Coming Forth as Gold

A few weeks ago, we were sitting in church, and our pastor made a statement that has stayed with me ever since. He said "God can use my problems to CHANGE ME." Sounds like such a simple statement, and yet, it really resonated with my soul and caused me to ruminate on it for a few weeks.

I've always dreaded the "problems" that I've had in my life, whether it was my perfectionism that caused me anxiety, my issues with food and weight, or my need to be liked by everyone. I've always viewed these problems as weaknesses, a thorn in my heel, and issues that I need to somehow manage in order to get by and live life as balanced as possible. I mean, don't we all try to do that? Pacify our problems so that they don't take over our lives? So we can still function normally, and at times even ignore that these problems exist? I've done this time and time again, and it has only resulted in anxiety, depression, emotional eating, and painful loneliness. 

But ever since our pastor made that simple comment above, that God can use our problems to change us, I've had an entirely different view of my problems. I've even viewed them as blessings; avenues that God has allowed me to take in order to change me from the inside out.  I just keep thinking of Job 23:10, (even though Job went through WAY more than I have), and how God has seen my problems, "tried" me, and that I will come forth as gold. 

You might think that is being a bit too positive, but hear me out. All my life, I've tried to stay quiet about my problems and my issues. I've hidden my struggles with food for the past 14 years. I've told people one thing, and I've done another. I've isolated myself in depression and loneliness over not being liked, not having friends, and just never being "enough." I've wallowed in self pity for years, and I can honestly say that in this past year, God has done SO much work on my heart, has tried me, has loved me...and is refining me to the point that one day, by His grace, I will come forth as gold. These negative thoughts about myself have been replaced with empowering ones, and I know that God is doing a work in my life. 

Being open about my struggles with food and weight have actually turned into a blessing. Honesty has allowed me to CHANGE my habits, overcome the binge-restrict cycle that I have followed since I was 13; and, the best part, it has allowed me to reach out to dozens of people that have experienced the same struggles I have. I have had the opportunity to pour into other peoples' lives, share my vulnerabilities, and be a support to them, just as I have received support from those around me. 

I really believe that the problems I have experienced are being used by God. He is using me to grow me and change me, and in the process, to help and encourage others. I am beyond blessed to be doing what I do and a dietitian and a health and fitness coach, and to have such a loving Father that would allow me to be used in this way. If I hadn't gone through what I have, I wouldn't be half as relatable to those I serve. 

There are days I still struggle, get depressed, fight anxiety, and eat emotionally. But, I know that God is refining and pruning me, and for that I am grateful. He never gives up on us! We can never mess up TOO much for Him. We can't "out-sin" His forgiveness and grace. God is in the business of showing us the grace and mercy that we do NOT deserve. His love is simply amazing. 

This is why, I will continue to view my problems as a means of God changing and refining me. Of His transformative power working in my life. All the hardships in my life are for a purpose, and God will use them to glorify Him! 

"That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10

Where are you found?

"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith..." Philippians 3:8-9

During one of my quiet times this week, these few verses got highlighted in my brain. I found myself asking myself, "where am I found?" over and over again throughout the week. It was a question that intrigued me, unsettled me, and caused me to rethink many aspects of my life and thoughts. Paul's words are cutting, convicting, and truly depict the biblical reality that the word of God is the sword of Spirit (Eph. 6:17). It makes us think and reevaluate the position we give Jesus in our lives. Paul makes his view very clear; he considers everything to be worthless compared to the value he places on knowing Christ, his Savior and Redeemer. Wow. Instead of just skimming past those verses, let them really sink in. Read them over again. Pray. Now read them one more time. 

I find myself being "found" in so many different parts of my life and grasping at anything and everything around me for identity, value, and peace. Whether it is being the best dietitian I can be, a loving new wifey, a worthy daughter, a selfless friend, and a "good Christian" (whatever that means), there are so many ways I can make myself feel that I am falling short as a person. I can measure and compare myself to others and find areas where I am not working hard enough, loving hard enough, or just plain BEING enough. But why am I finding my worth in these things? Why am I FOUND in these things? Paul sure wasn't. He was found in Christ through his faith, and calls us all to do the same. He calls us to count everything worthless compared to knowing Christ. 

