Day 3: The Right Questions

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29)

Thought for the Day: I must obey God rather than the scale!

My friend, Karen Ehman, was a great cheerleader during my healthy eating journey. On one of her “Weight Loss Wednesday” blog posts she wrote something I found incredibly insightful.* The biggest shift in her motivation from her yo-yo dieting days was replacing the delight of diminishing numbers on the scale with the delight of obedience to God.

Karen wrote:

I was very hopeful as I hopped on the scale this morning. I kept track of my food, exercised five days at the gym for 30 — 45 minutes, and my jeans were zipping up much easier than expected.

So, I whipped the scale out . . . and I’d lost a measly 1.8 pounds! What!?! I was sure it would say at least two or maybe even three. I felt gypped. And I felt like running to the kitchen to make a frozen waffle or two so I could slather it with real butter, spread it with some Peter Pan, and douse it with a load of pure maple syrup to stick it to that scale! Then I stopped and remembered what I felt the Lord saying this week.

Define your week by obedience, not by a number on the scale.

The scale does help measure our progress, but it can’t tell us everything. It can’t tell us if too much salt intake is making us retain a pound or two of water. It can’t tell us if we actually lost a pound of fat, but gained more muscle from weight training. And, it can’t tell us what time of the month it is and give us automatic credit for the extra two pounds or so that those glorious few days bring to us.

So, I had to stop and ask myself the following questions:

  • Did I overeat this week on any day? No.
  • Did I move more and exercise regularly? Yes.
  • Did I eat in secret or out of anger or frustration? No.
  • Did I feel that, at any time, I ran to food instead of to God? Nope.
  • Before I hopped on the scale, did I think I’d had a successful, God-pleasing week? Yep!

So, why oh why do I get so tied up in a stupid number? And why did I almost let it trip me up and send me to the kitchen for a 750-calorie binge? Don’t worry. I had a yogurt and tea instead.

Sweet friends, we need to define ourselves by our obedience, not a number on the scale. We are all in this thing together. And we will get the weight off, even if it is 1.8 pounds at a time!

I love what Karen says about defining ourselves by our obedience and not by a number on the scale — or, for me, what size my clothes are or how I feel seeing models with unattainable sizes on the magazine covers.

Yes, eating healthy and exercising gets our bodies into better shape, but we are never supposed to get soul satisfaction from our looks. Our looks are temporary; if we hitch our souls to this fleeting pursuit, we’ll quickly become disillusioned. The apostle Paul wrote, “We must obey God rather than human beings” (Acts 5:29). I read that verse differently now: “I must obey God rather than human values — like a number on the scale or the size on the tag in my jeans.” The only true satisfaction we can seek is the satisfaction of being obedient to the Lord.

Dear Lord, I don’t want to define myself by a number on my scale or any other human value. I truly want to be obedient to You each day. Help me to follow hard after You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

* You can connect with Karen and read all her great Weight Loss Wednesday’s posts at www.KarenEhman.com.

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Day 2: What If I Let God Down?

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Thought for the Day: I wept as I realized this would be one of the most significant spiritual journeys of my life. A spiritual journey that would yield great physical benefits.

I recently received an email from a woman who wrote, “Lysa, one of my greatest fears in reading Made to Crave is not just letting myself down, but even worse, letting God down.”

I understand how she feels. When you’ve tried and failed as many times as I have, you start to feel gun-shy about trying again. I’d lose the weight, feel great for a couple of months, deceive myself into thinking I could return to old habits, and all the weight would creep back on. I’d failed at finding lasting victory with every other attempt, even with programs I thought were the sure thing. So, why would this one be any different?

And why in heavens would I want to add spiritual guilt on top of my physical guilt? Why would I risk the shame of making God look bad too?

