beating the giant.

Welcome back for our final week in the Made to Crave study!
 
I hope you have been encouraged and/or challenged by all of the thoughts shared here over the last several Fridays as we endeavored to crave God, not food (alcohol, sex, shopping…)
 
My thanks to our guest-bloggers: Jenny, Leigh, EloraDominic, Heatherly and now Stephanie. I also want to thank Lysa TerKeurst, author of Made to Crave, for being willing to share what God taught her through her own journey of craving God more than anything. If you joined us later, or if you are doing the study on your own, they are re-airing the component webcasts over the next few weeks. Visit the website for the schedule and details.
 
It is my special honor to introduce to you Stephanie Dunham today. She was the winner of the Made to Crave give-away when I found a second book in my package from Proverbs 31. She had just shared with me some of her personal struggles the day before I announced the winner, so I was more than a little pleased when her name literally jumped out at me in the video announcement.
 
Stephanie was one of my first blog-friends. It was such a treat to be found by her when she discovered there was another blog by the same name in the blogosphere. (She has since changed the name of hers.) (Which I didn’t ask her to do.) (We both agreed we were fine having the same blog name.) (I didn’t even know she had changed it until a blog of a different name landed in my Inbox.) I loved Stephanie instantly. She is such a blessing - both encouraging and challenging, in the best of ways. I have tremendous respect for my sweet sister, Stephanie, and how she has overcome troublesome parts of her life. She is someone who really loves Jesus. (Like, really.) And it is pretty clear how much he loves her, too.
 
Also? I’m pretty sure her heart is made of gold.
 
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God expects me to do what? 5 smooth stones to beat the enemy standing on the other side?  This giant is way too tall.  And besides, everyone else had been defeated by the giant.  It was NOT the other way around.  Yet here I am sling and stone in hand and I am being called to slay that too-tall giant in one stroke.  Dear God, have mercy on my poor soul.  Yet, I cannot let him win.  I cannot bring glory to God by just standing here staring at the giant in disbelief.  With the tiniest bit of faith, I put one stone in my sling.  I wind up and let fly.  One small stone beat that giant for good.  Glory to God in the highest!
 
I am an addict, sugar is my drug.  Through almost my entire adult life I have struggled, in vain to beat this giant.  Time after time I have fought the battle and lost.  As a result, I am 110 lbs. overweight and hating every minute of it.  My body was reaching a pinnacle of pain and suffering this past fall that I knew was related to my sugar addiction.  Yet, I could not stop myself.  After Christmas, doubled over in pain, I knew something had to change, and fast.  God started surgery on my heart immediately, forcing the issue with me.  When Mary Kathryn put the extra book, Made to Crave, up as a prize on her blog, I prayed that the book would be mine.  I really needed some help with my addiction.  I needed to slay this giant once and for all.   
 
As I have made my way through this book, and denied myself sugar for the bast 8 weeks or so, I have felt my mind become clearer and more focused.  What seemed impossible, became possible.  Other giants in my life do not seem as big as they have in the past.  I think mainly this is because Lysa focuses on what matters most, the state of one’s heart towards God.  She spends the first 17 chapters convincing us that changing the heart attitudes about ourselves, God, and situations in our life will lead to victory over a food addiction (or any other kind of addiction for that matter).  I get the pleasure of reviewing the last 2 chapters.  These chapters celebrate the hard-won victory the other chapters push us towards.  
  
Chapter 18 Things lost, better things gained.
This chapter is about recognizing that some things cannot be picked back up once set down.  Lysa uses 1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” (NKJV)  Sugar has never been my friend, it has always been my master.  Satan used this to try to bind me to the darkness therefore rendering me ineffective, and God was not having any of that.  God desires for all of his children to effect change in their lives and to influence others to make changes through the example of a life lived righteously.  The choice has been made.  I may lose sugar for a lifetime, but I will have gained a firmer grasp on my identity and my destiny as a result of what I have lost.  This is definitely a better thing gained.
  
Chapter 19 Live as an overcomer
This chapter is about V-I-C-T-O-R-Y (can I get an AMEN?),  and the aftermath.  The warm glow of victory will eventually fade and real life will set in.  Satan will be back to tempt me again and again, hoping that I will fall.  All that I can say is that, thank God that he is my strength and my shield.  Thank God for repentance and forgiveness.  Thank God that the war is won already.  The biggest truth to take away from this chapter is that even though I may have to real life once again, my perspective, my emotions, and my mind have indeed changed for the better.  The next battle will be easier to fight.  I will be more aware of the Enemy’s attack because I have fought him with God’s help and I have learned his ways.  Living as an overcomer does not mean that I will never have to fight again, but it does mean that I do not have to live life defeated.   
 
Stephanie is a mom, an artist, a reluctant writer (according to her sister) a student, and a wife.  She is currently working through a Bachelor’s in Psychology and aspires to be a counselor after she finishes a Master’s program (which is yet to be determined).  Stephanie is dedicated to helping other’s overcome emotional and spiritual difficulties because the Lord has helped her to overcome so much.  
  
You may visit her blog, Beauty in it’s Time, here.
  
 
 
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As we close out this study, I would love to hear your final thoughts, or for you to share your experiences from it.
 
Feel free to share them below.
 
Thank you again for joining us.
 
 
 

demon chips.

CONGRATULATIONS to Lysa on Made to Crave being Number FIVE on this week’s New York Times bestseller list!

