gain weight back long before that.  I have begged the Lord to reveal to me the reason behind this ongoing struggle, and I thought I had found my answer.  But, if it has anything to do with past childhood traumas like I thought it did, I am out of luck, because I’ve made peace with all of that, and nothing has changed…. until now.

This one little thing happened to me recently….  I found out that I’m going to be a grandmother!  And a grandmother of twin boys no less!  My goodness, I’ll have to get in shape just so I can chase them all over the place.  My dream has come true; my WHY is quickly becoming a current reality.

My “why” is the reason I want to have a successful business—so I can quit my day job and enjoy spending as much time as I can with my grandchildren.  My “why” is the reason I want to be more lean and fit—so I can get on the floor to play with my grandchildren and not have any trouble getting back up.  My “why” is the reason I want to live a long and healthy life—so I can watch my grandchildren grow up and have children of their own.

I decided with this new, exciting future just six short months away, I needed to take a new and exciting approach to getting back on the wagon and staying healthy permanently!  In the past, my bible studies have been about trying to reveal some deep dark secret that may have been the cause of my food addiction.  Most of my bible studies have been about trying to drudge up the past, because I always thought I would find answers there.  But the answers aren’t in my past; they are in God’s Word.  It’s time to leave the past where it belongs and try a new method of bondage breaking—learning how to love God more than I love food.

Understand that I am not saying if you have skeletons in your closet you have yet to awaken, you should just leave them buried there because it’s easier than facing them.  On the contrary, if there is something in those deep, dark corners of your mind preventing you from becoming the best version of yourself that you can be, I encourage you to face it.  I have spent over twenty years cleaning out the cobwebs and opening the windows to let in some light.  I am 100% on board with facing your past when it’s necessary to do so, but I am also a believer that there is no benefit in beating a dead horse.

There comes a time in your life when it’s evident that your focus should lie with the future, not the past, and this is that time for me.  (Finally!)  Honestly, because of my history with repeatedly falling off the wagon and getting back on again, learning to love God more than I love food is not a completely new concept to me.  I have been chasing the “food freedom” dream since the late nineties, but nowadays it’s called “Intuitive Eating.”  It’s high time to make that dream come true, too!  If I can just learn to obey my body’s hunger and fullness cues, and finally learn how to let the Holy Spirit guide my decisions instead of letting my own fleshly desires do it, I can make it happen.

Galatians 5:16 states, “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives.  Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” (NLT) I don’t know about you, but my sinful nature isn’t happy with one brownie; it wants four brownies!  I am certainly not implying that eating brownies is a sin; of course it isn’t, or there wouldn’t be a pan of brownies at almost every church function you ever attend.  Actually, brownies are a good gift from God.  He created cocoa beans, and He gave wisdom and creativity to the first person who ever decided to pound them down and mix sugar cane into them.  Over-indulgence is the sin.  I’ve talked about this in another post, so if you’d like to dissect this concept a little further when you’re finished here, visit Food Freedom for another good read.

The good news about getting back on the wagon for the eight hundred ninety-fifth time is knowing that I am not alone.  In fact, one of the most spiritual leaders to have ever walked the earth experienced this yo-yo cycle long before falling off the wagon became a coined phrase.  Consider this passage in Romans that was written by Paul, a villain-turned-hero who went on to write most of the New Testament after his own life-changing come-to-Jesus meeting!

I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do what I hate.  But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good.  So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.  And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  I want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t.  I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.  But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind.  This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am!  Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?  Thank God!  The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.  So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature, I am a slave to sin.”  Romans 7:15-25 (NLT)

Wow!  How powerful is it to know that someone like Paul shared the same struggles that we do?  Let’s dissect this passage for a minute.  Paul states he really doesn’t understand himself, because he wants to do what is right but does instead what he hates.  How many times have we dealt with self-condemnation– beating ourselves up because, as much as we hate giving into our craving for Doritos or Double Stuff Oreos at one in the morning, we do it anyway, knowing full well that we will regret it as soon as we’ve done it?

Paul states that he agrees the law is good and that he loves God’s law with all his heart.  Me, too!  How many of us can express our undying love and devotion to our Lord and His Word one minute, then question that love and devotion when we make bad choices which prove opposite of what that Word tells us?

Paul states that it is sin living within him that makes him do the things which he knows are wrong.  Now, I’m not about to tell you that you’re possessed by the devil, but let it be known that every one of us has fallen short of the glory of God.  Not one of us is righteous by our own merit.  When Paul talks about the sin within him, he’s referring to the sinful nature—the fleshly desires.  That’s why Jesus came to earth and died on a cross for us—so we could be reconciled unto God and be blameless in His sight.  (See Colossians 1:22)

Furthermore, there is a real, true blue enemy of our souls who will stop at nothing to kill, steal, and destroy.  (See John 10:10) How many of us can admit that we’ve experienced the “devil on the my shoulder” scenario? Don’t tell me I’m the only one who has an angel on one shoulder telling me to eat the Chicken Ceasar Salad I brought for lunch and a devil on the other telling me to order a Cheese Steak on homemade Italian Bread with a side of fried cauliflower? Well, cauliflower is a vegetable after all, right?

Finally, I told you earlier in this post that my past no longer holds any answers for me, but that the answers I need are found within God’s Word.  Well lo and behold, Paul agrees with me!  He states in verse 25 that the answers are in Jesus Christ our Lord!

I love the book of Romans; it is perhaps my favorite book of the New Testament.  This letter that Paul writes to the Romans is chock-full of the Lord’s promises of redemption and restoration.  This is the book I refer to the most when I remind myself that I am valued. (Romans 5:8) This is the book I refer to the most when I remind myself that I am an heiress. (Romans 8:17) This is the book I refer to the most when I remind myself that my battle with food addiction is not just physical. (Romans 12:2)

But as much as I love Romans, and even though it is typically my go-to for times such as these, let me remind you that Jesus is central from Genesis to Revelation.  The answers are in there, if we know where to look.  God’s Word is true, and I have made it my mission to share that truth with other women like me who have been fighting the enemy of our souls for far too long.

Stay with me, and we will continue to traverse this journey together.  In the meantime, remember that even Paul fell off the wagon when dealing with his own personal struggles and temptations.  Remember that this is now, and might always be, an ongoing process.  There will be good days, and there will be bad days, and that’s okay.  Rather than focus on the destination, focus on the journey– one day at a time. Although my whole story will be sprinkled throughout this website and throughout my blog posts, I encourage you to read my About Me page if you haven’t already done so. It will not only give you some insight into where I’ve been, but it will give you some more insight into where I’m going, and I would love it if you would come along for the ride!