Guilt wrapped in shame is a terrible burden to carry. Guilt always came when I knew I was making poor choices and could see the scale numbers climbing. Shame came when my weight gain became apparent to everyone else in the world. Battling something so raw, so deeply personal was hard; knowing my failures were apparent to everyone else added humiliation to my toxic stew of emotions.

Yes, the physical struggle was hard enough. I certainly didn’t want to drag down my spiritual life with this struggle as well.

But here’s the problem: whether or not I wanted to admit it, my weight issues were already dragging me down spiritually. When I don’t have peace physically, I don’t have peace spiritually. I can’t separate the two. Nor should I. I need spiritual motivation to step in where my physical determination falls short.

So I started reading the Bible from the perspective of someone struggling with food issues. Though I had read the Bible many times and have even taught Bible studies for years, I’d missed how much God cares about and talks about this issue. Tucked within this book written thousands of years ago are some of the most astounding and life-changing truths directly applicable to this modern-day unhealthy eating epidemic that plagues women.

I wept with joy. I wept with relief. I wept as I realized this would be one of the most significant spiritual journeys of my life. A spiritual journey that would yield great physical benefits. And what about my concerns with letting God down?

My pastor, Steven Furtick, put that to rest one day with a simple but very profound truth, “How can you let God down when you weren’t ever holding Him up?”

I had to choose to operate in the reassurance of God’s love, the remembrance of God’s grace, and the reality of God’s power. And, according to Isaiah 41:10, God is the one holding me up, not the other way around. To that I say, “Amen!”

Dear Lord, this is one of the most significant spiritual journeys of my life. Help me to focus on You as I battle this raw, personal issue. I need You today. In Jesus’
name. Amen.

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Day 1: Unsettled

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:3)

Thought for the Day: Unsettle me in the best kind of way. For when I allow your touch to reach the deepest parts of me — dark and dingy and hidden away too long — suddenly, a fresh wind of life twists and twirls and dances through my soul.

The year I finally got my eating issues under control, I started with a very simple New Year’s prayer. I didn’t write a long list of resolutions as I had in previous years. After all, my list from one year to the next could have simply been a photocopy from the year before. It was the same stuff, year after year. I started out with great gusto to eat less, move more, make this a healthy lifestyle, and live in victory. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

But each year around January 7, I’d get invited to a party where treats were plentiful and motivation scarce. My stomach would soon be overstuffed and my resolve worn quite thin.

Year after year.

But this year I just couldn’t bring myself to write the list again. So, I prayed this simple prayer: Unsettle me.

These are the words I wrote in my journal . . .

Unsettle me. These are the two words rattling about in my brain today. I almost wish it were a more glamorous prayer. Surely more eloquent words could be found for what I’m feeling led to pursue during this New Year. But these are the words, this is the prayer for my 2009.

The funny thing is, I’ve spent my whole existence trying to find a place to settle down, people to settle down with, and a spirit about me worthy of all this settled down-ness. All of this is good. A contented heart, thankful for its blessings, is a good way to settle.

But there are areas of my life that have also settled that mock my desires to be a godly woman — compromises, if you will. Attitudes that I’ve wrapped in the lie, “Well, that’s just how I am. And if that’s all the bad that’s in me, I’m doing pretty good.”

I dare you, dear soul of mine, to notice the stark evidence of a spirit that is tainted and a heart that must be placed under the microscope of God’s Word. Yes, indeed, unsettle me, Lord.

Unearth that remnant of justification.

Shake loose that pull toward compromise.

Reveal that broken shard of secrecy.

Expose that tendency to give up.

Unsettle me in the best kind of way. For when I allow Your touch to reach the deepest parts of me — dark and dingy and hidden away too long — suddenly, a fresh wind of life twists and twirls and dances through my soul.

I can delight in hope that this is my year to change.

I can discover reasons to appreciate my body and find softer ways for my thoughts to land.

I can recognize the beauty of discipline and crave the intimacy with God it unleashes.

I can rest assured though the journey will be hard, I will be held.

