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Encouragement July 20, 2014

I first started brainstorming this post last Saturday while running, but as with many other times when I get ideas for blog posts, I get them when I’m busy or away from the computer, then when I actually have time I completely forget about posting and instead waste time scrolling through Facebook or Pinterest. Something made me remember to write this one out.

Through many previous posts, I’ve talked about running, and how it has been my main tool for losing weight and becoming the healthier me that God wants me to be, my way of taking care of His Temple. Through running, I have met a lot of other runners.  And one thing I can say about Runners in general is how encouraging they are to one another.

I mean I’ve read in Facebook posts and whatnots about snobbish runners, those who are after their PR, who are totally serious about this running thing and if you’re not as serious about it as they are than you’re not a runner. But I haven’t met any of them. Joining group runs where my pace is at least a whole minute slower than the rest, but still get a “You killed it out there, Anna.” that is some major encouragement. Not even really knowing all that much about me, except that I’m into running, they have welcomed and accepted me. For a sport that’s all individualized, I’m part of the team.

And it’s not just the Run Group. I was running the streets of Danville one evening (with the Run Group) and passed another runner, one I’d never seen before. There was the smile and head nod of acknowledgement, but then there was also a “keep it up” or “great job”.

Encouragement doesn’t have to be spoken. The Saturday that this blog post popped into my head was while I was running the Riverwalk Trail in Danville. Don’t let the name fool you. By trail it means paved path a little wider than one car would need. It’s a very happenin’ place, cyclists, walkers, runners, skaters are all out there Saturday mornings and most other days as well. I was running, bebopping along to my music. I had decided to smile and speak a good morning to those I passed. I didn’t want to be like the frowny walkers I’d been passing downtown lately. There was a lady coming towards me at a slow run. I don’t like the word jog. If your feet are moving in a running rhythm, no matter the speed, you are running, not jogging. A walk is still a walk no matter how fast or slow you are walking.

Okay enough soapbox.

She dropped to a walk still a few yards out from me, but when she looked up and saw me she started running again. Now I’m not going to say I’m an awesome encourager and that my presence alone encourages others to do more, to push themselves, to have courage to press on. No, but in running, that is often the case. Just the presence of someone else encourages us to push ourselves a little harder.

Working out yesterday morning with some awesome ladies, one of the leaders shadowed me for short bit, using words of encouragement, pushing me to squat lower, to give more, to work harder. And while I am sore today because of that, the fears that usually keep me from doing more squats, lunges, etc. did not come to fruition. My knee has not bothered me once today as it has in the past (even just a few weeks ago) after kicking up a notch or two.

And while I guess a lot of this post was about the encouragement of new friends, I have received a lot of encouragement from those I’ve known for years as well. Not all of them always get me, but there aren’t many who completely get me anyway. I’m one of those weird ones. But I definitely want to work on becoming a better encourager myself, to push others to do more, to give more. Because if God is for us, who can be against?

 

God Is So Good! March 30, 2014

There are many places in the Psalms where the writer reflects or calls the audience to reflect and remember what the Lord has done.  Remembering is key to moving forward.  I know so many say not to look back on the past to leave it there and press onward.  Paul says, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on…” but there are still times, most especially in the Christian life when we should reflect on the past, with a focus on what our Father in heaven has done for us.  By remembering what He has already done for us and all the ways He has proven His love for us, His provision and protection, whatever challenge may lie ahead seems so much smaller and easier to conquer.  Sometimes it takes remembering what He has already accomplished in order to believe and trust what He will continue to work in our lives.

I am writing this post with these thoughts in mind.  I have shared in past posts about my fitness journey, It’s Just a Number, but I think I really have tried to avoid writing about the topic.  Maybe because part of me was still afraid that I would fail and have the condemning eyes of whoever reads this blog looking down on me.  Maybe because another part of me is still embarrassed over the fact of being overweight for so long, and I really think at least part of it is because I really don’t want anyone saying ‘hey look at what she did’.  I do NOT like being in the limelight.  Some attention is nice every once in a while, trust me no one likes to be ignored, but I can only take small doses.

