My Journey to Health & Weight Loss, Part 2

 

Journey to health part 2

To Read Part 1, visit HERE.

I think it was some time during month 2 of dietary changes that I decided to add back in the meat and proteins that I had removed to follow the detox diet.  I used a salad plate for meals instead of a dinner plate, and continued to eat gluten free and sugar free.  There were no frills to my food, you know?  Just the basics: meats, grains, fruits and vegetables,  and with the Slim I wasn’t really hungry a lot of the time.  I continued to steadily lose weight, but more slowly than the first month.  I was able to dig out tubs of clothes that had been packed away for years, and it was like Christmas finding pretty an things that fit.  I felt less sloppy when I looked in the mirror.  I was standing up straighter, sleeping better at night, the natural practitioner I checked in with said my blood sugar levels were amazing, and my brain fog was lifting.  I didn’t remember ever having so much energy.

{11 weeks of gluten free, 10 weeks of Plexus Slim}

Years earlier, when I was pregnant with our first baby, I had researched an education in natural health, but it had not been feasible at that time, and over the years and our growing family I had forgotten that dream.  Now that passion began to rekindle, and my husband and I started discussing the possibility of me taking some classes in order to help our family instead of paying someone else.

I decided to get my feet wet.  One class, I decided, to see if I could really do this school thing, and find out if I liked it as much as I thought I would.  It was a block class that was held for long hours, several days in a row, and I had to travel away from my family to do it (which if you know us–it is a huge thing).  The class was on Enzymes and the part they play in our bodies, and I loved it.  I had learned just enough over the years, because of my own research and experimentation, to understand what the instructor was explaining and it made sense… a LOT of sense.  I was never going to look at nutrition the same way, ever!

I came home from that class armed with knowledge and a whole lot of enzymes!  I started giving them to our family with every meal, and tackled the job of changing our children’s diets.  I switched them to a primarily gluten free diet.  I worked the refined sugar out of their diets, too.  Within 6 months I noticed many of the health quirks each child had suffered were resolving… gone was bloat, dark circles under eyes, immune function improved and they stopped catching EVERY bug that went around, my husband’s heart burn went away and he was able to stop using kombucha after every meal, and the list is LONG.

Even with the Plexus Slim and dietary changes, I had continued to have soreness in my knees which had persisted since 6 weeks following that fateful tick bite and rash.  Applying the knowledge I had gained about enzymes, this pain now went away.

My husband and I began planning for my continuing education.  I felt like God was propelling me forward, and my confirmation was my husband’s persistence in sending me despite the fact he hardly sleeps when I am gone, so this was a huge deviation from the norm.  People started sharing with me on a regular basis about their struggles with Lyme Disease, even people I didn’t know—it appeared epidemic and I felt a burden to help others.  By the end of that first year, I completed certification as a “Natural Health Professional”.

I had been sharing Plexus Products with other people.  I genuinely wanted to see others attain better health, and I felt that sharing Plexus products could be part of that journey for others while helping me pay for my own products.  However, people are creatures of habit and we tend to take the easiest path.  So many wanted a product to do it all for them, wanted immediate results, and weren’t willing to make long term lifestyle changes to see that come about… in addition, because Plexus is structured as a multi-level marketing company I was concerned that people I might really be able to help as a practitioner may avoid visiting me for fear I would just try to sign them up in my downline.  I stopped sharing about Plexus.  I pulled back.  I experimented with what I had learned~ one can gain a lot of practical experience working with a large family.  😉

6 months into my own Plexus experience I discovered I was pregnant and stopped taking Slim with the intention of going back to it after the first trimester.  I suffered an early miscarriage.

My husband and I have committed our family planning to the Lord, and I knew another pregnancy was possible. Having lost a total of 50 pounds, I was comfortable with my weight and my body for the first time ever. God had been changing my heart in amazing ways.  He had used the difficulties of this season in my life to teach me to look to Him alone instead of looking to others for answers and approval. My “why” became completely focused on pleasing Him and being available to walk in His will.

I made the decision not to go back on the Slim, but to take time to evaluate where my health was without it.  My goal was not to need it.

Great progress had been made in rebuilding my health, but when I stopped taking Slim my energy plummeted again.  The rule of thumb for any practitioner working with someone who suffers from nutritional deficiencies and needs to rebuild their bodies is that after applying appropriate changes, it will take 3 months PLUS 1 month for every year an individual has lived with the deficiency for their body to regain proper balance.  In addition, the body picks its own order of priority.  The symptom you want to eliminate is often not the first thing to resolve.  The tick bite had been a catalyst to my making appropriate changes, but my health had been a struggle since I was in grade school, and I had been diagnosed with Environmental Illness and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as a young adult. 6 months of doing things right had only reached back 3 years in my health history.  I had a LOT further to go.

In my studies, I kept reading about the importance of proper food combining over and over.  Grrr.  This was another change I really didn’t want to make, but after it popping up in my studies so often, I began to feel like God was beating me over the head with it.  So, I obeyed.  Eventually I found the best platform for doing this was by following a Body Ecology Diet.  This diet is also good for controlling candida, which was a plus I needed.

In addition to food combining, my goals were to increase nutrition and decrease empty calories.  I made sprouts and learned how to cook some new foods, including coconut water kefir and kimchi.

I quickly became pregnant again, and this time I miscarried at 12 weeks.  It was a heart break and emotionally draining, and I also bled heavily which caused symptoms of severe anemia.  I continued to eat right, packing in the nutrients, and paid special attention to iron rich foods.  I took Maca Root, an adaptogen that slowly and gently aided my stamina and is good for hormones and reproductive health.  It is nutrient dense and rich in essential fatty acids.  As a result of the healing that continued to take place in my body, over the course of the next 6 months I slowly lost an additional 10 pounds.

Education wise, I really felt that I had barely scratched the surface of what I should learn, and so I continued studying and my family sacrificed to send me to more classes.  I became a Health Kinesiologist, and it changed our lives.  It will take a whole post to share exactly what that is, but I can start by sharing that the allergies that we have suffered with our whole lives are becoming a thing of the past as I take time to do the corrections.  Candida overgrowth is gone.  I have absolutely no residual symptoms of any tick borne illness.  HK is also a wonderful tool to aid emotional healing and the physical symptoms that can be a tied to emotional distress as our body, mind and spiritual health are intertwined.

God blessed us with a beautiful baby girl who is now 17 months old, and she is a lively, mischievous and healthy sweetheart.  God’s grace is abundant.

