Saturday, July 12, 2014

Truly Free

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

I am free. If Jesus is your Savior, then you are free, too. I was in chains. I was in denial that I was in chains. The way I ate, and hoped for others to eat as well, was, as you have heard, "not a diet - it's a lifestyle." It became my life, while my spiritual life took second place. I often said, in response to, "you can't eat cake?! chocolate?! pasta?! pizza?! ice cream?!" "Oh, I can but I have no desire to." I thought I was in complete control. Food had no control over me, I assured myself. I won. Every day I won. I chose carrots over cookies. I grabbed my smoothie while co-workers grabbed donuts. I was winning. Slavery? Every one else - they were the ones in bondage; to a salt, sugar, fat addiction. 

I was free indeed.

I was lying to myself. 

Because the moment I told myself to, "go ahead, eat," I couldn't do it. Not without hearing all of the rules: that's not good for you, that will make you gain weight, that will make you sick, that will make your child sick, that isn't nutrient dense... Similarly, the moment I told myself I had zero issues with body image, and had complete self control, and thought people that struggled with their weight were silly, I am now falling prey to the lies since I'm gaining weight: "you're less beautiful, your self-worth is slipping away, you're out of control, you're weak, you're less loved by family and friends.."

I have been so tempted to return to slavery.

Of food rules. Of intense exercise. Those will bring me my perfect weight. Those things will make my joy return. Those things will fix everything. Only then (when I have lost this weight I have gained, when I feel physically fit again) could I focus on my walk with Christ. Only then will I be really free.

Dieting is slavery. Exercise regimens are bondage. In my case, they become an obsession to perfection. If I don't do them perfectly, I fail. 

So I am very aware. That I have to trust Jesus in this. I cannot go back to my old ways.  I have to trust that the way God has formed my most inward parts, every cell He perfectly place, every organ He designed, and the way He made my stomach are the perfect route to go. 

Eat when you hunger, daughter. Stop when you are no longer hungry. That's how He made us, friends. Denying myself in hunger (for the sake of weight loss) and eating after my body says its full (simply because: that looks good or, that will make me feel better in this moment of stress) are not God's plans for how we are to eat.

He is good. He is gracious. He is compassionate and giving.

I can eat a donut. I can eat a salad. I am not a slave to rules. I am a slave to Jesus Christ, and it is Him that I want to follow, seek, and be faithful to. Not to a legalistic diet.

Christ has set me free. I do not have to diet, or make exercise my total focus in order to be FREE. I am FREE because HE has set me free, I am free from condemnation. I am free from rules and regulations. I am free from the lies of the enemy, and the lies of this broken world. 

I love this freedom.


Onto Santi. Let's title these images, shall we?

Concerned slurp.



Successful pour.


Baby Lion Noise.

Balancing Cup.

Puffy Cheek Kiss.

The Neighbor's Cat is Sleeping.

Santi is a funny book of joy.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Craving Christ, Not Food

I need to trust God regarding the way He has made me: to crave delicious food. Even though I wish I could be content with just a small meal, without seconds, without over-eating... I praise Him for fearfully and wonderfully making me this way. Because it is only through my struggle with over-eating that I am coming to realize how much my SOUL craves its SAVIOR.

It is only through this battle that my eyes have been opened to how rich the truth is in Christ saying, "I am the bread of life!" That means He sustains me, He fills me, He satisfied my cravings, I need to feast with my King often, just like I would grab a meal often in the day, in order to have LIFE.

Only now do I really long for Christ's return, only now do I really comprehend how much my soul thirsts for the living God, how much my flesh faints for Him. Because He made me exactly how He desired, without fault or flaw on His part, and He knew I would struggle at this point in my life, but didn't stop it from happening.

I pray my (our!) eyes would continually be opened to the comparison of my food struggles and my deep, profound craving for Christ - and that I would not suffer in vain, but constantly cling to Jesus, and remember that what He is preparing for me in Heaven cannot even compare to the rich taste of food - it's going to be vastly richer up there!!

I call this photo, "Santi makes grimmace-look while eating blueberries and mushy bananas."

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Independence Day

The fourth of July was fabulous for many reasons; ONE: hubby was home, so we had a family day. TWO: we went to the park, played with baby Santi, and chatted about life. THREE: we prepared and delighted in homemade pizza. FOUR: Santi burst out laughing and shouted, "more" after each firework we set off. FIVE: my sister, brother-in-law and 6 week old nephew came over and caused us great joy.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ask HIM!

"Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting!" 