Before you know it, the good days will outweigh the bad, the numbers on the scale will be nothing but just numbers, and you won’t have to hold your breath to pull on your favorite pair of jeans.  These are all great achievements worth celebrating, and each one begins with baby steps!  If you are looking for some more faith-filled help along the way, there are lots of Christian resources available to help you jump on the Intuitive Eating/Food Freedom wagon.  Check out my Shop/Resources page for links to some of my favorites, and feel free to share some of your own favorites below.

Posted in Alicia & Goliath, Blog, Faith & Religion, Health & Wellness

Food Freedom

“Lemon Blueberry scones are not from the devil.  They are of the Father- a way to reflect the image of God in our creative use of the ingredients He has given us.”  Wow, I had never heard it put quite like that before, but in her book, Full- Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction, Asheritah CiuCiu uncovered another lie that, disguised as a sense of strength, I had been using in place of God’s truth. 

I could play fill-in-the-blank with that statement.  Be it blueberry scones, chocolate ice cream, or peanut butter pie, I was one who often tried to “fight the urge” by reciting that these things were from the devil.  No wonder it seldom worked; it’s not true!  A big one for me is bagels.  I love bagels.  Lots and lots of cream cheese on top of a toasty “everything” bagel that’s crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.  Yum!  Add a mocha latte to that order, and I’m in Heaven.  You have no idea how often the notion crosses my mind, my mouth watering like Oliver Twist’s, and I tell myself for a good minute or two, “Bagels are from the devil!”

I’ve been able to resist the temptation on occasion, but did that make me stop wanting it or thinking about it?  Nope!  In fact, I often went back days later and got my “usual” anyway.  (Have you ever noticed that the more you tell yourself you can’t have something, the more you want it?)  Good!  I’m not the only one!

I shared with you in my last post, Locked Doors, that I was currently working on a bible study called “The Missing Commandment: Love Yourself.”  What I didn’t mention was that I am simultaneously listening to this food freedom book on Audible, and it has been worth every penny and every minute.  I bought this book in paperback years ago but never got around to reading it, and when I saw that there was an audible version, I was ecstatic!  I can listen to the book while I’m cooking dinner, getting ready for work, or folding laundry.  I would like to enlighten you with some of the golden nuggets I am gleaning from Asheritah’s Full book, because they are just too good not to share.

In the latest chapter, I started to feel as though this book were written just for me.  The author reminded me that God declared all food clean.  (See Mark 7:19) Not only did He declare all food clean, but He enjoys providing it for us.  In Matthew 7:9 we read, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” (NIV) If we are made in God’s image, does that not imply that if we would never do that to our children, God certainly would never do that to us?  Food is a good gift from our Father in Heaven, and in fact, He created us with taste buds.

Here is a little Science lesson for you:  According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “Taste receptor cells, with which incoming chemicals from food and other sources interact, occur on the tongue in groups of 50–150.  Each of these groups form a [one] taste bud, which is grouped together with other taste buds.”  It goes on to state that, “On average, the human tongue has 2,000-8,000 taste buds, implying that there are hundreds of thousands of taste receptor cells.”  I don’t know about you, but that blows my mind!  Not only does God count every hair on our head, but He gave us hundreds of thousands of little receptors on our tongue so we could taste the food He has provided.  If we weren’t supposed to enjoy our food, why would He have gone through all the trouble?

Now here is where this chapter really made me chuckle, and not in a ha-ha kind of way, either.  When the author started talking about “Information Overload,” I had to stop dead in my tracks and give the narrator my undivided attention.  How many of you can relate to allowing nutrition labels to dictate your food consumption?  When I changed to a healthy lifestyle five years ago and learned about eating as green and as natural as possible, I became obsessed with reading food labels.  I dreaded anything that contained high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, or anything in the “ose” family that indicated artificial sweeteners.  I avoided artificial anything like the plague.  (I still do!) I would google ingredients I never heard of or couldn’t pronounce, and sometimes I would quickly throw packages back on the shelf as if I had just discovered they had cooties.  In one book I read, it stated that when eating processed foods, sometimes the box that the food came in was better for us to eat than what was inside!

As if that weren’t bad enough, we had the FDA and other food & nutrition companies filling our heads with their latest discoveries which just seemed to cause more confusion.  For those of us who really tried to pay attention to this stuff, it could cause a state of sheer panic in some cases.  Remember the egg fiasco from years ago?  First, eggs were a good source of protein for you, then, uh-oh, too much cholesterol.  Then they were fine again, and on and on it went in circles.  Once upon a time, breakfast was the most important meal of the day; now intermittent fasting has taken the world by storm.  I can remember my kiddos learning about the food pyramid when they were in elementary school.  Back then, which really wasn’t all that long ago, rice, cereal, and grains were a good source of energy, and they took up the largest section of the pyramid.  Nowadays, carbs are considered a mortal enemy. 

We’ve heard of every “healthy plan” under the sun from Richard Simmons’ deal-a-meal to Atkins’ no-carb diet to South Beach and back again.  This “Information Overload” causes our heads to spin, and we need to stop the madness!  Even being healthy can lead to dangerous territory if we are using our minds to think about food more than we are using them to meditate on God’s Word.  Being preoccupied with food isn’t always about caving to cravings; it can also be about spending way too much time over-analyzing every little thing we plan to put in our mouths- and the things we didn’t plan.

I’m paraphrasing from Asheritah’s food book here, but consider this breakfast conundrum:  You’re standing in your kitchen staring at the pantry, then to the fridge, then back to the pantry again trying to decide what you’re going to have for breakfast.  Cereal?  Nope, too much sugar.  Eggs?  Nope, too much cholesterol.  Fruit smoothie?  Nope, not enough protein.  Bagel?  Nope, way too many carbs.  Do you see what I mean?  Before you know it, you’ve wasted ten minutes pondering your food choices, when you could’ve spent that ten minutes pondering a Psalm or two.  Overthinking your food is just as bad as overeating it! 

Unless we’re rabbits living on lettuce and carrots, we are bound to eat something that isn’t approved by someone’s standards, be it our own standards or those of the most popular nutrition guru at the time.  And actually, even our produce today has less nutrients than the produce our parents ate when they were our age.  (You can read an entire NBC news article about this subject at nbcnews.com.)

Let’s not forget the amount of chemicals and preservatives on the produce we buy that’s not labeled “organic.”  You know the white stuff on our pre-packaged baby carrots?  I was horrified when someone told me it was chlorine and can cause cancer.  Luckily, that myth was busted.  According to waterandhealth.org, ““The white film in question, sometimes referred to as “white blush” or “carrot blush,” is not chlorine, but a thin layer of dehydrated carrot.  The film develops when baby carrots are exposed to the atmosphere and the outer layer of carrot becomes dry.  Baby carrots, unlike their full-sized counterparts, do not have a protective skin that helps prevent drying.”  (Phew!) 