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I am 3.5 years into this health journey: 3 months plus a month for every year takes me back to those grade school years when my original health issues began in earnest.  I am following a ketogenic diet and am aware that a lot of detoxification has been happening… this has been something I have known I needed to do for a long time, and I believe it may be the last major step in healing.  I recently decided to try Plexus Slim again as Plexus has improved the formula and I wanted to rebuild muscle.  It’s still a great product, and yet I am grateful that I have not noticed any marked change in my energy.  I don’t NEED Plexus products to feel good anymore, though I know they are a beneficial product for my health.  The chronic fatigue that I have lived with since childhood is GONE, Praise the Lord!

God answers prayer.  I’m still studying.  Still learning.  I believe I always will.

God is the Master Healer.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Whatever it is you may be struggling with, ask Him what to do and then listen carefully… pursue Him, expect to feel a little nudge, and then buckle up.  His plan is always bigger than anything you and I can imagine.  God NEVER wastes pain.  He will never waste any experience you go through if only your submit your plans to Him.

Even the most difficult experiences we feel that we may barely survive are, as Ann Voskamp calls them, “Hard Grace”, but grace nonetheless.

He takes our impossible and turns it into glory.

glo·ry–

noun: glory
1.  high renown or honor won by notable achievements.

synonyms:renownfameprestigehonordistinctionkudoseminenceacclaim,  praise

2.  magnificence or great beauty.                                                                                                          synonyms: magnificence, splendor, resplendence, grandeur, majesty, greatness, nobility   {a thing that is beautiful or distinctive; a special cause for pride, respect, or delight.}

3.   praise, worship, and thanksgiving offered to a deity.

My Journey to Health and Weight Loss

My Journey to Health and Weight Loss copy

I was at a garage sale recently, pumped to find a cache of 50 cent fancy flip flops that I could pick from for my big girls, when conversation with the home owner turned to just that: all my girls… AND boys!

“You have 8 kids!” she exclaimed, “And you look like THAT?!?”

I have to say, it was a pretty flattering change.  I have found a hobby that I enjoy more than food…finding beautiful, small, and incredibly cheap clothes that fit me nicely by shopping thrift stores and garage sales, because for years my wardrobe size was the only small thing about me.  I was overweight and I didn’t want to invest in clothes that I was sure I would not fit for much longer… I desperately wanted to lose the excess pounds.

I was a size 8-10 when I got married.  I had a slender waist and curvy hips, but even back then I was not comfortable in my own skin.  Some kid in the 6th grade had made a comment about the size of my hips and thighs after PE hour in the school pool, and the blissful age of innocent self-awareness ended, ushering in decades of painful self-consciousness.  I was never happy with my body.  Eventually, during my high school years, I drank a Diet Coke in lieu of lunch and began the horrible practice of purging when I felt guilty for eating anything I worried would negatively impact my weight.  By the grace of God I watched a movie about the Carpenters, and was touched by the story of how Karen Carpenter died young because of the damage her body sustained as a result of her eating disorders.  I was convicted that my body was the holy Temple of God, and that I was harming myself, and by this awareness God rescued me from these damaging habits.  And yet, I still did not like my body.

During my first pregnancy I followed recommended dietary recommendations of that time and gained a whopping 40 pounds.  Precious #1 was a year old when I lost it all plus some, and was almost happy with my body for the first time.  I followed The 7 Day Miracle Detox Diet for a whole year and was smallest I had ever been in my adult life.  Then Precious #2 came along and I gained another 40 pounds, only this time I became pregnant again when she was only 8 months old, and I had not lost all the pregnancy weight.  4 more pregnancies, retaining some weight from each one, found me the mother of 7 and very overweight.

I hated the way I looked.  I hated the way I felt.  And then there was a tiny tick bite that caused a rash, joint pain and began to cause numbness in my feet, throwing my health (which was already challenged) into a tail spin.  When a doctor told me that my precious baby (#7) would inherit the bacteria that was making me sick through my breast milk, I thought I was going to lose it.  I was afraid.  And I was desperate for answers. I prayed without ceasing.

An antibiotic cleared up the numbness that had been coming on in my feet, but it did nothing for the exhaustion and joint pain I struggled with daily.  Instead, the antibiotics instigated new symptoms, like bruising easily, my hands began hurting, and candida soared.  That, coupled with growing brain fog, had me wondering if I should stop home schooling.  To add to depressing, the trip to the doctor who gave me the antibiotic revealed that my home scale (which was 17 years old) was off by 20 pounds which meant I was more overweight than I even knew.

We began to see a natural practitioner who was giving us drops which she said would eventually clear up our symptoms, but a couple of months and too many dollars later, I noticed no improvement.

I knew several people who had been diagnosed with tick borne illnesses, and their doctor had recommended that they cut all sugar and gluten from their diets.  I had spent several years completely revamping our recipes to low sugar and wheat free sourdough (spelt), and in many ways our family ate very healthy—better than others we knew.  I felt so bad, I didn’t think I had the energy to learn a whole new way of cooking, nor did I want to cook one way for me and another way for my family.  I had been doing that for years in order to deal with our various food allergies, and how exhausting!  To be honest, I really rebelled against changing my diet again, but desperation would eventually win out.

About this time our pastor asked our entire congregation to fast for two days and to pray for direction for our young church.  I was not sure I could do it, but the more I considered it, the stronger I felt the Lord was prompting to go ahead.  Baby boy was eating solid food and so I did the fast, and at the same time I made the commitment that when the fast was complete I would go back, for a time, to following The 7 Day Miracle Detox Diet.  It would be challenging, but it would be sugar-free and gluten-free.  After all, my body was God’s temple, and I owed it to Him to give Him my best, right?

During the fast I prayed for our church, but I also prayed for personal direction.  The fear and the panic melted away and I developed a new found strength rooted in faith that no matter how difficult this health challenge, God was going to be faithful to carry me through.  I read a book called The Uncommon Woman by Susie Larson.  In it, she shared how she had been very ill as a result of Lyme Disease and that during a low period God indicated to her that He was going to heal her, and He did. I was just overwhelmed reading that, and the tears came.  I felt the Holy Spirit’s peace, indicating that this was a personal promise, and I held on to it.

During the fast, I was surprised at how much better I felt.  A home-school group mom contacted me on Facebook and began telling me about a product called Plexus Slim which had helped her recover from year’s long symptoms she had suffered from Ehrlichiosis, another tick borne illness.  It had taken several months, but she felt it had been worth it.  The product was expensive, but it came with a 60 day warranty.  I hemmed.  I hawed.  And then finally, after discussing it with my husband, I decided to try it.  I wanted to feel better. The cost of not doing it and remaining ill seemed far more steep than the actual price tag.  One of the other “side effects” of using Plexus Slim was weight loss, and if that happened it would definitely be a welcomed, though I tried not to think about that in the beginning.