This week we studied Chapters 14-16 of Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst and guess what!? It’s my turn to write a post. Can you even believe it!? On my own blog! :)

One thing that I have especially noticed during the Made to Crave process is that I don’t know how to eat. Scratch that. I do know how to eat, and eat well. As in, eat healthily. I have been taught more than once by professionals how to eat in such a way that fuels my body for energy. Unfortunately, the knowing just hasn’t gotten stuck to the doing on a full-time basis. I go through phases when I eat responsibly. On the whole, though, I do one of two things: I either don’t eat very much throughout the day and eat big meals or I graze throughout the day, not really putting anything worth much nutritional value into my body. In other words, I eat a whole lotta nothing.

Chapter 14, Emotional Emptiness, could have resonated with me in the dad-department but I have done so much work in that area of my life, that it really didn’t ring true for me. Besides that, I’ve never really been an emotional eater. {An emotional drinker? Definitely. An emotional girlfriend? Yes. An emotional spender? Uh-huh. An emotional eater? Not so much.} As Lysa points out on page 138, ‘Everyone has hurts from their past’. I don’t eat to fill a need. I just like food. And I like good food. I come from a family who really loves food. Certain members of my family have been or were overweight most of their lives.

I can’t speak to why other members of my family struggle with their weight but, for myself, I can’t remember being taught to value my body. On a deeper level, I’m not sure I was ever taught that my body was worth valuing. That’s something I’ve had to learn on my own. My observation is that, passed down through one side of my family, is a generational curse of self-loathing. So, that has been the crux of my weight-battle: learning how to love myself – that I am worth loving. And then learning how to love myself better. In that way, I guess I have been an emotional eater – not in the way that I have tried to fill a void, but in the sense that what I have put in my body has been toxic because of my low sense of self-worth, and this certainly relates as much to my disease of alcoholism as it does an addiction to food.

I love Lysa’s prayer of “Unsettle me.” Oh, Lord…give me the courage to pray that prayer…I also really love using Philippians 4:8 as a way of life.

You can imagine that I especially appreciate her support of seeking professional help. Big fan of this. BIG fan. HUGE.

In Chapter 15, The Demon in the Chips Poster, yes -of course- I could relate. Hellooo, we think my sister just might be 98% mehican, so chips & salsa is par for the course in our family. Looove chips & salsa. I’ve never been able to say ‘ NO’ to them. {I don’t even think I’ve ever even thought about or considered saying ‘NO’ to them.} But, as Lysa points out, I have the power – not those blasted chips. And so do you. In fact, we have permission to tell the kind waiter not to even bring them to the table, did you know that? We sure do.

I can justify my way out of a box. For reals. I can justify anything. AN-Y-THING. But I’m struck with 1 Corinthians 10:23 & 24 

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

This I must consider when I am spending money, dating, even eating.

When Zella was a puppy, she would eat anything she could put her mouth on – shoes, lip gloss, remote controls, chewing gum, pencils, make-up brushes, candy, chicken bones - seriously, everything. But not one of those things would have benefited her body. (In fact, none of those things did, and we both paid a price when I couldn’t get a hold of her fast enough.) Yes, it was important for me to teach her that those things weren’t good for her by taking them from her and scolding her when she disobeyed. It was also important I remove those things that tempted her from her reach until she understood.

Don’t you know, as an alcoholic (and an overeater, overspender, etc), I understand Zella’s temptation? I want what I want when I want it and I want it NOW. Something comes over me and I can’t be stopped. But when I am in Christ, the same power I have over my dog, I have over myself. I don’t hang out in bars because there’s no point in a recovering alcoholic hanging out in bars. Can I? Yes. But I get bored quickly. And antsy. And even after managing to string together over four years of One Day at a Time’s, I don’t know when being in a bar at just the right (ie, wrong) time would throw me off the wagon. So, it’s just not where I choose to hang out. (Plus, I’m kind of just too old & too busy anymore for that mess.)

In the same way, why would someone who is addicted to food frequent their favorite Greasy Spoon if it means they know they will come out of there regretting their menu choices? The same principle applies to one addicted to alcohol as it does to one addicted to food. It’s important to respect your addiction, whether it’s to food or alcohol or spending money or sex or whatever your vice. As Lysa aptly says, ‘Boundaries keep us safe, not restricted.’

I could really relate to Lysa explaining in Chapter 16,

…I’m not on a diet. I’m on a journey with Jesus to learn the fine art of self-discipline for the purpose of holiness. (page 158)

Ultimately, this is all about learning to crave God more than food. To accept and learn and change our way of thinking that we are made for God and not food (strong drink, careless sex, going into debt) and submitting it all to His authority. We do not belong to ourselves, do we? Not one bit.

{Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. -Romans 12:1-5 (niv)}

As Paul points out in his letter to the Romans and to the church in Corinth in the verse above, it is not just for ourselves that we must offer ourselves as living sacrifices in worship to God, but also for the benefit of the entire Body of Christ. That is the lasting benefit of it all, that we would ultimately submit our temples to Christ -where He lives, by the way- for His use to His own body.

It all starts from within, doesn’t it? That we would partner with God to do the work from the inside out so that we would know who He is and who we are in Him so that others would come to know Him.

Because, in the end, just as in all things, it is all about Him.

Read Psalm 139.

And then read it again.

Out loud.

Love you guys.

Next week is our final week in the Made to Crave study, so read chapters 17-19.

I’m very excited about next week’s guest-blogger!

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AND ANNOUNCING THE WINNER OF THE KIND CAMPAIGN GIVEAWAY…

Heatherly Sylvia

Het, send me your addy and I will mail your bracelet to you!

joy in my skinny jeans.

Only two weeks left of our book study, Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst, president of Proverbs 31 Ministries.