Every time I've read these verses in the past, they've seemed so distant to vague. I often wish someone would just flat out give me a checklist of how to fulfill so many things that we are called to do in the Bible and the type of people we are created to be in Christ. I wonder what my life would look like if I were truly found in Christ the way Paul was, instead of my being found in my career, looks, health, wealth, and every other idol we as humans create for ourselves. 

After journaling and praying about these verses, I realized that being found in Christ, for ME, would mean that the loss of any of those above things wouldn't matter, because I would be found in Him, I would KNOW HIM, and that joy and satisfaction would surpass any other worldly achievement I reached. It would mean more to me than a pay raise, a pat on the back, or another pound lost on the scale. Those things wouldn't match up to the value and worth of knowing Jesus Christ more and more every day. 

And how do I go about knowing Jesus more intimately? By really and truly dedicating time in my day to spend with Him. And not only time, but dedicating my mind, body, spirit, and every sense to HIM. Yes, I have a daily quiet time, but to be honest, I often forget what I read in the Bible or which short devotional I skimmed through before rushing off to work. My brain gets bombarded by so many other worries, stresses, and even joys, that I often put that quiet time I spent with Jesus on the back burner instead of keeping it at the forefront of my mind all day long. I go through the actions, read, pray, but my mind wanders off to my to-do list, to my worries, and to all the things that I could be doing instead. But God doesn't deserve that. 

My prayer and desire is that God brings to my mind all the things that He has taught me. I pray that I can find a way to remember and cherish the glimmers and gifts that He bestows me with. I want things to STICK, you know what I mean? I want to learn and absorb and find myself not being able to get enough of Jesus.

Lord, help me desire YOU more than anything else. Help me to be FOUND IN YOU, and YOU alone, no matter what distractions come my way. When I feel overwhelemd, overworked, and like I am not enough, I pray that I find You in the midst of those thoughts. Help me refocus on You, and to remember who YOU say that I am and not who the world or even I am telling myself that I am. Strengthen my brain and mind to absorb and remember all You teach me, and to be truly present in my time with You. Help me believe your truths, and may everything else count as "rubbish" compared to the surpassing value and worth of knowing You, Jesus. Amen. 

Perseverance is HARD

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/a4a/46014533/files/2015/01/img_4934.png Today was a hard hard day. But I am so glad it's over, and that God helped me push through.

It all started with a wonderful quiet time this morning! All the passages I read had to do with following God when he calls (from Abram to the disciples) as well as the concept of perseverance and to just keep going. I started the day praying that God stays with me and knowing that with Him, I can persevere and make it through anything.

BOY was that tested today!! I got to work, and it was just one thing after another. One mistake, one problem, one unhappy client, one frustrating counseling session, just one negative and challenging thing after the next. I found out about a mistake I made last week, about which I became very sensitive. I hate making mistakes in any area of my life, even though I am pretty good at it (hey I'm human). It was still hard to get through. All I wanted to do is clock out, come home, cry it out, and give up on the day.

But I had also had this awesome quiet time with the Lord this morning all about persevering, pushing through, and following Him no matter where He takes me. I was torn. Do I wallow in my miserable day and give up? Or do I hold on to the promises God revealed to me this morning? I kept reminding myself of what God had taught me. To push through the day. Even when the day was pulling me down.

And before I knew it, it was time to clock out. I was able to leave. I finished up my day, and even left work with a smile on my face. And it was ALL God. All His work in my heart, and Him reminding me of who He is and that He is with me. I am so glad I didn't just throw in the towel and run away from the day.

Sometimes, we have no choice but to keep doing the things. And by "the things," I mean the everyday things we have to do no matter how we are feeling. Like going to work, doing your work, helping and loving others, having lunch, driving, etc. We have to be strong. And the only way to get through the tough times is through Christ and His strength.

I encourage you all to just keep pressing on. Even when it seems impossible. My day was rough, but I know it must be nothing compared to what some people are going through. Nothing at all. But I do know that God promises to be with us no matter what. Let us persevere through the good and bad times, knowing all along that God is with us and for us, guiding us the whole way.

Psalm 27

Psalm 27

A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation— so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? 2 When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. 3 Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident.

