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IMG_2061I’ve carried around a lot of weighty baggage … until now.

My first memory related to my weight happened when I was about 9 years old. I remember that I was wearing tan corduroy pants that were snug. I was hanging over the back of our loveseat when a friend of our family walked by. He smacked me in the rear and made a comment about the fact that my butt was getting too big for my britches. That became a defining moment in my life; one that said, “You’re fat.” I equated that to … “You’re not beautiful. You’re not desirable. How could anyone love you?”

In junior high, we had to endure a particular kind of hell at least once a year. We had to step on the scale during gym class. I will never, in this lifetime, understand why that was necessary, nor will I ever forget the horror of having a boy named Paul announce to my entire 7th grade math class that I weighed … wait for it … 121 lbs.! He followed up with, “What a cow!” Honestly, it was the last time I weighed 121 pounds, but I was led to believe that I was – again – fat, ugly, undesirable, and unlovable.

The next year when it was obviously weigh-in day, I stayed in the locker room and sent a message to the teacher that I was “sick.” The phy-ed teacher (who is now a Facebook friend – I wonder if she’ll remember this) came down to check on me. I was too mortified to tell her that the trauma of stepping on the scale in front of my peers was killing me. Instead, I told her the most ludicrous excuse, but the only thing that came to mind on the spot. I said that I drank both orange juice and milk for breakfast and it must have curdled because my stomach was upset and I thought I might throw up. (I’m dying a little right now just telling you all this.) Friends, I was indeed sick, but only because of the fear I had of the scale and being bullied by my peers.

I prayed that God would make me anorexic. (That was dumb, I know that now.)

I spent countless hours reading about stupid fad diets in teen magazines.

I went on my first “paid for” diet as a junior in high school. I remember that I got down to 113 pounds, which was honestly too low for my height. I learned nothing about keeping it off, so … my college 15 was more like my college (30 or so).

IMG_2655 (1)I’ve spent more money than I care to admit on diet books, most of which I never read past the “Jump Start” introductory chapter. I’ve only somewhat jokingly told audiences that I used to think I could rub those books on my thighs and they’d disappear—the thighs, not the books.

I’ve been a Weight Watchers lifetime member for years. I learned that I could lose weight and eat as many Skinny Cows as my points would allow. I didn’t learn how to change a single habit, so … you know how this story ends.

Once I turned 40, even the old tricks that often worked to get 10-15 pounds off, didn’t work. My metabolism began changing dramatically. I eventually came to the conclusion that maybe God intended for me to be fat and fluffy my whole life. Some days I could almost convince myself that I was okay with that. I knew which mirrors in my house were the “skinny” mirrors. I knew which angles to take pictures from to hide my extra chins. I swapped my wardrobe out for elastic waists and untucked shirts.

While I’m on the subject of my wardrobe … for 2 years I survived summer with one pair of capris that fit and winter with 1 pair of jeans that I could still squeeze into. “Fit” can be defined as completely miserable to wear if freshly washed, but able to tolerate if they were “broken in” (aka: unwashed). I refused to buy any more clothes, because it would A) require trying ON clothes, and B) mean getting a larger size – by 1 or 2 numbers. Besides, I had a closet FULL of clothes … none of which fit.

I became the master of standing behind my children in photographs, which was becoming a problem, as they were all getting taller than me.

unnamed-1My story took a turn in the early spring of 2013. I led a group of friends (old and new) and family on a tour to Israel. I found that as I climbed the steep stairs down to the spring at Megiddo … and back up again, that I was terribly out of breath and my knees were killing me. As we walked the streets of Jerusalem, I thought I was going to collapse, I was so tired and out of breath. I knew I’d float in the Dead Sea because EVERYONE floats in the Dead Sea, but I was afraid someone would take a picture of me floating—in my swimming suit! I also knew it would be hard to stand back up when I was done floating. My heartbreak came at picture time. You see, I took my mom and my daughter on this trip and I desperately wanted to capture pictures of us together in this holy place, but I didn’t want to see pictures of myself. Nevertheless, pictures were taken (sometimes without my knowledge) and they confirmed what I already knew … though I wasn’t sick, neither was I healthy.

