Advent Series Week 4 – LOVE

This post is a guest post written by my husband, Mike Johns.

I was listening to sports talk radio a few years ago and the host said something that piqued my interest. What he said was not new or anything profound but a simple reminder: “Children emulate what they see.” This phrase has stucck with me for years. It is easy to look past how God loved you so much that He calls you, His child. Think about what John wrote about this:

John 1:12, “But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”

1 John 3:1, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And, that is what we are!”

It is a wonderful thing to be called a child of God! Think about that – the Creator, Sustainer, Giver & Keeper of life gives you the title of HIS CHILD! You are a child of the King! Now, remember, we are to emulate what we see. May we be found during the week of Christmas seeking to live like Jesus.

I thank the Lord that He has given us leaders to show us how to walk with Him daily. He has placed folks in our lives to speak the Word to us, who help us, who give us an example of daily faith.

Hebrews 13:7, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

Maybe during this advent focus on love, now would be a good time to express your love for those people who are examples of the faith to you. Send a quick message, a card, or make a phone call – encourage someone today!

Another outcome of this great love that God has for us is to love one another. We have experienced such a great love in Jesus that it should overflow onto everyone we come into contact with.

1 John 4:11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Let’s love like Jesus in a world that so desperately needs it.

Have a Blessed Christmas!

Dena

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Christmas Day!

Guest post by my pastor, Greg Fine.

Luke 2:6-7 (NIV)

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

The day we have been anticipating, waiting for, preparing for has finally arrived! Merry Christmas! No doubt, for many, this day will e a flurry of activity and celebration. There will be presents to open, food to be prepared and enjoyed, perhaps family to visit. For others, the day may be spent alone reflecting on memories of large family gatherings and celebrations. Regardless, let’s make sure we also include time to worship the Savior whose birth we celebrate!

Luke records that Mary placed the baby Jesus in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. The last phrase of verse 7 has been on my heart with this Advent Season when Luke records, “…there was no room for them in the inn.” We usually picture the scene with a heartless innkeeper turning away the young couple. But Luke does not use the normal word for an inn here. Instead, he uses a more general term referring to a shelter or lodging place. It suggests that Joseph and Mary stopped at a public shelter or place where caravans of travelers could stay for the night. Rather than being greeted by an innkeeper, they are met with an overcrowded shelter. There simply was no more room. The lodging place was already full of travelers because of the census. Joseph was forced to find a suitable location for them to spend the night and ultimately for Mary to give birth—the place where the traveler’s animals were usually kept.

As I reflect upon this verse what strikes me most is not the heartless attitude of an innkeeper but the overcrowding of the shelter for travelers. Overcrowding! I think most of us would say we would ever intentionally deny Jesus room in our lives. But when we allow our lives to become so full of other things then, in essence, we have left no room for Jesus. Our lives can easily become overcrowded with lesser things. Even though we may never intentionally deny Jesus room in our lives, we may unintentionally deny Him room in our lives because we are just too busy. We must be intentional about making room for Jesus in our hearts and lives.

As we celebrate Jesus’ birth today and look forward to a new year ahead let’s be intentional about making room for Jesus. Make time for worship with God’s family consistently. Make time to read God’s Word daily. Make time to spend in prayer, talking with God and growing closer to Him. Make time to serve others and build God’s Kingdom. Don’t let your life become so busy that there is no room for Jesus in your life. Jesus came so He could be the Lord over our lives; to walk with us each day and fill our lives with His joy and peace. Make room for Christmas by making room for Jesus today and throughout the next year! Merry Christmas!

Love,

Dena

Advent Series Week 3 – Peace

Guest post by Russell Smithson – Let Peace Rule

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9

We are about 10 days away from one of the days that we as Christians anxiously await to celebrate every year. Undoubtedly, you have prepped, cooked, cleaned, shopped, decorated, mailed cards and gifts, volunteered, etc. There is always so much to do during this time. But, wait! Have we taken time to have a cup of coffee with a friend, go to church with a smile and joy, thanked the many people who make our life the wonderous adventure it is every day, spent time with God without a timer set, accepted the gift of peace from God? Wait, peace during this time of year?

We all let the stresses of this time of the year wear us down and defeat us and then by Christmas day we are more ready for it to be over than to celebrate what this day symbolizes. The birth of our Lord and Savior who came here for you and me. He came on this day knowing what the future held for Him. Yet He decided you were worth it. I was worth it. He came with peace from God that He was doing the right thing for His family. US! His brothers and sisters.

Peace can happen anywhere even in the middle of chaos. Think about that night so many years ago. They had traveled for days in the dust and wind. All they want is to clean up and rest. But there is no place. They end up in a stable. The water around them used for the animals to drink from. The place to rest is the bedding of the animals in the stable. No fire for warmth because the stable would burn up. Yet in this setting, Christ chose to come and all the pictures we see are of peace. We see a mother happy to see her child. A father looking over his family. A child sleeping in this unlikely place of peace on a cold night in December. Where did the peace come from? God.

We cannot produce peace on our own. No matter how hard we try. Nothing is going to be perfect. We all have feelings, and they are fragile. One wrong word from someone or someone else’s actions can cause us to start worrying and stressing over everything. We cannot produce peace on our own. Our hearts and minds will not allow us to ignore everything. Work, family, obligations, illnesses, desires, our own mistakes, etc. all cause us to worry and fear. We cannot produce peace on our own. The heart is the source of our feelings. The Bible does not teach that the very thing that we fear will not take place; rather, what the Bible does teach is that God will keep your heart and your mind in a state of peace whatever happens. As Psalm 4:8 tells us, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord make me dwell in safety.” We cannot produce peace on our own. Our God is solid. We proclaim Him to be our rock. If we want peace in our lives, we must accept that it is a gift from God. We get peace when we pray to God and seek HIs peace in our lives. Among all the challenges, struggles, striving for perfection we must humble ourselves and acknowledge the only way to have peace in our lives, in our families, in our church, in our community, in our world is to ask God and accept this glorious gift He has for us.