Goodbye to my remnants, my justification, shards, and tendencies. This is not who I am — nor who I was created to be.

Goodbye to shallow efforts, self-focus, and suspicious fears that I’ll never find victory in this area of my life. I am
an unsettled woman who no longer wishes to take part in distractions or destructions.

Welcome deeper love for God and the realization I am made for more than this constant battle. Welcome my unsettled heart.

Are you ready to be unsettled in a good way?

Maybe you are at the beginning of your journey and feel intimidated by the long road ahead. Or, maybe you are on the other end of the spectrum and need ongoing encouragement to stay healthy.

Whether you’re in those places or somewhere in the middle, will you make a renewed commitment now? Will you ask God to unsettle you in the midst of where you are? And then dare to keep turning these pages and holding tight to God’s transforming truth.

Dear Lord, make me a courageous woman who isn’t afraid to pray this prayer over and over in the days ahead. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Day 21: A lifetime of fullness

Thought for the Day: Eating wisely can become more than just a diet. It can become our lifestyle! But better yet, we position our hearts to enjoy closeness and fulfillment with God for eternity!

I want to thank you for joining me the last twenty-one days. Our journey to healthy eating started by realizing how Eve, the first woman, gave in to temptation with food. We also read in the Bible how the Israelites, God’s people, struggled with food, which led to them wandering in the desert for forty years. Additionally, we read rich truths in the Psalms and New Testament which gave us a healthier perspective of food and of fullness in Christ.

So, we shouldn’t be surprised when the Bible ends with another pivotal verse about food. For me, this verse might be the one that elicits the greatest excitement in my heart. Revelation 2:7 says:

To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Aren’t you encouraged to see that overcoming is possible? We can be more than just women who hide our struggles or deal with them just enough to survive. This verse in Revelation says “the one who overcomes.” In other words, it confirms that we can find absolute victory in an area where we once knew nothing but defeat.

There’s a reward awaiting those of us who press through our struggles all the way to absolute victory. This reward is crucial, because virtually anyone who overcomes a difficult challenge will tell you that their victory was the sum total of daily sacrificial decisions to reach a goal and the reward. I am thrilled to know that the reward for overcomers in Jesus Christ is that we are given the right to eat … in paradise! Eating from the tree of life with God will be unlike any satisfaction we’ve ever known.

Remember, you were made to crave God, not food. The best reward to healthy eating is experiencing closeness with God. I pray that you continue on this beneficial journey for a lifetime. Eating wisely can become more than just a diet. It can become our lifestyle.

And better yet, we position our hearts to enjoy closeness and fulfillment with God for eternity!

Day 20: The curse of the skinny jeans

Thought for the Day: Tying our happiness to food, skinny jeans, relationships, or anything else sets us up for failure. But tying our security, joy, and identity to God’s love is an anchor that we can cling to no matter what the circumstances.

Once I reached my goal weight, I thought I’d never have a bad day again. I mean really, what could possibly trouble me if I could fit into my skinny jeans? Boy was I wrong.

A hurtful email showed up … a disrespectful attitude from one of my kids … a missed appointment … a messy house … a stressful situation at work … an unexpected bill. Here I was just hours after feeling thrilled at finally being able to wear my skinny jeans, falling prey to the same topsy-turvy stuff I used to think wouldn’t bother me if only I were smaller. This is the curse of the skinny jeans. The truth I’ve had to realize is that my body size is not tied to my happy. If I was unhappy when I was larger, I’ll still be unhappy when I get smaller.

For years, I tied happiness to my circumstances and hopes for the future. I thought, “I’ll be happy when my father comes back, when I get married, when I have kids, when the economy improves, when I lose those extra pounds…” But even when some of those things came true, I was still dissatisfied. Surely there was more to me than defining myself by my circumstances.

