Too Much of a Good Thing

Too much of a good thing?

I remember as a kid, my mom telling me, “You can’t play with Julie today. You’ve seen her every single day this week. You’ll get tired of each other and get into fights. That’s what happens when you get too much of a good thing.”

I know you’ve seen the woman who took a beautiful shade of blue and put too much of a good color on her eyelids.

There’s probably a food you used to love until you indulged yourself one too many times and it’s no longer a welcome taste.

Everywhere we turn these days, we’re reminded how good exercise is for us.

There’s a demoralizing quote by the Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, “A woman can’t be too rich or too thin.”

If that’s true, then there is truly no such thing as too much of every effort to achieve a woman’s highest goal – rich and thin.

But, let me confess a few things that I feel God has brought to my personal attention about the innate value of fitness.

There is no innate value in fitness. 

That’s a hard thing for a fitness professional to admit. There is no eternal gain in being able to run a marathon, no lasting reward for being able to see indentations between your abdominal muscles. Even though our jealous minds might try to tell us otherwise, no one is a better person because they get up at 5 a.m. to jump up and down like they have ants in their pants or perform pull ups from suspension cables like a monkey.

I recently was called to take a hard look at the money I spend in the fitness industry. Money for the gym, money for certifications, magazines, sandbags, other equipment, DVDs, online tutorials, special clothing. If I spent that money on my “adopted” child in Guatemala, wouldn’t I being making a bigger, more eternal difference?

Energy. I love that bone-deep fatigue that results from a killer workout. I love being able to actually feel the EPOC (oxygen deficit) as my metabolism rises to compensate for intense exercise. I love longing for my pillow at night because I “worked” so hard. But did I work? Did I change someone’s life? Did I get to know Jesus more deeply than yesterday? Did I serve my husband, tend my home and if so, did I find satisfaction in these things? Or was my greater happiness derived from my tiny personal success?

I’m not denying the value of exercise. I know it is essential, and I personally love it! I’m so glad that God gave us durable feet to pound out frustrations on the pavement when we run. I worship my Creator when I experience the pleasure a stronger accomplishment and when I see the amazing things He has made me capable of. However, I am firmly convinced that the only reason God endowed me with these abilities is for His Glory.

“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” I Timothy 4:8

 

The Gym Can’t Cut It

Ask almost any fitness professional and they will tell you that no matter how much you workout out, if your nutrition stinks, you will never reach your goals. I once had a boyfriend in high school as me, “How in the world do you eat so much?”

Now, if anyone asked me that, my answer would probably be, “Because most of what I eat is green.” But back then I said, “I workout so that I can eat whatever I want.” It’s true, for a few dreamy years you can eat nearly anything you want. Your waist may not show it, but your heart will.

In fact, this weekend, my husband and I came across an article that proves my point. An average size girl who ate nothing but chicken nuggets for 15 years, collapsed due to malnutrition. She wasn’t fat, she didn’t really over eat, I don’t know how much exercise she did. However, your body craves the nutrients that your Creator prescribed in the first place.

I love to experiment in the kitchen. A few of my favorite resources are Eating Well and Clean Eating. Usually, I start with something they suggest and modify it until I have something only remotely similar.

Kale is my new favorite find. I don’t know how many times I passed it in the grocery store, not knowing exactly what it was or what to do with it. Now, I have two giant bags of it in my fridge and Patrick keeps finding it in everything (:

Try this one, courtesy of the 21-Day Kickstart Vegan, a fantastic App available for the IPhone.

Southern Beans and Greens

1 C vegetable broth

3 C drained cooked or canned beans (you chose) my favorite was actually chickpeas

1/2 tsp crushed garlic

4 C chopped fresh kale, stems and center ribs removed (I skipped this step)

1 tsp olive oil

sea salt to taste

pepper to taste

Tabasco to taste

Combine beans and broth and garlic in a large saucepan. Place chopped kale on top of beans and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until kale is tender, about 15 or 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in olive oil, salt and pepper and Tabasco to taste. I topped my serving with feta cheese.