This is a great time of the year to let go of all those feelings we have harbored all year. What someone did or didn’t do, how we were wronged, what awful thing someone said, that someone who sat in our spot at church, the person who didn’t say thank you after we worked so hard, that person that walked by and didn’t say anything after we greeted them, and so many other things that we allow our heart and mind carry around. Let it go and let God’s gift of peace settle in our hearts and minds. Start a new year with a new goal of accepting God’s gift of peace in your life daily and letting go of those things that we were never in control of anyway. Let God’s peace settle over you like the snow on a cold winter’s night. For the coming year I pray that “the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:26

Merry Christmas my family.

What situations in your life do you need to turn over to God? (Pray right now about them)

What are some of the things in your life to be thankful to God for this past year?

What can you do to fix your eyes on God and not your problems?

What scripture speaks to you about God’s gift of peace? Memorize it and keep it in your heart.

Until next time!

Love,

Dena

Week 4 – Rest in His Strength and Sufficiency

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever,”

Psalm 73:26

Being on a health journey has it’s ups and downs. It brings challenges and temptations, especially around the holidays! There have been times that I have feared failure, yet again, and other times I fear success…afraid of what losing pounds may cost me, or even worse, the expectations I may put on myself if I reach my goals…will I become extreme? Will I become prideful, or full of vanity? Will my personality change in a negative way? I think that these fears are what can keep us stuck, or going back to old habits.

Food is a good gift from God. It’s really not the enemy here. But, it becomes the enemy when we make it more than good, and turn it into an idol…something that we go to instead of God. I know I’ve been an emotional eater. It became my comfort when I was sad, stressed or mad, and my celebration during my happy times. God wants to be our comfort and our celebration. And, only He truly satisfies. I’m learning that all that food really does when I’m hurting or celebrating is bring further guilt and shame!

Because of His strength in me, I can overcome the temptations! I think we have underestimated His strength in us! We have to stop going into battles within while looking back at what was. We want to find comfort in what we always have, we longingly desire that one thing that we think will satisfy. Our love is our food, something that can never love us back! We are relying on our own strength in these moments! Romans 8:13 says, “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

We think that if we are strong enough, we can do anything or be anything. But, Jesus warns us in Mark 14:38 that our spirits are willing, but our bodies are weak. I’m learning that it’s in my weaknesses God is giving me opportunities for growth. He is showing me so many areas that I can work on and improve. So many people, including my past self, have lost weight, or gotten healthy. Some have even reached their fitness goals….and most have done it in their own strength, not seeing the relation between body, mind, and spirit. But, the happiness is always short lived. Because when we are led by the flesh, we are working towards weight loss goals for all the wrong reasons. We think if a little is good, then a lot is better. We look in the mirror and cannot see the truth. A focus on the flaws increases the lies. This way steals time and energy from the most important people….God, ourselves, and our families. When we focus on willpower to lose weight, we become consumed by what we want our new identity to be. Then, we transfer our bondage to food to vanity. Satan is there waiting on the other side of good health, ready to show us any and all remaining imperfections. He’s sneaky like that!

There’s nothing wrong with improving ourselves. But, if we are going too far the other way….God has every right to step in and say “That’s enough!” He wants to show us freedom, not lead us into another form of bondage.

Others who are working on getting healthy, but doing it in their own willpower lose the fight, and their strength fails. It’s easier to give up and find comfort in what was familiar. (This has been me, over and over again!) I think it’s just uncomfortable and hard, and easy to just remain where we were than to keep fighting (especially when doing something like this in our own strength)! First Corinthians 1:25b says, “…the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” What I’m learning through this Wellness Revelation study is that until I connect to the Spirit, the true source of all power, I will continue to fail. True and lifelong self-discipline and obedience to the Lord does not come from ourselves, but from God in us by the power of the Holy Spirit! When I am physically or mentally weak, I must draw on the power of God within me. For so long, I have pushed that power aside, I think I just didn’t believe His power could work in me, or within me for something like weight loss. I felt like I would never succeed, but we must never believe our feelings. Feeling are meant to be felt, not control what we do or don’t do.

I now know that being connected to the Lord in this journey is the key to my success. No more yo-yo dieting! I want more than weight loss, I want to gain my life back! In the process, I’m finding freedom! And, when we have life, we can give that life to others, which is what I hope I’m doing! I am so passionate now about helping others, especially when it comes to the limiting beliefs that play over and over in our heads when we are in bondage! Now, I know that I must renew my mind on a consistent basis through His Word, and through godly mentors, teachers, preachers and podcasts that fill my mind with truth. The truth of who I am in Him. And, trust me…I thought I had been doing this all along in my Spiritual walk, but I was still in bondage when it came to my mind and how I thought. I believed the lies, and couldn’t see the truth, even when it was right in front of me. Living with the right mind-set helps us to remember that every choice we make is important. When we’re living intentionally, we can be His agents of change here on earth.

I’m learning to slow down, way down, and to stop living on auto-pilot in my daily routines. And, when I do this, I am more aware of the choices I’m making, the words I’m saying, and the actions I’m taking. I’m being more present in the moments, more engaged with people around me, and fully present. (I definitely have not perfected any of this….but, it is something the Lord is working on in me.)