4 The one thing I ask of the Lord— the thing I seek most— is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. 5 For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. 6 Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music.

7 Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! 8 My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” 9 Do not turn your back on me. Do not reject your servant in anger. You have always been my helper. Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me, O God of my salvation! 10 Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.

11 Teach me how to live, O Lord. Lead me along the right path, for my enemies are waiting for me. 12 Do not let me fall into their hands. For they accuse me of things I’ve never done; with every breath they threaten me with violence. 13 Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.

14 Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

I have been reading this passage over and over for the past week. So many thoughts have been bouncing around in my head about it. Every time I read it, I gain new insight and understanding into what the psalmist (David) is trying to express. I love that about God's word, it is alive and active! Never gets boring and never stops being relevant. My fiancé mentioned this passage to me last week at a point where I was feeling pretty down about different things going on in life. Even though I have read this passage countless times growing up, it came alive to me this past week to a point where I could just not get enough. I began mediating on it and rereading different verses and began to see and understand more and more how God is always with us and how I should not live in fear. I thought I would try to write out my reflections on this passage in the hopes of organizing them in my mind, and maybe motivating some of you to read it as well! This passage was a great comfort to me, and I know it will be to anyone else who reads it as well!

The first part of the psalm immediately starts out by saying the Lord is our light and salvation. Light shows us the way to go, and the Lord does just that. He clarifies our way and decisions. All we need to do is go to Him and remain in His light. The verses go on to say that the Lord is our fortress and protects us, so why are we afraid? I am such an overthinker/worrier and am constantly afraid of some "what-if" that ends up not even happening. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of things in life that are perfectly legitimate things to be afraid of. But with the Lord at our side, we can stand in confidence (v. 3). It may feel like we are at war and that we are surrounded by constant attack, worry, hopelessness, or any other negative association with this world. But God is at our side, and we can remain confident in Him!

I love how David expresses how much he desires and longs to be with God. I want that longing for God and only God. In verse 4, he says that the ONE thing he asks for and seeks is to live in the house of the Lord and delight in Him. The more we know God, the more we will delight in Him, and the more we will WANT to know Him. I've realized that the best way to know God is to ask God to open up my heart to His presence and goodness, immerse myself in His word, and stay in constant communication with Him.

One of the most profound parts of this psalm for me was verses 7-8, where David says that his heart has heard God's call, and his heart responds back to God saying "Lord, I am coming." I love this. I realized that David's close relationship to God (he was, after all, known as a man "after God's own heart") made it possible for him to hear the Lord's calling, and for his heart to respond to his God. Our hearts can be so distracted and full of many other things in this world that we can hardly hear the soft call of God to come to Him, spend time with Him, and rest in His presence. I want there to be CLARITY in my heart. I want nothing to stand in the way of God's communication and call to my heart, so that when I hear it, I can respond as David did: Lord, I am coming! To me, this means not spending time or energy on anything that will draw me away from God, and cause me to fall father away from Him and His love. This also means trusting in God, going to Him in times of trouble, and believing that He is who He says He is, and He will be there and comfort me always, just as verse 9 says about how God has always been David's helper.

David also asks God to "teach him how to live" (verse 11). I realized that so many times, I am unwilling to learn new things, especially if they mean a disturbance in my everyday routine and life. David had a teachable heart. He constantly wanted to learn from the Lord and be willing to grow. This has become my prayer, that the Lord would grow me and strengthen me, and teach me how to live for His glory and purpose, not my own. David ends this psalm by saying he is confident he will see God's goodness in the land of the living. He is confident that God is good, all the time. He wants to wait patiently for the Lord, because His timing is perfect (hey, it's a cliche because it's TRUE). I love that he uses the words "brave" and "courageous." He calls us to be those two things, which means it actually is possible to be brave, courageous, and not live in fear. This goes right back to how he starts his psalm about not living in fear and not being afraid, because God is with us. Only the Lord can enable us to be brave and courageous, because He is our light, and will lead us to His goodness.

Oh, how I love the Word of God! The more you dig into the Word, the more alive it becomes. I pray that this desire never dies in my life, and I also pray that all of you can experience the joy of relationship with the Lord as well!