I think I served this to Patrick once and then decided to eat all the leftovers myself. It is delicious!

Sweet, Sweaty Success

The first week of Moms Who TRI was a smashing success! We had about 12-15 people everyday, counting moms and kids. God was gracious to give us sunny, cool weather each day.

On Monday, I had the kids doing a full workout with string – limbo, cross-overs, side bends, over-head squats, jump rope, over and unders. I surprised myself with how many active things one can do with a piece of string. And it’s wonderful to me how easily kids are fascinated by the simple things. Just a piece of twine to call their own and they would have worked out with me for hours.

Kristen took the moms to the other end of her yard and put them through the paces – jumping jacks, mountain climbers, bench dips, pushups and planks. All of them reported back with sore buns and tired triceps – but that’s a good thing. I switched things up a bit for them on Wednesday and Kristen exercised the kids. On Friday, we threw all organization to the wind and had fun with exercise. We did all kinds of relays, an obstacle course and an Easter egg hunt.

Now, we are in the process of planning some PE programs with a home school coop in the area. We are also considering some indoor places to take our workouts when summer arrives with full force humidity, bugs and heat.So, what do you do if you don’t live near Moms Who TRI, can’t afford a gym membership, don’t know what to do on your own and are bored to tears of all your old workout DVDs? Try this…

Ten Minutes Anywhere

Do each exercise for 50 seconds, rest for 10 and begin the next exercise. Go through the list twice and if you have time – do it again!

1. High knees

2. Burpees (that’s a push up, jump to your feet and then jump to the sky!)

3. Bicycle crunches

Jump lunges (put one leg forward in a lunge, then jump into the air and switch your feet landing with the other foot forward)

Regular pushups, if you’re feeling really brave, in between pushups rotate all the way into a side plank and alternate sides

Let me know what you think. And believe me, if that’s too easy, I can make you work harder!

What’s Coming Up This April

I swear I just did this. It seems like two days ago that I filled a page with ideas for a whole new month. But, there’s no rest for the weary and now it’s time to plot April. April showers, right? April doldrums, bleary days, cloudy skies and itchy impatience for the rewards of spring. Well, let me brighten the days of your April. Let’s allow the Son to

Blind us with His glory

Cast rainbows in the falling orbs

Speak peace in pattering showers

And thunder truth in blackened skies.

This month I owe a review to Moody Publishers for Trevin Wax’s book Counterfeit Gospels. Because of the way the book is written, highlighting six prevalent, modern (or postmodern) counterfeit gospels, I want to spend two weeks here. This is an excellent topic for Predatory Lies – unveiling the ultimate lie that destroys all lives: a fatal misinterpretation of THE ONLY SAVING GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRST.

If someone handed you a counterfeit $100 bill, what would you do? Is there any chance you would attempt to pass it off as real; reap the benefits of deception? Is there any benefit to be gained by facilitating a deceptive gospel? I admit, I have turned away after some uncomfortable conversations with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I took the benefit of maintaining a friendship, not rocking the boat, being agreeable, and passed on a counterfeit gospel to a bankrupt spirit in desperate need of the real currency: Jesus Christ and the  immutable truth of His death and resurrection.

The following week, the third week of April, we’ll lighten it up a bit. Kristen and I will be two weeks into our new endeavor Moms Who TRI. My motivation for starting Moms Who TRI, a personal training company with a niche in moms and kids bootcamps, is to preempt the cultural lies about body image and health before they seep unconsciously into the minds of youth. I am also determined to counter the lies that have already invaded the minds of women; lies about dieting, exercise, personal value, and other things.

During the third week of April, I am going to let you vicariously reap the benefits of training with Moms Who TRI. I will tell you the truth about eating healthily, simply and affordably and share several resources and recipes with you. I will dispel the myths of long exercise programs, and give you a quick, ten minute program that you can do at home. (Also, Moms Who TRI can provide you with fresh programs whenever you need them and offer accountability. Please contact us through our Facebook page or our website if you have any questions.)