At this point, it was also getting hard to get on stage to speak, because the enemy of my soul used my weight, low self-esteem, and shame to keep me captive and focused on me rather than on what God wanted to do through and in me. Shoot, my overindulgence was giving the enemy the opportunity to destroy my influence.

IMG_2576The lies I’d come to believe about myself at age 9 were wrapped around my heart like an albatross and were choking the life out of me. I know that Jesus loves me, finds me beautiful, desirable, and His. My husband feels the same way—his love is unconditional—thick or thin. (See what I did there?) Nevertheless, my obsession with my weight had become an idol in my life; one that I needed to conquer and surrender.

Post-Israel, I began doing research to find a solution, and that’s when I found Take Shape for Life. I can honestly say, I believe this healthy lifestyle program has changed my life forever.

I was connected to a FREE health coach (God bless Gary!) whose support was instrumental to my success. Gary believed in me when I didn’t yet believe in myself. It’s a good thing he was free because there’s no adequate price that could be put on that gift. I learned that the support of a coach is vital to the success of getting healthy for life. It’s a non-negotiable on this journey.

I started on an eating plan that focused on low-glycemic carbohydrates, healthy fats, and proteins. I ate every 3 hours and low and behold, I began losing weight! In fact, I lost 50 pounds in 4 ½ months*.

183845-2948200798-O - Version 2 – Version 3Best of all, I learned habits of health that are crucial to me as I make behavioral changes for life.

Yesterday, I was looking at the picture that you can see of me in the brown skirt (above) with my hands on my hips. I was wearing the same shirt and skirt … 2 years later! Joy!

I’m not going to lie … my journey hasn’t been a straight shot. I hit my goal and then walked through an incredibly stressful journey as I walked my best friend Home during her last days with metastasized breast cancer. During that season, I engaged in some old habits and began believing some old lies, and a little bit of the weight came back on. However, my support team, the program, and the healthy habits I learned through the program didn’t go anywhere. I can tell you that I’m back at my goal weight and have decided to lose a little more this time, so the journey continues.

I also have to tell you how stinkin’ much fun it was to get rid of all of the clothes that didn’t fit … like the entire closet … not because they were all too small, but because they were too big. I recently heard Dave Blanchard tell a story of his wife trying on clothes after losing weight. He described a “spontaneous giggle” that escaped her lips when she came out to model for him. His story resonated because I’d had the same experience! Never in my life had I taken clothes to the dressing room and not felt terrible about myself coming out. Mike, too, heard me release years’ worth of pain in my own spontaneous giggles.

I’ve been in ministry for 13 years now —speaking, writing, and teaching. I love telling people about Jesus, His love for them, and the gift of salvation that He offers. That hasn’t changed and never will.

unnamedA year and a half ago, I also became a Take Shape for Life Certified Health Coach, and I consider it every bit as lifesaving a ministry as I do my speaking, writing, and teaching. I’ve helped more than 60 people lose over 3000 pounds cumulatively. I’m on a mission to help my friends and family … and their friends and family … and their friends and family become physically, emotionally, and financially healthy. My health is no longer a hindrance to serving God and enjoying the time He’s given me to live.

I intend to spend my life loving beautifully and recklessly. And that weighty baggage I carried for nearly 40 years … well, let’s just say, I’m traveling much lighter these days.

 

Friends, you know lots of people I don’t know. If you know anyone who would be encouraged by reading my story or who would like a certified health coach, please share this with them. You could be a real life saver!

 

*Results vary. Typical results are 2-5 lbs. per week for the first two weeks and 1-2 lbs. per week thereafter.

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AMERICAN SNIPER

American Sniper 3D Box ArtOn May 25th, most Americans will enjoy a day off of work. Kids will have wrapped up or will be about to wrap up another school year, and the promise of summer fun will be in the air. What’s too often forgotten is that this bonus day off came at great cost. You see, on May 25th—Memorial Day—we are meant to pause and remember, so that the sacrifices of America’s fallen war heroes are never forgotten.

My Grandpa, James Marion Lester, served in the Bastard Battalion in World War II. My dad served in the Army Reserves. Neither of them paid with their lives, but they served our country well. Mike and I can name many family members, friends, and church family who have also served our country. 

Thank you.

