And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. John 8:32

Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Note: This is a re-post from December 31, 2008. I'm actually planning to make some goals this year, some of which will involve this blog and a helpful new weight loss tool. I'll be writing more about that in the next few weeks.

I used to make long lists of New Year’s resolutions. I even had resolution categories—spiritual, physical, recreational, personal, etc. Each year I completed many of those goals . . . most of them were in the recreation category:

1. Camp three times. Check.
2. Take one backpack trip. Check.
3. Ski in to ski hut one night. Check.

I was a raging success in the recreation department.

Unfortunately, the physical category was another story:

1. Lose weight. Afraid not.
2. Start exercising regularly. No go.
3. Eat healthy. Not really.

I racked up year after year of defeat in the physical realm.

Then three years ago I changed my goals. I didn’t write down “lose weight.” I also skipped “start exercising” and “eat healthy.” In fact, if I remember right, that was the year I stopped making long lists of new year’s resolutions.

Instead, I made one goal that year. I bought a journal and determined to go to God on a regular basis for help with my poor eating habits. I planned to eat three meals a day and journal any time I ate outside my boundaries.

I’ll tell you right now I didn’t follow through on my resolution. At least not perfectly. But I did keep at it. I journaled on a regular basis, and God began to shed His light on my compulsive eating habits.

I saved that journal, and I have it in front of me right now. Let me share some of the entries from that year with you.

2/28/06 Weekly reasons for breaking my boundaries:

It was there to eat: 3
I deserve it: 9
Overwhelmed with procrastination: 1 (Obviously, I hadn’t started writing yet.)
Cook’s “right”: 2 (I believe that was cookie dough.)
Mindless eating: 1
Stressed out: 1
Fear/Worry: 1

 I’ve missed the last three days of truth journaling, not because I’m perfect, but because I’ve been a total failure!

 I am so mistreated and overworked that I deserve a treat. Since I always have to be the bad guy and always have to get people (that would be my kids) to do what they don’t want to do, the least I can do is have a treat.

Truth: Barb, Barb, Barb—you know that treats don’t really fulfill you. How about, “Since I always have to be the bad guy, I’ll go and spend some time with Jesus who loves me enough to die for me!? Which would be better? Sweets or Jesus? There is no contest—turn to Him next time.”

(Note: Do you think I might have been exaggerating my circumstances a bit here?)

7/23/06 I’m feeling defeated today. I’ve been trying to change myself by will power, not with the truth. Plus I’ve been putting perfectionist standards on myself. Condemning myself when I fail. This is a stronghold—it requires spiritual weapons of prayer and carrying my thoughts captive. Getting up and using will power and positive attitude is not going to cut it! I need to go back to journaling when I eat for a non-hunger or non-meal reason.

8/3/06 I deserve a treat for doing so well at the potluck.

Truth: Do I deserve a reward for not eating much? No—people are starving to death in this world. I don’t deserve food just because I wasn’t gluttonous! This should be standard behavior—the norm.

9/2/06 Boundaries are a good thing, not a bad thing. They bring freedom to my life—freedom from discouragement, despair, lethargy, weight gain, unhealthiness, self-incrimination, etc. Does unrestricted eating bring any freedom to my life? I guess it brings the freedom to eat whatever I want—but I know what that freedom leads to: slavery.

9/23/06 For the first time in thirty years, I don’t feel like food has control over me, and I don’t fear it. Yet I walk each day in His grace, knowing that it could control me again and praying that God would give me the strength as I need it.

12/31/08 The victory has been lasting. That doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I still feel like eating for the wrong reasons sometimes, and I still follow through on those feelings and eat too much now and then. The difference is that I now know the solution. It’s not setting a goal to lose weight. It’s not determining that “this year I’ll finally get it together.” No, the solution is filling my mind with the truth—bringing my thoughts captive to God’s Word. Learning to see life as He sees it.

My hope is that a year from now, you and I will be different people—that we’ll be following God a little more closely, living His Word a little more consistently, and loving each other a little more like He loves us.