After further investigation, I learned that while these carrots are washed in a chlorine water solution to prevent contamination, they are rinsed before packaging and do not pose an immediate threat like the media would lead us to believe.  While knowledge is a wonderful thing, too much of it can cause more harm than good, at least where our food is concerned.  Have you ever heard of the saying, “too much of a good thing is still too much?”

I have a confession to make.  I have to tell you that the more I learned about what was in my food, the more neurotic I became.  It quickly became an obsessive habit that I’m now trying to break, because if I’m not careful, I will trade a life lived in bondage for a life lived in fear.  There is no sense in breaking one bad habit if you’re just going to replace it with another. 

Friends, food is not the enemy; overindulgence is where the problem lies.  When I say I want to live in freedom, I mean freedom in every way, shape, and form that I can get it.  Jesus died to give us a life of abundance, and I never want to take that for granted!  My prayer is no longer about asking for a miraculous deliverance.  I believe that God is still in the miracle business, and although it would be an amazing experience and testimony to be instantaneously delivered from this stronghold, I don’t think that would serve a purpose.  It is God’s will to heal me, yes, but even more so, I believe it is His will for me to learn how to unwrap the gift of freedom and then share my experiences and revelations with others like me.

I want to learn how to listen to (and obey!) my body’s signals that tell me when I’m truly hungry, not head-hungry, and when I’m truly satisfied- not so full that I can’t even move around comfortably.  Those naturally God-given limits are the only limits I want to have placed on my life.

That’s not to say I can’t set healthy boundaries for myself.  I don’t want to deprive myself, but I still want to honor God by making good choices for my temple.  I want to make conscious decisions about when I’m going to allow myself a little more liberty and when I’m not.  When I crave chocolate, for instance, I can split my candy bar into four smaller servings the way it was meant to be, and I can enjoy one of those servings more slowly so I can savor it.  If I concentrate on savoring that one portion more slowly instead of inhaling the whole candy bar in one go, I will have satisfied my craving AND limited my calories.  I can also decide to not partake just because it’s there, but to save it for a time when I’m really desiring it.      

I have written out a daily prayer using the Sword of the Spirit, God’s Word, as my guide, and I want to share it with you should you decide you’d like to use this prayer for yourself at any time.  Don’t worry about trying to write it all down; it is my free gift to you to print out by accessing the PDF under my Freebies tab 😊.  You can post it up in your personal war room where you spend your quiet, concentrated time with God, or you can fold it up and tuck it safely within the pages of your Bible.  Tape it to your refrigerator, if you prefer! However you decide to use it, I pray it will become the daily prayer of your heart like it has become mine.

The prayer is as follows: (Quotation marks indicate Scripture verses.)

Lord God, how awesome and creative You are!  And how kind and loving You are to provide things that bring us pleasure!  You created us with taste buds, Father, and although we should eat to live and not live to eat, You wouldn’t have given us taste buds if we weren’t supposed to enjoy our food.

You created wheat for bread; help me to remember that bread itself is not the enemy, but also help me to remember that, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  You created spices to make our food taste better, and You created wonderful things like cocoa beans and sugar cane.  Help me to remember, Lord, that eating something the diet world says I shouldn’t is not the sin- overindulgence is.  Help me to live by Your truth that says, “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial.  Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”

You declared all food clean, Lord; food is a good gift!  Teach me to enjoy Your good gifts in moderation.  We were never meant to enjoy food more than we enjoy a rich, full relationship with You.  Please forgive me for the times I don’t put food in its proper place, and help me to crave more of You instead.

The food freedom I desire is not just about no longer being a slave to food addiction, Lord, but it’s also about no longer being a slave to the scale, to food prepping, or to nutrition labels.  The more I learn, the more neurotic I become. Protect me from “Information Overload,” so I don’t trade a life spent in bondage for a life spent in fear.

Father in Heaven, “release me from this prison that I may praise Your name!”  I don’t want anything to occupy my mind more than You.  Free me from being held captive to meal plans, because I want to live my life by Your grace and guidance, not by man-made food rules.  I want to take better care of my temple by naturally making healthier choices, listening to my body’s hunger and fullness cues, and setting healthy boundaries.  Help me to live the life of freedom that Christ died to give me!

Give me a greater hunger for Your Word and truth and a greater thirst for Your Living Water.  Awaken in me a desire for You like I’ve never known, Lord.  As I learn to get Your truth into my spirit, help me to remember that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” and that my value and worthiness are not defined by my size or weight.  Father God, heal me from the inside-out; reveal to me the root cause of this struggle, and help me to cut it off.   

Your Word promises, “He has sent Me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released, and prisoners will be freed.”  I receive that truth with a grateful and humble heart, Lord Jesus.  I claim that truth for my life because “I have overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony!”  Thank you, Jesus, that because of Your sacrifice on Calvary, I can live a life in victory!

In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Friends, as I write this post, my prayer is that you can begin to view food as the gift that it is, and that you can begin to realize how food can be a reflection of the image of God by our creative use of the ingredients He has given us.  If you’d like your own copy of Asheritah’s book, you can find it here.  I promise it will be worth it!

If your mind is preoccupied more with food than with God and His Word, I pray that true food freedom will become a desire of your heart like it did mine.  No matter what your strongholds and struggles may be, I encourage you to delight yourself in Him!  And let me remind you, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalms 37:4 (NIV)  

Posted in Blog, Encouragement/Motivation, Faith & Religion

Locked Doors

The fact that I suddenly had an unexpected, very tearful breakdown, was evidence that there was still much work to be done.  It was clear that the pains from my past were still much bigger than I thought.

I had truly believed that I’d put my past behind me, and I was much better for it.  I was growing in my faith and in my relationship with God, and I was learning about my true identity.  It’s been a very long road, and I knew it wasn’t over yet, but as I embarked on a 21-day Daniel Fast with the start of the new year, God was revealing to me that I was going to have to unlock some doors that have since grown covered in cobwebs due to lack of use.

As I began the 21-day journey, my prayer was to simply grow closer to God.  I wanted to hear from Him as clearly as my Pastor had on the day God told him to take a tuna sandwich to a stranger around the corner.  I wanted to hear from Him as clearly as my Pastor’s wife had on the day she ended up in the ER with a broken finger because God wanted her to stop, not one, but two people there from ending their lives.  God knew the horrible thing they had each been contemplating, and He sent His faithful servant to tell them that their lives mattered.

Of course, God knew the long-time desire of my heart was to be freed from this issue I’ve always had with food, but I purposely did not want to make that the sole focus of my fast this time. 

