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Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking Back to Look Ahead... 78 lbs. lighter

So here it is... the end of 2012. In a nutshell, with the simplest words I can find, here is what I learned:

Change is possible; abundant life is available; and God's mercies aren't just new every morning, but every second.

I set out in 2012 with a plan to stop trying to lose weight and get healthy. I had already tried that. Often. I failed at it. Every time. Instead, I wanted to submit my whole life to God, letting Him be my Everything and giving Him everything in me. Weight, food, physical health... those are all very small points in a journey to abundant living. But oh what God did in those areas and is still doing!

In one year, I lost 78 lbs. and 5 dress sizes. 

My cholesterol went from a high-risk 252 to 176. 

I feel good. 

I feel well. 

And I still have a long way to go. :-)

But the thing I'm most excited about is that all of those things are just outward signs of an inward work that is taking place. It's a love story that I didn't expect, but one that the Lover of my soul is writing every second of every day right here in my heart.

I know a lot of you out there are gearing up for the New Year. Resolving to lose weight, exercise more, read your Bible every day, be all that you can be, right?

Has it worked in the past? It never did for me. I tried the same things over and over, telling myself that, "This year will be different." Wrong.

So what changed for me? Why was 2012 the hardest and easiest, simplest and most wondrous year of my life? What finally worked?

I got out of the way. I let God be God. I chose to live in His strength, not just accomplish a task in His strength. I decided to live in constant relationship with Him, rather than only calling on Him when I "needed" Him.

Below are a few lists of things I feel like went right and lessons I learned. Some were fun; some were hard. All of it made for an interesting year. I hope you can learn from my journey thus far and join me in abundant life in 2013!

What I did right:

  • Prayer - I forced myself (at first) to talk to God honestly about everything I was feeling. I made a point to talk to Him first before running to my usual "hiding places" and comforts, whether they were foods, naps, friends, mom, etc. I also make a point to pray on the armor of God from Ephesians 6 daily. I want to stay alert and tuned into the Spirit so that I can submit quickly to His leading instead of my own flesh, wants, and selfish desires. Nowadays, running to Him first and staying in communication with Him all day are natural.
  • Journaling - I kept track of my emotions, mental state, experiences, prayers, etc. and looked back from time to time to see changes.
  • Food tracking/journaling - I am using Weight Watchers as my general health plan, which comes with an app on my phone and online tools that have been a tremendous help. The one habit I am most thankful for acquiring is tracking what I eat/drink, healthy habits, etc. Helps me stay aware and focused.
  • Try new things - I set a goal to try 12 new things by the end of the year (foods, activities, places, volunteering, etc.). I kept a list on my phone and added to it. It was fun and helped me get out of my comfort zones. I may not have bungee jumped, but I did try sushi and found a new food I love!
  • Give myself a break - Didn't beat myself up or quit if I had a bad day, week, or couple of weeks.
  • Keep perspective - Remembering often the good things that have happened so far (Example: when I gained a pound one week, remember the total pounds lost and keep perspective.)
  • Be honest with myself - I asked myself some hard questions at times. At other times, it was as simple as asking myself whether I was really hungry or just eating out of a response to something else. Either way, I realized that I'm worth being told the truth, even when I talk to myself!
  • One step/habit at a time - I did not start out trying to exercise, eat right, and drink all my water every day. I picked one thing and focused on it. First, it was food tracking. Once that was a habit, I worked on picking better foods (veggies over carbs, salad over hamburger). Once I was eating better food, I started to decrease portion sizes. Then I added water/liquid management. I didn't try exercising till I was 5 months in! We won't be pictures of health overnight, so why set yourself up for failure? One step at a time.

What's Next? Keeping it simple.

  • Scripture Memory - I need to hide the Word in my heart. I have not committed to that in a long time, and I know it makes a difference in my ability to obey and persist in what He calls me to do. I have set up a simple Scripture memory plan in place of my previous Verse of the Week page. I want to slow down, dive in, and soak up all He has for me. Join me!
  • Exercise - 2013 needs to be a year of consistency with my exercise. I did well for a few months, then fell off, then got back too it, then stopped... Yo-yo. Consistency is the next habit on my list to work on, so I've set a goal of running a 5K at some point this year. Scary!
  • Less TV - I need to watch less TV. Too many hours on the couch have limited my progress with exercise and other goals I want to achieve. Time to tune out! More books, more walks, more fresh air, more life lived in reality instead of reality TV.

Faithfully, fluffully His,

Saturday, November 10, 2012

An Apple a Day Does Not Keep Strangers Away

While at work one day, I decided it was snack time and proceeded to the breakroom to wash and slice my shiny honeycrisp apple that had been staring at me from my desk all morning. I was on an apple kick that week, and thus excited for my tasty treat. I took my time washing it, using the fancy apply slicing/coring thingamabob, arranged it nicely on my paper plate, and then proceeded out the breakroom door.

That's when it happened. A stranger asked me for a piece of apple! At first I was horrified, though I quickly schooled my features so my face wouldn't show it. What do you say when a stranger asks to eat right off  your plate? I said yes, of course, cause I was stunned and didn't know what else to say.

