Out Of Shape?

I attended a Relay For Life fundraising event yesterday, that Jessi, a Revelation Wellness Platoon 16 sister, was holding.  She provided breakfast, shared her testimony, and led an awesome Revelation Wellness fitness class.  Complete with a hope filled message and a kick butt workout.  Well, I can’t speak for the other participants, but she definitely kicked my booty.  The class ended at a quarter to eleven, and I was already feeling soreness creep into my muscles by the time we went to lunch.

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Modifying as needed. Photo credit – Jilly White Photography

 

As we were walking up to Jason’s Deli (it was my first time and I loved it) I was about to tell Jessi, “Wow, I really must be out of shape because I’m already feeling it in my quads and booty!”, but the Holy Spirit led me to use a different phrase.  In what felt like a split second, He said that using the phrase out of shape insinuates that there’s something wrong with one’s shape, that something is wrong with their form, that they are broken or less than.  Whoa.   He then instructed me to use the phrase out of practice instead.  He said it was true, whereas my go-to phrase was not.  Isn’t it crazy amazing how the Spirit’s leading can happen in a brief moment but encapsulate so much teaching?

As I was writing that last paragraph, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the lie vs. truth exercise Jessi led us through during yesterday’s class.  During a RevFit class, participants are asked to exchange a lie for a truth.  Jessi asked us to think about a negative word or phrase we believe about ourselves and to write it down on an index card.  My word was broken, as I have believed for over three years that my body was broken beyond repair and would never be able to move as it did before my twins.  She then instructed us to tear up the index card and put on some truth by writing on ourselves (shoulder, arm, hand, etc) what God says about us.  In Revelation Wellness we call this war paint.  The word God spoke over me was restored.

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God calls me RESTORED. Photo credit – Jilly White Photography

Even with RESTORED written down my left forearm, I was quick to speak out of shape over myself.  How quickly the enemy of our hearts will come and refute truth that God has declared over us.  I am so grateful that the Holy Spirit stepped in to remind me who I am.  He provided a way out for me.  A way out of the temptation to believe lies, however benign they may seem, that I have believed for years.

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

So the next time you hear someone say that they’re out of shape, or you’re tempted to say it of yourself, please speak truth – out of practice, not out of shape.

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Post lunch – Jessi and I showing off our shirts based on Psalm 139:14.

Comfortable With The Uncomfortable

I wrote this a few months ago.  I never did feel led to put in a photo.  Instead I went with a verse.  I’m not sure why God asked me to share this, but I trust that it will resonate with someone out there.

No graphics or photos for this post.  I don’t know, maybe as I go through my day God will give me a visual to share.  But right now, right this moment He’s telling me to just share my heart.

Yesterday a dear sister in Christ texted me a link to a video from the Leading and Loving It #JustONE2016 virtual conference.  I’m not sure what day it was from, but it was good. Like brush off the dust of complacency and do some work for the kingdom, good.  Work I have been too _______ (fill in the blank – tired, busy, lazy) to do.  I’m not talking projects here, either.  I’m talking about the work of boldly living out my faith.  Declaring His truth whenever and wherever I feel His Spirit leading me to.

Here are some of the notes I jotted down, and you can watch the video here for yourself.

  1. Get going – say YES to God without knowing the details, especially the outcome.  Move when He says to and move with urgency.
  2. Get strategic – be aware, be intentional, and be sensitive.  Pay attention to people’s details.
  3. Get uncomfortable – God calls me to serve and wash feet.

After watching that video I decided to sign up for the conference – funny, I thought I already had signed up but I guess that was last year – and watch all of the videos.  They’re sent directly to my inbox so there’s no extra clicking on my part.  The Day 1 video arrived this morning and I couldn’t really relate it to my current season of life.  Lori Wilhite talks about God trading our junk for joy, our hurt for healing, and our pain for purpose.  Believe me, I’ve had plenty of junk, hurt, and pain.  Enough to last a lifetime.  But as of this morning I had no current junk, hurt, or pain to reflect on.  {Or so I thought} I still looked up Isaiah 60:17, the verse she was focusing on, and took notes.  I even added personal reflections to each of her three points.

I could feel God stirring something up within me, and knew He was telling me it was time to dig deeper.  Back in early January I signed up for my second ‪#‎cleanhearting‬ challenge to support the amazing ministry of Revelation Wellness. I wasn’t planning on going through the challenge again. I figured I’d watch Alisa Keeton on Periscope when I could or pull up a scope on Katch.