It was evident that God was with me on each of those 21 days in those quiet moments, because He had been revealing His presence to me time and again, day after day.  He was speaking to me in ways that were so clear, there was no room for doubt!  I spent some time every day journaling about my journey and about the things God had been revealing to me, and I have decided to share this journey with you in a very transparent way.  I would like to share bits and pieces of my journal entries with you, because it’s much easier than trying to explain the way God was making His presence known to me.

About a week into the 21 days, I had already begun looking for the next bible study I would do after the completion of my fast.  I knew it would take me a good week or two to decide, because I would agonize over my choice- wanting to be sure I was making the right one.  I would pour over book descriptions and customer reviews for days on end, praying that God would reveal His choice for me.  It was odd this time, though, as I came across a study called “The Missing Commandment: Love Yourself.”  Without even reading the back cover, I placed the title into my shopping cart and made the purchase.  I never really gave it another thought after that, and then continued to peruse other titles that might pertain to me.

When my package arrived several days later, I placed the study guide on my shelf, intending to “get to it later” because I had still been searching for the title that God wanted me to do next.  Then Day 18 happened.

I was journaling about a conversation I had with my Daniel Fast accountability partner.  I told her about the three new bible study titles I had been kicking around; one was about living to your fullest potential, one was about personal growth, and one was about the power of daily affirmations.  I was excited to hear her response and thought that if one of them sounded interesting to her, we might be able to do it together.  I was a bit taken aback when her reply was, “Hmm, why do you always feel like you can be better?  You are already an amazing wife, mother, and friend.”

Wow.  It had never occurred to me how obsessed I was with “being better.”  I began to jot down my thoughts in a written prayer.  “Am I trying too hard, Lord?  Is it that old lie of never being enough that keeps me striving for perfection and then berating myself when I miss the mark?  I thought I was past all that.  Why can’t I get free from it?  Will I ever be satisfied with just being me?”  Cue the unexpected, tearful breakdown.

Friends, when I started this blog, I made it no secret that I did not have all the answers, and that we would be “learning together.”  This is a perfect example of that truth.  I really did believe I had overcome my past hurts.  I really did believe I had moved on.  And I have; I have made strides in my healing over the years.  I have forgiven and forgotten, and I have risen above my past hurts by doing a lot of learning about my true identity in Christ.  Unfortunately, some of the pain and negative behaviors are still there, and it’s going to take a little more work before they are no longer an issue.

I continued my journaling after I dried my tears and regained my composure: “I see now that the Love Yourself bible study I impulsively bought over a week ago was no accident.  While I was still browsing other titles, Lord, You kept bringing this to my mind, and now I know why.”  I finished writing out my heartfelt prayer with a renewed sense of hope.    

I made a new commitment to depend even more on Jesus as I prepared to delve deeper.  My bookshelves are covered in bible study materials about health, addiction, a desire for God, battles of the mind, bondage and freedom, and so on and so on.  Never once have I ever entertained the thought of doing a bible study about loving myself.  I had finally gotten the memo, and it was settled!  I had made my decision about what bible study was “on deck” after my Daniel Fast was over.  Then Day 21 happened.

As I was journaling in response to Day Twenty-One’s reading, I reflected on that past Sunday’s church service.  I had an incredible moment at the alter that day, and I had been wanting to share with Greg everything that God had been speaking to me over the last three weeks during my fast.

Although my husband loves the Lord and is ever grateful for the many blessings He has bestowed upon us, his relationship with the Lord has a different dynamic than my relationship with the Lord.  Although Greg spends his own personal time with God on a regular basis, he rarely has time to “go deep” with God like I desire to do for my own walk with Him.  I wanted to share this part of myself with Greg, but “spiritual” conversations with my husband never really come easy for me; I often feel like he wouldn’t understand.  Greg’s faith and trust aren’t quite, for lack of better terms, on the same “level” as mine, and if I’m being completely honest, I sometimes wondered if it was possible for a husband and wife to grow apart in that area while they are thriving everywhere else.

I decided I needed to talk to Greg about how I was feeling, and while this blog post isn’t about dissecting my husband’s relationship with God, I share this very personal conversation with you because it’s very relevant to what happened next.

When I told Greg that God was supposed to be first in his life, then his spouse, then his children, he said something I never expected.  He looked me dead in the eye and confessed, “Well if that’s true, then I’m in the wrong, because the idea of making you ‘number two’ behind anyone or anything is a foreign concept to me.”

I didn’t know how to react to that statement in the moment, though my gut instinct was to crumble into his arms.  I sat in silence for a minute, because I could tell there was something else he wanted to say.  He was fighting the urge but finally gave in when he realized this conversation wasn’t over.  “When you talk about this stuff,” he began, “it makes me…”  he paused there.  I patiently waited for him to voice what he was apparently afraid to put out into the universe.  Then these words came out of his mouth, “Whenever you start talking like this, I’m afraid you’re going to leave me because you think we’re incompatible or something.”

Oh my.  For a split second, I was speechless, then logic kicked in and made me respond with, “Well that will never happen.  I can’t even imagine my life without you.”  When my own words went out into the universe, my floodgates opened.  Something deep inside of him made him worry I might leave him?  I didn’t even know how to process that.  I was always the one who was afraid of people leaving me.  I had never been ‘number one’ in anyone’s life until now.

I wrapped my arms around Greg and curled up into his chest as I reflected on how blessed I truly was to have him as my life partner.  God knew exactly what He was doing, and suddenly I was overflowing with gratitude….

And chastising myself for being so picky.  God brought me a true, blue knight in shining armor, but leave it to me to focus on the flaws.  Wait, back up, there I go again.  Chastising.  “Rebuking or severely reprimanding.”  Well that negative behavior of beating myself up had reared its ugly head once again.

Perhaps the real question, though, is, “Why did I reprimand myself for bringing up a legitimate concern?”  Was I truly being picky, or was I just trying to have an adult conversation about something that was troubling me?  And why did I feel that doing so was not okay?  Did I feel I didn’t deserve to have my concerns addressed because Greg is so good to me?  Of course I did!  And I felt that way because a part of me still believes I’m not worthy.

I’ve spent several years- more than I can count- learning how to reverse these negative behaviors and learning how to dispel the lies of the enemy, but here I am, still learning.  Evidence of my spiritual growth, though, is that I’m starting to recognize it now.  I am learning to hold those thoughts captive as soon as they come, and I’m learning how to make a conscious effort to combat Satan’s lies with God’s truths.

I returned to my journal a little later, recounting the conversation and documenting my feelings and revelations.  I realized that God must think I’m ready to go back “there” again.  He is ready to use His master key on some of those old, locked doors.