Psalm 139: 23,24

Okay. If you ever read a bible verse and think, God, can Your really do this in me? Can you reveal the deep purpose of this verse? Can You help me out of whatever I am in right now?

Please. I guide you. Just ASK OF HIM. Pray to God, do this in me. Tell Him, make this real in my life. Ask God, what does this mean, guide me!  And He will. He so, most definitely, positively will. He did this in me just recently:

I really truly asked God to open my eyes to the WHY I am struggling so hard with over-eating, where did this longing to eat and eat and eat come from, when did it start, why do I feel completely trapped? I was always the girl who had food under my control, didn't I? I was the self-control queen! I was on top of the health-world! Fitness? Of course! I was master! 

Wow. Self-centered much? A lot. I had no, no idea.

It was amazing because He definitely searched my heart and revealed it to me. I come from years of extreme dieting that completely scarred me, even though I did it all "so innocently" it turned into what feels like slavery to food. But our amazing God CAN lead us into the way of everlasting life, abundant life in His presence, resurrected bodies, no pain or longing.. And I am not a slave to food (although it feels like it, even yesterday) but I belong to Jesus.

There is hope. There is healing. 

And we can laugh at the enemy for making us think he is going to defeat us!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Look at Your Heart!

1 Samuel 16:7 "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

I have read this verse so many times and it only recently hit me. As I am out and about, I look at women (and men alike) and I no longer see, "thin" "over-weight" "super fit" "too thin" "obese" "beautiful" "average" "cute" "ugly" "young" "old"/ I see souls, I see hearts, broken, longing, craving their Creator. Craving something that nothing in this world satisfies, just like me. Craving the acceptance of others, or the sweet comforting taste of food, craving pleasure or success, trapped in sin, slaves to addiction, slaves to their jobs, trapped in abusive relationships, coating their brokenness with shopping, only God knows.... God sees their hearts, all I see is their outward appearance.

We all crave something. My heart is heavy for every single human out their trying to satisfy their heart's need with worldy things, when our only hope is Jesus Christ. And now that I have been so deeply convicted of judging others based off of their outward appearance, God is transforming my mind to stop judging myself. We are all in the same boat.

I just realized: God is completely, fully answering my prayer. I have been asking Him to transform me by the renewing of my mind (Romans 2) and really thought it was going to be a long, long, hard, results-come-in-the-distant-future, process. But day by day, He is doing it. I am being transformed. I am free. I am so, so thankful!

This is my sister's sweet baby boy on his first week of life. That first picture is when he was just hours old. Santi took a while to warm up, but is now a pro and giving him sweet kisses. Also, the walking around the hospital in his pajamas with his hands behind his back: priceless. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

All or Nothing?

I am doing a bible study online called "HEAL: Healthy Eating Abundant Living" the book is on Amazon for small group bible study - I recommend it!! I am in a Facebook group with the ladies I am doing the study with, and the leader posts questions. Recently her question was regarding what the author put it in the book on being an "All, Balanced, or Nothing" type of person. Here are my examples of what these look like:

All: I have to exercise 60 minutes a day, run for 30, do weights for 30. I have to eat all fruit for breakfast, a big smoothie with greens in it, a salad and low carbs during dinner, no dessert ever.

Balanced : I can exercise today with my toddler, if time allows. I can go for a jog, I could vacuum, I could teach Santi how to play tag outside. I will enjoy breakfast, enjoy lunch, and enjoy dinner - even if we go to a friend's house and all they serve is steak and later ice cream.

Nothing: I don't care about exercise, might as well not do anything. I am so destructive with eating, I am just going to forget taking care of myself all together and eat whatever I want how ever much I want and have zero control.

and what I realized when looking at this:

I WAS 1,000% an, "All" girl. Exercise, food restrictions and perfectionism in everything. Because I am human, I failed in one way or another (based off my expectations) every single day. And because of this, I was bummed out and defeated almost daily. Either my exercise regimen didn't meet my standards, my diet slipped once or twice, or a dozen other things.

Now, out of rebellion to that food/health idolatry I was deep in, I am 1,000% a "nothing" girl. Exercise? Who cares! No time, no motivation. Food restrictions? No way! That's evil, that's my past, let me eat EVERYTHING IN SIGHT, I deserve it, food rules are foolish! Binge, over eat, hate the monster in me.

I trust this is a part of healing for me, though. By eating flan with egg in it, a caeser salad with cheese in it, a pesto wrap with cream cheese in it - I am breaking free from strong holds of diet restrictions and health idols.  I am remembering my my self worth isn't based off of perfect dieting, incredible fitness, or complete self control. Christ still died for me, still loves me, and His Spirit is still in me.