The stranger took a slice of apple, told me how they never think to buy apples and how mine looked so good. She then thanked me for sharing. I walked away a bit miffed, even though I had been nice to the person's face. I mean, what kind of person walks up to a stranger and asks to eat part of their snack? I mean, this isn't recess!

As I walked away thinking these thoughts and turning over in my mind how rude and uncivilized that person was to take part of my snack, I was quickly hit with the realization that I was more concerned about a piece of food (and an apple at that!) than the well-being of another person. I nearly stopped dead in my tracks on the way back to my desk because I was so stunned by the realization of how my mind and heart had just acted toward that person. Things like that can only be defined in one word: FLESH.

I'm reading a book right now by Jennifer Kennedy-Dean called "Altar'd." It's about transformation from living in the flesh to living in the resurrected power of Christ in us. She describes flesh like this:

"Flesh is proud, possessive, demanding, grabby, angry, envious, wants to own and manage and manipulate and get its way. Flesh caters to its appetites--physical and emotional. Flesh is self-conscious. Flesh demands its own way. Flesh is all about the 'I.' I want. I will. I did. I feel."

Well, I'd like to add that flesh is also all about the "me, my, and mine." Stay away from me. Leave my stuff alone. That is mine.

My strong reaction to the stranger wanting a slice of apple clearly met all of the criteria for flesh. It was ugly, and it needed to be stopped. Actually, it needed to be put to death.

I decided that I needed to really think about what had just happened and try to trace my reaction back to the heart and thought patterns that had dictated it. I thought back to my childhood and how I was raised in relationship with food. I grew up with three brothers and a father who were all... "excellent eaters." Some nights, my mom would actually put the food on the table and fill her plate and mine before she called the boys and dad to dinner! That way she and I had a chance to eat before the table was picked clean.

I also remember going to my best friend's grandparents' house for lunch one day a week in high school to eat Nana and Papa's "leftovers." They thought I was so strange for being excited to eat "leftovers," till I explained that, in my house, there was no such thing as "leftovers." It was like manna from heaven! Multiple dishes set out like a Smörgåsbord  buffet... divine. 

So in looking back, a big part of me was subconsciously trained to guard my plate and eat as much as I thought I might possibly want. I always made a point to fill my plate to capacity on the first round. Otherwise, the boys would eat it before I had a chance for seconds. And when seconds presented themselves, I jumped at the opportunity to grab more before it was gone. Can you say, "Over-eater in training?"

I'm not complaining about my upbringing or blaming my mother or family for my faults. I blame them for other stuff like trauma from being coerced into eating fish bate that he told me was "caviar" (big brother), having them shake up my cat in a suitcase (little brothers), giving me a perm like Orphan Annie cause I was born with red hair (mom), and I don't know where to begin listing things for dad. For these things, I will seek counseling at a later date.

But I do realize now that it's important to look for and stay aware of habits that may have been around since childhood. We were born in flesh, not the Spirit of God. Flesh has deep roots. I didn't gain weight overnight, and a healthy lifestyle may very well take some "unlearning" of habits as well as learning new ones. More than that, my reaction to a thing as more precious than a person is a big problem when it comes to Kingdom priorities. Mine are out of whack, and that means FLESH is the culprit.

What was my focus? Food and me. It was my apple. I wanted it. I craved it. I would have it.

What was my reaction to the stranger? Leave me alone. Who do you think you are? My "needs" are more important that yours.

Yep, that's all fleshy sounding to me. So how do I deal with this now that God has brought it out of the darkness of my heart and into the light?

Kill it.

Jennifer Kennedy-Dean explains, "sanctification is the process of dragging flesh out of hiding, naming it what it is, and surrendering it to crucifixion... It can't be dressed up or cleaned up. It has to die a messy, bloody, merciless crucifixion death... The path to resurrection passes through crucifixion."

"For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." (Romans 6:6-7)

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20)

  1. I had some confession to do. "Lord, forgive my heart's reaction to that woman and my love of a thing more than her."
  2. I had some surrendering to do. "Lord, you've exposed this sin so please deal with it. I want to be more like you."
  3. I have crucifixion moments ahead. "Lord, keep me aware of every time this flesh wants to react instead of your Spirit. Present new moments for me to obey and choose the Spirit over the flesh so that the flesh is put to death!"

So back to my apple and the stranger. Who knew such a short encounter would yield such a "come to Jesus" moment for me? I decided that one way I could work on keeping a person higher on my priority list than food would be offer my plate when people were around. Let me just say right now, doing this is awkward and weird. But, I try to walk out of the breakroom now with an "open plate" policy. When I'm eating out, I try to remember to offer samples to those with whom I'm dining. The food experience needs to be transformed to a people experience. The meal cannot mean more than the fellowship.

What would you do if a stranger asked to sample your plate? Does the food on the plate hold more value than the person on the other side of the plate? Being overweight is just one consequence to my reactions in the flesh and out-of-whack value system for food. But praise the Lord that He is sanctifying me and bringing to light those things of the dark that have kept me a slave to sin (and food) for far too long!

Faithfully, fluffully yours,

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Trust Issues Part 4: Getting Back to Hagar

First, let me address the issue of my absence. I am a terrible blogger! I'm sure you can relate to the fact that life is busy. Thus, there's been a bit of a lapse in my writing. Apologies to my faithful fluffy folks!