The fourth week of April, we’re back to the deeper, more sobering elements of the Christian life. It is the truth that living a bold, Christian life is getting harder in the United States; but it cannot be denied that we remain a blessedly free people. I listen regularly to In the Market with Janet Parshall. Janet often covers the issues of the persecuted church world-wide. Each time I hear a broadcast exposing the terrible truth about “over-there,” my heart breaks and little shards of it prick my spirit – why cannot I not remember to pray? If I can do so little physically (which is not so little after all) how is that I allow a slothful heart to hinder my prayers for my persecuted brothers and sisters?

So this week, I will introduce you to Voice of the Martyrs.  Together, we will become more aware and accountably committed to praying for them.

I look forward to April’s showers with you. May God shower you with His grace and a deeper knowledge of Him.

March’s Schedule

Welcome to March, well almost. Here, February will slide right into the year’s third month with a poem. We’ll recognize March beginning in its first full week.

Sadly, today I have been inundated with cultural lies that I’d rather not address. The first one slammed me brutal and early from the morning news on the radio. But its aftershock was even worse. I looked up the headline on the internet which led me to a related lie that took my breath away. I wish I felt there was more of a benefit to making you aware of these lies too. Perhaps there is, if only to help you recognize and avoid them; to help you protect your children and fly to the truth that is Jesus Christ. So, I’ll take the first week of March to mention these:

1. An old, pervasive lie that reinvents itself with every generation: young girls convinced that they are ugly and fat. In their minds, this equates to being worthless, rejected, doomed for the rest of their earthly days.

2. Related to the above, Thinspiration. Heard of it? If not, consider yourself lucky. As I share the crux of this lie, I speak from personal experience. I won’t share links. This is the one that sank like a sharp stone in my gut. Oh how it hurts to know and remember.

3. This last one is a world-wide lie. Lost jobs, failed crops. Rising prices, lost homes. Unforeseen bills, surprise broken plumbing, stalled cars and illness. It’s tempting to wallow in hopelessness. It’s tempting to fudge on taxes or look for loopholes in financial obligations. It’s tempting to keep our tithe in bottom drawer.

The second week in March, I am excited to share a dawning truth in my own life. I am in the process of renewing my certification as personal trainer. I let my certification through IFPA lapse nearly 5 years ago. Though I have entertained the idea of doing it again several times, I always shied away, fearful that anorexia and exercise addiction would rear their ugly heads again. I didn’t believe that God could use my weakness in this area, that He could apply His strength in me and glorify Himself as He conquered the sin where I have fallen so many times before. So, as I’m studying, God has been showing me parallels between our physical bodies, training and our spiritual growth and discipline.

During the third week of March, I want to do a character study on Moses. My sisters and I have been studying holiness in a Precept study called, “Living Like You Belong to God.” The study focuses on the unholy behavior of the Israelites as God drew them away from their bondage in Egypt. God drew defining lines around His people. He called them out to be like Himself – set apart and utterly different from the nations around them. The Israelites faltered over and over, despite their very godly leader Moses. God insisted on using Moses, a stuttering, shy man to lead His people. Moses came to be defined as the most humble man that ever lived, a friend of God, and one with whom God spoke face-to-face.

The truth is that God makes us holy. Regardless of where we come from and how long it takes us to get our feet under us as we follow Him – Jesus is the cause, the means and the effect of our holiness.

Finally, week four. I might be saving the best for last. A continual student of Moody Ministries, I will again be reviewing a book that they published, Counterfeit Gospels. That’s pretty obvious, of course we’ll be discussing lies about the gospel that have invaded the pulpit. We will study to be wary, diligent and effective in our own churches.

Join me!

P. S. This picture was too cute NOT to republish! Click on it to visit a beautiful blog.

Good For Explaining the Good News

Foundational, mind-boggling principles becoming clear.