I’ve withheld my commentary because I may or may not be one of the final posts, but can I just say? This has not been easy! I keep chanting, ‘I am made for more, I am made for God. I am made for more, I am made for…’ but it definitely hasn’t fully caught on.

Just had to confess that.

Anyone else having trouble? No? Just me? AWESOME.

As serendipity would have it, my friend Heatherly is our guest-blogger for the day. I don’t think I’ve told her this, but I knew I wanted to be Het’s friend as soon as she sat down right next to me in our Speaker Evaluation group on the first night of She Speaks. I love her heart and her spunk and, although we didn’t get to spend a lot of time getting to know each other that weekend, we have become great friends thanks to the Internets. See? Meant to be. She is a dear, beautiful, kind soul and it is indeed the honor I knew it would be to be called her friend.

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When MK asked me if I would be interested in guest blogging for her Made to Crave study, I jumped at the opportunity. When she assigned me the chapters for this week, I just about split my then too-tight pants from laughing so very hard at my God’s sense of humor.

The titles of chapters 12 and 13?

“Skinny Jeans”

and

“Overindulgence.”

{snort}

Hopefully, you are also reading Made to Crave on your own or with some very supportive friends. If you are not, I don’t want to ruin the lessons that Lysa has for you in these chapters, but I’d love to share the things that God’s been working out in me.

1. Are you tying your happy to the wrong things?

Happiness comes from your surroundings and circumstances, sure, but do we want to be men and women who are dependent on good days or kind, compassionate people, or a full belly, or a full bank account?

{No. We don’t.}

We are capable, thanks to the fruit of the Spirit, which EVERY believer has, to CHOOSE JOY. To paraphrase Beth Moore, we need to engage the fruit. We already have the capacity for joy at all times, in all things.

In a favorite passage of mine {Philippians 4}, the Apostle Paul discusses this very thing:

“Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS. I will say it again rejoice!” (vs. 4, emphasis mine, although I don’t think Paul would disagree. Grin.)

Paul did not command us to be joy-filled only when our bills were paid, and our kids behaved, and our bellies were full, and our favorite jeans from 10 years ago fit. He said ALWAYS. Every day! All the time! No matter what! Later in that passage, he ties together joy and contentment.

At first it seems strange that an abundant life would start from contentment, but stick with me, because…

2. We were “Made for More,” not “made for more _____________.

When Jesus taught about bringing abundant life in John 10 {The NIV uses “life… to the full,” but I learned it in the King James, and I just love the verse in that translation.} He didn’t mean that He was guaranteeing health, wealth, or free Starbucks for life. He was speaking to our relationship with Him, the Good Shepherd.

We were not made for more coffee (ouch), books (double ouch), fashionable clothing, a large group of friends, chocolate, money, square footage in our homes, respect, fame….

We were Made {capital M} by a {capital C} Creator for His enjoyment and company.

We were Made to serve, to sing, to use our talents and giftedness, to pursue our God-planted dreams and desires

We were Made to love unabashedly,

to give grace abundantly,

to pursue Him passionately.

Darlings, if your made for more ___________ (coffee? books? square footage?) attitude of I “deserve this” is getting in the way of your Made for More relationship with your Creator…

It’s time to crave less of _________________ and pursue God more.

And Choose to be joyful. At. the. Same. Time.

And all God’s children say {ouch} and Amen.

The secret to choosing joy? It’s simple. Not easy, loves, but simple. A few verse down from Paul’s command to rejoice, in Philippians 4:8 (NIV), he says,

Finally, brothers and sisters,

whatever is true, whatever is noble,

whatever is right, whatever is pure,

whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—

if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—

think about such things.

Let’s not focus on the number on the scale, or the way our pants fit, or the balance in our bank account. Let’s focus on truth, and the Truth, on the excellent and the praiseworthy.

I’m praying for us all- that we’ll have the desire to run after Him with ABANDON!! the self-discipline to get our thinking in line with His, and the strength to Choose Joy. Every. Time.

Read Chapters 14-16 for next Friday’s discussion.

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Heatherly Lane Sylvia is a mom, wife, teacher, speaker, aspiring writer, and apprentice grace-giver. Her greatest desire is to live a life following after God with abandon, and she hopes to be a blessing to as many people as she can while she figures out exactly how to do that. Het is passionate, loud, addicted to books, and loves her friends, old and new. She adores the blogosphere and would love to “meet” you there. She’s also pretty sure that comments and tweets {and RT’s} are her love language. Check out her blog A Pinkdaisy Life or follow her on Twitter @Pinkdaisyjane

gentle journey.

If you are a first-time visitor here at Beauty for Ashes, or if you have joined us from the Made to Crave website, welcome! We’re so glad you’re here.

This week we covered Chapters 9-11 in Lysa TerKeurst’s New York Times Bestseller.

Next week we will cover Chapters 12-13.

It is my delight to introduce to you Dominic Eidson, the only guy who has admitted to joining our study. He has been such an encouragement, asking tough questions of us girls. I, for one, have been challenged by his insight. He’s someone I think you should know.

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When I first heard of “Made to Crave” – the book sounded like it would be a good read. I can clearly identify with it’s most basic premise, that we’re made to crave God.

Then when I first opened the book, I started wondering: What’s all this talk about food, and body image… and girl this and girl that. Did I end up in the wrong place?

You see, I’m the sole male representative in this group of ragamuffins. I also haven’t really struggled with overeating, or food cravings. My body does a good job of telling me when a particular food has worn out it’s welcome.

However, I’m just where God wanted me to be – right in the middle of a book that would challenge my thinking about all sorts of relevant topics, a book that applies just as well to guys as it does to girls.