Trust me, I'm a Dietitian!

Hello everyone! Sorry for the silence lately. I have some hard news, as well as some good news to share. Isn't that funny how life works? God always strengthens us to go through the hard times and sometimes sprinkles some blessings right on top! He is so good and faithful in all circumstances. I don't know how I would have gotten through the month of November without His strength, peace, and comfort. On Sunday, November 24th, my sweet and beautiful aunt went to be with her savior Jesus Christ. It has been such a hard time for my family and I, but we have comfort in the fact that we will see her again!

photo 1

With that being said, it had been very difficult to study for my RD exam last month, especially while my family and I were going through this time of grieving and loss. I was so sad, could not focus, and just wanted to be with my Medzmama (grandma), aunts, uncles, and cousins. I had already scheduled my RD exam for Monday, December 2nd, but I had pretty much thrown in the towel on studying the few weeks leading up to it. I felt so "done" and did not even want to look at my review books anymore! After my aunt passed away and I was not able to study the week leading up to my exam, I had accepted the fact that I would use this test as a practice run and would do better on my second try. I didn't think I would pass, and was finally coming to terms with that fact.

SO! On Monday morning, December 2nd, I groggily woke up (having been sleep deprived for about a week) and got ready for my exam. I prayed and prayed that God would help me remember all the things I had learned, not just from studying for my exam, but from my undergraduate and graduate nutrition classes as well! Of course, I wanted to pass this exam, but did not see any glimmer of hope that this would actually happen. But, I prayed the whole way to the test center and finally sat down at my designated computer to take my exam. After a few computer glitches that I experienced (of course, this would happen to me!) I was finally able to start my exam. After about an hour, I saw this pop up on the screen...

photo 2

I almost fell out of my seat! I wanted to scream and jump up and down and hug each and every person in the testing room with me. I blinked, rubbed my sleepy eyes, and checked the screen again. And it STILL said congratulations! I could not believe it. I was finally an RD! I knew then and there that God had His hand on me the whole time and helped me remember and recall all the things I needed to pass my exam. He gave me focus, determination, and grace throughout the whole process. I thank Him and Him alone for helping me and strengthening me to pass this exam, because truthfully, it was against all the odds that I would pass!

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not naive enough to think that I answered all my questions incorrectly that morning, and God still happened to make the screen say "congratulations." I don't think God hands us things on silver platters, while we sit on the couch and put zero effort into the process. But, I do believe that God helped me remember all the things I had studied those months and weeks prior to my aunt's passing. I do believe He graced me with His peace and strength, while giving me calm and wisdom to get through each question on the exam. I am so thankful to Him because even throughout this difficult time in my life, He blessed me with this miracle!

I am officially a registered dietitian! And I still can't believe it! I have been waiting for this moment for almost 8 years and it has finally come. I can't wait to start my career as a dietitian and help as many people as I can. I thank God for helping me achieve this accomplishment, and I pray that I can use it all for HIS glory!

Arm Blasting Workout and Dining Out Tips!

I am finally going to share with you what I have been calling my "random" or "arm" workouts! I am seeing the doctor soon and canNOT wait to figure out what is causing all of this pain in my knees and hips! In the meantime, I have been trying to keep myself busy and active in the most pain-free way that I can. I also thought I'd share my meals on a day where I did not have the chance to cook all my foods and dined out instead! There are ways to eat healthy and still enjoy your meals while dining out! Read on to find out how! :) This morning, I woke up and started my day with Jesus! Everyone spends time with Jesus in a different way, but I feel that I am at my best in the mornings and want to begin the day with God before I do anything else. I spent some time reading and reflecting on 2 Corinthians 3-4 and wrote down some verses that stood out to me. I especially loved verses 17-18 in chapter 3 where Paul writes that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is FREEDOM! Which means we can be free from anything that is weighing us down once we accept Jesus and have his Holy Spirit living in us. Because wherever His Spirit is, there is freedom; freedom from habits, worry, guilt, shame, (ahem, text anxiety) or any other feelings or situations that have a hold on us. I just love the freedom that God always promises His children, and the peace that inevitably comes with that freedom!

photo 1

After my quiet time, I made some breakfast, which consisted of my usual scramble with kale, peppers, and a side of avocado. Yum!