But I started experiencing heartburn a couple of weeks ago and it hasn’t let up. Heartburn is only something I dealt with during pregnancy. And before you ask, no, I am not pregnant. At first I was in denial, blaming the one meal that might have triggered it. But then I got still and quiet long enough (after several days of refusing to listen to my body) to see that the discomfort is God lovingly nudging me.  Nudging me to look at my habits and idols.

So when I had finished watching the Day 1 #JustONE2016 video, I decided to read the Day 1 email for he Clean Hearting Challenge to do just that.  To identify and confront the idols and habits that are keeping me from doing the kingdom building work God is calling me to do.  Day 1 seemed easy enough – looking at the root of our desire to live clean, a desire God created us to have because we were made in His image and He is clean and blameless.  Looking at Alisa’s very simple and straight forward definition of clean eating – avoid refined and processed foods and eat real food – was just the “Dude, I can do this” moment I needed.

And the let’s do this attitude wasn’t just about the eating either – and that’s the whole point behind the Clean Hearting Challenge, by the way, to pull off the blinders and see that it’s all about the condition of our hearts.  It’s about treating myself better by eating life giving foods more often than fake foods, by getting more sleep, and by moving more.  And moms out there, please hear me when I say that none of those goals are selfish.   When I take better care of myself, I am better able to love the people God calls me to serve and love.  And so are you.

The notion of loving people better got me thinking about February being the perfect month to practice being more intentional in my marriage.  So I took The Husband Project: 21 Days of Loving Your man on Purpose and with a Plan off a shelf and started reading it.  But right when I was getting to the “meat” of the first chapter it was time to get the boys ready for church.

Just a typical Sunday morning.  Until it wasn’t.  I got the twins dressed and fed.  They were happily playing with our oldest until I had to go upstairs and get dressed and my husband out of bed.  As I was getting ready he told me that he decided to sleep in and not to come to church.  I was fine with that since he doesn’t sleep in very often.  But a small disagreement with our oldest turned into something much bigger not only between the two of us but also between me and my husband.  Before I knew it voices were raised and doors were slammed.  And to top it all off one of the twins was refusing to get buckled into his car seat.  I wanted to cry.  And I did.

In spite of my feelings and the tears streaming down my face I went to church. Well, not exactly.  The truth is I no longer wanted to go to church.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do – I just knew I didn’t want to go.  I almost marched everyone out of the minivan and back into the house, but I inadvertently locked the basement door when I slammed it and didn’t have a key to get back in.

So I drove us to church and apologized to my oldest on the way.  I apologized for my tone and for slamming the car and house doors.  He accepted my apology, because that’s what we do in our house.  We humble ourselves to apologize, and we humble ourselves to forgive.

As soon as our junior pastor started preaching I knew that God meant for me to experience what I did this morning so I could really listen to his message.  Not just hear it, but listen to it.  His message was anchored in Job. It was such an encouragement from my Daddy. It was a reminder that when I make a kingdom declaration – like I did today saying that I was ready to do kingdom building work – that I will be met with opposition. I just forgot how quickly it can happen.

Today I spent some intentional time with God, and shortly thereafter the enemy came at me.  Hard. He attacked my marriage and my motherhood. I wanted to throw up my hands and throw in the towel. But as a daughter of the King of kings I must remember that I am not called to do the easy things. I am not called to be comfortable. I am called to roll up my sleeves and wield the Sword of the Spirit and fight, for the victory has already been won.

Empires by Hillsong United + Giveaway

Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of Empires from Family Christian for review purposes.  All opinions shared my own, and I clearly loved the CD seeing as I bought a copy to give away.

{I wrote this review over the summer some time but out of insecurity never posted it. I feared it was too long and detailed.  As time passed it seemed as if the moment had as well.  Since the CD was no longer on anyone’s radar why post the review?  Now that “Say the Word” was just released as a single, I decided to shed my insecurity and share my thoughts on this beautiful piece of art.}

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Oh. My.  This album is incredible.  It’s not the kind of worship CD you pop into your car’s stereo system and get your praise on to, though.  It’s the kind of worship album you need to listen to when you can steal away some time to be still and glorify the Lord.  If I had only one word to describe this project it would be ethereal {extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world}. Even when the music and vocals build and the percussion is more up tempo, they build so organically and fall so effortlessly that it seems like the natural ebb and flow to each song.

It took me multiple naptimes – my sons’, not my own – to listen to all of the songs, as several of them are over five minutes in length.  While percussion strings the songs together musically, the Gospel message does so lyrically.

As I listened to the songs I jotted down things down, including lyrics, that stirred my soul.  Here is a synopsis of each song and a lyric from each that really struck me.