So how does that work?

I struggle with growing closer to God. I suspect we all have this problem, guys and girls alike. At least everybody I’ve discussed the topic with has admitted that they too, have problems with this.

I don’t have any magical answers to how to resolve this struggle. For me the slow realization that indeed, I can’t make it through life on my own without relying on God for help in every aspect of my life, has been key. I often wonder if this is a lesson that’s only learned through God’s gratuitous use of clue-by-four’s. Sigh.

In the book, Lysa makes the following comment: “I wish I could give you a more definitive formula. Something … not so reliant on having to make a choice to listen to the Holy Spirit.”

That’s the whole point – force us to be reliant on Him instead of taking matters into our own hands.

What a disaster I become when I start to rely on myself, taking matters into my hands… thinking that I can do a better job than God when it comes to drive this ship through life. The truth is that I have to continually remind myself to seek God about whatever aspect(s) of my life, so that I actually do that – and don’t just end up adrift.

I know I’m being pretty hard on myself (or others who identify with what I wrote) – but I want you to realize something: In God there is not only power, there is mercy.

I think a lot of people fall into the trap of beating themselves up a lot. And while discipline isn’t bad (and often neccesary), I still think that we need to re-learn to give ourselves some grace.

Yes, I might be on a diet, or struggling with my walk with God. And when I fail, I feel ashamed and convicted. Instead of piling heaps of burning coal on my own head, I turn to God, and ask him for forgiveness and healing and go back to trying.

While God made everything on this planet, we are the only things made in his image. We are God’s handiwork, made in Christ Jesus to do good works.

So when you fail, take a deep breath, have some grace toward yourself and go back to trying.

It may make the journey easier.

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I love God, photography, people, being outdoors. God gave me strong opinions on a lot of things, and the voice to share them – and in the last years He has made my heart tender toward far too many people and their hurts. I hope that some day the stories I have to tell will help others learn the lessons I’ve learned… just with less pain. You can find him at his website: http://www.dominiceidson.com

Dominic & I both referenced a small community that was accidentally created between the guest bloggers featured during this series. Through email, we hold one another accountable and encourage each other while we study the book on our own. If you are interested in joining this community, please email me privately at mktyson(at)hotmail(dot)com.

embrace our suffering.

How’s everyone doing? You hanging in? Doing okay? I hope so. Are you watching the webcasts on Monday nights (that re-air three times on Tuesday)? I hope you are feeling encouraged in your spirit as we continue reading Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst together. It’s hard, isn’t it? It’s not just about our addiction to food anymore, is it? It’s so much more than that, no?

I was moved to tears when I read what my beautiful blog-friend Elora had to say upon reading Chapters 6-8 during our third week together.

I think you will be, too.

Good, healthy, freeing tears.

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Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat – I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how.” -Luke 9:23

When I signed up for this book study, I knew I was ready for a change. I have the poker chip from Recovery to prove it –stashed in my small pouch where I keep my eye drops and lip balm. I needed a place where I’d see it every day. I needed to remember the sense of desperation when I grabbed it for the first time.

There was absolutely no assumption that I’d just entered one of the most difficult and tender seasons of my life. I just wanted to be able to say no to cookies.

((But God…))

I’ve grown to love this phrase. It offers so much redemption – so much hope. I’m clinging to this notion because my “but God” lately has been more of a painful awakening.

You see, I started my church’s Recovery program because of my dependence on food. I knew it was an idol. I knew I sought comfort from it and I knew there were deep wounds in my past that only fed into lies I believed. I knew all these things. So I understand the feeling of shame mentioned in Made to Crave. I understand the disbelief of thinking, “I put FOOD before Christ??”

But what I didn’t expect was the other. The pain twisting itself around my soul so intricately I thought it part of me. For those of you not familiar with a step-program, the first step is realizing you are absolutely powerless over addictions and compulsive behavior and that your life has become unmanageable. I started Recovery and bought this book because of that fact. I assumed, going into this program, I had step one mastered. Slap an “A” or whatever next to that statement and let’s move on…

Or not.

Two weeks ago, following the leading of my sponsor, I was praying for God to reveal to me the areas of my life that had grown unmanageable – areas in which I had absolutely no control. For some reason, two very specific memories kept resurfacing – memories attached to food. Both were the cause of extreme hurt in my life. One nailed the coffin shut on my self-worth. For the longest time, I tossed these statements aside as “no big deal” and “not worth the pain” – but God was showing me otherwise. God was showing me it was not okay for my heart to experience such raw pain. Even more, He was letting me know that only He could take the pain away.

And so, I dealt with the realization of what this meant. Because if what was said to me wasn’t okay, then the insecurities resulting from the statement were not matched with reality. Read: I could fight those lies with Scripture. And win.

As soon as I realized this, other memories swept in from nowhere and knocked me off my feet. I saw a little girl, alone with people she knew and trusted.  I felt the sickening pull of manipulation.  I recognized the shame and I broke at the realization of hands and skin and darkness and eyes and confusion…AnnVoskamp says “memory jolts awake with trauma’s electricity” – and I find this to be true. It felt feels like someOne has come and ripped off the bandaid of a festering wound. I’ve tried staring at the blinking cursor until blasted words come to explain the terror, but there’s nothing. Only raw emotion. Only questions. Only tears and quiet nights spent fighting the fear and moments where I breathe through the red-hot anger.  And this, my friends, is where Jesus picked me up and hasn’t let me go.

It’s in this place I want to dwell.