I often talk about baby steps when I’m writing for my blog, and I want to take a moment here to remind you that God is constantly working in and through us now, and He will continue to do so until Christ’s return.  During the many years I’ve been working on my Christian research about facing and overcoming past trauma, trials and tribulations, I learned that if God were to give us everything all at once, we would never be able to handle it.  I believe it is by God’s design that He works on us in baby steps.  In John 15:2, we are told, “He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” (NLT)

According to Harmony Gardens Landscaping, “Pruning is the cutting away of unwanted parts of a plant for more fruitful growth and shaping.  You should prune a plant or shrub to remove crossed, damaged or diseased branches which will stress the plant. Pruning also improves air flow through the plant and can encourage better branch distribution which results in a healthier, more vigorous plant that is more disease tolerant.”  Is that relevant to how Christ cares for us, or what?

For us to be able to bear good fruit, we need to cut off the “diseased branches” that produce anything opposite of what Galatians 5 teaches us about the Fruits of the Spirit.  And just like a growing tree, it takes times to grow into what God has designed us to be.  Sometimes it will take some pruning and cutting to get there, and that means there will likely be seasons of pain or difficulty.  But consider this truth: “…we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4 (NKJV)

That being said, I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “God will never give you more than you can handle.”  While this may be comforting in times of suffering, it’s not entirely true.  (Don’t shoot the messenger!)  If you reference 1 Corinthians 10:13, you will see that Paul was specifically referring to temptation when he said that, not trials and tribulations. 

Here is what God does promise us through His pruning process, however:

  • Strength– “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)
  • Courage– “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”  Deuteronomy 31:8-9 (NKJV)
  • Comfort– “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”  Psalms 23:4 (NKJV)
  • Wisdom- “For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”  Proverbs 2:6 (NKJV)
  • Peace- “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 (NIV)
  • Freedom- “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 (NIV)
  • Hope- “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Sharing my journey with you is not meant to make you feel like you’ll never get to the light at the end of the tunnel.  My purpose is to encourage and inspire you.  I can tell you with absolute certainty that, although it might not seem like it right now, something good can, and will, come from whatever it is that the devil used to harm you.  God promises to use our pain for good.  In Genesis 50:20, Joseph says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (NLT) What a great example of faith and servanthood!

In a nutshell, God helps us to help others.  When we share our stories with the people who need to hear them, we are doing our part to further God’s kingdom by offering hope.  Christ is hope, and that is what my blog is all about.  Letting you know that God is about to do some more “pruning” within me is not meant to discourage you.  My intention is not to diminish your hope, but to ignite it!

We were never promised that our lives would be easy once we’ve turned them over to Jesus, but we are encouraged to stay the course and walk in faith.  Just like a business owner can’t open shop until he gets the loan, and the doctor can’t perform surgery until she gets the education, we can’t bless others until we get an understanding that this isn’t about us.  And don’t think that you have to have it all figured out before you can help others, because that’s just another lie from the pit.  Although we learn our life lessons in baby steps, we can still use what we learned to make a difference in the life of another.

I want to take a moment to thank you for walking through this journey with me, and I want to encourage you to “stay the course!”  God isn’t finished with us yet, so when you feel like you can no longer walk by sight, walk by faith!  He promises that He has a plan for each one of us.  That is the truth I hold onto whenever I begin to feel anxious or discouraged.

*What about you?  What are some of your favorite truths that get you through times of pain, doubt, or fear?  Share them below, because they just might help me out, too!

Posted in Blog, Faith & Religion

THE “Health & Wellness Coach”

Let me start by saying that when I call myself a “Health & Wellness” Coach, I am referring to not only physical health, but emotional and spiritual health as well– perhaps even moreso.  Not that physical health isn’t as important as the other two, but if we’re being honest here, it’s not really possible to achieve the physical health on a permanent basis, if the emotional and spiritual health are not addressed first.  Okay, well, maybe you can strive for all three simultaneously, because that is exactly what God is helping me do every single day.

For me, these three things go hand-in-hand, and I simply cannot have one without the other two.  I stated above that you cannot truly achieve optimal physical health without the emotional and spiritual health, but it really works both ways.  If your physical health isn’t up to par, it can ultimately affect your emotional and spiritual health.

Okay, now I’m talking in circles, and I’ve probably just confused you.  Let me try to show you what I mean.  If you aren’t spiritually healthy, chances are you are not going to put “taking care of your temple” at the top of your priority list.  If you are facing other battles in your life, and you are spiritually unsteady because of what you’re going through, your physical health may seem less important to you as you traverse through your current trials and tribulations.  It could even just be a case of simply not caring.  If your spiritual health isn’t in the right place, you may not even give your physical health a second thought.  Perhaps you didn’t even know that physical health was important to God, and this is a completely new concept to you.

Faith and religion aside, maybe you’re just not as emotionally healthy as you would like to be.  You might be facing demons from your past or a current crisis that you can’t see past at the moment.  The bottom line is if you’re not emotionally healthy, you probably aren’t able to make a commitment to your physical health even if you wanted to. 

All of that might make perfect sense to the average human being, but what about the flipside of that coin?  How can being physically unhealthy affect your spiritual and emotional health?  Well, for one thing, when I’m not taking care of myself physically, those negative self-talk tapes start replaying in my head.  They tell me I’m a failure, I’m destined to be this way, and I’m unattractive and unworthy of love.  It directly affects my emotional health when I start believing those lies again that God worked so hard to squelch.  When I start telling myself those things, it’s very easy for me to fall back into a depressed or hopeless state, because I begin to believe that nothing will ever change.

In addition, my spiritual health suffers, because I feel convicted by the Holy Spirit.  (Conviction is not to be confused with condemnation, by the way.)  The Holy Spirit gently and lovingly reminds me that I’m not treating my body the way God has asked me to, and I end up feeling badly about not taking good care of my temple.  I feel I am not honoring God with what I eat and drink.  1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (NLT) I am not glorifying God if I am over-stuffing myself at mealtimes or overindulging in sweets instead of treating myself to them in moderation.    

But because I view my addiction to food as great sin, I have spent years taking the Holy Spirit’s gentle conviction and turning it into self-condemnation.  Not only have I battled a faulty belief system that told me I loved food more than I loved God, but I also believed I was such a horrible sinner that nothing could make me acceptable and pleasing to God.  If this sounds like you, my friend, let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth!

Did you know that when Jesus bought us with the price He paid on Calvary, He made us righteous in God’s sight?  Righteous, by definition, means morally right and virtuous.  In Ephesians 1:4, we are told, “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” (NLT) Did you catch that?  “Without fault.”  Blameless.  When God looks upon us, He sees perfection.  I can’t even wrap my brain around that!

As long as I’ve been at this, I still have trouble seeing myself the way that God sees me, so believe me, I get it.  But one of the things that helps me besides reading God’s truth repeatedly, is worshiping Him in song.  When I first became a Christian in 1996, I thought I’d never listen to Christian Contemporary music.  I believed it to be slow and “boring.”  Can I admit to you now that I never even tried it when I made that assessment?  I might have turned to a Christian radio station one time and they happened to play something “slow,” so I judged it immediately.