 

 

{This is me, the Day I started Taking Plexus Slim, sick and overweight.}

 

I had lost 4 pounds during the fast and the 2 days following, but I was suffering from headaches and body aches from the detox that was occurring.  I have known for years that I have a liver detox pathway that doesn’t work efficiently, so detoxification is hard for me.  My body tends to take the easy path which is to hold on to toxins, and so detoxification has to be deliberate and it often makes me sick.   When I started using the Plexus Slim the normal ill feelings I experienced with detox went away, my back pain faded, and even some of the little issues I had lived with since childhood (and assumed I always would) went away.  The Slim tasted good.  It is a powdered drink sweetened with stevia and Lo Han extract (Keto friendly) that you mix in water and drink, not as a meal replacement, but 30 minutes before breakfast.  I looked forward to the sweet drink every day, but more than that I looked forward to the extra energy I began to experience.  And to top it all off, I lost 15 pounds that first month.

 

You can find the rest of my story in Part 2!

Know Your “Why”, Committing Your Plans to the Lord

Yesterday was my Sabbath and, consequently, the day I choose not to exercise.

There’s a reason I committed to exercising 6 days a week, and it wasn’t because I thought my end goals would be unrealistic if I kept my fitness program to 5 days.  The truth is, when I have a day off I’m not eager to begin again.  I feel good after a work-out and I’m glad I did it, but I don’t enjoy getting started.

So, when my alarm went off at 6:15, I didn’t want to get up.  Night summer rains had left gloomy clouds overhead and, between the dark and the barometric changes, I felt sooooo tired.  Still, I got dressed, downed my Plexus Slim, and tied my running shoes.

running shoes

Good morning to you too.

I was moving slow, my body felt heavy, and Theresa Tapp was just a little too perky.  My form did not feel strong.  I was just sure I couldn’t be getting much out of it… but I was more sure that if I sat down like I wanted I might not get up and move tomorrow either.  And so I had to keep reminding myself of my “Why”.

Why am I doing this?

Goals are good.  Having a standard to measure success is normally a good motivator, except building muscle tone and getting into my wedding dress are not truly my “Why”.

I have all kinds of good reasons to take care of myself, and goals that I can set:

To feel well.

To set an example for my children.

To be strong so I can stay active and be a good mom to my little people.

Someday I want to be the fun Grandma, not the weak and fragile one.

I like my small clothes.  😉

To please my husband.

I made a commitment to myself.

I told those people on Facebook I was going to do this… huhmmmm.

My “Why” is that for some reason God really chose this, stewardship of my body–His Temple, as a major bone to pick with me.  I think He began when a conversation with a friend led me to ask Him to teach me what trusting Him with my health would look like. He started as this still, small voice, but really had to crank up the volume to get me to focus on His message instead of making those excuses, “I should, could, didn’t…I don’t want to,”  and so THIS: obedience, is my “Why”.  Honoring God with this body He gave me (the only one I get) by doing my part to keep it healthy and strong so I can stand at the ready to go forth and do whatever He calls me to do without any physical excuses to hold me back.  He wants me to be faithful to do my part and He is always faithful to do HIS.

I was reading in Acts 20, Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Elders as he prepared to go to Jerusalem and the end.  ESV

(22)And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, (23)Except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.  (24)But I do not account my life of any value not as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” verses 22-24

Paul’s life as a an apostle had not been easy.  He had traveled from place to place, working when necessary, building relationships, teaching, preaching, discipling (and disciplining). He was slandered, stoned, and ship wrecked, and still he faithfully ministered the gospel wherever the Lord lead.  But now he says the Holy Spirit is preparing him that imprisonment and afflictions await.

That’s just what you want to hear when  you’re packing for a trip, isn’t it?

Verse 24 in the Amplified Version say this: “But none of these things move me; neither do I esteem my life dear to myself…

When storms come, your form is bad, and discouragement looms, what will guarantee that you stay the course?

Goals change.  When you meet your goal, then what?  Too often we slide back into bad habits.  Good reasons can be subject to whims… “I don’t feel like it today”, “How did that chocolate make its way into my fridge door?”  “I can’t.”

There are days that there are no reasons good enough to keep us putting one foot in front of another, but there is a way.  God tells us that,

The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

Have you committed your plans to the Lord?  He will let you know if your plans are from Him and worth pursuing or if maybe you’re losing steam because you went out on a limb by yourself.

In Acts 20, Paul’s was on the Lord’s errand, not His own.  His “Why” didn’t change. Regardless of his circumstances, he would not be moved off course.  He was driven to complete the responsibility given to Him by God.  To finish his “race” well.  To disseminate the message of God’s grace and salvation for mankind until God said his turn was finished.  He trusted God’s way.  That was his “Why”.

What are the things in your life that are worth doing right?  What have you dedicated yourself to?  Are you committed to the Lord?  A marriage?  A ministry? Home-schooling? A healthy lifestyle?  A budget?  Finishing school?  Writing a book?

God promises that when we commit our plans to Him, He will establish our steps.  He supplies the resolve, the strength, the partners, the tools… He gives supernatural gifts, abilities, and brings about fruit of self-control when we lean in close to Him.

If He authors the purpose, He supplies the way to succeed, but He requires our cooperation.

Our “Why” needs to be greater than mere “good reasons”.  It takes the whole, big picture into account.  It is a commitment to something, or Someone, greater. Unchanging. Captivating.  Worthy.  It is greater than our goals.  It generates our goals.

Commit your plans to the Lord, and then “none of these will move you.”  Resolve.  Know your “why”.

 

 

Our Body of Christ, Wearing the Mark of True Christians

Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord…  Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. ” Romans 12:9-11, 13

I love our church body.  We began attending Pointway Church in Baxter almost 4 years ago.  The first Sunday we attended I felt like I had come home.  There was never any question… this is the church assembly God was drawing us to serve alongside.  The messages are Biblically solid, the worship is heart felt, and the leadership is diligent in seeking God’s direction for our congregation, but what is it that keeps a family together?

Pointway worship.jpg

Love… when the heart strings are wrapped around one another with genuine commitment, when they strive to “outdo one another in showing honor” (not just that fuzzy feeling you get for someone you like, but the kind of concern that gets involved to meet another person’s needs), people are tied to one another.

Our family has been serving in camp ministry for 18 years.  Our oldest daughter Angel was 10 months old when we pulled in to our camp internship at Camp Forest Springs in Westboro, Wisconsin.  Camp ministry is a service oriented career.  Who gets to serve God and others while earning a living?  This is a great gig, but the hours are long.  The summers are not your own.  You work when other people are off and you’re off when other people are busy.  Families sacrifice for the camp professional to serve.  Camp wives are referred to as Camp “Widows” in the summer.  Not many people can relate.  Sometimes it’s lonely, but it is also very rewarding.