Why am I going to write about it now?  For God’s glory, not my own.  He has given me this story in order to show His greatness and His power.  So read the following if you like, but know that I had little part it in all.  I merely followed where He led.

I have been overweight most of my life.  To put it this way, I have never been skinny, slender, trim, etc.  Words like thick, solid, and chunky were always more fitting.  I was never very athletic, preferring to read or watch TV.  There have been many failed attempts at losing weight.  In college I did well, instead of gaining the freshman-fifteen, I lost it.  But after graduation I fell back into old habits, and so the cycle kept going.

In 2011, I started having problems with my knees, clicking cartilage and pain with excessive use.  There’s no telling how many times I’ve scraped and banged up my knees over the years.  Add that to the abuse of carrying around 200+ pounds for too many years = mild osteoarthritis.

That truly was my wake-up call.  It wasn’t anything major or life threatening, but at the age of 24 wondering about if and when I may have to have knee replacement surgery down the road.  It was scary.  August 2012 I joined the gym.  I went.  A lot.  That September I sprained my ankle.  Satan wanted to deter me early on.  After two weeks, when I could go with a brace instead of a boot, I was back to the gym.

Made to Crave Devotional has been one of my favorites.  I had heard the phrase “we all have a God-shaped hole” before, but this book made it more real.  God created us with the ability to crave.  He gave us cravings and desires.  He made us so that we could not feel complete or satisfied on our own.  It is an inherent need for HIM.  Only the signals get mistranslated and we think we’re really craving food, relationships, other substances, money, things, etc.  What we really need/want is God.

This fitness journey has been different.  Even my attempts before my goal was rarely to “be skinny”.  Most of the time it was to be healthy, to be not fat.  This time I wanted to serve God, to love Him and worship Him by how I took care of this earthly vessel.  I remembered that this body is a gift from God, a precious gift.  It is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, making my body a holy place.

How would we feel if someone filled our church building with trash and was never used for its intended purpose?

Taking care of my body is an act of worship. Not self-worship, a way to worship God, just as much as singing praise songs, sitting in church, and praying.  God wants everything we do to be an act of worship, a way of glorifying His name.

I think because of this attitude God has blessed me in this journey.  My knees still click, but there is rarely any pain.  My ankle is stronger than ever.  I have lost 63 pounds that I never want to see again.  It has not been easy.  I have failed in many ways.  God will pick you back up, but only if you’re willing.  He loves us too much to leave us where we are.  But we also have to want to move.

Praise God for helping me to be willing, for reminding me why I am doing this.

Exactly one year ago, I could only run 10 minutes before having to walk.  Yesterday I ran my first half-marathon, that’s 13.1 miles, in 2hours and 34minutes.

 

To God Be The Glory!!!

Left is from July 2012 on vacation to Niagara Falls.  Right is March 2014 before my half marathon.

Left is from July 2012 on vacation to Niagara Falls. Right is March 2014 before my half marathon.

 

The Temple Was Full January 20, 2014

Filed under: Christianity,God,Jesus Christ,Life,Spiritual Growth — Anna @ 12:40 PM

In church this past Sunday, the pastor spoke on 2 Chronicles 7. Verse 14 is fairly familiar, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.” But that was not what the Lord impressed on me during the sermon. A Bible study group I’m a part of has been looking at idols, specifically going through Kelly Minter’s No Other Gods study. Chapter 7, verses 19 stuck out. “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them …verse 22 “Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like disaster. It’s no fun. I certainly don’t want Him to bring disaster on me. It’s one thing to go through hard times to grow in my walk with Him, but to have disaster brought on me. That’s a lot scarier. I think I like an earlier picture better. 2 Chronicles 7:1-2 (this is right after Solomon’s prayer of dedication over the temple) As soon as Solomon finished his prayer fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house.