Well…no. I don’t want to dwell here. I want to run away, actually. I want to crawl into a corner, hide my heart in my hands, and weep. I want to pull my hair out in frustration because where was my rescue when I needed it and I want to scream and yell and hit and cower and do anything to hide the pain I’m feeling inside.

In case I’ve lost you, this is where food comes back into the picture.

Last Monday, dealing with these memories left me weary. My bones were tired. I came home and in an attempt to rest before Recovery, set my alarm for an hour and fell asleep. After I woke up, I honestly can’t explain to you what happened simply because my brain detached itself from my emotions and I ate – anything I could get my hands on, I ate.

It was then it hit me.

I black out emotionally to stop the pricks of reason. I eat to numb the pain.

Realizing this was just as heartbreaking as dealing with the memories. This moment of clarity proved to be surprisingly beautiful. Every ounce of control I thought I possessed completely disappeared in the wake of His Spirit crushing me for refinement. And when you’re at the bottom of your rope, there’s nothing to do but let go and surrender. Life works so much better in His arms, anyway.

And so, I’ve given up control. At least I’m trying. These past few weeks leave my mind reeling with emotion and thoughts difficult for me to process. I know there are things still left hidden that will find the light of day and leave me breathless for rescue – but our Father is good [and so much better than cookies.] And one of the most important things I’ve realized is it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to mourn for the two-year-old girl, lost in herself and not able to process what’s happened. It’s okay to feel the anger of injustice.  It’s okay to not run from suffering – to even embrace it – as long as we’re leaning into the One who can heal those wounds.

In the book, Lysa says and might I dare add, growing closer to God has a whole lot less to do with any action we might take and a whole lot more to do with positioning our hearts towards His.

We can’t get to this position without sacrifice – without humbling ourselves and allowing our hearts to bend before the throne. Many times, this humbling requires a stripping of what we feel necessary to our existence. For me, it’s the lure of food and the assumption that my self-worth is tied to my beauty and my beauty is tied to my weight. It’s the fear of everyone I love leaving me for something better – and it’s the lie that I won’t ever be enough. Laying these down – daily – is where the pruning takes place. How many times I’ve taken my Isaac off the altar, only to be sent back up the hill. It’s only in our weakness He’s made strong – and on days where the cupboards call my name because the pain is too great, I lean into my Father – the only One who truly knows what really happened. After all, He was there holding me when my small eyes squeezed shut against the betrayal, just as He’s here now, holding me just as tight and just as lovingly as He would a little girl needing the strong and protective arms of her Father.

What areas of your life do you place before God that would be fit to surrender?

Are you running from your suffering or leaning into Jesus because of it?

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Read Chapters 9-11 next week.

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Elora lives in Austin, Texas with her chef husband, Russell, & surrogate son, Devonte. She loves words, orphans, coffee, books, Africa, hip-hop and hope. She believes in playing in the pain, breathing in grace and leaning into Jesus. http://www.eloranicole.com

cupcakes & roadkill.

Welcome to Week Two of my first-ever book study. From now until the end of February, we will be studying Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst, President of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Every Friday during our study, a different participant in the study will be featured as a guest writer, highlighting the chapters we studied during the week.

Leigh Kramer is our guest-blogger this week. You may remember that Leigh was the inspiration behind my Birthday Bucket List. From the moment we ‘met’ in the blog-world, it was made plain that Leigh is an encourager and a cheerleader, full of compassion and support. It has been such a pleasure getting to know her through her blog and my own, as she leaves such thoughtful comments.

I look forward to the day I get to sit on a couch with her drinking one cup of tea after another and solving all the world’s problems.

I know you will appreciate Leigh’s heart as you read her reflections about Chapters 3-5.

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My friend Jason likes to say that the second thing I ever told him was, “I like to eat.”  I’m sure it was more likely the tenth thing I ever said. Jason does like to exaggerate, after all.

On the other hand, I tend to rhapsodize about food.  Cupcakes become life-changing experiences. Soup, hearty fare that it is, is declared as good for the soul. A meal is hailed as the best thing you’ll ever eat. I don’t just like to eat, I relish it.

I sit here today and wonder where this relationship with food began and why I’m unwilling to change my habits.

I’m not that overweight, you see.  Most people meeting me would never guess that I’m carrying about 10 more pounds than I’d like.  I’ve learned the art of camouflage and, since I’m single, I’m the only one that knows what lies underneath.  Since food derives such pleasure for me, I’ve had a hard time recognizing that I need to change.

I gained the freshman 15 and what I like to call the sophomore 20 in college.  I was a waif in high school and had never paid attention to my eating habits before- yes, I was the kind of girl I love to hate now! Without my parents around to make me eat my vegetables, coupled with cafeteria food that was actually tasty, plus a dose of late-night parties on the weekend, I suddenly found myself buying jeans a couple of sizes larger than I was used to.  Shortly before a spring break trip to Florida, I put myself on a diet and by the time I returned for junior year, I had lost most of the weight.

If only I’d been motivated by more than my flabby stomach.  I’ve become an emotional eater throughout the years.  A tough day at work is rewarded with chocolate or a glass of wine.  A bowl of mac and cheese becomes a plate of mac and cheese.  There’s the time I ate almost a whole gallon of ice cream…by myself.

I realized last fall that I have a habit of eating one or two desserts a day.  Every day. I find it strange if I haven’t had some sugary treat.  When I realized I felt that way, I recognized that it was not healthy.  I started to wonder whether I could give up desserts for awhile.  Not if I should, but if I could.

In chapters 3-5 of Made to Crave, Lysa talks about making a plan, finding accountability, and examining your motivation.  It’s about setting ourselves up for success instead of failure.

