Everyday Miracle

I witness a miracle every day when I get up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror. I canā€™t help but smile! šŸ™‚ When I look or think back on where I was and who I was a year ago, I am simply in awe of God. All glory, praise, and thanksgiving goes to Him for the transformation in my life, both physically and spiritually!

 

 

I struggled with being overweight for the majority of my life and often wondered if I’d ever overcome that struggle. I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude to be able to say today that I have. But I did not, and could not, have done it on my own. I have felt the strength and love of my Lord and Savior every step of the way. Just thinking about how faithful God has been in my life brings tears to my eyes as I write this. I have lost 65 pounds since June 2016 and feel healthier and more fit than ever. God is good!

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I also didnā€™t realize just how lost Iā€™d been spiritually for the majority of my life. I have read more of the Bible in the past year than I did collectively over the first 26 years of my life. I’ve almost read through the entire Bible twice since beginning my initial challenge last July, which has led me to fall more in love with God than I ever knew possible. It has been and continues to be an incredible journey as I seek the Lord and find Him.

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Furthermore, I never would have guessed a year ago that I would be back living in my hometown, finishing up my PhD remotely. God keeps showing me that His ways are infinitely higher than mine. Iā€™m learning more and more the joys and benefits of letting go and letting God lead. Hereā€™s a bit of a recap of the past couple months of my life.

While home on Spring break in March, 6 weeks before moving back to Lancaster, God made it abundantly clear to me that upon moving back He wanted me to reconnect at the church I grew up in, and in particular, get plugged in to the relatively new young adult Sunday school class (YoPros) and help it grow and thrive. To give some perspective, over 4,000 people attend Calvary Church regularly and there are maybe about 45 folks in YoPros each week. But the group is very transient. One week before moving back, I received news that about half of the YoPros leadership team was stepping down for various reasons. I knew that Godā€™s hand was in the timing of it all, and I was excited to be used by Him and see what He had in store for unexpectedly leading me back to Lancaster at this time.

I moved back on Saturday, May 6. The next day, after 6 weeks of waiting for Godā€™s mysterious plan to unfold, I was eager to attend the YoPros class, which meets during the 11:00 service. So I went to the 9:15 worship service and sat alone in a pew by myself. Despite attending the church for 18 years of my life, I felt like a total stranger. This is when it hit me that I had lost all sense of community, all sense of belonging, in just one day. What was happening? Ā After the service, I proceeded to the YoPros class, sat down at a table, and again felt very alone. But I knew deep in my heart that God wanted me there. I was approached by a very sweet girl who asked me a simple question that led me to break down in tears right then and there in the middle of the room. Thatā€™s when I realized that despite the excitement in moving and feeling led by God, the transition was going to be much more difficult than I had anticipated. But God quickly gave me hope and showed His love for me by connecting me in a small group within YoPros that same day. They have since been a huge blessing in my life! God has also excitingly (and clearly) directed my steps to join the YoPros leadership team. Through class on Sunday mornings, small group, and several different social events, I have been encouraged and excited by the many new friendships I am building. There are days I still feel very alone and yearn for deeper, more meaningful connection, but I trust that it will come in time. And all the while, I rest in the loving arms of my ever-faithful and ever-present Heavenly Father, the most meaningful connection of all.

Round two of my challenge hasn’t quite gone as planned, but I am chugging along and not giving up. These past couple months have been overwhelming, to say the least, as Iā€™ve experienced a strange mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar. Iā€™ve received a lot of different reactions from meeting both old and new faces. Iā€™ve simultaneously entered new territory and old territory, and itā€™s been a lot to process. At times it feels like Iā€™m a whole new person. I may look and feel different than I did for the first 26 years of my life, but I am the same person. And though it may often feel like nobody around me truly knows me, what Iā€™ve gone through, or where Iā€™ve come from, I’m reminded how awesome it is that God knows every little detail of my life. Everything Iā€™ve been through, and everyone I’ve met, has played a part in who I am, and where I am, today. And the journey never ends. Each of us has a story which God is continually shaping for His purposes and His glory! You never know what may be on the next page šŸ™‚

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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,Ā 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 doĀ it again. Only this time I plan to read through the Bible chronologically. I’m going to followĀ a condensed version of theĀ plan found here:Ā Chronological Reading Plan. Simultaneously, on the physical fitness side of the challenge, I will once again be doing the 12-week IdealShape Up Challenge, involvingĀ daily workouts and healthy eating. I am excited to start round two ofĀ my challengeĀ 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 toĀ 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 closerĀ 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 decisionĀ that has changed my life every day since. I decided to embark on a journey towardsĀ physical and spiritual fitness. Pairing these goals together was quite possibly the bestĀ 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 comprehendĀ 7 months ago, butĀ 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,Ā 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:Ā Since completingĀ theĀ 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 withĀ 5 smaller meals per day. This usually involves me eating 1-2 meal replacement shakes each day, and strivingĀ 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 haveĀ 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:Ā 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! WhatĀ rich wisdom and guidance for life we haveĀ 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!Ā Ā 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 onĀ 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 throughĀ a book entitled “Walking in the Spirit: A Study ThroughĀ Galatians 5” by Steve Pettit (current president of Bob Jones University).Ā This book has greatly aidedĀ 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 šŸ˜€. 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 šŸ’ŖšŸ». 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!