Read that again.  The glory of the Lord filled the temple. It was filled so much by that glory that the priests could not enter it. Not they did not enter but they could not. Now I’m not a theologist, I haven’t studied Greek or Aramaic, so don’t quote me on this. But what if it wasn’t just that the glory of the Lord was such an overwhelming force that the priests did not feel worthy of entering or were afraid they might die if they entered? Scripture it said they couldn’t enter. They couldn’t physically enter the temple. What if the glory of the Lord filled the temple in such a way that there was no physical room for anything or anyone else to coexist with His glory?

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19.  The temple is no longer just a building. It is the body of Christ, it is the body of believers. He no longer dwells only in the Holy of Holies. He dwells within each of our hearts.

What if His temple, our bodies, our lives were so filled with the glory of the Lord that nothing else could enter?

What if our hearts were so filled with His glory that there was no room for any false gods?

What would our lives look like? What would this world look like?

 

Save Me, Lord January 10, 2014

I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.

Save me, O Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues

Psalm 120:1-2

I happened upon this verse this morning in my devotionals. It wasn’t what was in the study for me to read. It wasn’t even the verse I flipped to that page for, but it most definitely stuck out to me, not like a sore thumb, more like a lifesaver in a turbulent sea. I was actually looking for Psalm 121: I lift my eyes into the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. I always sing this because Casting Crowns used the verse in the song, “Praise You In This Storm“. Truth be told, and you may have noticed, I typically have some song running through my head and/or many phrases or lines in a conversation may lead to me randomly breaking out into song. It all connects in my head.

I know I’ve read this verse, and there are many others similar. The Bible is filled with instances of calling out to God for help and Him answering our pleas. The Psalms speak often about the trouble with lying tongues. Lies are spoken and are fatal. The serpent’s deceitfulness led to death entering this world. But today that lying tongue hit quite a bit closer to home, more personal.

It’s not that I am finding that I have a problem lying to others, but my tongue is a liar. It lies to my head and my stomach. It tells my stomach it needs to growl that I’m hungry and need food, that I need chocolate or something sweet. That deceitful tongue decides that when I wake up in the middle of the night (for whatever reason) and it’s been hours since I ate that I need to eat something while I’m up.

The tongue is deceitful, I know that full well. And I am weak, giving into its cravings on a regular basis, even a year and a half into this health journey. Sometimes it’s like I should be beyond this now. I’ve been choosing salads over pizza for over a year; I should be able to resist the demands of my tastebuds.

James warns of the devestation that the tongue is capable of. The tongue is also a fire…It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire…No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:6-8) I know and understand that the intent of both passages are about the words we speak, but as the new year begins and I am already struggling with getting back on track after the holidays, I can’t help but see how this relates.

One of my toughest issues, biggest addictions, even idol is my tongue, giving into its cravings and eating what I know I shouldn’t. Romans 7:19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. And yes, I consider these bad eating habits evil, for they do not take care of God’s temple, my body. So, thus I feel as though I am continuing to strive to tame my tongue, to teach it to crave different foods. Sometimes it works. I’m good never having another fry from McDonalds. Bojangles may be another story, but I was there Sunday and resisted, enjoying every bite of my larabar. Sometimes it does not. James says that no man can tame the tongue. But I am woman, hear me roar. No, that won’t work either. So what then am I to do? With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible–Matthew 19:26. About this verse, Lysa Terkeurst says in Made To Crave: devotional “With human effort alone, it can seem impossible to deny yourself. With human effort alone, it can seem impossible to make sacrifices. With human effort alone, it can seem impossible to have self-control. But with God, all sacrificial things are possible. With God, all self-control is possible.”

I’ve turned my closet door into a motivational door, full of quotes and workout ideas, my running schedule, upcoming races. It’s time I actually started getting some of that stuff off of the door and into my mind. If only I could stay in my room all day looking at it and remembering what I need to do, but I have to go out into the world, and I cannot be like the man who looks at his face in a mirror and after goes away and forgets what he looks like. I have to remember their wisdom in the heat of the battle, in the kitchen, at work, whenever my tongue starts going behind my back to conspire with my stomach.

Enough is enough.

I know I will continue to fail, but I will call on the Lord in my distress, and He will answer. My help comes from the Lord. He will not let my foot slip. He has good plans for me, plans to prosper me and give me a future.