Healthy on the outside, a mess on the inside

I was a fat kid.  I was teased relentlessly for it, and in sixth grade, I discovered this great thing called exercise, and I lost over twenty pounds.  It felt like a miracle!

The thing was, though, I was skinny fat.  I hated vegetables.  I didn’t eat much fruit.  And I loved carbs almost as much as I loved fast food.  I discovered that I could eat what I wanted to, if I just did enough aerobic exercise.  And so I did that, for a really long time.  It didn’t matter that I felt yucky as in always, always tired, and that I got headaches constantly.  All that seemed to matter to me was that I appeared healthy on the outside.

Even as I was destroying myself on the inside.

It caught up to me.  Autoimmune diseases are knocking on my door.  I’m not that dummy who says, “Huh, how did that happen?”  I’ve had a conscience about this for years.  For the last decade at least (told you I’ve been doing this for a while), I’ve been feeling guilty.  I felt like an addict:  after every cheeseburger and French fries from McDonald’s that I consumed, I’d tell myself it was for the last time.  Next time I was hungry, I’d eat a carrot.  Except I didn’t.

Joint pain, fatigue, and abnormal blood tests made me change my life around.  I eat healthy now.  Not that I didn’t throw a million tantrums in the grocery store when I realized EVERYTHING I ate before had tons of sugar, gluten, or chemicals in it.  The first three months were the hardest, but I’d allow myself one cheat day a week, and I discovered after eating clean, I no longer liked the processed junk.  I no longer understand why I liked it to begin with.  And I feel amazing.  I feel young, even if the date on my license tells me that I’m not.

My eating habits have reflected my spiritual life more times than I’d like to admit.  I’d nurse that anger, focus on the negatives rather than the positives, focus on myself rather than consider anyone else’s needs, and overall let myself slip into habits that I knew weren’t necessarily practices I was proud of.  But I still went to church.  I still read my Bible.  I still prayed (if praying, “Please let this crazy annoying driver in front of me turn left while I turn right” counts).

Semi healthy on the outside.

While decaying on the inside.

If doing the wrong thing makes us feel so horrible, and doing the right thing makes us feel so amazing, why do we keep chasing the wrong choices?  For me, it was about habit.  And comfort.  Familiarity makes me feel safe.  And, to be brutally honest, because I am, you know, incredibly lazy.  So much so that it sometimes frightens me.

Creating my own illnesses scared me straight.  I realized I was poisoning myself by being so lazy that I wouldn’t look up new recipes or buy unfamiliar produce or try something new.  And each time I go out of my comfort zone and smile at a stranger and ask them about their day or do something selfless, I understand that my spiritual life is the same type of thing.  While I may know what nourishes my body, it does no good until it is what I choose to consume.  And while I may know the difference between wrong and right, it doesn’t do any good until I choose to engage in the better choices.

I don’t want to be fake.  I want to be as real as I can be from my soul outward, and I want to shine a light that makes other lives better.  Religious practices mean nothing if you aren’t communicating with the Savior and putting yourself out there as His vessel.  What is right isn’t always easy.  But it is always worth it.

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does.  James 1:25 (NIV)

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

You Are a Temple: 1 Corinthians 3:17

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

corinthian-317I was a fat child.  To say I was pudgy or chubby or even plump would insinuate that I was cute, and I wasn’t.  The kids at school called me Fatso.  Fatso.  Playground mockery is so ridiculous; just looking at that word I wonder where they came up with it, but within that word is a thousand implications that still make me tear up.  Unwanted.  Ugly.  Disgusting.  Rejected.  Hated, even.  As a fat and sensitive person, I went home more times than not, crying.  My dad told me that if I didn’t want to be made fun of for my weight, I should do something about it.

And so I did.  Or I tried.

The summer between fifth and sixth grade, I lost over twenty pounds.  I got lots of attention.  One teacher even asked if I was sick.  The names changed; I was suddenly called…Skinny.  Looking at that word, all I feel is empty.  It took me less than a year to realize that while the girls didn’t call me the same names, they could still be mean in other ways.  And I discovered that even though I had a new label to wear, I still didn’t feel so great about myself.