In order to make that happen, we need to see our lives from God’s perspective. This will happen as we read His Word and apply the truth directly to the areas of our lives that need it. For me right now, it’s procrastination. What is it for you? I encourage you to let His truth change you this year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Best New Anti-Procrastination Technique of 2011

Today I want to introduce you to my best new anti-procastination technique of the whole year. It’s called the little green box (although yours may be a different color), and it was conceived by my daughter Jenny.

 Here’s how it works:
  1. Get a little box or a jar. 
  2. Write all your jobs on little squares of paper. 
  3. Fold up the little squares and put them in the box. 
  4. Shake up the box, and draw your first job. Complete it. 
  5. Go back to the box and draw another job. Complete it. 
  6. Keep going until there are no more squares in the box.

Here are a few advantages to the system:
  1. It’s fun. Even if the jobs are crummy, at least you get the thrill of drawing them from the box. 
  2. It’s not as overwhelming as a job list. Because you can only see one job at a time, you lose that tendency to look at the whole list and get discouraged. 
  3. It’s relatively easy. When I have a big list, I look at a few jobs on that list and automatically dismiss them because they’re too hard. When I see that same job on a little piece of paper, I think Well, it’s just one job. I guess I can do it. 
  4. It’s motivating. Because you want to see what the next job is, you’re more inclined to finish your first job. 
  5. It’s satisfying. As I see the little slips of paper disappear from my box, I think Wow, maybe I can finish my list after all today. I’ve had much more success in emptying my job box than I've ever had in finishing a physical list. 
In my next post, I’ll share a few more ideas about this box system. But for now, it's time to draw another job from the job box!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Do Boundaries Make Your Life Better or Worse?

Many of us have grown up with the idea that we should be able to do what we want when we want. This philosophy usually works when we’re young because we have parents who pick up the slack.

If we don’t feel like doing our chores, they still feed us. If we don’t feel like studying, they still let us sleep in our beds at night.

Because life is easy, we tend to grow up with the idea that we should be able to do what we want when we want . . . without consequences.

This philosophy might be workable if we were able to live with our parents all our lives, but it doesn’t work real well otherwise. Because what happens is that we grow up and enter a world where actions have consequences.

If we buy whatever we want, we end up in financial trouble. If we flirt with whomever we want, we end with a marriage crisis. And if we eat whatever we want, we end up with a weight problem.

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: do we really want to do whatever we want? Is that really a good life when you think of all the consequences? Or have we been fed a lie?

Question for the day: Do boundaries make your life better or worse?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Growing Pains

When our son Tim was little, he used to get growing pains. He’d often crawl into bed with us in the middle of the night, and we would massage the kinks out of his legs so he could get back to sleep.

We were his best hope for getting rid of the pain.

Growth is often painful. But while we can’t run from the pain of growing bones, we can run from the pain of a growing relationship with God. All we have to do is say no. I don’t want to grow.

It’s easier than saying yes, but we pay a price. Here are just a few of the things we miss out on:

  • Intimate times with a Father who loves us.
  • The security and safety of His arms.
  • The healing of His Word.
  • The brilliance of His truth.
  • The beauty of His grace.
  • And the exhilaration of His growth.

We say no to growth because it’s too hard.

The Israelites said the same thing. Listen to God’s words in Jeremiah 2:30: In vain I have struck your sons; they accepted no chastening.

God loved us enough to give us free will. He doesn’t force us to shape up. Instead, He waits until we’re willing to have Him work the kinks out of our character.

Sometimes He waits forever.

And if you look at Jeremiah 1 and 2, it’s not easy for Him either.

Note: Check out God's Chisel Remastered by the Skit Guys for a great video on growth.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Three Steps to the Disciplined Life . . . Not!!!

The other day my husband looked at me and said, “I can’t believe you’ve been so diligent with your writing. I’m amazed at how you’ve persevered with it.”

The reason he’s amazed is because he knows me so well.