Have you ever found yourself in such a conundrum: Someone you dearly love and long to share eternity with has questioned your faith?

Well, um… I believe that Jesus died for my sins. He was buried and rose again. Now he lives eternally, and as my sins have been paid for, I can spend eternity with him in heaven.

“Well, that’s just great,” they rejoin, “but what is true faith? Why do you call God ‘Father’ and why does a God who loves me let bad things happen to me?”

I distinctly recall being in that position about seven years ago. I worked with one of my best friends. I’ll call her Kelly. Kelly was never hostile to my faith, in fact she was genuinely curious. But she never lobbed easy questions at me. Whenever work was slow, we’d be organizing and checking dates on millions of supplement bottles (we worked at GNC) and she would begin asking the tough questions. Kelly wanted to know all about the Trinity. She wanted to know why Jesus had to die. She wanted to know if God really listened to and answered prayer. She wanted to know if he offered peace of mind concerning her husband who was currently deployed. Kelly wondered what made Jesus of the Bible any different from the founders of other religions.

I did my best to answer her questions. I remember going home at night and calling my mom tearfully. “What if I don’t have the right answer? I know what I believe, but how do I explain it?” Praise our good and loving God. He had already marked Kelly with his name. Despite my bumbling answers, two years later, Kelly called me with explosive enthusiasm. “I’m getting baptized tomorrow! I accepted Jesus as my savior! I know I’m going to heaven.” Convictingly, since that day, I have had to humbly accept rebuke, training, teaching and affirmation from this once baby Christian. Kelly has found the Bible to be the living source of nourishment that God promises His word is. She as grown like a tree firmly planted by streams of water and has borne much fruit.

As I have slowly plowed through Kevin DeYoung’s book, “The Good News We Almost Forgot” I have unearthed a wonderful resource for sharing my faith. DeYoung is a compelling author, making even potentially dry subjects seem humorous and interesting. However, I don’t recommend simply handing the book to your questioning friends and expecting the proverbial lightbulb to blink above their head. As a historic Christian document, the catechism employees many terms specific to the Christian faith. The questions themselves are pretty heady.

Perhaps the best use of the book is personal. A Christian (speaking to myself) has no business attempting to explain the good news of the Gospel, if he has lost its wonder in his own heart and mind. Read to remember. Remember that…

True faith is not only knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in Scripture is true; it is also a deep-rooted assurance, created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel, that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation.

I trust Him so much that I do not doubt He will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and He will turn to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this sad world.

That I am not my own, but belong –  body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

These are just snippets of answers offered in the catechism and expounded upon my DeYoung. Additionally, the catechism addresses the 10 Commandments, one at a time, and the Lord’s Prayer. Each is afforded useful answers.

The Heidelberg Catechism is not an infallible document. And DeYoung does not profess to be a new source of truth. The Catechism is based fully and unashamedly on the infallible truth of the Bible. It is a trustworthy source of instruction and useful for training in righteousness – and for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. The Good News We Almost Forgot, takes this ancient resource and repackages it in a less-intimidating paperback. Don’t miss this. 

P.S. To make sure you don’t miss it, I’m giving away a copy at the end of this week. Make sure to comment and repost the link for a chance to win your copy!

Wonders of Wonders, Miracles of Miracles!

It is a lie from the pit of hell that God doesn’t do miracles anymore. I’m sure I’ve experience my fair share of them. To my chagrin, I’ve also forgotten most of them. They don’t seem as  exciting as the Biblical supernatural healings, people walking out of their graves or the never ending fish and loaves. But this week I have witnessed two miracles, God forbid I forget them!

Several weeks ago I woke up with terrible knee pain. I don’t know what I did. Suddenly, excruciating pain squealed circles around my knee cap when I walked. Oddly enough, walking hurt worse than squats or going up the stairs. For days I hoped it would simply go away. Then I started desperately praying that it would go away. I admit, my primary motivation for ridding myself of this pain, was so that I could continue my strenuous workouts – long runs, etc.

