Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Fitness Coaching: Am I Just Like the Rest?

Image result for running and fitness
Freedom found in fitness and understanding my gifts

I don't want to be another cliche.
I want my spirit to awaken others to NEW things, unheard of things, things locked deep within their souls that come blasting out like trumpet sound, barreling like a stampede of wild horses with manes tangled by the wind, like a blues-y song erupting from the throat of the wanderer.
I don't want to be like anyone else. But sometimes I'm afraid to be me. Me - flawed, yet forgiven; disorganized, yet motivated; sometimes-angsty, yet oh-so-loving. Me.
But I'm learning to love the person whom God is calling me to be. I love her (me) because she is crafted by His hand. I am loved, and so are you.
I want to motivate you to be you, unabashed, unfiltered, raw, and in all your splendor. I want to learn from you, to grow alongside you, to pray with you.
When people hear "Fitness Coach" they may get an idea in their heads. I know I do! I don't want to fit the mold. I reject that there's a mold at all! I am not lean and cut with an eternal tan, sculpted muscles, and perfect eating habits. And I don't think it's fair to assume that about anyone in the coaching world.
I am servant-hearted, leader-minded, and relentless in the pursuit of love. I believe my body is a temple, and that when I take care of the house of the Spirit, the Spirit is safe to express itself to others. I believe God cares about this immensely. Being sick is a distraction, being overweight hinders our energies and abilities to reach others. Hating our own bodies detracts from our willingness to go out and love on others.
No. I am not a cliche, and neither are you. We are free to be all that God calls us to be. 
May we keep our eyes on Him as He shapes us (pun intended? hehe) to the woman or man He intends for us to be.
You are unique. You are a wonder.

Interested in learning more about being coached by yours truly?? 
Here's the link to find my contact info, and more about what I'm doing:

The Gift You've Been Given

I haven't been writing much lately. The school year does that to me. :)
Some of my other thoughts are over here, as those musings relate to one of my other "hats" - fitness coaching: http://www.teambeachbody.com/cheriejohnson
**Look on the right-hand side to find my blog posts.**

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Let us love the gifts God has given us.

I am inspired by a verse that my exquisitely talented and loving friend Elizabeth shared today.

1 Peter 4:10 says, "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms."

Let's break that down.

1) Each of you - Ok, so that's ALL OF US, not just some: EACH. All. You. Me. None of us are excluded in this verse. Hallelujah!

2) Should use - We are given something useful! Amen! But what?

3) Whatever gift you have received - Notice it does not say "if you have received a gift." The verse clearly states that we have all received a gift (or gifts). What a generous God to give us gifts that we can use on this earth! That means we each have something to be proud of, something to help us grow, something to brighten the world.

4) To serve others - This gift us not for us to hide. It is to "let us shine"!
Just now, as I was writing this, I stopped my 7th graders from reading and asked them each to identify a gift they had that could be used to help others.
Their answers were filled with uncertainty: "I don't have a gift, I don't think."
Their answers were filled with pride: "I'm pretty good at video games!" (To which, of course, I asked them how that could better the world, and the answers changed!)
Their answers revealed that they were soul searching:
"I guess I am pretty kind to others."
"I'm generous."
"I'm a good entertainer."
"I like to make people laugh."

5) As faithful stewards of God's grace - May we be faithful, relentless, tireless in using our gifts.
Dictionary.com defines a steward as "a person who manages another's property or financial affairs..." We are managing God's grace!!! That means we use our gifts to manage God's property - grace, or His financial affairs - metaphorically, the riches of being found in His love and mercy!

6) In its various forms - God's grace takes on various forms, and those various forms are the variety of gifts He's given to us. My gift is probably different than yours, and this is a beautiful thing! A wondrous thing! A blessing! Because the brother or sister who may not be reached by my gift can be reached by another's gift. He or she may not care about running or fitness like I do, but perhaps his or or her passion is art. Someone else can speak to that person with the gift of art; where I could not reach, you can.

During the Christmas season, may we dwell more on our spiritual gifts than ever before. Remember Jesus, the Giver of eternal life - the Generous One, the Humble One, the Servant Heart and Mighty King.

Finally, let us LOVE the gifts God has given us! Let us rejoice that He gave us our passions, our unique talents! Instead of being envious of another's gift, let's offer ours up to Christ, allowing Him to move in us to shine ever-so-brightly to others.