We’ve been married for 28 years, and for most of those 28 years, he’s lived with the lazy, inept version of me.

The new, (somewhat) disciplined version is unusual.

I always wanted to be a disciplined person. Each year, I’d read the articles about how to become disciplined in three easy steps, and I’d try to do what they told me to do. But it never worked.

I was just too inept.

And I had the sneaky suspicion that those articles were written by people who were disciplined to begin with.

So what I’d like to do today is write a “Three Steps to the Disciplined Life for the Inept Person” post. Here goes:

Three Steps to the Disciplined Life for the Inept Person
  1. Decide what you want to do.
  2. Renew your mind whenever you don’t feel like doing it.
  3. Repeat as often as necessary until you feel like doing it.

It’s simple, but it works. Here’s why: It’s hard to drum up discipline when you don’t have it to drum up. Our only hope is to go to God for help.

Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 that we’re transformed by the renewing of the mind, not by making a plan and sticking to it. That’s a comforting verse for all of us inept people. Change is possible.

But we need to do it God’s way. Paul says we’re transformed by the renewing of our minds. Not by making a plan. Not by drumming up our non-existent will power. And not by following three easy steps.

We’re changed by the renewing of our minds. God does the changing. We do the renewing of our minds. His truth is what changes us.

As an inept-by-nature person, my only hope for being disciplined is to keep renewing my mind in all the areas of my life where I’m undisciplined (which is about a hundred).

God will transform me, but not in an instant. At least not usually. Usually it takes about one journal’s worth of renewing my mind to see some real victory.

If you’re tired of being undisciplined in some area of your life, I want to encourage you. Go to your local bookstore. Buy a journal, and start renewing your mind.

Ask God to help you see that area of life from His point of view. Then search the Bible for some good Scripture. Write those verses in your journal. Carry your thoughts captive to the truth every day you don’t feel like doing whatever it is you want to do.

Write out your prayers. Truth journal. Do whatever you need to do to see that area of your life from God’s perspective. And then sit back (as you continue to renew your mind) and watch Him transform you.

And when it happens, write and tell me about it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Avoid Christmas Weight Gain Tip #4: Be Careful with the Christmas Cookies

It was December 22, 1982, and we were driving down I-90, flinging Christmas cookies out the window at 75 miles an hour.

We had just gotten married and were headed back to Montana with a car full of presents and a box full of Christmas cookies.

600 miles from the wedding, my self-control (and my stomach) had reached its limits. There was only one answer:

Get rid of the cookies.

Now, 29 Christmases later, I no longer have to resort to throwing cookies away, but I still have to be careful. Here are a few things I do to keep myself from gaining five pounds worth of Christmas cookies each Christmas.

1. Wait as long as possible to make the Christmas cookies.

The longer we wait to make cookies, the less likely we are to look at Christmas cookies as just another December food group. If you’re a procrastination eater, wait until you’ve finished all those hard Christmas jobs before you make cookies.

If you have kids and they’re clamoring to make cookies, make one or two early batches, but give them away. Bring them to the older people in the neighborhood who don’t do much baking anymore. They’ll appreciate a little visit and some homemade cookies.

2. Make only the "necessary" cookies.

Another thing we’ve done the last few years is to cut down on the variety of cookies we make. We have about three favorites and we try to stick with those.

3. Don’t eat any cookie dough until all the cookies are in the oven.

I could easily pop five or six cookies’ worth of dough into my mouth while making cookies, but I’d feel too piggy to actually plan to eat that much. So instead of eating as I go, I decide how much dough I want and save it until all the cookies are in the oven. Then I sit down and enjoy my snack.

4. Make special Christmas boundaries for the cookies.

I vary these boundaries depending on the year. It all depends on what else is going on my life and how desperate I am for cookies. The more desperate I am, the tighter I make my boundaries. If I’m really desperate, I don’t have any.

