Restoring Eden One Bite at a Time

By JMathis

My mom is one of those old-time ethnic mothers who is obsessed with keeping you uncomfortably fed and full. My guess is that since she grew up poor, food was scarce and something to be hoarded, particularly when there were eight children to feed.

She harasses you until you are stuffed, and forces you to eat everything that is put on your plate. At the same time, she also expects that you should just be able to magically metabolize all of this food, and remain svelte and lean while eating (like) a horse.

Of course, this duality just never worked for me, and I have been a yo-yo dieter since elementary school. I remember my mom sending me mixed messages by restricting my intake as early as 5 years old and putting me on the cabbage soup diet when I was just 7 years old. However, whenever the slightest bit of progress was made, she was back to the idea that I needed to inhale everything she put on my plate. After all, she was a terrific cook, and she beamed with pride whenever her family ate every morsel that she presented in front of them.

As a result of this eating schizophrenia, I have been battling the pudge my entire life, which opened the door to a host of eating disorders. Between my college years and until about age thirty, I was a pretty “successful” anorexic. Most of my twenties were spent tricking my body into staying thin—on the surface, at least, it looked like I had everything under control.

By my thirties, however, and particularly after having a baby, my body just stopped cooperating with these parlor games. No matter what shortcuts I used to lose weight, my body rebelled even more, and stubbornly held onto every calorie ingested. My cool, calm exterior began to unravel, as all of my food frustrations started bubbling to the surface. I couldn’t understand why the methods I was so good at for years, were suddenly failing miserably.

This internal war escalated until last year when I finally made peace with myself. I prayerfully came to the realization that I had been living a selfish and self-centered life. My youth had been wasted fastidiously counting calories, while I ignored my Creator and the purposes for which He created me. How could I put the Lord first when the bulk of my day was spent stressing about every little bite I put into my mouth? How could I properly focus on those around me in need when I was too obsessed with my own appearance?

Perhaps you are allowing your body image to be defined by voices at home, in your social circle or by the media. In whichever case, it is time for those voices to give way to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

As we all know, listening for the voice of the Lord is a daily process, and by no means a quick-fix. I can attest to the fact that your eating choices may not change overnight, and it may be difficult to attain balance after years of body-abuse, self-loathing and emotional eating.

Regardless, it is about yielding to His Voice, and being patient with His transformation of your body and your mind. It is about His thoughts dominating your thoughts, and His ways overcoming your ways. It is about learning and re-learning how to lead the lifestyle of the Holy Spirit and not of the world.

Contrary to what Jersey Shore says, it is not about GTL: Gym, Tan, Laundry. It’s about seeking the Kingdom of God first, and letting His Voice speak to you throughout your day, so that you are victorious over your struggles and your temptations.

Make peace with yourself today. Make peace with your body today. Make peace with your Creator today.

As part of our 31 Day Mind-Body-Spirit Challenge, put away the shortcuts, put away your impatience, put away your emotional baggage.

Trust that He is restoring Eden into your life…one bite at a time.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

Swimsuit Season, Anyone?

Go to fullsize imageBy Bindu Adai-Mathew

I have two words to make you completely cringe and cause the hair on the back of your neck to recoil in disgust: swimsuit season.

 Yes, those two words are powerful. As children, it evokes images of summertime spent gallivanting in cool water to ward off the scorching summer heat.

 As adults, it evokes endless hours of our stomachs twisting in knots and hands wrenching with worry as we try to figure out how to “undo” months of our bad winter behavior in a matter of weeks so we can be bathing suit ready.

 For those of you in your twenties, getting into that cute swimsuit might require cutting down on a few snacks and reducing your intake of junk food. (Sorry, I’ll try not to hate you!)

For those of us who are no longer in our twenties and especially those of us who have had kids, that means not eating. Ever again. Oh, wait! I take that back. We’re allowed celery and lettuce. Apparently, those are negative calories because the amount of calories it takes our body to digest those types of foods is greater than the number of calories that are in them. Somehow that gives us hope that we can actually start tapping into the gigantic fat reserves that have made their permanent home around our thighs and hips.