Now, getting back to Hagar. If you recall my first post in this "Trust Issues" series, Hagar had some major trust issues, and she earned every one of them the hard way. (Check out Genesis 16 and my previous post on Hagar for more backstory.) We ended the first account of this young lady in a wilderness meeting where God sought her out and introduced Himself to her. The lost pregnant slave girl met The God Who Sees. The first step in Hagar's faith journey was not about her coming up with the courage to trust God. Instead, it was about God showing Himself to her as trustworthy. What a sweet and precious God we serve!

He didn't ask her to trust Him. He showed her that He is trustworthy and gave her the choice.

Knowing Who God is and that His nature and character are trustworthy is the foundation of a life that truly, fully trusts God.

In the second major account of Hagar in Genesis 21, we see the progression Hagar's faith and her trust taken to the next level. Here's a quick summary:

It's several years later: Hagar's son Ishmael has been born and raised as the first son to Abraham, and Sarah'a son Isaac is being weaned and celebrated as the promised son. A party is thrown for the baby of the family, and Sarah's throws a fit over Ishmael "laughing" at the party. (Side note: ESV translation says laughing; NASB says mocking; can also be translated as playing.) We don't know what he was "laughing" at or with whom, just that Sarah saw him doing it. Sarah demands that Abraham throw Hagar and Ishmael out. Abraham doesn't want to, but God tells him it's okay because He will provide and protect both Hagar and the boy. Interesting, no?

So daddy loads up a canteen with water, grabs some bread, and sends Hagar and her son away. They wander in the wilderness till the canteen runs dry. Hagar gives up hope and prepares to die. She puts her son under a bush and walks away so she won't have to watch him die. God hears the boy crying and calls to Hagar. Here comes the interesting part, in my opinion.

God doesn't show up and reintroduce Himself to Hagar. He told her years ago Who He is. That hasn't changed; He hasn't change. Now comes the time in Hagar's faith journey for God to show her something new: sovereignty and provision. 

Back in Genesis 16:10-12, God gave Hagar a glimpse at what was to come when He told her that he would multiply her offspring. But let's be honest and gracious to Hagar: meeting God for the first time is a little overwhelming, to say the least. She was doing well just to keep her wits long enough to comprehend that God sought her out and introduced Himself to her. Can we really blame her for not remembering that He also told her that her future and that of her son's were secure?

So what does God do in this second encounter? He reminds Hagar that He is also her Sovereign Provider, and in more ways than one!

  1. God provided for Hagar by reminding her of His sovereignty. God did not bump into Hagar in the wilderness again and say, "Oh, dear, fancy seeing you again!" No, in His sovereignty God orchestrated Hagar's wilderness journey so that He could take her trust to a deeper level. He commanded Abraham to send her away: away from her provider, her protected lifestyle, her dependence on anything and everything but God. He did so not because He is a cruel God, but because His provision is so much sweeter and more abundant than anything else! He wanted that for Hagar. God showed the depth of His love and reach of His sovereignty over Hagar, her son, and her circumstances... even over the future itself as He declared that He would make Ishmael into a great nation. I think it's safe to say that Hagar would not have been able to hear such a lesson in the midst of a party being thrown for a little boy. She needed to be cast out, left alone, and stripped of everything she held dear so that she could finally hear what God told her years before. He is sovereign over EVERYTHING!

  2. God provided for Hagar right where she was, in her immediacy. In that moment, Hagar's water had literally run dry. (Any Boyz II Men fans out there having the song play through their heads right now? Me, too... "Let's don't till the water runs dry--ee--iiiee.") Her canteen was empty and she was lost. All she could see was her own hopelessness. Instead, God, "opened her eyes and she saw a well." Isn't that often the case? We get so wrapped up in the circumstance where we're standing that we fail to look ahead 10 feet down to road and see that God has already made a way for us! God proved Himself trustworthy yet again by stripping every earthly provider from Hagar's life so that He could be her abundant provision. 
I can't help myself. I have to include a link to
Boyz II Men's "Water Runs Dry."
A string orchestra in the desert?
Yes, please! Abundance! Enjoy!
It wasn't until God got Hagar alone and in full recognition of her need for Him that Hagar was finally ready to trust The God Who Sees to be the Provider in her life. What did she do in response? She trusted Him: "And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink."

In this the fourth and final post in my "Trust Issues" series, let me recap what God has taught me this year about trusting Him:
  • The first step in truly trusting God is knowing Who He is and that He is trustworthy:
  • Step two is accepting His sovereignty and letting Him be the Provider that He is:
    • His sovereignty and provision are in place for direction in our lives. We need only to follow Him home and take part in His abundance. (Trust Issues Part 3)
    • He longs to be our EVERYTHING and provide for our future and our now. Let Him! (This post.)
The exciting part about this recap is the fact that I know step three is next! I don't know what it is, but I know that trusting God with my whole heart is an everyday, every minute, every second, lifelong adventure in intimacy with my great King! 

Where are you in your trust adventure with God? If you are still learning Who He is, pick a characteristic trait or name of God from the Bible and seek to know that aspect of Him. He will show Himself to you!