We’ve served at 3 camps and attended several churches over the past 18 years.  Our family travels a lot of Sundays, February through June, sharing camp’s ministry with supporting churches.  It’s great to have the privilege of connecting with so many church families and sharing in their joys and triumphs from year to year.  But when we’re on the road, we’re not at our home church.  We miss out on the common experiences.  And summers, Sundays are the first day of camps.  Staff leave church as soon as it ends, hopefully getting a good meal and getting to work to welcome campers to what we hope will be a life changing week of spiritual growth… and for many it is their introduction to a God who loves them and wants to have a relationship with them.  This is our calling. This is our resolve.

You know the saying, “Out of sight, out of mind”?  This has always been the way our relationship with our home church has felt.  When we’re there every week, we start to feel like we belong, and the rest of the time it’s, “See ya when we see ya.”

But this church body is different.  Our young adult summer staff have joined us at Pointway Sunday morning services for several years now.  Some of the teens in the congregation attend camp as campers and participate many weeks in our DIT Program (Disciples in Training).  We actually met our pastor because he stayed at camp when he first moved to our area and needed a landing pad while finding housing.  His wife was our cook the next summer.  A lot of these people get camp life.  And the heart strings?  They are tightening.

camp staff dishing up

This year our church is doing something amazing.  Instead of all the staff racing out directly after services, one of our ladies has organized members to provide a meal after church.  No dashing.  No disconnect.  The church body breaks bread together… or eats taco bar together (as in these pictures ), and fellowships.

breaking bread

There is hospitality.

There is goodness.

There is brotherly love.

I can’t tell you how full this makes my heart.  I so deeply appreciate the way this Body is showing zeal in contributing to the needs of the saints.  Our summer staff’s needs.  Our family’s needs.  My need… for fellowship, and for the need to be connected to my church family during the most demanding season of the year.  In Romans 9, Paul says these are marks of true Christians.

Pointway Church Family, thank you!!

The Results of June’s 30 Day Fitness Challenge

Someone mentioned renewing our vows.  I don’t remember who.  And then my husband surprised me by acting interested in the idea.

“Does your wedding dress fit you?” he asked me.

“I imagine it does,” I told him, “after all, I weigh less now than I did when we got married.  He made a comment about it being flattering to him that 20 years and 8 children later, his wife still fit in her wedding dress.

But then I tried it on… and despite my lower body being smaller than ever, the upper half was not proportioned the same, and I could not zip it.  Add additional insult to my pride, hubby had been pointing out to me that even though I was thin, he couldn’t feel muscle tone, especially in the lower half.  He was suggesting, more and more often, that I start exercising.

His persistent suggestion was made out of loving concern.  Several years ago he was concerned about how my weight could lead to health problems.  He was right then of course, and he was right this time too, but I was busy and didn’t feel like figuring out how to fit exercise into my schedule.  I was becoming increasingly annoyed by his suggestion.

And then, when teaching on the Fruit of Self Control, I asked the women how they were exercising self control in the area of diet and exercise, and conviction began to seep into my heart.  Sure, my diet was impeccable.  But the exercise… Every time I became annoyed with my husband’s loving suggestion, I knew I had a heart issue.  And so I decided to kill two birds with one stone.  I would exercise, and get back into that wedding dress!!

My goal: To tone up and rebuild muscle, to target belly fat, and get back into my wedding dress by our anniversary at the end of the summer.  This gave me 3 months to reach my goal, and I would do it one 30 Day Fitness Challenge at a time!

What I did:
* 30 DAYS OF EATING LOW CARB. I have been doing this since February, but I really reigned it in and recorded what I was eating so I kept my macros where they belonged. On week three I did a 5 day egg fast to give my liver a break and turn up the burn.
Week 4 I remembered how great green tea is for flushing toxins and cellulite, so I drank a ton since I love tea anyway!

* EXERCISED 6 DAYS A WEEK (when I was not previously exercising at all). I was faithful in this!
Week One: 2 miles with Leslie Sansone, different miles to target different areas each day, but pretty consistently doing the mile for belly.
Week 2: Walked 3 miles a day with Leslie, targeting different areas each day,
Week 3: Saved Leslie for days I couldn’t get out and began walking 3 miles (4 days a week) outdoors, up and down hills.  and began doing 2 days of T-Tap, which is a 55 min. work out.
Week 4: Same as Week 3

* I drank the new Plexus Slim every morning upon waking, mixed with coconut water kefir… because:
* I’ve noticed that when I use Slim I target more fat and preserve more muscle, and muscle is what this was all about.
* It contains nutrients that aid in detox, and boy was I flushing toxins (yay!!)
* It contains yummy pre-biotics which nourish friendly gut bacteria which are foundational to immune support, mood, the manufacture of many vitamins in the gut, digestion, pH, keeping harmful bacteria and parasites under control, staying thin, and more…
* It supports my adrenals, and I’m working hard!
Oh, and I’m also taking Plexus Probio5 at night, a probiotic that also targets and cleans up the “bad” bacteria.

The result:
**My fasting blood sugar level this week was 78! Fantastic!!!**

I lost:
1/2 inch above each knee
1 inch on each thigh
1 inch in my hips
1/2 inch in the belly
1 inch in my waist

I lost 6 pounds! I totally did not expect that as I was aiming to build muscle, and it weighs more than fat!

I dropped a pant size, which I didn’t think was possible. My lower half has never been so small. Wish I could say the same about the abdomen!
Hubby can feel muscle, yay! And I can SEE muscle

 

And as you can see from pictures, I can zip and button my wedding dress! But as you can also see, it’s a little tight, as evidenced by the creases in the waist.

So what’s next? Another 30 days. Same diet, same Plexus products, and same basic exercise routine. I’m adding in some weights, Theresa Tapp’s flat belly exercise every morning, and some exercises to strengthen the diastasis recti.

My goals?
* To loosen that waist on the wedding dress so that it fits just right. Our kids are already planning our vow renewal.
* To continue to build and shape muscle, particularly in the arms this month. Hubby is officiating a wedding mid July. I have a sleeveless dress and want to knock his socks off!
* Continue to target that stubborn upper belly fat. That stuff is bad news. I gained with during my pregnancy with Precious #4 when I started drinking soy milk!! And by the time I realized the soy wagon wasn’t a good thing to join, it was too late for my belly. This fat contributes to the inflammatory “dis-eases”, and produces hormones I don’t want going on! So, banish the belly fat!                                                                                                       *  Increase my bone density
* Enjoy doing some thrift shopping and garage sale-ing to find some fancy pants that fit.

Taking care of my body is not only a privilege, but also my responsibility.  God gave me one body with which to serve Him.  I never want to miss out on walking into good works He has prepared in advance for me to do because I didn’t take stewardship of my health seriously.