photo 2

I studied for a little while after breakfast and then decided to do my short workout that I have been doing lately since I have been out of commission. This workout got my heart pumping and my arms burning! I finally jotted the exercises down today (picture below). I do each exercise for 1 minute and the whole list for 2 rounds, for a total of 20 minutes. The faster you do the moves, the more calories you burn. In just about 6-7 songs, this workout is accomplished!

photo 3

After I was done, I was drenched and out of breath! And produced a nice little calorie burn!

photo 3

After studying some more, I decided to take a break and get out of the house to walk around my local mall. I knew I wouldn't be having lunch until later, as I was meeting my cousin around 1:30. I decided to pack a small snack with me to eat at the mall. Even though I know the mall has food and I could have gotten a snack from there, I definitely didn't want to give in to the smells of sugary pretzels, salty popcorn, or sweet cinnamon rolls! I know my body pretty well, and knew I would get hungry at the mall. I always make sure I have a small snack with me at all times so I can have something to fall back on while I am out and there are limited healthy options! SO! I packed one of my gingerbread cake squares (recipe posted!) and some grapes.

photo 4

This was the PERFECT snack while I was walking around and enjoying all the Christmas decorations!

photo 1 (1)

After spending some time at the mall, I drove back home and studied some more (surprise, surprise). When it came time for lunch, I decided to walk down to the restaurant where I was meeting my cousin. I bundled up (yay for fall weather, FINALLY!) and took the short 10 minute stroll down to the restaurant.

photo 2 (1)

The restaurant we went to had a wide variety of foods ranging from salads, sandwiches, wraps, pastas, and grilled BBQ options. For lunch, I had a salad with a ton of yummy veggies and some tri-tip! I asked for the dressing of the salad on the side to regulate how much dressing I was using. This place usually brings their salads swimming in dressing, and I definitely didn't want that. The tri-tip portion was HUGE, so I could only stomach a few slices! This was a great meal that left me feeling comfortable and full. They brought out two breadsticks with my meal as well, but I didn't even feel like eating them. Protein with veggies is such a satiating and satisfying combination, which is why I usually stick to these options while eating out.

For dinner, my parents and I decided on Cheesecake Factory. I usually get the same old chicken lettuce wraps, salmon, or salads every time I go to Cheesecake, but this time I wanted something different. This is also a very important factor when going out. Try new things! This way you will have a variety of healthy options instead of feeling stuck with only one healthy dish per restaurant, which can get mundane. It is always possible to tweak meals and ask for special orders while going out! Your health is important, so don't be too shy to ask (politely of course)! :) My friend gave me the suggestion to try the turkey burger, so I got it lettuce wrapped with a side salad! It was DELICIOUS!

photo 4 (1)

Overall, this was a great day for healthy choices. I was able to get a short workout in even with my injuries. And I did not let eating out stop me from making healthy choices! To summarize my tips below:

*I have a healthy snack on hand while I am out, just in case hunger strikes...

*I have mostly protein and vegetables when dining out...

*I ask for sauces and dressings on the side, and...

*I am always up for experimenting and trying new things!

Boredom with food is such a sad place to be, especially if you are a foodie like me! That is why variety and FUN are so important when it comes to making healthy choices.

I hope you all have a wonderful night and get a chance to try the arm blasting workout!

Just keep walking, just keep walking...

Happy Tuesday everyone! I have been such a bad blogger lately, but I am determined to get back at it! One reason being I miss writing and it is such a stress relief for me during this crazy time of studying! And also because I want to try some new recipes soon and get back in the kitchen! It's been hard to cook lately since my schedule has been taken over by studying for my RD exam. But I'm hoping to get back to the cooking and baking soon!

Update on my hip/knee situation: Basically, all I have been doing for the past week is walking, walking, walking. My new shoes have been working out really well for me!

photo 2 (1)

I still have some aches and pains, so I am continuing my walk/stretch/ice regimen for a couple more weeks. I'm hoping to maybe be able to start running by December...Christmas present to myself?? Here's to hoping!