Got body issues?

Skinny. Fat. Average Jane. Supermodel Janelle. We all have issue with our bodies. You can put a group of 10 women in a room together, and their body issues will be greater than the number that are just in the room. Put them all in bathing suits in a room and their body issues will be exponentially greater.

Take me, for example. In a business suit, I feel powerful. Capable. Put me in a bathing suit, and I feel vulnerable. Exposed. The entire time I’ll be fidgeting with my swimsuit, tugging and pulling to make sure I’m completely covered and worrying about what someone else will think about my less than perfect body. And is it me, but why is okay to wear bikinis out in public when it’s not okay to wear our bras and underwear out in public? Aren’t they one and the same? Or am I the only prude who thinks so?!

For many of us, our bodies are our sore spots. But as experts tell us, our attitude towards bodies are often indicative of emotional and mental issues and scars.

 But I want to remind you that our attitude towards our bodies can also be a spiritual thermometer.

 How so? Well, even as early as Genesis, we can see a spiritual connection between God and our bodies. When God made Adam and Eve, the Bible says He made them after his own image. But Chapter 2 adds 25The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”

But by chapter 3 of Genesis, they have sinned by eating the fruit from the forbidden tree:

7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Isn’t it in interesting that they weren’t ashamed of their bodies before they sinned but only after?

As far as we can tell, nothing had changed in Eve’s body. Eve didn’t eat one too many mangoes. Neither did she have a kid, gain a bunch of weight, and then suddenly become embarrassed about the extra cellulite. The scripture is clear—her shame had a direct correlation with her sin.

What shame are you camouflaging under your skinny jeans or swimsuit wrap?  And I’m not talking just about your sin…I’m talking about what others may have done to you…because even if you are the innocent victim of someone else’s sin, the shame of sin can still transfer on to you…it can linger on your skin, eating away like a parasite at your self-esteem.

Whether we realize it or not, our bodies have a direct spiritual connection to God. Even the Bible is clear on the matter that our bodies are more than just flesh: 

19Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6

Today I want you to take a personal inventory of your own attitudes about your body. Maybe, like many of us, you have been indulging in one too many potato chips…if that is the case, resolve to treat your body more healthily this year.  Occasionally substitute that craving for potato chips or chocolate with some fresh fruit…like apples…or some sweet, juicy mangoes (Sorry, it’s mango season here in South Florida! )

It will not be easy, but be determined to take better care of your body this year. After all, if you have visitors coming to visit your home, wouldn’t you do some spring cleaning, tidy up the clutter, and spruce up the place?  Well, remember, according to 1 Corinithians 6: 19-20,  you do have a permanent guest of honor residing in your home.  Now that verse makes swimsuit season seem trivial in comparison, doesn’t it?

And even if your body is less than ideal, resolve to find your peace with it. Several years ago, I came to the conclusion that it was futile to fight my body. I was never going to be a supermodel so why was I bothering to hate and fight it so? I might as well accept the way God made me and do my best to take care of it.

Or maybe your negative attitude towards your body is the result of something horrible that happened to you a long time ago, and you’ve decided your body is pretty much worthless and not worthy of being treated well.

Again I encourage you to pour out your hurt to God. Isaiah 61:3 promises you who are grieving that God will trade you a  “crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

Whatever you have been through or whatever has been done to you, you are not worthless. That is what Satan will have you feel and believe. But it is a lie. God can and WILL trade you your hurt and shame for beauty. He can heal you, and you can once again be a shining example of what He always intended when He created us.  After all, it isn’t just your body…it’s HIS.

My prayer for you beginning with today, July 4th, is that we inspire you this month to live and celebrate your life in spiritual freedom! Freedom from self-condemnation, self-hatred towards your body. We hope to connect those dots between the body-mind-spirit  that can encourage you to live your life to its fullest. Remember your true relationship with your body and with God is a reflection of your attitude and your heart…not the reflection of your dresser mirror.