I pray for balance. I pray for God to continue to remind me that I am His, I am wonderfully made, I am cherished, His daughter. I can enjoy exercise like the 5 year old girl I used to be, I can run and play with my toddler, I can eat yummy foods when I am hungry and stop when I'm not hungry, then PLAY again! I can wear dresses that make me feel beautiful, even with my transparent white vein-y legs, I am beautiful in God's eyes, I am not here to please the world, I am free!

Toddler activity tip: a few cups, and some raw beans.
Parent tip: supervise your toddler. They are speedy when it comes to sneaking beans into their mouths.

Monday, June 23, 2014

My Food Testimony

I started this blog March 2009 after being inspired to eat healthier, exercise often and share the "how to" with friends and family. My goal was to, "change at least one person in this fast food nation." I brought a camera to work with me that day and took a picture of everything I ate. I was excited to pick up this new "hobby" as I referred to it, "I need something new to do since working at this daycare for 2 years is all I've got," I remember telling a co-worker. My only identity was daycare teacher, I felt, and this new nutrition and health chapter in my life thrilled me.

As a Christian, I am called to mainly do two things: love God, and love others. In this, I am called to share His gospel (that God came down to earth as Christ Jesus to live humbly, suffer, preach, be murdered through crucifixion, die for our sins so that we can live, and rise from the dead three days later so that we can accept Him as Lord and Savior and go to Heaven to be with Him eternally after this short life ends) and live by His Word, the Bible (read, meditate, ask questions, study!).

I had always had a lukewarm relationship with Jesus, a calm faith, a non-convicting, inconsistent journey with God. I read my bible, sometimes even studied it. I prayed somewhat often, was active in my church, but again, never zealous for Jesus. More than anything, I was moral. I tried to be nice, do good things, say good things, and at the end of the day if you asked me what religion I was, without hesitating I would call myself a Christian.

I wanted this to be clear on my blog, too. I was well aware that Jesus is all I truly had to live for, and it was because of Him that I could enjoy healthy foods and exercise in the first place. He made me this body, He provided each morsel of food on my plate, and I was inspired to take care of my body, since He calls us all to, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body," 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. But instead of making God my focus, I made food and exercise my focus, which was clear in that at the bottom of each post you would find a bible verse.

I was passionate about sharing how easy it was to be healthy. About adding in all the good: whole grains, high protein plant foods like beans, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. About eating little to none of the bad: added sugars, excess salt, fat, all animal products (meat, dairy, eggs), all processed and packaged foods. I wanted to show the world that it's FUN to exercise, FUN to cook creatively even with the challenge of everything homemade. My friends and family faithfully followed each post, copied recipes, my mom even printed many recipes and stored them in her kitchen.

Over the months, I had inspired others to change their eating habits, and they loved the weight loss and increased energy they experienced. "I don't even crave hamburgers anymore!" "Nicole I made a smoothie with 5 handfuls of spinach!" "I ran 3 miles this morning!" We cheered together , loved this whole new world our eyes were being opened to, and couldn't get enough of it. I often boasted about how, on this diet, you will never be deficient of any vitamin or nutrient (lie, you need to take a B12 supplement as well as vitamin D and others, if you're not "doing it right"), and how you are basically preventing yourself, and the family members you feed, from getting any disease now or in the future. It was the perfect diet, and it filled me with joy.

Behind all the joy, though, was sorrow and guilt.

Yes, I helped you low your blood pressure. But as a follower of Jesus, I believe that after this life (which is inevitably going to be full of sickness, suffering and longing) is something incredibly wonderful waiting for us, or incredibly empty and dark. My goal was to reverse diabetes, instead of helping the spiritually dead. I imagine someone on their death bed saying, "Nicole, I did it, I lost 50 pounds, I am off my medication, thank you!" but if I never took the time to share the message of Jesus, they would breathe their last breath and never have life again, only eternally suffering in hell away from their Maker, who loves them deeply.

Red flag number 1 of many: I was more excited, motivated and open to sharing the gospel of health than I was to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Just in the past year, I adopted a diet of 90% raw fruits and vegetables. I stopped eating grains, beans, almost all fat, and even limited my steamed vegetables intake. RAW IS LAW, the people preach. Cooked food lacks in nutrients!, they shout from the roof tops. Without going into the pointless details, it basically was a step deeper into making food my god, and trying my hardest to be faithful. My diet consisted of 2 mini watermelons for breakfast, an 8 banana smoothie for lunch, and an entire head of lettuce for dinner, with more fruit or diced vegetables. Only problem was that our son always ate steamed vegetables, and I always cooked too much for just him. So each time at dinner, I would end up having to eat his leftovers. Steamed carrots and broccoli became the enemy to me. "I wish I could just eat all raw", "I feel so much better when I eat raw," "I have found that my energy plummets if I eat cooked food," "Maybe I will just throw away what he doesn't eat," "Why can't I control myself?! Why do I eat these foods when I am not even hungry, and when they aren't good for me?!" All of these crooked thoughts ran through my mind nightly.

