“….Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”Hebrews 12:1
I have been a Sunday School teacher for almost 25 years, minus a few breaks. I have taught all different ages, from toddlers to teens and everything in between. It’s definitely been a learning curve and I am thankful for parents and pastors who have allowed me the opportunity. I have had some incredible moments, such as when one young man convinced others in our class to be baptized, resulting in three of my class being baptized in Jesus’ name! I also have had some epic fails; the Flying Marshmallows of 2014 tops that list!
You might ask, what do flying marshmallows have to do with teaching children about Jesus? I’ll be honest, I don’t even remember what truth I was trying to illustrate with that activity! The memory causes me to wince and I still shudder internally if I see marshmallows in a Sunday School room. The gist of the activity was that the kids were divided into two teams, each with a pile of marshmallows. They were given two minutes, throwing marshmallows across an imaginary line toward the other team, and when time was up whichever team had the least amount of marshmallows on their side of the line won! Sounds like fun, right, and what eight-year-old wouldn’t love to throw marshmallows in Sunday School? It was fun, until I realized that two minutes resulted in a 45-minute cleanup for me and my teenaged son, who was drafted to scrape marshmallow residue off the floor!
The original activity called for the use of ping pong balls, but in my “better judgement” I thought that marshmallows would be safer and a good use of the stale ones left over from a bonfire. I didn’t account for a bunch of elementary children running like chickens being chased by a fox, leaving squished marshmallow goo all over the floor. Since kids tend to wear shoes to Sunday School, it also meant the sticky residue was being tramped through the sanctuary as they left church! Obviously, I didn’t plan for all the potential pitfalls of substituting marshmallows for ping pong balls!
When I told Terry about what happened, he looked at me in disbelief! You need to understand that in our marriage, I am the idea person and he is the detail person. I come up with grandiose plans, share my vision with him, and then leave him to figure out the details and make it happen! He quietly admonished me with these words “Honey, next time you get an idea to adapt a game in Sunday School, please run it by me. I might be able to see some possible problems.”
Knowing my tendency not to focus on details, when God convicted me to start this healthy living journey and to deal with my food addiction, I knew that I had to be more focused in this area. In order to grow and change lifelong habits, I needed to set some goals, find ways to keep track of my goals and be introspective on the journey. Starting off, I needed to set small, achievable goals, be honest with my heart in the process, and make sure that I was focused on pleasing God and not others.
I am going to share with you some strategies that have worked well for me. These are specific strategies that I have applied to my journey, but if you are trying to break a food addiction, or any other habit that you need to change, these are general truths that can be applied in any area. My prayer is that this list is a blessing to you, and also an encouragement for you to start your own journey.
1. START TODAY BY STARTING SMALL: I shared in an earlier blog that I felt prompted from the Lord one morning to make some changes. I didn’t change everything at once. The first thing I did was download a tracking app to record what I was currently eating. I also set a small goal on the app. My first goal was to lose 25 lbs. Slowly, but consistently, I incorporated healthier options into my daily menus by increasing vegetables and fruits, choosing healthier fats and reducing simple carbohydrates. For example, I used to eat bagels dripping with melted butter for breakfast. When I realized that bagels were loaded with calories that provided little nutritional value, it was easy for me to swap them out for scrambled eggs or oatmeal.
2. MOVE AND KEEP MOVING: In the beginning, I was extremely out of shape. I started by just moving a little more each day in my home. I stopped using my downstairs bathroom, instead choosing to climb the stairs to the master bath on the second floor. I stopped looking for a close parking spot, but chose to walk from the back of the lot. Within a few months, I joined the gym. My first attempt on the treadmill might seem pitiful to some, but I was happy with my ten minutes at 2.5 miles per hour. I attempted to go at least three times a week and made it a priority in my schedule. As I continued to go, I increased my level of activity and even tried new machines. I now go 4-6 times a week for about an hour. Find a way to move and make it a priority!
3. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY, RECOGNIZE WHEN YOU’RE FULL AND SATISFIED: You cannot be as overweight as I was and be self-aware of your eating habits. I was used to stuffing myself and then some. I had to learn to listen to my body and stop before I was stuffed. This was a trial-and-error process where I still have room to grow. I have learned that certain foods fill me up more quickly. I have learned that if I choose to have dessert at a restaurant, I have a tendency to eat the whole dessert, so it is better for me to share the dessert with my husband or ask for a to-go box, right away.
5. PICK A PLAN THAT WORKS FOR YOU AND DON’T BE SANCTIMOUNIOUS ABOUT IT: Every one of us is created uniquely by God, with different likes and dislikes. It follows that each of us need to make an educated decision on what healthy plan we are going to incorporate for ourselves for the rest of our lives. Many overweight people have made the decision to have some sort of surgery to help them in their weight loss. Others have done a Keto diet or have gone gluten free. Personally, I have chosen to count calories through an app. Whatever decision you make, make sure it is a sustainable plan for the rest of YOUR life. I try to encourage others in their journey, listen to their choices, and not judge them for those choices.
6. BE HONEST: This has been the hardest strategy to employ. Some days I make poor choices despite my resolve to be healthy. I try not to live in condemnation, but confess my weakness to God, analyze why I made that choice, and resolve to do better the next time. For example, for a long time I was eating my whole meal or at least a large portion of it when I would go out to a favorite restaurant. I justified it by all sorts of erroneous thoughts: the leftovers would be wasted, and then I wasn’t being a good steward with my money. The truth was that I had little control when a large portion of food that I loved was set before me. Now, I try to plan ahead, bringing a small cooler bag for the leftovers, or just leaving the leftovers at the restaurant. I also try to cut the portion in half before I even start eating and focus on my conversation with my family and friends. Am I perfect in this area? No, but I’m honest with myself about my limitations and that I am still in need of God’s help!
7. CELEBRATE VICTORIES BY GIVING THE GLORY TO GOD: This is another toughprinciple where it is hard to be transparent. Last March or so, I made a Facebook post showing before-and-after pictures. I have to admit I read every comment and zealously clicked to see who of my social media world liked my post. And then I made room for the enemy of my soul to whisper words of criticism and doubt, creating pride and resentment. I started wondering why certain people didn’t “like” my post. I then started to wonder why certain people in my daily circle never made comments to me about my weight loss, or why they never complimented me on my new outfits. God has been dealing with me in this area. First of all, it may appear on the outside that I have a certain level of self-discipline. Yet, I am made of flesh with the same propensity for addictions as others. On a daily basis, I am asking God to make me more self-aware, so my victories in this journey are rooted in my relationship with God. When I am seeking attention and accolades for myself, it becomes less about God and more about me. There is nothing wrong with me sharing some victories, as long as I am pointing people back to the God who has strengthened me on this journey. Also, if I speculate why others are not complimenting me, I am judging them and focusing on myself. Now, when I post pictures, I have to be honest about my intentions.
Today’s intention is to be a source of encouragement and to point people back to God. I am in no way done with this journey. In the future, I will continue to blog about areas where I am growing and learning. It is a journey and not a destination. When I get discouraged, I am reminded of the words in Hebrews 12:1, “let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” The verse talks about laying aside every weight and sin that easily besets us. I am examining every area of my life and not only literally, but figuratively, laying aside weight that has controlled me in the past