30 more days…Who wants to join me? As Theresa Tapp likes to say, “YES, you CAN!!!”

If you would like to learn more about Plexus products and how they can help you on your wellness and fitness journey, please let me know.  I’d be happy to help in any way I can.

Growing in Goodness

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In her book, “A Woman’s Walk with God,” Elizabeth George teaches that Kindness notices people’s needs and makes plans to meet those needs.  Goodness, then, actually follows through on those plans.

I am reminded of Mordechai’s admonition to Esther, in Esther 4:14, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

God has placed you here and now with a purpose.  As children of God, we are to be walking in Goodness.  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

Part of God’s purpose for each of us is for us to be doing good works, which He planned in advance.  He has equipped each of us, individually, so that we are prepared, and he has placed us here and now.

Those who are within your sphere of influence have been entrusted to you,

yours to point to Christ,

yours to love,

 yours to disciple,

yours– to recognize needs and do your best, with God’s empowerment,

to care for them the way He cares for you.

We are not all equipped the same way.  The needs you notice, and the way you go about meeting those needs, will look different than Goodness in my life.

My teenage girls will notice a young mom with a crying baby, and know that mother will need a respite.  They would think of that because we’ve had so many Littles in our house. They know the joy of babies, and they also know sometimes mom gets tired.  A teenager who has not grown up with a house full of Littles may not notice a mother’s need for a break–not because they are unobservant, but because their experience has not trained them to recognize that need.  They will notice something different, in an arena they have talent or experience.

Your walk and your gifts may be different than mine, but where our journeys intersect we can learn from one another, partner with each other, and compliment each other.

So who and what has God entrusted to you for such a time as this?

Who is within your sphere of influence?

How have you been equipped to do good to those God has placed in your path?  We will talk about that next time…

 

This devotional was written to use in conjunction with  A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit  by Elizabeth George.  The other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit can be found on THIS PAGE.

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Pantry Tips for Starting Your Low Carb Journey

***Though there are many links in this post, there are no affiliate links… (I will not get paid if you buy something. 😉  )

 

So you are thinking about trying a Low Carb or Ketogenic diet platform to improve your health?  Good for you!  If you stick with it, you won’t be sorry, but to be successful it’s helpful to have a pantry stocked with the right ingredients, and know what to do with them.

A Ketogenic or Low Carb Diet is a low, low carb, moderate protein, and high in healthy fats nutrition plan.  The goal is to guide your body into burning fat for fuel instead of being a sugar burner.  Fat is a cleaner burning fuel, causing less oxidation, and is therefore healthier for your body.  Fat is the ingredient most needed and loved by your brain, nerves, and the membrane wall of every single cell in your body… the many trillions of them!  And, fats are satiating, which means they will keep you feeling full long after a meal of traditional carbs would have left you feeling hungry and moody.

To truly do this right, you need to use healthy fats:

Coconut Oil~ Coconut oil is full of medium chain fatty acids, the same as God put in human breast milk.  If it’s good for our babies, it has to be good for us!!  Unrefined coconut oil is the best thing to buy, but according to Bruce Fife, author of The Coconut Oil Miracle, even refined coconut oil is better than using most of the other oils on grocer shelves.  Refining the oil removes the “coconut-ty” smell and flavor, and can leave some chemical residue behind.  If you are near a Costco, they sell both types of coconut oil at a competitive price.  If you have an allergy or intolerance to coconuts, I recommend you look into the benefits of cooking with Palm Oil.

Olive Oil~  Once touted as the oil for everything, reserve olive oil for cold application.  This oil is vulnerable to hot temperatures and will go rancid when cooked, making it not so healthy for you.  Instead, use it for salad dressings.

Avocado Oil~ Avocado oil is great in cold recipes, but unlike most other oils has a much higher smoke point and will stay stable at higher temperatures. One study showed that the lipids (fats) extracted from avocados might prove photo-protective against harmful effects of radiation, such as sun damage, inflammation, and even skin cancer, if ingested before exposure.  I buy my avocado oil at Costco.

Coconut Milk~ The canned, full of fat kind, and also the unsweetened carton in the dairy department are both items I use.

Dairy~ You will find a LOT of low carb and ketogenic recipes from food bloggers all over that use dairy.  Cheese, whipping cream, more cheese… so if you don’t have any digestive issues or intolerance, get ready for some dairy.  Grass fed and organic is best as this is the only kind that will be guaranteed free of damaging hormones and heavy omega 6’s that can be present in “normal” dairy from livestock that is fed a heavy soy and grain diet that has probably been heavily sprayed with glyphosates.  I only use dairy sparingly.  I can eat it, no problem, but if I’m aiming to lose weight… well, I lose the dairy.  And if I want optimal liver function, I lose the dairy.  We’re all different, and if you are hoping to lose weight and aren’t seeing results, this is a good thing to cut out and see.

And what about Fiber?  A challenge that many people face when they go low carb is constipation.  Not good!  And not necessary.  So make sure to stock the following…

Nuts~  They are full of healthy fats, and fiber too.  The trick is to not eat too many.  Even though we want to eat more fat, it is easy to go over our fat allowance with nuts, and too much of anything is a bad thing.   Stock your pantry with walnuts and almonds and maybe pistachios, but plan, and measure.   Want a different kind of nut?  Look up the carbs, fat and fiber.  You want to count net carbs.  This means look at the total carbs and deduct the total fiber to get your net carb count per serving.  And then do the math.  Will this nut fit well into your target carb and fat count?

Nuts are much healthier if they are soaked and then dehydrated.  They also taste better, in my opinion, and are easier on the digestion.  To learn how, you can read this excellent article over at Gnowgflins.

Almond Flour~ This is used a lot in low carb receipes.  I get mine at Costco.  It is also available at Sams Club, on Amazon, and many other places.

Ground Psyllium Husks~ This can be used in bready recipes that are filling, provide fiber, and satisfying those cravings that are inevitable when you first pull grains and sugars from your diet.  In addition, if you find yourself experiencing some constipation, you can mix a tsp. or two with water and drink it to help bulk up your stools.  I buy this psyllium from Viva Naturals on Amazon and will be making recipe recommendations off of my experience with it.

Chia seeds~  You may like them, and if you’re a woman, soak them, use them for fiber, for a binder, etc… not recommended for men’s prostrate health.  😦

Coconut flour~ Yep, coconut is still good for you, and the flour is a good source of fiber as well as great for bready recipes.  The best value I have found for our neck of the woods is also on Amazon, from Anthony’s.  Check out the jokes on the bag… 🙂

Unsweetened, shredded coconut~ You may like this in a breakfast porridge, or many people just spoon some into a bowl with some coconut oil, stevia drops, and cocoa for a sweet fix.