Every few days my knee would feel a little better, I’d push it a little further and then it would deteriorate to worse than before. Tuesday morning, I thought it was significantly improved and I took off on a 7 mile run. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I was in agony the rest of the day. Fear nibbled at the back of my mind, “You’ve probably screwed it up so badly you’ll never run again. You certainly won’t be able to run the half marathon in March. How stupid and obviously obsessed with exercise can you be to have gone out and run yesterday?”

Wednesday was even worse.

Then, I woke up on Thursday morning and the pain was gone. Completely gone. I hopped up and down, ran up and down the stairs, walked the dog – did everything to try and make it hurt again. I can’t. The pain is gone.

I called my doctor-sister, “Unless you can give me a really good medical explanation, I think I just had a miracle!”

NUMBER 2:

Last Monday, I emailed the property manager of our house in Washington State. I was concerned because the direct deposit from our renters was $500 short. Oops, she had forgotten to tell me that they had applied the “military clause,” allowing them to break their lease early. Overnight, I was back to paying a mortgage and rent. Panic ensued.

By now you probably know that I’m overly dramatic. I quickly reassessed our spending and decided we would live on canned food for the rest of our lives, I would never get my hair cut again, I need to cancel our cell phones, fire the cleaning lady, drop the thermostat and shut off the internet.

I contacted a realtor and asked her to help me look at selling the home. Our prospects were dismal, “You stand to lose about $50,000,” she told me. I was on the verge of tears all day long. I agonized over what to do. If we sold it, I would spend the rest of our lives recouping our loss.

That night I was exhausted and headed home with a glass of Cabernet on my mind. I realized that I’d missed a call from our property manager. Just that day she had processed our renter’s move-out.

“Hi Abby. I know you mentioned trying to sell the house this time, but if you’re willing to rent it again, I have it rented 110%!” Tears sprang to my eyes. I had spent the day wallowing in distrust of God, self-pity and fear. I had wrestled with options and battled with discouragement. The whole time, God had already solved my supposed problem.

When I got home, I fell to my knees on the kitchen floor and begged God to forgive me for thinking I needed to solve my own problems – for thinking I could solve my own problems. How could I doubt Him?

I Am Resolved To Lose Control

That doesn’t sound like a very good New Year’s resolution, does it? But then, I told you I don’t like to make New Year’s resolutions. New Year’s resolutions are mean’t to be broken; they are almost laughable. I work at  South Run RECenter, so already this year I’ve met hundreds of good intentions cloaked in tired bodies. I’ve sold probably 50 years worth of memberships, most of which will never be worn out, for that matter neither will the Asics on the feet of the purchaser.

We have all met (or made them ourselves) the individual swearing to start journaling this year. Or, they promise to get more rest, or get up earlier. We, or they, pledge to spend more quality time with our kids or spouse, to control our eating or spending, to get a grip on our gossip habit.

What do each of these examples have in common? We want to take control of ourselves! We long to to master our circumstances, our desires, our impulses and even our relationships.

I just picked up a new book recently. As usual, I heard the author interviewed on Janet Parshall’s show. Chantel Hobbs is the woman you want to hate. She is scary gorgeous and used to weigh 350 pounds. She’s the author of several books, the one I’m reading is called, Love Food and Live Well. 

 You know my story. I have had a ridiculous fear of food since the age of 14. So, the concept of loving food is foreign to me. I’m not interested in Hobb’s weight loss prescription. At least I didn’t think I was. But Chantel takes a whole new, holistic approach. I’m not talking about organic products, deep cleanses and special herbs. I’m talking about taking a look at your whole body, spirit and soul. Hobbs doesn’t separate the belly fat from the idolatry of food lust. She doesn’t endorse sit-ups and long-distance running, ignoring the exercise of faith. She doesn’t encourage you to get a grip on your physical appetite, while starving your spirit.