But then I tried it a second time… and a third.  This was in the days of Twila Paris, Jars of Clay, and Point of Grace, and one of the very first songs I remember absolutely loving was a Twila Paris song called “Not Afraid Anymore.”  For one thing, it wasn’t slow at all.  In fact, I remember belting it out while dancing around my kitchen as if unto the Lord.  (What I was afraid of at the time, I didn’t know, but nonetheless, the song made me unafraid and downright joyful!)

From that point on, I listened to as much Christian Contemporary music as I could.  I discovered it wasn’t slow and boring at all, but in fact, was a great way to connect to God when I couldn’t be spending quiet, alone time with Him in prayer.  I was new to Christianity, and while the bible seemed intimidating to me at first, worship music gave me a fresh, new way to get to know God.  Much of it has God’s Word right in the lyrics, so committing lyrics to memory came in very handy!

Back then, I was a “baby Christian” trying to learn who I was, who God was, how to follow in Christ’s footsteps, and how to cope with things from having a bad day to dealing with a crippling self-image.  I was battling depression, anxiety, and food addiction for as long as I could remember, and then I came across a song by Susan Ashton.

This one song…. It spoke to me in a way I could never forget.  I knew it had to be written just for me, and it’s been an anthem of mine ever since.  It’s called “Body and Soul,” and the lyrics still pierce my heart today as much as they did when I heard it for the first time so long ago.

Too young to know any Christian Contemporary records from the 90’s?  No worries!  I got you!  Take a deep breath, sit back, and take it in… the lyrics are as follows:

“Once I was lost; hurting inside; dangling over the edge.  But the history of pain barely remains.  Once I was blind, but could it be that the excess of light is shading the weary past with the shadows it casts?  And as sin gives way to atoning blood, and a debt is paid with the riches of love, there’s a hope that I see.  There’s a freedom in me!  “There’s a comfort in death and in life knowing that I belong to the Savior who’s making me whole… body and soul.

 Now I can feel a sense of resolve, choosing a new point of view; going against the grain; breaking the chain!  And the shackles fall on the road to peace, and I lose them all as I find my release.

And hope eternal springs in me.  And freedom seems to willingly carry me through a world of fears I’ve stored inside of me; Lord, abide in me.

And as sin gives way to atoning blood, and a debt is paid with the riches of love, there’s a hope that I see.  There’s a freedom in me.  There’s a comfort in death and in life knowing that I belong to the Savior who’s making me whole… body and soul.

Wow.  Just wow.  As a brand new Christian, this song was not only the epitome of what Christ did for me, but it addressed the freedom that was my birthright.  It told me that when I died to sin and found new life in Christ, He was breaking the bondage that my painful past had been keeping me in for all those years.  Even back then, He was letting me know that He was going to be there for me, helping me through what seemed was going to be an insurmountable giant.

That was over twenty years ago, and I still don’t have all the answers.  I’m not a supermodel now, and I still love brownies just as much as the next person.  But you know what?  I’m a much better version of myself than I was twenty years ago, and maybe not as great as I’ll be ten years from now.  God is constantly working in us and through us, helping us to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be, one day at a time.

In Philippians 1:6, Paul assures us, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (NLT) Read it again; understand what it is saying.  “until it is finally finished on the day when Christ returns.”  Hello!  That means we will always be a work in progress until Jesus comes back to take us with Him!  In no uncertain terms, that means stop beating yourself up for not being perfect!  Even though you’re not perfect in your own eyes, you are perfect in His eyes.  And aren’t God’s eyes the only ones that really matter?

Look at the lyrics of the song again.  It says, “the Savior who is making me whole.”  Not, “the Savior who made me whole.”  Do you see the difference?  So you’re not always 100% emotionally healthy?  So you’re not always 100% spiritually healthy?  So you’re still battling a physical stronghold in your life like I am?  So what.  As long as you are striving every day to do better, be better… that’s all that matters.  Are you going to fail sometimes?  Of course. But that does not make you a failure. If you’re doing your best, that is what God sees.  He sees your heart. 

On the rare occasion when one or more of my girls came home with a low “B” on their report cards, or, Heaven forbid, a “C” in, perhaps, their least favorite class, they would beat themselves up.  I would always ask, “Did you do your best?”  When they replied with unwavering certainty that they had, I told them that’s all that mattered to me.  

God is the same way with us.  But unlike us Moms who might make a mistake once in a while because we are imperfect humans, God will never make a mistake in His care for us. God is always there… helping, holding, inspiring, guiding, strengthening… you get the idea.  His timing is always perfect, and He always knows just the right thing to say. There is nothing too big for Him to handle, and there is nothing too small for Him to care about.

What is most important to you right now- today?  You don’t have to overwhelm yourself with striving to reach too many goals at once.  Just remember that God is our ultimate health & wellness coach!  To hear the “Body and Soul” song for yourself, click here. Soak it in; take time to reflect on Who God is, and what He can offer you. Let Him help you reach the goals that you can’t reach in your own strength.  Be it physical or otherwise, that’s His job, and He loves doing it.  How can He help you start becoming wholly healthy?  He’s always listening, and He is the only One who will never let you down.

Posted in Alicia & Goliath, Blog, Encouragement/Motivation, Faith & Religion, Health & Wellness

Stressful Stuff & a Cocoa Puff

You’re not the only one who thinks chocolate fixes everything! Need some encouragement and motivation when it comes to fighting the urge to cave into cravings? Read my newest blog post, published on my Alicia & Goliath page, and keep your chin up!

Posted in Blog, Faith & Religion, Health & Wellness

Toxic

As someone who has ridden the “Diet Roller Coaster” since she was fourteen years old, I’ve been through a plethora of fad diets.  You know the story… you’re motivated and on fire when you first start a new diet, and you even do really well for a week or two.  But when something gets in the way of that initial motivation, or when you’re faced with all kinds of sugary temptations at a family function or birthday party, you throw in the towel.  Ultimately, you end up gaining back the weight you lost and then some.  I assure you, friends, if I had a dime for every time I said “I’ll start fresh on Monday,” I would be rich by now.

Believe it or not, even with that track record, I have been known to call myself a Health and Wellness Coach.  I use that term lightly, though; I don’t have that title as a certified professional in the industry, but with what I do for my side hustle these days, that is exactly what I am.  For all intents and purposes, let’s just say I’m a Wellness Coach- total wellness that is.  I may share some interesting facts about physical health and clean eating once in a while, but my real passion is to help other women like me find spiritual and emotional health, too.  Even more-so!