I used to try to “balance” everything. I was trying to be a good housekeeper, a good homeschool mom, a good wife, mom, friend, Sunday School teacher, and working on myself by working out, eating right, and being consistent in my own time with the Lord. Now, I know balance is a lie. There is no such thing as perfectly balancing all the areas of my life. I was failing at ALL of it, when I was trying to balance it all. I was relying more on my management skills, and not being present in much of anything, nor was I enjoying life. Now, instead of trying to balance everything, I’m seeking wholehearted living. I wake up and ask the Lord to direct my day and to help me accomplish exactly what He has for me. I can show up as myself in every circumstance that comes up, and give what I can. I allow the Lord to direct me and live with a much greater passion and purpose. I know we all have a uniqueness about us, and I want to give my own voice, heart, mind, and body to whatever He has for me each day. And, I hope that He will use me to create hope, love, and joy in others. And, this takes belief! We can’t give away what we don’t have. We have to believe and act on truth. The truth is that God loves me and accepts me, and because of Jesus I am right with Him. He makes me righteous because He is righteous. He thinks, feels, speaks, and acts right in all circumstances through me. But, I must believe He is, or else my sinful nature takes over once again. I can trust and believe only if I’m seeking His heart throughout my day, every day. I also have to believe He loves me despite my mess, despite my failures. He met me where I was, and began His good work, transforming my mind, heart and body. We have to trust Him to strengthen us when we don’t feel like we are enough, (because those thoughts will still try to creep their way in), and trust him to remove pride in our hearts when we are again tempted to follow ourselves rather than Him. And, when we live wholeheartedly, drawing on the unconditional love and acceptance of God, that leads to true wellness.

He is sufficient for me. Sufficiency means adequate. When we live in sufficiency, our circumstances will have no power to define our worth. When we realize who we are is who God called us to be, we will be set free. Have you been held back by the chains of self-condemnation, doubt, or ridicule? When we trust the Lord is sufficient for us, these things will no longer have the power to control us. He gives us what we need, but not necessarily everything we want. We can be selfish, we sometimes are not satisfied with not having it all! But, I know I need to listen to my God-given body and be satisfied with everything about it, regardless of what I want, whether that be food or the way I look. I don’t need to have it all. I don’t want to be fixated on a number or a body shape. None of us will be enough or have enough apart from God. Only He will truly satisfy.

Many of the health struggles we have today could be avoided if we would just be proactive in eating whole foods, living wholeheartedly because we know we are wholly loved by a holy God, rather than seeking after things we think will give us the comfort or pleasure we desire. Our nation is sick. We get too much of what we want, but not enough of what we truly need (which is hearts that are healed and made whole by unconditional love, and that are set free to help set others free). We must engage our souls and spirits in shedding the access pounds. The flesh will not be strong enough on it’s own to fight a war greater than itself. We must continue looking in the mirror of our souls and spirits so that we can do the work of change. James 1:23-24 says, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” We are missing out on the freedom God has called us to when we go away and forget to do the work He’s calling us to. We are invited to be a part of the solution, not the problem in the world. We can and will win this battle, not by our own strength, but by His. Now is the time to let the Scriptures search us, know us, and change us. And, we must always remember to work on ourselves before pointing out the flaws in others.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around-life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him.”

Romans 12:1 (The Message)

With Love in Christ,
Dena

Advent Series Week 1 – HOPE

It’s the season of Advent! A time of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas! I will be writing a series of devotions leading up to Christmas. My hope is that in the busyness of the season, we can all take time to slow down and remember Jesus, the true meaning of this season.

Scripture passages: Ezekiel 37:1-14; Nahum 1:7; and Joel 2:25-27

With all the struggles we face, with all the doom and gloom and frustration we often feel, it can seem as if there is no hope. We feel like the world is spinning by, and we don’t have time to really enjoy it. At least, this is how I’ve felt at times, especially when I’m working on bettering myself. I can get caught up in checking off the boxes of working out, doing my Bible study that I’m leading, and working through that one that I’m attending, etc. I get so caught up in doing things — good things, that I don’t live in the freedom that Christ has given!

In Ezekiel 37:1-14, Ezekiel is taken to a valley of dry bones. The Lord asks him if the bones can live. I know when I’m going through the motions of life, I can often not feel fully alive. Nahum 1:7 tells us that the Lord is good, our refuge when we are struggling. He cares and wants us to trust Him. Trust and Hope can go hand in hand. I was trusting in myself and what I was getting done (because it made me feel good….until I couldn’t get it all done). But, I wasn’t seeking the Lord first and asking Him what He wanted me to do each day and then trusting His leading instead of my own. I often would worry that if I did something the Lord led me to do, I would fall even further behind in the tasks I knew I needed to get done. But, that wasn’t trusting God!

What made these bones come back to life? The Spirit led Ezekiel to speak life into them! We desperately need the Word of God to speak life into us, but we also need to look at people around us and speak life into them! Maybe they are stuck in the day to day and not living fully alive and they need someone to breathe encouragement and life into them! We, as believers, first need to get life from God’s Word, then speak that life by connecting with others. That’s when we can live truly abundantly!

I have lost a lot of years trying to “be better” or “do better.” Because I expected so much of myself, I expected a lot from others. And, then I’d beat myself up for my failures, and then beat up others with judgement for theirs. It’s not a pleasant way to live. I was missing out on the abundant life that the Lord really wants us all to live in now! I’m so grateful for the Lord’s patience with me and the work He continues to do in my life. I am finding the freedom He has had for me all along! Joel 2:21-27 brings much comfort to me because I know that the Lord will give back to me the years I’ve lost in “trying” and I will instead live in the freedom and abundance that He has for me every day!

Love,

Dena

The GIFT of Gratitude

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! It’s been a blessed time for our family.