1 – HERE NOW (MADNESS) is pure adoration.  It speaks of the closeness of God.  It’s an invitation asking God to speak, to move, and to have His way.  The song shares the Gospel message of grace, redemption, and Holy Spirit led living.

“Grace found my heart where logic ends”

2 – SAY THE WORD celebrates the power, majesty, and character of God.  To me it’s a reminder of just how important it is to read God’s Word.  How else can I get to know Him if I don’t read His Word?  Sermons are great but that’s second hand knowledge.  To get fresh manna I need to seek Him for myself.  Amen?

“My soul will hang on to every word You say”

3 – HEART LIKE HEAVEN is a beautiful reminder that perfection is unattainable and imperfection is okay because God wants our busted hearts, not perfection.  Jesus came for the sinners, not the righteous.

“Face down where mercy finds me first”

4 – TOUCH THE SKY is the first single off of Empires.  It speaks to the reality of how upside down God’s kingdom is.  So often we find ourselves exhausted from striving in this life.  But throughout His word God tells us that not only can we do nothing apart from Him, but His power is made perfect in our weakness. {The cover art work speaks directly to the upside down nature of God’s kingdom.}

“I found my life when I laid it down.  I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground.”

5 – STREET CALLED MERCY reminds me of 1960’s American folk music because of the beautiful opening harmony.  The lyrics call up images of the prodigal son returning to his father’s open arms, Moses proclaiming that he will not go on without the Lord, and the psalmist proclaiming his loyalty and devotion to God.

“Tired of endless walking not knowing which way to go, I collapse on a street called Mercy.”

6 – WHEN I LOST MY HEART TO YOU (HALLELUJAH) is the most straight forward worship song on the album.  You know, the kind that gives you permission to lift your hands up in abandon and let’s you sing along even if you don’t really know the words.

It has the most simple chorus “You have my heart…hallelujah” and again speaks of God’s upside down kingdom “I found Your love when I lost my heart to You.”

7 – EVEN WHEN IT HURTS (PRAISE SONG) is not your typical song of praise, as it lists “even when” circumstances and situations which remind me of Paul’s teachings on contentment and John’s teachings regarding trials.  This song touches on the same issues raised in other contemporary Christian songs, but stresses that our hallelujah can be in tact even when our spirits are broken.

“Louder then I’ll sing Your praise”

8 – PRINCE OF PEACE is a beautiful declaration that God is still God in spite of all of the things in this life that invite fear and anxiety.  As Lysa Terkuerst says, “He is still God, He is good, and He is good at being God.”  Amen!

“Your love surrounds me when my thoughts wage war”

9 – EMPIRES is a beautiful portrait of salvation, sanctification, and eternity with God.  I’m so grateful that God has gifted people with the ability to share such deeply spiritual subject matter in music.

“We are shadows and portraits, empires of light and clay, images of our Maker.  Sinners called out as saints.”

10 – RULE  is a call to Christ to be exactly who He says He is.  It’s like praying the Scriptures back to God, but in song.  It reminds me of the words of the Psalmist – set to a very danceable beat.

“Hope came dancing on an empty grave.  Death has lost its rule to the King of grace.”

11 – CAPTAIN speaks to walking by faith and not by sight.  It’s also a beautiful reminder that when we walk by faith we are not walking blindly, since we have a faithful Guide.

“Lost in the shallows amidst fear and fog Your truth is the compass that points me back north.”

12 – CLOSER THAN YOU KNOW is by far my favorite song on this album.  It’s also the longest song on the album, at over nine minutes long.  But it’s worth every second of your time, I promise.  It reads like a beautiful love letter.  The first half is written from Christ’s perspective, calling us to not lose faith and reminding us of all He has done and continues to do out of His great love for us.  The second half is written from a believer’s perspective, acknowledging Whose we are and who we are in Him.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to have a tissue handy.

“For I’m Yours and You are mine and my soul knows well, You are here.”

If you haven’t already purchased Empires, you can buy your own copy here or click on this link below for a chance to win a free copy!

2/07/16 Update – the raffle is now closed.

My Abundant Life: Celebrating Ten Years of Freedom

In November of 2005 I took the first step on a scary but necessary journey to “find myself”.  I just giggled as I wrote that sentence because how cliche is that?  But I guess it wasn’t entirely cliche, since I usually think of early 20-somethings setting out on such journeys and I was nearing my 30’s but still knew very little about myself.  I mean I knew facts about myself, but I had no real sense of who I was.  The core of my personality, my likes and dislikes – even my goals in life – hinged on who I was with.  I was a chameleon who didn’t know my own true colors.