If you are being tossed about by life's circumstances, adjust your thinking to and eyesight to recognize God the Wind Blower and look to find out what He is really up to.

If you are depending on a person, a circumstance, a lifestyle, or even yourself as your provision and security, step back and recognize the true Provider in your life. Seek Him out first in your time of need to provide for you, rather than run to your own "source." Only when provision is from the great Provider will you know the depth of His abundant life for you.

Trust Him, my fluffy friends, for He alone is trustworthy!

Faithfully, fluffully His,

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Trust Issues Part 3: Lessons from Strays

It's been a stressful couple of weeks at work, and I've found that exercise is definitely valuable as a stress relief. On my usual jog route yesterday, I happened upon two little dogs. They were obviously a pair, likely even sisters from the looks of them. One was quick to come up to me and let me pet her. The other barked a little and kept her distance but was very curious. I looked around for owners, but none were in sight.

They were hot and thirsty, as was I. I decided that, if they followed me all the way home, I'd try to call the numbers on their tags. I didn't have my phone with me or leashes, so it was up to them.

And follow me they did, all they way back to my house and right through the front door like they had every right. It was a long walk for such little legs! I called the numbers on their tags thinking, "This'll be a quick fix. I can call their owner and run them right back over to their house somewhere in my neighborhood."

Is life ever really that simple? I know, I'm a naive sap. The only number that worked was the vet, which was closed. So my two-dog home quickly became a four-dog B&B. Great.

They are sweet dogs and all has gone well thus far. Unfortunately, their presence means that I will be late to work trying to reunite them with their owner, lose valuable time for the stressful workload I have, and likely encounter more headaches at the end of the day because of the chain reaction that was my innocent jog and act of kindness.

Then, God decided to to teach me a few lessons through my house guests this morning by asking me a couple of questions.

1. How do I follow Him?

My Bible study this morning spoke to the reason Jesus was able to obey God in everything, even a death on a cross. It was through His small obediences all along the way, which were all powered by the Holy Spirit. He lived a Spirit-led life 24/7. It was because He lived that way that He didn't hesitate to follow God's path for His life; He just lived it.

The same Spirit that brought about complete obedience in Christ is alive in me and available to lead me every second. I  follow Him knowing He'll provide a safe haven for me and cool water to drink, just like those little dogs followed me home. But also like the dogs, I get distracted by my surroundings. I stop to sniff at every mailbox or tree, take a few little sidesteps to check out open garages, and stop along the way to "take care of business." I stay aware of Him, but often lag behind to indulge my own desires. I need Him to whistle and get me back on track.

At times, I even shy away from His touch. I trust Him enough to let Him show me the way home, but trusting Him enough to touch me and become a friend is a different thing altogether. The little dog that didn't hesitate at my touch was quick to follow and stayed more focused on the journey home. She has had less anxiety than the other dog and was the first to lay down and relax when we got home. Hmmmmm. Yep, I can learn a lot from a stray.

2. Am I thankful for His provision and actively enjoying it?

When I dished out the dog food this morning, my two dogs jump right into their bowls and were happy to do so. Our guests, on the other hand, sniffed the food and looked at me like entitled little brats. One even stood on her hind legs to check the dining room table for the "good stuff." Really? Do you know how lucky you are little homeless ones?

But let's be honest, Kerri. Who are you to judge? Don't you do the same thing?

Okay, so I am a spoiled little brat sometimes, too. I live in abundance but complain about being another broke girl in the city. This life and every bit of it is a gift. Instead of looking around for something better, I could eagerly accept all that is laid before me and be filled and satisfied.

While little miss fancy pants stray over there sat with her tummy growling looking for crumbs elsewhere, her sister finally decided to dig in and enjoy herself. She now has a full belly and is back to relaxing and lying down in comfort. Oh, what I must learn from these little ones!

How about you? Do you trust God enough to follow from a distance, or are you walking in step with Him, close enough to touch? Are you focused on Him as He leads the way, or are you distracted by the things along the way?

Are you living satisfied and resting in His provision, or waiting for the next big thing? The next better thing? The thing you think you're supposed to have?

Yep. I still have a lot to learn about trust. Thankfully, I have a patient and purposeful Teacher who will use the interruption of a couple of strays to make point.

Faithfully, fluffully His,

Monday, August 20, 2012

Trust Issues Part 2: Wind vs. Wind Blower

I happened upon this little bit of news a while back, and it fits right into my series on trusting God. In my last post, I introduced you (or re-introduced, for some of you) to my girl, Hagar in Genesis. Hagar's journey to trusting God began with meeting God and getting to know Him for Who He is. We'll get back to Hagar in a future series post. For now, let's continue with "getting to know" God.

Newsflash: There is new evidence that the Red Sea could have actually parted for the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. Brace yourself for shocking science…. the WIND did it.

According to an article by the UCAR, a computer model shows the possibility that a 63-mph wind from the east could have pushed the waters back enough for folks to safely cross. I grew up in the Texas Panhandle, so I have experienced firsthand a wind like this, and yes, waters could part!

However, I'd like to point out one aspect that was completely left out of this new "research." The point of the waters parting was not the grand escape itself of the Israelites or how it happened. Exodus 14:13-31 tells the story plainly and wondrously. And yes, the “wind” played a role.