I also wanted to let you know I am grateful for you and I hope that sharing my heart through my journey is helpful to you.

I recently have been listening to some amazing podcasts, one that has become a favorite is Limitless with Deanna Herrin. I highly encourage you to go take a listen if becoming a better version of yourself is something you desire. Right now she’s doing a series on Mindset, and it’s just so good! But, since I started listening to her, I decided to go back to the beginning and listen all the way through! And, about this time last year (2021), she had a Gratitude series. It really spoke life into my heart, and I feel like if something is a Godsend, the Lord often confirms it’s from Him when another person says the same types of things within a close proximity of hearing the first message. Well, that’s exactly what happened! I listened to Deanna’s Limitless podcast on Gratitude and speaking life into others by expressing our gratitude for them in our lives, and then my Pastor also preached a sermon on the exact same thing! Their challenges were a tad different, but still the same! Deanna challenged everyone to write a note of gratitude and speak life into people for 30 days….one a day. My pastor challenged us to speak life and gratitude to people either by saying it to them in person or by writing a note, email, text, etc. They both also talked about how it is impossible to think negatively at the same time you are being grateful. Gratefulness negates negativity! And, I know from research that 70%-80% of our thinking (about ourselves or others – including our self-talk which probably takes up the majority of our thoughts) is negative! So, being grateful is such an important practice. Even when difficulties and trials are occurring in our lives we must find even some small things each day to be grateful for. It is so good for overall health! So, my challenge for you, even though Thanksgiving has passed, is to start a gratitude journal and write a minimum of 5 things each day that you are grateful for….it can be as simple as the smell of a fire, or the crunch of fall leaves or as big as the Lord’s goodness, or family connections. And, speaking life and gratitude to others…..it’s just so powerful! Who doesn’t like to hear that they are thought of, loved, or special to someone and why? If you want to get the family involved, make a gratitude jar where everyone places slips of paper with things they are grateful for, then every month or quarter, go through and read them. Make it a new habit that’s not just during the Thanksgiving holiday, but all year through!

Next week I’ll be back to sharing about what I’m learning through the Wellness Revelation. Stay tuned for the Advent season where I’ll be sharing some devotions I’m writing leading up to Christmas where we remember the birth of our Savior, Jesus.

Love,

Dena

Week 3 – Live Out His Purpose For You

“Everything is permissible for me” —but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me” —but I will not be mastered by anything.

I Corinthians 6:12

I think I’m going to change the format of my Wellness Revelation Bible Study posts to just me sharing with you what the Lord laid on my heart during the week. It’s more relatable that way, even if you aren’t doing the study with us.

I believe the Lord gives each of us gifts and a purpose to live out, and ultimately it’s always to lead others into a life of joy and freedom in Christ. I had never really considered that was my purpose…. but the more I think about it, the more I realize it’s really His purpose for us all! We all have different gifts that help us to do this, and because we are all unique, He uses us in different ways to accomplish this same purpose. He created you to speak into the world in a way that only you can, and me in a way that only I can.

I’ve gotten caught up in the day to day grind, but I’m seeing that He has purpose even in those things if we will just slow down and allow Jesus to live through all the moments. As we live day to day, in whatever occupations we have or even as homeschool moms or stay-at-home moms, we can provide evidence that Jesus is who He says He is, and that He helps us, encourages us, redeems and sets us free, and saves us from our sin and ourselves. Even in our failures, struggles, and the day to day “To Do” list, He is our strength. He picks us up out of the grave and releases us from bondage. We get the opportunity to put His strength on display through the choices we make, the actions we take, and the voices we use. What we do shows Christ’s love and power inside us to a world that needs to see.

We have the opportunity to be the change. We are called to live for His higher purposes, a higher accountability, and to display self-discipline. If others see us making poor choices, what are we saying about our God of power and love? If we are walking around with stress rather than thankfulness and joy, our countenance shows it. And, that is not going to display His love or power in our lives.

I don’t know about you, but I can have lots of goals for myself, my family, my home, and my work. And, these goals cause me to want to become a better version of myself. But, I can get caught up in trying harder to work out “my” plan. In becoming a better version of me (because He is convicting me in areas I need to improve) I can sometimes get overwhelmed with the “doing” and not just rest in Him. So, for me, a schedule is really good for discipline in my life, but I cannot let the schedule control me. I must rest in Him and His leading. I have to slow down and be present with others. I mean, why “do” the changing, if it doesn’t affect my peace of mind, my facial expressions, and my connection with others? I can’t find the peace of mind, a positive countenance and connection without His leading me at all times, and my constant connection with Him. Thankfully, His Spirit in us already gives us the self-discipline or self-control we need. He gifted that to us when we received Him as Savior and Lord in the form of the Fruits of the Spirit. I’ve often thought these fruits were things I need to work at or on, rather than realizing they are already given to me as gifts just for being His child. I just have to allow Him to live them out in me. We just live out the truth of His love, as dearly loved, valued, and cherished children of God who happen to live in a fallen, sinful world. We obey because we love. The more we love Him, the more natural the obedience will come. When we are obedient, self-discipline naturally follows.

What do we need in order to do His work? Energy!!! His job is to do the work in and through us, our job is to take care of ourselves and make healthy choices that will benefit us for the long haul. If I choose to live a healthy life, I am allowing myself the opportunity to be on mission, living out His purpose…what He created me for—reaching the unreachable in the darkest places. The types of foods we eat definitely affect how we feel, and how we do our work. There is power in our food. What else can get into the smallest cells in our bodies and change them? Only God’s Spirit, and Jesus, the Word, can go that deep. And the quality of life we enjoy is determined by the quality of food we eat. I’ve also recently realized that the foods that I eat and the way that I take care of myself definitely affect the way I think and the mindset that I have. So, it’s not just good food for our bodies, but we also need to be fueling our minds at the same time! I do this through getting still and opening the Word of God, through worship that penetrates my soul, and through awesome podcasts, and good books. And, recently I took on a 30 Day Gratitude challenge where each day I am writing a personal note of gratitude for different people in my life. All these things are awesome ways to fuel the mind.