5. Truth journal after every cookie that breaks a boundary.

I hate to say this, but I’ve had four brownies today and every single one of those brownies was outside my boundaries. Remember my last post when I had to renew my mind four times before lunch? I never even felt like breaking my boundaries again after I wrote that post.

Today I haven’t renewed my mind once. Instead, I just kept eating brownies. If I don’t want to wake up tomorrow morning and have a brownie for breakfast, I’ll need to renew my mind before I go to bed tonight.

The sooner, the better.

In fact, I think I better go do that right now because I’m feeling like another brownie.

And if that doesn't work . . . I'll head for the highway with the windows open.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Lies of Thanksgiving Dinner

I love Thanksgiving. I love the smells, the tastes, the friends, the family, and the coziness of it all.

What I don’t like is the day after Thanksgiving—that moment when you’re lying in bed, and all of a sudden you remember what you ate the day before, and you think to yourself, “How will I ever make it past Christmas without gaining a ton of weight?”

This year I’m going to try a new tactic—I’m going to start preparing early for Thanksgiving dinner.

Sure, I’ll make the rolls and the pies and the stuffing (with the help of my family), but that’s not all I’m going to do. This year, I’m also going to prepare my mind for Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m going to fill my mind with truth before I start to eat. In fact, I might even start a couple days before, so I’m really ready.

I’ll take a look at the lies I believe that make me want to stuff myself with moist turkey, savory stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes and gravy, warm rolls with butter, pumpkin pies made from scratch, fluffy whipped cream - on second thought, I think I better start right now. It may take me awhile to get ready for Thanksgiving this year.

The Seven Lies of Thanksgiving

1. It’s Thanksgiving—I should eat.
Truth: It’s Thanksgiving - I should be extra careful what I eat, because it will be easy to eat too much.

2. I don’t know when I’ll get this again. I better eat as much as I can now.
Truth: Chances are I’ll get the same thing tomorrow for leftovers, but if everything is gone, I can always make it again.

3. This food is so good that I should have seconds.
Truth: This food is so good that I need to concentrate on thoroughly enjoying each and every bite. In all seriousness, I will enjoy myself more if I eat a healthy amount and savor it, than if I eat an unhealthy amount and not fully appreciate it. (It’s hard to truly appreciate large amounts of food.)

4. It’s Thanksgiving. I should celebrate (by eating whatever I want).
Truth: It’s Thanksgiving—I should celebrate God’s goodness to me by praising Him with every fiber of my being. Eating three pieces of pie is not an expression of praise.

5. I shouldn’t have to follow my boundaries on holidays.
Truth: Boundaries protect me. My life will actually be better if I don’t stuff myself on Thanksgiving.

6. It won't be as much fun if I don't eat whatever I want.
Truth: It will actually be more fun, because I'll be able to totally enjoy what I eat without having to feel so uncomfortable afterward.

7. I can’t help myself—it’s there, and I’m going to eat it.
Truth: If I fill my mind with truth before I sit down to dinner, there’s a good chance I won’t even want to stuff myself.

Note: This a re-post of a blog I wrote three years ago, but the lies and truths haven't changed since then.

P.S. If you want to read a funny article on holiday eating tips, check out this link. Just don't follow its advice!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Holiday Eating Tip #3: Renew your mind every time you eat outside your boundaries, even if it’s just one bite.

I had ice cream for breakfast this morning.

I wasn’t supposed to—my boundaries say no dessert before supper—but I did it anyway. And I’ve been paying the price ever since.

9 times out of 10 when I have a sweet before breakfast, I break my boundaries later in the day—usually several times.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Avoid Christmas Weight Gain Tip #2: Nip Christmas Procrastination Eating in the Bud. Get Ready for Christmas Early.

As the fragrance of sugar cookies wafts in from the kitchen and the sleigh bells tinkle in the distance, I sit by a merry fire sipping hot cocoa. Snuggled in my hand-knit afghan, I ponder the meaning of this precious season.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Looking at Life from God's Perspective

The longer I walk with God, the more convinced I am that if I really want to grow in some area of my life, I need to make a commitment to renew my mind every time that issue comes up.

