Eyes on the Prize

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Please read the article link below to better understand this blog post.

http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm506625.htm

As someone with previous weight loss experience and with a degree in nutrition, this new weight loss method, approved by the FDA, absolutely infuriates me. How this was even approved by the FDA is beyond me. What kills me is the statement, “it is intended to assist in weight loss in patients aged 22 and older who are obese, with a body mass index of 35 to 55, and who have failed to achieve and maintain weight loss through non-surgical weight-loss therapy.” This “non-surgical weight-loss therapy” they are referring to is proper diet and exercise. Excuse me, but anyone can lose weight through diet and exercise, it just takes a lot of discipline and self-control. Trust me, I know it’s certainly not the easy way. In fact, it is extremely difficult, but it’s also the best and most safest way and should also be the ONLY way you lose and maintain your weight. I get it, we all want the quickest, easiest methods that require hardly any work on our part, but that’s life. If you want it that badly you have to work for it! The scientists who come up with these methods are willing to create something this bizarre, because there are plenty of people out there that are willing to pay outrageous amounts of money and will try absolutely anything to get the weight loss results they so desire. In my opinion, you should never mess with the natural processes of the body. God created them for a purpose. They all function in a certain way for a reason. No one or nothing should mess with that.

After reading this article, it hit me that this particular situation also parallels the amount of work, or lack thereof, we put into our relationships with other people and even with God. When it comes to these relationships, don’t we want them to be the best? Relationships can’t be built and maintained by just sitting around doing nothing. It takes work, strength, discipline, self-control, and patience. To build our relationships with our friends, family, and our spouse, we’ve got to communicate regularly, listen, show support, respect one another, be encouraging, put them first before ourselves. Our relationship with God shouldn’t be lacking in effort either. We have to spend time with Him and in His word on a daily basis. We have to talk to him through prayer, offer up songs of praise and thanksgiving, put Him first above anyone and anything else. We can’t fully appreciate these relationships without all the hard work and dedication you put into them.

The quick fix isn’t always the best fix. To be the best versions of ourselves, to be the men and women God has called us to be, we have to devote time and attention to our work. We have to be fully committed to our efforts. The ultimate reward is so worth it! We just have to keep our eyes on the prize, Heaven.

“A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the   desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” Proverbs‬ ‭13:4

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Stress Management

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It is so easy today to get wrapped up in ourselves and other people’s lives instead of focusing on what really, truly matters. We spend more and more time shopping, watching TV, sleeping, gossiping, and absorbing our minds with our phones that we neglect the importance of time spent with God. He gets pushed further and further down our list when He should be number one, always. How do you think He feels coming in second to Facebook or your next Netflix marathon? Why do we find it so hard to make time for God in our busy lives? When we think about our schedule for the day, we put work, school, friends, and family all into place, and then we think, “Oh yeah! And maybe I can squeeze in a short prayer at bedtime if I’m not too tired from the day”. We have started to plan God around our day when actually, our day should be planned around Him. I understand life gets busy and sometimes unplanned situations arise, but when you make time for God everything else seems to fall into place.

I know for me, I do my best to have my quiet time with God every day. I have a devotional reading and I write in my prayer journal. It is an awesome stress reliever for me and the days that I do this in the mornings, I find that my day is off to a better start. There have been days where I don’t have this time and I can, without a doubt, tell a difference in how I feel that day. There are some days I find myself continually putting it off because I’m too tired or I just don’t feel like it today. I usually regret not having that time though when I make all these excuses. When I set aside time each day to talk to God one-on-one, I notice that I’m more focused not just spiritually, but in other ways too. I’ve found that I am more at peace with myself. My emotions are under control and I deal with stressful situations more calmly and rationally. I am also a happier, more pleasant person when I redirect my focus to God instead of on life’s constant problems.

I know it is tough these days to find time for anything other than work or school. We spend the majority of our time at the office or with our nose in our books that we find very little time for anything else. It is so very easy for life to get in the way of what’s really important. First, our relationships with other people begin to fade away. We begin to become more distant because work has piled up and we’ve buried ourselves under a massive mound of papers and deadlines. Next, goes the most important relationship. The one we have with God. We spend less and less time at church events, worship services, and Bible studies so we start to fall away. Have you noticed that when this happens, life in general becomes so much more difficult? Stress levels increase, emotions are running high, and tempers are out of control. We’ve lost our support system and we suddenly feel as if we have to tackle everything all on our own.