I know I need to press the reset button on my eating habits.  To that end, I have resolved not to eat any dessert during February.  It won’t be easy but I want dessert to be transformed back into a rare treat, not a daily extravagance. From there, I hope to look at some of my other food vices.  One category at a time for me!

Now that the month is drawing nearer, I find myself panicking.  What if I’m having a rough day?  Surely a cupcake isn’t that big of a deal!  What if someone brings cookies to Bible study?  I wouldn’t want to be rude and not sample one. The trouble is, there will always be some reason not to make a change.

An old friend from high school gave up desserts almost a year ago and has been giving me her tips and suggestions.  Another friend has to cut some things out of her diet and we’ll be cheering each other on.  It helps to have someone walking the same path with you.

I’m also amassing an arsenal of verses and phrases for the tough moments.  Giving up dessert is not just about me and my extra ten pounds. It’s about figuring out why I turn to dessert (or crackers or pretzels…) instead of turning to God when I’m having a stressful or emotional moment.  It’s about craving God more than I crave “life-changing” cupcakes.

I think I will always relish food because I love to cook and entertain. I don’t think that’s a bad thing either. I do know that I can’t go on elevating my comfort foods above God’s grace.

One of the most helpful retreats I’ve ever attended talked about how we sometimes hold on to our sin when we should be living in victory.  The speaker likened this to eschewing a stuffed animal for  maggot-laden, diseased roadkill. We choose the roadkill and tell ourselves how soft and cuddly it is, make excuses for the smell and so on. We forgo God’s gifts by choosing something less. Whenever we are tempted to do this, the speaker encouraged us to say, “dead to that.”  Dead to that way of living or speaking or feeling.

When I’m struggling with my Death to Dessert month, I’m choosing to say “dead to that.”  I believe that victory is mine. It’s my turn to follow through.  The more I say it, the more I pray it will sink in.  I’m praying that God will grant me insights about my food habits and that He will draw me closer to Him in the process.

Do you have a close friend with whom you can walk this journey?

Would you mind sharing your plan with us that someone else might be inspired?

Perhaps more importantly, how are your hearts this week? How can we best pray for you?

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Join our study!

Next week, we will read Chapters 6-8.

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In May 2010 Leigh intentionally uprooted her life in the Chicago suburbs by moving to Nashville in an effort to live more dependently on God. Now working as a pediatric social worker, she writes about life in the South, what God has been teaching her, and her ongoing quest for the perfect fried pickle. Rest assured, Leigh has no self-control problems when it comes to fried pickles. You can follow her adventures on Twitter @HopefulLeigh and her blog: http://www.HopefulLeigh.blogspot.com

keeping the cat alive.

I am so excited! This is the first post in my first-ever blog-book study. From now until the end of February, we will be studying Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst, President of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Every Friday during our study, a different participant in the study will be featured as a guest writer, highlighting the chapters we studied during the week.

This week, we read the Introduction-Chapter 2 and my friend Jenny Calles is our featured guest-blogger.

 

 

Jenny was one of my first friends when I moved to Greenville three years ago and she has been a precious soul sister to me. Hers was the couch I slept on when my heart was broken that same fall by that jackass. She has one of the most beautiful hearts one could have the privilege of knowing. Also? She is stinking hilarious without even meaning to be. You’ll love her.

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I’ve had a weight problem for as long as I can remember.  In fact, I think I was born a size 14 and just went up from there.  Ha!  Actually, as a young child I was average size (not thin, not fat) and I even remember being told by one of my grandparents when I was young that I “didn’t eat enough to keep a cat alive.”  Yet now as I look at my reflection in the mirror at the overweight person looking back at me, I get disgusted at myself for not having the will to fix it.

And believe me, I’ve tried to fix it.  I think I’ve been on every diet imaginable, taken diet pills, and even tried starving myself once which incidentally only lasted about twelve hours at which point I recovered by going to McDonald’s for a Big Mac value meal.  Gah.  And the problem with all these diets and pills and plans is that the root of my eating has nothing to do with not feeling full.  I don’t eat because I’m nervous or upset…well, maybe I do…but that’s not really the bottom line.  See, I eat because…well, I like food.  I know full well how to lose weight – I’ve done it enough times – but apparently I am an expert at how to gain all of the weight back.

So when I opened Lysa’s book Made to Crave, I was elated to read this on the first page:

It’s not the “how to” I’m missing.  It’s the “want to”…

Finally!!!  A book about weight loss that addresses MY problem!  So maybe she will tell me the magic trick to losing weight because I know “how,” I just don’t want to have to do the “how.”  The “how” is hard and quite frankly seems totally unfair that some women can just eat whatever they want and not gain a pound while I probably am gaining weight right this second by breathing in air.

So I read on, but was a bit surprised by what I found:

We were made to crave – long for, want greatly, desire eagerly, and beg for – God.  Only God.  But Satan wants to do everything possible to replace our craving for God with something else.

Whoa.  Now that made me stop and think.  Is that what’s going on here?  Have I allowed food to hold a place in my life that belongs to God?  That can’t be possible.  I mean it’s not like I haven’t spent hours and hours in prayer to God about this.  It’s not like God and I haven’t gone nine rounds about my inability to lose weight.  It’s not like I haven’t tried and tried to give this thing to Him over and over only to be defeated yet again.  And then reading toward the end of the second chapter where  Lysa talks about using cravings as a prompt to pray, I almost took this book and flung it but then I read her words from one of her numerous prayers:

…I’m going to have a handful of almonds and brick by brick…prayer by prayer…lay a path for victory.