If you are anything like me, we can easily become overwhelmed and stressed with all the things that need to get done on a daily basis. We are busy! We are busy doing good things like leading a Bible Study, leading a homeschool co-op class, keeping the house clean, cooking healthy meals, running our kids to their practices or to church functions, or to lessons, and working on ourselves by working out, and growing as a person. It’s A LOT. But, I’m learning that it’s in the being still, even for just a few moments each day and surrendering my day and my tasks to the Lord, that I am able to be more joyful, more upbeat, more ready to take on all the things I have to do. And, when I take that time to be still, He multiplies my time. But, when I don’t take the time, not only do I not get as much done, but I also become grouchy with the kids, worn out so much quicker, and my mind starts going to dark places where my self-talk becomes a punching bag within. I want to live a healthy, whole life (mind, body, spirit, soul) so that I am freed up to love myself in a healthy and righteous way (not selfishly) and to love and pour into others.

I loved Alisa Keeton’s story, in Chapter 3 of The Wellness Revelation, about The Very Hungry Caterpillar children’s book, and how that Caterpillar got distracted with all the different types of foods available to him – most of which were unhealthy – and how we are like that caterpillar because we get distracted so easily with all the things going on around us. But, just like the caterpillar had a chance to turn things around by going into a cocoon, we also have that opportunity. I feel like that’s where I’m at right now. I’m in a cocoon where I’m discovering lots of dark places that need changed. And, I’m doing the hard things, just like the caterpillar….and those hard things take time. But, I get to go into this cocoon with the Lord who is with me all the time. We like to rush, we want to see the change NOW. We want to see the beauty of the butterfly emerging and flying into freedom. But, we can’t rush through the struggle and suffering or the beauty doesn’t emerge. We have to go through the hard, the times it may feel easier to give up, but if we stick to the disciplines the Lord is laying on our hearts and keep pressing forward, eventually the change and the beauty, and the freedom will come! And, though I can’t wait for that day, I’m treasuring these moments of growth the Lord is taking me through, the hard things, the life lessons, these times waiting on the Lord and His timing. I am becoming dependent on the voice of Love to lead me and give me strength through the hard, dark cocoon.

And, I know if you’re at all like me, you know that breaking bad habits and starting new ones is another HARD thing. It takes around 3 weeks or 21 days to break a bad habit. But, it takes about 3 months before new habits become established as a part of our daily lives. It’s a compound effect….the more we do the hard thing/the new habit, the better we get at doing it, and the more good habits we can add over time. I think in the past, I’ve tried to add too many good habits at once, and I couldn’t keep up with all the “good” I wanted to do. It’s better to add one small thing at a time until it becomes easy, then add another. Don’t go and try to change everything about yourself in a day or a week or even a month! It’s too much! Slow and steady wins the race! And, most importantly we have to allow the Lord to guide us. He wants us to be free, even more than we do. He wants us to live abundantly, that’s what He designed us for. But, we have to listen to His leading in where He wants us to change, and to trust Him with the ugly moments, the hard times, the struggle in the becoming who He designed us to be.

Here is another passage that has really spoken to me through the cocoon stage:

21 “Fear not, O land;
    be glad and rejoice,
    for the Lord has done great things!
22 Fear not, you beasts of the field,
    for the pastures of the wilderness are green;
the tree bears its fruit;
    the fig tree and vine give their full yield.

23 “Be glad, O children of Zion,
    and rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given the early rain for your vindication;
    he has poured down for you abundant rain,
    the early and the latter rain, as before.

24 “The threshing floors shall be full of grain;
    the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
25 I will restore[a] to you the years
    that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
    my great army, which I sent among you.

26 “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
    and praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
    and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

Joel 2:21-27

I feel like this passage is telling me that He is the restorer of all things! Whatever the locusts have eaten, He will restore! All the mistakes I’ve made, all the years I have struggled, all the wrong I’ve done, He is making new and is restoring. Praise His Name!! I also love in verse 23 where it says, “…..he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.” The definition of vindication is: the action of clearing someone of blame or suspicion; proof that someone or something is right, reasonable, or justified. He loves me so much that He doesn’t want me to feel shame anymore, to feel guilt from the wrongs I’ve done. He wants to clear me, but not only clear me but bring abundance into my life! I believe we can live an abundant life in the here and now, we don’t have to wait until heaven for that! He gives it now! We just have to pursue Him, love Him, live in Him and He through us!

Love you all!

Dena

P.S. Please let me know by commenting if you can relate to any of this! I’m hopeful that sharing some of my struggles and growth that others can relate and somehow benefit.

Why Do We Talk To Ourselves Like We Do?

This week I want to take a small break from our Wellness Revelation Bible Study just to share some things the Lord has been revealing to me. He has been helping me to dig deep, and I know this digging deeper will bring me complete healing and that He is going to use this to help others with the same struggles. And, that is exciting!

This past weekend I attended a “Speak Life” retreat with 9 other ladies. It was a weekend of pouring into one another. One of the exercises we did that had a HUGE impact on all of us was to write down all the negative thoughts just scrolling through our minds about ourselves. We were only given a coupe of minutes to do this…..yet every single one of us came up with several things that we had written down. Mine were:

  • I feel misunderstood.
  • No one will listen to me.
  • I have to prove myself.
  • I am only loved if I meet expectations.