One day I read a list of Bible verses that describe who God says I am, no matter the circumstances in my life, both good and bad. I took that list of Scriptures and started to redefine my identity. It was a stark contrast to the way I defined myself by circumstances or others’ opinions of me. I finally realized that these issues don’t define me. Instead, I could tie my happiness to the reality of who my heavenly Father says I am:

  • Lysa, the forgiven child of God. (Romans 3:24)
  • Lysa, the set-free child of God. (Romans 8:1–2)
  • Lysa, the accepted child of God. (1 Corinthians 1:2)
  • Lysa, the holy child of God. (1 Corinthians 1:30)
  • Lysa, the made-new child of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • Lysa, the loved child of God. (Ephesians 1:4)
  • Lysa, the close child of God. (Ephesians 2:13)
  • Lysa, the confident child of God. (Ephesians 3:12)
  • Lysa, the victorious child of God. (Romans 8:37)

We were made to be set free, holy, new, loved, and confident. Because of this truth, we can’t allow our minds to partake in anything that negates our real identity. Tying our happiness to food, skinny jeans, relationships, or anything else will only set us up for failure. But tying our security, joy, and identity to God’s love is an anchor that we can cling to no matter what the circumstances.

Day 19: The power of “I can”

Thought for the Day: “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” (1 Corinthians 10:23, see also 6:12)

Reaching my weight loss goal is a precarious place for me. That’s because I find it is a blessing entangled with a curse. The “curse” is the assumption that freedom now means I can return to all those things I’ve given up for the past months. The sacrifices … the missed treats … the deprived taste buds high on salad and low on French fries. I’m tempted to celebrate, live it up, and invite all those foods I’ve missed to a little welcome-home party.

Yet, I can’t fling open the door to all of those missed foods without welcoming back the excess calories, fat grams, cholesterol, sugars, and addictive additives. Most of these guests fall under the category of junk foods. The interesting thing about these guests is that they send out little signals to our brain begging us to party with them again and again. A welcome-home party becomes an invitation to be roommates again, which spells disaster for what we hoped might be a lifestyle change.

A chips-and-chocolate girl like me can find it hard to un-invite certain foods to the party that have been regulars for years. It’s even more difficult to reconcile that they aren’t my friends. Some can be casual acquaintances on a very limited level, but others need to be banished for good. Only you can determine which foods are allowed back, and which are not.

One of my favorite Scriptures in this process is 1 Corinthians 6:12: “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” I quote it over and over reminding myself that I could have that brownie, or that cheese dip, but they wouldn’t benefit me in any way. That powerful thought has helped to make a healthy choice, rather than wallowing in being deprived of an unhealthy choice.

So, lest we start mourning what will be lost, we must celebrate all that’s being gained through this process. “I can” instead of “I can’t” is a powerful little twist for a girl feeling deprived. For example:

  • “I can” helps me walk into a dinner party and find the conversation more appealing than the buffet.
  • “I can” helps me stay on the perimeter of the grocery store where the fresher, healthier selections abound and smile that I know this tidbit.
  • “I can” helps me reach for my water bottle and find satisfaction in its refreshment.
  • “I can” helps me look at the McDonald’s menu and order a fruit tray without even giving a thought to the Happy Meals that used to be snacks.
  • “I can” reminds me to look up a restaurant’s nutritional information on the Internet before going out, ensuring wiser choices.

“I can” reminds me that no food will ever taste as sweet as lasting victory!

Day 18: I’m not defined by the numbers

Thought for the Day: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

I was in an exercise class one day when the gal next to me leaned over and shared concerns about her sister’s increasing weight. I was half listening and half straining to lift my aching legs when she quipped, “I mean, my sister now weighs like 150 pounds!” I didn’t know whether to laugh out loud or keep silent, because the number that horrified her was the exact number I saw that very morning on my scale!

However, I found great joy when I realized that my workout buddy’s statement didn’t rattle me. It would have just a few years ago. It would have sent me on a tailspin full of crash diets and unrealistic expectations.