I did that with emotional eating five years ago. Bought a journal at the Christian bookstore and truth journaled every time I felt like eating outside my boundaries. I've done it with other things as well, and I'm currently doing it with writing.

Here's what my journal entry looked like today:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Avoid Holiday Weight Gain: Tip #1

The ground is covered with snow, I’m listening to holiday music, and I’m thinking about Christmas. So even though we still have a week to go until Thanksgiving, I thought I’d get started writing some holiday posts.

My subject? Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain. For the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some tips to help us avoid the average 3-5 pound holiday weight gain. Here’s my first tip:

Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #1: Rate your food (but not out loud)

This is something I started doing last summer. It occurred to me that I often eat things like ice cream because in my mind I’m thinking, oh, I love ice cream.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Leader's Guide for Freedom From Emotional Eating

The past couple of months I've been working on writing a leader's guide for the Bible study Freedom from Emotional Eating. If you're thinking about leading a group study, please e-mail me, and I can get that leader's guide to you. The guide is free and should be finished in a few weeks.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Cure for "I -should-be-able-to-eat-what-I-want-when-I-want" Eating

They’re standing on a mountain, overlooking the kingdoms of the world, and Satan is asking Jesus a question:

"Jesus, do you really want all that (the cross) when you could be having all this (the delights of the world)?"

I can just picture him standing in his Carol Merrill pose, highlighting the delights that could be had if only Jesus were to worship him.

Unfortunately, he asks the same question of us. Right in front of the bakery or the ice cream shop or the kitchen cupboard.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Breaking Free from Strongholds: Are you expecting too much too soon?

Imagine this: you’re sitting at your desk sipping a vanilla latte when your boss walks in. He sits down, leans forward, and says, Joni, I have a job for you. I want you to run in a marathon eight weeks from today.

How would you respond?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ever Feel Like Rebelling?

They claim to have our best interest in mind. We just want you to be happy, they say. . . . and then they give us a little advice.

Wouldn’t you be happier if you had a smaller piece of pie?

Wouldn’t you be happier if you went to the gym?

Wouldn’t you be happier if you lost weight?

Of course we’d be happier.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Emotional Hunger vs. Physical Hunger

I thought this article gave a good description of the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger. Here's an interesting quote from the article:

"According to an interview with Jakubczak on the University of Maryland web site, 75% of overeating is caused by emotions, so dealing with emotions appropriately is important."

I guess it's a good thing we're working on emotional eating!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Need Help Renewing Your Mind?

I can do easy things through Him who doesn't need to give me strength because I can do them on my own.
Wait a minute . . . did I quote that right?
No. Let me try again.
I can do fun things though Him who doesn’t need to give me strength because I actually like to do them.
No. That’s not it either.
Wait a minute . . . I have it:
I can do . . . all . . . things through Him who gives me strength.
In a follow-your-passion, life-should-be-easy world, I keep forgetting I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.
Instead, I think that if it’s not easy, I can’t do it.
And if it’s not fun, I shouldn’t do it.
So I tend to avoid things that aren’t in the fun and easy category.
Just like some people avoid things that aren’t productive. And others avoid things that make them uncomfortable.
I have one thing working in my favor, though: Renewing my mind is fun and easy for me. I actually like doing it.
So even though I think writing is hard and boring, I’m willing to sit and renew my mind so God can change my attitude towards writing.
And even though I think eating with control is hard and boring, I’m willing to sit and renew my mind so God can change my attitude about eating.
But what if you’re a person who thinks that renewing your mind is hard and boring?
That’s a problem.
Because if you think renewing your mind is hard and boring—or unproductive and uncomfortable—you won't do it.
The thought will pop into your head, I should really renew my mind, but it will be immediately followed by another thought:
No, that’s too much work.
Or that doesn’t sound very fun.
Or I really should get that project done first. I’ll renew my mind later.
Those thoughts will keep you from renewing your mind, just like my thoughts left to their own devices keep me from writing.
So what’s the solution?
I think the solution is to renew your mind about the renewing of your mind.
Look at it this way. When I see writing from God’s perspective, I actually want to write, even though it’s not fun and easy.
Likewise, if you see the renewing of the mind from God’s perspective, you’ll actually want to renew your mind even if it’s not fun and easy.
If you want help on how to see the renewing of the mind from a biblical perspective, check out this post: How to Make Yourself Truth Journal. The post is on truth journaling but it could also apply to Scripture prayers or quiet times.
I’ve also spent the last year working on another tool that's easier for some people to use than truth journaling. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get that out, but it could be soon if I decide to put it into an e-book or self-publish.
Since I find all parts of the writing/publishing process to be hard and non-fun, I would really appreciate your prayers on figuring out what to do next with this new tool.
I hope you have a good week renewing your mind.
And if you’re tempted to think, Maybe I should clean the house, instead, tell yourself, No, it would be more productive to clean my mind.
(I know, lame ending. Why can’t I resist lame endings?)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Are You Tired of the Struggle?