Fruits and Vegetables~  Well, vegetables anyway.  This is where you will get most of your carbohydrates.  Avocados and tomatoes are actually fruits, and I use them, but they won’t satisfy your sweet tooth.  Carrots are starchy, so use them sparingly if at all, and potatoes are out–too many starchy carbs.  Go for asparagus, spinach and kale (unless you have a history or kidney stones), zucchinis, lettuce (not ice berg), peppers, other cruciferous veggies like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts.  You may find some veggies I’m not used to using.  I love onions, but they are a little high on the carb count so I use them sparingly.  You may occasionally splurge on a few pieces of Granny Smith apple, a strawberry, or blueberries… that is up to you.  You can use the cronometer.com calculator to help you decide.

Protein~  Yes, you need moderate protein, so besides the nuts you want to have eggs and meats on hand.  Just keep in mind, “moderate” may be less than you think…

Eggwhite Protein Powder~ I like to make Maria Emmerich’s Keto bread, and you will need this Eggwhite Protein Powder to make it.

Sweeteners

Yes!  I did say sweet.  Lots of the sweet ketogenic recipes you find use the “tols”, sugar alcohols, like erythritol or xylitol.  They are not sugar or alcohol, don’t affect blood sugar, don’t cause cavities, etc… and if you can use them, great, but I can’t.  They are not completely absorbed by your body and like a lot of other people, they cause me to have intense bloating and stomach cramps when I eat them and since they aren’t good for me I notice that I don’t lose weight as fast if I use them.  Not worth it.  So I use other alternatives.  If you try them, make sure they are not combined with other low-calorie or artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, acesulfame-K, neotame, saccharin, or crystalline fructose.  Swerve is a well known brand that combines erythritol and stevia, and is recommended by many food bloggers.

Stevia~  I use stevia in many forms.  It is a natural food derivative, many times sweeter than sugar, and a little goes a long way.  I can be combined with other sweeteners.  And it does the body good, the whole leaf stevia being found to lower blood sugar levels and kill bacteria (even the lyme disease bacteria, better than antibiotics).

What kind of stevia?

I use the Sweet Leaf Stevia drops with vanilla a lot in my tea or other quick treats.  It comes in plain and other flavors, but I like vanilla and it is a cheap add on from Amazon Prime.  You can also get it from Swansonvitamins.com, Azurestandard, and your local health food store, among many retailers!

I also use the Sweet Leaf powdered stevia, and you only need a pinch for most recipes, so it lasts a loooong time.  I buy mine through AzureStandard.com.

A lot of foodies use Stevia Glycerite in their recipes.

The other good sweetener recommended for the Ketogenic diet is Lo Han Fruit (also called monk fruit) extract.  Recently featured on draxe.com for being a recommended ketogenic sweetener, along with stevia, it is many times sweeter than sugar and has many health benefits.  Watch out when you buy, as it is often combined with other unhealthy artificial sweeteners, so read labels.  I buy mine from Swansonvitamins.com, combined with inulin (a sweet fiber and prebiotic that feeds good bacteria that nourish the gut).  I use this in recipes I will share.

Real Salt~  Not table salt.  Use RealSalt brand, unbleached sea salt, or himalayan salt that is whole and rich in minerals.

Supplement Smart.  Take a good multi-vitamin.  If you aren’t getting enough iron or amino acids, look into taking dessicated beef liver.  Need more C?  Take rose hips.  Have magnesium on hand.  I recommend Plexus Biocleanse.  Just want to clean out your bowels and relax?  Magnesium Calm will do the trick.  Do probiotics.  Swansonvitamins does regular sales.  If you sign up for emails they will send you coupons that will make it worth your while.

There are a few other foods and supplements I will be sharing with you in future posts, but these are the main ones you can do without having to learn “how to”.  I hope this is helpful.  God bless.

 

Growing in Kindness

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Our ladies’ group has read the chapter on Kindness in Elizabeth George’s book, “A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.”  We learned that Kindness:

  •  genuinely cares about others and pays attention to the circumstances of their lives.
  •  thinks–consider other peoples’circumstances, wonder what we can do to help them… what do they need?
  •  notices–sometimes we don’t need to wonder about people’s circumstances; if we’re observant we will notice people’s needs and know what we can do to help them.  She gives examples of the Shunammite woman’s kindness to Elisha (and then he showed kindness toward her when he asked God to give her a son), Dorcas in the New Testament, and of course, Jesus.
  • touches–she says it helps to cultivate kindness when we think of it as a touch of concern and kindness.  We instinctively touch those we care about.  She gives examples of how Jesus touched people all the time.

What else can we learn about Kindness?

Kindness Defined:

If we look in the Greek Lexicon at the meaning of the word Kindness (chrēstotēs), we see that it means:

  1. Moral goodness, integrity
  2.  Benignity (tolerance), kindness

There are times that the word is also translated as gentleness and goodness, which is interesting since these are also fruit of the Spirit; one fruit with characteristics that are interdependent.

Have you ever done a word study?  A word study takes a particular word or subject and looks up all the scriptures that reference that word.  Read everything you can find in the Bible about that word, and make observations to grow your understanding of it’s meaning.

In this case I was looking up all the verses I could find that used the word Kind or Kindness.  Don’t forget to ask God what He wants to teach you on the subject!  You will be amazed by the verses you will trip over, and how the relevance will stand out for you.

How We Learn Kindness

In Titus 2:3-5 we learn that while kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, it is also something that we learn by example.  The older women are to be:

“teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible (self controlled), pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” Emphasis is mine.

And in Proverbs 31:26, in the famous passage about the “Worthy Woman,” we learn that, “She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”

As Christian women, we have a responsibility to not only model kindness in our daily lives, but also to intentionally teach kindness with our words, and to grasp opportunities to give those we influence the opportunity to participate in kindness.  We see Jesus teaching in these ways when he lived among his disciples.  Many learning styles are engaged!

When my family was younger, I remember taking our little troop of 4 or 5 to and from town.  One occasion in particular I remember standing in the doorway of our home, with all these little girls trying to shuffle inside.  The youngest toddler was struggling to get up the step and inside, and my hands were full.  I watched one of the older girls standing behind her and she was just watching.  It was a trend I had been noticing a lot, and I told her, “Honey, don’t just stand there and watch your sister struggle.  Help her!”  It didn’t come naturally to her at that time, and she needed the suggestion to reach out and help.

Teach kindness.

Titus says that one of the reasons for us to walk in kindness is to protect the honor and integrity of the Word of God. The world will not believe in the kindness of God that the Bible teaches if they do not see us living what we proclaim.  Our lives are to be the proof of God’s love.