However, there I was, at peace, in the midst of her harsh statement. I wasn’t at my goal weight yet. But I was in the process of investing wisely in my health and spiritual growth. I had been diligently filling my mind with God’s truths. These principles now protected me from thoughts of condemnation, jealousy, and defeat. This is what the apostle Paul meant when he said in 2 Corinthians 10:5:

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

When we’re familiar with God’s truth, we can literally challenge any comment with the questions, “Is it true? Is it beneficial? Is it necessary?” If the answer is no, then we don’t open the door of our hearts. We make the choice to walk away from the comment and all the negative thoughts it could harvest if we listened to it.

My classmate’s shock at her sister’s weight wasn’t beneficial to me. Therefore, I didn’t have to internalize her comment. I could leave it on the gym floor and walk away. That statement didn’t belong to me. I had a choice to make. I could feed that comment and let it crush my identity. Or, I could see it as a careless remark and move on with my day.

Standing in the gym, I desperately wanted to yell out three glorious words, “I am free!” In that moment, I had a small moment of victory over an identity disorder that I’d battled for a long time. I was no longer defined by a number on the scale, because my weight loss goal was peace. As we move through our healthy eating journey, remember that the goal shouldn’t just be a smaller measurement, but a larger measure of peace.

Day 17: Don’t fence me in

Thought for the Day: Boundaries are not restrictive fences meant to keep you from enjoying life, but gifts from a God who cares about your well-being.

Sometimes, the words “no,” “boundaries,” and “limitations” stir up feelings of deprivation and resistance in my strong-willed self. But I’ve learned that I must embrace the boundaries of the healthy eating plan that I chose. I must see these limits as parameters that define my freedom.

I learned this principle through my sweet, little dog, Chelsea, who isn’t the brightest canine around cars. She’s obsessed with trying to attack the tires crunching against our gravel driveway inside our fenced-in yard. As a result, she had an unfortunate encounter with a moving vehicle about the same time I started my healthy eating plan.

After Chelsea’s injury, the vet informed us that helping her heal meant we’d have to keep her calm for three weeks. This recommendation sounded crazy considering it’s hard to keep Chelsea still for three minutes! Worse, she was forbidden to bite or pull at her bandages and stitches. So, the dreaded cone was placed around her neck to keep her injuries out of reach.

As Chelsea healed, I was the master of her new limitations. She punished me with hours of whining and crying. She constantly tried to escape through our fence and kept snapping at her bandages. However, my love for this dog wouldn’t permit me to let her to harm herself. Her brokenness couldn’t handle that kind of freedom. Not yet.

As I watched Chelsea struggle, I was struck by the way her situation applied to my issues with eating healthy. My brokenness couldn’t handle freedom with food outside the boundaries of my plan. Not yet. Eventually I would be able to add some things back into my diet in small quantities. But not yet.

Since my brokenness with food runs deep, my new healthy habits need time to run even deeper. Here are a few of the boundaries I’ve created to ensure success on my healthy eating adventure:

  • I am not made to be a victim of my poor choices. I was made to be a victorious child of God.
  • I can find ways to celebrate that don’t involve blowing my healthy eating plan.
  • If I am in a situation where the temptation is overwhelming, I will have to choose either to remove the temptation or remove myself from the situation.
  • Struggling with my weight isn’t a curse from God. Being overweight is an outside indication that internal changes are needed for my body to function properly and for me to feel well.

I’ve learned that boundaries aren’t restrictive fences meant to keep us from enjoying life, but gifts from a God who cares about our well-being. Whether you are staring at a party hors d’oeuvre table of all things cheesy, or ready to bite your friend’s head off as she reminds you of the healthy eating plan you chose, I pray these boundaries help you like they’ve helped me.

Day 16: The “G” word

Thought for the Day: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul thirsts for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1–2)

Have you ever heard a sermon about your eating habits? I doubt it. Excessive drinking, yes. Excessive eating, never. At least I hadn’t until a historic church-going day when the preacher man pulled out the big “G” word: gluttony.