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night THE LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided… And when the Israelites saw the great power THE LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.” Exodus 14:21, 31 (NIV, emphasis mine)

The point of the story is THE LORD. It is He alone who calls forth the wind on our behalf. He is the "Wind Blower," if you will. The point is not the wind, but the relationship we choose to pursue because of Him who controls the wind. The Israelites chose holy fear and trust as a result of God’s display of provision and protection on their behalf. It just so happened to be in the form of a stiff breeze that time.

Windblown much?
What is your choice? Do you feel the wind in your face and trust it’s mere existence as your hope for something more? Or do you trust the Source of the wind to do what only He can do: save you by making a way with dry land?

I have to confess to being windblown on many occasions. I've also missed the point in more than one wind storm of life. It's easy to get so focused on the wind or circumstance and even see the results of the wind, good and bad, and still miss out on God's part in all of it.

No more! Lord, help me to recognize you in the midst of my circumstances or wind storms. Take my trust a step further by opening my eyes to you as my Wind Blower. You alone make dry land in the midst of a sea of fears and uncertainty. Your trustworthiness is certain. So blow your mighty love my way today. Call forth your wind into this world and let all who feel you trust in you alone!

You can read the article from UCAR at https://www2.ucar.edu/news/parting-waters-computer-modeling-applies-physics-red-sea-escape-route.

Faithfully, fluffully His,

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Trust Issues Part 1: Let me introduce myself...

I was reintroduced to a woman from the Bible recently. She has two significant stories in the Old Testament, one of which includes my favorite name of God as a key part of the plot. However, as I studied her anew, I compared her two stories. In doing so, I recognized exactly what God has been doing in my own life in the area of trusting Him. I thought I'd take you on a similar journey in a series about trusting Him, so this blog post is Part 1.

Have you met Hagar?

Poor girl... horrible name. Sounds just as depressing as her life was: Egyptian slave forced into a marriage with her mistress' husband then tormented by her rival. Here's the recap of the intro to Hagar's first story in the Old Testament (for full story, see Genesis 16).

Sarai is married to Abram but can't get pregnant. In order to give her husband a child, Sarai gives her slave, Hagar, to Abram as a wife.  Abram + Hagar = preggers. Sarai gets jealous and turns into a royal witch. She "dealt harshly" (Genesis 16:6) with Hagar, so Hagar runs away into the wilderness. Better than The Young and the Restless, right?! Then enters our Hero.

A pregnant and despondent Hagar sits in the wilderness next to a spring of water when, "The angel of the Lord found her." (Pause for effect.) Hagar was an Egyptian slave girl, not a native Israelite. Not only had she been living with a people who were not her own, was placed in a relationship not of her own or her family's choosing, but now she was in the freaking wilderness, most likely suffering from morning sickness. Define "rock bottom."

In the midst of circumstances beyond her control and as an alien in a foreign wilderness, God sought her out. GOD! THE God. The God of the universe. Busy, important, almighty God "found" her. Go ahead and take a moment to relate.

Not only did he "find" her, but He already knew her name and her place in life (v. 8): "Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?"

So God "found" her, called her by name, identified her desperate circumstance ("servant of Sarai"), and then identifies just how lost she is ("where are you going?"). He then gives direction to Hagar and further explains to her her current circumstances ("you are pregnant") and reveals her future and that of her son's.

Her response (v. 13)? "So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, 'You are a God of seeing,' for she said, 'Truly here I have seen him who looks after me."

God didn't not hold out His hand to shake hers and say, "Hi, my name is the God of seeing." He didn't wear a nametag or have a shirt with it embroidered on the chest. Instead, God introduced Himself to her by showing her Who He is.

She was a seemingly worthless piece of property. He called her by name.

She was lost and alone. He found her and joined her.

She had no direction for a future. He outlined her next step and gave her a glimpse into the generation to come.

She was a woman forced to look after the needs of others, even at the sacrifice of her own body. He looked after her and provided.

He didn't ask her to trust Him. He showed her that He is trustworthy and gave her the choice.

As I end this first part of my series on trusting God, I ask you to challenge yourself as He challenged me. Looking past your circumstance and even yourself. Put aside your wilderness and your place in life and ask this question: Who has He shown Himself to be?

The first step for me in truly trusting God is not about me. It's about knowing Him. In order to trust someone, I need for that person to be worth trusting. I'm so thankful that my sweet Savior loves me enough to show me that He is trustworthy.

Faithfully, fluffully His,

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fluffy Girl's Grocery List

I've had lots of fluffy followers tell me that they don’t know what to buy at the grocery store or what to cook at home to help them stay on track. I’m often asked for suggestions of good snack foods or staples to keep on hand to help them stay on track.
Believe it or not, I do not live on lettuce and water. I love to eat, enjoy cooking, and live on a very tight budget. So when I shop for groceries, I make sure that I’m intentional with what I place in my basket. I try not to put things in my basket unless:
  1. I know that it is a needed ingredient for a specific meal or recipe. I try to think of at least two meals that I want to make over the next two weeks. That way, I’m purposeful with my time in the store and with my budget.
  2. The likelihood of it going bad, spoiling, or being wasted is low.
  3. I find a new product that looks beneficial to my health and tasty. Some of the best products in my pantry were items I found by accident in the store. (NOTE: I read the labels carefully!)
So here is a list of staples that I make sure to always have in my pantry and fridge. I made this as complete as possible and included as many categories as I could. Maybe this will help you save some money, lose some weight, and gain some healthy go-to foods for you and your family. (Note: My references to “store brand” refer to Kroger Stores.)