My days have been pretty routine lately. Basically, I have been waking up in the mornings, having my quiet time, then heading to the gym. This song has been in my head for days and days, and I have had it on repeat all morning! I highly recommend it :)

Yesterday morning, I woke up and made some banana peanut butter waffles. My dad had the day off, so I decided to make us some breakfast before heading to the gym!

photo 1 (1)

I walked for 30 minutes, then did the TIU shoulder routine (I've posted this before, it's great! Just look back a few posts for the video!)

I came back home, showered, and hit the books with studying for my RD (registered dietitian) exam. There is so much information I need to know, and I am feeling pretty overwhelmed! But I am studying the best I can and praying for focus! Around 11am (I know, early, right?) I made a quick lunch for my dad and I. I seasoned some canned in water tuna with some olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper, and garlic powder. It tasted great in our flat out bread! We also had a side of carrots with eggplant hummus (my favorite kind from Trader Joe's!)

photo 3 (1)


photo 4

After lunch, my dad and I headed to Peet's to have some tea and study/read. It was so nice having my dad to hang out with yesterday. I am usually home alone during the days studying and just keeping myself busy. It was such a blessing to have some company! I got the Masala Chai tea and munched on an apple later on in the afternoon. I knew I'd get hungry before dinner since we had lunch so early, so I planned ahead and brought a juicy and delicious apple!

photo 1 (2)  

I also had a small handful of nuts when we got home from the coffee shop. I was still feeling hungry and knew I wouldn't make it until dinner. 

photo 2 (2)  

I was contemplating just staying home for dinner so I could continue my studying, but my parents convinced me to get out and spend some time with my family, which I'm so glad I did! Life is all about balance, and I knew that I would just burn out if I continued studying through the night instead of getting out. We went out to one of my favorite restaurants, Pita Jungle! This place uses such fresh and healthy ingredients, and I can always count on their food tasting delicious. I got the broiled chicken pita wrap!

photo 3 (2)  

After dinner, I studied some more but could not keep my eyes open after 9pm! I know, grandma status. I finally decided to sleep around 9:30. I tend to listen to my body when it comes to sleep and not fight it, because if I do, I've found that I miss my window of opportunity for good sleep and end up staying up all night and being very restless!

So that was my day yesterday! I am hoping to do some baking and cooking soon and get back on here to share some recipes with you guys! I hope you all have a fabulous day! :)



Take My Thoughts Captive

Lately, I have been trying to be more intentional about my thoughts. My thought life is very jumpy and inconsistent. I tend to have full-faith about things one moment, then be crippled with anxiety and worry the next. I turn to the Lord during these times, but it is very difficult to keep my eyes and mind fixed on God when there are constant distractions and problems coming my way. Anyone else? I feel like life is always going to throw us waves, and I would love to just swim in the storms that come at me knowing the Lord is with me even in the turmoil. I think having this type of peace starts with have captive thoughts. I use this phrase a lot and it is often a staple in my prayers during times of worry, anxiety, or feelings of defeat. This concept of "captive thoughts" was first brought to my attention while reading 2 Corinthians 10. Verses 3-5 jumped out at me:

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

I've memorized this verse because it has become a constant companion for me in times of distress. I love the promise that God equips us with weapons to demolish our strongholds. Strongholds are anything that take us "captive" and consume us whether it is work, school, family, striving for good health, worry, anxiety, etc. Many of these things aren't bad by themselves (for example, being healthy is great! Having a good job to support your family is wonderful!) But, anything, even good things, can become a stronghold if they take the place of God is our lives. Psalm 18:2 states, "The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold" (emphasis mine). God is the only one that can secure us as our fortress, deliverer, rock, shield, and stronghold. But isn't it so like us humans to get swept up in our thoughts, problems, and lives that we turn these into our focus, our motivations for security, and essentially our strongholds? These thoughts, as 2 Corinthians states, can set themselves up against the knowledge of God. Thoughts like "if I have that job, car, dress, significant other, etc, my life will be so much better and complete" can often turn our motivations upside-down and cause us to focus on "worldly-things" instead of "God-things."