Day after day, the Lord graciously reminded me that He hadn't left me, because the conviction of my idolatry was heavy and clear. It was as if it had hit me with no warning:

I had made health my idol.
To me, I had ZERO idols. I mean, aren't idols what we see in other countries or read about in the bible? You know, a golden calf, a fat buddha, we bow down to them and light candles, we kiss their feet and sacrifice chickens. Isn't THAT the only form of idolatry that exists? I'm not worshiping the Moon gods, or anything like that. I CAN'T be up to my neck in idolatry. I can't be.. Satan was so sly at making this my focus. As a friend said, he was like a magician that shows us the incredible jaw-dropping show, while he is hiding the true lie from us the whole time.

How could I make health and perfect food my idol? Isn't this how God wants me to live? Isn't this how God wants me to eat? More red flags came to my mind: each time we got together with family or friends, the conversation would often find its way to nutrition. When this sensitive topic arose, people tend to get offensive, we all think we are nutritionists that know best, and anger builds up. I thought I was the health god, and I knew how to guide each disciple on the path of health and reversing their diseases. My true god was a plant-based diet, and I was faithful to follow its rules and enjoyed the benefits it brought me. If you followed other food gods, (paleo, gluten-free, cooked vegan, normal, balanced, whatever...) you needed to be guided to the light, you were a lost soul in my mind, and I felt sorry for you, but had hope that I could help.

I would watch YouTube videos on this high fruit, raw diet, as well as other plant-based diet channels. I read food blogs more than I read scripture. I hung out on these websites more often than I passed time with family and friends. Some of the "pioneers" in this health movement would say things like, "we have to lead these people to truth!" "they just don't know the benefits!" "it's so hard, because they have been brainwashed by the media!" "we are killing our animals, they should be treated like friends!" "they are just led astray... need to be guided to truth... let us open their eyes..."

It sounded too close to what pastors say about our non-Christian friends and family. It sounded too close to the message of HOPE in JESUS ALONE. It sounded too similar to the message of the bible. But guess what? I was so enticed by this way of life, that I shrugged that off, too. I didn't want to believe that this was some sort of weird cult, and I had been hoping to be one of the followers. I didn't want to accept the fact that I was searching for something (perfect health) that couldn't be obtained here on earth. I didn't want to see the signs, even as they were being clearly shoved in my face.

I struggled between videos on food, or sermons about Jesus. I couldn't find enough time to both read the bible and read nutrition books, I had to pick one or the other. And since the nutrition books and food videos were more entertaining, they often won my time. At Christmas I went from giving everyone in my family daily devotional books (with scripture and a message on how to apply it to your life) to later giving everyone health books the following year.

these are even more red flags, and I ignored them quickly.

Almost daily these past years, I felt like I couldn't meet the standards of any diet. I often was down emotionally, because I didn't exercise enough. I felt bummed out, because I over-ate. I felt like a weak loser, because I gave into the sweets at work. I felt incompetent, inadequate. My self-worth was 100% based off of how well I ate and exercised. I had someone close to me once say, "I feel like those people who are constantly happy are always faking it," and it completely offended me. "No.." "I'm just happy because I love Jesus," and (I didn't say this next part) I eat healthy and exercise a lot. Never did I admit that daily I felt like a failure.

Quick note: when I got pregnant, I experienced extreme fatigue, food aversions and morning sickness. This made me stop exercising almost completely, and avoid my favorite health foods. I was a monster at this time, there was no happy girl shining each day. Why did I not realize that all my hope came from my works? Why did I ignore, yet again, another sign of my sin?

This health obsession fueled me, yet left me completely empty. It consumed me, blinded me, and I defended it. I ran with it. I never looked up to Jesus. I just dug deeper into idolatry and "getting better" and "having more self control" and restricting this food, then that food, and so on.