  • Decaffeinated tea bags – I’m not very good at drinking a lot of plain water. I’m a Southern girl in need of some sweet tea on a daily basis. With the WW plan, tea is zero points and counts as part of your daily fluid intake. I use zero calorie sweetener, which has helped me get my sweet fix and give up sodas. The decaffeinated bags let me drink all evening at home without keeping me up all night. Score!
  • Crystal Light Hawaiian Punch – Great for a kick to water and a sweet fix on a hot afternoon.
  • Frozen chicken breasts – Since I live alone, I usually one need to cook one piece of chicken at a time. Buying frozen chicken, or fresh chicken on sale then freezing it, helps me keep healthy protein on hand without wasting food. Sometimes I buy the pre-cooked frozen chicken strips, too. They’re great to thaw out quickly and top a salad or add to a warp.
  • Luncheon Meat – I usually choose a roasted turkey or lower fat ham. Be careful not to get the “honey baked” hams. Lots of extra sugar in those. Lunch meat is a great addition to salads, omelets, or wraps… not just for sandwiches anymore.
  • Light Ranch Dressing – Great for salad or dipping veggies, but I also dip my frozen pizzas or Lean Pockets in it to add a little more flavor.
  • Salsa – I cannot stress this enough… BUY SALSA. Make sure you buy the kind that looks fresh and chunky, not paste based. Those have a lot of added sugars. If you get the kind that looks to be mostly veggies, it’s zero points on WW. I use it to top salads, add to wraps, dip my sandwiches, you name it. Adds flavor without a lot of sodium, sugar, or fat.
  • Sugar-free flavored coffee creamer – My store brand French vanilla is wonderful. It has enough flavor and sweetness that I don’t have to add extra sweetener to my coffee. Plus, I use mostly creamer and a little coffee, and this creamer is still only 1 point.
  • ½-1% milk – If you’re a whole milk drink like I was, don’t freak out. Wean yourself down to the lower percentage milk. I still can’t stand to drink skim milk. I’d rather pour water on my cereal than use that stuff!
  • Country Crock Light Margarine
  • 2% shredded cheese
  • Lower Sugar Maple and Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal – My store brand is awesome and tastes better than the Quaker brand.
  • Tostitos Baked Scoops Tortilla Chips – Great way to get a crunchy fix. Plus, a serving is 15 chips. Regular tortilla chips are only 12 for a serving. I’m all about the extra chips!
  • Ole Brand High Fiber/Low Carb Wheat Tortillas – My brother turned me onto these. They taste great, are only 1 point each, and FILL YOU UP! Be careful if you buy regular wheat tortillas. My store was out of the Ole brand, so I quickly grab a low-fat wheat version. When I got home and did the WW math, they were 3 points each! Not cool.
  • Sara Lee Soft & Smooth® 100% Whole Wheat Bread – Tastes great and is a low point value.
  • Garlic – A great way to add flavor to recipes without adding sodium from seasonings.
  • Lettuce or Bagged Salad
  • Frozen mixed fruit – I’ve found large bags of chopped mixed fruit in my store brand or in the Great Value brand. I get a bigger variety of fruit, and it lasts longer. Great for smoothies, but I typically just top a bowl of it with fat-free cool whip.
  • Frozen chopped onions and bell peppers – A quick and easy add to recipes when I’m in a rush and don’t have time for all the chopping. Okay, so the truth is, I’m a lazy cook.
  • Frozen carrots and other veggies – Ziplock makes steamer bags, so having a quick side dish of veggies is easy. It’s also nice to add veggies to a pasta dish or other recipes to bulk up the veggie side of life.
Other Frozen
  • Fat-Free Whipped Topping – Sweet fix that is zero points (unless you eat a lot… which I have… I’m not ashamed to say that… really… you try to eat just a little… you can’t do it… don’t judge me.) It’s really helped my ice cream and dessert cravings. I throw it on top of fruit or add it to a smoothie.
  • Birds Eye Viola! Three Cheese Chicken Pasta Skillet – This is a frozen pasta dish that is yummy! It has pasta, chicken, and veggies in it, so it’s really healthy. I add even more frozen veggies to it so that I can eat more without losing points. Just 5 points for a cup cooked. Nice! This also comes in a family size at some stores. Some of the other flavors are more points, so be sure to check before you buy.
  • Lean Pockets
  • Smart Ones, Lean Cuisine, or Healthy Choice dinners – I make sure to keep some at the office so I technically have no excuse for eating out at lunch! Great when I run low on points for the day and still have a meal to eat.

This fluffy girl stays well fed! I also have plenty of variety in my menu with mix and match ingredients. However, if you find a yummy option that I should add to my grocery list, please share!

Hope this helps!