What Kindness Does

In order to live this out, we have to invite God to empty our hearts of what is not Godly in order to make room for the characteristics God wants us to have.  Paul, in Ephesians 4:32, tells us to Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave you.”  Amplified Version

Kindness is forgiving.  Laying aside personal hurts and instead desiring what is most beneficial for another person.

Kindness is compassionate, not selfish.  Philippians 2:4 says, “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

John Piper says, “The idea behind “tenderhearted” is that our insides are easily touched. When your skin is tender, it doesn’t take a very hard touch to make it feel pain. When your heart is tender, it is easily affected. It feels easily and quickly.

When you stop and think about it, it is remarkable that this is commanded by the apostle. You can’t just decide to be tenderhearted and turn it on like a faucet. It is a deep character quality.”

Kindness isn’t just something you do. It’s who you are: a woman after God’s own heart.

When I began teaching my daughter to help her younger siblings instead of watching them struggle, I also began to pray for her that God would give her a tender and compassionate heart, and that he would help her notice the opportunities to help others.

Today this is the child who teaches her younger siblings to ride bike.  She dresses them to brave the winter weather and takes them sledding, patiently helping them even when it slows her down.  She brushes their teeth when mom is helping someone else, reads them books, and she is enjoyed by her younger siblings.  By faith the Holy Spirit has softened her heart toward others, and she has learned to be gracious and kind.

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Helping Sister with Math

Kindness to Who?

We are to show kindness to other believers.  “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” Galations 6:9, 10

The world is watching us, Beloved.  God is raising up a standard!

We are to care for those who cannot care for themselves.  In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel’s mother taught him to, “Open your mouth for the mute, For the rights of all the unfortunate.  Open your mouth, judge righteously, And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” And the worthy woman “extends her hand to the poor, And she stretches out her hands to the needy.” (verse 20)

Isn’t this the crux of the gospel?  We were afflicted with sin, and helpless, unable to save ourselves!  God, in His mercy, took action in His loving kindness and did for us what we could not do for ourselves.  Jesus took our burden of sin upon himself, suffering the consequences for us, and imparted his righteousness upon us so that we can stand blameless before a Holy Father.  We were the helpless and the needy.  Now we are the redeemed and reconciled.

We are to extend kindness to our enemies.  In Luke 6:35-36, Jesus said, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Do our enemies deserve our kindness?  No, but God is gracious toward me despite my undeservedness, and He expects me to love others as He loves me.  Sometimes all we can do for our enemies is to pray for them, and that is a lot.  We have assurance that the heartfelt and persistent prayer of the righteous accomplishes much. (James 5:16)

Kindness is Merciful.  However, it isn’t always nice.  Really.

Kindness isn’t always pleasant and agreeable.  Kindness proactively looks out for the best interests of others.  It meets needs, which isn’t necessarily always what a body wants.

Romans 2:4 tells us that God’s kindness leads us to repentance.  This change of heart involves humility and conviction, and all too often the road to recognizing our wrong and what our soul is hungering for involves discipline.  In this case kindness has to be tough.  It has to be tenacious.  Oh, yes, it must be self sacrificing.

When my nephew, Joshua,  was little he was infatuated with trains.  Our house was situated just off the highway.  The road laid between us and the train tracks.  On one occasion Joshua heard the train whistle, and captivated, he darted away from his father-my brother–and ran across our yard and straight into the highway.  I’ve never seen my brother run so fast in his life.  Hot in pursuit, he caught his son up into his arms in time to pull him out from in front of an oncoming car. He later told me that they were so close to the car that he had made eye contact with the driver.  It scared him to death, but his son was still blissfully pointing and straining for the train.  In kindness, his parents saw to it that he knew better than to ever leave the safety of the yard again, train or no train.

Isaiah 54:7,8 God said, “For a brief moment I forsook you, But with great compassion I will gather you.  In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you, says the Lord your Redeemer.”

In this passage, Israel’s disobedience had resulted in her captivity and dispersion.  God allowed her to experience pain to bring her back into relationship with Himself.  Better a “brief” time of suffering to lead them repentance so that they could enjoy an eternity of lovingkindess in paradise with God.

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As Christ followers we are commissioned to share the truth of the gospel with boldness, even if it causes others or ourselves discomfort.  We all know John 3:16   “For God so loved the world” that he gave his only Son to die in our place.  What Jesus endured for our sakes was severe, so that we would not have to experience the severity of God ourselves (Romans 11:22), but can continue in God’s kindness.

Scripture lays out guidelines for discipline in the church, to bring us to repentance and fruitfulness if we abide in Christ.  Parents are instructed in Proverbs 23 not to withhold correction from their children. God himself says that He disciplines those whom He loves.

Kindness isn’t always “nice,” but it is always loving, and It is God’s will for you.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone;  just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” Colossians 3:12-14

 

This devotional was written to use in conjunction with  A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit  by Elizabeth George.  The other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit can be found on THIS PAGE.

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He Had Me at “So”

It never ceases to amaze me how I can read a passage of scripture over and over and still learn something new.

I’m going through the book of Acts in my personal study, and something unexpected happened when I got to chapter 17.  Paul was waiting for Timothy and Silas to meet him in Athens.  It was a cultural and religious center of Greece, full of philosophers, and my study notes say that one could go there to worship every “deity” known to man.

Verse 16 says, “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols.”  As I turned the page, I was met with this, “So,” (verse 17), and I had to stop.

So is a therefore.  Because.

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Because his soul was provoked, then . . .

“he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present.”

Philosophers were having conversations with him.  He proclaimed the living God and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There were some who did not believe, but some were saved.

Paul was there to wait; it was a rendezvous.  But when he saw the idols everywhere his spirit was provoked.  He was provoked to kindness–seeing their need, he was provoked to goodness–knowing that he had what they needed, and he acted for their welfare.  He was compelled to share the gospel, and he didn’t share with just one person.  This passage says he was out there talking with the people every day while he waited for his friends.

This hit me so hard that it took my breath away.

I read that a local man has been arrested for “throwing his 5 week old daughter like a basketball.”  She died from severe head injuries.  I thought I was going to throw up at the realization that someone would actual behave in this manner.  I felt loss even though I’ve never met this precious baby.  Righteous anger rose up in me.

“What’s wrong with people?” I cried to my husband!  It used to be a rare and shocking thing to read about murder and desperate violence in the local news.  It happened other places, but not in my town.  Not here… but in these times it is becoming more common.

It should never be common.  What’s wrong with people?  Just like the people of Athens, many of my neighbors don’t know Jesus.  They have never experienced unconditional love. Their compass is broken.  They are the helpless and the needy;  they hurt, but they don’t know why.

A sob swelled up in me as I realized the significance of verse 17.  It is compassion that should provoke me.

The Holy Spirit nudges me.  What’s your “so”?  What will you therefore be?