My eyes were slowly being opened, though. God didn't leave me where I was an say, "see ya, enjoy your fruit." I heard this sermon on idolatry. and the pastor mentioned, "what websites do you visit the most often? where do you spend most of your money? What do you do most frequently in your free time?" That could be your idol... "....An idol is usually what keeps you up late at night and wakes you up early." For me, that was food blogging and exercise. The websites I most often viewed were that of food and nutrition. All of our money was going to these fruit feasts, hundreds of thousands of dollars to fuel my needs. My free time was spent thinking of what was going to be my next meal, then making YouTube videos to share with the world, then editing photos of my dinner for my blog.

Mind you, there is a normal way to enjoy health and nutrition. But I didn't know what normal was. I knew only what was obsessive. I eventually learned that this wasn't the path the Lord wanted me on, and I had to somehow step back. I enjoyed writing on my blog because I knew some family and friends that viewed it. I also loved sharing photos of our son, and using the blog as a tool to share the gospel (of Jesus!). I spoke with my husband and we both decided that changing the blog name and the content would be a great idea. This is when I also decided that I had to stop sharing recipes (which weren't recipes much at all at that time since I just ate fruit throughout the day) and stop food photography. The content would be scripture, with little snippets of our son and his goofiness.

A friend of mine who is a nutritionist and helps people with eating disorders chatted with me at church about a workshop she felt called to put together on our relationship with our bodies and food. "Craving the Creator," or something like that, she said she was thinking of calling it. My eyes opened widely, how did she know? "I know you recently told me you wanted to change the focus of your blog, so I wanted to know if you were interested in sharing your story." Who gave her any idea that I had a story? We spoke later and I shared how I had just found myself in this food war, a daily battle with letting go of old gods and clinging to my only God, my Creator, my Father in Heaven, my Lord. That was March or April of this year.

She also recommended I read the book, "Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, not Food" by Lysa TerKeurst. I definitely recommend this book, it was such an incredible blessing. Very rich in biblical truth, which was so what my soul needed. One of the quotes that sticks out (among many) was this one:

"Expecting anything outside the will of God to satisfy us is idolatry. Nutrition, which is food's intended purpose, means consuming proper portions of healthy choices that enable our bodies to function properly.

Idolatry, in the case of food, means the consumption of ill-sized portions and unhealthy (or healthy, in my case) choices because we feel like we deserve it or need it to feel better.

Now, hear me on this. We aren't to flee from food. We need food. But we are to flee from the control food can have over our lives."

Now, my relationship with food is completely corrupt. I struggle during each meal to simply eat my portion, and stop. The high-volume fruit diet left me with the lie that I need to eat grotesque amounts of food to get my fill. I struggle with judging what others eat, and what I eat, all the food rules whisper in my ear, "not enough nutrients, too much fat, that's killing them, processed is evil, you need more calories, you need less calories, you need to exercise to make up for this,." I struggle to truly be thankful for the gift of (ALL!!!!) foods that God has given us: animals and plants alike.

Yet, God is using this for His glory. As I struggle to this day, I find myself daily in His Word, daily seeking His help. Daily feeling the rich truth in Him being My Comforter "who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4 – and of His grace, that He does not treat me as my sins deserve nor repay me according to my iniquities. Psalm 103:10,

Also, never had I ever understood the profound truth of Jesus being my portion, my daily bread. Food is my war right now. Food is absolutely delicious. Cravings are powerful. Temptation is hard to flee from. So I am reminded, in the heat of temptation, “Nicole, you know how much you absolutely craaaave/desire/want/think you need that piece of food? Or that bowl of food? Or 2 bowls of that food? That’s how much your soul craves its Savior.” And instantly. It hits me.

Our souls long for Jesus Christ and His return just as much as we crave delicious food. Let that sink in for a little bit. Right now I struggle with wanting holiness, and wanting Jesus, more than a second or third helping of food. The verse “your Word is sweeter than honey on my lips” has to break through and hit me.

So I pray PLEASE LORD MAKE YOUR WORD SWEETER THAN ________ (whatever food I am tempted to grab even if I am not hungry, or if I am already more-than-full, or sad, or happy, or stressed). I struggle to receive His grace and have grace for myself. When I fall, fail, over-eat, I get so mad at myself. I feel like a hopeless, lost cause. I feel so deep in habitual sin that I am never going to escape. These are lies the enemy wants me to believe, they make him smile. You know what makes our Creator smile? When we IGNORE THOSE LIES AND CLING TO THE TRUTH OF HIS WORD. I am more than a conqueror! I am victorious in Christ! I will overcome this! I Will keep on fighting this battle because CHRIST FIGHTS IT IN ME!

More on this is a billion upcoming posts. God is doing so much in my heart right now!

Here are some Santi pics stored up in my computer :)