A Temple.

I was reading in 1 Corinthians a few weeks ago and loving the verses.  I was praying over them and meditating on them when a highlighted verse on the page over caught my attention.

You are that temple.

To be told that I am pretty or loved or valued makes me uncomfortable at best, downright suspicious at my worst.  Those playground children planted seeds, and I have spent most of my life sowing them.  Long after the bullying stopped, I continued to look in the mirror and say things that make words like Fatso sound like compliments.  To be told I am a temple is a hard pill for me to swallow; it goes against everything the world, and then myself, have conditioned my soul to believe.

And judging by the conversations I have had, and the state of the world that surrounds us, I know that chances are, you don’t believe those words, either.  We try to fill our self-esteems with products marketed to us to make us prettier, relationships that will complete us, lofty goals and impossible achievements that will feed us validation, and labels everyone around us deems acceptable to give us identification.  Meanwhile, all of that goes against the truth that we are created with a purpose, and that we are loved and treasured, right now, for simply being.

If we accepted that simple, yet completely profound, concept…we are loved, we are a temple, and completely believed it, how different would our behavior be?  I know for a fact that I would stop hesitating because of my insecurities and start doing more for others.  I would save a heck of a lot of money, knowing that new hair color won’t transform me into the image my Pinterest promises me I will become.  I could keep myself from wasting years in a toxic relationship because I know I am worth being loved by someone who understands my value.  I would stop abusing my own body by poisoning it with food or substances that are not good for me, or, on the flip side, I would stop punishing myself by restricting myself from getting the nourishment my body needs.  I would stop comparing myself to everyone else and would be satisfied with all my abilities…and my limitations.

And most importantly, I would stop listening to the whispers in my head that tell me I am not good enough.  I would fill myself up with the truths and the promises of the Bible, so much so that all the ugly lies would have no room to reside.

If I believed

That I am

A Temple

My entire world would change.

It’s sad to me that I found it easier as a child to alter my physical appearance than it was for me to change my internal dialogue.  I want to live out my life the way God intended for me to live it, and each time I try and fill myself up with fluff that abates the pain in superficial ways, I only get further from His vision for me.  The truth is, His promise is enough, and I have to commit myself daily to doing what I can to realize it.

The world is preaching love as a solution to the violence and the ugliness that surrounds us.  And they are not wrong.  We need to love each other more.  But I think that the love has to find root in ourselves, and for ourselves, as well.

So do me a favor:  Go to the mirror as soon as you’re done reading this and tell yourself you are a temple.  If it makes you squirm or giggle or uncomfortable, that’s okay.  Tell yourself again.  In fact, write it on your mirror in your favorite lip gloss so you see it when you look at yourself.  Tell yourself you are a temple numerous times a day until you believe it, and keep telling yourself as a reminder.  Tell yourself as often as you need to, to keep the lies and the poisons at bay. Tell yourself you are a temple so often that when someone, including yourself, tries to tell you you are anything less, the lie sounds so ridiculous, you pay it no attention.  Tell yourself you are a temple so often, you see the beauty in others, for they are temples, too, and treat yourself and them, as nothing less.

1 Corinthians 3:17- If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him, for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

 

Red

Red

by Ellen Marie Hawkins

redI happen to like Taylor Swift.  I love her for the way that she captures the romance and dreams of a girl’s heart.  And I especially love the fact that she can poke fun at herself.  Even with all the awards she’s won, she knows her music isn’t considered “cool.”  The fact that she can point this out in her own songs makes her all that more endearing to me.

With that said, it’s the song “Red,” the title track from her most recent album, that has me seeing red.  The song paints a picture of a dead-end relationship, giving splashes of color to make the vision more vivid.  And it is the single phrase “passionate as sin” that has me turning red. With annoyance.