As a college student on her last year of school, my anxiety level is running pretty high. I’m worried about making the grades I need to graduate with at least a decent looking GPA, I’m nervous about finding a job after I graduate, and where I’m going to end up once I do. But I know I can’t let that get in the way. I know I can’t let those worries and fears get the best of me. So I spend continuous amounts of time in prayer asking God for strength, for wisdom, for confidence, comfort, and peace. It makes a HUGE difference when I give it all over to Him and the heavy burdens are lifted right off my shoulders. I’ve realized I can’t face this world alone. But I can conquer any and every situation when I’ve got God on my side carrying me every step of the way.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”

Proverbs 16:3

Passion for Him

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Do you have a passion? Something in your life that you love to do? For some it may be their career. For others it may be a hobby they’ve picked up. Why are these passions important to you? Do they make you happy? Help clear your mind of the world around you? A little bit of both maybe?

For those of you that have read my blog posts, I think we can safely say that I am passionate about nutrition and healthy eating. For me, this particular passion will lead me to my future career. But something else I’ve picked up along the way and has also become a passion for me is writing. I guess I can credit this passion back to my 10th grade English teacher. She’s known as the toughest teacher at Robertsdale High School. Everyone and their mom had her. Well, one day we were assigned to write a poem. As it turned out, she wanted me to submit my poem to the school’s literary magazine. For a while thereafter, I began writing poems for fun and even started a short story. Eventually that hobby died off, but I didn’t realize it would enter my life again while in college.

I started journaling a couple years ago and that really allowed me to get out all my thoughts, emotions, and feelings out on paper without the fear of hurting anyone else. I write about new experiences and memories I want to never forget. Earlier this year I also started this blog. I love to write about whatever comes to mind and share my views and opinions on certain topics. I’ve found that I’m randomly hit with new ideas and I try my best to write them down as soon as they come to me before the thought is gone. I also enjoy reading other people’s blogs and am subscribed to three that I read on a regular basis. This passion has grown and developed so strongly that I’m highly considering making this hobby a job on the side. In fact, I’ve recently been hired as a Social Media Assistant for Gen Twenty magazine. For those of you who don’t know what that is, Gen Twenty posts articles weekly about various topics that people in their 20s are faced with. My job will be to promote their articles on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The job doesn’t pay, but it does get my foot in the door for more writing opportunities down the road. I’m anxious and excited to see where this will lead me in the future and what doors will be opened for me in the writing field.

While both of my passions are fine and good to have, the question I really should be asking myself though is, do I have this same passion for learning more about Jesus? Does it give me the same joy-filled emotion as writing does to tell others about God and worship Him? If it doesn’t, then something needs to change. I need to make a change in my life. My passion for learning more about God and the desire to share the good news should be what others notice about me first. Not writing, not nutrition. William Toms said, “Be careful how you live; you will be the only Bible some people ever read.” When people see me, I want them to be able to see God reflected in me. That’s the very first thing that anyone I come across should be able to notice and all the other things should come second to that.

“For in him we live and move and have our being.”

Acts 17:28a

Silver Lining

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“If you expect something great to happen, it often does. If you expect that things will go wrong, they probably will too.”[1]

Perspective changes everything. Think about it. One may look at the cold, pouring down rain and think, “this day can’t get any worse”. What usually happens the rest of the day because of that single thought? Your whole day probably ends up being bad because you perceive it to be that way just because it’s raining. You’ve already set in your mind that today is going to be a bad day and see no other way the day could go. But what if you looked at the cold downpour of rain and thought instead, “How amazing our God is for sending the rain to water the ground and I’m sure someone out there somewhere prayed for this rain”. With a positive outlook even on the rainy day, your day will go a whole lot smoother. Your day will not be brought down by something as small as another rainy day. “The outcome you expect is often the outcome you get.”1

Not only do we feel better when we begin our day on a good note, but everyone around us is more pleasant as well. If you’re around someone who is down and depressed for any length of time, it won’t be long before their own sadness and bad attitude has rubbed off on you. We don’t enjoy being around people who are like that all the time do we? Of course not. So we should strive to have a more positive attitude around others. Because guess what. A positive and optimistic attitude is just as contagious. And my guess is that everyone would all prefer the positive over the negative any day.