This past winter Clint Eastwood produced and directed “American Sniper” starring Bradley Cooper. It was a powerful reminder that there are men and women serving our country all over the world. Some pay the ultimate price. The rest pay a price in their own right. 

In honor of our veterans, I have the privilege of giving away two Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital HD copies of “American Sniper.” This is a $44.95 value! One is going to a veteran of our choosing and one is going to a civilian (that could be you).

The movie doesn’t come come out until May 19th, but I have two copies sitting beside me right now. (I know people. ;)) [Okay, the truth is I’m helping out my friends at Grace Hill Media who is handling the PR on this movie. It’s a sweet gig.]

AMERICAN SNIPERHere’s the gist of the movie …

From director Clint Eastwood comes “American Sniper,” starring Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, whose skills as a sniper made him a hero on the battlefield. But there was much more to him than his skill as a sharpshooter. 

Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is sent to Iraq with only one mission: to protect his brothers-in-arms. His pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield, and as stories of his courageous exploits spread, he earns the nickname “Legend.” However, his reputation is also growing behind enemy lines, putting a price on his head and making him a prime target of insurgents. He is also facing a different kind of battle on the home front: striving to be a good husband and father from halfway around the world.

N07A8475.dngDespite the danger, as well as the toll on his family at home, Chris serves through four harrowing tours of duty in Iraq, personifying the spirit of the SEAL creed to “leave no one behind.” But upon returning to his wife, Taya (Sienna Miller), and kids, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind. 

TO ENTER … a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Now that you’ve entered to win, I encourage you and your family to pause wherever you are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

** This is a win/win. Even if you aren’t the lucky winner, you can buy your own copy here on the same day that this contest ends (May 19). $1 of your purchase will be donated to Wounded Warrior Project up to $1,000,000!

 

 

If you’d like to read a few more details about the movie, here they are … 

Burbank, CA, April 15, 2015 – From director Clint Eastwood comes “American Sniper,” arriving onto Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD on May 19 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, A Mad Chance Production, A 22nd & Indiana Production. “American Sniper” stars Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, whose skills as a sniper made him a hero on the battlefield. But there was much more to him than his skill as a sharpshooter.

A two-time Oscar® nominee for his work in “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” Cooper stars alongside Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Cory Hardrict, Kevin Lacz, Navid Negahban and Keir O’Donnell.

Oscar®-winning filmmaker Clint Eastwood (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Unforgiven”) directed “American Sniper” from a screenplay written by Jason Hall, based on the book by Chris Kyle, with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. The autobiography was a runaway bestseller, spending 18 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, 13 of those at number one.

The film is produced by Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan. Tim Moore, Jason Hall, Sheroum Kim, Steven Mnuchin and Bruce Berman served as executive producers.

About Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) brings together Warner Bros. Entertainment’s home video, digital distribution and interactive entertainment businesses in order to maximize current and next-generation distribution scenarios. An industry leader since its inception, WBHE oversees the global distribution of content through packaged goods (Blu-ray Disc™ and DVD) and digital media in the form of electronic sell-through and video-on-demand via cable, satellite, online and mobile channels, and is a significant developer and publisher for console and online video game titles worldwide. WBHE distributes its product through third party retail partners and licensees.

#AmericanSniper

https://www.facebook.com/AmericanSniper

 

Tiny Hands is on the ground delivering desperately needeimmediate reliefd aid to those who are homeless, without food, and–in many cases–without hope.

We received an exciting update this morning:

The people in a small village in Gorkha District all lost their homes in the earthquake and were in great need. As it became dark on Friday, rain started pouring down on them. They all huddled together in what was left of the church to pray and try to stay dry as much as possible. They had no tarps or food.

Just ten minutes after they prayed, our Tiny Hands staff arrived with supplies including tarps and food they prayed for! The people were so thrilled and thankful. We received a call in Kathmandu a few minutes later thanking Tiny Hands for our help that the Lord used to directly bless them in their immediate time of need. God is good and so faithful!
healing handsYou can be a part of Helping Hands for Nepal. 

GIVE TO IMMEDIATE RELIEF: funds for tents, blankets, and food. Follow this link.

GIVE TO LONG TERM NEEDS: Donate to long term needs: extra resources to combat increased trafficking and orphaned/abandoned children in the aftermath of the earthquake. Follow this link.

Please make your most generous donation today. 