Personally, most of my recovery from anorexia has been overshadowed by the discouraging thought that I had to get my behaviors right before I could get my fellowship with God right. Once I had control of my idolatrous behaviors, THEN I could ask God to take control of my life. Do you feel that way?

Too many of us confuse love with control. In the past, most things I really loved I loved poorly. I know this becasue as I tried to control them I always felt out of control. Whether it was food, friendships, jobs, or material stuff, I lived in fear – the fear of losing whatever I was trying to possess. – Chantel Hobbs, Love Food and Live Well

Ouch. How true of my perverted love. I noticed recently that I feel angry when I think about my sisters – the three women I love more than anyone in the world. I can’t control the fact that they can see each other every single day and hold my niece or drive to my mom’s house. So, feeling disconnected and out of control way over here on the east coast, my love for them simmers – poisoned by anger.

I say that I love working out. I don’t even know if that’s true on any level. I do know that I love the feeling of being in control of my body. Take away that control, tell me I can’t exercise tomorrow or that I have to take a week off, and my “love” just might explode in deadly rage.

So, I will set a New Year’s dissolution. I resolve to dissolve control.

The Flip-side of Mentorship

I stumbled across two of my most precious mentors entirely by accident. In fact, I was supposed to assisting them.

Nanny was approaching 90, and she lived with her 70+ year-old daughter, Katherine. Make no mistake – Katherine was and is completely capable of absolutely anything. In her multi-facted role of grandma, sister, housekeeper, mother, caring daughter, community volunteer, active church member and widow, she never dropped a ball. Not a crumb landed on her polished floor. Not a dog hair lingered on her couch. Her lawn was never too long.

But Nanny was approaching 90 and her health was supposed to be failing. Hospice entered the picture and began to send a nurse out a couple times per week to help with bathing, medication, etc. And I was a hospice volunteer, assigned to Nanny for companionship and to stay with her occasionally for Katherine to have a few hours off. That never happened.

Once or twice, I “kidnapped” Nanny, and we would get a pedicure or go to the mall or drive around old-town Columbus and she would tell me stories of growing up in the old south. Then, we would come home, hoping that Katherine had taken a nap or read a book, only to find that every single time she put herself to another task. Katherine cooked for her whole extended family, managed her children’s finances, raised her granddaughter, spoke at church, volunteered in the community, and cared for her dying brother. Never, never, never did I see her relax. Never, never, never did I hear her complain.

On many occasions, Nanny and I simply sat outside on the back porch with her dachshund, Prissy, and thumbed through old photo albums. Sometimes, Katherine would pour a rich glass of southern-sweet tea and join us. Katherine was bold about her love for Jesus, and so was Nanny. In fact, the first time I met them, Nanny told me, “Don’t expect to visit me for too long, I hope Jesus calls me home soon!”

The love in Katherine and Nanny’s home met every visitor at the door. It swept me up and carried me inside. Katherine imparted wisdom to me incidentally. In her I saw diligence, commitment, sacrifice, service, boldness and hope. Katherine proof read some of my articles and offered godly criticism.

Nanny taught me about marriage in the stories of her deceased husband. She had married at the age of 15-16. A girl can hardly have determined her love interests by that age, but Nanny had determined her commitment before the Lord. She told me of discovering their differences and similarities.

During this time, I was slipping back into an old, destructive habit of compulsive, excessive exercise. No one I knew called me on it. None of my running buddies mentioned my obsession. None of my family lived close enough to see the decline. No one seemed concerned that I was losing weight. No one but Katherine and Nanny. Suddenly, my weekly visit to care for their needs flipped to a weekly accountability check-up.

I doubt that I was as good for Nanny and Katherine as they were for me. But God was good, and before I moved, hospice had to drop Nanny because she was no longer declining.

Sorry, Nanny. God continues to share you with us one day at a time! But I am confident, that when you do go home both you and Katherine will be rewarded as a “good and faithful servants.”