If you would have told me five years ago that I would one day be a Wellness Coach, health or otherwise, I would have died laughing.  But isn’t that just how God works?  I know someone who was mercilessly teased when he was a boy for a speech impediment, and today he is a well-known motivational speaker and preacher.  In one of her books, Joyce Meyer tells us that she was lucky to pass English classes with D’s year after year, and now she teaches, preaches, studies the Word of God like nobody’s business, and has written more books than I can count.  Of course, let’s not forget about how God used Paul!  (Read Acts for the miraculous story about how Saul went from one of the worst prosecutors to Paul, a fierce Christ-follower who went on to write two-thirds of the New Testament!)

It’s taken me five years, but I finally embraced the reality that God turned this food addict into a health and wellness coach!  I not only help people stay motivated when they’ve decided to make healthy changes, but I educate them about what they put into their bodies and how it affects their health.  For example, I teach people that it can be toxic for your body if you drink too many acidic beverages and not enough water.  It also does not do a body good when we eat too many processed foods and refined sugars and not enough fresh produce, whole grains, and lean meats that are filled with the nutrients we need to fuel our bodies.  There are also the “fun facts” I share such as, your body needs fat to burn fat, and, anything light or fat free is filled with chemicals and sugars.  There are many other golden nuggets like these that I share with my clients, and I love doing it.

What I do is not about taking miracle pills that offer a quick fix, and it’s not about slapping on band-aids that offer a temporary fix.  To truly be healthy- body, mind, and soul- I try to encourage people to change the mindset that got them unhealthy in the first place.  I do teach my clients about eating as clean as possible, but I never try to make them feel bad for just staying true to themselves.  I want people to honor their bodies, not hate them.  

Since I jumped off of the diet roller coaster five years ago and instead boarded the new healthy lifestyle train, I’ve learned a lot about why fad diets don’t work.  I’ve changed my reading habits from romantic suspense fiction to non-fiction health and wellness books or spiritual growth books.  In Eat & Stay Thin by Joyce Meyer, she states, “When they [people who struggle with weight loss] are afraid that anything they put in their mouths carries the potential for ‘making them fat,’ they would much rather follow the list of rules and regulations in a diet than have liberty.”  That struck a chord with me, because that is my true heart’s desire- liberty!

Ever since I tried (and failed) the program that made the most sense to me years and years ago, The Weigh Down Diet by Gwen Shamblin, I have felt like a complete and utter failure.  What I loved about Gwen’s program was that it wasn’t based on what you were eating as much as it was based on listening to God and our body’s God-given cues.  Basically, you were taught to eat whatever you’re truly craving, but to only eat when you’re truly hungry.  You’re also supposed to… and this is where I struggled the most… stop when you’re pleasantly satisfied, not stuffed.  In today’s terms, you may hear it referred to as “intuitive eating.”  Honesty, I’ve been chasing that dream since it was first introduced to me over twenty years ago!

Like Joyce Meyer, Gwen talked about how society tries to “make the food behave” instead of making ourselves behave.  We think that if something is fat free, we can have double portions of it.  The truth is, when you take a look at the real reasons behind overeating, and there could be many, no amount of diet rules can help us overcome the surface problem.

I constantly tell people that my battle with food is more spiritual for me than it is physical.  And that’s because I’ve always looked at overeating as sinful.  I wasn’t taking care of my temple, and I felt I loved food more than I loved God.  I was ashamed, and I was definitely stuck in bondage.  When I wasn’t a slave to the food itself because I was on a diet, I was a slave to the diet’s rules, meal plans, and limitations.  Even to this day, I often feel like I’m a slave to the scale, because I let its numbers dictate my mood, my motivation, my self-worth, and even my sanity.  Dare I say… my relationship with the scale is toxic!  I have to remind myself every single day that this is about me and God, not about me and that scale.

For me, this journey is truly about finding the freedom that Christ died to give me.  There are days I honestly feel like I could burn out from stressing so much about food, and toxicity, and meal plans, and carbs, and sugar, and right and wrong.

In Mark 7, verses 18 and 19, we read, “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you?  Food doesn’t go into the heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.’ By saying this, He declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.” (NLT) Jesus has plainly told us that there IS NO right and wrong!

Let’s dig a little deeper, though.  We also learn in the New Testament where the real problem lies.  Consider this: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful.  All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (1 Corinthians 6:12, NKJV)  Ahhh, there it is.  Most people today take the first part of this verse and run with it.  Jesus said you could have a 16-ounce steak, loaded baked potato, and a hot fudge sundae, true… but is that really helping you?

Now, I would never tell anyone that they can’t enjoy these things, so please don’t misunderstand me.  The key to good physical health and taking care of your temple is to adopt a healthy lifestyle where you make healthy choices 80% percent of the time, and treat yourself 20% of the time- not the other way around.  And instead of over-indulging like in my scenario above, try having an 8-ounce steak, a baked sweet potato with butter and cinnamon, and if that satisfies you, skip the hot fudge sundae.  You could always go out for some ice cream later that night or sometime the next day.

Let’s examine the second part of this verse.  “I will not be brought under the power of any.”  Now this is where I’ve truly had my struggle.  I can remember many, many times crying out to the Lord asking, “Why does food have such power over me?”  The pull of food in my life was always so prevalent that I wondered what was wrong with me.  It wasn’t until much later that I realized I am not alone in this fight.

The reason I believed this problem to be a sin in my life is because, as an emotional eater, I should be turning to God and His Word for comfort, not a pan of brownies.  When I’m angry about something, I should be turning to God and His Word to calm me down, not taking my frustrations out on a bag of Doritos.  When I’m stressed out about various circumstances in my life, I should ask the Prince of Peace to help me trust in Him, not visit the nearest drive-through.  Above all, I wasn’t honoring God with my body and with what I was eating and drinking.

It’s actually strange to think about how something as simple as food can have such control over your actions.  When you get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and then take an unplanned detour to the kitchen before returning to bed, you’re under the power of food.  When you stop for gas but just have to run into the convenience store for a candy bar, you’re under the power of food.  When you’ve had a wonderful dinner out and still order the chocolate lava cake despite being full, you’re under the power of food.  Do you see a pattern here?

I know what I’m talking about, because I’ve lived through every one of these scenarios more than once, and hated myself for it every time I did it.  I truly had a love-hate relationship with food.  But here’s a newsflash for you: food is not the enemy!  Believe me, treating yourself to a candy bar when you are craving some chocolate is not a sin!  But be aware that there is a true, blue enemy who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV) He will not only take advantage of your weaknesses, but he will surely kick you while you’re down.  After you down that unplanned candy bar or drive-thru burger, you will, if you’re anything like me, proceed to beat yourself up for hours afterwards because you “did it again.”

The devil likes to tell us we are failures.  He loves to remind us how weak we are.  He takes absolute delight in making us feel miserable about ourselves by illuminating our flaws.  He knows us well, and he will gladly use the information to keep us as far from God and His truth as possible.  