And suddenly I realized that in all my prayers, I’ve spent more time agonizing over what I can’t have, mad at God for not changing this ugly thing in me, frustrated that I can’t be like Miss So-and-So Skinnybritches.  I most certainly have not been laying a path for victory.  I’ve mostly just been wallowing in defeat.  I’ve been obsessed by what I can’t have, can’t do, and can’t be rather than overjoyed by what I can have, what He can do, and who I am in Him.  Wow.  I’m feeling a bit giddy to think that a light bulb has finally come on for me and I can’t wait to continue reading.

Oh, Lord that You would be my only obsession, the one thing I crave.

How about you?  Have you been laying a path for victory?

Homework: Read Chapters 3-5 next week.

Jenny is the wife of a Panamian public service officer/ex-Marine, mother of two real handsome boys, and lover of Jesus.  Her heart is to share with others the love she has found in Christ as she follows Him.  She loves to read, loves music, and loves a good cup of coffee. She also sings beautifully and can play well any instrument that’s placed in her hand.
P.S. MK may have added some descriptives to the Jenny’s modest bio.
MK’s sidenote: Jenny is also deeply passionate about and heartily committed to studying the word of God. Like, picking it apart and knowing the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German and Spanish version of everything the Bible has to say. I’ve never seen anything like it. She’s amazing. Her blog is Covered in His Dust.

gratitude attitude.

would y’all pray for my friend kim? her dad was rushed to the hospital today.

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i had a great conversation this morning with someone i respect and whom i believe also respects me. in fact, i know she does. we were talking about attitudes; attitudes of entitlement, those of self-pity, and the most important one: an attitude of gratitude.

i don’t think gratitude is something that can be taught, except by example. reminding someone to say ‘thank you’ doesn’t mean that person will truly become thankful. telling a group to show greater appreciation to those that serve them only has the potential to make those folks feel small and placated. either you have a grateful heart or you do not. i think you can get one if you don’t presently live this way, but it takes the great spiritual discipline of ‘fake it til you make it’ until it seeps in to your system as a way of thinking, a way of life.

according to webster, gratitude is the state of being grateful : thankfulness

i can’t think of anyone who lived in a greater state of gratefulness than my granddad. always, always, ‘thank you, jesus.’ can’t sleep? ‘thank you, jesus.’ car ran out of gas? ‘hallelujah, lord.’ missed a flight? ‘praise you, father.’ ‘granddaddy, i need some money.’ ‘oh, bless you, lord.’

i have hoped that i would be that grateful, that my natural inclination in all things would be, ‘thank you, lord.’ truth: as it is, i have to remember to say, ‘thank you’ to the teller at the bank. or to the cashier at the grocery store. or to the person holding the door for me. truth: i love hearing ‘you’re welcome’ as much i appreciate ‘thank you’. i think ‘you’re welcome’ bears its own significant weight (even more than ‘no worries’ or ‘no problem’).

but his was a gratitude that was so much deeper than just good manners. it was, simply, a state of being grateful.

i would think it would be weird to toot your own gratitude horn (like talking about how humble you are), so i just want to issue a rhetorical challenge to ask and allow god to give us each a more grateful heart.

 
{let the message of christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the spirit, singing to god with gratitude in your hearts. -col 3:16 (niv)}

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made to crave update: between now and the end of february, beauty for ashes is hosting a book study for made to crave by lysa terkeurst. a different blogger will be featured every friday to offer their thoughts and personal experience from that week’s chapters and will begin the discussion. if you are interested in contributing as a guest-blogger as we study this book, please let me know! this week we are reading the introduction – chapter two (and will continue reading three chapters a week). join us for the discussion, starting this friday. for those going the extra mile, lysa is hosting a webinar for the next six weeks starting tonight. i hope it remains available for about 24-hours. as it is, i have my own very important standing forum that meets on my facebook page on monday nights…

#29 & winner of made to crave.

the video camera on my mac is, for some reason, disabled, which is why every vlog i’ve done has been by a different camera in different locations (including this one). i’ll get it together one of these days. so this video is honestly a hot mess but it gets the job done. it looks like my bed is unmade. (i didn’t realize i had a sweatshirt sitting up there, or maybe i thought it wouldn’t be seen.) also, the drawer you see is what you think it is: my stockings drawer. i pulled the drawer out to set my sister’s little camera on top of it. the little motion above my head is, that’s right…my zella girl. and, in the middle, my sinuses attack.

also, i need a script.

it’s  pretty awesome.

i am for hire, folks.

congratulations to the winner! i would have been glad for anyone to have won, but i am so, so happy this person did. she knows why. :)

to the rest of you who expressed interest in participating in the study, go on and get a hold of the book. i’ll send you an email this weekend of how it will work. it will come from mktyson(at)hotmail(dot)com, so be on the look-out for it. if you didn’t sign up via comments, then by all means let me know, either by commenting now or shooting me an email at the same address.

love you guys!

have a great weekend!

xo

made to crave.

after replying something along the lines of ‘yes, please!’ i was randomly selected to host a study of lysa terkeurst‘s new book made to crave on my blog. over the weekend, i received in the mail two copies of the book – one for me and one to give to a friend. at first i thought i would give the second copy to my sister. after all, we live down the road from each other and we see each other all the time. we share most dinners together.

and then i thought…we live down the road from each other and we see each other all the time. we share most dinners together.

maybe i need to BRANCH OUT.

so i decided to give it to someone else instead.

what i love most about made to crave is that it’s not a diet book. nor is it a ‘live-it’ book. yes, of course it is about losing weight. (i think.) but it’s about so much more than that. i’ve only read the introduction, but it is very clear that in it i will learn more about what my soul is truly craving when i think my body is craving something like…oh, i don’t know…DORITOS or, my biggest weakness, french fries. and ice cream. in made to crave, lysa also teaches us how she came to understand and experience that god alone can truly satisfy such cravings.

i, for one, am a little tired of living in a fat temple. (i honestly don’t even know how many times i’ve said that but haven’t stayed committed to the process of doing anything about it.) it’s not like anyone would even necessarily look at me and call me ‘fat’. (or perhaps they would, i don’t know.)