I understand though, that it is hard to put a smile on your face and go about your day with a positive attitude all the time. And I’m not saying that’s what you should do. There will be days, maybe even weeks when we feel we can’t go on any longer. We feel as if we’ve tried every possible way to make it work, to slap that fake smile on our face and go about our day as if nothing is wrong. Sometimes we need to vent to our close friends and family about what’s going wrong in our lives. And that’s completely and totally normal. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help. And here’s where perspective comes into play again. Why is that we seek help from the people that we do? Do we seek help from the people who are going to bring us even lower than we already are or are we going to seek help from those around us who will uplift and encourage us and give us new hope? I’m going to go with the latter. In turn, we should do the same for them when they have their own bad days.

So how do we keep a positive attitude despite the ups and downs life throws our way? How do we look beyond the negative and see the silver lining? One suggestion would be to go to the Bible and find the verses that inspire you and uplift your spirits. One of my favorites is 1 Peter 5:7, which states “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”. Some other great verses to look up would be Philippians 4:11-13, Matthew 6:25-30, and Isaiah 40:31. These and many others will turn your mindset around if you will let them. We must always remember that we have control over our own perspective, but also realize that we are not the only ones who are affected by our chosen attitudes and outlooks on this life.

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[1] From The 18 Rules of Happiness by Karl Moore

“Pray. Relax. Let Go. And Let God Take Over” (Unknown)

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Many of us have been asked the question, where do you see yourself in five years? How many of us can answer this question? How many of us have our whole life mapped out in what looks to be a perfect scenario? I’ve been asked this question many times at different points in my life. I always have the normal cliché answers of reaching a weight loss or fitness goal, being married, having a great job, and on my way to beginning a family of my own. Those answers and then some are what make up the majority of our life plans. What I’ve learned through my various list-making occasions is that my list doesn’t always occur in the time-frame I’ve allotted for. And what happens when our plan doesn’t pan out like we would like it too? We become discouraged and upset that everything didn’t work out the way we wanted. We start to say to ourselves, maybe it’s just not meant to be? So we immediately begin to create a new list with basically the same answers as before.

When I was a senior in high school, I thought I had my life all planned out. I was going to Faulkner University to pursue a pre-physical therapy degree and eventually would go on to become a physical therapist. Of course, attending college such as Faulkner I was asked countless times if I was going to earn a Mrs. degree. My answer was always no, which was true because that’s not why I was going to school; although if I happened to find my future husband there then that would be just an added bonus. Or so I thought at the time. Well, I got to Faulkner and only stayed my first semester of my freshman year. In that span of time I had job shadowed at a rehab center with a physical therapist assistant and decided this was not the career for me. I moved back home and transferred to the University of South Alabama and majored in radiologic technology to become an x-ray technician and eventually specialize in ultrasound technology. Again, I was required to job shadow one day at a hospital in Mobile and quickly realized that was not meant for me either. I changed my major once again to nursing because I really didn’t know what else to do. I’ve always wanted to work in the medical field and USA was known for their nursing program, so I thought why not? Once I got into all the school work involved for that major and hearing how small the number of people was that actually got accepted into the nursing program, I started rethinking my major once again. Come to find out, most of my family members could not see me becoming a nurse and in the back of their minds didn’t think this was the career for me either. It turned out that they were very much right about that.

It was at the beginning of my sophomore year at USA that I began to take control of the weight that I had gained and started out on Weight Watchers. I had already changed my major to nursing at this point. When I started Weight Watchers and begin to learn more about nutrition and healthy eating I became a little obsessed with the whole thing. I was constantly reading health articles, nutrition news, and magazines on the latest information. I enjoyed reading all I could find on this topic. I read about various diet fads, what foods you should and should not eat, how important exercise is to your overall health and so much more. It wasn’t until the second semester of my sophomore year that I began to reevaluate my major one last time. What I discovered was that USA did not have any type of nutrition major available. I searched schools nearby and found out that the University of Alabama had a food and nutrition major that was offered online. I wanted this option because I was not yet prepared to move away from home yet. I began at UA as an online student my junior year and loved all my classes and learning about something that was so personal and important to me. Nutrition and Weight Watchers had changed my life and I loved the thought of becoming a dietitian and working with people, like me, to help them reach their own weight loss and health goals. After completing my junior year online at UA I realized it was time for me to move away from home and finish out the rest of my schooling from Tuscaloosa. Well as you all know that’s what happened and the rest is history.