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Praise God for the gift of His Son!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

To My Sisters with Eating Disorders, and Those Who Have Considered

I saw a picture recently. She was a young woman I did not know, too thin. From a heart knowledge, I knew...she had it. Or rather, it had her. ED, the shameless thief of freedom. And I wept for this young woman whom I had never met, a friend of a friend. I wanted to hold her hand and rub her back and hear her story and tell her so many things. Things of the King.

Is she you, or could she be? Dear Sister, do you suspect that you are shackled, held at gunpoint day after arduous day? And perhaps, are you the keeper of that gun? Do you sway from desperation-to-escape to refusing-there's-a-problem-at-all?

May I offer some suggestions? Will you hear some things the King has taught me?

Heed this advice, and listen to His voice for more. And as I speak very honestly, please know this comes from a heart of "I've been there" and "I love you." The Holy Spirit has said and still says these things to me today.

  • Stop lying to yourself.
    The gig is up. You must admit it, or you will not get better. The Father already knows. Chances are, everyone else already knows. You have to stop lying to yourself, and trust that voice within your heart that so desperately wants you to live.
    I know -- sometimes you look in the mirror and you don't see what they see. Who are they to tell you that you're too skinny? What?! Look at this girl, and that woman, and this celebrity. You feel like you have more fat on your wrist than others do on their entire body.
    But girl, you have body dysmorphia. You can't see yourself for what you really are. More than likely, you are drastically more thin than you can see. Furthermore, if you are starving and/or purging, your body is suffering. Your body is dying.
    Eating disorders are self-harm. Don't lie to yourself any longer, and don't believe the lies whispered to you by the enemy. You are hurting yourself. You are hurting others, too. And you must stop.
  • Turn off the tv, throw away the magazines, ditch the diet plans. 
    Media is saturated with unrealistic, impossible images of people. Those people don't even look like that in real life! Why would you want to be fake, anyway? For real. Ask yourself that right now. Maybe you will get to the root of the eating disorder. "Why am I not good enough the way I am naturally?" {Psst. The answer is you're more than good enough!!!}
    All of media is further temptation to continue to harm yourself. DO NOT, under any circumstances, look to the media/magazines/diet books for images to emulate. Be YOU.
    And those diet plans? Those shelves upon shelves of diet books at Barnes & Noble and every other bookstore around -- many of those are junk! There are a lot of people trying to make money off of vulnerable sweethearts like you, and they will have all sorts of theories. But you need one theory - and that is getting well allows you to live the abundant life God has in store for you. So ditch the crappy magazines and diet books, and trade it in for your Bible.
  • Ask people you love and trust to have a candid conversation with you about your health.
    This might lead to the most painful conversations you have ever had. You will be tempted to get defensive. Don't. Listen with heart. Allow them to speak freely out of deep love and concern. Open your soul to the possibility that you need to get well, and know that you have people who are rooting for you. They are with you, and they are for you.
    And during this conversation, be candid and honest with them. Tell them how scared you are to hold on to ED, but how you're even more afraid to let go! Put them in your shoes, in your head - teach them about the complications of this without justifying your self-harm. We can all learn from each other.
  • Make a decision.
    Decide that you are done. Circle it on the calendar. Draw a heart on the day. This is it; you are getting a new life. You are turning your back on fear, condemnation, and death.
  • Give it to God.
    People used to tell me that I would suffer from "eating disorder thinking" for the rest of my life; the disease would never truly be gone.
    I call their bluff.
    That is only true if you live in a purely secular world. But I have Jesus, and He has me - the war is won already!!! I NEVER, EVER, EVERRRR have to go back to ED. I walk with confidence that I am free. If I have a bad day or two, when the enemy surrounds me, I just hold up my shield. I stand firm with the Holy Spirit speaking lovingly to me, guiding me through battle. I am not perfect at this yet, but I know that I will NOT have ED forever. I am healthy, courageous, strong (even when I am weak, then I am strong because of Jesus!).
    I say this often: I do not know anything of healing without full surrender to Jesus. You may have ED forever ... but that's only if you don't give it to God.
    Sister, He will make your life more beautiful than you can even dream of right now.
We are Daughters of the Most High, and we refuse to live in bondage.
We put down the gun.
We let Jesus break the shackles from our wrists.
We are victorious.