I rolled my eyes, as you have just done, and thought, “How dare you say to me that eating is a sinful desire?” But his point was brilliant and I took it to heart.

How can we stand and wag our fingers in the direction of alcohol only to walk into the church-wide, covered-dish buffet and stuff ourselves sick with fried, covered-and-smothered, grossly caloric delights that buckle our paper plates and cause our stomachs to cry for antacids?

I want you to hear me. I’m not saying that eating is a sinful desire. What I am saying is, if you have a script like this (“I’m fat, I’m ugly, and I’m not capable of getting it together”) playing in your mind, then something is waging war against your soul.

First Peter 2:11 reminds us, “Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world to abstain from sinful desires which wage war against your soul.”

In other words, if something is waging war against your soul, it is a sinful desire. Now please hear me again. Eating in and of itself is not a sinful desire. God made us to consume food, but food was never supposed to consume us. And if food starts consuming us to the point where we cannot feel empowered, then that is a problem.

I imagine at this point you are wondering if we really need to go there with this gluttony thing. It’s not exactly the most girlfriend-friendly topic that makes you want to say, “Preach on, sister. I’m loving this encouragement!”

When we rely on over-stuffing ourselves with food, drinking until we get drunk, or conducting an adulterous relationship, we are revealing a desperate attempt to silence the cries of a hungry soul.

Our souls have the same ravenous intensity as a vacuum cleaner; that’s how God created us — with a longing to be filled. It is a longing God instilled to draw us into deep intimacy with Him. The psalmist expresses this longing as an intense thirst:

As the deer pants for steams of water, so my soul thirsts for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Indeed, our souls are thirsty and ravenous vacuums. If we fail to fill our souls with spiritual nourishment, we will forever be triggered to numb our longings with other temporary physical pleasures that will never satisfy.

Day 15: I’ll have what she’s having

Thought for the Day: Just because a woman is skinny doesn’t mean that she’s healthy. The struggles are similar, just in a different size package.

One problem with trying to eat healthy is when you sit down next to a skinny girl who wolfs down everything on her plate. It makes me want to say, “I’ll have what she’s having.” A similar frustration pops up when Ms. Petite picks up her kids in a cute tennis outfit that I could never wear.

The paradox of comparing ourselves to other people is that we become blind to what we already have in the face of what we don’t have. Our hearts are drawn into a place of assumption. We assume that everything is great for those who possess what we lack.

But here’s the kicker. Everyone has not-so-great aspects their lives, things that they will have to learn to surrender or sacrifice. Sure, my size-two friend could eat all the snacks she wanted, but she’s got other struggles for which she has to depend on God. For instance, consider that skinny girl in your life who eats whatever she wants and makes you think, “How unfair.” Yet listen to what she might say in return, as someone once shared with me: “I am one of the skinny girls, but don’t mistake skinny for healthy. I battle depression, self-esteem issues, and verbal abuse. The list seems endless. Being little doesn’t make a person any more happy or faithful or joyful. The struggles are similar, just in a different size package.”

Life as a Christ follower will always be a learning process of depending less on our own strength and more on God’s power. James 1:3-4 says,

The testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature, complete, not lacking anything.

Why not make this a daily prayer, first thing in the morning: “God, I recognize that I am made for more than the vicious cycle of being ruled by food, body image, and comparing myself to others. I am thankful that You made my body unique in ways that I can serve You and in ways that turn my reliance upon You. I need to eat to live, not live to eat. So I keep asking for Your wisdom to know what to eat and Your indwelling power to walk away from things and thoughts that are not beneficial for me.”

Oh sweet sisters, this truth should be the cry of our souls and drown out Satan’s lie that “she has it easier.” Our taste buds crave many things to satisfy, but only persevering with God will make us truly full.

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