Other ladies responded with things like: I am not enough. I am a bad mom. I am not pretty, and many more. And, with a group of 10 ladies, I am sure you can imagine all the deep heart struggles we all came up with and the vulnerability shared. And, it was HARD. It is HARD to share these thoughts out loud. Have you ever tried to? I think the enemy likes us to keep these thoughts (given to us by himself….as the father of lies) to ourselves, never speaking them out loud, because once they are spoken aloud, they can be combatted with the TRUTH, and are no longer valid!!! And, that is exactly what we did!! We listened to these painful beliefs, then we immediately shared with one another what we saw that was TRUE about whoever had just shared. And, every single time, it was the OPPOSITE of what the person felt within their mind.

Here are the TRUTHS that the ladies came up with for me:

  • I am loved.
  • I am worthy.
  • I am a survivor.
  • I am seen.
  • I am valuable.
  • My voice matters.

It brings such healing when we SPEAK LIFE into others, and receive that life from others. Why do we not do this more often? Why don’t we use our voice to be an encouraging word to someone that is probably thinking these same thoughts that we all do!? This is something that I was very convicted to do…to use my voice to bring hope and healing to others. We all have struggles and thoughts that aren’t serving us. We need to dig deep, speak them aloud, and allow the Spirit to fill us with truth through the words of others or through His Word.

After we did this exercise, later that evening, we took the list of negative, non-serving thoughts we had, and tossed them into a bonfire, and then we spoke the TRUTH out loud instead. It was powerful and freeing.

Over the remaining time of the weekend, we had the opportunity to write encouraging notes to one another on cards. We each had a box with our name on it and everyone put their handwritten notes in the each person’s box. This way, at the end of the weekend, we could take our boxes home filled with encouraging notes from all of the other ladies. It was so emotional reading them once we got home, and everyone was so encouraged.

My challenge to you this week is to do this same exercise with someone you can trust. Get vulnerable. Share your heart, and let them help you come up with TRUTHS to combat those lies. If you don’t feel like you have anyone to share with, share with the Lord. Speak them out loud! Then, search His Word for truths that combat those lies! Then, speak those aloud, too! Satan wants to keep us stuck in these thoughts that keep us from moving forward in truth. Don’t allow him to win! God has so much more for each one of us! And, speak some life over someone you know this week….maybe hand write some encouraging words to someone, or speak them out loud. We all can use these kinds of affirmations in our lives!

Love you all!

Dena

P.S. Here is one more powerful video we saw this weekend! It just shows how when we get the lack of belief out of our minds (usually with the help of others) we are set FREE to be who we truly are!! You can watch that here!

Week 2 – Be Free

Wellness Revelation Bible Study by Alisa Keeton

This week we studied Week 2 in the Wellness Revelation Bible Study! Be Free!!! The focal verse for the week was Romans 12:1.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

Romans 12:1

Here are the main points that I got out of the chapter 2 reading:

  1. We often fill ourselves with things that we think will bring us satisfaction, things that we put value in or on. However putting value on things that don’t truly satisfy will steal from us, rather than actually bring fulfillment. For me, food was one. I thought it was bringing me comfort when my emotions were in a negative place. But, what it really brought was addiction, shame, an out of shape body, tiredness, and spiritual bondage in my mind.
  2. Even when I thought I was trying to make changes by dieting or exercising, I was still enslaved because the food consumed me….shopping, menu planning, prepping, logging, counting calories or carbs, or whatever (depending on the diet).
  3. Good things (that God created for our good…..like food) can be used incorrectly. And, when used incorrectly it gives birth to sin, which gives birth to bondage or addiction. What starts as a necessary behavior (eating for survival) becomes more about the food, and less about God’s goodness and fuel. Eating becomes a false high and takes us captive to receive momentary payoffs. Oh….this is SO TRUE!
  4. Once we become enslaved, we lose our sensitivity to God. God wants to heal our brokenness, the deep places that caused us to turn to food instead of Him. I know for years I did not realize the deeper issues. He has begun revealing those to me over time, gently, and for my good. I pray you allow Him to do the same with you!
  5. How we live our lives is how we express our worship. Everything we do can point to Him, giving others direction who may be seeking a better way. But, it can also lead others astray, if we are not living our lives in worship to God alone.
  6. He desires to reveal to us the areas we are not fully committed or believing in Him, so that He can live out His power through us, giving us purpose and His strength. Then, He gets the proper glory and we receive joy. Idols will be a distraction to us during this process.
  7. Moses delivered God’s message: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” (Ex. 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; and 10:3). I never really paid attention to the second part of that command…..so that they may worship me. But, there is a purpose for it being there….God can’t truly be worshipped when the devotion is split, and when the Israelites were in slavery to Pharoah, their devotion was to him! To be free, is to worship God alone!!
  8. We cannot trust our minds to know what is best for us! My mind, because of satan, can be very deceptive! Fasting is a way to break free from our own desires, and to concentrate on God and what He desires for us. We can achieve some clarity from the mental fog that satan keeps us in. It clears our eyes to see and opens our ears to hear from God. It also gives our control over to God….in faith. And, it brings Spiritual healing. Isaiah 58:6-8 tells us that when we truly fast with our mind set on God alone, “[our] light will break forth like the dawn, and [our] healing will quickly appear.”
  9. We fight satan’s temptations with the Word of God. When we fast from things that comfort us, (food, or whatever it is that comforts you….sometimes it’s Netflix or social media for me, too!) we are released from our chains so that we can become strong in Christ! We fast to enable Him to develop our hearts and minds to respond to others like He does.
  10. This is the fasting God loves:
"Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord with answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.'"
Isaiah 58:6-9, ESV