Faithfully, fluffully His,

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Big Girls Don't Cry

Several years ago, the pop artist Fergie released a music single called "Big Girls Don't Cry." It was pretty catchy and popular at the time. As I was thinking about my next blog post, that song popped into my head. Here are a few of the lyrics (and no, this is not an endorsement for Fergie or any of her music, etc.):

I hope you know, I hope you know
That this has nothing to do with you
It's personal, myself and I
We've got some straightenin' out to do

And I'm gonna miss you like a child misses their blanket
But I've got to get a move on with my life
It's time to be a big girl now
And big girls don't cry
Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry

The path that I'm walkin', I must go alone
I must take the baby steps 'til I'm full grown, full grown
Fairy tales don't always have a happy ending, do they?
And I foresee the dark ahead if I stay

I started thinking about all the times I've cried since I started this new life journey, and wondered if they were significant at all. I thought about the difference between the tears I cried before this journey and the tears I cry now. I realized that my tears have changed.

Before I decided to make a change, I put a lot of effort into NOT crying. In case you didn't know, not crying can be a form of denial. If I cried, that meant I was acknowledging that something was wrong. If something was wrong, I would have to address it. And if I had to address it, that meant change and pain. So, the fewer the tears the better, no matter how far in despair I was. Better to not deal with it than to cry about it. The times when I did cry were brutal. I made sure to stop before I did too much damage to the "balance" in my life. I was teetering and didn't want to go too far.

The day I decided to do something different with my life and to do it God's way, I cried again. These tears were different. I got an empty journal and wrote down all of the things I hated about myself, my life, the activities I couldn't do, my limitations. As I wrote those things down, I realized I was finally acknowledging a lot of junk in my life. It turned into a confession to God about how far down I had let my sin drag me. And it was all because of choices I made. No one else did this to me. I did it. And I had hurt myself and my relationship with God in the process. So I cried. They were tears of shame and confession, but by the end, they were tears of relief. I knew that God had forgiven me and would help me to truly repent and stop living that old life. He alone could help me change, and He would.

I didn't cry again for a long time after that. In fact, I can't remember another real good cry until I hit the 25-lb loss mark. Those were the first tears of joy I cried on this journey. I wasn't expecting them. In fact, I cried right there in the WW place next to the lady who had weighed me in that day. Can't remember her name, but I remember her smiling like she had seen that sort of thing before. I left there dry eyed, but cried again on the way to work. All good tears. Thankful tears. Hopeful tears. Laughing tears.

Those tears have come up several times since then. When I reach a new milestone, or put on a pair of jeans I've been hiding in the dark crevices of my closet, or when I think about how far God has brought me in such a short amount of time, or when I get an email from someone who has read my blog and related... Those are good tears.

Don't get me wrong: I AM NOT A CRYBABY. (I am, however, a "sympathetic crier" and will cry if I see someone else cry. That condition is strange and cruel sometimes but has no cure. It is just one reason I no longer watch the Halmark channel or anything with "Extreme Makeover" in the title.)

These specific lyrics of Fergie's song stand out to me though because, as a "big girl," I spent a lot of time NOT crying. So please listen carefully as I type the next words...


It may hurt at first, but the tears don't cause the pain. The pain is already there and has been for a long time. You might as well acknowledge it. Not acknowledging it gives it power over you, and you were not created by the Almighty God to be a powerless person. In fact, He wants to give you His divine, supernatural power to overcome and be victorious!

So stop holding back. Grab an empty journal and start scribbling the words you've been afraid to say out loud. Or go for a long walk in a quiet place and verbalize your fears and disappointments. Confess!

And let go.

Only then can the good tears come. Clean tears. Freed tears. God-given tears.

Faithfully, fluffully His,

Monday, June 18, 2012

Butterflies Gotta Fly... Breaking Out of My Cocoon

It's hot. It's humid. It's June. It is month number 6, the mid-point of this year known as 2012. Is anyone else thinking, "Wow, when did that happen?"

My birthday is in December. When I decided, and I mean really decided, to bring my weight and health fully under God's control, one of the key factors in helping me make that decision was knowing what I had NOT accomplished in that year. In fact, in December (2011) I looked back on the last several years of my life and realized that I had zero significant accomplishments, or memories, worth sharing. If I had to scrapbook the past few years, the pictures would be few and blurry. I had learned very little and grown even less... mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I hadn't stepped outside my comfort zone in years. I had built a cocoon of a "less than" life, and I wanted OUT!

On my 32nd birthday, I promised and challenged myself to try at least 12 new things before my 33rd birthday. I didn't make a list of things to try. I just promised myself to try new things and keep myself open to  experiencing newness again. At that same time, I decided that this would be the year of true change... the kind that can only come from the hand of God.