By the time December 31st of 2005 rolled around I was almost ready to take the next big step in my journey, which was to own up to the fact that I didn’t know what was best for me.  As humbling as it was, the admission only made sense since I didn’t really know who I was. How could I possibly make wise decisions for myself?  But it wasn’t until January 2, 2006 that I was ready to make this admission to anyone else.

The funny thing is, is that even then I was in no way ready to admit how lost I was – how desperate I was for God.  But God is patient and I am so grateful that His timing is perfect.  He let me experience exactly what I needed in order for me to get to a place where I would not only recognize my spiritual bankruptcy for what it was, but where I could be humbled enough to cry out to Him.

On this day, January 2nd, I celebrate the ten years I’ve been on this journey with God.  The coolest part of my journey with Him may be that as I look back I can clearly see that He was walking with me long before I agreed to walk with Him.  And I’m not just talking about the five months between January 2nd when I admitted I didn’t have it all together and the afternoon in May when I asked Him to be Lord of my life.  I can look back over my life and see how He gently pursued me until I was ready to give Him all of me – my shame, my guilt, my fear, my insecurities, my hopes, my dreams, my identity.

Over the last ten years He has guided me through a series of surrenders – some deeper than others, but all helping me to see Him for who He is.  And in turn, who I am in Him.  I share all this to encourage you wherever you may be on your journey with God.  He is just and He is merciful.  He will pursue you until you are ready to accept His grace and love.  And once you have surrendered your all to Him, He will not leave you but continue to walk with you.

Journey With God

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Dueteronomy 31:6 (NLT)

Trust But Verify

God has been giving me some very uncomfortable assignments lately, and this post is one of them.  I trust that obedience is better than sacrifice.

The Pope’s recent visit to the States got me thinking about my own journey with God and organized religion.  {I was really tempted to make a Grateful Dead reference but thought better of it}

I left the church when I was very young.  I held a lot of resentment against God.  At least I thought my anger, frustration, and disappointment had to do with God.  It turns out that all of the things I didn’t like about church were things that weren’t in God’s Word.  Well, some of them were, but they were antiquated practices that we could let go of because we were under the new covenant.  Again, I did not learn this until I was much older.  After I had stopped running from God and was simply too tired to be mad at Him anymore.

I share all this because God put it on my heart to do so.  To say that it’s great that the Pope’s visit stirred up some feels in lots of people.  And to say, be aware of the feels.  If someone, anyone, says something that stirs up feelings of shame, guilt, or condemnation, check what they said against the Word of God.  If His Word supports what they said, that’s called conviction.  If it isn’t, that’s from the enemy.

And on the flipside of that, if someone says something that stirs up feelings of “I can do whatever I want”, check what they said against the Word of God.  If His Word supports what they said, walk in that freedom.  If it doesn’t, be wary of the enemy luring you into sin like the pied piper.

Trust, but verify

Remember, God is the ultimate authority in our lives.

Wicked Women Of The Bible

I would like to thank Family Christian for sending me an advance copy of this book  in exchange for sharing my honest opinion.  “Wicked Women of the Bible” is available for pre-order now at Family Christian and will be available in stores on September 22nd.

Wicked Women of the Bible

I was instantly intrigued when I read the title of this book.  I’ve always wanted to know more about women like Jezebel and Delilah.  I was so excited when I go the book that book I opened it to a random chapter, “A Wicked Woman of the Night: The Story of Rahab”, and started reading.  I was not entirely surprised to see that Rahab had made her way into the book.  She was an innkeeper and as such it’s presumed that she ran a brothel and perhaps was a prostitute herself.  So how did a woman of the night make her way into the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11)?  Because she chose to help Jewish spies and trust that their God would spare her and her family.  I enjoyed the way in which author Ann Spangler shared Rahab’s story so much that I kept reading.  I was much more surprised to see that Deborah was the protagonist of the next chapter.  How is it that a judge, prophetess, and mighty warrior made her way into a book about wicked women?

A little bewildered, I decided to flip to the beginning of the book and read the introduction. Within the pages of the intro she shares that wanted to keep with the oral tradition of the Bible and do her “best to reimagine the stories of some of the Bible’s most fascinating women in order to bring them to life for contemporary readers”.  In my opinion, she nailed it.  She doesn’t contradict or stray from the Bible like so many biblically inspired movies do.  She fleshes out each of the women in such a way that I can identify with all of them, even the “wicked bad” women.  Through her writing style, be it in the main story or in the Takeaway section that follows, she prompts me to wonder about their insecurities and fears.  I start to question their motives and wonder how their story would have turned out if they allowed God to lead them.  As for women such as Deborah and Esther, they were included in the book because Spangler’s “aim has not been simply to highlight the stories of some of the Bible’s worst women but also to explore the stories of those who might be considered ‘wicked good’ or ‘wicked smart’.”