In the RESPOND section, I noted that this wellness journey is about Love having His way with us. We are simply seeking Jesus and the freedom that comes from drawing closer in relationship with Him. This section focused a lot on fasting. And, some great steps to take as you prepare to fast. Some of those were:

  1. Set aside a time that works best for you and your schedule to fast. No stressful, busy days, but days that you are in a restful state of mind.
  2. Talk to God off and on throughout the fasting period, especially when you feel hungry. In those moments turn to God’s Word, “ingest” it, and pray. Because your body is free from chemicals, digesting, and metabolizing, we can be excited about the mental space we are creating for the Lord to speak! Our hearts and minds are being cleansed, or detoxed! In our weakness, His Word makes us strong and comes to life.
  3. Stay hungry to connect and realign with the Lord. When you can’t settle yourself or find peace, it’s time to end the fast.
  4. Drink lots of water, stay hydrated. Juice is also acceptable.
  5. Journal what the Lord is showing you.
  6. Expect mild symptoms….hunger pains and irritability were a couple I experienced. If you are used to a lot of caffeine, headaches will probably occur.
  7. Be cheerful! Don’t walk around as though you’re weak, or sad because of the lack of food. Don’t think about how “strong” you are for being able to fast. Smile and be joyful for what the Lord will do in and through you.

Then the hunger scale was discussed. A scale of 1-5. 1 being ravenously hungry. 5 being stuffed. With 2 – 4 being where you want to fall. 2 being hungry, 3 being content, and 4 being satisfied. By learning to be more aware of hunger and how it feels, and how it has affected your eating habits, you will be changed by God and for Him. Don’t eat just because your bored, or mindlessly while you’re watching t.v. Weight gain occurs when we are no longer paying attention to our God given body and what it’s telling us, and eat rather, out of habit. Practice being mindful with the hunger scale. This will carry over to all aspects of being healthy and whole.

The next section talked about using the Moving Forward Journal. Record your food and drink. Complete the hunger scale. Write out the weekly memory verse because it will help to renew your mind. Be sure to spend time in prayer and quiet time. When we are quiet before God we can hear Him speak. Often times we don’t hear Him because we don’t quiet our minds. The Wellness Revelation is a springboard to a holistic life: mind, body and spirit! We obey so we can become disciplined, and God gives us the strength for this. I loved the detail Alisa Keeton, the author, went into when it came to how to do a quiet time, breathing deeply, allowing the words of the Word to read you. Let it come alive and live it out. Meditate on the Word and allow it to soak into your soul. Eat the Word – read slowly and digest so that it saturates your mind. Think – ask questions and dig deeper, journal, think on it throughout your day. Pray – allow the Holy Spirit to translate so that you understand it fully. Ask for further insight. Listen and strengthen your connection with Him. Live – give Him opportunities to use the Scripture sometime throughout your day. Then, it went into logging your food (as long as this is not a bondage thing for you). This kind of log can be helpful for plateaus or points where you are feeling stuck. And, lastly the drink log. I found this one very helpful because I know I struggle to drink enough.

And, the last section talks about slowing down to truly seek God and ask Him to be all that we need. Acknowledging His blessings. Pray before eating, be grateful for the fuel. Approach it like breathing. Be mindful. Take all things to the Lord in prayer before acting….and this includes eating. Prayer takes place in the heart, the words don’t matter. It’s the attitude of the heart that does.

The next section was RENEW. Once again, the Lord did some work on me! #5 asked Why do you think people exchanged the glory of God for images of people or animals (referring to Romans 1:21-25). How have you used food or other substances to fill a need? I truly believe that it’s the Israelites wrong thinking or skewed mindset (thoughts and questions put there by satan to confuse or cause a lack of belief in God). Mindset has been my biggest struggle in my journey. And, I’m coming to realize that satan is what really keeps me stuck. I’ve used food to fill a false need for comfort when stressed out, sad, or overwhelmed. Satan tries to make me believe that food is where I feel comfort, when it’s a lie! Only Jesus truly satisfies. Then, #6 asked What Galatians 4:8 says about slavery and idolatry? It says we were slaves BEFORE knowing God. But, because we know Him, we should no longer remain as slaves. He has set us FREE! Do I believe I am free? That’s where the struggle lies….in the mind and in our beliefs. If I’m free, why do I live as though I’m not when it comes to food? Hmm…..tough questions!! Then, #7, referring to Philippians 3:18-21 with a focus on vs. 19 asked, What happens when we set our minds on earthly things? We are destined for destruction, which is exactly what satan wants. We continue to live in shame and guilt, never feeling like we can overcome. We don’t believe we have already overcome with Jesus! Anyone else? Or is this just my struggle? Then, #8, referring to Proverbs 23:20-21, What does this say about gluttony? How is it that poverty can result from gluttony? Gluttons become poor and lazy because it’s a trap. It takes from us physically, mentally, and spiritually. It causes us to disbelieve in ourselves and in God. It steals self-confidence. It steals freedom, and it keeps us from trusting and relying on God. Then, #9 asked us to describe the poverty in our own lives. I said: I don’t feel respected. I don’t feel valued by people. I feel looked down upon or judged. I get “stuck” in my lack of belief in God’s freedom and in my own ability. That’s me being very vulnerable! Then, #10 asks, How might your relational poverty be similar to the experience of people who live in developing countries? I said the feeling of not being wanted or cared for. The loneliness. The lack of belief in God and self. More vulnerability!