IMG_2695Tonight, I dropped my boys off at the church where they were fed supper before youth group. Next, I went to an event at a nice hotel, and then drove through McDonalds for an Artisan chicken sandwich. As I sat in a long line of cars waiting for my food, it occurred to me that I don’t have to worry about food or water for my kids, nor do I have to be concerned about whether the roof will come down on their heads after I kiss them goodnight tonight, … and tears ran down my cheeks.

Saturday morning (April 25), we woke to the heart-stopping news that Nepal had been struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. It seems that things are now marked in time by “B.E.” (Before the Earthquake) and “A.E.” (After the Earthquake). These last five days have been mind-numbing, and we are on THIS side of the ocean. For those we love in Nepal, well, there simply aren’t enough adequate adjectives to describe their experiences.

If you’ve followed our family for any amount of time, you know that my daughter Kadi and I went to Nepal with Tiny Hands International in March of 2014. I was doing research (and she did the photography) for a book, which I’ve been working on ever since: “Intercepted: Letting the Needs of a Broken World Wreck Your Comfortable Life.”

You see, when we saw the plight of those who need help most in Nepal, we asked God, “Now that we know, how far do you want us to go to live out our convictions and call to ‘be His Kingdom’?”

What did we know after our trip last March?

 

B.E. (Before the Earthquake)

We learned that Tiny Hands International works in two ways.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1. They are a non-profit Christian organization intercepting women and children at the border checkpoints of countries with high trafficking ratios. An estimated 30,000 people are trafficked into India from Nepal and Bangladesh every year and are sold as slaves—some as young as six-years-old. Through their transit monitoring programs, they have prevented thousands of women and children from a life of torture and unimaginable brutality. The number of crimes involved in a single case of trafficking (rape, kidnapping, murder, among others) and the fact that it is perpetrated on helpless and innocent victims and carried out systematically, day-after-day makes trafficking the greatest injustice in the world today. Tiny Hands border monitors (Nepali people) intercept these individuals before they are raped, as many as 40 times a day for ten years, experience the worst kind of torture daily, and robbed of everything an innocent child should possess.

2. Tiny Hands’ second ministry is to children. Throughout the developing world, children are cast aside by poverty, war, and the destruction of families. Orphaned, abandoned, and abused children often become drug addicts, prostitutes or succumb to disease and violence. Tiny Hands finds these children and places them in loving homes with carefully chosen parents.

That was B.E. (Before the Earthquake). Oh, Tiny Hands is still working in these two ways, but it’s going to look different now because … the earthquake.

 

A.E. (After the Earthquake)

According to the National Emergency Operations Center, Ministry of Home Affairs in Nepal (as of April 29), there are currently 5,582 dead, 11,175 injured, and $415 million (Currency: U.S. dollars) needed for humanitarian relief. These numbers are expected to climb.

On our own, we are undone, but God …

God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
    and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.

Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! 

A river brings joy to the city of our God,
    the sacred home of the Most High.
God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
    From the very break of day, God will protect it.
The nations are in chaos,
    and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders,
    and the earth melts!
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
    the God of Israel is our fortress.

~Psalm 46:1-7

 IMG_3594

 

So now what? We know that A.E. for Tiny Hands will look different for a while. Now, in addition to the ministry Tiny Hands has always done, we are also joining the relief efforts. We are going to start where we are. With that in mind, we are first meeting the needs of those who are already connected to Tiny Hands.

While we have reported that all of our 15 children’s homes were accounted for, and the children and their Nepali parents are safe, that doesn’t mean they haven’t been significantly impacted.
The families living in the four children’s homes in Kathmandu were sleeping outside in the first days after the earthquake, but have now moved back inside. Cyrene Home was blessed to receive a tent from the Red Cross earlier in the week. (Thank you, Red Cross!)

 IMG_3607

When our Tiny Hands staff found the Peace Home family, they were in a “tent city”, but were without shelter. The staff was able to round up tarps, rope, clean drinking water, medicine, and mats for them to sleep on for the next few nights until it is safe to go back inside. Peace Home had damage and may need a new home to move back into. So we believe we will need to find at least one new permanent home for our children.