Say it. Right now, Princess Warrior. "I am victorious."

Shout out to Pastor Shane Holden for the verses and reminder today!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Who Am I Without ED?

I'm sitting here literally eating peanut butter from the jar. I have a spoon, and I don't care about double-dipping right now. My husband makes fun of me - "Boy, we sure go through a lot of peanut butter around here!" *smirk*

MMmm Peanut butter!

I think back to a few years ago when the thought of peanut butter frightened me. Fat and Calories and Thickness - OH MY! But back then, I didn't know what life would be like without ED (eating disorders). I thought it was all good to be afraid of calories, like I was saving myself from a most-certain struggle against obesity. Ha!

"Ha!" That's what I like to say to my old eating disorders whenever I've finished a good meal or snack without guilt.

"HA, ED! You no longer have a hold on me because my Papa God is sovereign! You're like that bad boyfriend who was only trying to hurt me, and my Abba stood in the doorway of my heart with a holy shotgun and chased you out! Now stay away!"

Can I get an Amen? :o)

Identity is a soul-deep thing. We need not look far in the news right now to see what one's identity means to them. It's our core. Our self. Our being. We fight for it, even when we are misguided or mistaken.

I fought for ED to be in my life. I thought that's who I was. I didn't care if I was miserable and full of anxiety; ED became my comfortable, a slow dripping in my veins.

That's why we must find our identity in Christ -- to know who we really are.

When my identity was in ED, I didn't know who I would be without anorexia, body hate, guilt & shame with every bite of food, being known as the skinny girl. Who would I be? I would say, "God, you can have my life...every area...except eating disorders. You wouldn't take that from me, would you? My identity? You'll let me have this one thing, won't you, Father????"

I can tell you this: "I found my life when I laid it down." {"Touch the Sky" Hillsong United}

You get tired fighting battles, you know? There are only so many arrows you can evade. There are only so many strikes and blows your head & heart will take. Because I wouldn't let God take my misery from me (Isn't it strange how we treasure misery without realizing it?), I was defenseless.

The second I surrendered, I received His holy armor. I'm talking Ephesians 6 armor - the sturdiest of all. It had been there all along, but I had to decide to shift my identity before I agreed to pick it up. Essentially, I needed to protect myself from...myself, and of course the enemy's influence.

So who am I without ED?

First, who I've always been:

  • A daughter of the Most High and Mighty King, and the beloved of His heart
  • Saved by His grace
  • An unconditionally loved daughter of devoted parents & step-parents
  • A mommy with a son who adores her
  • The eldest sister with forgiving, gracious siblings
Next, who I have become without ED, with God at the steering wheel:
  • An advocate for women and their self-worth
  • A teacher who is unashamed of the Gospel and its message
  • A woman bold in the face of the lies of our culture and the enemy
  • A better wife, daughter, mom, sister, friend because I am FREE to love with abandon
  • A person passionate about healthy eating...and eating, and eating! Gosh, I love food!
  • An unchained spirit, free to worship Him because I hold nothing back from His hands!!
  • A bigger heart, a Spirit-filled messenger, a joyful testimony-giver
  • Able to let go of false guilt and shame about my body when I eat
  • An open book - that my testimony may lead others to Him. Jesus, use me to glorify Yourself!
  • Your friend, your sister who will pray for you

Find your identity in Him, friends. What He has in store for you is greater than you can imagine. It really is; I never thought it possible.  

His perfect love will cast out all your fears. (1 John 4:18)



(P.s. If you want REAL & good peanut butter, look at the ingredients and make sure there is only ONE ingredient: peanuts - most nutritious if not roasted, either)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Through the Waters

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Or maybe, more correctly, the wrong side of the wall! We have a poorly insulated wall between our kitchen and bedroom. And everything that someone does in the kitchen is magnified, like someone put a series of subwoofers and amplifiers in our bedroom, mighty close to our bed. So, when my husband got home from his 5am bike ride, the poor lad was hungry and unintentionally put much noise into said subwoofers and amplifiers, waking grumpy-wife-who-had-planned-to-sleep-in-for-once. ;)

Anyway! I knew my own need for the Word, and I dug right in...with cup of coffee in hand, of course!