The timing of receiving this advanced copy could not have been more perfect.  For the past several months I’ve been feeling underqualified, not good enough to do the work I feel God is calling me to do.  Reading the stories within “Wicked Women of the Bible” has reminded me not only of God’s character, but that He can use anyone in His story.  If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about the women of the Bible, or wondered how God could use someone like you, this book is for you.

I just read this on the “Wicked Women of the Bible” site: Pre-order Wicked Women of the Bible before September 22, 2015 and receive a free copy of Wicked Men of the Bible. This 40-page ebook includes the stories of Cain and Jonah. Simply email a copy of your receipt to admin@annspangler.com. Once we receive your email, we’ll email you back the PDF of Wicked Men of the Bible and you can begin your wicked study right away!

10/06 Update: I am attempting to offer the first giveaway on this blog using an autogenerated giveaway widget.  I’m hoping it works.

Well, from what I can tell you need to click on this link: a Rafflecopter giveaway

10/12 Update: The giveaway is closed and the winner is Helene!

Winning The Bathing Suit Battle

I wrote this as a contributor for Veva Health.

I didn’t want to share this picture.  In fact, I promised myself I would never share progress pictures or photos of me in a bathing suit.  Never ever.

Cropped Splash Pad Photo

Even as God was tugging on my heart to share it, I couldn’t bring myself to post it on Instagram.  I was relieved in an odd sort of way when I realized God meant for me to share it here, with the Veva community.  Although I’m new to Veva as a contributor, I have been reading the content for some time, and it feels like a safe place to share scary stuff.  You know, the kind of stuff that we surrender to God, only to pick it up again and again.  The kind of stuff that we’re hesitant to share with others, but so relieved when we finally do, and they say, “Me too!”

As a middle school teacher I do not get to participate in many play-dates during the year—they are usually scheduled for weekdays.  So, this summer I jumped at the opportunity to go meet up with some ladies from my Moms of Multiples group at a local Splash Pad.  I didn’t give much thought to what I was going to wear until people started posting questions and comments online.  Even after I planned to wear my tankini with khaki shorts, I overlooked the fact that I had to get into the water with the twins.  Bottom line, at some point either the shorts were getting wet or coming off.  Wearing a wet bathing suit home is one thing, but wet clothes is just uncomfortable.  My third option was to keep my shorts on while the twins and I chilled on the grass and watched everyone else splash in the water.  My play-date at the Splash Pad taught three very important lessons.

Lesson 1: I will not sit on the sidelines of my own life

I wasn’t about to not take the boys onto the splash pad. Instead, I opted to bare my legs for all to see. For a moment, I wondered if the other moms thought that as a fitness instructor with sixteen month olds that I should be more fit or toned by now. But, God lovingly revealed those thoughts to be lies from the enemy, so I sent them back to where they came from, Hell. Being present and active in my own life, and experiencing a first with the boys didn’t give me time to be consumed by body image issues.  Their joy (Andrew) and trepidation (Michael) forced me to get out of my head and live in the moment, and what an enjoyable moment it was. Well, except for the time when some kids accidentally sprayed water directly into our faces. But even that was kind of funny.

Lesson 2: I will capture the memories

I experienced horrible pregnancy acne with the boys. It was so bad I avoided having my picture taken and used as many filters as possible when it was unavoidable. I regret not taking more pictures to document my ever-expanding belly. God reminded me of that regret as the boys and I were getting ready to dry off.  I asked my dad to take a picture of us and trusted that in the years to come I would focus on our faces more than my thighs.

Lesson 3: I will step out in faith

I was shocked and confused when God first prompted me to share this photo. He knew about my promise and He knew the reasons behind it.  And yet, He nudged me to share it.  He gently told me to get over myself. That sharing the picture really wasn’t about me, but about giving other women permission—permission to get off the sidelines of life, to create memories and capture them without worrying about thigh gaps or giggly squishy bits, and permission to fearlessly be the women He has called us to be.  As uncomfortable as I was sharing this picture and the accompanying story, it was incredibly freeing to do so.  I love how faithful God is to use all things for the good of those who love and obey Him.  There is no greater reward than freedom through grace.

I pray that you will join me in doing and sharing some scary stuff to bless others with the relief of “Me too!” Use #lovebeyondlooks and #vevavida on social media to share your “Me too!” moments. If you want to win the bathing suit battle, check out our Bible study on body image: Love Beyond Looks.

What scary challenges have you faced lately?

How has God spoken to you?