So, it's June already. When I wrote the date in my journal and realized that this year was half over, I started to panic. That's kind of what I do. It's my go-to response, but I'm working on it. I started to think, "Oh, no! I haven't done anything yet and am already behind!" because that's been true for the past few years. But then I stopped and breathed and decided to list what these first six months of 2012 have held for me. I wanted an accurate picture so that I could see what I need to do to change. My list surprise me.
  1. I made a commitment to God and to myself. I STARTED SOMETHING OF VALUE!
  2. I have tried 8, yes EIGHT, new things in my goal of 12. Granted, most of them have been food-related due to the fact that I'm changing the way I eat. But for a West Texas girl who grew up on a pig farm, eating sushi for the first time is a big deal! (Thanks to one of my best friends, Rachel, for guiding me in sushi eating! She picked raw fish that I managed to keep down and not spit out.)
  3. I GAVE MYSELF A VOICE. I actually went public with my story by starting a blog. I took the biggest sin issue in my life, one of my most shameful characteristics, and laid it out for the worldwide web to see. And so far, I've had over 1,000 hits on it and positive, encouraging feedback. Who knew?
  4. I joined a gym... and actually GO TO THE GYM.
  5. I lost over 45 POUNDS (46.2 as of today)! 
I think it's safe to say that "Praise the Lord!" is a more appropriate response than panic.

Yes, this year is flying by as quickly as so many other years in my life. But this year is different. This year means something new. This year, I'm living. It's not a big life or a fast life. It's not a world-traveling, sight-seeing life. It's not a life that is checking of bucket-list items. It's not an event-filled life with a social calendar that is booked every night (or even every other weekend, for that matter). 

But this is a life worth living. This is a life in which I sleep soundly at night and wake up excited for a new day. This is a life that enjoys a morning cup of coffee with a big side of God's Word and low-sugar maple and brown sugar oatmeal with low-fat margarine. This is a life of intent, love, and light... all because I opened myself up to God. I used to "pray" for God to change me, but I was so afraid of what change meant. I was afraid that change could only mean pain.

Pain is definitely a part of the package. I'm sore today because I ran for the first time on the gym treadmill instead of only walking (and didn't fall off, by the way!). I've shed quite a few tears as I turned loose some dreams that I had been holding too tightly. I've experienced some loneliness when choices I've made haven't lined up with the choices of those around me.

But all of that pales in comparison to the love, grace, peace, and downright happiness I've felt with Jesus. The more I open up to Him, the more I let go of fear and control, the more freedom I feel. I feel more loved and have become more loving of others. Things aren't great, and the bills still stack up every payday. But I'm happy to live life because I know that each day is a gift from God just for me.

God did not create me to be a caterpillar trapped in a cocoon of my own sad making. He gave all He had to give so that I could fly free.

Butterflies gotta fly, and my wings have spread! Bring on the rest of 2012!

Faithfully, fluffully His,

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Taking Center Stage... Re-Valuing My Value System

As I've mentioned before, I use Lysa TerKeurst's "Made to Crave Devotional" a couple of times a week, and the last section I read was eye opening (Thanks, Lysa!). Lysa briefly shared that Esau and Jacob experienced a major life change that centered around a campfire and a pot of stew. Gotta love a Bible-based food issue, right?

I went back to Genesis to read the story for myself with fresh eyes, so here's the synopsis (full story found in Genesis 25:29-34). Esau and Jacob are brothers. Esau is the oldest and entitled to the biggest and best blessing from dad. He's also the big burly guy in the fam, super hunter, etc. One day after an unsuccessful hunting trip, Esau comes home famished and happens upon brother Jacob cooking some stew. He asks for some; well, demands is a better word. Jacob, in typical little bro fashion, wants to trade up for his cooking efforts. He agrees to give Esau some stew if Esau will trade him the eldest birthright. Esau declares that he's "about to die" of starvation, and thus agrees to the trade. This trade affects the future of nations (yes, plural). Esau sold his future for a bowl of lentil stew and bread! Darn those carbs!

He traded the long-term for short-term pleasure. I realized that I can totally relate to Esau and have placed myself in the same position many times. As with any food issue, the deeper issue was the desire for instant gratification and the focus on a flesh craving. How does this happen? Why do I do that? How do I stop?

As I contemplated those questions and prayed for understanding, the Spirit reminded me that God set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). When we elevate our flesh cravings, we lose sight of the eternal craving in our hearts for God. Not only did God put it there, but it's always been there and always will be, unlike an afternoon carb craving. Our God craving is how we know we need Him.

So why is our flesh craving often louder than the eternal calling that is ever present in our hearts? Perhaps, because it is constant, we manage to sometimes drown out the eternal, like a mom who tunes out her child on a road trip when the question comes, "Are we there yet?"

We need to embrace the eternal call daily; amplify it! Give it a microphone and crank up its volume. Knowing that it is the highest calling, we should live in such a way as to magnify that craving so that we always seek Christ more.

Esau is a classic example of a microphone in the wrong hands. He chose to amplify the call of his stomach over the eternal call of God. The same is true for me. If I spend too much energy focused on a chocolate craving, I end up taking the microphone out of God's hands and giving it to my flesh, or the candy bar in my desk drawer. And along with the microphone goes the spotlight. When I put the spotlight on the temporary craving, that craving takes center stage and throws God into the background scenery.

This is a total misplacement of values! When we elevate the value of a temporary craving over the eternal design God has for our lives, we choose to be last in line for the Father's blessing, just as Esau did.

Lord, forgive me! Let me not squander that which is eternally precious for a temporary satisfaction that ultimately steals my joy! Re-value my value system! Here's the mic, Lord! Take center stage!

And flesh... you can exit stage right!

Faithfully, fluffully His,