Abba moves me with His Word; He anchors me with it, also. I feel like I am plowing my weary hands into soft earth that was broken up for me that I may more easily dig my roots deep, deep into the rich soil. And then I am watered, bathed in sun (Son), and I grow with radiance. If I remain in the Vine, I will produce heavenly fruit that will nourish weary, searching souls. That is His power displayed in us: love, encouragement, hope. 

I read Psalm 77 this morning. Here are verses 19&20.

"Your way was through the sea, 
your path through the great waters; 
yet your footprints were unseen. 
You led your people like a flock 
by the hand of Moses and Aaron."

Source: https://tnrtb.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/451169923.jpg

It's rare that I think of the Israelites' freedom of slavery with much awe anymore. Sometimes you forget if you grew up hearing this action-packed true story over and over again. It's easy to think of it as a children's book type of story instead of one of the most miraculous acts of God in the Bible! 

​God's way was through the sea. THE SEA! Imagine the terror. I'm sure you have before. There was no other path than through the great waters. He led the Israelites to the waters with an enemy behind them, and He pointed, and the God-of-impossible put the people in position to trust Him or die; there was no other way. He was leading them, telling them what they must do by bringing them to this point -- YET HIS FOOTPRINTS WERE UNSEEN!!! He requires such great faith of us! We must trust that He has led us thus far, even when we cannot see Him at work in the moment of decision. We have to trust that He built His Spirit into that decision - that the Spirit is guiding us, like Moses and Aaron led the Isrealites​ by the power of His Holy Name and His Holy Word.

Some days - okay, many days - I am saying, "Lord! I felt your hand upon me, guiding me this way, and now I don't know if I'm at the right place. I don't know if I've done what You asked. I was so sure...and now? I don't know!"

Perhaps I am on the shore of great waters, and He is just waiting for me to take that next step so that He can open up the sea and make a great path for me, with the Holy Spirit as a lantern guiding each step. I cannot see the other side yet, and maybe I'm not supposed to until I've shown my faith in Him ALL ALONG THE WAY.

I must stop being a product of my generation and culture, the age of instant gratification, the age of Google for an answer. Because "Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth." {Psalm 74:12}

What is the King calling you to do? How are you following Him in each step, each hour, each day? It looks different for each of us. May we remain anchored in His Word, forever awed by His majesty, exceedingly in love with His plan for us, sacrificially willing to do His will.

Friday, May 29, 2015

To: Benjamin Alan

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” ...So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:18; 21-25 ESV)
Image result for treasure chest

A girl's heart is a treasure chest filled with quick, yet definitive scribblings of her dreams. In that treasure chest you will find the map of her imagined future life. 
You will see how she had written her fears, then crossed out those fears with vengeance, putting in their stead a living tree of courage and hope.  
You will see delineations of all her wishes and all her values: her own grown, caring, able hands holding little hands that depend on her; trips to foreign lands; horses running wildly through the vast sward; strong arms that hold her at the end of an arduous day.
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Every girl thinks she knows about love. Sewn into every parchment and scroll is an omnipresent love story; it has no beginning and no end, and it goes before and follows after each and every treasure in her heart.

I thought I knew love between a man and woman. I have held many a treasure and gazed at my own musings of romantic love.

But I didn't know. 
Not until I married Ben.
He loves like Jesus loves.

Ben sacrifices with his love. I'm not talking about sacrificing things or experiences, though he has given up some (*ahem - many*) of those. 
I'm talking about sacrificing a good mood because I've had a bad day and subconsciously decide he is my next victim (I don't mean to!). 
I'm talking about sacrificing the ecstasy of falling on the couch when arriving home because he knows I need his attention. 
I'm talking about sacrificing his treasures in his own heart, and trading them for ones that include me. Because he loves me.

Ben does not look at outward appearances only. He sees my heart. He knows that the wicked things I do are because of sin in this fallen world, not because of my identity. He believes in all of the good, and he disregards all of the bad, not keeping a record of wrongs. This alone astounds me daily. 
Like Eve in the Garden, I feel no reason to be ashamed of body or soul. The complete acceptance I feel from Ben is that strong - a broken, self-conscious girl like me can be free from the shame I've struggled with in my deepest levels.
Just as I feel when I think about Jesus on the cross, I know I don't deserve such grace.

