12-Week Faith & Fitness Challenge: Take Two

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As I continue to seek to glorify God with my body and spirit and enjoy Him forever, I’ve decided to do a second round of my original 12-week Faith & Fitness Challenge. Since reading through the Bible from front to back during my first 12-week challenge, I have been eager to do it again. Only this time I plan to read through the Bible chronologically. I’m going to follow a condensed version of the plan found here: Chronological Reading Plan. Simultaneously, on the physical fitness side of the challenge, I will once again be doing the 12-week IdealShape Up Challenge, involving daily workouts and healthy eating. I am excited to start round two of my challenge this Monday, April 3!

Challenge aside, there is a lot of change about to occur in my life. This May I will be moving back to my hometown of Lancaster, PA to complete my last year of grad school remotely. My research advisor will be moving to D.C. for a new job. Since I have completed all of my coursework and am guaranteed research funding for one more year, I am actually more tied to my research advisor than I am to Clemson University. As such, it makes the most sense for me to move closer to D.C. to complete my research and write my dissertation. Since D.C. cost of living is unrealistic for a graduate student stipend fit for Clemson, South Carolina, I have decided my best (i.e. most practical and appealing) option is to live in Lancaster and commute to D.C. as needed. Though it definitely complicates my research some, I know God has a purpose for leading me back to Lancaster after being away at school for 9 years, and I’m excited to see what He has in store!

Amidst the whirlwind of transitions in life, my hope and prayer is that this challenge will help me stay focused on and connected with the One who never changes, the One who is with me wherever I go!

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The Continuing Journey

7 months ago I made a decision that has changed my life every day since. I decided to embark on a journey towards physical and spiritual fitness. Pairing these goals together was quite possibly the best idea I’ve ever had. But I know it didn’t come to me of my own accord. All praise and glory for the strength, perseverance, and growth in my life these past 7 months goes to my Creator and Heavenly Father. God’s mercies truly are new every morning.

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I completed my 12-week faith and fitness challenge 15 weeks ago, but the journey didn’t end there; nor does it end here. What I didn’t fully comprehend 7 months ago, but do now, is that I embarked on a never-ending, life-long journey. Just as regular exercise and healthy eating are important to achieving and maintaining physical fitness, so too, spiritual fitness requires regularly feeding our heart, mind, and soul with God’s Word, and exercising our faith. Since it’s been awhile, here’s an update on both fronts in my life.

Physical Fitness: Since completing the 12-week IdealShape Up Challenge in October, I have been rotating back and forth between Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme programs involving 30-minute daily workouts. avocadotoastI have continued following the IdealShape meal plan with 5 smaller meals per day. This usually involves me eating 1-2 meal replacement shakes each day, and striving to eat a balance of carbs, fats, and protein for each meal, while avoiding sweets and junk food as much as possible (though I indulge once in awhile). I’ve come to love making my own homemade whole wheat bread in my bread machine, leading to one of my favorite lunch creations: whole wheat toast topped with avocado, tomato, and feta cheese. I love getting creative in the kitchen and experimenting on making delicious healthy recipes (one advantage to only needing to cook for myself). All in all, I’m extremely thankful and excited to have developed healthy habits which I thoroughly enjoy. And by God’s grace and goodness, since June 2016, I have lost 55 lbs.

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Spiritual Fitness: After reading through the entire Bible, there were three books in particular which I wanted to go back and read again in more detail: Proverbs, John, and Hebrews. I first read one chapter of Proverbs each day to digest it more slowly and fully. Wow! What rich wisdom and guidance for life we have available to us. As the fourth of five children, it didn’t take me long growing up to realize how much I could learn in life from the experiences of my older siblings. abrahamfaithSo too, we have accounts throughout the whole Bible from those who have gone before us, for us to learn from, including the greatest role model ever, Jesus!  Re-reading through John, giving an account of Christ’s life and ministry, was both convicting and inspiring to me. And Hebrews leaves me awestruck. Every time I read any piece of Hebrews it climbs higher and higher on the ladder of my favorite books of the Bible. There’s a lot of unknown in the near future of my life and as such, Hebrews 11:8 has served as a great reminder and encouragement to me.

In addition to Bible reading, I’ve also been reading through a book entitled “Walking in the Spirit: A Study Through Galatians 5” by Steve Pettit (current president of Bob Jones University). This book has greatly aided in my understanding of the constant battle we face within ourselves between the sinful desires of the flesh and the contrary desires of the Spirit, shedding light on the importance of daily devotions and the necessity to exercise and feed our faith regularly. Though this battle can be (and often is) overwhelming, how glorious that we are promised victory by walking in the Spirit!

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Day by day, God is transforming and shaping me on the inside and outside. I am beyond grateful for the people and resources which God has strategically placed in my life in His perfect timing to aid and encourage me along this journey. As I write this blog post and look back on how far I’ve come these past 7 months, I’m all the more excited to see where God takes me from here.

Day 84: Challenge Complete!

I did it! 72 workouts (6/week) and 1220 pages or 1,189 chapters of the Bible later, I have completed my 12-week Faith & Fitness Challenge! …without missing a single workout 😀. What an incredible, life-changing journey it has been!

I am so glad to have finally read through the entire Bible. What a Book! And what a God! Reading through the Bible in such a condensed fashion allowed me to pick up on things I don’t think I would have otherwise. It was like putting pieces of a puzzle together and seeing the bigger picture! I have significantly deepened my understanding of God, His Word, and myself in ways I never could have imagined. I am excited to have a much firmer foundation of my faith from which to continue building upon forevermore.

As for the physical fitness side of the challenge, I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life. I have lost 27 pounds and 3.5 inches off my waist and have gained muscle 💪🏻. Here are a few before and after pics.

I feel stronger physically and spiritually and am more alive in Christ with a renewed joy and greater love for my Savior. Praise God! But the journey doesn’t end here. I know that growing my faith, living out my faith, getting (and staying) fit, and making healthy life choices is a lifelong journey.

So as for next steps, starting tomorrow I’ll be doing Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix program followed by 21 Day Fix Extreme. I also plan to focus on memorizing more Scripture and studying hymns. I am beyond grateful for the encouragement of family and friends and, most of all, for the excitement and joy that God continues to fill me with each and every day. I pray that it never ends!