Lastly, was the RELATE section. Here I just want to focus on #1. What do I fear most? What do I love most? and Finish the “If only ___________________________, then I would be complete” statement. For fear, I put not being accepted for who I really am. Not continuing in the hard places and falling back into bondage (ex. working out, eating healthy, renewing my mind, pursuing Jesus and what He has planned for me.) Not becoming all God desires for me. And, then of course fear that any of my family members don’t know or aren’t growing in Jesus. For love, I put time with Jesus, God’s Word, Feeling in control (which I noted is an idol) and Feeling accomplished (also an idol). Yikes! And, to close here are my If only statements:

If only I reached my health goals, I’d be respected, and people would love me more, accept me more, and want to listen to me.

If only I pursued my dreams, I would be successful.

Then I asked myself, Is my idol me? money? success? And, is it wrong to desire respect? Jut some things to think about.

This week we will begin Chapter 3. I typically don’t fast during week 2. I typically wait until week 4. If you would like to fast, and you’d like an easy way to remove some of those foods that might be negatively affecting you and your body, reach out to me and I’ll share what’s been working for me!

See you next week when we will dive into week 3! What did you take away from week 2? I’d love to hear!

Love,

Dena

Week 1 – Embrace God’s Purpose, Desire, and Design

There’s always so much that I underline and take away from my readings. Chapter 1 of the Wellness Revelation was no exception!

I did this study in May this past spring into summer. When I went through it the first time, I underlined in green, and answered questions in the book. This time around, I will underline in purple and answer the questions in my notebook. It’s amazing the difference in underlining and answers each time you do a study! God always speaks in different ways!

The main things I took from the reading section of Chapter 1 were:

  1. In God’s wisdom and kindness, He wants to keep our hearts from bondage and destruction.
  2. He has given each of us a purpose, so that He can show us His power, and so that He will be glorified through us. (Exodus 9:16)
  3. We must give up our control, and allow Him to do the work through us. It’s not about us becoming more disciplined, or “doing” all the right things. We’ve tried that before.
  4. What we really want is love, to belong without the fear of rejection. We want meaning and purpose.
  5. We are planted and growing in His purpose, His power, and His strength. We cannot do His work in our own strength.
  6. We must surrender all of ourselves to Him, with a humble and softened heart.
  7. He desires for us to be holy – set apart from common use and dedicated to God – and whole – Christ in mind, Christ in heart, Christ in soul, and Christ in strength. When we are holy, we are whole.
  8. Through Christ, our broken, damaged, and impaired selves can be completely restored.
  9. We are His design, and as we search the Scriptures, we can discover more about what He was thinking as He designed us.
  10. How we care for the creation (ourselves), is a reflection of our Creator. It matters.

In the Respond section I noted Luke 14:26-30. When you start something, finish it!

In Your Action Plan, I think the parts that stuck out the most were that I realized the biggest obstacle that’s kept me from making positive health changes has been not believing I can actually reach my goals. It’s truly been a struggle in my mind. I must get in the right mindset, allow God to change my thoughts and renew my mind. I have to stop relying on myself, because I know I can’t do this without Christ working in me.

In the Renew section, the Lord really did some work!!! #4, referencing Leviticus 11:44, asked what keeps me from living a holy and whole life? I believe my negative thinking keeps me stuck, not believing in myself. And, then…..here’s the BIG ONE: Ultimately not believing God can do the work through me! This is satan keeping me in a stronghold, and believing the lies that I will fail again! Then, #5, referencing Proverbs 14:12, Where am I following a way that “appears to be right”? And, how might it be a stumbling block toward improving holiness and wholeness? This one really had me reflecting….I think I find it difficult to find a balance between good habits and doing these habits with a mindset of box checking, rather than a heart fully devoted to Christ and change. Doing great habits with the wrong mindset or in my own strength is a huge stumbling block because it makes me “appear” to be good, but inside I’m not. Woah….that was some hard truth. Then, #6, referencing Genesis 1:27, What does my image say about Him? Well, obviously, it ought to reflect Him. However, when I eat foods that don’t serve me or my body, I don’t feel like I’m reflecting Him at all. I feel my image says that my God can’t beat this stronghold. That was another tough truth to digest! Then, #7, referencing Ephesians 4:22-24, What hope does this passage give about how my life can be transformed in all areas, including my physical and spiritual health? The hope is knowing that I can put off or get rid of my past ways, my corrupt and messed up mind, and I can be made new in my mind, new in my body, an new in my spirit because Christ’s power lives in me!

In the Relate section, the parts that stuck out the most were #5, referencing Genesis 3:11, Who told you…..? This is where satan’s lies come into our minds. I wrote just a few down… Who told you you aren’t good enough? Who told you you’re a failure? Who told you you’ll never reach your weight loss goals? Satan likes to repeat these kinds of lies over and over in my mind to keep me stuck. Then, #6, we were to write down various lies that we have been living as truth. I wrote down several, just like the ones I wrote in #5. And, this is where some deeper work can be done! I HIGHLY encourage you to write down lies as they enter your mind, and then come up with a counter to those lies through Scriptures of truth. I have started doing this, and plan to keep doing it, even if I get a stack of 3×5 cards over an inch thick! This is the hard and heart work I need! I need to dispel the lies, and renew my mind with God’s truths! So, on one side of the card, you can write the lie, and on the other write a Scripture or two that dispels the lie with the truth of the Word. I’ll share a few I’ve started on. This will be a long process, but I hope to keep digging into this even if it takes me a year or more just working on one or two a week!

Front side of the 3×5 cards
Back of the 3×5 cards

This week we will cover week 2! If you are doing this study with us, please join our Facebook group where we will all share what we are learning! I’m so excited to see what everyone is learning!

Love,

Dena