As a senior in high school, never in my life could I have imagined this is where my life would turn out to be. It’s completely different from my five year plan and all the clichéd answers I came up with. And you know what? I’m really okay with that. I couldn’t be happier with the way my life has turned out and the person I’ve become. I know God is doing great things and continues to help me grow and mature. What I thought was a perfect plan for me at the time, was not really what God had in store. His ways are so much better than mine and I am constantly reminded of that. I’ve learned to no longer create five year plans. Don’t get me wrong though; there is nothing wrong with having dreams, goals, and ambitions for yourself. In fact, that’s very important. I’m just saying we shouldn’t get caught up in making sure everything on our five year plan is reached and attained in that time span. You never know what or who will come into your life that will make you change directions. Always be open for change. I know change is scary because you don’t know what will happen, but if we have faith in God that everything will work out, then everything will be fine. All you have to do is let Him take over and lead the way.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9

Fully Committed

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What does commitment mean to you? To me it means that you put all your time and energy into making something work. Whatever obstacles you come across, you never give up and you do all you can to get through the tough times. It’s not easy. In fact it’s very difficult. But when you care about something or someone so deeply, you will go out of your way to make sure everything works out.

When beginning any type of weight loss program it takes a lot of commitment. If you start on a program with an I-don’t-care attitude, most likely you will not find success with the program. I was faced with many challenges and obstacles along the way. There were many times I wanted to give up and stop trying because I wasn’t seeing progress as fast as I would like or as much of it either. What I realized is that it takes effort and persistence to keep up the work if I ever wanted to reach my goal.

How committed are you to your relationship with God? Do you spend good, quality time with Him daily? In the same way, in order for us to experience that deep relationship with God we must use our time wisely and actually work at our relationship with Him. Just attending church services is not enough. You have to study your Bible and put into action what God’s Word says. I promise that your life will forever be changed if you become fully committed to building and strengthening your relationship with Him. Just like Galatians 2:20 reads, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

“The probability that we may fail in struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.”

Abraham Lincoln

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” ~ C.S. Lewis

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We all view our past in different ways. Some look at it with regret, while others see it as an opportunity for change. Dwelling on our past mistakes and letting those mistakes control us and affect our outlook on life is not healthy. We must learn to let go and move on with our lives as better, stronger individuals. Most of the time, this is easier said than done.

In order to let go of our past we must put our trust in God that we can learn from our past mistakes and there will be something better waiting for us in the future. When we let thoughts of our past consume us and the worries and anxiety of what the future holds to completely overwhelm our minds, we lose that trust and faith in God.

I looked up the words “trust” and “faith” and discovered that trust means, “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence”. Faith is defined as, “confidence or trust in a person or thing.” In scripture, faith is defined as “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). I also looked up the word “doubt” and found that it was defined as, “to be uncertain about; consider questionable or unlikely; hesitate to believe.” When we make the choice to continue living in the past and pondering over all of our mistakes and failures, we start doubting that God can change us and make us into something better.

Paul, an apostle of Jesus, is by far my favorite character in the Bible. Think about his past. Paul was a Christian martyr, killing innocent people just because they believed in God. He later experienced a close encounter with God, which completely transformed his life. No longer was Paul a murderer of innocent Christians, but he became one himself. He devoted his time and energy to spreading God’s word and teaching others about Jesus. He was persecuted because of his beliefs, but that did not stop him from carrying out God’s plan.

Paul could have looked back on all that he had done and let the guilt from his past keep him from becoming a great disciple of Jesus Christ, but he didn’t. When writing to the church in Ephesus Paul says, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:7-12).

The next time you decide to focus your attention on your past, shift your focus to God and what He has planned for your life. Put full confidence that He will make you a better person. Learn from your mistakes, but never doubt what God can do with you now. I can guarantee His plans will be better than what you have for yourself.