I can plant seeds.  My responsibility is to share the gospel.  It’s  God’s job to send the rain and provide the harvest.  He says he will.

 Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in.”  Galatians 6:9

 

 

 

Abiding in Christ, the Secret to a Fruitful Life

To Use the Index of the Other Posts in this series, please scroll to the bottom of the page.

 

The theme that our Women’s Ministry adopted for this year is “Abide.”  We’re  learning what scripture has to say about the Fruit of the Spirit, reading Elizabeth George’s book, “A Woman’s Walk With God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit.”

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Why We Need to Abide

Jesus explains the importance of Abiding in John chapter 15:4,5.  “Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Jesus has just washed his disciples’ feet.  They have observed Passover together in the upper room, and Judas has gone on his errand of betrayal.  Jesus has been telling them that He is going to be leaving to go to His Father. Can you imagine that they may have felt frightened and confused?   Jesus comforts them, telling them that He will not leave them as orphans.  He is sending them a Helper, the Holy Spirit, and they can continue to have fellowship with Him, and so can we, if we abide in Him.

When we are saved into a relationship with Jesus, the secret to living a fruitful life is Abiding.

Abiding: What is it?

I am assuming that if you are still reading, that you have some idea about the choices we can make to continue growing in that relationship: spending time reading God’s Word in order to learn more about His heart and what He wants for us, talking to Him in prayer, taking time to listen for His voice in our lives, and obeying Him.

The Greek word for abide, in its various forms, means to remain; it’s where you put down roots and make your home; it’s to be held, continually; it endures; remains as one and doesn’t leave; abide tarries for… it waits.  Does your heart wait upon the Lord?

There’s a difference between going through the motions of reading, praying and obeying because it’s the right thing to do and getting up in the morning with anticipation, looking forward to spending time with Him and seeing what the Lord has for you today.

I can’t tell you what truly abiding should look like for you because everyone has to come to that place of audacious love in their own way.  I think the secret lies in recognizing the magnitude of what Christ has done for you.  The cry of my heart this past year has been, “Jesus, help me love you more!”  I want to be like the woman in Luke 7 who annointed Jesus with sweet smelling oil and washed His feet with her tears.  When the Pharisee who owned the house where they were meeting criticized her, Jesus told him that it was obvious that her many sins were forgiven because of the great love she showed him. “He who is forgiven little, loves little.” (verse 47)

Don’t let the joy of your salvation diminish as time passes.  Keep your awe over what Christ has done for you.  Pour your time and effort into this relationship you have with God, and watch how He pours more into you than what you have given.  The more you give to Him, the more fruit you will see in your life.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control… these will be rich hallmarks of your character and will saturate your interactions with others.

A Misnomer explained

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away;” (verses 1,2a)

Several years ago I watched a video series by Focus on the Family which featured Ray Vander Laan.  It was a tour of the Holy Lands, and in one tour he elaborated on these verses in John 15.  He explained that grape vines were planted where they flourished best: in harsh soil.  He also explained that the translations we read are not the best explanation of what the original language meant to imply.

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The vine is established and the branches are cultivated by the vine dresser, the gardener, for one purpose only–to bear fruit.  “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, he takes away;” (vs 2)  It’s a common teaching that this is referring to “dead wood” or those who are not living Christ-like lives because they were never really saved.  We often read this and think it means that they will be removed and carried away.  Only this verse says, “Every branch in Me,”  If we are saved we are in Christ, and if we are in Christ as this verse says, we know that the will of God is that Jesus will never lose those who the Father has given Him (John 6:39).  They are not removed.

The more accurate translation would say that He will lift them up.  If the plants are allowed to lay on the ground they can become too moist and dirty and can mildew.  If they become sick, they do not produce.  The vine dressers in the old country lifted the vines up by placing large stones at the base of the plant.  The branches have to be washed and tied up–lifted up– so that they can begin bearing.  Notice what the next verse says,

“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”

When we put our trust in Jesus as our Savior, our sin is forgiven. We are in Christ and belong to Him, but we are human and we still sin, even when we don’t want to.  Paul put it like this:  “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15

The sin that persists in our lives is like the dirt and mildew on the branches… God must lift us up and clean us so that “we may share in His holiness.” Hebrews 12:10  This looks like discipline.   “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”( verse 11)  It is in our best interest to cooperate with his discipline.  The results are worth it!

And what about the branches that are already producing fruit?

“He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”  (verse 2b)

When we bought our house it had an old apple tree in the front yard.  A very large aspen tree had grown up behind it, shading it, and so the branches of the fruit tree had grown up and over, all to one side.  My husband took out the aspen tree last spring to allow light to get to the tree, but, unfortunately a good pruning wasn’t on the docket until fall.  I have never seen a tree with so many blossoms, and the bees did their job!  Oh, the apples that grew!  Many dropped off when they were still tiny because the tree simply could not sustain so much, but what continued to grow had us so excited.  Fall could not come soon enough!

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Then a wind storm came.  Need I say more?  Those big branches that were growing the wrong direction?  Snap.  They were still hanging, but not by much.  We propped them up and prayed for them a lot.  The apples on those branches never reached their full potential.  They were smaller than the fruit on the other branches, and did not ripen completely, so they were more sour and not sweet.  They were good for sauce, but not much else.

Sisters, we don’t want to be like those broken branches.  We want to be pruned so that we grow straight and strong.  We want light to get where it needs to go and put our energy into the things that are worthy of our calling.

Grape vines are heavily pruned, much more than apple trees.  My understanding is that the vine dresser cuts them back so far that they can look quite pitiful, but the more that is cut away, the bigger, sweeter, and more plentiful the harvest.  This is what we want. This is what identifies us as belonging to Him.

I have gone through seasons of pruning.  It’s not pleasant.  God cut away relationships. He cut away pride.  He hacked away at my sin of worry–one by one, as the circumstances I had always feared came to pass and as I was forced to let go of self, I learned I would live and, I learned to lean into Him more. After awhile, like Job, sometimes God will restore what He has removed from our hands, but He reminds us to remain in His love. When the season of pruning has ended, don’t go back.  Don’t forget.

Jesus said that he shared these things so that “My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (verse 11)

Our piano teacher is going to be 95 this month.  She is the most wonderful lady.  She saw me reading one day and asked me what I was learning.  I told her I was studying John 15 and pruning and she sat down across from me, smiling, and said, “Well now, that’s the thing,” her eyes twinkled, “I’m not the person I used to be.”

Isn’t that the glorious thing?  I’m not the person I used to be, and I am so very thankful!

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”   1 Corinthians 15:10

 

 

You can find the other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit on  THIS PAGE.

This devotional was written to use in conjunction with  A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit by Elizabeth George.

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Thanks to Pixabay for the photos of the grape vines.