I’m just so sick of the struggle. I feel like I’ve been fighting this battle my whole life and I’ll never get over it.

Those are the words of a dear woman in one of my Bible studies last week. She had been renewing her mind for about six months, had already experienced quite a bit of victory, and then slipped back into defeat for a few days.

She was frustrated and discouraged.

Can you relate to her? I remember feeling that way for more than twenty years, on and off, including the early days of renewing my mind about eating.

If this is how you’re feeling today, I want to encourage you. Here are a few questions that help me when I'm going through a tough battle. I'm hoping they'll help you, too:

1) Are you expecting it to be easy?

It’s natural to get caught up in unrealistic expectations for quick and easy success, but those expectations can get you down. Think of it this way: if you’ve been overeating for thirty years, you’ve got thirty years of lies to dig through on your way to recovery.

It’s going to take awhile to dig through all those lies.

If you’re tempted to get discouraged, think of a stock market chart. Even the best stocks out there never go up in a smooth, continuous line. It’s always up, then down, then up again. That’s how your battle with eating will be.

2) How long have you been using spiritual weapons to fight the battle?

The woman in my class had been fighting the battle for thirty years but she’d only been using spiritual weapons for six months. So in a sense, she’d really only been fighting the battle for six months. Remember 2 Corinthians 10:3-5? If it’s a spiritual battle, you need spiritual weapons to fight it. Thirty years of dieting isn’t the same as thirty years of fighting lies with truth.

3) How diligent have you been with your weapons?

Sometimes we think we’re working on a problem when we’re really just obsessing over a problem. Here’s a question I ask myself sometimes just to keep myself honest:

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much effort are you putting into renewing your mind?

I can tell you from experience that I see almost no change when my number is less than a 5, very little change when it’s less than an 8, and lots of change when it’s a 9 or a 10. So what do I do if I really want to change? I make it a 9 or 10.

4) How often are you using your weapons?

The more I work on issues in my own life, the more I realize: if I want to change, I need to renew my mind every time the issue comes up. Even if the issue comes up so often I’m sick to death of renewing my mind about it.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. Not only because I’m breaking free from my obsessions, but also because I’m growing closer to the One who loves me and longs to show me the way to victory.

5) What are your motives?

I’m hesitant to include this last question because I think if we have the wrong motives, God shows us when we renew our minds. But it might be worth thinking about.

Here’s why: If we’re only going to God so He can make us skinny, He might not be inclined to change us. Why? Because if we feel like we have to have skinny, there's a good chance we're making an idol of skinny. And God doesn't want us to have any idols.

He knows that only in Him will we find lasting peace and joy. So He may decide to help us find peace and joy by not giving us skinny until we can handle it.

I hope these questions will encourage you to persevere in the battle even if you’re exhausted. I’m going through a battle of my own right now, not with food, but with some other things God wants me to give up.

Why don’t we press on together?