 IMG_3587

Many of our Nepali border monitors have lost their homes and all of their belongings. For the time being, these border monitors, their families, friends, and communities are living outside with no covering. They desperately need water, food, and basic supplies. We don’t have numbers yet, but they will all need our help. We have had no word from our Tibet border monitor team. We fear the worst, and ask that you please join us in praying for these partners in ministry.

As we see it, we need at least $100,000 for immediate relief. We need tents, buckets (for water), food, medication, and much more.

Here is the harsh reality of life A.E. in Nepal … disaster creates additional chaos in a country, and that leads to increased exploitation of the vulnerable. We anticipate there will be a significant increase in trafficking and orphaned/abandoned children in Nepal, resulting in the need for more children’s home placements and greater border monitoring staffing. The long-term recovery is going to be substantial.

Tonight, my kids are going to bed in their rooms, with full stomachs and plenty of water sloshing in their bellies. Yours too?

What if your littles had been born to you in Nepal? What if you were among the 8 million affected people? What if you were among the 126,000 pregnant women? Here’s the most important question, “Now that you know, how far does God want you to go to live out your convictions and call to ‘be His Kingdom’?”

 

Will you learn all that you can?

Will you pray?

Will you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Tiny Hands as we offer healing hands for Nepal?#HH4N

Will you give?

Friends, I’m simply asking you to do what you can, from where you are, with what you have.

 

10628724_10152757513490289_70572802724577915_oSeven and a half years ago, she walked into the Bible study class I was leading. We were working on Priscilla Shirer’s study, Discerning the Voice of God. That fall there were many broken hearts in the class: a marriage ended, a baby died, dreams ended too soon, ministries changed shape, cancer knocked on the door and made an unwelcome yet grand entrance … and God spoke.

“Love like Jesus, and walk her Home.”

When Jesus intercepts your life, and you become one of His children, you have an opportunity to join the family business of loving like He loves and walking alongside others on their life journeys. Hebrews 13:16 reminds us, “And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.”

This blog post could be another beautiful tribute to Emma. Many have eloquently posted these, and she is worthy of countless more. Emma and I talked every night on Messenger for the last couple of years, and I think I knew her heart. I’m confident she’d be blessed and touched by the precious words shared by those who loved her. I’m equally confident that she’d be saying, “Enough about me already, what about you? What about Jesus?” So many times, as I sat curled up on her cozy couch or the end of her hospital bed, she’d say, “We know I’m dying, but how are YOU doing? How’s YOUR heart?” That was our Emma. And if you knew her at all, you know that she loved Jesus, above all else, and just wanted us to love and obey Him too.

This post could be about the last few weeks of caring for Emma and specifically the call that came last Saturday saying, “You need to come now.” That’s too fresh and perhaps too intimate an experience to share. I’m certain God will speak clearly about whether or not that story will ever be told.

No, if I were running this post past Emma, she’d agree that it should be about Jesus and what He asks of each of us.

I can’t count the number of times Em would say, “There are not enough words to thank you for …” I always answered, “Em, I’m just loving you like Jesus and walking you Home.” We agreed that it was the most beautiful way to spend one’s lifetime, regardless of its length.

I saw a huge community of believers love like Jesus and walk with Emma’s family. For some, it meant making meals (oh-so-many meals!) or dropping off homemade bread or groceries. For others, it meant laundry and cleaning help, or giving rides to the kids. Still others sat with Emma in the last few weeks, keeping her company and doing tasks around the house. And while those who loved tangibly are great in number, those who PRAYED are innumerable. Some were only able to help once, and others helped countless times—yet no tally was ever kept—certainly not by the One whose opinion matters most. I pray that those who shared the journey will treasure knowing that they obediently did what Jesus asked by walking a stretch of the road with Emma. For that privilege, we can all be thankful.

A few months ago, I wrote about concentric circles that delineated how to avoid saying the wrong things when someone you love is suffering. The person who’s suffering is at the center. Children, parents, siblings, and intimate friends are in smaller rings than less-familiar friends and acquaintances. Though many may believe the “journey” is over and we can all “get back to normal” now, we know that Emma’s homegoing only marks a new leg of the journey for those of us who were the closest to her. It will take some figuring out. It will take some time, but we’re going to keep walking—one-step-at-a-time. And we’re going to keep loving people like Jesus.

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