(i have this tendency to think of myself as being skinny until i see myself in pictures.)

(and then, even if the picture was taken yesterday, i think ‘oh, surely i’ve lost weight since then.’)

(yes, i’m totally delusional.)

anyway, it’s more about making healthy lifestyle choices. loving myself and respecting my body as a temple where the holy spirit dwells and, therefore, treating it as such.

other reasons why i think this book is different than most programs? because of the five admissions lysa makes on the second page of the introduction (parenthetical notations are mine).

1. i am emotionally allergic to typical books on healthy eating.

2. not once in my life have i ever craved a carrot stick.

3. i am not bouncy perky about giving up two of the greatest delights of my taste buds – cheez-its and box-mix brownies. (and then she compares cheez-its to carrot sticks in that they are both orange and so why can’t she eat the cheez-its instead of the carrot sticks.)

4. i wasn’t sure i had any business writing a book like this. (because she was tired of just looking at the scale and eating healthy for the sake of being healthy.)

5. i started this journey weighing 167 pounds.

don’t you love her candor? personally, i am not sure how many folks would consider 167 pounds as ‘overweight’ but i’ve hugged lysa’s neck and seen her up-close-and-personal and, y’all, she’s not big as a minute. that is, she’s not a woman of great physical stature (i don’t think she’s much taller than i am, actually), and anyone who is classified as ‘cute’ (because, let’s face it, a woman at 5’10″ isn’t ‘cute’ the way that a woman who is, say…5’1 3/4″…which is just a random number i pulled out of my hat…) is probably at an unhealthy weight if they are, say, past 130 lbs. my point is: 167 probably did look and feel like a lot of weight on her tiny body. just like my own weight doesn’t sound like a lot to most by number but makes a significant difference on the distortion of my size if my healthy weight is actually 10-15 pounds less than i am now. in other words, 5 pounds makes a big difference on a small person.

my even bigger point is this: i know there are a lot of women out there (and i’m sure a lot of you men, too, but i don’t know if this is normal fodder for your conversations) who struggle with their self-image – not to mention, self-control. and whether you are 20 or 200 pounds overweight, i have a feeling this book will address that central issue for all of us -our cravings and how we choose to satisfy them- and help us move past it in freedom.

i might also submit that there are plenty of you who don’t gain weight no matter how much you eat, so it’s easy to make unhealthy choices without thinking about your body.

i might also submit that, though this book is specific to healthy living, i am confident it will speak to anyone who substitutes ____ in lieu of more of god in their lives.

in other words, i think this book probably is for a bigger audience than just those who hope to lose weight.

i am excited to read lysa’s new book and i want to invite y’all to read it with me. you can order it online here or here. OR…YOU CAN WIN IT RIGHT HERE! leave a comment on this post sometime this week, leave a message on the beauty for ashes fan page, or tweet about it using the shortlink and i’ll throw your name in my jar for each entry you make! (be sure to come back here and tell me you’ve tweeted about it in case i miss it somehow.)

i’ll announce the winner friday morning so i can mail it off to you that day (or bring it to you, as was the case with my friend jennhem who won the christmas giveaway).

i might request this time, though, that the winner actually live in the usa. (sorry, quinie. or anyone else who lives in MALAYSIA.)

the reason why is because i would like to actually dialogue with you about the book, be partners as we study together. (which is why it would be difficult to partner together if the book won’t even get to you in less than 30 days.) we can even do it over email, which is probably the best way – or even skype! that would be cool, no? {the truth is, i HATE talking on the phone. as in, i have an allergy to it. like, i BREAK OUT IN HIVES when my phone rings. okay, that’s not true. but it is true that i don’t really like the phone.} you don’t have to win the book in order to participate in the discussion. if you plan to get the book or are doing this study on your own but would appreciate the accountability, let me know and we’ll include you on the discussion. i would really love that. the more, the merrier!

the only catch is this: if we’re going to do this, you and me, i hope that the winner would be willing to share part of this journey from time-to-time here in this space? i won’t ask you to share your weight in number here, and you won’t have to share weekly (or even monthly). but my hope is that as you and i both have special revelation or especially significant thoughts along the way, we both might be willing to offer them as hope for the others?

selfishly, this is about me, too. i need the accountability. so, think about it and let me know before you respond.

because i’d hate to have to hunt you down and MAKE YOU DO THIS WITH ME.

xo

p.s. the only free thing i’ve received out of this is 2 copies of made to crave in exchange for talking about it a few times on my blog as i actually study the book. (to be honest with you, i had actually overlooked the email which stated i had been selected to win copies of the book.) being a part of her blog discussion groups isn’t an invitation into her inner-circle, doesn’t win me extra credit and, in fact, doesn’t boost me in any way at all. (except that i might have a deeper spirit and a hot body in the end.) i made a comment in one of her posts because craving god more than anything else, and becoming free by way of healthy living, is truly my heart’s desire. i made a comment in one of her posts because i intended to follow through with her request. if you’ve been here long enough, you know that i can only be honest about what i learn from the book (or anything). i hope you’ll join me. xo

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