Ben shows the greatest love as Jesus described - "to lay down one's life for a friend." As Ben's wife, I am his forever friend. And every day, he lays down pieces of his life for me. He dies to himself so that our marriage can blossom. He allows himself to be pruned by God, even when everything within him wants to remain complacent.
Because he loves the Lord, me, our marriage, our kids.

I thought I knew love.
But now the treasure chest in my heart is overflowing.
How am I so blessed to live every day being able to hold the hand of such a loving man, knowing that I don't deserve this?
I count it as God's favor upon me. We can never explain or understand why God favors us, His children, but He does show us favor.

If ever I doubt that God is watching out for me, I need only look to my side - at the man He gave me for a husband. The Lord is gracious in His giving. I will sing this until my last breath.

Benjamin Alan, on your birthday, I wish to give you a gift, but there is nothing I could produce, no words uttered from my lips, no material object extravagant enough to help me say how grateful I am that you are alive and you are with me.
The Lord is so good.

You make me smile, Benjamin. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

I Was Made in the Secret Place

"My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth." Psalm 139:15

"So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female He created them . . . Then God said, 'I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.'"
Genesis 1:27, 29

The intimate details of my life have never been uknown to God. He crafted me in "the secret place" with careful focus on detail, with skilled and steady hands, with love in His eyes. With a parent's love, he formed a being so much like Himself, but yet an individual. He put every small and great thing in place for my physical body to thrive. He put every small and great thing in place for my spiritual body to thrive.

The same is true for you.

In planning out the details of our earthly lives, the Lord saw what He made and said, "It is good." Before creating us, He created a way for us: crisp, clean springs; fruit-bearing trees; green vines popping with edible color; shallow roots; flavorful herbs; stalks of bounty.
And even though it's not about us, out of His great love, He created such pleasure and sustenance for our physical bodies. Because he created us so that we long for Him and the things of Him, both carnally and spiritually.

Ever wonder why you feel so much serenity when you're surrounded by trees on a hike? Or why you can be brought to tears by a sunrise? Or why being in or floating upon a great body of water gives you joy that can never reproduced by any manmade thing? This is because God's creation speaks of Him. And we are made to be close to Him.

Anorexia taught me to be far from God and to rely on my own strength and willpower to get what I thought I wanted. It taught me to manipulate my image, which I put above God's image in me. It taught me that the importance of calories > the importance of nutrients (God forbid I eat an avocado! Fat! Calories! Ah!). Let me tell you, anorexia was the worst teacher. I needed the Rabbi.

In a near-relapse, I went for a winter walk, knowing that anorexia was wrapping its fingers tightly around my throat again, but I was still fighting...I knew God wouldn't let me fall as long as I trusted in Him. The temptation to turn my back on His deliverance was strong, but I walked up a steep hill overlooking the Mississippi that night and felt Him tell me that He had a great plan. This time, my deliverance would be complete. I just needed to know that it was not all about me; this was about something greater than me.

"Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:16

He saw me. He ordained my days. What will I do with each ordained day? What will I learn from Him in order to bring His light to others?

Friends, I have often rejected in my heart the notion that my journey with God would be so involved with food. Will my purpose be to help others with such a physical aspect? Will my life be absorbed with the physical?

But in such a time as this, when our "food" is poisoned and industries lie to us about what's healthy, maybe He is raising my voice. After all, I know full well that when my physical body is ill and damaged, my spiritual life suffers. And when we become too obsessed with the look of our bodies, we neglect our spiritual connection with the Father. And when we forget all that He has done for us since eternity past, we live only to satisfy our carnal nature.

So, anorexia was a distraction. Looking "perfect" was a distraction. Counting calories was a distraction.

But when we appreciate what God has made - His creation, His physical and spiritual food - we are closer to Him. Our minds are clear, and we are not so easily distraught.

He knows you. He has always known what you need to sustain your life.

You want to be healthy? Ask Him what to eat. Seek His knowledge, which surpasses every man's. Search His Word (and though Genesis mentions only plants for food, eventually sin brings meat-eating into our lives *wink from the vegetarian here* -- if you want a heavy read about all of that, read Leviticus 11! You'll be thanking Jesus for fulfilling the Law for you!).

Ask Him. He gives freely to all who ask for His wisdom.

Be well. Be blessed.