But! Thank the Lord He has equipped us with weapons to demolish these strongholds! We can tear down these "arguments" and "pretensions" in our heads that place worldly things before our relationship with God. When worries and anxieties come, which, let's face it, they inevitably will, we can turn to the Lord and ask Him to equip us with weapons that demolish these thoughts. We can put on the full armor of God. Ephesians 6:13-18 states,

"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people."

These verses seem pretty dense, but they are basically telling us to take up the armor that God freely gives us through His promises, forgiveness, grace, and WORD. The more we know about God, the more we can use these weapons against our destructive thoughts. And how do we know more about God? By taking the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" and becoming so familiar with who God is, what He promises, and what He has done for us, which is all recorded in His word!

Knowing more truths about God will help us focus on who HE is in times of anxiety and worry. When these times come, we can ask him to take all of our thoughts captive and make them obedient to HIM! God has equipped us with the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), and we can use this power. We can ask God for wisdom and believe that He will give it to us (James 1:5). Galatians 5:1 states, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." God set us free to be and live like we are a FREE people, not to still be captive to destructive and anxiety-driven thoughts.

However, we cannot have captive thoughts that are obedient to Christ without the help and power of the Holy Spirit. We must ASK God to help us in our thought-lives. We must acknowledge that the Lord's thoughts and ways are greater than any of our worries, problems, or even aspirations and dreams. Isaiah 55: 8-9 state: "“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." We have to trust that God has a better plan for us because His ways are higher than we can ever imagine! Trust me, this is SO hard for me. It is difficult to focus on what God is doing at times when things just seem so overwhelming you can't fathom how it will all work out for your good. But the Bible even has something to say about that :) Romans 8:28 states: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

I am trying so hard to be more intentional about what I think about. We simply have to believe what the Lord says. Believe that we can demolish strongholds by asking for the weapons that God has promised to us. Believe that we can ask God to take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. And lastly, believe that God will work all things together for our good! :)

Think About Such Things

"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." Philippians 4:8 (NIV) I have a confession to make. I struggle in my thought life. A LOT! I find it very easy to get down on myself, get stressed out, focus on all I have to do and all I am not doing, and just bask in all my worries. My mom shared this verse with me recently and, even though I am very familiar with it in the "memorize-in-Christian-elementary-school" type way, I had never truly reflected on it until now.

Most of the time, I want a practical, clear cut way to apply the verses of the Bible to my life. When someone says "trust the Lord with it!" and dismisses my thoughts, as if all my worries will disappear, I often want to know a practical, step-by-step approach to trusting the Lord, as well as what it actually looks like strategically to trust God. How is that lived out on a day-to-day basis? How does that look to those around me? These verses in Philippians seemed to finally answer these questions for me this morning.

Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy...THINK ABOUT SUCH THINGS! It's pretty clean cut, simple, and practical if you ask me. We have a lot more say about where our minds travel than we think we do. After all, why would Paul (through the power of the Holy Spirit) instruct, even command us to think about such things? That implies that we have some say in the matter, doesn't it?

I want to claim this God-given strength that I have over my thought life! I want God to take all of my thoughts captive and make them obedient to Him (2 Corinthians 10:5). But how does this actually work? Practically? :)

I believe that we flat out have to ask God to give us the strength to glorify Him with our thoughts. We can't do this alone. Our human mind is one scary place...or at least mine is! I know I can't focus on what is true, noble, pure, right, etc without His power working in me. In those moments when life gets tough and we are so quick to be negative and get down on ourselves, a quick prayer of "Lord, I need You. Take control of my thoughts and help me focus on what is pure and right and praiseworthy!" could make a huge difference in the direction our hour, day, week, or even life goes.

I also believe that prayer is not a magic formula where you plug in all the right words and BOOM God comes through. If it worked like that, we would only rely on our abilities. I believe prayer is a state of mind where, all day every day, you are in tune with the Holy Spirit, realizing that God is God and you are not, and turning over all the day's activities, thoughts, and worries to the Lord. Acknowledging that only God can help us "think about such things" will help us rely on Him instead of our usual human reaction which is typically "just suck it up," "get over it," or "distract yourself." We need to get comfortable with being a little uncomfortable in the moment, take that discomfort to God, and let him turn our harmful, worrisome, and destructive thoughts into beautiful thoughts and words that He will use for His glory.

"...for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose." Philippians 2:13