In Revelation 3:16, we are warned to be anything but lukewarm.  Indifference and apathy is as upsetting to Him as someone who vehemently denies Him.  He created passion.  He wants to light us up and watch us burn strongly for Him, not burn out.  He gave us an example, His son, as to what passion truly is.  My passion for God gets me up in the morning, it fuels my desire to live it out with a smile to a hurting stranger, or attention for the girl who thinks she is unlovable and unwanted, or words in a world of secrets that I really would rather never write, in my own fear of being rejected by a world of people that doesn’t understand me.   My passion to share the love I feel from Him; that passion is bigger than my fears, it is stronger than the words in my head that tells me I cannot, it is unquenchable and never ending.  It will not fade away with boredom.  It will not fizzle because the flesh was temporarily satisfied.

It makes me really sad that T. Swifty is reflecting the world’s view of what passion has become.  Passion is not, and come closer so that I can whisper this in your ear, forbidden. As long as it is used for pure purposes, passion is a gift that He gives to us to share His love in a dying world.  Passion, for me, is synonymous with the word purpose.  It is red and blazing fire bright and fuel for me to become more than I am right now, better than I was yesterday, and more alive than I ever thought possible.  It is red.  But it is not sin.  It is hope, rather than a dead end.  It is promise and desire to make this world a better place, not a selfish motive that only causes pain.

Find Respect, Truth and Love with Your Parents

Find Respect, Truth and Love with Your Parents

By Dave Hamilton

mom-and-daughterThere are many relationships between parents, children and siblings that have lost their moral value due to evil and destructive behavior against each other. The root of the confusion is the unfortunate, regretful and sometimes shameful secrets that have been kept by past generations. Other simple factors are parents who show a preference within their offspring.

The first seven years of a child’s life is so important, parents or guardians must realize that whatever they do and say in front of their child will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Many of us believe we may be able to do wrong and evil to one another without a direct effect on our lives. Unfortunately, our conscience and soul will be confronted in a strange way due to our selfish actions. Our past is a precursor to our future.

We all must try to learn about each other as a family unit and build a strong bond. Although things could be difficult and our minds may be set, there is a solution to most problems. During my research, I came across many families who’s relationship has been in tatters for many years, especially those who born in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’.s Ignorance is the biggest part of our actions. One of the most common situations is when a woman finds herself in tough relationship with a child’s father, she would normally take her frustration out on the child. On the other hand, some men get frustrated because their actions have put them in a responsible place. With many other unfortunate dilemmas, this has been on-going  for many of years from generation to generation. This is a legacy needs to be stop. We must find respect, truth and love.

Direction in the Right Direction

Direction in the Right Direction

by Crystal Kelly

Girl looking in the distanceAccording to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the word right is defined as

1) Conforming to facts or truth (Biblical Reference in relation Romans 12:2)

2) Acting or judging in accordance with truth or fact (Biblical Reference in relation John 5:30, John 7: 24, Luke 12:54-57)

Direction in the right direction is another phrase for how do I know which way to go? The answer is simple. Surround yourself with the right people and stay right before God. There are many tugs of war in the world. These tugs are not just nonchalant decisions but are actually warring for your very soul, your very faith, and your beliefs. You are involved in an intense spiritual battle of warfare that you cannot see yet you feel the effects through decisions and choices you must make.

The only way to be successful in the moment of decision is to stay right before God by spending time in His word surrounding yourself with right friends who are all seeking to do the same thing. Praying for the ones you had to disassociate from. In doing this you are assured that in making a decision which may seem hard and uncertain will work out to glorify God and affirm your victory in Him. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” You are called to fulfill God’s purpose for your life. You have proven your love for Him by following and obeying Him. Our life is not determined by our mistakes but by God’s love.

You can rest assure that in staying right before God and surrounding yourself with the right people in your life you will make the right decisions. Life will have many decisions (what to major in, who to marry, where to live, should I go or shouldn’t I, is it right to purchase this car right now, how much should I save, should I take this job and the list will go on and on.) don’t be afraid to decide if you are walking in God’s will. He is guiding you.