But, here is one truth from Romans 3:23-24, NKJV, that you should keep in your heart every moment of every day… “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  Woo-hoo!  Doesn’t that make you want to shout and dance?!  Listen, not one of us is worthy of receiving God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness, and there is nothing we can ever do to earn or deserve those good gifts, that’s all true.  But when the enemy takes that truth and twists it into something that makes you feel bad about yourself, that’s taking it way too far.  Christ came to reconcile us unto God, and through His sacrifice, we are holy, righteous, and redeemed!  Amen!

I assure you, I’ve been fighting this giant for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been beating myself up for “being a failure” for even longer than that.  Can I be brutally honest with you about something?  You are a child of God!  That means that when you make nasty faces at your reflection, talk down to yourself, call yourself names, or any other thing you do to beat yourself up, you are BULLYING one of God’s daughters!  (How’s that for perspective?)  Wow!  A daughter of The King is the last person I would ever want to bully!

The bible frequently tells us how much power we have in the tongue.  We can use it to tear down or to build up.  Which one do you think glorifies God?  Proverbs 15:4 states, “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” (NIV) Be soothing, my friends!  Your spiritual and emotional health & well-being are key to achieving physical health and well-being.  You can’t have one without the others.  

Do you know that when we are in Christ, we have a supernatural power within us to accomplish things we can’t do in our own strength?  Acts 1:8b reads, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” (NKJV) 2 Timothy 1:7 reads, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV) There are many more where they came from, too.  The Bible is chock full of wonderful truths that we should be telling ourselves (and telling the enemy!) every single day!

To this day, I have a stack of index cards that each contain powerful truths I’ve used at one time or another during this battle.  They are attached to a book ring and kept in a little filing box so I can review them often!  The Bible says the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. (See Ephesians 6:17 and Hebrews 4:12) The Word is our weapon against the attacks from the enemy, and we should be able to use it at any given moment.  But I use them to not only fight the enemy, but also to embrace the freedom that was promised to me when I gave my heart to the Lord.

I would like to share these Scripture verses with you, so if you would like your own printable copy of these flash cards, visit my Freebies page!  I color-coded them for easy sorting, too!  I have included 36 life-giving verses to start with, but I encourage you to begin adding your own as you study more of God’s Word and find the truths that specifically speak to you.  You can carry these little “flash cards” with you so you have them readily available, or you can use them as study guides to practice memorization.

I began this post by talking about body toxicity, and then I mentioned that my relationship with the scale is toxic.  For a very, very long time, my relationship with myself was toxic, too.  I can’t even begin to tell you how often God “hit me over the head” with His truth about my true identity, and that is why I am so passionate about sharing what I learned with other women like me.

What is your relationship like with you?  Do you have a toxic relationship with yourself like I did?  How do you treat your body?  Are you taking care of God’s temple by using food for fuel instead of for comfort?  What kinds of things are you telling yourself?  Are you using your tongue to crush or to soothe?  To hurt or to heal?

If you are a mother, you know how terribly painful it is when your children have trouble with bullying in school.  It is a very sad and helpless feeling to watch your child suffer with such torment.  Imagine how much more painful it is for God to see one of His children suffer with that torment.  YOU are one of those children.  Don’t be a bully.

To find out more about Joyce Meyer’s book Eat & Stay Thin, or to learn more about Gwen Shamblin-Lara’s Weigh Down Diet, visit my Resources page.  If you have any Scripture verses that have encouraged you along the way, reminded you of who you are in Christ, or helped you ward off attacks from the enemy, I’d love for you to share them with us.  In fact, if this post related to you in any way, I would love for you to share your comments below.  Thanks, and God bless!   

 

Posted in Blog, Faith & Religion

The Blooming Onion Theory

I suppose I’ll start by explaining how I came up with the title of this post, and no, it has nothing to do with the famous appetizer sold at many popular chain restaurants. I had given this title a lot of thought, and as I was trying to think of something witty that would give some kind of insight as to who I am, I thought of the movie, Shrek. (No, I’m not an ogre.)

All of a sudden, for some unknown reason, I heard donkey saying, “Onion Boy!” I thought about that part of the movie where they were talking about layers. I, like Shrek, am like an onion. There are many, many layers that make up the being that is Alicia Leitzel.

Maybe you will discover those layers sometime in the future in one of my best sellers! But, for now, let me jump ahead to the “Blooming” part. Okay, so I have a past. Who doesn’t, right? Unfortunately for me, I had allowed my past to shape the person I had become. Thank God for sending His Son, because through Jesus, I’ve become a new creation!

One of my favorite promises comes from 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Now I knew this theologically, but it was the emotionally and spiritually that I couldn’t quite grasp. Many people spend a great deal of time and money on the professionals trying to figure out how to rise above the hand they were dealt, and I was no different. But I didn’t truly find victory until I turned to the One who created me and knew me better than I knew myself.

Long story short, I was finally able to completely (and I do mean completely) let go of my past. It was at a retreat of sorts, at the Saturday night anointing service, where I truly surrendered it all to my Savior. I’m not talking about salvation or conversion, here; I had already done that years prior. I’m talking about truly letting go and letting God! I realized I didn’t need my past identity anymore. It was time for me to stop letting my past define me. Freedom no longer evaded me, and another promise became truth to my spirit that night. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36 NKJV).

Soon after the experience, I followed up with attending a Ladies’ Conference at my home church. It was confirmed that I was officially an overcomer, and in fact, not just an overcomer, but a beautiful rose just waiting to bloom.

How long this blooming process would take, I didn’t know. But, I can tell you that I’ve since learned it’s an ongoing process. As soon as I was able to embrace that fact, I was on a different path. In fact, the following year, I was one of the speakers at the annual Ladies’ Conference!

I have discovered, albeit the hard way, that when I put my trust in the Lord, everything will work out one way or another. Even if it’s not my idea of the perfect plan, I know it is HIS plan, and I’m going to embrace the journey. I proudly profess to be 45 years old and still Learning Life.

Every day brings a new opportunity to do something productive. Every trial brings a new opportunity to grow in faith. And every interaction brings a new opportunity to show God’s love. That retreat changed my life, and my walk with Jesus has been a priority ever since. He continues to shape the person I will become, and I am learning that examining our layers is what helps us to bloom.

So, in closing, can an onion really bloom? Well, when taken in the right context, yes! I absolutely believe that it can! And I hope that you, too, will one day realize that you are just one of many blooming onions.

** Has there ever been a time where God took you out of your comfort zone? It wasn’t your idea of the perfect plan, but it was HIS plan, and you were glad you were obedient. I’d love to hear about it! Comment with your story below, and happy blooming!